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The Cullen House: the first on the bluffs of Cardiff-by-the-Sea

I’d love to see it restored to its former glory

Every fabulous SoCal beach enclave had to start somewhere. This one started here.
Every fabulous SoCal beach enclave had to start somewhere. This one started here.

Editor's note: An earlier edition of this article listed the incorrect address for the home in the info box at the end of the story. It should read 2286 Oxford, not 2886. The Reader regrets the error.]

In 1911, J. Frank Cullen mapped out the original Cardiff-by-the-Sea subdivision. His wife Esther, a native of Cardiff, Wales, suggested the names of various British towns for the street grid, bucking the SoCal norm of Spanish influence on local geography.

Around 1913, or possibly earlier (the listing and historical records are at odds, while tax rolls indicate a 2009 build date due to remodeling), Cullen built the first house on the bluffs to serve as both his residence and an architectural model for the new community. For years, even local historians believed that house — supposedly built on San Elijo Avenue (the one nomenclatural nod to California’s Spanish past) — to have been lost to time, until a visitor from the original Cardiff pointed out that the home was still standing, albeit a few blocks away on Oxford Avenue. It turns out early photographs of the home were a bit misleading – with no other homes yet built in the neighborhood to lend a sense of scale, the Cullen House appeared much closer to the sea than it actually was.

“This is the original house built on the side of the hill in the Cardiff Walking District,” the Zillow remarks promise at the outset of the listing for 2286 Oxford, which, having served as a vacation rental for years, is now up for sale. Let’s have a look, shall we?

The ocean: further away than it looks!

There’s a bit of a challenge here, as there are actually two listings for the property: one asks $4.3 million and includes three parcels on which the home sits, while another is going for $6.35 million but adds another two 25-by-100 foot adjacent lots. Since the cheaper of the two pops up first in my search results, that’s the photo tour we’re going to take (though I did snag a historical photo available only on the other listing).

The first few shots show the exterior; we can see the “180 degree ocean views from all levels,” despite the home being about four blocks further inland than originally thought. I like the original Craftsman styling, the blue-green paint, and the wraparound deck, even though it appears to be sagging a bit above the garage. The home has reportedly been remodeled a few times over the years; the windows appear to be neither original wood nor modern vinyl, but 1960s-style aluminum-framed single-panes, and quite a few of them have air conditioning units unceremoniously jutting out into the atmosphere.

Our first inside shot shows what appears to be just the edge of a kitchen, looking out past an enormous China cabinet toward the dining area. What we’re really supposed to be seeing here is the ocean view just beyond, but I’m going to pause for a moment to admire the open-beam vaulted ceilings. We also see a small living area off the dining room, and looking back, it appears the front door opens directly onto the kitchen. That doesn’t make sense, however, as we’re clearly upstairs, and this door features some inlaid stained glass that the front door pictured earlier on the ground level does not possess.

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These photos are confusing me a bit, and the layout of the house, with its upstairs kitchen and mystery door, isn’t helping. Back downstairs, we see a larger living room with a river rock fireplace that’s curiously painted black, coffered ceilings, and wooden shutters over the windows.

Now I think we’re back upstairs, at least judging from the slope of the ceiling in the bedroom we’ve entered. The bedroom, one of four, is spacious but a bit oddly shaped. At least it looks like we get a nice west-facing private balcony.

Heading back outside, we get a few shots of the larger downstairs deck and then many, many photos of the ocean view, interspersed with a few shots of the garden that sits below the house itself. This would be a pretty steep slope (nice for privacy from your neighbors), but someone had the good sense to terrace it off and create a relatively level grass lawn with a pleasant-looking brick patio for al fresco dining.

The listing doesn’t really have a lot to say about the place, and we don’t even get photos of the other bedrooms or a single shot of the two baths before our tour ends. Sadly, that seems to be because the Cullen House’s days may indeed be numbered.

“Check with city to find out if you can still build 6 units on 3 lots or 3 units each with ADUs,” the listing intones, suggesting that the perceived best use of the land is not to play host to a historical home, but to serve as a subdivision, with a bunch of new, expensive residences shoehorned into as little space as possible. That could explain why they’re asking more than a million dollars each for those other two 2500-square-foot lots.

Public records list a Cattail Properties LLC out of Scottsdale, Arizona as the Cullen House owner. Both listings went live in early October, and the asking prices for each have since been slashed by $300,000. I’d love to see this house restored to its former glory, and it looks like lots of the components are there to do so (please scrub the paint off that fireplace), but if you’re going to buy it just to tear it down, please don’t tell me about it.

2286 Oxford Avenue | Cardiff, 92007

Current owner: Cattail Properties LLC | Listing price: $4,300,000-$6,350,000 | Beds: 4 | Baths: 2 | House size: 1781 sq ft

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Every fabulous SoCal beach enclave had to start somewhere. This one started here.
Every fabulous SoCal beach enclave had to start somewhere. This one started here.

Editor's note: An earlier edition of this article listed the incorrect address for the home in the info box at the end of the story. It should read 2286 Oxford, not 2886. The Reader regrets the error.]

In 1911, J. Frank Cullen mapped out the original Cardiff-by-the-Sea subdivision. His wife Esther, a native of Cardiff, Wales, suggested the names of various British towns for the street grid, bucking the SoCal norm of Spanish influence on local geography.

Around 1913, or possibly earlier (the listing and historical records are at odds, while tax rolls indicate a 2009 build date due to remodeling), Cullen built the first house on the bluffs to serve as both his residence and an architectural model for the new community. For years, even local historians believed that house — supposedly built on San Elijo Avenue (the one nomenclatural nod to California’s Spanish past) — to have been lost to time, until a visitor from the original Cardiff pointed out that the home was still standing, albeit a few blocks away on Oxford Avenue. It turns out early photographs of the home were a bit misleading – with no other homes yet built in the neighborhood to lend a sense of scale, the Cullen House appeared much closer to the sea than it actually was.

“This is the original house built on the side of the hill in the Cardiff Walking District,” the Zillow remarks promise at the outset of the listing for 2286 Oxford, which, having served as a vacation rental for years, is now up for sale. Let’s have a look, shall we?

The ocean: further away than it looks!

There’s a bit of a challenge here, as there are actually two listings for the property: one asks $4.3 million and includes three parcels on which the home sits, while another is going for $6.35 million but adds another two 25-by-100 foot adjacent lots. Since the cheaper of the two pops up first in my search results, that’s the photo tour we’re going to take (though I did snag a historical photo available only on the other listing).

The first few shots show the exterior; we can see the “180 degree ocean views from all levels,” despite the home being about four blocks further inland than originally thought. I like the original Craftsman styling, the blue-green paint, and the wraparound deck, even though it appears to be sagging a bit above the garage. The home has reportedly been remodeled a few times over the years; the windows appear to be neither original wood nor modern vinyl, but 1960s-style aluminum-framed single-panes, and quite a few of them have air conditioning units unceremoniously jutting out into the atmosphere.

Our first inside shot shows what appears to be just the edge of a kitchen, looking out past an enormous China cabinet toward the dining area. What we’re really supposed to be seeing here is the ocean view just beyond, but I’m going to pause for a moment to admire the open-beam vaulted ceilings. We also see a small living area off the dining room, and looking back, it appears the front door opens directly onto the kitchen. That doesn’t make sense, however, as we’re clearly upstairs, and this door features some inlaid stained glass that the front door pictured earlier on the ground level does not possess.

Sponsored
Sponsored

These photos are confusing me a bit, and the layout of the house, with its upstairs kitchen and mystery door, isn’t helping. Back downstairs, we see a larger living room with a river rock fireplace that’s curiously painted black, coffered ceilings, and wooden shutters over the windows.

Now I think we’re back upstairs, at least judging from the slope of the ceiling in the bedroom we’ve entered. The bedroom, one of four, is spacious but a bit oddly shaped. At least it looks like we get a nice west-facing private balcony.

Heading back outside, we get a few shots of the larger downstairs deck and then many, many photos of the ocean view, interspersed with a few shots of the garden that sits below the house itself. This would be a pretty steep slope (nice for privacy from your neighbors), but someone had the good sense to terrace it off and create a relatively level grass lawn with a pleasant-looking brick patio for al fresco dining.

The listing doesn’t really have a lot to say about the place, and we don’t even get photos of the other bedrooms or a single shot of the two baths before our tour ends. Sadly, that seems to be because the Cullen House’s days may indeed be numbered.

“Check with city to find out if you can still build 6 units on 3 lots or 3 units each with ADUs,” the listing intones, suggesting that the perceived best use of the land is not to play host to a historical home, but to serve as a subdivision, with a bunch of new, expensive residences shoehorned into as little space as possible. That could explain why they’re asking more than a million dollars each for those other two 2500-square-foot lots.

Public records list a Cattail Properties LLC out of Scottsdale, Arizona as the Cullen House owner. Both listings went live in early October, and the asking prices for each have since been slashed by $300,000. I’d love to see this house restored to its former glory, and it looks like lots of the components are there to do so (please scrub the paint off that fireplace), but if you’re going to buy it just to tear it down, please don’t tell me about it.

2286 Oxford Avenue | Cardiff, 92007

Current owner: Cattail Properties LLC | Listing price: $4,300,000-$6,350,000 | Beds: 4 | Baths: 2 | House size: 1781 sq ft

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