30 Unique Homes in San Diego

30 Unique Homes in San Diego

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Unique Homes in San Diego

As San Diego County gets gobbled up more and more by developers, and one new tract home development after another sprouts up, it becomes harder to weed out the unique and historical homes out there....but they do still exist. Although stunning mansions are always fun to gawk at, this post is to pay homage to some of the more unique homes in San Diego.  Whether they have deep, historical significance, bizarre in design or just brimming with color and intrigue, that is what I was going for! So, if you're like me and love unique homes, this list is for you!


1. Old Highway 80


Old Highway 80 spans over multiple towns and is scattered with a ton of old, (oftentimes) abandoned homes.  Get a glimpse into what this area looked like a century ago as these crumbling buildings sit like time-capsules.  More often that not you don't even need to get out of your car to enjoy them!  Please note this area gets HOT in the summer!

Unique Homes in San Diego


2. Albert Beach House


We got the opportunity to visit one of Escondido's most beautiful & historic, Victorian homes: the Albert H. Beach House.  This property is currently for sale and an open house was offered by the owners and their agency!  I have been lusting over this property for about 20 years now so jumped at this rare opportunity to see inside! This is a private residence so please do not try to go inside. Appreciate from outside the gate if you visit.

3. Ketner House


During the Prohibition era of the 1920's and 30's, one of Carlsbad's most famous Victorian homes was providing a secret space for people to booze and socialize.  The man behind it was Eddie Ketner. In 1910, Ketner purchased the property and turned it into a successful hotel and restaurant for 60 years, known as the Twin Inns. During its heyday, the inn is said to have hosted many famous celebrities, including Babe Ruth and Amelia Earhart.


4. Bob & Carole's Secret Garden


Taking a walk through Bob and Carole's garden, you quickly see that there are themed sections.  Each area was designed to represent a different region of the world. Bob says that he was inspired by Disneyland and set out to create his own theme park for gardens! This is a private residence so please enjoy the photos for inspiration!


5. Eagle's Nest Historic Adobe


For the history buffs out there whom have a soft spot for old, adobe ranchos, this is the AirBnb for you! Located in one of the last under-developed areas of San Marcos, in a region known as Los Vallecitos, sits this stunning piece of architecture. It has been so well preserved by its owner, Anna Krasheninnikova.

Anna helped to restore this 1958 adobe into a wonderful example of California's Rancho period. Technically the home was constructed a century later than the period, but it still has the same essence as those times.  Regardless, it is one of a small few remaining historical adobes in San Diego and possibly the only one you can actually spend the night in.


6. Encinitas Hippie Homes


Many years back I was tipped off to these legendary hippie homes in Encinitas where artists lived and painted their houses in bright colors and added beauty across every inch of the exterior.  I had even seen photos which further proved they existed!  It took many years to finally figure out where they were and they definitely did not disappoint!

Before this was a trailer park it was a campground. Legend has it that many of the artists that now live in Del Dios, such as the owners of the fantastic Spaceship House, used to live in these homes.


7. Del Dios Treehouse


Del Dios is one of the most charming towns I have found in San Diego.  This is a tight-knit community that lives in a hilly woodside over-looking Lake Hodges. The neighborhood largely consists of artists of various mediums giving it colorful and quirky touches around each corner. We stumbled upon this unique home during an evening walk and while gawking at the beautiful mosaic pieces in the front yard, one of the owners came outside and greeted us.

The homeowners were kind enough to welcome us onto their property and that's where the magic began! This husband and wife duo said that they did not always feel like artists, but believe that the artistic energy running through their neighborhood brought out their creative sides. The wife said that she learned how to do mosaics from a neighbor who teaches mosaic classes nearby.  The husband has always been a handyman so the wood-working skills required to create such interesting features on their property came naturally.


8. Emerald Village Intentional Community


The Emerald Village is the type of place that many people dream of living at. Imagine you and your 9 great friends own a lush 9-acre property. Each couple has their own modest home.  Everyone works communally, helping to look after each other's kids and regular family meals. You have a built in support system and there is always someone to listen to your daily thoughts when you step outside.

What they have created is nothing short of magical. They do mindful meditation, qi gong, yoga, dance and flow arts, monthly men’s and women’s groups, regular sweat lodges, gardening, public events, art and so much more.


9. La Casa de Estudillo


La Casa de Estudillo, located in Old Town, is one of the oldest homes in San Diego and oldest surviving examples of Spanish architecture in California.  It was built in 1827 by early settler, José María Estudillo and his son José Antonio Estudillo.


10. Leo Carrillo Ranch


If you grew up in the 1950s, chances are you watched a western television show called “The Cisco Kid,” which featured a character actor named Leo Carrillo as Cisco’s sidekick Pancho. Carrillo was born in Los Angeles in 1881 who traced his American roots back several generations. He was seventy when he landed the television role of Pancho for which he is most remembered. While Carrillo pursued his acting career, he was simultaneously building a working ranchero and personal retreat in Carlsbad.

Leo, his wife and his daughter are long gone but his ranch remains and has been open to the public since 2003. It is maintained by the City of Carlsbad and connects to the citywide trails system via the 4-mile long Rancho Carrillo trail. The 27-acre ranchero lies in a canyon near the intersection of Poinsettia Land and Melrose Drive, and contains beautifully restored adobe buildings, antique windmills, a reflecting pool and other structures that call up memories of California history. There are a host of native plants and dozens of colorful peacocks who live on the property.


11. Leslie Perlis House


I recently got the opportunity to visit the most unique Sunset Cliffs residence, once home to the late and internationally-recognized artist, Leslie Perlis.  This home was designed in a post-modernism style, which was a movement that emerged in the 1960s as a reaction against the formality and lack of variety of modern architecture.

The house contains whimsical touches throughout and is even said to have secret passageways of sorts where Leslie would hide her valuables.


12. Bohemian Poolside Yome


For those who are looking for a unique, poolside getaway that is bursting with art, exotic fruits and sunshine, you absolutely have to checkout the Bohemian Yome at Eden East!  Although located in El Cajon, this truly feels like you've been transported to Belize or some other exotic location.

The Yome itself can accommodate 3 adults comfortably, with a queen size bed and a twin size futon that pulls out. The décor is detail-rich, making it a great spot to lounge in for hours. There is both a fan and heater to help keep you feeling extra cozy during your stay. The Yome is situated away from the rest of the property, giving you an intimate and isolated experience.


13. Magic Mountain AirBnb


The property in which the Magic Mountain Airbnb lays has become a very special place to us.  I have been visiting this property for around 8 years now and the same magic we experienced the first time visiting still remains.

Upon immediate glance, you may think there is not much to do.  It is all about the smaller details though! Photographers, artists, adventurers, hikers, historians, models, desert-lovers and spiritualists will all most likely love this property.  You must walk around and become acquainted with your surroundings to truly appreciate it! There are historic trains on this property as well.


14. Marston House


The Marston House and Garden was built in 1904 for "The Father of Balboa Park", George Marston.  Learn about the "Mother of Balboa Park on this page!  Marston moved his way up from being a clerk at the Grant Hotel to founding The Marston Company which became the only major department store in the city at the time. The stores were eventually sold to The Broadway in 1961.

The property was donated to the City of San Diego by Marston's daughter Mary in 1987 and is now a museum in Balboa Park. Save Our Heritage Organisation (SOHO) took over operation of the property in July 2009.  The 8500 sq. ft. home is surrounded by 5 acres of formal gardens and rustic canyons.

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15. Mt. Woodson Castle


When one thinks of a 27-room castle with roots in the occult, Ramona, San Diego most likely doesn’t come to mind.  And yet there it sits, the mysterious Mt. Woodson Castle. The castle was completed in 1921 during the Craftsman Movement for the successful dressmaker, Amy Strong. Building her home took 5 years and cost $50,000.

There were many esteemed hands involved in the completion of her home which emphasized the connection between the surrounding environment and herself.  Many primitive material were used such as eucalyptus, oak and redwood, rocks and flagstone, adobe, bricks and tiles, plaster, concrete and stucco.


16. Munchkin House


How the legend of the Munchkin House goes is that back in the 1930’s a group of munchkins who had acted in the movie ‘The Wizard of Oz’ moved into a group of tiny homes on Mt. Soledad. We would spend hours driving on the windy roads of the mountain, oohing and ahhing over the gorgeous mansions.  Never once did any home’s size stand out to us as being miniature.  It wasn’t until a decade later that I found an article online giving directions to the last remaining “munchkin house”, built by famed architect Cliff May.

As expected, the house is abnormally small and incredibly cute. Nothing too spectacular though. I was far more impressed with the castle-esque home next door and the beautiful view of La Jolla & the ocean.  While you’re out here, try to find the Troll Bridges!


17. Mushroom House


The Bell Pavillion (also known as the Mushroom House) was built & designed in 1965 by Dale Naegle for Sam Bell of Bell’s Potato Chips & General Mills. Bell had purchased a summer home overlooking the Pacific Ocean and wanted to add a guest house.

Although the house is no trespassing, the entire hike and perimeter of the home are open to the public. This is a fun hike through a canyon with stunning views. The house is just south of Black’s Beach.


19. Old Point Loma Lighthouse


The Old Point Loma Lighthouse is an historic structure located on the Point Loma peninsula inside the Cabrillo National Monument. Although it hasn't been in use since 1891, the public is still welcome to visit it and explore the grounds. This is a great day trip as with so much to explore on the grounds including a ton of hiking trails, old bunkers and tide pools! The Old Point Loma Lighthouse is a nod to simpler times, as you will see when touring the home.


20. Poway Stagecoach Stop


In 1888, the first stage coach began to transport mail from San Diego to Escondido. Back then, Poway (known as Paguay at the time) was called the Twenty Mile House as it was 20 miles from San Diego and 20 miles from Escondido. Due to its convenience, it was used as a rest stop for tired passengers. The stage would make one stop at the post office in Poway and then continue on its way. 8-10 passengers were allowed to ride the stage coach on the 3-day journey for $1 or a round-trip for $1.50.

There are at least 7 stone structures and two historical bridges on Old Pomerado rd. All of the homes are said to be tied into the stage coach days and were used as rest stops. I have taken photos of the structures and provided what history I could gather:


21. Rancho Buena Vista Adobe


The original Buena Vista land grant of where the Rancho Buena Vista adobe now sits was issued in 1845 Gov. Pio Pico to Felipe Subria.  Felipe was a Luiseño man who was "awarded" the land grant due to converting to Christianity at the Mission San Luis Rey. Today the Adobe is open to visitors Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays from 10am to 3pm.


22. The Spaceship House


The Spaceship House, one of several names this home has, is one of the more unique examples of owners letting their imagination fly. Pancho and Margarita say they were inspired by the cylindrical-shaped homes on stilts they saw in Mexico. The two decided to have a home of their own built with this type of engineering.

The 3-story house stands high above the rest of the homes, forcing your attention when you drive by and most likely stopping you in your tracks!

23. Spot 8


Here at Hidden San Diego, we love to explore ruins and delve into the past of what once was, and we recently discovered something that raised everyone's curiosity.  After researching further, we did not find ruins... we found beginnings. Perched atop a hillside are the beginnings of what was to be an elaborate castle of sorts, constructed from rock that was quarried on-site by a man name dEarl Losch.

Earl's greatest labor of love was never completed - his Castle Rock. On the 3-acre parcel overlooking a beautiful lake, Earl cleared a homesite and started building... from scratch.

The stone was quarried on-site to build retaining walls and steps, but construction was abruptly halted when Ava became suspicious of Earl's long absences and accused him of infidelity. Ava and Earl had no children, but there is one very strong statement of their love for each other still visible - his-and-her seats carved into boulders with a perfect view of the sunset over the lake.


24. The Shire


You would not expect to find such a magical home next to a busy highway. With a thick wall of trees to protect it, it is easy for the observer to get lost in its majesty and forget the hustle of the surrounding world. Known as the ‘Shire’, this home was built in 1972 & designed by the famous & whimsical artist James Hubbell. Hubbell began his artistic career as a sculptor and slowly moved into architecture.

It is now viewable as an AirBnb!


25. Victorian Village


Heritage Park is a county park located near Old Town San Diego State Historic Park and measuring almost eight acres. It was developed to preserve examples of San Diego's historic Victorian architecture including Italianate, Stick-Eastlake, Queen Anne and classic revival styles. The properties were all relocated from their original locations with the help of San Diego County and Save Our Heritage Organisation.


26. Villa Montezuma


Just on the outskirts of downtown stands an unusually-stunning piece of Victorian-era architecture. This intricate mansion known as the Villa Montezuma was built by several members of a local spiritual society in 1887 for famous musician and author Jesse Shepard. Shepard was a worldly composer, known for giving elaborate performances, oftentimes for royalty. He was quite the eccentric, rumored to have held seances in his home in order to channel famous composers, musicians and even Egyptian spirits.

Tours are offered by the city a few times a year so make sure to check out their website for an upcoming one!


27. Warner-Carrillo Ranch House


For those that are interested in getting a glimpse into San Diego’s fading history, the Warner-Carrillo Ranch House is a must-visit spot for your checklist. I asked the docent if there are any paranormal reports and she did say that people have noted cold spots in the house and feelings of being watched.  For those of you that are into the paranormal, you should check it out and see if you experience anything!

The tour was amazing and our docent was a true historical gem with a bloodline deeply attached to San Diego’s history.  She is part of the Fletcher family.  You can read an article we wrote which includes Ed Fletcher and his contributions to the Lake Hodges Dam.


28. Wat Boubpharam Temple


Wat Lao Boubpharam is a Buddhist temple located in San Diego. Its primary purpose is to serve the community in accordance with the Theravada Buddhist traditions. The temple provides a place and space of worship and spiritual refuge for all Buddhists. The monks reinforce the three spiritual values of morality, mental purification, and wisdom as well as tolerance and respect toward other spiritual traditions and mankind.


29. Whaley House


The Whaley House was built where a graveyard once was. At various times it also housed Whaley's general store, San Diego's second county courthouse, and the first commercial theater in San Diego. The house has "witnessed more history than any other building in the city". Yours are open to the public.  Are you brave enough to visit?


30. Heartbreak Hotel


Located in a traditional suburban neighborhood in Escondido is one house that stands FAR out from the rest of them. There is no missing the eye-catching 'Heartbreak Hotel'. The morphing of a standard suburban home into a 1950's museum-esque living space was all done by one man, Andre Villa.  The process has been a slow progression of almost 50 years.

The house sits like a shrine paying homage to his favorite actors and movies which he says helped shape his life.  When Villa ran out of room downstairs, he began decorating the attic and garage!

Even the toilet seat has been replaced with a guitar!  The backyard must be a blast for parties.  An old jukebox plays all the hits and the bar is fully stocked.  There's also a waterslide and rooftop deck with Marilyn Monroe watching from a bench nearby.


31. Ilan-Lael Foundation


We are so lucky that famed architectural designer James Hubbell's home is available for private tours!  This is one of the most enchanting properties in San Diego County and comes with great history!

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