The History of Dartlee Hall

An obscure Hillcrest structure has gained historic integrity after it was recently discovered to be an early work of Irving Gill. Because of the sign that lingers many think of 3680 Sixth Avenue as the burned out Cafe W, although old-timers may recall other eateries, antique stores and religious meeting rooms. But with history dating back to the turn of the century, this may be the oldest surviving commercial building in the area.

46-dartleehallfire_smallIn 1899, the ladies of the Wednesday Club purchased this vacant lot near Pennsylvania (then known as Thornton) for $285. The club hired San Diego’s most well known architect to design their plans. Irving Gill created a dark green-shingled cottage bungalow hiding a large Tudor dining hall at a cost of $930. His design was one of the first Arts & Crafts style buildings in town. The open meeting area features a beamed redwood ceiling, huge brick fireplace, leaded-glass windows with dormers on the east and west that function as clearstory windows into the hall, rather than the attic vents one might think from the outside.

The club members loved their home as they planned the downtown library and presented lectures and dramatic performances. Money had not been allowed for furnishings, so each member brought two chairs from home. Artisan members such as Anna Valentein helped with the decorations. The Wednesday Club met here for eleven years before moving to a new clubhouse two blocks south in 1911 where they still gather today. This is also an historic structure designed by San Diego’s first female architect, Hazel Wood Waterman.

The older building became known as Dartlee Hall and was used for a variety of events, most notably by the Old Globe Theatre when they were displaced for several years during WWII. Today, this historic structure is mostly hidden behind a fence as it awaits its next chapter. We look forward to a farsighted buyer returning this landmark to its deserved place of honor and a benefit to the neighborhood.

About the Author: Local preservationist Erik Hanson is the webmaster of First published in HillQuest, an Urban Guide to 92103 & beyond, volume 5

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