The Many Homes of Edward F. Bryans
The prolific builder established homes in a variety of styles
By Katherine Hon
It would be difficult to find a more versatile San Diego builder than Edward F. Bryans. From his arrival in San Diego in 1912 to his retirement in the early 1940s, he built structures in every style of the time, including Craftsman, Spanish Colonial Revival, Mission Revival, Italian Renaissance and Neoclassical.
He also was prolific, building hundreds of homes as well as many apartments (flats) and stores throughout the city. How do we know? One source is the newspapers of the day. A large ad in the May 28, 1922, San Diego Union for the Benson Lumber Co. highlighted E.F. Bryans as a builder. The ad noted, “Mr. Bryans has built over one hundred and fifty homes and flats in San Diego during the last ten or eleven years. The above pictured house is a sample of his workmanship. He also does considerable flat building, now working on the ‘Stacy’ flats at 3420 Park Blvd. The Sebastian flats in the 3500 block are his jobs, too. The steel building for Ed Streicher at 8th and E streets is being erected by him. Mr. Bryans can be found at 3022 Upas or by phoning Hillcrest 507.”
Lists of building permits from old issues of the Daily Transcript are another source of information. These handwritten lists painstakingly recorded by the late Donald Covington are being converted to a digital database by volunteers with the North Park Historical Society (NPHS) working in partnership with local planning consulting firm KTU+A, which is providing technical expertise on a pro-bono basis.
The building permits in the Daily Transcript describe the range of Bryans’ skill from frame and stucco cottages to stucco flats, brick and tile buildings, and steel and brick stores. One of his earliest permits was obtained March 14, 1912, for a frame cottage in Pauly’s Addition (Block 10 Lots 1 & 2), now 3694 Texas St., at the corner of Landis Street. Bryans built in the tracts of Horton’s Addition, Park Villas, University Heights, Blair’s Highlands, West End, Pauly’s Addition and Mission Beach.
On Jan. 20, 1913, he obtained the permit for 3420 Oregon St. (now Pershing Avenue). In May 1913 he obtained a building permit for 3544 Oregon St., which was his home with his wife Myrtle until 1916, when they moved to 3022 Upas. On April 29, 1926, Bryans obtained a building permit for 3401 Granada, and this was his listed residence in the City Directory from 1927 until 1961. Bryans became a resident at 525 Spruce St. in 1961 and lived there until his death on Aug. 12, 1973, at the age of 92. His obituary noted he was a retired building contractor, that he moved to San Diego 60 years ago and was a contractor for more than 40 years. He was born in Minnesota on April 16, 1881, was the fourth child and second son of Irish parents, and grew up on a farm. He was described in his World War I Draft Registration Card as having medium height, slender build, light blue eyes and dark brown hair.
His early frame cottages in North Park include 3406 Granada, built in 1919 for Samuel and Dora Loeffler, who owned and operated a clothing store on Fifth Avenue and later on the southeast corner of 30th Street and University Avenue where the store remained through the 1920s. This house, with its shingle facade gloriously restored, is across the street from Bryans’ former home at 3401 Granada. It is the house featured in September in the new 2011 NPHS calendar. Bryans also built the house next door at 3411 Granada.
Want to see a collection of Bryans’ homes in a few blocks? Within the proposed Dryden Historical District now under consideration by the city of San Diego, Bryans built more than a dozen homes, including the following 11 homes on Pershing Avenue between Upas and Landis streets: 3420, 3510, 3521, 3530, 3544, 3552, 3593, 3607, 3612, 3635 and 3652. Homes along 28th Street that Bryans built in the potential historical district are 3520, 3570, and 3711.
If you want to see many of the apartment buildings Bryans built, take a walk along Park Boulevard from Upas Street north to Pennsylvania Avenue. Most of the Spanish Colonial Revival, Italian Renaissance and Neoclassical Revival apartment buildings along this stretch were built by him. Starting on the west side at Upas Street, the buildings at 1634 Upas St. as well as 1646 and 1652 were built by Bryans.
Look across to the east side of Park Boulevard; 3401 is a Bryans building. On the west side of Park Boulevard, his buildings include 3418-20, 3422-24, 3430-34, 3436-40, and 3444-46. In the next block, the Neoclassical apartment buildings at 3501 and 3511 Park Boulevard and the Spanish Colonial Revival apartments at 3521 and 3525 were built by Bryans. He also built the house at 3535 Park Boulevard for Nathaniel Sebastian, developer of five of the buildings in this “apartment row,” which has been proposed to be an historical district. One of Bryans’ earliest buildings is the little Craftsman house at 3687 Park Blvd., which was built in 1913. On your way back to your starting point, take a detour down either side of Myrtle Avenue. The buildings at 1641-43 Myrtle Avenue and 1725-27 Myrtle Avenue were built by Bryans.
Other streets that Bryans built houses on include 29th, Dale, Granada, Mississippi, Palm and Upas. The house on 28th Street south of Upas Street featured in the article by Chuck and Sofia LaBella in the July 2010 West Coast Craftsman also was built by Bryans.
Two Bryans’ houses have been designated by the city of San Diego as Historical Resource Sites. On Oct. 25, 2001, the Dyar and Grace Hazelrigg House at 4247 Arden Way was designated as a significant historical resource under HRB Criterion B (Historic Person, for its association with the Hazelriggs, a long-standing merchant family of San Diego who owned several drug stores in the city) and Criterion C (Architecture). On Nov. 22, 2002, the Eldora Rudrauff House at 3411 29th St. was designated as individually significant under HRB Criterion C (Architecture).
Bryans was an award-winning builder. In 1933, the San Diego chapter of the American Institute of Architects gave an Honor Award to F.W. Stevenson, Architect (a Master Architect on the November 2008 HRB List of Established Masters), and E.F. Bryans, Contractor, for the extensive alterations made to the Streicher Shoe Co. Building at 939 Fifth Ave. The award poster illustrates the extent of the remodeling done in the Art Noveau style to the reinforced concrete, brick façade building constructed in 1911. The Manhattan Restaurant and Hotel originally operated in the building. In 1921, the Universal Boot Shop was established on the first floor. Edward Streicher had the building remodeled for his third San Diego store and the company’s general offices in 1930. He sold the building back to the owner of Universal Boot Shop in 1944.
The application for the Dryden Historical District prepared by the North Park Historical Society provides documentation to support the nomination of Edward F. Bryans as a city of San Diego Master Builder. You can read the application and see more photos of the many homes of Edward F. Bryans on the “Our Current Projects” page of the NPHS Website at NorthParkHistory.org