Hillcrest’s Old Yeller

The big yellow house at 3690 Sixth Avenue has been around since Pennsylvania Street was called Thornton, but the roots of the structure are a bit muddled. First mapped out as lots 11 and 12 in the Brookes Addition, this property traveled through many hands until George Bidwell who owned the San Diego Feed Mill for 26 years and lived at this address from 1910-1918 sold it to Emily Simmons in 1920. But the year the house was constructed is in question.


According to a college report prepared by C. David Turner for a San Diego State University class in 2000, the architecture was identified as Prairie Style and built in 1920. However in a 2007 draft of the Uptown Historic Architectural Reconnaissance Survey prepared for the city of San Diego by IS Architecture, Ione Stiegler and her associates have identified the big yellow house a Queen Anne Free Classic design built circa 1900. A small plaque for Mr. & Mrs. Wilson R. Fischer has been painted over at the front door.

Arlene Whalen owned the home from 1984 until 2000 and in 1996 renters Charles and Kathryn Rudnick called it the “Froggy House” selling fresh vegetables on the north side of the building along Pennsylvania while they operated “The Lily Pad,” a small restaurant in the house to the south (see page 46). During the 2004 fire at Cafe W, the current resident of the yellow house, Richard van Cortlandt, held the flames at bay until the fire trucks arrived.

So what architectural style is the big yellow house and when was it built? We don’t know, although the new survey states possible designation in a Victorian thematic district. Few alterations have taken place to the stately corner house, and it remains a well-known Hillcrest landmark. Tammy Packard purchased the two and a half story home in 2000 and with Cort’s help it has been brought back to life as TAP Lighting, Hillcrest’s most unique lighting store. Stop by for a visit, and perhaps you can shed a little light on their history.

First published in HillQuest, an Urban Guide to 92103 & Beyond, volume 5

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