A Sweet Treat in Bankers Hill

Just one block west of Spruce Street’s swinging bridge is a grand home designed by Frank Mead and Richard Requa (famed local architects) and once treasured by the A. H. Sweet family. Elaine Sweet, daughter of Adelbert “Del” and Amy Sweet bequeathed her 1914 family home (at 435 W. Spruce) to the San Diego Historical Society in 1985. Ms. Sweet, whose father had been a San Diego County District Attorney, placed several stipulations on its use. The estate would also provide a quarter million dollar endowment fund for future house maintenance.

Above all, Ms. Sweet wanted her home preserved so she outlined her wishes in a trust with suggestions which included a meeting facility for the Historical Society and other community groups, a rental facility for social events, a residence for visiting scholars or possibly a museum. Ms. Sweet also stated that her former residence could not be used as a single family home.

After Ms. Sweet’s death, the historical society tried to honor her request, however any change in the home’s use would have required the consent of the neighbors. After several well-attended meetings, it was made clear that the property owners from the posh neighborhood were vehemently opposed to the plan and vowed to fight any changes.

In the face of these difficulties, the SDHS Board of Directors voted unanimously to sell the property in 1987 after obtaining a designation on the National Register of Historic Places (#200) and requiring the buyer to grant a façade easement that would prevent future alteration of the building in any way detrimental to its architectural integrity.

Although the Sweet home is again privately owned, some of the original architecture may still be enjoyed from the street. Take a stroll across the Bankers Hill “wiggly” bridge to the southeast corner of Spruce and Curlew. Some of the family’s furniture, carpets and decorative objects may be on exhibit at Villa Montezuma in Golden Hill or the Marston House in Balboa Park.

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