The Britt Scripps Residence was built on land that belonged to the founder of ďmodernĒ San Diego, Alonzo Erastus Horton. On May 10, 1867 Horton acquired 800 acres of land which would soon become the City of San Diego. Construction on the house began in 1887 and is said to have been completed in two years for $3,000, making it the most expensive home in San Diego for that time. San Diegoís first electric streetlights illuminated the newly graded streets and trolley lines were being laid down during the construction of the Britt Scripps residence.
The original owner of the residence was Eugene Britt of Cass County, Missouri. Britt was a prominent community member of not just San Diego, but all of California. In 1887, he formed a law firm with William J. Hunsaker in San Diego. From 1895-1900 he served on the California Supreme Court Commission. Many of his opinions on water rights have been classified as masterpieces by members of the bar and appear in Volumes 106-128 of the California Reports. In 1900, he moved from San Diego to Los Angeles and sold the home to Edward Wyllis Scripps for $16,000. Britt continued his career as a lawyer and he served as the president of the Los Angeles Bar Association and a delegate to the Republican National Convention in 1916.
Edward Wyllis Scripps of Rushville, Illinois came to San Diego to escape the harsh Illinois winter. His father, James Scripps, is credited with being the first to practice cloth bookbinding and he established the first planting mill in Quincy, Illinois. E.W. followed in his fatherís entrepreneurial footsteps and founded The Penny Press in Cleveland, which would later become the Cleveland Press. This was just the beginning for E.W. and he later created the media empire now known as E.W. Scripps Company and even later created the United Press Association, now UPI. While living at the house, Scripps, along with his half-sister Ellen, founded the Scripps Institute of Oceanography, which is still in operation today. Scripps occupied the Britt House until 1907 when he moved North to live in his Miramar ranch, now known as Scripps Ranch, permanently.
After the Scripps moved to their ranch, the house was kept for visiting family members and was also rented out. The house has not been through many inhabitants despite its many years. Records indicate that after it was used as a residence by the Scripps family, it was rented out to two gentlemen, Daniel Callahan, a blacksmith, and Hurley Leach, in 1914. There is no date provided, but the famous painter Everett Gee Jackson was living in the Britt House when he met his wife Eileen sometime in the Twenties. From 1929 to 1933, a woman named Laura Brawner rented the rooms out as furnished rooms. Starting in 1935 the house was rented out again, with one family living in the front and the other residing in the back.
In 1944 the house was acquired by Anna F. Reynolds and Frances Reynolds only to change owners once more in 1950 when Dr. Albert S. Hackim and Marilyn Hackim purchased the home. Their son stayed at the Britt Scripps Inn and remembers the room now named the Renaissance as his parentís bedroom, and the Balboa room, known as the original master bedroom, was used by him and his siblings.
In October of 1971, The Britt House was designated as San Diego City Landmark 52. The next known owners operated a quaint bed and breakfast out of the house during the 1980ís. It is then said to have served as a chiropractors office and a law office until itís current owner, Gordon Hattersley, spent an estimated 6 million dollars renovating the house to its present glory.
The Britt Scripps residence displays architectural elements indicative of the Queen Anne Victorian style. It is ornately designed, irregularly shaped, and sits in its original setting, in the neighborhood known as uptown or Bankerís Hill.
The larger of the two structures behind the house, currently used as a staff work area, was used as a stable for horses and the smaller structure was used for carriages and is now our Carriage House room.
The footprint of the building measures approximately 2,525 square feet of space. The house was built with seven gables, three ornately designed chimneys that are no longer in use, and three porches. The only original landscaping is the Camphor Tree located on the North side of the house. It is said that the tree was planted in 1877, ten years before construction on the house began. The palm trees appear in baby stages in all old photos, and the house appears almost identical as it did in dating back to the early photos of the house.