Large family estates are notoriously private and personal. Foxhill, a newspaper family’s midcentury manse with sweeping ocean views above one of San Diego’s most revered communities, seamlessly embodies both.
Its privacy derives from the hilltop location. Foxhill sits on 32 acres, making it the largest contiguous residential site in La Jolla. “Privacy abounds, and there is no other property like this in San Diego,” said Andrew E. Nelson, CEO of Willis Allen Real Estate.
The personal is apparent in the French country-style design, inside and out. In the 1950s, when some high rollers were choosing sleek modern dwellings, the late James and Helen Copley, owners of The San Diego Union-Tribune and the San Diego Evening Tribune, went their own way. The Copleys tapped architect Roy Drew to channel the French countryside for what would become their eight-acre residence, completed in 1959.
It was a departure for Drew; he and Robert Mosher had created some of the San Diego area’s most enduring Modernist landmarks, such as the Coronado Bridge and the San Diego Museum of Art in Balboa Park.
For the Copleys, the low-profile, sprawling house with dormer windows and modified mansard-style roof fulfilled their vision.
The next owners of the $55-million property will likely feel differently — and have several options to pursue.
The main house sits on 6.24 acres. Additional lots include a ready-to-build site of 1.68 acres; a 22.4-acre site, with a designated building area restricted to 4 acres currently landscaped as a golf course; and an adjoining 1.77-acre parcel that can accommodate a 10,000-square-foot new home. Each has gated entrances as well as ocean views.
Given this flexibility, new owners may choose to leave the estate as is, re-envision it as a new multi-family compound by redoing the existing house or building on the three additional lots, or develop the lots and sell off each one.
“Alternatively, there is something about keeping Foxhill as a single estate that may appeal to the inner-land baron in the type of individual or family that can afford an asset like this,” said listing agent Tim Nelson. “Either way, the person will appreciate La Jolla, value the flexibility, privacy, views and space and have the worldly perspective to know what a phenomenal site this is.”
Those who like the original French vibe will find well-maintained grounds with numerous gardens, including orchard and terraced vegetable gardens as well as wooded paths and a greenhouse. The property is gated with a security gatehouse and a garage parking for 12 cars that features guest rooms above. The estate includes a pool area plus quarters for staff.
Inside, crystal chandeliers, hardwood floors and wood paneling, and murals in keeping with the home’s theme abound. Often a gathering place for noteworthy types and other high-society, dinner parties were held in the formal dining room, which features a hand-painted mural and built-in cabinetry, or sometimes outdoors in one of the gardens. Helen Copley once hosted President Richard Nixon at Foxhill.
The Copley’s publishing empire started in 1928 when Ira Copley bought the two newspapers. The company passed down in the family to James, who died in 1973; and then to his widow, Helen Copley. Helen started at the newspaper as a secretary before her rise to owner-publisher. She contributed millions of dollars to the San Diego Symphony and funded a library at the University of San Diego. She lived at Foxhill until her death in 2004. Her son, David Copley, who went into the family business, inherited the property and lived at Foxhill until he suffered a fatal heart attack while driving about a mile from his home in 2015. David Copley had no heirs, and the property went up for sale.
Enter Doug “Papa Doug” Manchester, who built some of San Diego’s tallest buildings and at one time owned the San Diego Union Tribune. He bought Foxhill and added a modern kitchen, racquetball court, pickle ball court and made other changes. The home of almost 23,000-square-feet grew to 10 bedrooms and 14 bathrooms.
Before the sale, an important question arose that could have dramatically affected Foxhill’s fate: Should the home be declared historic? The San Diego Historical Resources Board in 2015 voted against it. Foxhill failed to meet standards of “French eclectic” design, an American style after World War I that borrowed heavily from the charm of French country life, nor did it deserve the designation for being the workplace of the powerful business-minded and philanthropic Copleys. Most of their work was linked to the Copley Library in La Jolla. The lack of historic designation means the property may be redeveloped.
The elegant hilltop estate at 7007 Country Club Drive adjacent to the La Jolla Country Club golf course is a standout in La Jolla, known for natural sea caves, 300-foot cliffs and the scenic Windandsea Beach. Market trends show that the average sales price in the community has increased to more than $2.36 million, up from roughly $2.15 million just six months ago.
Willis Allen Real Estate is a founding member of Forbes Global Properties, a consumer marketplace and membership network of elite brokerages selling the world’s most luxurious homes.