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ENCINITAS: PRESERVATION GROUP BUY “BOAT HOUSES” | Encinitas Preservation Association
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ENCINITAS: PRESERVATION GROUP BUY “BOAT HOUSES”

ENCINITAS: PRESERVATION GROUP BUY “BOAT HOUSES”

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Escrow closed Friday

By Barbara Henry – Staff writer | Friday, May 2, 2008

ENCINITAS —- The city’s much-loved “boat houses” entered a safe harbor Friday when escrow closed and the Encinitas Preservation Association became their new owner.

”This gives the community an opportunity to have them forever and we felt that was … well worth the effort,” association vice president Doug Long said Friday afternoon as he discussed the $1.55 million land purchase, which took more than a year to arrange.

To passersby on Third Street, the big white-and-blue boats look like they’ve been pulled up on shore for a little repair work and will soon set out to sea again. But these “boats” have never been in the water. In fact, they’re only partial boats — the front half truly looks like a boat, the back looks more like an apartment.

Miles Kellogg, an architect whose father had been a sea captain, built the mock vessels and the four-unit apartment complex behind them in the late 1920s, association board member Peder Norby said.

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They’re worthy of historic preservation on two grounds, said Norby, who is credited with spearheading the effort to save the structures.

First, he said, they’re among the best examples in the nation of early 1900s vernacular architecture — a category that includes everything from sweet shops shaped like ice cream cones to fast food stands that look like giant tacos.

Second, they also may be one of the “earliest and best examples of recycled architecture on the West Coast,” he said.

Kellogg built the boat houses using old timber from the Moonlight Beach dance house, Norby said. That once-famous night spot was torn down 1927.

Each of the mock “boats” contains two regular-sized bedrooms, a bunkbed-like room, a kitchen and a bathroom. The current occupants pay less than $2,000 a month in rent, Norby said. Living conditions have been described as unusual — the ceilings are much lower than a standard apartment and the walls are at odd angles.

”A lot of people get kind of tired of it after a while,” said Mark Whitley, one of the building’s most recent owners.

Whitley and his business partner John Deters purchased the boat houses and the adjacent four-unit apartment complex in 2001 after the aging structures sat on the market for many months. He mostly bought them because his dad loved them and pushed him to save them —- Whitley said he didn’t realize how many other people liked them until after he started repairing them.

School children stopped to thank him and people brought out-of-town guests by to stare at the boat houses, he said. Several times a day he’d find folks taking snapshots from the sidewalk of the “icons of Encinitas,” he added.

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After making some repairs, Whitley offered to sell the structures to the historic preservationists. But it took well over a year to arrange the deal, and sometimes it looked like it might never happen, he said.

In the end, the purchase deal involved money from multiple sources — the city of Encinitas kicked in about $200,000 in low-income housing money, the developers of The Lofts condominiums contributed about $650,000 and the heritage association took out a loan from California Community Bank for the remainder.

”(Norby) really was the one that steered it … through very stormy seas,” Whitley said.

Plans call for four-unit apartment complex behind the boats to remain as low-income housing, while at least one of the boats may eventually become a museum, Norby said. That won’t happen immediately — they’ve got to pay off the bank loan first through fund-raising efforts, he said.

They’re selling memorial bricks for $250 and they’re planning a boat house “christening” party at 5:30 p.m. May 19 at the old Encinitas school house a block away.


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