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Villa Montezuma –
Place - Villa Montezuma
1925 K Street
San Diego, California 92102
It is described as a glorious example of
eclectic late 19th century Victorian/Queen Anne architecture, a
crown jewel of the era which earned it a historical site standing
by the city of San Diego in 1970, just in the nick of time, as it
was in sad shape on the outside, really in need of renovation!
Today Villa Montezuma is used as not only a historical house
museum, but offers changing exhibits, is used as a community
cultural center and on occasion is the setting for weddings and
Built upon a hill, it has two stories, with
a partial basement with an authentic, recreated turn-of-the-century
kitchen, multipurpose room and storage areas. On the south side of
the mansion, one finds the tower room, complete with an Arabesque
dome, which can be found via a staircase on the second floor. It
was Jesse Shepard's study as it had a magnificent, panoramic view from
San Diego to Point Loma and south to Mexico, a source of
inspiration for Shepard's creative composing and writing.
Floors throughout the mansion were made of
polished fir, which were covered with Turkish and Persian rugs when
Jesse lived there. The bottom half of the walls are made of
polished redwood and walnut, while wallpaper such as pink
fleur-de-lis designs enhance the top part of the walls. Ceilings
have silvery gray to white Lincrusta Walton. There are many art
glass windows on the exterior walls and some are hung over several
interior doorways, used as transoms. There are 5 tile-faced
fireplaces throughout the mansion.
The main floor has an entry hall, a
reception room, a magnificent music room which takes up the entire
east side of the mansion, the red room, a drawing room, a library,
a dressing room, a blue room and a dining room.
The second floor was and is used as an art
gallery and museum.
The population of San Diego began to boom
after the railroad was built in San Diego in 1885, swelling in
population from 5,000 to 40,000! In an effort to lose its frontier
town image, a push was made to bring culture and learning
institutions to San Diego. Schools, universities and opera/concert
halls were established. Harr Wagner, the editor of the San
Francisco literary magazine and his circle of poets, painters and
musicians were persuaded to leave cold, rainy San Francisco and
settle in the lovely town of San Diego.
One of his artistic friends was opera
singer, musician, composer and author Jesse Shepard moved into town
and built his Villa Montezuma in 1887, just the way he wanted it,
as he was also gifted in knowing Victorian art decorum and design.
He gave his ideas to an architectural firm, Comstock &
Trotche, whose gifted designer team put Shepard's ideas to work to
create this crown jewel of Victorian Architecture. Comstock &
Trotche designed most of the notable homes, commercial and civic
buildings which were built in San Diego's big growth period in the
After Jesse Shepard returned to live in
Europe, after being eventually shunned by San Diego's cultured
community due to his activities explained below, the Villa Montezuma
passed through many owners through the years and was used as a
boarding house during World War 2. While the owners did their best
to upkeep the interior, the structure itself began looking kind of
funky and a little rundown, in need of major renovation.
It became the property of the city of San
Diego in 1970, when it was named a historic site. Since then, many
dedicated people, artisans, organizations have worked together to
do a variety of minor and major renovations, restoring as much as
possible Jesse Shepard's original decorum and design found in the
original Villa Montezuma. Even a fire in 1986, which swept through
most of the second floor and damaged the ceiling of the first
floor music room, only strengthened the collective resolve to meet
and conquer the challenges presented in the restoration effort.
(For more details, visit: villamontezumamuseum.org and villamontezumamuseum.org)
HISTORY OF MANIFESTATIONS:
Jesse Shepard was a spiritualist as well as a talented musician,
singer and author. Jesse held musical seances in a special room
located in the very heart of the mansion. His favorite past time
was frowned upon by San Diego's high society causing him to be
ignored and shunned so much that he left his beloved mansion and
moved back to Europe. Imagine his joy when his Villa Montezuma was
renovated and restored to his original ideas!!!!!
- One of Shepard's servants was tormented by grief when his wife
died, so he committed suicide by hanging himself in the mansion's
Jesse Shepard, by using his voice to simulate an entire
orchestra, summoned up entities to help him play music on his
piano. He called up spirits of Chopin and Mozart, having one play
his right hand while the other would play the other hand on the
A strong presence is felt today by many in the room where Jesse
Shepard called up musical entities. Many think Jesse Shepard has
returned to the place where he loved to be while alive, communing
with the masters.
Visitors have heard piano music coming from the locked seance
- A sad, mournful apparition is seen peering through the window
of the cupola.
Two entities inhabit Via Montezuma. Jesse
Shepard is home again, and a tormented entity found that suicide
didn't solve anything, so he continues to stick around and peek at
the life he willingly gave up through an emotional action.
SanDiegoHistory.org * SanDiegoHistory.org
The National Directory of Haunted Places,
by William Dennis Hauck, 1996, Penguin Books
Pictures © Tom Carr