Old House Finds a New Home In Mission Hills

| August 6, 2018 | 0 Comments

The Henry B. Jones house is shown at its original site in Hillcrest (photo courtesy of Scripps Mercy Hospital Foundation).

If you stayed up past midnight on Saturday, June 30th, you may have witnessed a once in a lifetime event: a vintage house moving into Mission Hills. That night, the historically-designated Henry B. Jones House, slowly made its way on a tractor-trailer from its original site in Hillcrest to its new home on Ibis Street where it begins a new chapter it its over 100 year history as a rectory for the priests of St. Vincent’s Catholic Church.

The story of the Jones House began over a century ago on a lot in Hillcrest that was part of William Wesley Whitson’s original 1907 Hillcrest Subdivision. The lot at 4040 Hillcrest Drive (later becoming 5th Avenue) was first sold by Whitson in 1910. A year later the lot was purchased by Henry Benson Jones.

In 1911, Jones built the 4040 Hillcrest Drive house as the family’s new residence. Designed in the popular Craftsman style, the house included a side-gabled roof with large front and rear facing dormers, open eave overhangs, decoratively cut rafter tails and knee brackets (supports under the eaves), horizontal wood clapboard and shingle siding, and a full-width front porch.

The Jones family owned the house until 1929, followed by a succession of owners over the years. The last resident sold the house to Scripps Health in 2007. By then, most of the houses in the original Hillcrest development had been demolished and Scripps Health owned the lots on either side. With Scripps Mercy Hospital located directly across the street, Scripps sought to expand its facilities and applied to demolish the house in 2009. However, when the City disclosed the application, alarm bells went off in the local preservation community.

Many community activists, including Ann Garwood and Nancy Moors of the Hillcrest History Guild, opposed the demolition. Ron May of Legacy 106, Inc., prepared a research report about the house, which the Hillcrest History Guild submitted to the City. On November 5, 2009, the City’s Historic Resources Board held a hearing to consider whether to designate the house as historic. Staff supported designation, and after a parade of speakers, the board voted unanimously to designate the Henry B. Jones House as a City of San Diego historic landmark.

Scripps then commenced a years-long search to find a new location for the Jones House. After extensive outreach, the St. Vincent’s parish showed interest. The past priests rectory for St. Vincent’s Church had been torn down to make way for the current preschool building. The church needed a new priests rectory, and the parish owned the lot at 4114 Ibis Street.

Negotiations followed, and in late 2016 the Catholic Diocese entered into an agreement whereby Scripps Heath would give the house to the parish and pay for the permits and moving expenses, the hook up after the move, and the exterior renovation of the house. The parish would be responsible for the interior. When funding recently became available for the interior restoration, the move was on!

On June 30, 2018, Hansen House Moving prepared the Jones House for the move. Late at night, utility lines were lifted and the slow, midnight ride began, and the house was deposited on the Ibis Street site. A new foundation is under construction and the house is being readied for placement. Heritage Architecture was hired by both Scripps to oversee the move and exterior restoration, and by the Diocese for the interior restoration. Much work remains, but before long the Jones House will return to its former glory.

Hats off to the many community activists who battled to save the Jones House, to Scripps Health for preserving the house and shepherding it to its new site, and to the St. Vincent’s parish for breathing new life into this old house.
Barry Hager is an attorney and advisory director of Mission Hills Heritage. Hager and his family have lived in Mission Hills for over 20 years.

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