The Elder House and the building contest

Some time back, old-timer Tom Ellis related a story to his wife Maie about a good-hearted contest that took place in about 1883. It seems that three friendly competitors decided to hold a competition between themselves to see who could build the best and most attractive home for no more than $3,000. The criteria for judging has been lost in time but the results were interesting.

F.W. Bartlett purchased land from Albert M. Hayward on the north side of the 300 block of Juniper Street (today’s East Mission). He built a two-story frame house of redwood using rectangular shaped nails which no doubt were hand made. It had a shingle roof. In the back yard was a thick walled adobe windowless building used as a pantry to store food. There were no iceboxes or refrigerators to retard spoilage of food so a vent pipe was placed in a section of the pantry. The pipe created a draft or circulation of air that was lead through damp or wet cloth. This created an evaporator cooler effect to preserve the more perishable foods like meat and milk. The remainder of the building was kept cool and dry to store fruits and vegetables etc.

Behind the adobe pantry building was the “out-house,” as there was no running water inside the main house. Bartlett’s house stood until the early 50s and was known as The Pines. Today on the site is a professional building housing dental offices.

Elmore Shipley constructed a two-story house on the south side of Juniper Street between Orange and Vine streets. Today Berry-Bell & Hall Mortuary and Fallbrook Chamber of Commerce are on the site. It was a beautiful, ornate home. Some years later Victor Westfall purchased the house and moved it to the north side of the 100 block of West Elder Street, just west of where the railroad tracks crossed Main Street. An outside staircase was added to lead to the second story of the house and it was used for several years as rentals. Throughout the years, the “Elder House” as it is known, has been a restaurant, Country Day School, a charter school, the Village News office, and today it is 127 West Social House restaurant. This structure is the only remaining evidence of the “contest.”

Mr. Blackburn constructed his home on the north side of Fallbrook Street west of Hill Street (South Mission Road) where today the Fallbrook Street School is located. This house burned leaving no record of the construction or any known pictures.

Mr. F.W. Bartlett won the contest, however there is no record of what the winnings were but we wonder what $3,000 would build today?

The above bit of trivia was taken from a Pictorial History of Fallbrook, California 1880-1920 compiled by Maie Ellis.

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