New life for one of Oceanside’s oldest buildings


A new life is about to begin for one of Oceanside’s oldest buildings, a brick structure on Pier View Way that opened as a hardware store in 1888, the same year the city was incorporated.

Now known as the Schuyler Building for its original owner, John Schuyler, the hardware store once sold tools and supplies essential to the rapidly growing region. It later served as a grocery store and a boarding house, among other uses. For the past 30 years or longer, it had a laundry on the first floor and the upper floors were mostly vacant and used for storage.

Now the new owner, Tom Aldrich, plans to open a restaurant on the first floor, a 10-room boutique hotel on the second and third floors, and a public outdoor bar on the roof, with views of the surrounding city and the Pacific Ocean a few blocks away.

“Maybe we’ll call it The 1888 Hotel,” Aldrich said. “We want to keep with the historical aspect of it, if we can.”

He’s already gutted the interior of the building and stripped away the stucco that was applied to the brick exterior in the 1930s. That revealed the original signs painted high up on the walls to advertise “Hardware, Stoves, Crockery and Bicycles,” and another one for “Rooms.” On the eastern side facing the alley, they uncovered a smaller sign that says “Contreras and Gelpi, cash grocers.”

“The significance of this building is that it’s been many things,” said Oceanside historian John Daley, who sometimes leads walking tours of notable downtown sites.

“It’s adjusted to the times,” Daley said. “There’s nothing more appealing than for it to be a boutique hotel in today’s world.”

The building was originally two stories, with high ceilings. Schuyler hosted the regular meetings of his chapter of the Odd Fellows Lodge on the second floor, according to an article by Oceanside Historical Society President Kristi Hawthorne.

A boarding house opened on the second floor about 1905. In the late 1920s, a third floor was added, with lower ceilings, to create a hotel on the second and third floors, which continued to operate into the 1970s.

Like much of downtown Oceanside, the western blocks of Pier View Way are still emerging from some tough decades. Especially in the 1970s and early ‘80s, the area was known for bars and strip clubs that appealed to young Marines from nearby Camp Pendleton.

“This block more than any other has kind of struggled,” Aldrich said.

An extensive retrofit is needed to make the building earthquake safe, he said. While the brick exterior will remain, it will serve primarily a facade, with new steel beams installed inside to provide structural support.

The building is next door to the Firewater Saloon, which Aldrich also recently purchased. That property includes a house built in the 1890s, and Aldrich said he intends to join the two properties as one.

Aldrich said his boutique hotel and restaurant will provide some balance to the large hotels and condominium buildings going up nearby along the city’s railroad corridor. Located a half block west of Coast Highway, a block north of Mission Avenue, his place has easy access to nearby street parking and municipal lots, and it’s a short walk from the pier, the Transit Center, and downtown bars, theaters and museums.

Aldrich is still working to get all the necessary permits approved, he said. With luck, construction could begin in three months and be completed in early 2019.

He bought the property in February from Marie Davies, owner of the Pollos Maria restaurants in Carlsbad and Oceanside, whose family had owned it since 1979.

The Aldrich family also has deep roots in Oceanside. Tom’s parents, John and Jeanne Aldrich, moved to the city 90 years ago to run a boarding house on Mission Avenue, then called Second Street.

Now Tom and his sister Michelle, who will manage the hotel, will get their turn at the hospitality business.

Twitter: @phildiehl