Fabled Gables: 1323 De la Vina Street

G. Vince Giovannoni

Probable original owner: Henry Spencer

Year built: 1898

Builder: W.L. Pierson

This Victorian with gentle elements of Colonial Revival architecture has been well maintained and undergone few cosmetic and structural alterations in its 118-year history.

The builder was W.L. Pierson, a turn-of-the-century carpenter, and the probable original owner was Henry Spencer, who was known locally as a capitalist among his peers. By 1917, the estate was transferred to Herman Menken, a distributor of wine and spirits. The property remained with his family for the next 52 years.

Since the Menken era, the dwelling has housed additional owners and commercial enterprises, including a dual-use antique store on the ground floor, with an owner apartment on the second and attic levels.

Beginning in 1999, the restored Victorian was christened the Country House Inn, a supplemental bed and breakfast to its sister hotel across the street and a half-block away, the Upham Hotel (founded in 1871 by Amasa Lincoln, a cousin to the 16th president of the United States), which is known to be the oldest continuously operating hotel in Southern California.

The Country House Inn offers seven unique guest rooms and an intimate penthouse suite, each individually decorated in colorful thematic styles with classic antiques and period furnishings. It is an easy stroll to exclusive downtown shopping, fine dining, and wine tasting. Reservations and information can be found online at

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