The Front

145-147-149 San Ysidro Blvd.

Historically known as the San Ysidro Commercial Company, this two story Spanish Eclectic structure was designed in 1927 by Louis Gill, the nephew of Irving Gill.

Louis, born in New York in 1895, graduated from the Architectural University of Syracuse in 1911. Between the years 1911-1914 he worked as a draftsman and later (1914-1919) because a partner with his uncle, Irving Gill. Between 1920 to the late 1930s, Gill drew plans for numerous churches, hospitals, commercial buildings, apartments and parking garages in the San Diego area. Gill was also associated with other San Diego architects in major public building construction, including the County Adminstraiton Building.

Gill had extensive knowledge of traditional Mexican architecture. He was also an early advocate of the Aikon Lift Method, whereby walls with windows and doors in place were lifted up with the super structure. This was a quick and cheap form of construction.

Gill also designed the Congregational Church on Hall Avenue in 1924 for the community of San Ysidro. In 1927, he designed this structure, planned as an apartment building and store for Mr. R.W. Smith.

Following WWI, both the homestead ideal and back to the land movements that had swept the U.S. had been replaced in the American psyche. The shortage of American labor from World War I and the flu epidemic impacted the nation as a whole. San Ysidro, as a border town saw a steady increase of immigration populations arriving to fill the void. In addition many laborers and entertainers who worked in Tijuana in the casinos and racetracks lived in San Ysidro, crossing the border daily to and from work.

An urban industrial transformation was sweeping the nation, reaching well into the suburbs and outlying communities. San Ysidro was no exception. It was in the early 1920s that San Ysidro definitely began to loose its agricultural character. An engineer’s survey of 1922 noted work would be done to provide fire protection for what had beomce largely a residential community. In 1923 “there was built or under construction in the town more than 100 dwelling houses, indicating a growth in population of at least 500.”

During this decade of growth, community focus gradually changed to cater to the tourists and commercial needs of an expanding population. The economy of the area expanded and diversified. Both a wider range of occupations and available services are evident in the directories of the 1920s; the economy of the area expanding and becoming more diversified.

In addition to its importance as a Gill designed structure (one of two remaining in San Ysidro) the Commercial Company, located in what by 1927 was becoming the tightly grouped commercial core of San Ysidro, symbolizes the expanding economic needs of the community.

Josie Velasquez and Harold Burgie bought and owned this store during the 1940s, 1950s and 1960s. Since the store sold almost everything (clothing, feed, hardware, meat), its motto was: “If we don’t have it, you don’t need it.”

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Cited From: San Ysidro Historic Resources Survey, Conducted for: City of San Diego Palnning Department, Conducted by: Roth and Associates, Linda Roth & Judy Berryman, 14 August 1989.

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One Response to “The Front”

  1. Charlie VelazquezFebruary 1, 2014 at 1:16 am #

    The SAN YSIDRO COMMERCIAL. OWNED BY DAVE HOROWITZ, THEN SAM BENNETT ,AND JOE KAGEN THEN IN LATE 40″s BY MY SISTER JOSIE. THIS STORE ,WHICH SOLD EVERYTHING FROM NUTS AND BOLTS ,CLOTHES,ALL GROCERIES ITEMS AND HAD A FULL MEAT MARKET,AND CASHED YOUR CHECK ON YOUR WAY HOME FROM ROHRS, NORTH ISLAND AND OTHER POINTS NORTH. THIS STORE AT ONE TIME OR ANOTHER EMPLOYED SO MANY LOCAL RESIDENTS ,(I CAN NAME AT LEAST 14) THAT INCLUDED MY DAD, MY BROTHER,TWO SISTERS AND MYSELF. WHAT A HISTORICAL PLACE.

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