Troxell Manor tour offers glimpse into pioneering of San Diego’s open spaces

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The history of Lemon Grove goes far deeper than most people shopping on Broadway or stepping off the trolley imagine. Names of streets and vintage characteristics in buildings or homes go unnoticed much of the time, as new can be made to seem vintage with little effort. Scratch the surface at some oft passed-by places in Lemon Grove and history is palpable and even comes to life, as it did on April 26 at Troxell Manor on Olive Street. 

The history of Lemon Grove goes far deeper than most people shopping on Broadway or stepping off the trolley imagine. Names of streets and vintage characteristics in buildings or homes go unnoticed much of the time, as new can be made to seem vintage with little effort. Scratch the surface at some oft passed-by places in Lemon Grove and history is palpable and even comes to life, as it did on April 26 at Troxell Manor on Olive Street. 

Troxell Manor and Gardens was opened to visitors from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. Keeping with the tradition of making a living off the land, the tour included the City Farmers nursery, director of the Lemon Grove Organic Gardening Club Marianne West, Chef Todd Bull who carved fruits and vegetables, Troxell Manor and Gardens head gardener John Millman, and Joan Jackson, the “nutritionist-in-residence” at Troxell Manor. Jackson, a raw food expert, teaches raw food living classes at the manor weekly and provided demonstrations – and much enjoyed samples – to the guests on the tour.

Harvesting crops and Troxell Manor symbolize the foundation of Lemon Grove. On the tour, photographs were displayed inside the entrance of the home, the third oldest in Lemon Grove and built in 1892, showing William and Mary Ann Troxell and their two daughters in a carriage. Other photographs showed the Victorian home on a wide expanse of land, with a barn and a reservoir (all farmers of the time had their own reservoirs). Seeking a climate that would be easy on asthma and eyeing the potential for citrus ranching, Troxell was the first citrus rancher in town. It is suspected he named Lemon Grove. It is also believed that the second owner of the home, a Brit named William West, added on to the home, giving it the Dutch Gambrel roof, a balcony on the second floor outside of the large master bedroom, and bow front windows around the time of the first World War. West would eventually own up to 100 acres in Lemon Grove.

When looking at the home from Olive Street, at the foot of the original long, sloped driveway, Troxell Manor has an antiquated, days-gone-by appeal. Two Moreton Bay fig trees that were planted around the time that the Troxells purchased lemon and orange trees from local nurseries in the 1890’s are massive and appear connected to, if not guarding the historic home.  One step inside the white home with buttercup-colored accents, wood floors, original staircase, and alcoves and time seemingly stops. A sun room at the front of the house would have looked out on what would have been citrus groves, rows of trees and strawberry fields, and hills to the east.

The grounds and gardens at Troxell Manor are every bit as impressive as the home. There are patches of vegetables and fruit plants, carefully chosen garden statues, meticulously maintained flowers, and shady trees. There is an antique feeling to the property as a whole, starting with the surrounding gardens. 

Preserved in time, Troxell Manor and Gardens fortunately has people who care about its legacy. Helen Ofield, president of the Lemon Grove Historical Society, was dressed for the part in turn of the century attire. Members were on hand to offer information to visitors and lead them to the modern day champions and advocates of sustainable living, like the City Farmers Nursery and Jackson. In the Manor kitchen, Jackson made smoothies, cracked open a coconut for fresh coconut water, and made zucchini “noodles” with a simple, healthy sauce for a crowd who by the end, inquired about the classes Jackson offers at the Manor, which is privately owned by Steven Hermecke.

Troxell Manor and Gardens perches on history, the oldest home standing from a time of simple living on the edge of an industry boom. The ranchers who cultivated Lemon Grove were pioneers who, with help from today’s hard-working history enthusiasts, left strong roots clear enough for modern day residents to appreciate how life in Lemon Grove began.

To learn more about the history of Lemon Grove go to the Parsonage Museum at 3185 Olive Street on Saturdays from 11 a.m. – 2:00 p.m., or visit www.sandiegohistory.org/societies/lemongrove.

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