Reflections: The mystery of one of La Jolla’s architectural gems revealed
by Carol Olten
Mar 21, 2012 | 1876 views | 0 0 comments | 3 3 recommendations | email to a friend | print
The Lampshade House, built for George Eden in 1923, as it looks today at 524 Coast Blvd. DON BALCH | Village News
The Lampshade House, built for George Eden in 1923, as it looks today at 524 Coast Blvd. DON BALCH | Village News
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For nearly a century, a curious beach cottage has attracted attention for its unusual architecture at 524 Coast Blvd., referred to in the vernacular as the “Lampshade House.” The reason? It was constructed with an extremely long oceanfront side gable flanked by two mirror octagonal rooms whose peaked roofs resemble lampshades.

Until recently, however, when research historian Vonn Marie May began her studies of the house for historic designation, virtually nothing was known about who had built this curiously shaped house in 1923. The history of the creator of the Lampshade House began to unravel when its original design and construction was linked to Eden George, who, at 30, was the youngest mayor of Christchurch, New Zealand from 1893-94. George was well known throughout Australia and New Zealand for his liberal viewpoints and was also a cosmopolitan entrepreneur in the field of late-19th century portrait photography in Sydney.

What brought Mr. Eden for a brief moment in history to La Jolla and the construction of the Lampshade House? As a wealthy gentleman at age 60, he appears to have tired both of politics and photography in Australia and opted for traveling in Europe and the United States.

The Lampshade House was built before the 17 Coast Boulevard lot sites were filed for development as Pauline’s Addition — the stretch of land sandwiched between Coast Boulevard and Coast Boulevard South, sometimes called “the island.”

Mr. Eden’s house combined elements of English Craftsman design with the California bungalow style notable in La Jolla cottages of the 1890s like the Red Roost and Red Rest. Its proximity to the ocean and line of windows along the side gable looking out toward the sea frequently conjured images of “being inside a ship.” The open wood ceilings of the octagon-shaped rooms are repeated in the design of the wood floors below — clearly, according to May, the work of an artist with an interest in architectural detail. As a young man in New South Wales, Eden devoted similar attention to the creation of his portrait studios and galleries, elaborately described in newspapers and journals of the 1880s. In December 1886, the Lyttelton Times reported his studio as “a lofty, airy spacious room, well lighted . . . Here one may be taken with all sorts of surroundings (for portraits). One may sit on a plain chair, or lean against a fence; stand under foliage or in ancestral halls. One may assume any position — heroic, pathetic, or imposing, in front of that masked battery with its somber shroud — a cross between a ghoul and a sphinx.”

Eden became very well known in the field of portrait photography. He experimented with development techniques and photographic processes, often hosting large exhibits of his work. His success led to more involvement in the political arena, as well as gentlemanly pursuits in bicycle clubs and horseracing. He owned substantial grounds on West Esplanade — sold in 1916 as “the dress circle of Manly.” Did Eden build the Lampshade House in La Jolla for the purpose of a new long-term residence? No one seems to know. He left La Jolla after about a year and returned to Australia, where he died in 1927 in Manly.

The Lampshade House became the home of the Jeardeau family (Lucile Jeardeau was La Jolla’s first policewoman) for some time and then was purchased by the Odell family, in whose ownership the house has remained for many years. David Aniker Odell, a U.S. Air Force colonel and Vietnam War hero, had architect Anthony Ciani design an addition in 1986. Ciani was careful to respect the integrity of the original 1923 structure. Today, the Lampshade House, with its definitive peaked roofs, continues its whimsical tradition of looking, as one might expect, like a lampshade.

— Carol Olten is the La Jolla Historical Society’s historian.
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