Rediscovering the Heye Residence

A long-forgotten design by architect John August Reed was rediscovered in Ocean Beach while navigating the escrow process with a client.

By Keith York

In late 2015, I showed a house to a client who was on a quest to find a modestly priced mid-century modern home along the coast. While she ended up purchasing a William Kesling design, one of the many homes we toured together never left my mind. It made an impression on me that few homes do.

As we stepped into the Ocean Beach home, she and I both recognized that beyond the home's MLS description (highlighting the recent remodel that included new granite countertops, cabinets, appliances and laminate flooring), there was something truly magical about its modest square footage open to its hillside yard through walls of glass. The house sold quickly following our visit. But the residue of that visit never left me.

An 'architect’s ski chalet' stated a 1975 real estate ad

The home, as they all do eventually, returned to the market in February 2021. I reached out to a number of clients alerting them of the potential at 2102 Mendocino Boulevard. This time around the listing agent noted that the home had ‘mid-century charm’ and that the abundance of glass ‘let the outside in.’ That was more than previous listing agents had offered. Though the MLS listing went dormant within a short time, one of my clients – who had been focused on the two Herbert Brownell Compact Houses on Agate Street in Pacific Beach that had come on the market in recent months – logged it as something to follow-up with me on.

In early April, the house on Mendocino Blvd appeared again on the market, this time the listing noted that it was a ‘mid-century OB gem’. Despite our submitting an aggressive offer and back-up offer the sellers engaged another buyer. After several days of biting our nails, that initial buyer cancelled their escrow and our back-up offer was accepted.

While in escrow, I embarked on satisfying our collective curiosities as to the history of the home. As is often the case, sellers and agents fail to tell the full story of a home's unique history. Following several hours of Google searches, I asked a friend, Heather Crane, to help. She embarked on her own survey and found a few items of interest: 1) the house was constructed in 1963-1964; 2) that it appears on a historic aerial photograph taken in 1966; 3) and that the first time it appeared in the City Directory was 1968; and 4) we found a newspaper real estate advertisement from 1975 describing the home as an "architect’s ski chalet."

The owner in 1968 was Donald R. Heye, who founded Hyspan Precision Products. Via a simple Google search we were delighted to learn that Mr. Heye, the founder of Hyspan, was still working for the company. I picked up the phone and was quickly dispatched to Mr. Heye by the company’s receptionist. We immediately connected on an array of topics surrounding the home's original design and he was happy to help us put the story together.

Donald R. Heye shared with me that not long after he had graduated from college in 1958, he and his wife, Jacqueline, lived on Rosecrans and Evergreen [in a John Reed designed spec-house at 3226 Macaulay Street] that was managed by Point Loma real estate maven, Betty Tate. Tate, who had recently built the three spec houses (with architect Reed) on Macaulay Street, introduced Mr. Heye to Mr. Reed and a design effort was launched.

After John and Alana Reed sold the parcel to the Heyes (on April 15, 1963), the design process began. During this time, Heye was working at Ryan Aeronautical locally and John Reed had moved to Los Angeles. Don recalled, on the phone with me, that John was driving down from LA in some ‘funny old car’ to meet/discuss the project. Don was driving an early MG-TC roadster (pictured to the right) from OB to Ryan (prior to upgrading to a Morgan automobile) at the time ... and thought John's car was 'funny'?!

The Donald & Jacqueline Heye Residence by architect John August Reed was completed by contractor George Boyd on October 24, 1963 at a reported cost of $27,500. As was true in Ocean beach and nearby Point Loma at the time, “The street was not paved the entire time we lived there. We entered from the alley – The contractor would not pour the driveway all the way to the street because it was on City property – so I did it, but ran a little short so added the railroad ties in the foreground of the car photo – my degree in aeronautical engineering didn’t include concrete construction.”

During our conversation, Don recollected that he was in the house until 1974-75 when he sold it to a salesperson in Betty Tate’s office for $37,500.

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