By SANDEE WILHOIT | Gaslamp Historical Foundation
Even after the boom building years of the 1880s, several of the structures along 5th Avenue were still relatively unadorned wooden buildings. After 5th Avenue was paved in 1888, many investors then turned their attention to-ward the underdeveloped areas of the avenue. The 90 feet fronting 5th and directly north of the Keating Building was one such parcel — actually three adjoining parcels.
Choate-Gerichten-Peterson Block was initially named after the owners — all commercial and political pioneers of early San Diego. Daniel Choate was a longtime crony of Alonzo Horton and was very active in real estate. He was considered the largest dealer in real estate behind Alonzo Horton. He also sub-divided the area now known as City Heights, served as Postmaster and helped found the San Diego Chamber of Commerce. Charles Gerichten owned the land parcels directly adjoining the property and was responsible for the Ingle Building, which adjoins the Keating, as well as many others. He founded the San Diego Sun, a conservative newspaper, along with Dr. T.C. Stockton, and had previously leased the Horton House Hotel from Alonzo Horton. He passed away in 1884, and although he was the building’s name-sake, his widow, Florentina, was the actual partner with Choate and Peter-son. Otto Peterson was the real estate partner of Daniel Choate.
In 1894, Joseph Falkenham, the architect, announced that he was to design the “best two-story building in the city.” Falkenham was the senior partner of Irving Gill and the designer of the Ingle Building, the Timken Building, St. Joseph’s Hospital (now Mercy Hospital) and numerous Queen Anne style homes in Coronado. He was head of the Board of Public Works. He built his own ornate Queen Anne style home on 9th Avenue between Ash and Beech. Hanson and Engrebetson, also well known in San Diego having just finished the Timken Building and other Falkenham and Gill projects, did the car-pentry. They had been in business since 1883 and were considered master builders. This first-class project was to cost $20,000, making it the most ex-pensive structure built in 1894.
The structure is brick with a pressed brick facade, large show windows and six arched bays displaying full-length glazing. They are divided by pilasters decorated with geometric designs. At the end of the adjoining structures, decorated pilasters also stand, and continuous molding adorns the tops of each bay. The second floor features 16-foot ceilings, arched windows and heavily corbelled decorative brickwork along the roofline. A raised parapet continues across the properties and has a raised detail in the center of the facade. All three owners had to execute agreements to share a common en-tryway, party (common) walls, stairways, a skylight and toilet facilities.
As this was, collectively, a large property, it had many interesting tenants. Shortly after its completion, Albert Ingersoll opened a confectionary and ice cream store called the Palace of Sweets in the Gerichten parcel. He re-mained until 1901. Falkenham and Gill occupied one of the upstairs offices as did Choate and Peterson. Physicians, dentists and lawyers occupied the other offices. Other early first floor tenants included a barber shop, a tobac-co and cigar emporium, M.W. Jenks Jewelers, City of Paris clothiers, a dressmaker, the Benten, Japanese art goods and the C.W. Stults drapery company.
One of the early doctors to open his office in the building was Dr. James M. Steade. He was the son of a wealthy rancher from Kansas and had spent most of his youth hunting buffalo and fighting Indians. After his graduation from medical school, he spent several years practicing in the Oklahoma In-dian Territory before coming to San Diego. He specialized in obstetrics and founded the Sunshine Maternity Home at 3856 Park Boulevard. He felt that maternity patients needed a restful place to recover and that this provided a perfect adjunct to his practice. He was additionally active in the San Diego Medical Society and the San Diego Board of Health.
In 1901, Otto Peterson sold the south parcel of the building to George Tutton, and Albert Ingersoll purchased the north parcel from Florentina Gerichten. Ingersoll was also a previous partner of Charles Gerichten in the Exchange Building on 4th Avenue. Thus, the building then became known as the Inger-soll-Tutton Building. Ingersoll, an avid ornithologist, had come to San Diego for his health and pursued his hobby in 24 counties in California. His vast col-lection of bird eggs, including a condor egg, is housed in the Natural History Museum. He died in 1954 at the age of 96.
The mercantile structure continued to prosper, housing dressmakers, a pho-tographer, an oculist, insurance brokers, a billiard hall and countless tailors downstairs, and a plethora of doctors, lawyers and dentists upstairs. The tenant of longest duration in the building was Dr. William Ivanhoe Kinsley, who remained in residence until 1931. Previous to his coming to San Diego, he had worked as a messenger boy, clerk, railroad traffic manager and newspaper subscription salesman, and he even served in the Spanish-American war. He ultimately graduated from medical school in 1909. Howev-er, in 1931, he was charged with illegally dispensing drugs, lost his medical license and was sentenced to three years in a road camp. Upon his release, he regained his license and ran for every possible office in San Diego, but never survived a primary.
Another incidence of nefarious activity in the upstairs was a police raid on the office of a dentist who was performing illegal abortions. In the ensuing melee, shots were fired, evidenced by the bullet holes still in the ceiling around the interior skylight. The dentist was arrested.
Due to a long lease, Pleasureland Book Store operated on the ground floor until the structure was rehabilitated in 1991.
Currently, the upstairs is occupied by business offices, and the downstairs houses Coyote Ugly Saloon, Sadaf — a Persian restaurant, and the Casa-blanca Lounge.
a.k.a. Ingersoll Tutton Mercantile Building
818-836 5th Avenue
Architect – Joseph Falkenham
Architectural style – Romanesque Revival
— Sandee Wilhoit is the Historian for the Gaslamp Quarter Historical Founda-tion. She can be reached at email@example.com.