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8 San Diego Uptown News | Apr. 1–14, 2011 FROM PAGE 1


Diego and the rest of Southern Cali- fornia, said Coons. “He influenced more architects than any other architect who hailed from San Diego,” Coons said, not- ing May built about 50 homes in San Diego before moving to larger pastures in Los Angeles. “He later came back to San Diego and did another 25 or so homes after that,” he said, adding May’s earlier work was “more characteristic” of his lit- eral interpretation of the Mexican hacienda. “He knew all the Ranchos and he

was really interested in the whole idea of integrating the indoors and the outdoors.”

Coons said May is notable for taking the region’s “native” Old Spanish and Mexican architecture and adapting it to San Diego’s cli- mate and other factors. “He modernized it, made it ac- cessible to the masses and a whole generation of Americans,” conclud- ed Coons, noting May “was the first one (builder) to really shove the garage forward so the rest of the lot could be used for the house. He started adding adobe sections, and that morphed over time into the ranch house.”

The 2011 SOHO tour covered several communities, including Talmadge Park, Presidio Hills, Point Loma and Loma Portal. Each featured May’s experimental, early hacienda style and his fascination with the early California adobe ha-

Courtesy Sandé Lollis

ciendas and ranchos. Visitors were able to view firsthand the origins of his signature style. Kensington resident Barbara Roper and landscape architect Gail Garbini owned two homes on the tour.

Roper exhibited her 2,300-square- foot 1933, early “May,” which is on the National Register of Historic Places.

“It’s considered his oldest and

most original home, which has seen the least amount of changes,” she said, noting her family is the property’s 12th owner. The Roper’s Cliff May

home is distinguished in a number of ways, particularly in the details of

its five fireplaces—each unique. “They all look different, have

different elevations,” Roper noted, adding her home has a distinctive interior courtyard surrounded by high walls affording privacy. “It just has so much character and personality,” she concluded, noting they’ve embellished their home with lots of personal touch- es like hand painted floral designs on doors, beams and outdoor shutters.

“Roper said her May “original” is not only aesthetically appealing but eminently functional and ex- ceedingly practical.

“I love living in this house,” she said. “It’s wonderfully cool in the

summer: We have no air condition- ing and don’t need it.”

Garbini described the SOHO

Tour as “wonderful,” noting it was well attended by the public as well as by descendents of both Cliff May and his early benefactors. She added descendents of Wilbur Hale and his craftsmen, master builder of the O’Leary house, also attended the tour.

People appreciated the “authen- ticity” of the event. “By virtue of the large number of people who toured the homes, there is evidently great interest in the style of architecture and fur- niture associated with Cliff May,” Garbini noted. “All the homes on

In the tradition of the Martin Luther King All People’s Breakfast and the Cesar E. Chavez Commemorative Breakfast, the Harvey Milk Diversity Breakfast Committee invites you to join us for the Harvey Milk Diversity Breakfast. This historic event seeks to bring together all San Diegans who support equality and justice in celebration of his memory.

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the tour were representative of his early work in the 1930s, and the homes were documented Cliff May- designed homes.” Alana Coons, SOHO’s events and education director, character- ized the tour’s turnout as “incred- ibly successful.” “We had well over 1,000 peo- ple, and most were thrilled,” she said, noting the only downside was homes, because they were required to be “early” Mays, were widely distributed geographically requiring tour participants to “cov- er a lot of ground.” “The lines were long but went

quickly,” Alana Coons said, add- ing “People also said they hope we do more tours featuring sin- gle

architects, which was our

plan anyway.” Coons added SOHO’s tours— this one no exception—are noted for their educational value. “We had a 64-page, really in-

tense program,” she said. “We had lectures (on Cliff May) the day before for those who wanted real in-depth knowledge. Our docents on the tour have also been with us (SOHO) for years.” Bruce and Alana Coons’ historic May home in Loma Portal was one of the six featured on the tour. “Ours was the fourth home he built and the first he commis- sioned,” Alana Coons said. “All of the Cliff May homes on the tour, not just ours, are of great national importance.”

The SOHO Cliff May home tour, said Alana Coons, also clued people in on what’s involved in restoring a historical dwelling. “People learned these houses

don’t start out being picture-per- fect, that it takes a lot of time—and research—to restore them,” she said.

Cliff May will always be remem-

bered as the developer of the sub- urban, post-World War II California Ranch “dream home.” Growing up in San Diego, May built Monterey-style furniture in his youth. Though he never for- mally registered as a licensed ar- chitect, he went on to do housing projects, both individual and tract, throughout Southern California in the San Diego, Los Angeles and Santa Barbara areas. Over the course of his career, May designed a multitude of com- mercial buildings and more than 1,000 custom residences. He died in 1989 at the age of 81 at his es- tate in the foothills of the Santa Monica Mountains in Brentwood, California. For more information about

Cliff May consult “Cliff May and the Modern Ranch House.” To learn more about SOHO, visit: sohosan-, or call SOHO at (619) 297-9327.u


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