Editor’s note: This article is reprinted from the “Del Mar Picture Book’s” chapter on historic houses of Del Mar. The book was published by Joe Jelley.By Lisa Pluth
Del Mar as we see it today was laid out and planned by five extraordinary men who formed the South Coast Land Company (SCLC) in 1905-06. These were Henry E. Huntington, William G. Kerckhoff, Henry W. Keller, Charles Canfield and Ed Fletcher. Four built homes in Del Mar and all four of these houses still exist today (in various forms of preservation).
Del Mar had been established and laid out prior to the coming of SCLC, but most of these earlier lots had not been developed. The town underwent a period of prosperity during the 1880’s, but the burning of her grand hotel, the Casa Del Mar, in 1890 marked the end of this early boom and Del Mar had returned to being a sleepy little backwater north of San Diego.
The coming of SCLC and the personal interest the board took in the town, led to the establishment of a new hotel. The Stratford Inn (located where the L’Auberge is today), an opulent bathhouse, a new powerhouse, a pier, and a company store (where Stratford Square is today). SCLC also established new infrastructure and re-subdivided most of the lots in Del Mar. The windy streets and beautiful view lots along Del Mar’s first “Del Mar Heights” are the most obvious, and perhaps most important, legacy of the SCLC.
Four of the founders of the SCLC were from Los Angeles. The best known today is Henry E. Huntington who established the Huntington Library in San Marino and the Huntington Museum and Botanical Gardens in Pasadena. Huntington was from New York and the nephew and heir to the Southern Pacific Railroad fortune of Collis P. Huntington. He was involved in various business dealings including the founding of the Pacific Light and Power Company with his friend and business associate William Kerckhoff. Huntington is the only one of the SCLC directors who did not build a home in Del Mar.
Kerckhoff was also from Los Angeles. He built his fortune primarily through the development of electrical companies in Los Angeles. He had various other companies and buildings throughout California and built and financed many projects including buildings at both USC and UCLA.
Kerckhoff kept his main home in Los Angeles but he also built a cottage at 1660 Luneta around 1911. Kerckhoff’s cottage was designed in the Craftsman style with a large porch supported by brick pilasters. Its shingled exterior had been preserved.
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