1704 Grand – Then and Now

The gambrel roofed American colonial revival cottage at the northeast corner of Grand Avenue and Jewell Street in Pacific Beach has stood for 113 years but it looks like it may not be around for many more. The house has been neglected for years, the shingle roof is disintegrating and the windows have been boarded up. In January 2019 the city declared it to be a vacant and unsecured structure, a serious threat to the public’s health and safety and a public nuisance. An official notice of abatement is posted on a gate.

It wasn’t always this way. In January 1906 the San Diego Union’s Local Brevities column announced that C. L. Boesch was clearing the ground for his new house in the Pike block at Pacific Beach. W. A. Pike was the contractor and the house was to be ‘one of the finest at the Beach’. Charles L. Boesch was a baker by trade but he was also a successful real estate speculator who had made news a year earlier when he bought the Victoria Hotel property on D Street (now Broadway) between Second and Third streets for $13,000. A few months later he sold it to Madie Arnott Barr for $16,000. Perhaps it was the profit on this deal that encouraged him to purchase the western quarter (lots 1-5 and 36-40) of Block 237 in the Pacific Beach subdivision, the block surrounded by Grand Avenue and Jewell, Hornblend and Kendall streets, from W. A. Pike in 1905 (Mr. Pike had acquired the block from Sterling Honeycutt the year before). Mr. Pike built the house at the southwest corner of the block and the Boesch family took up residence in April 1906.

The Boesch’s new home was in the heart of the Pacific Beach community, then numbering about 125 families. The railway from San Diego passed down the center of Grand Avenue and the Pacific Beach station was located about two blocks from their front door, at Lamont Street (the railway continued along Grand to the ocean front, where there was another station, then continued north to La Jolla). The corner of Grand and Lamont was also the site of the two stores, one of which housed the post office. The Presbyterian Church was two blocks north, at Garnet Avenue and Jewell Street, where a successor built in 1941 now stands. The Boesch family were Methodists, however, and their church was at first located at Emerald and Lamont before the congregation moved into the former lemon packing plant (and before that a dance pavilion, relocated from the beach) at Hornblend and Morrell streets, about three blocks from their home, in 1907. The Pacific Beach school house was on Garnet next door to the Presbyterian Church.

On the north side of Garnet, between Jewell and Lamont, the buildings of the San Diego College of Letters, opened in 1888 but closed in 1891, had been converted by Folsom Bros. Co. into a ‘first-class resort’ and opened in 1905 as the Hotel Balboa. The former Pacific Beach Hotel, at Hornblend and Lamont streets (also relocated from the beach) was repurposed as the Folsom Bros. Co. office. Folsom Bros. had purchased most of the property in Pacific Beach in 1903 and had embarked on a program of improvement and development intended to stimulate the sale of residential lots, beginning with the property between Grand, Garnet, Jewell and Lamont, then considered the ‘center of the suburb’. A few lots had been sold along Hornblend Street in this area and six houses were built there between 1904 and 1906, some of which are still standing. By 1908 most streets in the area had been graded and concrete sidewalks and curbs had been laid.

Mrs. Mary Boesch joined the Pacific Beach Reading Club and Miss Ruth Boesch, 13 years old in 1906, played the piano and sang in musical programs, many held at the nearby Hotel Balboa. Mr. Boesch was elected treasurer of a community improvement club founded in 1908 and was ballot clerk at the polling station at Pratt’s store at Lamont and Grand. In August 1910 the Evening Tribune cited a report by ‘weed commissioner’ C. L. Boesch that ‘gentlemen of leisure’ around the post office had volunteered to clear the weeds on Grand Avenue between Lamont and Broadway (Ingraham Street, wider than other north-south streets in Pacific Beach, had been named Broadway before 1900 and again between 1907 and 1913).

C. L. Boesch had purchased the western end of Block 237 from W. A. Pike in 1905 and in 1911 the block was still split between these two owners. Mrs. Boesch and Mrs. Pike were both members of the Pacific Beach Reading Club, which was then seeking a site to build a clubhouse. In May 1911 the Boesch and Pike families offered the club the lots where their properties met on Hornblend Street (lots 5 and 6), and with Mesdames Boesch and Pike on the building committee the Reading Club, now the Pacific Beach Woman’s Club, built the clubhouse that is still in use at 1721 Hornblend.

In August 1911 the Evening Tribune reported that Miss Ruth Boesch had left for Los Angeles where she expected to perfect herself in kindergarten work. She was an accomplished musician, vocal as well as instrumental, and her parents would also move to the Angel City and remain until Miss Ruth completed her course. In 1914 the Tribune noted that Mr. Boesch, then residing at Redondo Beach, had returned to Pacific Beach for a visit. In 1920 the federal census showed Charles, Mary and Ruth Boesch living on North Griffith Avenue in Los Angeles. Ruth was a teacher and Mr. Boesch again listed his occupation as baker.

Meanwhile, back in Pacific Beach the efforts of Folsom Bros. Co. to promote residential growth in the community had stalled. The Hotel Balboa had not been a success and in 1910 the property was leased to the San Diego Army and Navy Academy. The Boesch family sold the lots at the corner of Grand and Jewell in 1911 and their former home passed through a number of owners before being acquired by C. F. Crane, proprietor of a hat shop on Sixth Street downtown. Charles and Joanna Crane moved into the house with two of their daughters in August 1916 and lived there until 1931. The railway line outside their front door was abandoned and the tracks removed from Grand Avenue in 1919.

In September 1928 the house was listed in the Union under Beach Property; a 7-room 2-story house for $2750, $1000 cash, Chas. F. Crane, 1704 Grand Avenue. Also in 1928, the Cranes built a second house on the eastern side of their property, still standing today at 1718 Grand. In 1931 the Cranes sold the property at the corner of Grand and Jewell to Moss Todd, a mail carrier, and in 1936 Mr. Todd sold the property to William and Erna Handley, who moved in with daughters Florence and Erna and son Walter (Miss Erna Handley was named Miss San Diego in 1946 and went on to take second place in the Miss California contest that year).

The house at 1704 Grand is still owned by the Handley family. In 1993 a survey of Pacific Beach ‘heritage resources’ noted that it had been extremely well maintained. That description no longer applies and the question today is how much longer this historic home will continue to stand at the corner of Grand and Jewell.

1704 Grand Avenue in better days. (Pacific Beach Historical Society photo)