Casa de Tomás-es

Posted: November 4th, 2016 | Columnists, Featured, Gaslamp Landmarks | No Comments

By Sandee Whilhoit | Gaslamp Landmarks

The property located on the northwest corner of Fourth and Island avenues was originally sold to Edward J. Smith by Alonzo Horton on April 27, 1870, for the goodly sum of $500 in gold coin.

Mr. Horton was able to secure such a high price for his real estate, because this lot, being on a corner, was much more prized as a prime location for business. Horton laid out the city utilizing short blocks to ensure a maximum number of corner lots, earning him the nickname, “Corner Lot Horton.”

The first structure on the property was a one-story brick building used as a saloon from 1895 until 1906. From 1913 until 1919, it became a Chinese laundry, operated by Mr. Wo Gee.


Casa De Tomás (1930); Casa de Tomás Addition (1930). 500 – 520 Fourth Avenue. Architect: D.S. Calland. Style: Spanish/Oriental (Courtesy GQHF)

In 1922, the Quinn family purchased the property. Ah Quinn, the family patriarch and un-official mayor of Chinatown, passed away nearby, at the corner of H Street (now known as Market Street), where he was hit by a motorcycle in 1914. He was walking to a birthday celebration for a grandchild. His son, Thomas Quinn, then assumed the title.

Thomas Quinn then commissioned D.S. Calland to reconstruct the building in 1930. Mr. Calland was from Mexico City, hence the name, “Casa de Tomas,” and the combination of Spanish and Oriental style architecture.

The two-story reconstruction consisted of a store downstairs and two apartments upstairs. Seven years after the reconstruction of the building, Thomas Quinn died in one of the upstairs apartments.

A large garage was added to the side of the building at that same time — known (informally) as the Casa de Tomas addition — which incorporated a very distinct Spanish influence. Although originally used to repair autos, the Empire Garage (its formal name) was later converted into a flower market, wholesale shop and ultimately, an apparel and uniform sewing factory.

In 1935, the property was passed to Thomas Quinn’s daughter, Helen Kong. She then passed it on to her son, Dr. Thomas Kong, who was born and raised in one of the upstairs apartments, making it truly the Casa de Tomás-es.

In more modern times, the downstairs has housed a series of nightclubs and a cigar lounge, including Papa Jack’s and Aubergine.

The current occupant, Fluxx — voted San Diego’s Best Nightclub for six years running — has been the property’s resident since 2009. The nightclub has hosted such notable celebrities as Ashton Kutcher, LeBron James, Lil Wayne, Flosstradamus, Future and Diplo, just to name a few. It features cutting-edge popular music, DJs and celebrity events, including one of the many official Comic-Con after-parties.

To learn more about the fascinating history of New Town, San Diego’s Downtown, visit the Gaslamp Museum and take one of the Walking Tours, Thursdays at 1 p.m. and Saturdays at 11 a.m. Visit


—Sandee Wilhoit is the historian for the Gaslamp Quarter Historical Foundation. She can be reached at

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