Casa De Tomás, 1930
Architect: D.S. Calland
Casa de Tomás Addition, 1930
500-520 4th Avenue
The property located on the NW corner of 4th and Island was originally sold to Edward J. Smith by Alonzo Horton for the goodly sum of $500 in gold coin. Mr. Horton was able to secure such a high price for his real estate, because this lot, being on a corner, was much more prized as a prime location for business. Horton laid out the city utilizing short blocks to insure a maximum number of corner lots, earning him the nickname, “Corner Lot Horton.” The first structure on the property was a one-story brick building used as a saloon from 1895 until 1906. From 1913 until 1919, it became a Chinese laundry operated by Mr. Wo Gee.
In 1922, the Quinn family purchased the property. Ah Quinn, the family patriarch and un-official mayor of Chinatown, passed away in 1914 close by, at the corner of H St. (now Market St.), where he was hit by a motorcycle. He was walking to a birthday celebration for a grandchild. His son, Thomas Quinn, then assumed the title.
Thomas Quinn commissioned D.S. Calland to reconstruct the building in 1930. Mr. Calland was from Mexico City, hence the name, “Casa de Tomas” and the combination Spanish and Oriental style architecture. The two-story reconstruction consisted of a store downstairs and two apartments upstairs. Seven years after the reconstruction of the building, Thomas Quinn died in one of the upstairs apartments.
A large garage was added to the side of the building, which became known as the Casa de Tomas Addition, and which incorporated a very distinct Spanish influence. Although the structure, called the Empire Garage, was originally used to repair autos, it was later converted to a flower market, wholesale shop, and ultimately an apparel and uniform sewing factory.
In 1935, the property was passed to Helen Kong, daughter of Thomas Quinn. She, in turn, passed the property to her son, Dr. Thomas Kong. Thomas was born and raised in one of the upstairs apartments, so it truly is the Casa de Tomás-es.
In modern times, the downstairs has housed a series of nightclubs and a cigar lounge, including Papa Jack’s and Aubergine. Fluxx, voted San Diego’s Best Nightclub for six years running, has been the occupant since 2009. Fluxx has hosted such notables as Ashton Kutcher, Lebron James, Lil Wayne, Hosstradamas, Future, and Diplo, just to name a few. It features cutting edge popular music, DJs and celebrity events, including the ComicCon after-party.
To learn more about the fascinating history of New Town, San Diego’s downtown, visit the Gaslamp Museum and take one of the Walking Tours, Thursday at 1pm and Saturdays at 11 am. www.gaslampfoundation.org.
Sandee Wilhoit is the Historian for the Gaslamp Quarter Historical Foundation.
She can be reached at