OCEANSIDE — Many people know the Victorian beach cottage on Pacific Street as the “Top Gun” house featured in the 1986 movie staring Tom Cruise, but historians see it as a significant historical landmark.
The Graves House, as it is historically known, is one of the first beach cottages built in 1887.
The architecture and location of the Victorian house with gingerbread features and an ornate chimney are key to its historical significance.
“A folk Victorian is absolutely rare by the beach,” John Daley, vice president of the Oceanside Historical Society, said. “It’s not being saved because it’s the ‘Top Gun’ house. It’s being saved because it is a significant era of architecture.”
The house now sits protected behind a fence until a $209 million luxury hotel development and preservation efforts by SD Malkin Properties begin. Construction is expected to start in fall and preservation efforts will follow.
The Oceanside Historical Society and SOHO (Save our Heritage Organisation, spelled with a Victorian “s”) have been keeping an eye on the house for quite some time.
“It’s the last of its kind,” Bruce Coons, SOHO executive director, said. “We worked with the city and developer to explain its historical significance. In this case it worked out. At one time it was thought of bulldozing it. We’re excited they’re restoring it.”
About 10 years ago the neighboring Victorian house was torn down, but focused efforts helped put the Graves House on the national register of historic buildings, which protects it under secretary of the interior’s standards for historical preservation.
“Architecture influences our lives and adds to our quality of life,” Coons said. “It’s hard to explain a connection. You don’t realize something until it’s gone.”
The house is currently in sound structural shape and locked behind a fenced enclosure to guard it from trespassers until final preservation efforts are made within the next few years.
Members of the Oceanside Historical Society and SOHO recently took a look inside the house to ensure it was structurally sound.
“It’s in very good shape,” Daley said. “The porches don’t look so good. They’re pine and the wood does not stand well in the outdoors. The house itself, the ceiling and roof are in great shape, no rain leakage.”
The group jacked up the sagging porch as a quick cosmetic fix. And there are plans to paint the exterior its original tan color before major preservation work begins.
“It’s never been off our radar list,” Kristi Hawthorne, Oceanside Historical Society president, said.
“We’re hoping it’s painted in February or March before a further facelift is done.”
Once hotel construction starts the house will be temporarily moved to the north end of the construction site. Then toward the end of construction the house will be permanently relocated within the hotel property, restored for adapted reuse by the developer and used as a commercial building. Construction is expected to take a few years.
Speculations are the 500-square-foot house will be used as a coffee house, gift store or ice cream shop.
To maintain its historical integrity its architectural features will remain in tact and preservation efforts will match original interior trim and exterior features. The porch will be redone and flooring will be restored to original wood.
“Most windows are original, a couple doors are original,” Hawthorne said. “It will be restored to its closest historical state.”
Once preservation is completed the house is expected to be a big draw to hotel guests and other visitors.
There are no plans to open the house for viewing until preservation efforts are completed.