The Heart of Kensington - Neighborhood Preservation Advocacy
Torgerson / George Cooley Spec House #1

The Benjamin Torgerson/George Cooley Spec House #1 is a 1930 Spanish Colonial Revival in the Talmadge Park #1 subdivision of Kensington.

Development in Talmadge Park started in the 1920s and the first homes in the tract were completed in 1925.  O.U. Miracle, from Pasadena, was the developer and the tract earned the nickname the “Movie-Star (Girl) Subdivision,” due to the neighborhood’s connection with the Talmadge sisters, who were Hollywood celebrities.  Natalie, Norma, and Constance Talmadge each invested in the 500-acre subdivision and promised prospective buyers that they could own homes “built by the architects to the Stars!”  The three sisters, along with Natalie’s husband Buster Keaton, were on hand for the dedication ceremony in January 1926.
The Torgerson/Cooley house, built in 1930, was one of the later homes finished in Talmadge Park #1.  The east side of the first-story façade features a large arch focal window that is recessed with a Moorish-inspired plaster medallion located above the window.  To the left of the front door on the first-story is a large double casement window that is recessed with a characteristic Spanish Colonial boxed grille.  The boxed grille features turned spindle balusters.

The west side of the second-story’s facade features an open balcony with wooden porch posts and a guard railing.  The balcony’s guardrail is made of ornate turned spindles balusters with a wooden top and bottom rail.

The living room features hand-hewn beams with wrought iron struts.  Windowsills and the fireplace mantle are mahogany. Original oak flooring and rusticated plaster walls are throughout the house.
The building of the house was financed by George Cooley, a realtor.  His partner in the venture was Benjamin Torgerson, a carpenter.  Torgerson was best known for his association with the LIFE Home built in La Jolla Hermosa, San Diego.  In 1939, The LIFE Home was a special project sponsored by LIFE Magazine, where model homes were built in eight cities in the United States, and were designed “to tie in the nation’s better housing and recovery plans”.  Torgerson built the “California Colonial” style demonstration home, and showed the resource to 6,000 people before selling it.

The house contains a wonderful combination of original and new tile.  On the stairs, the field tile and decorative tiles are original.
In the downstairs guest bathroom, a complete remodel has brought in decorative Malibu-style tile that compliments the house.
In 1939, John Halstead McClellan purchased the property from the previous owners, Silvio and Enriqueta Blanco, who lived in the residence from 1930 to 1939.  John Halstead McClellan moved into the residence with his wife, Frances Beryl McClellan, and son John.  His father, Gen. John McClellan, was a military officer and was the last commanding general of the Fort Rosecrans Army.  Frances McClellan was a schoolteacher in the San Diego Unified School District and at the Francis Parker School until approximately 1935.  On September 20, 1975, John Halstead McClellan died.  His wife continued to live at the residence until her death on March 19, 2003 at the age of 96.

Our thanks to Ione R. Stiegler, Architect, AIA and the office of IS Architecture for the information concerning this house.  Extra kharma points to Dede and Tami for stepping up when your neighbors needed you most!