Mission Hills Heritage to Nominate the Arnold and Choate’s Addition – North Florence Heights Historic District

| April 3, 2023 | 0 Comments

Mission Hills Heritage is pleased to announce that it will bring forward another nomination for a National Register historic district in Mission Hills.  Following on the successful listing of Inspiration Heights on the National Register of Historic Places in 2021, the focus of this effort will be portions of two subdivision maps in the northeast area of Mission Hills: Arnold & Choate’s Addition and North Florence Heights.  Filled with homes and buildings in vintage architectural styles from the early Twentieth Century, the creation of this district will offer the prestige of a National Register historic district designation and help protect the character of the area.  It will also pave the way for Mills Act qualification for contributing properties once the district is designated locally.  The district will be named the “Arnold and Choate’s Addition – North Florence Heights Historic District.”

The Rigdon Building on West Lewis Street is within North Florence Heights and part of the proposed historic district.

The subdivision maps that formed the basis for development of this area are part of the earliest history of Mission Hills.  Attorney and developer Cyrus Arnold and merchant Daniel Choate purchased and subdivided the Arnold & Choate’s subdivision in 1872.  The original map encompassed a large area from Dove Street on the east to Randolph on the West, and from University Avenue on the south to Barr on the north.  Eighteen years later, in 1890, land speculator Marcus Schiller filed the subdivision map for North Florence Heights just west of Arnold & Choate’s Addition, covering the area between Randolph and Stephens Streets, north of the old cemetery that is present-day Pioneer Park.

Very little development occurred for the first couple of decades after the maps were filed.  By the early 1900s, horticulturalist Kate Sessions had purchased large portions of both subdivisions and set up growing grounds and a nursery at the corner of West Lewis and Stephens Street.  Kate Sessions successfully lobbied John Spreckels, owner of San Diego Electric Railway, to extend Streetcar Line #3 into Mission Hills.  By 1908, the streetcar line ran to the corner of West Lewis and Stephens, linking the area to Hillcrest and downtown.   

Housing development took off in the area after the arrival of the streetcar.  Homes were built in various styles of the era, with concentrations of Queen Anne and Victorian vernacular style homes, Craftsman style bungalows, followed by Prairie influenced residences and homes designed in various Revival styles. Smaller bungalows served as workforce housing, with larger homes on certain streets.  Several notable builders and architects designed and built in the area, including Nathan Rigdon, Morris Irvin, and Martin Melhorn.  Rigdon built two mixed-use buildings on West Lewis, just south of Sessions’ nursery, with first story retail and apartments above.  The area was largely built out by about 1940 and still serves as the thriving core of North Mission Hills.

Acceptance to the National Register of Historic Places will represent a significant honor for this neighborhood and all of Mission Hills.  Designation at the national level will also ease the path for designation at the local San Diego level.  Once designated locally, owners of contributing properties will be able to apply for Mills Act contracts to receive property tax benefits.

MHH has again tapped the skills of consulting firm Architectural Resources Group to prepare the nomination and guide the project through the California Office of Historic Preservation (OHP), which processes nominations to the National Register.  Mission Hills Heritage plans to have the nomination submitted to OHP by mid-2023 and to have a hearing and decision before the end of the year.

With over 375 homes and buildings to assess, this project involves significant expense.  Please help pay for the cost of the consultant and other expenses by donating to Mission Hills Heritage.  Donations can be made at the website, www.MissionHillsHeritage.org.  With your help, MHH looks forward to making this new historic district a reality.

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