Commission approves historic status for iconic Boat Houses in Encinitas

A woman jogs past the Encinitas Boathouses, located on Third Street, on Wednesday, July 31.
(Hayne Palmour IV / The San Diego Union-Tribune)

The beloved Boat House apartments in Encinitas can become national historic landmarks, the State Historical Resources Commission unanimously agreed Thursday, Aug. 1.

An architect with the state commission was very pleased with the Encinitas Preservation Association’s request to list the boat-shaped structures. He called them part of the fabric of California creativity in the 1920s and said that he really hoped more structures like them would be registered, association president Tom Cozens said after getting a report from association vice president Sean Englert, who attended the meeting in Sacramento.

As long as no one appeals the commission’s decision within the next 14 days, the Boat Houses will be added to the national register, joining such famous California attractions as Hearst castle, the Hotel del Coronado and the cable cars in San Francisco.

“Now, we just have to sweat it out sightly for two weeks,” Cozens joked.

The preservation association purchased the Boat Houses about a decade ago and began putting the paperwork together several years ago to obtain historic status for them. Members hope the new special status will help them obtain grant money to renovate the structures. The latest estimate is they need about $700,000 to bring them back to their original glory, Cozens said.

The structures were built by architect Miles Kellogg, whose father was a sea captain, in the late 1920s, “using timber salvaged from the local bathhouse and a hotel that failed to survive Prohibition’s dry years,” the preservation association states on its web site.

The Boat Houses are thought to be among the earliest and best examples of recycled architecture -- structures made of repurposed materials -- on the West Coast. They’re also considered to be among the best national examples of early 1900s vernacular architecture, a style that featured shops shaped like the items they served

Located at 726 and 732 Third Street, the “S.S. Encinitas” and the “S.S. Moonlight” have been featured on city postcards and are a favorite stop on the downtown history walking tours. They’ll also be featured during the preservation association’s Oct. 5 bus tour of places of historical interest throughout Encinitas, Cozens said. Visit for tickets.

October also is the month that the association plans to unveil its new national landmark signage at the Boat Houses. The open-to-the-public ceremony is set for 10 a.m. on Oct. 12.

“We’re looking at closing down that part of Third Street (for the ceremony),” Cozens said. “Hopefully, we will get a ginormous turnout.”

The one problem with all the attention the Boat Houses are getting of late is that random passersby are going off the public sidewalk, marching onto private property and even peering into the porthole windows. The association urges people to remember that the Boat Houses are private homes, Cozens said.

— Barbara Henry is a freelance writer for The San Diego Union-Tribune