The neighbor of Talmadge lies in Mid-City San Diego by Kensington + University Heights, but it’s closer to Hollywood than you may think. It’s noted for its mixed architectural styles and canyon views, but part of its history is unspoken. It pays homage to the Talmadge sisters — silent movie stars who have spots on the silver screen and San Diego’s history books.
🎞️ Sister, sister... sister
Norma, Constance + Natalie Talmadge were born in Brooklyn, New York, in the 1890s and started out on very small screens. Norma posed for slides used in nickelodeons before starring in silent films, but it was Constance who relocated to Hollywood to star in the film “Intolerance.”
In the 1920s, the Talmadge trio moved to San Diego. In 1925 real estate developers Roy + Guy Lichty helped establish a neighborhood — then called the “Movie Girl Subdivision” — that was funded with capital by Joseph Schenck, Norma’s husband. Joseph also funded movies starring silent film star Buster Keaton, who was married to Natalie.
Today, the community is simply known as Talmadge and a walk through it will take you down Norma, Constance, and Natalie drives.
🎞️ The architecture
Upon entering Talmadge, you’ll be greeted by large, historic gates, and the homes have personalities that are just as big, blending elegant + eclectic designs. Styles include Spanish Revival, California bungalows + Normandy Style.
The neighborhood saw commercial development in the 1930s + 1940s, resulting in Streamline Style architecture — a common design in San Diego. This era also added WWII Era + Cape Cod cottages that were popular. In the 1960s-1980s multi-family homes began replacing single family houses.
🎞️ The end of an era
By the 1930s, talking films were becoming popular. Norma appeared in two talkies, but had little success, while Constance retired from acting and focused on real estate to maintain her wealth.
Natalie divorced Buster Keaton in 1932, and Norma divorced Joseph Schenck in 1934. All three sisters moved away from San Diego and died between 1957-1973. As time passed, their names became less common among Hollywood critics + film buffs, but will always have a legacy in San Diego.