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Museum reaches out to community for help in preserving landmark

ENCINITAS — The San Dieguito Heritage Museum, led by Dave Oakley, is reaching out to the community with a request for financial support to restore the Teten House, one of the first structures built by the Olivenhain Colony in the 1880s. Originally located in the vicinity of Rancho Santa Fe Road, between 5th and 7th streets, today the house sits on blocks adjacent to the museum at 450 Quail Gardens Drive.

“The Teten House was originally a school that was remodeled into a five-room residence without bathrooms,” Oakley explained. “Donations will be used for a new foundation and to rehabilitate the three porches and the roof to make it water tight.”

To date, $45,000 has been raised with a goal of $65,000. A special push is under way to generate an additional $5,000 in September to enable Oakley to begin submitting architectural drawings to the city of Encinitas.

The Teten House today, awaiting restoration on the grounds of the San Dieguito Heritage Museum. $5,000 in donations is needed in September to begin submitting architectural drawings to the City of Encinitas. Photo by Lillian Cox

A plan check, he added, has commenced so that a building permit can be issued.

When restored, the Teten House will reflect the interior in its heyday with furniture and artifacts donated by Gladys Teten Shull. There will also be temporary exhibits of quilts, toys, radios and cameras.

According to a timeline published by the museum, the house was built in 1885 by Theodore Pinther, a promoter of Colony Olivenhain who lured unsuspecting German immigrants from the Midwest to what they thought was rich farmland, ideal for olive trees, with plentiful water.

In 1892, Frederic Teten became the last registered member of the Colony. He moved the school building to the south and joined it with another structure creating Teten House where he and wife, Anna, raised five children.

After he died, son John quit school to run the farm. He married Laura Bumann and had four children with her, between 1918 and 1928, including Gladys Teten Schull.

To assist in the restoration, Shull prepared a notebook that includes detailed drawings, and written descriptions, to indicate how the house was furnished.

“Sheets and pillowcases were often made from white poultry feed sacks,” she wrote. “All the beds had ‘chenille’ bedspreads. There were lace curtains on all the windows except the kitchen.”

Schull also remembers playing duets on an organ, with John providing accompaniment on his harmonica.

“Christmas tree was always put up by the organ,” she continued. “It was lighted with candles held on to the tree with little clips. They were lit each night for a short time.”

The wood stove was a vital appliance, with a steaming, hot aluminum tea kettle generating much-needed humidity for the room as well as hot water for dishes and bathing. Heavy irons heated on the wood stove were used to press clothes.

“Calendars always had a pretty picture on them and were hung all over the house,” Shull remembered. “Most of them were from Hillers Grocery and Feed Store in Encinitas, and Conners Grocery in Solana Beach.”

Shull remembers searching for Indian artifacts on the property after the field was plowed, or a rainstorm.

“After it rained, the kids would walk the washes through the fields to find arrowheads,” she wrote. “A 6-foot ditch followed Rancho Santa Fe Road and as the banks caved in during storms, Indian graves were exposed. The soil in these graves would be red and the rocks blackened, and amongst this were bones, beads, peace-pipes, pottery and such, but most were broken.”

One of the donors to the Teten House restoration project is Norma J. Lux whose mother, Camilla Lee Lux, taught at Olivenhain School after graduating from San Diego State College.

“In the early ‘20s, the school served grades 1-12,” Lux wrote. “She lived with John and Laura Teten in the Teten House. So I hold special members from childhood as we used to see the Teten’s quite often.

“While living in the Teten House, my mother attended a dance at the Olivenhain Hall where she met my father, Roy Lux, a rancher.”

Tax-deductible donations can be mailed or dropped off at the San Dieguito Heritage Museum, 450 Quail Gardens Drive in Encinitas. Museum hours are Thursday to Sunday noon to 4 p.m.

For more information, call (760) 632-9711 or visit