History of the Kirk House
Our Manse & Church Business Office
Kirk House is a precious pale-gray pearl nestled between the Center for Christian Education and Kirk Cottage on the Graham Memorial Presbyterian Church campus. The immaculately preserved three-story Victorian Queen Anne Revival-style 4,500-square-foot showpiece serves as a suite of handsome ground-floor offices for the church staff and spacious second- and third-floor residence to the pastoral family.
Below is the fascinating history of Kirk House, gathered and converted to electronic text from several print publicity clippings saved by Margaret "Peg" Luedtke, volunteer church archivist.
2009 Historical Summary
In 1887, riverboat Captain Charles T. Hinde and his wife Eliza built their first home on C Avenue in Coronado. When fire destroyed much of the original structure in 1890, the Hindes commissioned James W. Reid and his brother Merritt Reid, architects of the world-famous Hotel del Coronado, to design a completely new Victorian Queen Anne structure around the original facade of the mansion. The design resulted, in part, from plans that Eliza Hinde suggested.
In 1891, the Reid brothers departed San Diego for San Francisco to develop another architectural ﬁrm. A Reid associate, Michigan-born maverick architect William Sterling Hebbard, took over the San Diego operation. Hebbard supervised the Hinde home remodeling until its completion in 1894. The clean lines, large open porches with Ionic columns, and third-story wraparound frieze suggest Hebbard's esthetics rather than those of the Reid brothers.
Captain Hinde died in 1915, but his home remained in the family until the late 1930s. The Hinde house then became home to many after a new owner converted it into a hotel and boarding house known to locals as the Mrs. Robison [ also appears as Robinson ] Hotel Ritz. When owners again put the house and its seven lots on the market in 1953, Graham Memorial Presbyterian Church purchased it and renamed the residence Kirk House. Kirk is the Scottish word for church.
Kirk House became a storage building, offices, and residence to the church sexton. Then it filled church needs as a Sunday school—the current Thrift Cottage was a Sunday school annex at the same time—until 1969, when the current Center for Christian Education took the place of the former carriage house on an adjoining church campus lot.
Second-ﬂoor renovation began at Kirk House soon after in 1970, and, in 1974, the young women’s Friendship Circle paid for a new kitchen ﬂoor. In 1975, the Coronado Historical Association designated Hinde House a historical landmark and issued an ofﬁcial brass plaque, now mounted on the house near the main front entrance.
Second- and third-ﬂoor remodeling began in 1982. Friendship Circle members personally continued renovating the parlor and pastor’s study, removing several coats of paint down to the original wood, sanding it, and then reﬁnishing it. Then they furnished the rooms with case goods and upholstered pieces whose design reﬂects the Victorian era.
In its centennial year, 1987, the home exterior went under the same meticulous renovation, including the burning off of repeated coats of paint, installation of new deck ﬂoors and 2,300 new spindles in railings that run along the many porches.
Today, the ﬁrst ﬂoor is a suite of ofﬁces taken by the pastor and church staff. The parlor frequently becomes the meeting place of church business committees and spiritual-growth groups.
Kirk House second and third ﬂoors are the pastoral family residence. During the Christmas season each year, the family opens its festively decorated home to the congregation for an evening of fellowship, food, and church-family fun.
Between Kirk House and the Center for Christian Education runs a fertile patch of earth lovingly tended by church volunteers. This is the Reverend Kenneth Baird Carson Memorial Rose Garden, fragrant multi-year winner of the Coronado Floral Association Helen McNear-Robert Lamp Best Church Grounds Trophy.
Hinde Site and Foresight
September 13, 1987
By Carol Olten
Published in The San Diego Union
Captain's Coronado Buildings Are the Focus of a Great Revival
The roads were dirt, but a real estate boom was under way when Captain Charles T. Hinde came to Coronado a hundred years ago to build his house. And his carriage house. And a church built in loving memory of a deceased daughter. And, finally, a parish hall for the church.
Hinde, unlike many early speculators, did not come to make a quick fortune and skip town. At 55, he already had established a livelihood as a steamboat river captain in the Midwest. But the death of his only daughter at age 12 in Evansville, Indiana, had left his soul ill at ease. His friend Elisha Spurr Babcock, the builder of the Hotel del Coronado, had told him of opportunities waiting on the island that was "a paradise on Earth." With his wife, Eliza, Hinde sought a new life of semi retirement there in 1887.
By the time of his death in 1915, Hinde had established a reputation as a leading philanthropist and civic leader rivaling the prominence of early residents such as John D. Spreckels.
Today, Hinde's architectural legacy on Coronado is a substantial one, fashioned of wood and stone and concentrated in the single block of C Avenue between Ninth and Tenth streets.
Major restoration of two buildings has been going on this summer. That work will be celebrated this afternoon with a block party presented by Christ Episcopal and Graham Memorial Presbyterian churches. The Episcopalians restored Hinde Hall, their parish hall, and the Presbyterians restored the exterior of Hinde's home, now used as their manse and called Kirk House.
Color is being introduced on the Victorian Kirk House for the first time. The house, shown with gray primer, will be finished in three tones of green before the end of 1987.
Early visitors marveled at the handsome woodwork and wainscoting. The parlor is finished in bird's-eye maple. The sitting room and library are in cherry and the dining room in oak. Stairways, hallways and kitchen cabinetry are all in Port Orford cedar. A billiard room on the third floor offers grand views of the bay and beaches.
"We always wanted to play on this third floor," recalled Marion Hinde Hamilton, a Hinde niece whose father, Harry Hinde, inherited the house after the captain's death. She and her family lived in the house from 1916 to 1922 before it was rented and later sold outside the family.
The house and other Hinde buildings remain the most important cluster of Victoriana on Coronado and are included in the National Register of Historic Places. In the cluster of structures designed by the Reid brothers are Christ Church, a massive rustic stone Gothic building; the much daintier Gothic Graham Memorial with shipboard siding and shingles; the Kirk House, a celebration of high Victorian style with throwbacks to Grecian classicism; and Hinde Hall, built as a parish hall and repeating the rustic Gothicism of the neighboring Christ Church. (The carriage house Hinde had built next to his residence was demolished some time ago to make room for a Sunday school building.)
When restoration architect Jim Gibson undertook the work on the Kirk House and interiors of Hinde Hall, he sought to give renewed historical and architectural integrity to the buildings.
"The projects were really interesting, because it was like being a part of one man's world in the history of Coronado," he said. "I could see how Hinde built his home with the same exceptional quality and craftsmanship that he insisted on in Christ Church and the hall."
The restoration of the Kirk House was undertaken on a budget of about $150,000.
The summer's work began on the exterior of the house. Gibson and crew installed new spindles around the top rim of the house. They burned off seven layers of old paint before applying new primer and paint to allow friezes and moldings to stand out. For the first time in its life, the Kirk House was painted in three shades of green instead of white. The dominant color is a light gray-green with accents in pale green and trim in dark green, the color of the church trim next door.
"We wanted some of the color of the church to show itself on the house so that the two looked related," said the Reverend Jon Freeberg, rector of Graham Memorial.
The parish four years ago began preservation and restoration work on the small Victorian Gothic church next door.
"Now we are 85 percent finished on both of the buildings," Freeberg said. "With the work being done by Christ Church across the way, I think we have the best looking street on Coronado."
The rector at Christ Church, the Reverend Walter L. Edelman, said it wasn't until this summer that restoration work there was begun in earnest. "Hinde Hall, in particular, was in a deplorable state," he said. "It had been finished just after the turn of the century, but an addition had been put on about 50 years ago that made no attempt to blend with the original. We wanted to get some way to make the old hall and the later appendage work as a whole." The budget for that project was about $70,000.
When Hinde Hall became part of the parish in 1912, it was a marvel of masonry and woodwork, in keeping with the mood of the church, completed in 1896. Like the church, it had an exterior of gray slate from Santee. Its high-domed ceiling was done in rich sugar pine. But the addition and remodelings had introduced acoustical tiles, wallpaper and lighting fixtures that didn't suit the structure.
The restoration involved replacing the crumbling ceiling plaster with new dry wall and adding two large stained-glass windows by Leslie Perlis above a pair of rear doors. The left window depicts the symbol of Christ the King. The right features St. Peter with an upside-down cross. Also added were eight new handcrafted doors with raised panels, a new oak floor in the old hall and the addition, and period light sconces and chandeliers.
Restoration of the small library in an alcove off the main hall was particularly successful. Like the old hall, it was originally remarkable for its rich wood interior and subtle lighting. The unfortunate additions of fluorescent ceiling lights and wallpaper on the rich woods have been removed.
The library's woods now glow again, bookcases have exquisite doors of beveled glass etched with the symbol of Christ the King by Heather Trimlett, and the lighting has been made soft and inviting.
The restoration effort at Christ Church includes the striking stained-glass windows by Tiffany's associate Bruce Porter and a floor mosaic just inside the main entry of the church.
The church was built as a memorial to young Camilla Hinde at a cost of more than $16,000. Captain Hinde presented it to the precursor of the Episcopalian parish on Coronado with certain conditions. The conditions prohibited the use of wafers for Communion, the carrying of crosses in processionals and the use of decorations other than flowers on the Communion table. These became points of liturgical contention, but eventually they were resolved. Some Hinde mementoes remain at the church, including a book of essays Camilla wrote.
Hinde often was reticent when well-meaning associates sought to give him recognition. A good example of this came with the building of Hinde Hall. The church wanted to mark the building with his name prominently displayed on the facade. Hinde refused. But a stonemason scratched the letters H-I-N-D-E on the side of the building, where they remain all but invisible to the uninitiated observer today.
Major Restoration of the Kirk House Is Under Way
March 6, 1986
By Lyn Snyder
Published in Coronado Journal
One of Coronado's finest historical landmarks, the Kirk House, of Graham Memorial Presbyterian Church, is presently undergoing a major project of interior restoration and refurbishing. This beautiful Queen Anne, located at 959 C Avenue, is historical and architecturally one of the most important Victorian homes in the San Diego area.
Built in 1893 for Captain Charles T. Hinde, a one-time Mississippi steamboat captain who became associated with Elisha Spurr Babcock and the Spreckels Brothers Commercial Co., of San Diego, the house was designed and built by the Reid Brothers, architects of Babcock's Hotel del Coronado.
Although the second and third floors of the house currently serve as residence to Reverend Jon Freeberg and his family, the spacious first floor contains the church offices, the minister's study, a large conference room, the sexton's office and workshop, two bathrooms, and three of the five original fireplaces in the building. It is the downstairs rooms that are being restored, on a "one-at-a-time" basis.
Jim Gibson, of Design in Chula Vista, is coordinator for the project. Last year his restoration of the exterior of Graham Memorial Presbyterian Church won the annual Save Our Heritage Organization's (SOHO) preservation award. The award is given in recognition of the best commercial or institutional restoration project in San Diego County.
Among the artists Gibson called on to help in the restoration are Randy Clark of Point Loma, who is hand painting the intricate ornamental design that runs along the upper walls in one of the rooms and incorporates the dove of peace symbol which is also atop the church tower.
A yacht remodeler from El Cajon, Walter Biebold, is the finish carpenter, and his work will include building a cherry wood frame for the huge mirror to go over the mantel in the meeting room. "Color will play a very important part in the restoration," says Gibson, who is working from some of the original sketches and paintings made by the architect. "Four beautiful woods have been used in these rooms: cherry, maple, redwood and oak. We anticipate using dusty colors in areas where the darker woods, such as cherry, have been used; and we'll combine richer, darker colors with the lighter woods, such as maple."
Another important part of the restoration will be the replacing of the original fir floors with quarter-sawn oak flooring. Volunteers from the church have been helping to sand wood, paint walls and raise funds for the project.
Elizabeth Huser, funding coordinator, says that all gifts and memorials will be acknowledged on brass plaques, with donors' names. Several large Persian rugs have already been donated, and more are being sought.
"We are also finding that negotiable items are of great help to us," says Huser. "Antiques appreciate in value with age, and many dealers are happy to trade, say, Victorian chandeliers for gilt frames, and so forth, from another period. This means that many donated antiques which may not themselves be suitable to the refurbished interior may be used to acquire other needed and appropriate items."
The restoration is expected to be completed sometime in 1986, and visitors are welcome to view the ongoing work.
Riverboats, Railroads Part of Hinde's Career
September 13, 1984
By Carol Olten
Published in The San Diego Union
Captain Charles T. Hinde plied the Mississippi on the riverboat steamers immortalized in Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn before he decided to settle in Coronado.
Born in Urbana, Ohio in 1832, Hinde grew up in Mount Carmel, Illinois, a town that his businessman father founded and laid out. Early in life he clerked at a local general merchandise store before taking a stage to St. Louis to seek fame and fortune in the big city. What he found, however, was a cholera epidemic. So he left the city to clerk on a steamboat operating between St. Louis and St. Paul, Minnesota. The steamboats quickly became his fascination and livelihood.
When he joined the Galena, Dubuque & St. Paul Packet Co., a large and influential riverboat transportation business, he was promoted to boat captain and took command of a steamer running from Louisville, Kentucky to Memphis, Tennessee.
Ill health forced him to leave the riverboat life, however, and he shifted his talents in the transportation business to the railroads. It was during this time that he met his eventual partner in Coronado, Elisha Spurr Babcock, who was also in the railroad business.
Upon arrival in Coronado in 1887, Hinde continued his association with railroading. He was appointed commercial agent and manager of the Santa Fe Railroad Co., wharf and had the authority to form a special company for importing cement, coal and general merchandise to be shipped over the Santa Fe lines. With Babcock and Spreckels he formed the Spreckels Brothers Commercial Co., which proved a lucrative business venture.
Photographs show Hinde with a striking grayish-white beard and small glasses poised on a long, slender face.
Associates praised his executive talents and business acumen. He also was respected as a philanthropist and civic leader in Coronado and in San Diego. In the "History of San Diego" published in 1913, Hinde is heralded as "a representative of the prominent men of affairs to whom business is but one phase of life; (he) does not exclude active participation in other vital interests of human existence."
Hinde died at age 83 and is buried in Mount Hope Cemetery (San Diego).
Hinde Mansion / "Kirk House" Coronado Landmark
By Bunny MacKenzie
Published in Bridge & Bay Magazine
The beautiful Hinde mansion, located at 959 C Avenue, was created by Charles T. Hinde, a one-time Mississippi steamboat captain.
Captain Hinde came to Coronado in February 1887, at the request of Elisha Spurr Babcock, Jr., founder of Coronado and builder of the Hotel del Coronado. Captain Hinde was appointed commercial agent and manager of the Santa Fe Wharf in San Diego, with the right to form a commercial company for exporting coal, cement, merchandise and shipping over the Santa Fe Lines. With Elisha Spurr Babcock and John D. Spreckels, he established the Spreckels Brothers Commercial Company of San Diego. Captain Hinde was Vice President and one-third owner.
Charles T. Hinde was born in Urbana, Ohio on July 12, 1812, the son of Thomas S. Hinde and Sara Cavileer Hinde. The family lived in Mt. Carmel, Illinois, a town his father founded in 1815. Charles Hinde received his early education in Mt. Carmel public schools and later attended Indiana Asbury University at Greencastle, Indiana for a year and a half. Laying aside his books before finishing, he then held various positions in Indiana, Illinois, Missouri and Minnesota.
In the late 1850s, he became associated with river navigation, employed as a clerk on a boat which operated between St. Louis and St. Paul. He remained in that office for one year, resigning to join the Galena, Dubuque and St. Paul Packet Company, which later became one of the largest transportation companies in that part of the country. Mr. Hinde made rapid advancement and was promoted to the position of captain, which he held until 1862. In that year, he went to Louisville, Kentucky and took command of a steamer running from Louisville to Memphis, Tennessee. In 1864, he returned to St. Louis to serve as captain to the steamer Davenport, which ran from St. Louis to St. Paul. He resigned that position to organize the Halliday Brothers of Cairo, Illinois. He later secured the agency for all the steamboat lines passing through Cairo both on the Ohio and Mississippi rivers and their tributaries, and formed a forwarding commission and transfer company. Captain Hinde displayed great executive ability.
In 1870, due to poor health, he sold out his interest in the company, and after a short rest went to Louisville, Kentucky where be became connected with the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad Company. He arranged with various grain elevators to handle grain and began shipping over continental lines. However, the railroad failed and the grain contracts were cancelled.
At the request of C.W. Smith, Vice President and General Manager of the Chesapeake and Ohio Railway Company, he transferred all his shipments to that road. Later, C.W. Smith became Vice President and General Manager of the Atchison-Topeka and Santa Fe Railway Company. It was at that time that Elisha Spurr Babcock, Jr., a personal friend, requested that Captain Hinde come to California.
In 1861, Charles Hinde married Miss Eliza Halliday. They were the parents of one daughter Camilla, who died on January 26, 1879 at the age of twelve in Evansville, Indiana.
Captain and Mrs. Hinde built their first home in Coronado on C Avenue in 1887. In the early 1890s fire destroyed much of the original structure. Mrs. Hinde loved the area so much, especially her garden, that she refused to move to another location. Captain Hinde commissioned the Reid Brothers, architects for the Hotel del Coronado, to design and build a completely new house around the old structure.
The first floor included a large entrance hall with a stairway leading to the second floor (finished with quarter-sawn oak), a reception room and dining room also finished with oak, a sitting room, library, workroom (butler's pantry) walk-in china closet, kitchen, storage room and a refrigerator room off the back porch.
The second floor included an entry room, five bedrooms, two baths and a second stairway leading to the rear of the house. There were five fireplaces, three on the first floor and two on the second floor. A stable and carriage house was located at the rear of the property adjacent to the alley.
Mrs. Hinde lived in her new home only six years. She died in 1899. Both Captain and Mrs. Hinde took a great interest in the affairs of Coronado and gave generously of their means.
In 1892, Captain Hinde commissioned the Reid Brothers to design and build the Christ Episcopal Church at the corner of Ninth Street and C Avenue. In 1896, the beautiful church edifice was dedicated in loving memory of his only daughter Camilla.
In 1902, Captain Hinde built the Parish Hall adjacent to the church and the first Rectory (demolished in 1958 to make way for Christ Episcopal Day School).
Captain Hinde died March 10, 1915, at the age of 83. The property was left to his nephew Harry H. Hinde of Riverside, CA who used the house for his residence for many years before selling it. His twin daughters Marion Hinde Hamilton and Margaret Hinde Hibbs spent their early childhoods in Coronado.
During the intervening years there have been several owners. In 1944, the property was purchased by Mrs. Glynn Robinson [ also appears as Robison ] who converted the mansion into a community home (The Ritz Hotel) for naval officers and their families. In 1953, Graham Memorial Presbyterian Church bought the property, which included seven lots, the historic mansion and the carriage house. The first floor of the mansion became the church offices, minister's study and meeting rooms. The second floor was occupied by the caretaker until recently, when it was refurbished as the manse for the new minister, the Reverend Jon D. Freeberg and his family.
All the original grandeur of the Hinde house has been preserved. The building is also known as Kirk House. In 1970, the carriage house was demolished to make way for the educational building, now the home of Graham Memorial Preschool and sabbath school.