Original 1887 PB Map

The San Diego History Center library in Balboa Park is a rich source of historical information, not only original documents from the early days of San Diego and a huge collection of historical photographs but also a knowledgeable staff. One day I asked their map expert if she knew about a map of the Cloverdale subdivision by H. K. Wheeler from the 1880s. She didn’t, but a few minutes later she returned and said that H. K. Wheeler had ‘rung a bell’ and would I be interested in another map by H. K. Wheeler, this one of the Pacific Beach subdivision from 1887. What she showed me was a large (18 X 20-inch) photocopy of a much larger (9 X 10-foot) map which she said was rolled up and stored on top of a shelf in the storage area behind her desk. I had seen early maps of the Pacific Beach subdivision, including the map that was generally considered the original PB subdivision map (Map 697, recorded in January, 1892), but this map was significantly different and seemed like it could be a kind of ‘missing link’ in Pacific Beach history.

Wheeler PB Map 5

Central portion of 1887 subdivision map of Pacific Beach by H. K. Wheeler. (SDHC #1669)

The most striking feature of the 1887 Wheeler map is how similar it is to what Pacific Beach has become in the intervening century. The entire area from the ocean to about Rose Creek and from the tips of Mission Beach and Crown Point to the Mt. Soledad foothills was divided into a grid of city blocks by north-south ‘streets’ and east-west ‘avenues’, most of which exist today and some of which have even kept their original names (Grand, Thomas and Reed Avenues). There was even a four-block area in the center of the community that was then set aside for a College Campus and which today is the Pacific Plaza shopping center. There were over 400 city blocks, most of them in the same location as they are today and many with the same block numbers.

In the 1887 Wheeler map the north-south streets were numbered, from First Street (nearest the ocean) to Seventeenth Street (near Rose Creek), with a somewhat wider street named Broadway (now Ingraham) between Eighth and Ninth. The east-west avenues included the much wider Grand Avenue, which was also to be the right-of-way for a railway to San Diego. Avenues north of Grand were named for states, except for College (now Garnet) Avenue, which ran by the College Campus. South of Grand the avenues were named for officials of the Pacific Beach Company and other local real estate operators; Thomas, Reed, Gassen, Hubbell, Hensley, Platt, Metcalf, Hale, Collins and Poiser.

In the 1892 map, however, the grid of city blocks was limited to a central slice of Pacific Beach, between Reed Avenue and Alabama Avenue (now Diamond Street). The streets and avenues in this area were the same as on the original 1887 map, and with the same names, but the newer map reclassified most of the area between today’s Diamond and Loring Streets, and between Reed Avenue and what became Pacific Beach Drive, as rural ‘acre lots’ of about 10 acres. Most of the streets did not continue into these rural areas and many of avenues that had appeared on the original map in these areas had been eliminated. Most of the area north of Loring and south of PB Drive was no longer included on the map at all. The 1892 map retained about 125 of the original 400-plus city blocks platted in the 1887 map, while adding about 75 new acre lots.

Map 697, Recorded January 1892

Map 697, Recorded January 1892

The Spring 1976 issue of the Journal of San Diego History contained a paper by Zelma Bays Locker titled Whatever Happened to Izard Street? Pacific Beach and its Street Names. From 1954 to 1967 Mrs. Locker had been the librarian in charge of the downtown San Diego Library’s California Room, a repository of local and regional historical archives, and after her retirement from the library she served as a director of the San Diego Historical Society, which became the San Diego History Center. She also lived on Yarmouth Court in Mission Beach, on the ‘outskirts’ of Pacific Beach, so she was well qualified to write an academic article on Pacific Beach history.

Mrs. Locker’s article was primarily about the street names that exist in Pacific Beach today, particularly the alphabetical series of north-south streets (Bayard, Cass, Dawes, etc.; Allison Street, the first in the series, has since been renamed Mission Boulevard). In 1900 the city of San Diego decided that all street names had to be unique, and since there were many other communities of San Diego with numbered streets or streets named for states, those in Pacific Beach would have to be renamed. She was unable to find any historical record of how the streets were renamed and her own research led her to conclude that the only underlying theme for these names was that they were all statesmen who would have been familiar to the public in 1900 (even though some of the names were misspelled, e.g., Everts Street was apparently named for William Evarts and Fanuel for Peter Fanueil). The street between Haines and Jewell, originally Broadway, was renamed Izard Street in 1900 after a revolutionary war patriot, but the phonetics of this name did not ‘set well’ with residents and eventually it was changed to Ingraham.

Grand Avenue and the avenues named for Thomas and Reed were apparently unique within the city in 1900 and were not renamed, but the avenues on the 1892 map north of Grand were renamed, again in an alphabetical sequence, for gemstones or minerals, from Agate to Hornblend (again with misspellings; Felspar Street for Feldspar and Hornblend for Hornblende). When the ‘acreage country’ north of Diamond was re-subdivided again in the early 1900s, restoring the avenues that had existed on the original 1887 map between what had become Agate, Beryl, Chalcedony and Diamond, these ‘new’ avenues could not be incorporated into the alphabetical gemstone sequence. Some, like Turquoise, Tourmaline and Sapphire were named for gemstones anyway, but out of sequence. Mrs. Locker could not account for the names of others, such as Law, Wilbur and Loring, or for Missouri Street, which she called a ‘real puzzler’. She wrote that it was not on the ‘original 1887 map’ and was first named in Hauser’s Subdivision in 1904. She added that there had been a Missouri Street in University Heights since 1888 but that it was now 32nd Street.

Missouri Street was a puzzler for Mrs. Locker because she was unaware of the actual original 1887 subdivision map by H. K. Wheeler, the ‘missing link’ in PB’s historical record. She wrote in her article that the first subdivision map of Pacific Beach was platted and the land put on the market in October 1887 by the Pacific Beach Company, but curiously enough, the original map was not filed with the County Recorder until January 2, 1892, a fact which would have a later bearing on some street names. Actually, the first subdivision map was platted in October 1887 (although lots were not put on the market until December) but the map that was filed on January 2, 1892, Map 697, was not the original but an amended map of a smaller and more rural subdivision. The original 1887 map did include a Missouri Avenue, between Alabama and Idaho Avenue (now Chalcedony Street). Missouri Avenue was deleted from the 1892 map to make way for a row of acre lots, including Acre Lot 49, between Alabama and Idaho. John and Julia Hauser purchased Acre Lot 49 in 1903 and in 1904 they filed a plat of Hauser’s Subdivision of Acre Lot 49 which basically returned it to the configuration on the original 1887 map; two city blocks separated by a street named Missouri (apparently, the Missouri Street in University Heights had already been renamed and no longer represented a conflict at that point).

Map of Hauser's Subdivision

Map of Hauser’s Subdivision

Although it may be true that the 1887 Wheeler map itself was never recorded, over a hundred deeds to Pacific Beach property were recorded prior to 1892 and some of these deeds include legal descriptions which could only have been derived from the original Wheeler map. For example, Matilda O’Neil was granted a deed in April 1888 for Block 295, between Gassen and Hubbell Avenues. Gassen and Hubbell Avenues appeared on the original Wheeler map but neither were still listed on the 1892 map. F. W. Barnes bought lots 21-28 of Block 166 in March 1889; Block 166 was shown on the original Wheeler map but not on the 1892 revision where it had been incorporated into Acre Lot 64 (Barnes then bought all of Acre Lot 64 in 1892). Other deeds from this period include specific references to the ‘official map of Pacific Beach, made by H. K. Wheeler, 1887’, or similar terms. On the other hand, no acre lots were sold prior to 1892. Acre lots did not exist on the original subdivision map and first appeared on the revised Map 697. Thirteen acre lots were sold in just a few months after Map 697 was recorded.

The 18 X 20-inch black-and-white copy of the original 1887 Pacific Beach subdivision map by H. K. Wheeler at the History Center had markings on it which suggested that the original had been used to keep track of or to display the extent of lot sales. The map was extremely detailed; each of the city blocks showed the individual lots on that block and some of these lots were ‘marked out’, presumably indicating that they had been sold and were no longer available (some of the ‘marked-out’ lots were also apparently pasted over, perhaps indicating that the sale had fallen through and they were again available). The marked-out lots generally corresponded to lots for which deeds had been recorded in the County Recorder’s office.

Eventually, the History Center library staff let me see the original map; they lifted it down from its shelf and laid it out on one of tables in the library. The map was in two halves, each of them five feet wide and nine feet long and rolled up together. When unrolled each completely covered one of the large library tables. At this scale each city block was over 1 ½ inch wide and nearly 3 ½ inches long. Within the blocks, what had appeared to be black markings on the black-and-white copy turned out to be either red or blue, with red predominating in the west half and blue in the east half. According to library protocol I wasn’t allowed to photograph the map, but I was able to write down most of the block numbers with red or blue marks and later found that the blue lots generally matched lots endowed by the Pacific Beach Company to the San Diego College Company, to be sold by the college to raise funds for operations (these lots didn’t sell well and the college closed after a few years). The red lots matched lots purchased by private buyers. There actually were small pieces of paper pasted over a few of the lots, apparently to ‘erase’ the markings beneath them if a sale fell through.

The History Center card catalog entry for the photocopy (M1669) indicates that the original map was stored in the archives but not cataloged because of its ‘unmanageable’ size, and that the photocopy was supplied in 1987 by Mr. John Fry of Pacific Beach, who obtained permission to make the copy (John Fry is the long-time president of the Pacific Beach Historical Society). When I asked John about the map he could only recall trucking something up to Kearny Mesa where they put it on a wall and took a picture of it, so the provenance of the map and its accession to the History Center in Balboa Park remains a mystery. A photo in the center’s photo collection of the Pacific Beach Company’s downtown office in 1888 includes a large map of Pacific Beach, but the details of that map do not match the 1887 Wheeler map.

Outside the Pacific Beach Company office, 1888.

Outside the Pacific Beach Company office, 1888. (SDHC #3797)

One thing that does seem certain is that Zelma Bays Locker, despite her years at the California Room and the Historical Society, never saw the actual original 1887 Pacific Beach subdivision map by H. K. Wheeler.