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One of Oceanside’s oldest building becoming a boutique hotel

OCEANSIDE — From a hardware store to an early boarding house and most recently a dry cleaner, one of downtown Oceanside’s oldest and tallest buildings will soon serve as boutique hotel.

Built in 1888 and located at 408 Pier View Way, the Schuyler Building is amid getting a facelift thanks to its current owners, the Aldrich family.

According to Thomas Aldrich: “The plot was originally owned by Andrew Jackson Myers, the founder of Oceanside. Myers sold the property to John Schuyler in 1885 whom built the original two-story building in 1888. The building served as a hardware store until 1903 when it became a boarding house, with a grocery store on the ground floor. In 1923, a third story was added, and the top two floors became a hotel. While the top two floors remained a hotel for several years, the bottom floor housed a variety of businesses through the coming decades — a heating and sheet metal business and eventually a dry cleaner.”

Aldrich said the family — which owns various real estate properties in the city — bought it in 2017, hoping to renovate it and turn it into a boutique hotel for those who want something other than a chain hotel.

“Our family originally owned a boarding house on what is now Mission Avenue (in a different building),” he said. “As Oceanside develops and becomes more of a tourist destination, we would like to return to our roots and re-enter the lodging business.”

Lots of renovations

And speaking of renovations to the old Schuyler Building, Aldrich said: “Thus far we have exposed the original brick, with the next step being to do an earthquake retrofit. Following that we will remodel and update the building, with keeping intact as much of the historical features as possible. The construction will take at least a year, as will be also adding a rooftop bar open to the public, and a small restaurant on the bottom floor.”

It’s a special building, he said, because it is as old as the city of Oceanside and has earned a rich history as Oceanside has grown. 

“There is exposed signage from previous uses over the years, and it is the oldest three-story building still standing,” he said. “So, I guess that makes it the tallest building to survive the early days of Oceanside. Unlike the larger hotels coming into town, ours will be a small, 10-room, truly boutique hotel with the history and architecture to prove unique amongst its competition.”  

Many owners

Over the decades, the Schuler Building has had many owners as mentioned, and according to a report provided by Aldrich and created by the Oceanside Historical Society, it began with Andrew Jackson Myers being granted the property in 1883 by the United States government. Myers was an Illinois native and he settled in the San Luis Rey Valley where he was a rancher. He is credited with being the founder of Oceanside as he applied for and received the 1883 land grant which is now downtown Oceanside. Myers built a bathhouse in about 1884 below the bluff near the present-day community center and began to advertise as a resort city for inland residents from Riverside, Redlands and San Bernardino. Excursion trains brought investors, as well as tourists to enjoy the small town by the ocean side, the report said.

Charles Francis Francisco was a nephew of Alonzo Horton, and came to San Diego in

1869. A native of Wisconsin, Francisco owned a store across from the old San Diego city

hall and was a real estate agent. Francisco sold the subject property to John Schuyler in

1887.

Schuyler was born in Cuyahoga County, Ohio, July 2, 1836. According to a biography, Schuyler “received a common-school education” and “when 16 years of age he went to learn the tinner’s trade, after which he worked as a journeyman in several of the Western States. In 1858, he came to California, where he worked in several places, and returned to New York City in 1864,” according to the report.

Schuyler married Ann Frances Barlow in 1864 and they had three children: Mary, Frank B.and Wilton S., all born in Nebraska, where they resided until 1884, when he came with his family to San Bernardino.

The Schuylers moved to Oceanside in 1887 and started a hardware business on Second Street (now Mission Avenue), which he purchased from Myers. In 1888 he built the building, a two-story brick store on Third Street (now Pier View Way). It was originally 26-by-85 feet, two stories high, and had a glass partition which divided the hardware store from his shop. Schuyler was the founding member of the Odd Fellows Lodge in Oceanside and his storefront also bore the lodge emblem. The building also hosted the lodge meetings, likely upstairs, the report said.

A prominent and active citizen, Schuyler served as president of the board of trustees of the city of Oceanside, a mayoral position in today’s terms. He also served on the Oceanside’s Volunteer Fire Department and built a small building to store the city’s fire equipment.

Schuyler deeded his hardware store building to his three children in 1894, which was returned to him in 1899. In about 1907 Schuyler moved to Berkeley to live with his son Frank. He died in 1917 and his body was returned to Oceanside where he was buried in the I.O.O.F Cemetery (now called Oceanview Cemetery), the report added.

In April 1903, the property was sold to John H. Buchanan, who in turn sold the property later that year to Peter J. Brannen. Brannen came from Los Angeles to Oceanside and continued operation of the hardware business. In 1905, he reportedly remodeled the interior portions of the building and opened it as a boarding house.

In 1913 the building was conveyed to Oceanside resident Mary J. Walbridge who in turn deeded the property to her sister that same year. She sold the property to James B. and Ella Kolb in 1920. The Kolb family had ties to Oceanside as early as 1884 and son Jesse Kolb established the Oceanside Garage on Hill Street.

It is likely at this time that James Kolb leased the building to Refugio and Madge Romo, who operated the Romo boarding house for several years. They sold the property to Thomas Russell Harriman of Pasadena in 1923, the report said.

After the building’s third story was added, the second and third floors became a hotel, rather than a boarding house. In the early to mid-1930s, Hotel Tours was managed by Mr. and Mrs. Joseph and Julia Liggett and later Charles and Luella Cundiff. The name was later changed to the Avon Hotel in the 1940s.

In the mid-1930s, Harry and Pearl Crutcher leased the first floor, which was used a heating and sheet metal business.

Harriman’s widow, Josephine, sold the building in 1941 to Berta Witzemann who deeded to the Bank of America National Trust and Savings Association in 1951. In the 1950s, the first floor was leased to Bill’s Military Store and later Big 7 Military Store, while the upper floors continued to operate as the Avon Hotel. It is likely that the building was modified to add doors on the second and third floors to the front facade, as well as a fire escape at this time. Bank of America held onto the property until it was sold to Saul H. and Sophie Collen in 1970, the report said. In 1975, the property was quitclaimed to Leo and Lynne Greenspan, the report said.

In 1979, the building was sold to Edmond William Dominguez of Encinitas. Dominguez made alterations to the building in 1981, removing the fire escape, and changing out the windows of the front façade on the second and third floors. In 1994, the property was conveyed to his niece, Marie Davies, owner of Pollos Maria restaurants in Oceanside and Carlsbad. The property was sold to the current owners in 2017.

As for what the boutique hotel will be called? Aldrich said the family is mulling it over and it may be a surprise. Stay tuned.

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