The Lowenstein Building
544 5th Avenue
Architectural Style: Early Commercial
Although Alonzo Horton initially sold the lot on which the Lowenstein building is located to Archibald H. Julian, it didn’t take long for Mr. Julian to transfer title to Willard Lowenstein, Tobias Czerinsky and J. Richfalsy. Lowenstein was a member of a pioneer San Diego family, previously having conducted business in Old Town, before moving to Horton’s New Town. Under the name, Lowenstein and Company, he and his partners dealt primarily in dry goods, clothing and boots , and were one of the San Diego Union’s biggest advertisers claiming to have “goods cheap.” Richfalsy left the firm in 1870, but by 1874 Max and Emmanuel Lowenstein had joined the firm, which now imported goods from both New York and Europe.
In the summer of 1877, Lowenstein and Company closed their business for a year. The property was then leased to Fred Schwerer, C. Snider and J.P. Stow, who operated a barber shop and a saloon respectively in wooden structures. Unfortunately, in November 1877 and October 1878 fires swept the west side of 5th Avenue, and the structures were lost.
By September of 1885, Emmanuel Lowenstein had sold his half of the property to A.H. Julian, who leased it to Isidore Lewis. Lowenstein and Lewis signed an agreement to each pay equal amounts for the construction of a two-story brick wall dividing the property, which would “lessen expenses should Mr. Lowenstein decide to build on this lot.” This was not uncommon at the time, and the walls became known as “party walls.”
By November of 1885 excavations were being made on the Lowenstein side of the property to complement the construction of Lewis’ brick building already underway. The Sanborn Fire Map of 1887 described the building as a two story brick building having a tin or slate roof with a 12 inch high firewall above the roof line. It additionally had a skylight on the second story and a stairway located in the center of both floors. The edifice sported a brick chimney and two iron posts in front of the building. According to the San Diego Union, the two iron posts, which were made at Riffenberg’s Foundry, were placed into position on December 19, 1885. The upper floor had a green and white tiled front and two double sashed windows.
From 1887-1888, H.J. Brown and Herman Welisch operated a gentlemen’s clothing, furnishings, boots, hats and second hand goods store on the property. From 1889 to 1890, Max Lowenstein and I. Welisch were proprietors of the People’s Clothing Store at the site. In late 1890, Lowenstein, who had recently moved to San Francisco, won a Berlin lottery for $125,000! He no longer needed to operate a clothing store.
From 1892- 1915, the property housed a number of businesses including a wine and liquor wholesale store, a second hands goods store, a billiard parlor and pool hall, a tailor shop, and in 1915, the Mint Saloon. By the 1920s, the Filippi family of San Diego acquired the property, and continued to lease it to various proprietors. It became the ABC Cafe, a tavern and pool hall in 1952, and remained until 1978.
This modest building still had not achieved its potential when it was leased by an Irish couple , Daniel and Enda Drayne, in 1998. They recognized that the emerging Gaslamp Quarter would become, not only the historic heart of San Diego, but also a major tourist destination. With this in mind, they shipped the ephemera of an Irish pub, piece by piece, to San Diego, and re-created it inside the Lowenstein building.The cozy interior contains artifacts, antiques and bric-a-brac that produce the most authentic ambiance possible. It is a venue where you can relax and enjoy the finest of Irish traditions. The Field features delicious Irish food, perfect Guiness pints, and smooth whiskey. The ambiance is so pleasant and inviting that several of the original servers still work there! The Field opened its doors to the public on February 21, 1998, and still remains one of the most popular restaurants in the Gaslamp, providing a little bit of Ireland in southern California.
Sandee is the Historian and Lead Tour Guide for the Gaslamp Quarter Historical Foundation. She can be reached at [email protected]