Located at 3312 Elliott St., in the Loma Portal neighborhood, it was constructed in 1926. It was designated as a historical landmark in the City of San Diego in 2018 because it is an “excellent example of a Tudor Revival home.”
“It was designed by Ralph E. Hurlburt who was an established master designer in the city, but as not an architect per se, but he did design homes,” according to Alexandra Wallace, principal researcher at Legacy 106, Inc., based in La Jolla.
Wallace was involved in preparing the now historic home’s nomination report for historic designation along with husband Kiley Wallace an architectural historian at the firm. Legacy 106 offers historic preservation and archaeology services for homeowners seeking such historic designation.
Ralph S. Benton was the son of prominent rancher, Robert H., Benton who came to San Diego by way of Kansas in 1881. He leased nearly 1 million acres in Northern Baja, Calif., from the Mexican government for cattle grazing, according to “240 years of Ranching,” a 2009 research report by Sue A. Wade, Stephen R. Van Wormer, and Heather Thomson.
Ralph would also become a rancher in the southeastern San Diego County town of Campo. Along with his brothers he owned thousands of acres in the area.
In 1927 and 1928 San Diego city directories list Ralph and Helene Benton as residents of the Point Loma property. However, Helene appears as the home’s only resident from 1929 until she sold the property in 1933.
The 1930 U.S. Census shows Helene lived in the home with her two children, but not her husband. Her marital status does show married, not widowed or divorced. Her husband was most likely spending extended time in Campo tending to his cattle ranch, Wallace’s’ report suggested.
After they sold the home in 1933, they relocated to Phoenix and by 1940 were residents of Tucson. They were engaged in cattle ranching through at least the early 1950s. Ralph S. Benton died in Tucson on May 21, 1960. No further info on Helene could be located, the report said.
Bells and Whistles
The Helen and Ralph Benton home is described as having “a deep inset faux stone, entryway, large banks or groups of tall rectangular divided casement windows, wooden shutters, built-in wooden window boxes and other details.”
As well as “embodies distinctive elements of Hurlburt’s use of Tudor Revival architecture and is an important example of the two men’s combined skills and design in 1926, before the economic depression of 1929 and the 1930s.”
Hurlburt was responsible for the design of numerous homes in the San Diego and La Mesa areas and published a promotional booklet called “Distinctive Homes” around 1926 reflecting a variety of styles of homes that remain some of San Diego’s architectural landmarks today.
Wallace added Hurlburt’s business partner, Charles Tifal, constructed 3312 Elliott St. and many of Hurlburt’s designs. Tifal a general contractor was born in Wisconsin in 1882 relocated to San Diego around 1920. He died at 86, was married and had two daughters.
The Point Loma property would later become a rental owned from 1933 to 1947 by Veta J. Thompson, a schoolteacher, among others.
Harvey J. Robson, a poultry farmer, and his wife Nina later would own the home followed by their daughter, Ruth E. Robson-Mosholder. She lived at 3312 Elliott St. in Point Loma until her death in 2005.
She was said to have met her future husband in 1994 when she was 70 years old aboard the Jerimiah O’Brien, a restored “Liberty Ship,” that stormed the beaches of Normandy, France on D-Day 50 years earlier, according to her obituary in the San Diego Tribune on May 29, 2005.
While it has had many owners, the home is still standing, has not had any additions, and is remarkably original and intact, Wallace said.
What makes the Ralph and Helene Benton/Ralph Hurlburt and Charles Tifal House truly unique is that there are only a few Tudor Revival style homes in Loma Portal, but not many.
“The predominant house style in that neighborhood is definitely Spanish Eclectic,” Wallace said.