Solana Beach business pioneer and community activist’s legacy lives on
By Diane Y. Welch
At the corner of Lomas Santa Fe and North Cedros Avenue — now an empty lot — once stood the retail store of The Lumber & Builders Supply Company whose yards and mill grew to expand northward as far as Cliff Street. Over a 50-year period the business provided many of the materials that helped develop North County coastal communities, although today there is no evidence that it existed.
There are no official markers to remind citizens of the business and to memorialize Herschell Larrick, Sr., who started the business in 1924. Larrick not only provided employment for locals, he was also elected chairman of the San Dieguito Union High School District board, petitioned for the formation of St Peter’s Episcopalian Church in Del Mar, successfully led a fight to divert the state’s proposed coastal route of the Interstate 5 freeway, and served on the Santa Fe Irrigation District board.
Ironically, Larrick suffered all his adult life with the discomfort of a prosthetic wooden leg. In 1916, he had fallen under a San Diego street car when his right leg was severed above the knee. A tourniquet was applied, thanks to the quick action of a passerby who happened to be a nurse, saving Larrick’s life, according to Charles Larrick who, in 1993, chronicled his family’s history in a self published book titled “The Larricks, An American Family.”
At the time of the accident Larrick was employed by the Benson Lumber Co.
“Despite the fact that this was a terrible injury and in those days a great handicap, Dad always claimed that it was the making of his success in the lumber business,” wrote Charles Larrick. His boss offered Larrick a job as a clerk at half the pay of working in the yard. This setback proved to be a blessing and was an opportunity for him to learn the lumber business from the ground up.
Within three years of this incident Larrick was a “rising star in the business.” By 1919 he had married Annabel Dunning and soon two boys, Herschell, Jr. and Walter, were added to the family, which also included Larrick’s mother and stepfather. Two more children, Charles and Martha, would be born a few years later when the Larrick family moved, after a brief stay in Santa Ana, to Solana Beach.
The 1920s proved to be prosperous years for the Larricks. The family moved from their two-bedroom home on Barbara St. into a spacious Lilian J. Rice-designed home in Rancho Santa Fe.
By 1933, however, Larrick’s company had lost 90 percent of its 1926 business. A newly purchased Cadillac, the estate home in Rancho Santa Fe and the lumber business were all repossessed during the depression. The family of eight moved back into the one-bathroom house in Solana Beach. The Barr family of Santa Ana, who had supplied the original loan for Larrick’s business, took ownership and agreed to keep him on as manager. Down to three employees, the business struggled to survive.
But pre-World War II preparations led to a boom and Larrick turned another setback into an opportunity. Business improved and by the 1950s the Larrick family again prospered.
“Dad’s final and maybe his greatest public service was the great highway war,” wrote Charles Larrick.
Larrick led local citizens to make a stand in opposition to the then-proposed freeway route that would have cut coastal communities from accessing their beaches. The citizens won their fight and Interstate 5 was redesigned to follow its current route.
According to Charles Larrick, when his father died in 1963, his mother Annabel Larrick burned their love letters. She also requested that her sons, Herschell and Charles, burn his wooden leg which she had watched him suffer with all their married life. Herschell Larrick, Jr. ran the lumberyard until the late ’70s when it was sold, then through mismanagement by new owners it went broke and closed.
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