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Hidden San Diego: Heritage Park's Victorian Village

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Hidden San Diego is a series of articles of cool and unique things we don't generally know About San Diego.

Millions of visitors make their way annually into Old Town State Historic Park to take in the sights and play tourist. But I can imagine very few of those visitors - including a lot of local residents - have any idea that there is a unique and scenic park just steps away from the food and margaritas of Old Town.

Heritage Park Victorian Village is located in Old Town, just beyond the main tourist hub of San Diego Avenue, is world's away from the rustic atmosphere of Old Town. Situated on a hillside just off Juan Street, Heritage Park takes you back to a more prim era of San Diego.

This 7.8-acre park is dedicated to the preservation of San Diego’s Victorian architecture. Expansion downtown after WWII threatened these structures with demolition on their original sites. Public and private funds paid for the acquisition, relocation, and restoration of these buildings.

The village consists of seven structures of classic Victorian architecture, restored to their original glory on a grassy, peaceful setting. Amazingly, for such a scenic and picturesque slice of San Diego, Heritage Park is almost never crowded, unless a wedding is taking place in the park, which becomes obvious why you'd stage a wedding their while strolling through.

Two of the buildings are used as bed and breakfast rentals by the Heritage Park Inn. Another house has a gift shop in it. The village consists of the following buildings:

Senlis Cottage ~ 1896 ~ 19th century vernacular ~ This modest cottage was built for Eugene Senlis, an employee of San Diego pioneer horticulturist Kate Sessions.

Sherman-Gilbert House ~ 1887 ~ Stick Eastlake ~ John Sherman, cousin of Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman, hired architects Nelson Comstock and Carl Trotsche to build this house. From 1892, sisters Bess and Gertrude Gilbert, patrons of art and music, brought internationally famous entertainers to receptions in their home. Anna Pavlova danced in the music room and Artur Rubinstein played piano here.

Bushyhead House ~ 1887 ~ Italianate ~ Edward Wilkerson Bushyhead, early San Diego sheriff, chief of police and San Diego Union newspaper owner, built this house as a rental. Rooms for rent by Heritage Park Inn (619) 299-6832.

Christian House ~ 1889 ~ Queen Anne ~ This graceful residence was constructed by Harfield Timberlake Christian, founder of an early San Diego abstract company. Rooms for rent by Heritage Park Inn (619) 299-6832.

McConaughy House ~ 1887 ~ Stick Eastlake ~ Original owner John McConaughy founded the first scheduled passenger and freight service in San Diego County. Visit the Old Town Gift Emporium, specializing in Victorian porcelain dolls, inside the McConaughy House Thursday - Tuesday from 10am to 5pm.

Burton House ~ 1893 ~ Classic revival ~ Henry Guild Burton, retired Army physician, built this home during a trend that, by the turn of the century, began to eliminate decration.

Temple Beth Israel ~ Classic revival ~ Built by the Congregation Beth Israel, this building served as temporary quarters for many religious sects before they established churches of their own. First services were held here in 1889.

It's a slice of old San Diego that not many know of. But Heritage park is well worth discovering, and keeping in mind when you just want to take a quiet stroll back in time. Heritage Park is owned by the County of San Diego and managed by Pacific Hospitality Group (PHG. Future plans for Heritage Park include restoration of current buildings and additional Victorian Homes to be used as historic Inn’s and Bed & Breakfasts. Heritage Park is open daily from sunrise to sunset.

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