San Diego Then & Now — The Quartermass-Stensrud House

Real Estate Broker/Owner with Harcourts Prestige Properties of La Jolla DRE# 01276329

A piece of San Diego History! Thanks Russell~

San Diego Then & NowNeed an inexpensive royalty-free photo? Try!This is one in a series of posts featuring past pictures of San Diego and my attempt at updating those pictures. For other posts in this series, click here.

Back in the late 1960s in my small home town of Kingsville, Texas, the whole town turned out to watch a large house being moved from one part of town to the other. I thought it was interesting then, and I still think it's interesting now.

In the following picture of City Heights in San Diego, taken around 1917, you can see a large house at the right.

City Heights, San Diego, California


That house was built in 1907 at 4008 University Avenue by Rueben Quartermass, a developer with the Columbia Company in early San Diego, as well as a department store owner. The area, known as City Heights, was rapidly becoming one of San Diego's streetcar suburbs serviced by the San Diego Electric Railway. In 1907 there were 475 homes in City Heights.

The house was sold in 1912 to Charles O. Stensrud. Stensrud was involved in real estate and banking for East San Diego when City Heights incorporated under that name in 1912. Later he became the East San Diego City Health Commissioner and was a driving force behind getting University Avenue paved.

From 1912 to 1929, the home served not only as a single family residence, but also as a boarding house and a funeral home. In 1929, William Konrad, the owner of the home and the son-in-law of Charles Stensrud, had it moved to 5602 Adams Avenue in the El Cerrito neighborhood, 2.9 miles away, and that's where it still stands today.

5602 Adams Avenue, San Diego, California


Konrad owned a hardware store in El Cerrito, and just a year earlier, San Diego State College announced that it would be re-locating to Montezuma Mesa, just a few blocks away from El Cerrito. Expectations were high that many professors would buy homes in El Cerrito. The house looks conspicuously out of place in a neighborhood of modest stucco homes.

With 3,619 square feet, and located so near the San Diego State College, the home served as a fraternity house in 1931-32 and 1940 for Kappa Phi Sigma and Eta Omega Delta, respectively. It also served as a boarding house during World War II.

The house has been designated a Historic Site by the San Diego Historical Resources Board and is known as the Quartermass-Stensrud House. It is a four-bedroom Colonial-style hipped cottage that also has a partial basement and a "usable attic."

The current owners bought it in February 2000 and have been restoring it to its original form and function. Some interesting items about the restoration:

  • No money has been found in any of the walls. At least, not any that anyone is telling us about.
  • A 1907 Glenwood stove was found, renovated, and converted to gas for the kitchen.
  • Aspects of modernization had to be undone, such as black paint on the moldings and popcorn ceilings complete with gold flecks.
  • There are over 100 diamond pattern Queen Anne windows in the house.
  • Most of the windows have uniquely shaped, but rotted, wood muntins which require painstaking work to reproduce.

My intent is to visit the owners to see if I can do a more extensive esposé on their home.

for inexpensive royalty-free photos.

Russel Ray Photos

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