Standing at the corner of North Pacific Street and Seagaze Drive in Oceanside you would never know a bit of movie magic was filmed here in 1985, but it was.
It’s the spot where Tom Cruise’s character “Maverick” parked his motorcycle in front of a quaint cottage to have dinner (after being late due to a volleyball game with the guys) with love interest “Charlie” (played by actress Kelly McGillis) in the hit 1986 film “Top Gun.”
It was not — and is still not — by any means a McMansion, or even much to look at. But Oceanside’s “Top Gun” bungalow — at 102 N. Pacific St. between Seagaze Drive and Mission Avenue — is certainly an attraction.
The small, single-level Queen Anne Victorian-style cottage has been resting on the same prime oceanfront lot since the late 1880s. Its first owner, Dr. Henry Graves, built it in 1887 as a summer residence, according to Kristi Hawthorne, President of the Oceanside Historical Society.
It’s also been reported that McGillis fell in love with the home so much she took up residence in it during production.
“It is possible Dr. Graves was from Riverside and was retired,” Hawthorne said. “He invested in the Oceanside property and had it built. I don’t believe the family lived in it full time; they most likely rented it out and didn’t vacation there much. It was more of a summer home, much like today’s vacation rentals.”
The city of Oceanside took ownership of the home and it was declared a historic property, according to reports.
What makes the home unique is that it is now the “last best” existing such house with this type of architecture in San Diego County as recognized by the Save Our Heritage Organization (SOHO).
“It’s definitely small and has been added onto inside,” Hawthorne said. “The fireplace mantel and the windows are still original. The kitchen was probably remodeled in the 1940s or 1950s.”
It’s also the only house standing on the lot now; a few more similar cottages stood close by as shown in the movie that were demolished. Graves owned the house until 1905 and then it changed hands many times, according to Hawthorne.
Scouts for the film contacted the owners back in the 1980s and liked the house for the film because of its location, corner lot and nearness to the pier, Hawthorne said adding that it’s very picturesque.
At the time of filming there was also a rear lot where the owner had built a “carriage house” — like a granny flat — that was separate, Hawthorne said. However, that too, is long gone.
While the home has gone through several owners since the Graves hung their hats here, it has become famous thanks to “Top Gun.”
As old photos show, the home was once in pristine condition, colorful and well cared for. It had a somewhat gingerbread house appeal with its various wood cuts and once more ornate chimney that is still standing.
But there is no denying it, the home has fallen into disrepair and has seemed to have “lost that loving feeling.”
For example, Hawthorne said it has been painted a few times (it’s now a bright sky blue with white trim), the porch started to break down and a black chain-link fence was put up surrounding the home to keep trespassers out. There is a faded “Top Gun” poster also on one of the front windows.
Speaking of the front windows, they were boarded up years ago and to make the city’s beloved home look more respectable, colorful scenes were painted on them by the Ford Sign Co. Additionally, a sign referencing the house’s history and movie notoriety was added.
To build a hotel or not?
Of course, there has been much interest in the land, as a number of developers have sought to build a hotel on the lot. But plans failed, ideas came and went until one finally passed through the red tape.
But don’t worry about “Charlie’s House.” Because of the home’s historical significance, Hawthorne said the Oceanside Historical Society “has worked hard to play up the importance of the house to the developer.”
“It is written in the plans that the “Top Gun House” will be saved once the hotel is built,” she said.
Enter San Diego-based developer S.D. Malkin Properties.
According to its Senior Project Executive Jeremy Cohen, a multi-million-dollar, four-star hotel is imminent.
Cohen said the lot, along with the two blocks, spans 2.75 acres and is owned by the city and subject to a “Disposition Agreement with S.D. Malkin.”
The city could not be reached for comment.
But what of the beloved “Top Gun House?” Will it be bulldozed to make way for the luxury hotel? Restored to its original glory?
The hotel project is moving forward according to Cohen: “Since Governor Brown ended redevelopment, and lawsuit and appeal, both of which vindicated the approvals, etc.”
He said a groundbreaking for the project doesn’t have an “exact date set, but after late June 2018.”
“We will develop two hotels: One with 226 rooms with a ballroom, extensive meeting and function space and spa; one 161-room boutique hotel with rooftop pool and bar,” he said.
As for the “Top Gun House,” Cohen said it will be restored and reused for commercial use, but have no fear, tourists and locals will still be able to visit once the hotel sets down roots.
When asked if he thought the city of Oceanside needed another hotel Cohen said: “Yes. Since it has no four-star hotels or group-oriented hotels.”
Cohen also knows the “Top Gun House” holds special meaning for the community and those who travel to see it.
“The Graves House is a historic resource and was built in the 1880s; I love it and celebrate it,” he said.
In the end, the future of the property appears to be on the horizon, but a bit of the past will hopefully remain.
“The resort is meant to be the anchor of the redevelopment of downtown Oceanside, a process that has been in the works for over 25 years,” Cohen said. “These high-quality hotels and their food and beverage outlets will take the area to a whole new level for visitors and locals.”