For Derrell Weldy, the past is never far from the present. Take his new home, which overlooks what he calls “the old mountains of Mexico,” where earlier generations of his family once lived. Looking south, he has an unobstructed view.
“I’m sitting on one of the highest spots anywhere in south San Diego County,” Weldy says.
Here in Campo, Calif., on the crest of 43 acres, Weldy has erected a much-talked-about home.
“I’ve duplicated a house built in 1923 in Old Town San Diego,” he says. “I’m in a real remote part of the county. Everybody down here goes to the local hardware store and every time I go there someone is talking about my house: ‘Have you seen that big Spanish-style house up on the hill? It’s huge.’”
Duplicating "Old Town"Weldy’s Spanish “Santa Fe”-style home is 3,200 square feet. But to passersby it appears larger, perhaps 5,000, even 6,000, square feet in size.
“The way I laid it out,” says Weldy, President of Pla-Cor Inc., a Santee, Calif.-based cornerbead and drywall accessories manufacturer, “I stretched it out real long.”
The home spans 120 feet and the formal dining room and living room form a 50-foot-wide wing visible from the road.
“If I would have made it deeper and shorter, it would have looked like a little box sitting up there on 43 acres,” says Weldy.
He decided, instead, to stretch out the design, so the home would be better proportioned to the property and give the appearance of being vast.
The Old Town home after which Weldy’s is modeled measures 1,800 square feet. “We were down there taking pictures of the house,” Weldy relates. “I was just trying to guesstimate the dimensions and it just so happened that the owner was home that day. He wondered what we were doing and I told him I liked his house and wanted to duplicate something similar 70 miles away. He said to bring my architect down and he let him go in and measure everything. A lot of the rooms were pretty small, so I stretched them out a little bit, and that’s how it ended up being 3,200 square feet.”
The Weldy family has been in construction for decades. About 1948, Weldy’s father went to work for United States Gypsum Company. His uncles ran Standard Drywall Inc.-now the fifth largest walls and ceilings contractor in the U.S.-overseeing the company’s operations from the mid-1950s through to the final uncle’s retirement in January this year. Weldy began his carpenters’ union apprenticeship in San Diego right out of high school.
“There are a lot of guys I have worked with in the past,” he says. “I had them come out and give me assistance on this house.”
Weldy cast himself as general contractor.
Archways and NichesFramed with 2x6 wood studs, the Weldy home has ceiling heights ranging from 9 to 20 feet. The exterior walls feature what looks like an old-time plaster system. It’s actually OSB topped with a moisture barrier and three-coat plaster (a scratch coat, brown coat and finish coat).
To firm up the strength of the exterior walls, Weldy’s architect specified Hardy Frame panels from Hardy Frames Inc. The panels, which have a solid steel face, were bolted to the concrete footings and screwed into the framing members above to help resist shear and wind loads.
“We’re up in the mountains,” Weldy says. “This house is approximately 3,300 to 3,500 feet in elevation and we get sustained winds up here of 80 to 90 miles an hour.”
By stretching out the house-elongating the roof lines-and using the steel sheer panels, Weldy protected his investment from potential wind ripping.
“Most of the winds come from north to south in the winter time but there’s no place for the wind to catch hold of my roof except at the entry way,” he says. “If it was any other roof, I’d have a tough time but it’s not. It’s a Spanish Santa Fe-it’s made for this kind of terrain.
“I tried to keep everything similar to what you might see back in the days of the old Spanish hacienda,” Weldy says.
In the pantry, for example, Weldy used a family heirloom, the door from an old passenger train sleeper car, which had been in the family some 100 years.
“It was a beat up old piece of junk,” he says. “That door had been kicked around since I was a kid, and I always said, ‘If I ever build a house, I’m going to use it.’ It fit in my pantry, so I had a guy re-do it.”
When serial numbers on the door became exposed, historical society folks began tracing its origin. The door, research reveals, may have been made as early as 1888.
Reflecting a 1920s Santa Fe style meant incorporating archways and niches. Pla-Cor manufactures injection-molded drywall accessory products, including plastic and arch cornerbead, and cornerbead caps, and these came in handy on the job. Most pass-throughs in the house have arches, giving it the old Spanish look.
The interior walls were hand textured.
One of Weldy’s friends did all the finishing. The smooth textured finish has the feel of old, light-gauging plaster of the ’20s and ’30s. Each room is finished a light tan color and the exterior is sand-colored, too.
“Everything is earth tones,” he says. “The home blends into the hillside.”
Niches and insets contribute character and function. An inset in the living room above the fireplace houses a 46-inch flat-panel television. A similar niche in the bedroom, also over a fireplace, was created for some artwork.
“All the interior doors are stained, knotty alder,” Weldy says. “They look like knotty pine, which was the wood of the day in the ’20s when there was a lot of it around. But these are alder-the match is amazing.”
Arched Front WindowsThe home’s front windows serve as key architectural elements, although they were difficult to build. These Spanish-style arched windows are nearly 16 inches deep, and each has a 45-degree exterior stucco bevel around it. Weldy needed double walls to accommodate these structures. “The windows sit in the first wall,” he says, “and the big bevels take up the outer wall.” Weldy’s crews framed the window wells using two sets of 2x6 studs with a wall cavity space in between them.
“Matching and duplicating these window details was a good little task,” Weldy says. “I had several window manufacturers try to help match the old detail from the ’20s but none of them could get the drawings right.” So, Weldy turned to a neighbor, a man named David Lyons, who is originally from New England. “He said that they used to build all their own windows, doors and cabinets. I had him look at the window details and he ended up building them out of mahogany. He did an outstanding job!”
“We did a good job duplicating what was built in the ’20s,” Weldy says. “They had some real skilled craftsmen back then and trying to find people who can do the exact same thing in today’s world has been a bit of a task.”
Weldy first broke ground in November 2005. He began framing during the first week of December 2005 and had his final building inspection this past October. Construction took the better part of a year. Weldy is proud of the work-but glad it’s over. Now he can enjoy the home-its view to the south, where his ancestors once lived and its warm, Spanish spaces, where his three-year-old daughter, the youngest of the current generation of Weldys, has plenty of room to play.
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