ENCINITAS — If you thought log cabins could be found only in the mountains, guess again. Leucadia has 15 of them located alongside Highway 101 and they attracted quite a few celebrities in their day.
According to the owners of the funky red-colored Leucadia log cabins — sisters, Marla Fuller-Elliott and Brenda Humphreys — who inherited them in 2013, they began as an auto motel.
“They were called ‘Log Cabin Auto Court’ and they were built in 1935,” said Humphreys, 74. “Our parents, Jeanne and Leonard Fuller, bought them in 1962.
“Back in the early days, the 101 was the only road and main corridor, from L.A. to San Diego and Tijuana,” she said. “There were lots of these types of auto court motels and I suspect that’s why the log cabins were built.”
Originally, there were 13 units and the main unit was a restaurant; today they are occupied by permanent residents. In the early 1980s they were converted to apartments and many of the residents have been there for decades.
“When they bought the property, the restaurant was already closed, but they found some of the original dishes and some other restaurant items,” Humphreys said. “Our parents actually lived in that main unit when they bought the cabins, as well as a house on Hygeia.”
Speaking of buying the property, the Fullers originally came to California because dad was a tool die and maker born in Nebraska. He was unable to enter the military after being diagnosed with a heart murmur and decided to attend a trade school to learn the craft. He later got a job with Convair in San Diego and decided to move.
“My mom wouldn’t move with him because they weren’t married,” Humphreys said. “But that changed, and they did get married in 1941 and moved to San Diego. He continued the tool and die work, and they also bought some land where they started farming. Our dad worked the graveyard shift at Convair and then he’d farm all day. Our mom would help dad with the packaging before the trucks came down to haul it up to L.A..”
Farming took place on their 7.5 acres in Encinitas between Requeza and Melba, where they grew vegetables until talk of the I-5 Freeway construction outed them
Forced out by the new freeway system, that’s when the Fullers bought the log cabins, along with a house on Hygeia, Humphreys said.
“When the freeway opened, more people came, and less used Highway 101,” she said. “They bought the cabins as a new venture.”
Brenda Humphreys was born in 1944 and sister, Fuller-Elliott, now 64, was born 10 years later. Both would work at the log cabin property. They also had a middle sister, Diane, who was 2 years younger than Brenda.
Diane and her 5 children lived in the main unit several times over the years until she passed away from breast cancer in her early 40’s. In fact, Fuller-Elliott, also lived in log cabin No. 12 from 1969 to 1980 until she moved into nearby condos. Today, she lives in Oceanside.
In addition to being a place where surfers, vacationers, jockeys, trainers and the like from Del Mar track and the Del Mar Fair congregated, the log cabins also attracted some celebrities. In the early days of owning the log cabins, there was an adjacent antique shop and flower stand which the Fullers started.
According to the sisters, Liberace used to come to the antique shop and look for antiques.
“He bought a lot of Carnival glass,” Humphreys said. “He was very nice.”
Fuller-Elliott added that Liberace signed an autograph and drew a piano for her: “He was nice, and very flashy.”
Actress Bette Davis once came to buy flowers at the stand that was typically operated by Leonard Fuller.
“She pulled up one day in a black limo with her driver and got out to buy flowers,” Fuller-Elliott said. “I asked for her autograph, but she replied she was simply there ‘to buy flowers.’ She didn’t want to be bothered or recognized.”
It’s rumored that Desi Arnaz, Jr. was a guest and stayed at the log cabins on his honeymoon, but the sisters couldn’t confirm.
Others included the father of Sammy Davis, Jr., who lived in No. 5.
“His son would come by in this gold car and he’d call to see if his dad was OK,” Fuller-Elliott recalled. “I met him once, he was nice.”
Leonard Fuller died in 1986 and Jeanne Fuller died in 2013, leaving their trust, which includes the log cabins and many other properties, to the sisters.
The log cabins are managed by EK Management Properties, and even though they aren’t involved in the day-to-day running of the cabins, the sisters make sure they know what is going on there.
They also don’t plan on selling the property — ever – even though they are approached often.
Their parents would probably be happy to know it’s still in the family.