Cliff May’s First Ranch Style Building and House

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In his oral history, Cliff May claimed that the first structure he built in the ranch style was his own house for his family on Adams Avenue in San Diego.(1)  However, May’s first design in the ranch style was not a house but a building: the Sweetwater Woman’s Club in Bonita.  May drew up the plans and construction of the building was completed in June 1934.(2)  In August of the same year, May entered into a contract with Neil B. Dittenhaver to construct a “ranch  house and garage” at 3462 Malito Drive in Bonita.  This house was completed in November.(3)  It wasn’t until the beginning of 1935 that May designed a house for his family.   Early in the year, May purchased a lot at 4338 Adams Avenue.  Here, he built his first house for his family in the ranch style.  Completed April 9, the house still stands today although it has been significantly altered.(4)

For more information on Cliff May’s early work in San Diego, see Mary A. van Balgooy, “Before LA: Cliff May’s Beginnings in San Diego,” Journal of San Diego History, forthcoming.

(1) Cliff May, interview by Marlene L. Laskey, 1984 (Oral History Program, University of California, Los Angeles), 128.

(2) “New Women’s Clubhouse Center of Interest,” The San Diego Union, 3 June 1934; Sweetwaterwomansclub.org. In the Cliff May Collection of the Architecture and Design Collection, University Art Museum at the University of California, Santa Barbara,  there is a letter from Mrs. George (Olive) Norton dated July 17, 1934 where she writes: “Mr. May: Under separate cover, am mailing to you, at Mrs. Horton’s request pictures of our beautiful new Club House.  The members of the Club are very proud of their new home.  And may I add my personal appreciation of your wholly beautiful work.”

(3)  County of San Diego, Deed Book no. 360, 28 November 1934, 110.

(4)  County of San Diego, Deed Book no. 398, 9 April 1935, 57.

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