History of Darlington House

Darlington House is a fascinating blend of Sibyl Darlington’s personal imagination and masterful architectural design by three notable architects from 1925 to 1940.

In 1925, Mrs. Darlington bought the property and hired architect Herbert C. Palmer to design a one-story central structure to join the two small houses on the Olivetas Avenue site.

Six years later, in 1931, Mrs. Darlington engaged Richard Requa, eminent architect and authority on Spanish architecture to create the library addition to the house as well as the Andalusian and Egyptian Patios.

Nods to Sybil Darlington’s love of world travel feature most prominently in the house’s library wing. There, ornamental grille work of Moorish design adorns the balcony railing and draws one’s eye to the elegant built-in oak bookcases. Intricately carved wooden doors are fashioned after those found at the Alhambra in Granada, Spain. Urns found in the library niches were commissioned from Seville. One corner features a Moroccan fireplace inscribed in Arabic with a legend that translates: To the faithful man I will grant whatsoever he believes me capable of giving. Stained glass from an Egyptian mosque and antique tiles, including “La Pastora” near the library entrance and “St. Vincent Ferrer”, seen in the pergola through the library window, complete the scene.

Palmer hand-carved the wooden columns in the Andalusian Patio from designs drawn by Requa. Marble columns at the bases of the same patio’s signature arches were imported from Spain, Italy, and Greece. From Morocco came inspiration for the colorfully tiled floor and benches. The Egyptian Patio’s fountain tiles and urns were recreated in Los Angeles from photographs taken by Mrs. Darlington.

In 1940, La Jolla architect Thomas Shepherd modified the front of the house and added the second story and curving staircase. The Shepherd influence is evident in the skillfully designed second floor addition. He maintained architectural simplicity while at the same time transforming the house into a sizeable mansion and one of the most prized edifices of La Jolla.

In 1995, Darlington House was designated by the San Diego Historical Site Board as Site No. 327 in the Register of Historic Landmarks.

See photos of our house and gardens on our Gallery pages.

Social Service League of La Jolla

The Social Service League acquired Darlington House in 1968 from the estate of Mrs. Sybil Darlington.  The primary motive in the purchase was to obtain the 25 feet of vacant property included in the sale, making it possible to add 24 additional units to League House, the building next door, which they maintain for low-income senior citizens.

At the time the Social Service League acquired the luxurious house, they were uncertain as to just how they would utilize it. After much consideration, it became apparent that it could provide a much-needed source of revenue for League House. Subsequently, the organization has dedicated much of their time, talents and funds to preserve, maintain and enhance the picturesque home and lovely gardens.

Funds raised by Darlington House help support League House. Members of the League also hold other fundraisers throughout the year to enhance this support.

Click here to learn more about the Social Service League’s mission.

Images by Allison Davis Photography