Corey House: Former home to La Jolla’s first female physician still standing
Published - 01/18/20 - 11:00 AM | 3786 views | 0 0 comments | 99 99 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Dr. Martha Dunn Corey. COURTESY PHOTO
Dr. Martha Dunn Corey. COURTESY PHOTO

La Jolla’s Corey House, like many landmarks in the city, has a long history and an interesting one.

Built in 1909, the property is named after its original owner and the first female physician of La Jolla Dr. Martha Dunn Corey, who used it for an office/home.

According to La Jolla Historical Society Historian Carol Olten, Corey House has been moved a few times from its original location on Gerard to preserve it.

The Corey House is part of a group of old houses that make up Heritage Place at 7210-12 La Jolla Blvd.,” Olten said. “Heritage Place has been up and on the market for quite some time.”

According to the real estate website Redfin, the property comprised of three historic homes/landmarks was sold for $3.75 million in September 2019.

The enclave includes:

The Craftsman bungalow-style Rhoads House (Historic Site No. 128) was built in 1917 and moved from the Wall Street business district years ago.

The Galusha Grow Cottage (Historic Site No.133 — 484 Arenas St.), an 1895 Victorian vernacular also known as the “Yellow Cottage,” built in 1895 and relocated to Heritage Place in 1979.

The Corey House (Historic Site No. 375 — 494 Arenas St.), “Built in 1909, the home’s interiors have been redesigned with an open airy floor plan that includes living, dining and kitchen areas. High ceilings with beams, board, and batten walls and wood floors also adorn the interiors. The bathroom has a clawfoot tub and upstairs there is a loft-style bedroom,” according to the listing by Linda Marrone with Coldwell Banker.

It was moved to Heritage Place in 2003, Olten said.

Heritage Place

Olten said Heritage Place came to fruition in the 1970s thanks to one-time director of the La Jolla Historical Society Patricia Schaelchlin, who with her husband Bob was “interested in keeping the cottages once located in the commercial areas preserved rather than destroying them.”

The three homes were all owned by various people throughout the years, and then developers came by their various locations and said, ‘This is valuable land and we want to develop it,’” Olten said.

The allure of old cottages remains strong in La Jolla, Olten added: “We have so few of these small cottages that are in livable shape in La Jolla; so many have been destroyed over the years. I think in the post-war years, a book published in 1948 listed the cottages. I counted them and the list was 349. Now what has happened? They all got torn down, and it’s lucky we do have these little Heritage Place sites so that we can preserve a piece of the past.”

For years, the three homes have sat in a cluster and served as private residences or rentals, she said.

There is some nice landscaping between them and it’s attractive but noisy even though they are a little set back from La Jolla Boulevard; you don’t hear too much when inside them,” Olten said.

Olten said Corey House was moved firstly to Draper from 7816 Gerard and there was “occupied as a rental and in rundown condition.”

It was owned by the Bishop School that wanted to expand the campus in the 1980s and build a science building where the Corey House was,” she said. “They also wanted an athletic field, etc., and the Corey House was not in the picture so it became eligible to be moved the Heritage Place site.”

The inside of Corey House — at under 800 square feet — has been remodeled and is “quite lovely and looks very lofty,” Olten said.

Who was Corey?

As for the home’s namesake, according to historians, Dr. Corey was quite gifted.

In some La Jolla history books, she is reported as one of those pioneering female doctors of the early 1900s,” Olten said. “She was one who graduated from medical school on the East Coast like many, along with others who graduated from Berkeley. These were hot beds for female suffragette types and independent women who entered the field of medicine at the time.”

Corey was born in 1852 in New York City and graduated from the Woman’s Medical College of Pennsylvania.

She went abroad to study medicine after practicing medicine on the East Coast, then went to study in Birmingham, England. On her way back to the U.S., she met her husband George Corey on the ship and married.

They decided to try their luck at moving West and ended in Marion, Ohio, for a while.

Then they came out to Pacific Beach and started a lemon ranch on the property — north of La Jolla,” Olten said.

In 1900, Dr. Corey moved back to Ohio to establish her medical practice and somewhere along the line her husband died after she had three sons. By 1906, she was a widow with three kids and returned to La Jolla to set up practice in 1906, Olten added.

She established her home and office on Gerard although she and her sons owned land in PB.

At one time, they had about three homes and she was quite wealthy; she left an estate of over $82,000,” Olten said. “Not bad for a practicing physician in small beach town at the time.

Corey was a general practitioner in those days when La Jolla had a 200 population,” Olten said.

“I think she probably continued to operate the lemon ranch and didn’t just rely on the medical practice as her only livelihood.”

Corey died in 1927.

In addition to being a well-known physician in La Jolla, she was also quite an exhibitionist. According to the book by Schaelchlin, “La Jolla the Story of a Community 1887-1987,” on page 117:

Dr. Corey was recognized as she was going about her doctoring in the village by her car in early La Jolla and “remembered for being an excellent doctor and buying an air-cooled, brush car and had her sons drive her up and down La Jolla Boulevard with flags flying, bells ringing, and chickens running.”

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