AKA: La Jolla Museum of Contemporary Art, La Jolla, San Diego, CA; Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego (MCASD), La Jolla, San Diego, CA

Structure Type: built works - dwellings - houses

Designers: Gill, Irving J., Architect (firm); Venturi, Scott Brown, and Associates, Architects and Planners (firm); Denise Scott Brown (urban planner); Irving John Gill (architect); Robert Charles Venturi (architect)

Dates: constructed 1916

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700 Prospect Street
La Jolla, San Diego 92037-4228

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This was Ellen Browning Scripps second residence, called South Molton Villa II, in La Jolla, an affluent northern suburb of San Diego. It was designed by the noted San Diego architect, Irving J. Gill, who also designed other commissions for Ellen Browning Scripps, including the Bishop's School for Girls (1909), La Jolla Woman's Club (1914), and La Jolla Recreational Center (1915). This 1916 residence had Gill's characteristic clarity of form, unornamented, with a stark precision that presaged some aspects of mid-century Modern architecture.

Building History

The important San Diego civic leader and philanthropist, Ellen Browning Scripps (1836-1932), lived in this Irving Gill-design residence between 1916 and her death in 1932. Born in England, Scripps relocated to the American Midwest, settling in Rushville, IL, in 1844, where other family members had bought property and established themselves. Her father, James Mogg Scripps, a skilled bookbinder by trade, had three wives, two of whom he married in England, who bore him a total of 11 children. Ellen Browning Scripps attended Knox College, from which she received a certificate indicating that she had studied math and science, although women were not granted actual degrees by the college at this time. She would take this certificate and find a job teaching school in Rushville between about 1859 and 1865.

One of her brothers, James E. Scripps (1835–1906), published the Detroit Evening News, a newspaper aimed at workingclass readers, and Ellen became a columnist for it, publshing "Miscellany," a digest of current local and national news. A half-brother, Edward Wyllis Scripps (1854–1926), would also work for the Scripps newspapers, that added publications in Cleveland, OH, Saint Louis, MO, and Cincinnati, OH, during the next two decades. E.W. Scripps would become a close ally of Ellen, as she would give him important business advice during this period of growth. Eventually, James and E.W. had a break during the 1880s, following the latter's unsuccessful efforts to obtain control of the Scripps Publishing Company. After this schism, E.W. and Ellen traveled in Europe in both 1881 and 1888-1889 and by the 1890s had moved to California, where a half-sister, Julia Ann Scripps (1847–1898) had moved to ease her rhematism in 1887. E.W. eventually got control over some of the Scripps Publishing Company newspapers in the Midwest, and added other titles in the Plains, South and West. The Scripps syndicate, by the 1890s, had purchased CA newspapers in Los Angeles, San Diego, and San Francisco and others in Spokane, WA, Tacoma, WA, Portland, OR, and Seattle, WA. The West Coast additions to the Scripps Publishing Company became highly profitable, and gave E.W., Ellen and their business partners significant wealth.


In the 1950s, the building became used as an art museum, developing into what became the Museum of Contemporary Art, San Diego. The Scripps House facade was incorporated into a new 1996 design by Philadelphia, PA-based architects, Robert Venturi and Denise Scott Brown.


Most of Ellen Browning Scripps South Molton House II was demolished. Only the front facade element remained after c. 1995.

PCAD id: 3793