Holiday Hill and the Jacksons

The Jackson home, Holiday Hill, overlooking truck farms, former lemon ranch houses and Lamont and Diamond streets in 1938 (San Diego History Center #83:14603-1)

An expansive Spanish-style house on a bluff at the northern end of Noyes Street has overlooked Pacific Beach for more than 90 years. Now hemmed in by housing developments to the east and west, an elementary school to the north and multi-story condominiums to the south, it was originally at the farthest corner of the community, surrounded by vacant land that had once been lemon ranches. Enclosed behind a white plaster wall the house seems isolated and remote, but on a recent weekend the doors were open and throngs of people were attending an estate sale there. The estate agent explained that the house had been sold and added that the new owners intended to preserve it and to live there themselves.

The address on the fence outside the driveway says 4830 but for years the property was known simply as Holiday Hill. It was built in 1931 for Richmond and Ruth Jackson. Riley Richmond Jackson was born in Wisconsin in 1899 but moved to San Diego with his family about 1910 and lived at 3358 (now 3360) 4th Street. This home was directly across the street from the home of Edward (E.Y.) and Lulo Barnes, at 3361 4th, and the Jackson family and Barnes family became close. The Barnes family had been prominent among the early pioneers of Pacific Beach. Edward Barnes and Lulo Thorpe had been in the first class at the San Diego College of Letters there when it opened in 1888.  Edward and his father Franklin had been leaders in the lemon industry which sustained Pacific Beach after the college closed in 1891. Lulo’s mother, Rose Hartwick Thorpe, was a world-famous poet who claimed to be the first resident of Pacific Beach. They had relocated to the vicinity of 4th and Upas Streets in 1906 after the lemon business in Pacific Beach turned unprofitable. Apparently through their association with the Barnes family the Jacksons also became interested in Pacific Beach and on holidays they would take picnics to an elevated location on the outskirts of the community that they called Holiday Hill.

In 1918 Richmond Jackson was appointed to the Naval Academy at Annapolis. After graduation in 1922 he was commissioned an ensign in the navy and assigned to the destroyer USS Fuller, based in San Diego. In September 1923 the Fuller was part of a flotilla of 14 destroyers returning to San Diego from fleet week at San Francisco when, after dark and in dense fog, the entire formation turned east into what the navigator reckoned to be the entrance to the Santa Barbara channel, between Point Conception and San Miguel Island. Instead, the three columns of destroyers steamed at 20 knots into jagged rocks at Point Honda, the Devil’s Jaw, 15 miles to the north. The last ships in line managed to reverse course before reaching the rocks but seven of the destroyers, including the Fuller, were wrecked, and 23 sailors lost, in what is still considered the navy’s worst peacetime disaster. The Fuller grounded on a reef offshore and was nearly awash in the heavy seas. Its crew evacuated with great difficulty to a larger rock from which they were rescued by a fishing boat in the morning.

Scene after the Point Honda destroyer disaster of 1923. USS Fuller is in the foreground.

Richmond Jackson resigned from the navy later in the 1920s and in 1928 became a clerk with the law firm of Wright & McKee in San Diego. Also in 1928 he was married to Ruth Remington and the couple moved into an apartment at 306 Grape Street where they welcomed their first son, Remington, in 1929. By 1930 Richmond Jackson had become a lawyer with Wright & McKee; a second son, born in 1930, was named Dempster McKee in honor of a founding partner of the firm.

In Pacific Beach, the spot the Jackson’s called Holiday Hill was included in a new subdivision, Nettleship-Tye Tract No. 3, which was accepted by the city council and mayor in May 1930. A few weeks later, in June 1930, Richmond and Ruth Jackson purchased lots 13-23 of block 2 of Nettleship-Tye Tract No. 3 from the San Diego Beach Company. These lots included all the property between Academy and Noyes streets from Chalcedony Street north to where Law Street intersected Academy, approximately an acre and a half. The Jacksons began building a home in the northern section of this property in the Spanish style, double-studded so that the walls appeared to be adobe, and in June 1931 the San Diego Union reported that Mr. and Mrs. Richmond Jackson would move into their new Spanish home at Pacific Beach next week. The 1931 San Diego city directory listed Richmond and Ruth Jackson’s home address as “Holiday Hill” Pacific Beach. Two daughters, Marcia, born in 1932, and Lucia, in 1937, were born after they had moved there. Richmond Jackson became active in civic affairs in Pacific Beach; he was a member of the Pacific Beach Toastmaster’s Club and became a director of the Pacific Beach Chamber of Commerce.

E.Y. Barnes, the Jacksons’ neighbor on 4th Street and former Pacific Beach lemon rancher, had joined a wholesale produce company downtown but also continued his interest in farming by leasing and later purchasing a plot of land in Pine Hills, near Julian. Manzanita Ranch, as the property was called, produced pears and apples, and cider made there was sold in the popular Manzanita Ranch store on the Julian highway in Wynola. In 1922 his son Franklin moved to Pine Hills where he built a house and took over operation of the family fruit business. Franklin Barnes was about the same age as Richmond Jackson and the former neighbors from 4th Street became neighbors again when Richmond Jackson purchased the property across Pine Hills Road from Manzanita Ranch. His cabin there was known for its weekend getaways; the San Diego Union society page in 1939 noted that Richmond Jackson was host at another one of his jolly stag house parties at his Pine Hills place.

Richmond Jackson had retired from the navy in the 1920s but remained in the naval reserve and by 1940 he was a reserve lieutenant and commander of the first reserve division in San Diego, participating in weekly armory drills and an annual training cruise. The training cruise in August 1940 involved 25 officers and 420 enlisted men from the six naval reserve divisions in southern California. According to the San Diego Union these reservists spent two weeks aboard six recently recommissioned destroyers performing boat, signaling, and engineering drills, gunnery practice and tactical exercises. Two months later, in October 1940, the Union reported that the first division, commanded by Lt. Comdr. R. R. Jackson, U.S.N.R., had been called to active duty aboard destroyers performing coastal patrol duty between San Diego and San Pedro. In November 1940, the news was that Lt. Comdr. and Mrs. Jackson had leased the Williams ranch in Bonita Valley, where they would make their home after the first of December. They planned to rent their ‘rambling casa in Pacific Beach’ (Bonita was nearer to the destroyer base, now the site of Naval Base San Diego). In June 1941 the paper reported that Lt. Comdr. and Mrs. Richmond Jackson, who had been residing in Bonita, had returned to their ‘Pacific Beach hacienda’.

Later in 1941, as the navy continued to build up strength in the Pacific in anticipation of hostilities with Japan, Lt. Comdr. Jackson was transferred to Hawaii where he remained after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor and the declaration of war in December 1941. In December 1942 the Union reported that he returned ‘by clipper’ from Honolulu to spend the holidays with Mrs. Jackson and their four children at Holiday Hill, Pacific Beach. In August 1943 the news was that Comdr. Richmond Jackson had returned after two years in Honolulu, and that he and Mrs. Jackson and their four children would leave for Miami, where he would report for duty. During their absence their ‘Pacific Beach hacienda on Holiday Hill’ would be occupied by Mrs. Jackson’s mother. In February 1944, Mrs. Jackson and the four children returned after an absence of several months to ‘reopen’ her Pacific Beach home.

In 1941, shortly after Lt. Comdr. Jackson had departed for Hawaii, the federal government acquired most of the land east of Olney and south of Chalcedony streets in Pacific Beach to be used for temporary housing for defense workers attracted to San Diego by the growth of Consolidated Aircraft and related defense industries. The Bayview Terrace housing project of 1000 ‘demountable’ plywood homes, extending to about a block south and east of the Jacksons’ property, was ready for occupancy in January 1942. In June 1942 another tract was acquired for an additional 127 homes. This tract, Bayview Heights, was located between Olney, Chalcedony, Noyes and Beryl streets, directly across Noyes from Holiday Hill.

Bayview Terrace and Bayview Heights housing projects in eastern Pacific Beach, 1946. Holiday Hill is at the extreme left across Noyes Street from the houses at the top left corner of the project (San Diego History Center #10356-2)

The western side of Holiday Hill sloped down to what appeared on the map as Academy Street, but which in the 1940s was just an intermittent creek draining a portion of Mount Soledad into Mission Bay. The bottom land around the creek was ideal for vegetable crops and had been cultivated by Japanese truck farmers, some of whom lived in the former lemon ranch houses along Lamont and Diamond streets. In 1942, after war was declared against Japan, these Japanese farmers (and their American-born children) were declared ‘enemy aliens’ and sent to internment camps, and the vegetable farms below Holiday Hill were left untended. By the time the war ended in 1945 the wartime boom in the population of Pacific Beach had made this land more valuable for housing than farming. In 1947, most of the property between Academy, Chalcedony, Lamont and Beryl streets, including the portion of Nettleship-Tye Tract No. 3 west of Academy, was subdivided as Lamont Terrace. The entire tract was cleared and the houses with the brick chimneys and shingle siding still there today were constructed. The streets, including Academy Street, were paved. In 1950 the south side of Chalcedony between Academy and Lamont streets was also subdivided, as Picard Terrace, and another row of houses encroached on the isolation of Holiday Hill.

Richmond Jackson had been promoted again by 1949 when Capt. and Mrs. Jackson announced the engagement of their daughter Marcia to Roger Mackey Jr., son of the commander of the Naval Hospital in San Diego; the Union wrote that the Jacksons would entertain friends of the betrothed couple that evening at Holiday Hill, their home in Pacific Beach. After the wedding a few weeks later at the Naval Hospital chapel the paper noted that the wedding reception also took place at the Jacksons’ Pacific Beach home, Holiday Hill. The Mackeys later moved into a house built on the southernmost lots of the Holiday Hill property, at 2060 Chalcedony Street. A daughter, Nancy, was born in 1950 and twin daughters Pamela and Patricia, in 1951.

From 1952 to 1976 Eileen Jackson (no relation to Richmond) wrote the ‘Straws in the Wind’ society column for the San Diego Union, informing readers about the lives of socially prominent San Diegans, including the residents of Holiday Hill (‘the straws caught here . . . will show which way the social winds are blowing’). In one of the first of these columns she reported that Roger and Marcia Mackey lost their most faithful sitters when Capt. and Mrs. Jackson, grandparents of Nancy and twins Pat and Pam, left for a couple of weeks to attend their son Dempster’s graduation (and Richmond’s 30th reunion) at Annapolis. A month later, she wrote that Holiday Hill, Pacific Beach, had become a ‘family colony’ now that Mr. and Mrs. Remington Jackson had moved there. They were occupying Remington’s former ‘bachelor quarters’ in the rose garden at the home of his parents, and his sister and family were closest neighbors (Remington Jackson had married Frances Wilson in 1951; they later moved to Del Mar). The births of the Mackeys’ younger daughters (‘pretty blond sorority grows’) were also announced in ‘Straws in the Wind’.

After heavy downpours large quantities of stormwater had flowed down the creek bed below Holiday Hill, inundating low-lying areas along Noyes Street further to the south. In 1953 the city proposed a storm drain under Academy and Noyes streets that would empty into Mission Bay at the foot of Olney Street. The project would be funded in part by an assessment on property owners bordering the route of the drain, including the Jacksons. Property owners at higher elevations objected to this plan, arguing that all the benefits would go to the owners of property at lower elevations that were being flooded. Richmond Jackson became the spokesman for those objecting to the plan, arguing that since Academy Street had been paved it had been successful at draining stormwater in that area. He also suggested that the drainage problem could be solved with settling basins, which could also be used for fishing. The project was abandoned in 1954 but revived in 1955 and completed in 1956, effectively solving drainage problems in this area (the settling basins or fishing ponds were never built).

Lamont Terrace, Picard Terrace, and the many other housing developments in Pacific Beach had attracted large numbers of families with school-aged children, and in 1954 the school board approved plans for a school on the north side of Beryl Street, a block north of Holiday Hill. Construction began on Kate Sessions Elementary School in 1955, the school opened in 1956 and Beryl Street was paved up the hill to the school. The increased availability of commercial housing also led to the closure of the federal housing projects in Pacific Beach. As residents moved out during the 1950s the temporary plywood homes were removed and the tract was redeveloped as housing for military families. The Admiral Hartman Community, across Noyes Street from Holiday Hill, was opened in 1961. The neighborhood surrounding Holiday Hill became even more crowded in 1969 when a pair of apartment buildings, the four-story 75-unit Villa Del Rey and two-story Pacific Heights, was built a block south on Noyes Street.

The Jackson and Barnes families had remained close and in 1958 ‘Straws in the Wind’ noted that Mrs. Richmond Jackson and daughter Lucia would give a pottery shower in honor of Miss Mary Alice Barnes, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Franklin Barnes of Julian. Miss Barnes married Carlyn Tuttle in the garden of her parents’ home, Manzanita Ranch, in August. Also in 1958, ‘Straws in the Wind’ reported that Lt. Dempster Jackson, married with two sons, had installed his family in a home in Chula Vista before leaving for Japan where he was in command of the LST Sumner County. The family soon moved again, to the ’family colony’ at Holiday Hill, taking up residence at 2060 Chalcedony. When Lt. and Mrs. Jackson moved again to make their home in Monterey in 1960, ‘Straws in the Wind’ noted that their home adjoining the Richmond Jackson hacienda would be occupied by Mr. and Mrs. Tuttle.

Google Maps screenshot of Holiday Hill today. The original ‘hacienda’ is at the center and the house at 2060 Chalcedony at bottom right

In 1962 the senior Jacksons found a second home in Kailua on the east coast of Oahu and their original Holiday Hill residence became the home of the Mackeys and their five daughters. When the Jacksons returned to the mainland in 1971 they took up residence in Coronado, where Richmond Jackson died in 1975. Ruth Jackson died in 1990 in Imperial Beach. Holiday Hill had been occupied by their daughter Marcia and her family since the early 1960s but in 1975 her husband, Roger Mackey Jr., also died. She married Robert Thaxton in 1978 and moved into a home in Point Loma. The Mackey family retained ownership of the Holiday Hill property and it has been home to other family members, most recently Marcia’s daughter Jeannette, or Bliss. When Marcia Thaxton died in early 2022 the northern section of Holiday Hill, including the 1931 ‘hacienda’, was sold. What remained inside after 90 years of occupation by the Jacksons and their descendants was offered to the public in a final estate sale.