By Colleen O'Connor
The Point Loma Portuguese community’s annual “Festa” got off to another memorable start last week—keeping their faith and their traditions alive since 1922.
Despite the loss of a their once thriving tuna industry, and the loss of their many homes that once dominated the Point Loma neighborhood—as well as the exodus of family members back to the old country, to other states, or to the hinterlands of California—they return to celebrate, offer thanksgiving, and to feed over 4,000 people (homeless, strangers, and friends alike) with traditional home-cooked sopas and sweet bread.
While many other Catholic properties have been summarily sold or closed, the Point Loma Portuguese have saved both their St. Agnes Church and school. It’s no small feat.
These families have accomplished what no government can. They have preserved a unique sense of place and belonging. It’s something, like a family, that they fiercely protect, tax themselves for, and celebrate.
So, too, with many other long-time Point Loma residents—be they Chinese, Jewish, Native Americans, Hispanic, Irish or Italian. Plaques and historical designations dot the landscape.
All have faced an erosion of their heritage and the loss of their single-family residential neighborhoods, historical sites and irreplaceable architecture.
The most recent example is a fight over 310 San Fernando Street—an architecturally significant “Prairie Style” home built in 1912.
The Prairie School of architecture, championed by Chicago’s Frank Lloyd Wright, revolutionized the design of American homes.
He believed the prairie style expressed America’s democratic spirit by echoing one of its most distinctive landscapes — the vast prairies of the Midwest — and using native materials.
Wright abhorred the Victorian “boxes within a box” concept of room design and created rooms that merged and blended space in totally new ways. Furnishings, wall treatments, light fixtures, and fireplaces were designed to create beautiful, restful and comfortable interiors.
As the book Prairie Style explains, “The prairie house was forged from ideals that are still highly valued today: love of nature, respect for democratic freedoms, and a renewed focus on home and family.”
The home built at 310 San Fernando in 1912 remains one of those homes.
Built on a large lot as is common in the hills above La Playa, the home included a carriage house, and one other external building.
Developer BG Consolidated recently purchased the property from a trust. The carriage house has been torn down, and plans are to bulldoze the main house and erect three new homes on the existing lot.
The Save Our Heritage Organisation and La Playa Trail Association have both weighed in on the side of preservation.
The developers are resisting any support for a Historical Resources Board designation as a structure of historical architectural significance.
Now, it is up to the San Diego City Council to determine the preservation—or loss—of yet another timeless piece of architecture.
Colleen O’Connor is a native San Diegan and a retired college professor.
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