All posts by OriginallyPB

PB’s Main Street

Garnet Avenue runs diagonally from left to right along the edge of a lemon orchard, past the church and schoolhouse (with bell tower) at Jewell Street and another lemon orchard toward the beach about 1904. The view is looking southwest from the former college buildings. (San Diego History Center #266)

On the original 1887 subdivision map of Pacific Beach, ‘avenues’ ran in an east-west direction between the Pacific Ocean and the vicinity of Rose Creek; ‘streets’ ran north and south between False (now Mission) Bay and the Mt. Soledad foothills. One avenue, Grand Avenue, was also the right-of-way of the railway between Pacific Beach and downtown San Diego and was considerably wider than the others. The avenues south of Grand were named for PB’s founders, who included J. R. Thomas and D. C. Reed. The avenues north of Grand, with a single exception, were named for states. The exception was College Avenue, two blocks north of Grand, so-called because it was the site of the San Diego College of Letters campus, on the north side between 9th and 11th (now Jewell and Lamont) streets. The college, opened in 1888, was the first significant development in Pacific Beach and was intended to be the economic and cultural magnet that would attract residents to the new community. The first church was also located on College Avenue, across from the college, and in 1896 the schoolhouse was moved next door to the church. In 1900 the avenues north of Grand were renamed for gemstones and College became Garnet Avenue, but it is still the community’s main street.

Garnet Avenue and Lamont Street about 1904, taken from the college buildings. Garnet runs diagonally from lower right along the edge of Sterling Honeycutt’s lemon orchard. Honeycutt’s home, the first residence on Garnet, is at center left, the southeast corner with Lamont. (SDHC #23535)

The college failed in 1891 and for the next decade Pacific Beach flourished as a center of lemon cultivation. One of the first lemon ranchers was Sterling Honeycutt, who in 1893 planted his trees on the blocks directly across from the college campus, south of Garnet. In 1894 Honeycutt also built a house across Lamont Street from his ranch, at the southeast corner of Garnet and Lamont. The Honeycutt house was the first home on Garnet Avenue, joining the college buildings, the church and the school as its only improvements at the time. In fact, only a portion of the avenue itself was improved; according to the 1903 edition of the United States geological survey map the roadway in front of the former college buildings only extended from Haines to Noyes streets. The map showed that only Grand Avenue (and the railway) and Diamond Street actually extended from one end of the community to the other.

Lemon ranching declined after the turn of the twentieth century and in 1903 most of the property in Pacific Beach was purchased by Folsom Bros. Co., real estate operators who believed that the future of the community was in residential development. Folsom Bros. took over and refurbished the former college and it opened as the Hotel Balboa in 1905. They also began improving streets in the area surrounding it, including Garnet Avenue. Residential development did follow; the Evening Tribune reported in December 1903 that work had begun on Sterling Honeycutt’s new home on College between 12th and 13th worth nearly $5000 (the new street names, actually Garnet, Morrell and Noyes since 1900, were apparently not yet widely accepted in PB). The news in April 1904 was that Mr. Honeycutt’s new house was nearly completed and that another handsome residence on Garnet would be built by Mr. Overshiner. The Honeycutt home was at the northwest corner of Garnet and Noyes; the Overshiner home, also completed in 1904, was at the northwest corner with Olney. Another new resident on Garnet was Charles McCrary, who moved into a home he had built on the south side of Garnet west of Morrell Street. In 1905 George Harris also built a home on Garnet, on the north side between Olney and Pendleton.

By 1906 the San Diego Union reported that ‘from a hamlet to a flourishing suburb . . . from a district marked by quiet and solitude to one where business activity and social gaiety are everywhere – this in brief is the history of Pacific Beach, covering a period of but a year or two. To the visitor of a few years back, Pacific Beach would hardly be recognized as the same place. Instead of fields covered with their green verdure are to be found city blocks interweaved with a network of graded streets and wide boulevards with a multitude of sightly residences dotting the surface of the suburb . . . The year just closed has witnessed more improvement than may be found in the entire aggregate of all the other years of the existence of the suburb’. The Union added that ‘Many new residences, some of them of beautiful and elaborate design’, had been constructed and occupied, including that of George Harris.

1906 photo looking west from Bunker Hill. Grand Avenue and the Pacific Beach railroad are in the foreground, the Hotel Balboa in the background, with the east end of Garnet Avenue and the Harris, Overshiner and Honeycutt homes on the north side in between (detail from SDHC #344)

Over the next few years several more homes were built on Garnet Avenue in the vicinity of Noyes Street. Two houses were built in 1907 at the northeast corner of Noyes, across from Honeycutt’s new home, and Mr. Honeycutt himself had two more homes built in the same block, between Morrell and Noyes, in 1909 and 1912. The four blocks of Garnet between Lamont and Pendleton streets became one of the two main centers of residential development in Pacific Beach. Some of the original homes are still standing in the other area, Hornblend between Morrell to Ingraham streets, a block south and a few blocks west, but none of the first homes on Garnet have survived. A driver training video captured a couple of them in the background around Noyes Street during the 1960s.

The first automobile appeared in San Diego in 1900 and as automobile ownership grew in the new century the San Diego city council designed a system of ‘boulevards’ radiating from downtown to more distant suburbs like Pacific Beach and La Jolla. The La Jolla boulevard was planned to pass through Pacific Beach following Garnet Avenue to Cass Street, then north to Turquoise and on through Bird Rock to La Jolla. The populated section of Garnet Avenue, between Lamont and Pendleton, had been graded in 1907 and in 1908 a force of 30 men and several teams began grading the section between Pacific Beach and La Jolla. The surface of the boulevard was to be of natural earth, thoroughly rolled.

While the roadway had been improved in places there were still no structures along Garnet west of the former college and the church and schoolhouse, which were at the corner of Jewell Street. This changed in 1909 when the San Diego Union reported that H. W. Parker had completed a new house on the north side of Garnet, less than two blocks from the beach, between Allison and Bayard streets (Allison was renamed Mission Boulevard in 1929). Two years later J. W. Simmons built a home next door to the Parker house, on the corner with Bayard, and in 1913 Parker built a second house adjoining his existing residence. These three frame houses stood alone near the western end of Garnet Avenue for decades.  One of them, later the long-time home of Rev. George Williams, then Casa Aljones, Diego’s Mexican restaurant and the PB Bar & Grill, survived until just a few years ago when it was replaced by Mavericks Beach Club. Also in 1913, Michael McCusker built a 5-room cottage at the northeast corner of Haines in the formerly empty stretch of Garnet between Bayard and Jewell streets.

The Hotel Balboa, the former college buildings on the north side of Garnet between Lamont and Jewell streets, had not been successful and in 1910 it was leased to Capt. Thomas Davis. Capt. Davis turned the former college and hotel buildings into the San Diego Army and Navy Academy, ‘a select school for manly boys’. In its first year the academy only had 13 cadets and Capt. Davis was the only instructor, but it grew rapidly and by 1918 it was described as ‘by far the liveliest institution of the community, and at the same time Pacific Beach’s most substantial asset’. By 1920 the ‘battalion of cadets’ had grown from 13 to over 100, most of whom were housed in wooden cottages on the academy campus. Some teachers and staff, including cooks, housekeepers and janitors, were housed in the former hotel buildings.

With still more cars on the road the city engineer was asked in 1912 to recommend a route for a highway to connect San Diego to the state highway that had reached the city limits at Del Mar. Although there was a winding wagon road through Rose Canyon the engineer recommended a route over the straight and level streets of Pacific Beach, over Grand Avenue and Bayard Street, continuing through La Jolla and over Torrey Pines Mesa. The proposed highway would be paved and local residents would be assessed the paving costs. The railway still ran down the center of Grand at that time and Pacific Beach residents complained that it would be unsuitable for automobile traffic, and that the costs of paving both sides would be excessive. Their recommendation was for the coast highway to run through Pacific Beach over Garnet Avenue and Cass Street, and the council eventually agreed. Garnet Avenue was paved in November 1919 and Seth Mitchell opened an ‘oil station’ at the northeast corner of Garnet and Cass, the first commercial establishment on the street.

Although there were few houses and fewer businesses along Garnet Avenue, the coast highway traffic made it a prime target for billboard advertising. In July 1919 the Pacific Beach Citizens’ Improvement Club petitioned the council to prohibit the erection of billboards and to remove those already erected. The billboards were declared to be an eyesore and a traffic hazard; ‘For the past two years our community has been blessed with these unsightly and disfiguring billboards. In consequence of these obstructions three or four serious accidents have occurred. Three machines have gone into the ditches, another has had a wheel torn off and another had a side stove in, all caused by the view being cut off by great boards. We ask you to prohibit the erection of any more boards here, and would ask for the removal of boards already here’. The council apparently disregarded this petition and for years billboards were the main ‘improvements’ on Garnet Avenue between the gas station at Cass and the schoolhouse and church at Jewell. Like other improvements they were assigned a value for property tax purposes; the city lot books recorded their assessed values at $40 each.

Aerial view of Pacific Beach about 1922, looking northeast. Grand Avenue and the abandoned railroad run diagonally from bottom left to top right. Garnet Avenue is parallel to Grand and two blocks north, with the three frame cottages at the west end and the Army and Navy Academy in the distance. The original residential districts on Garnet and Hornblend Street are clustered near the academy. The paved coast highway (darker surface) runs through Pacific Beach over Cass Street and Garnet Avenue, with a gas station at their intersection. East of Cass Garnet is lined with billboards. (SDHC #10364-4)

The coast highway and plans for a fast electric streetcar line between downtown and La Jolla over Allison Street attracted the interest of out-of-town real estate speculators who in October 1923 closed a $750,000 deal for hundreds of acres in Pacific Beach. One of these capitalists was Earl Taylor, and according to the San Diego Union he had acquired more than 100 lots near the ocean front:

This property extends from Cass boulevard over which the state highway runs north, to Allison street, which will be used by the new electric car line to La Jolla, extension of which has been a factor in the big deal now announced. More than half of these lots face on Garnet street, the east and west highway through Pacific Beach. Mr. Taylor plans a business district here, beginning at the point where the highway turns to the north, and which now is occupied by a service station. He has plans prepared for a big business block at the corner of Cass and Garnet. A drug store, grocery and confectionery store already have asked for space in this building, he says.

In March 1924 Taylor announced the commencement of construction on the New Business Center of Pacific Beach. The first building – a modern brick store – would be started the next day and others would follow on Garnet between Cass Street and the ocean front. Around this, ‘as a nucleus’, would cluster the ‘splendid business and home development of the new Pacific Beach’. He added that the paving of Garnet from Cass to the ocean front for its whole 52 feet of width had already been authorized and would be pushed through as rapidly as possible. Sidewalking of several of the blocks 14 feet wide would be started at once. It was the intersection of the main artery to the beach and the main coast highway, it was convenient to the present population of over 1000, which was rapidly increasing, and over 6000 autos daily, including about 70 auto stages, passed or turned at this point; over 25,000 people going through each day. Before July electric cars (i.e., the streetcar line) would be running on Allison Street, two blocks west.

The modern brick store, the first building in the new Pacific Beach business district, was the original Dunaway pharmacy, at 981 Garnet Avenue, the southwest corner of Cass. During the prohibition years of the 1920s prescriptions for ‘medicinal’ alcohol could be filled at pharmacies and in 1926 the Evening Tribune reported that 12 pints of bonded whisky, as well as a revolver and $5.50 in cash, were included in the loot obtained by burglars at Dunaway’s drug store. Later in 1926 work began on the two-story brick edifice on the northwest corner of Garnet and Cass and Samuel Dunaway moved across the street to this building, 980 Garnet, in 1927. The new Dunaway pharmacy and soda fountain operated on this corner for decades and the building, where the Dunaway name is still carved in the lintel over the front door, is the best-known historic building in Pacific Beach. There was also a one-story brick extension to the west on Garnet with several storefronts on Garnet. In 1927 two of these storefronts were occupied by a plumber and a hardware company. The original pharmacy building across Garnet became a real estate office.

The Dunaway building in 2020

Earl Taylor had also reached out to Ernest Pickering, the developer of successful ‘pleasure piers’ in Santa Monica and Venice, and in 1925 Pickering announced plans for a million-dollar pleasure pier in Pacific Beach (a pleasure pier was basically an amusement park built out over the beach, with amusements such as Ginger Snaps, Great Slides, Over-the-Tops, and Treat-em-Roughs). However, Pickering soon backed out and development of the project was turned over to Santa Monica realtor Neil Nettleship. Under Nettleship, the plan changed from a pleasure pier to a ballroom; the Crystal Ballroom on Crystal Pier, which would extend from the western end of Garnet Avenue nearly 1000 feet into the ocean. Construction began on the office building at the head of the pier in 1925, a ‘formal christening’ was held in April 1926 and the pier and ballroom opened to the public in July 1927. However, it turned out that the pier’s pilings had not been treated with the proper preservatives and within a few months they had been attacked by marine borers and weakened to the point that the pier and ballroom were condemned and closed. It would be another nine years before the pier at the end of Garnet was repaired and reopened. Nettleship and his partner Benjamin Tye maintained a real estate office in the pier building and Burt Bircher opened a restaurant across Ocean Boulevard, the southeast corner of Garnet in 1926. Also in 1926 Earl Taylor had a small real estate office built at the other end of the block, the northwest corner of Garnet and Allison. Allison Street was renamed Mission Boulevard in 1929, extending the boulevard from Mission Beach through Pacific Beach, and also in 1929 another gas station was opened at the southeast corner of Mission and Garnet.

Garnet Avenue looking east from the pier in 1926. (Pacific Beach Historical Society photo)

Although neither Taylor’s New Pacific Beach nor Nettleship’s San Diego Beach had the immediate success that had been anticipated for them, other business establishments and homes were built along Garnet in the 1920s. Herman Owen had built a house in the same block as the service station, at 1078 Garnet, in 1920. In 1924 William and Laura Samuel opened a restaurant opposite the Dunaway building on the southeast corner of Cass and Folsom Bros., attempting to reenter the real estate market in Pacific Beach, moved into an office built next door at 1011 Garnet in 1925. Across the street, buildings erected at 1020 Garnet in 1925 and 1038 Garnet in 1926 became another real estate office and a furniture store.

Another service station had been built on Garnet in 1923 at the northeast corner of Dawes, and across Garnet, on the southeast corner of Dawes, the Pacific Beach Lumber Company opened in 1925. Further east, at the northeast corner of Everts, Rose Murphy opened the Pacific Beach Laundry in 1926. The blocks between Fanuel and Haines streets, previously only occupied by billboards, saw homes built at 1471 and 1425 Garnet in 1922 and 1925 and more real estate offices opened at 1365 and 1440 Garnet in 1926. Between Haines and Ingraham, in 1925 Martha McCusker built a new house at 1506, next door to her former home at 1504 Garnet, and in 1926 another residence was constructed on the same block at 1526 Garnet. Across the street, Percy Eldridge had lived at 1551 Garnet since 1922 and Sigmund Mattey opened the Pacific Beach Garage at the southwest corner of Ingraham Street the same year. A home was also built at the other end of the block, at 1503 Garnet, the southeast corner of Haines, in 1926.

The San Diego school district built a new school for Pacific Beach two blocks north of Garnet, on the west side of Ingraham Street, In 1923. The original schoolhouse, on Garnet west of Jewell, next to the Presbyterian church, was moved to a new site on the San Diego Army and Navy Academy campus to become its junior school. In its place W. E. Standley built a frame cottage and garage valued at $2800 at 1655 Garnet in 1924. Another cottage had been built west of the schoolhouse, at 1637 Garnet, by Henry Gist in 1922. This house, later a restaurant, toy store, and Tommy’s TV, remained standing into the 1990s.

On the north side of Garnet between Ingraham and Jewell, a former lemon ranch was acquired by the San Diego Army and Navy Academy for use as a parade ground and athletic field in 1925. The academy’s main campus occupied the blocks between Jewell and Lamont streets north of Garnet. The original academy buildings constructed for the college in the 1880s and renovated for the Hotel Balboa in 1905 faced Garnet. During the 1920s the Garnet Avenue frontage was supplemented by a stone arch, dismantled from the Isis theater downtown and reconstructed opposite Kendall Street in 1928, and in 1929 by a concrete triple arch over the academy’s main entrance at the northwest corner of Garnet and Lamont Street. The number of cadets had reached nearly 400 by the mid-1920s and the academy accommodated the growing numbers by building a number of 3- and 4-story reinforced concrete dormitory buildings along Lamont and Emerald streets between 1928 and 1930. A concrete auditorium/gym building was built in 1927 along Garnet west of the original campus buildings.

Aerial view of Brown Military Academy about 1938 with Garnet Avenue in the foreground. The church and Ravenscroft grocery are on either side of Jewell Street at lower left and part of the commercial block containing the post office is at the extreme right, at the corner of Lamont Street. The arch from the Isis Theater is across from Kendall Street at center.  (SDHC #83:14603-1)

The property across Garnet from the academy was also a vacant former lemon ranch but in 1926 Robert Ravenscroft opened a new grocery store on one corner, across Jewell from the Presbyterian church, and a commercial block was built on the other corner, with Lamont. The Pacific Beach post office, a barber, a confectioner and a Nettleship-Tye real estate office initially occupied storefronts in the new commercial building. Ravenscroft’s new grocery was in a two-story building with apartments upstairs. Before moving to Garnet and Jewell he had operated a grocery at the southwest corner of Lamont and Grand Avenue since 1913. The post office, with Clarence Pratt as postmaster, had also been located at that intersection, at Pratt’s store on the northwest corner, and Pratt continued as postmaster in the new location at 1865 Garnet. Also in 1926, Henry Saville had a house built at 1741 and a stucco building that served as a store and a restaurant was built at 1851 Garnet. The Saville home is actually still there, hidden behind the façade of a smog testing station. The restaurant at 1851 Garnet, later the Roller Derby Room, Beef House and Pablo’s, is the original section of the expanded Broken Yolk restaurant. Major Peterson, the headmaster of the Army and Navy Academy, built a house at 1965 Garnet, on the south side east of Lamont, in 1922. Across the street, a small building at the northeast corner of Lamont and Garnet served as a real estate office. Two more gas stations were built at this end of Garnet, one at 2015 Garnet in 1927 and another at 1945 Garnet in 1929.

Growth in Pacific Beach and development along Garnet Avenue was limited during the 1930s. The entire country suffered the effects of the great depression but in Pacific Beach the depression was further deepened by the Mattoon Act, which was intended to fund development projects, like the Mission Bay causeway, by assessments on property owners in improvement districts that would benefit from the projects, like Pacific Beach. The Mattoon Act also included a provision that ‘pyramided’ delinquencies onto the next year’s assessment, meaning in effect that property owners that did pay their assessments would have the delinquent assessments of those who did not added to their assessment in subsequent years. Many property owners could not or would not pay the increased assessments, leading to a ‘death spiral’ of increased delinquencies and growing assessments until the county government engineered a bailout in 1937. The combined effects of the depression and the Mattoon Act had a negative effect in Pacific Beach; on Garnet Avenue 24 of the existing 76 addresses, nearly a third, were listed as vacant in 1933. The depressed economy was good for some types of business; the Ocean View tourist camp, a trailer park offering low cost housing, opened on the south side of Garnet between the beach and Mission Boulevard in 1938.

Photo of Garnet looking west from Cass Street about 1940, now a mural on the building that has replaced Hill’s Market in the photo

By the start of the 1940s, Pacific Beach had mostly recovered from the depression and the Mattoon Act, but had not grown significantly since the 1920s. Garnet Avenue was still a significant traffic artery but had seen little further development. The 1941 city directory listed 75 addresses on Garnet Avenue, including 7 gas stations and garages, 6 real estate offices, 4 restaurants, 3 groceries, 2 liquor stores, 2 barbers and a beauty shop, and only 4 addresses were still listed as vacant. Several of the businesses were housed in the brick Dunaway building at the northwest corner of Cass Street, which was also the community’s only drug store. Several other businesses and the post office were located in the other retail block, also built in 1926, at the southwest corner of Lamont across from the academy. The half-dozen blocks between these two centers of business were occupied by about a dozen businesses and another dozen homes. The academy itself had failed financially, unable to repay the construction costs of its large concrete dormitories, and in 1937 had been sold and renamed Brown Military Academy.

But things were about to change. In 1935 Consolidated Aircraft moved to San Diego and by 1940 had expanded into several large manufacturing plants along the Pacific Highway north of the airport to produce B-24 Liberator bombers as the country rearmed in anticipation of the coming world war. Tens of thousands of aircraft workers moved to San Diego to work for Consolidated, creating a serious housing shortage. In 1941 the federal government stepped in with temporary housing projects within commuting range of the factories, some of which were in Pacific Beach, and commercial home-builders also began development projects in Pacific Beach. The rapid growth in population led to a corresponding growth in the local economy, much of it centered on PB’s main street, Garnet Avenue.

To be continued.

Pacific Beach Schools

 

The Pacific Beach Schoolhouse (with bell tower), next to the Presbyterian church and a lemon orchard about 1904 (San Diego History Center Photo #266)

Pacific Beach was expected to be an academic community when it was founded in 1887. A four-block campus in the center of the community, now the site of the Pacific Plaza shopping center, was set aside and granted to the San Diego College of Letters. The college opened in September 1888 and in its first year enrolled over 100 students. Collegiate students had to be at least 14 years old and meet stringent requirements for admission, particularly proficiency in Latin, but the college also included a preparatory course for younger students or students not meeting the admission requirements. The students were both male and female, some as young as 8. The college did attract residents to the new community. According to the 1889 San Diego city directory, 13 of the 37 residents listed for Pacific Beach were associated with the college. The college directory showed that about a quarter of the students were Pacific Beach residents, many of them the children or relatives of faculty members.

However the College of Letters closed after two years, and many in the college community moved away. Some of the faculty went on to careers in the San Diego school district. Harr Wagner, a professor and one of the founders of the college, became superintendent of schools in 1891 and F. P. Davidson, another college founder and professor, was principal at the Russ high school downtown from 1890 until he resigned to become superintendent of schools in 1898. Other college faculty and a number of former students became teachers in the school system. With the college no longer an option, Pacific Beach children of high school age could attend the Russ school, taking the train downtown from a station at Grand Avenue and Lamont Street. Grade school children attended school at a one-room public schoolhouse built in 1888 at the southwest corner of Hornblend and Everts streets (now a parking lot behind Crunch Fitness). In 1892 there were 22 students at the Pacific Beach schoolhouse and their teacher was Miss Eliza Lundegreen.

After the college closed the principal economic activity in Pacific Beach became lemon ranching. Most of the ranches were concentrated in the area around the college campus, the social and business center of the community. The former college buildings were used for community meetings and dances, and stores, businesses, the station and the Presbyterian church were all just a few blocks away. In 1895 Pacific Beach residents petitioned the school board to also move the school to this more central location. A site was acquired on Garnet Avenue west of Jewell Street and the church, and the schoolhouse was moved there in 1896. The Pacific Beach schoolhouse was still just one room with one teacher, who taught all grades. In 1898 the teacher was Miss Lu Jennings, who received a salary of $72.50 per month. In 1901 Miss Jennings transferred to the University Heights school and Miss Edith Phillips was appointed to the Pacific Beach school. The fact that these teachers were all ‘misses’ was no coincidence; it was the stated policy of the school district to only hire unmarried women, apparently because wives were assumed to be provided for by their husbands. A meeting of the board in 1902 adopted the following resolution:

Resolved, that no married woman shall be employed as a teacher of the public schools of San Diego unless it shall be proved to the satisfaction of the board that said teacher is the support of the family, or that other good and sufficient reason exists that in the judgement of the board makes such an appointment advisable.

At the turn of the twentieth century Pacific Beach was still a lightly populated agricultural community and in 1902 only 25 students were attending the Pacific Beach school. However, lemon ranching was in decline and in 1903 most of the property in Pacific Beach was purchased by Folsom Bros. Co., real estate operators who believed that the future of Pacific Beach was in residential development. Folsom Bros. began a campaign of civic improvements, grading, ‘curbing’ and ‘sidewalking’ streets to make the area more attractive to homebuyers. Lots were sold, houses were built, and families moved in, and by 1906 attendance at the Pacific Beach school had increased to 40. A principal who also taught 5th and 6th grade was added to the faculty, but residents complained that crowding two teachers and all grades and classes into one small room was unfair to teachers, scholars and parents. In the summer of 1906 a large south wing containing two rooms was added to the original schoolhouse and finished ‘with paint outside and plaster within’. The San Diego Union reported that the enlarged schoolhouse would accommodate 150 children and was an improvement long needed by the rapidly increasing population. The improvements were none too soon; by 1907 attendance had increased to 50 pupils. However, attendance at the Pacific Beach school actually went down at the beginning of the 1908 school year. The Union speculated that the less-than-expected attendance was because the ‘vaccination question’ had not been settled; some parents would not send their children to public schools if vaccination was required and were waiting to find out.

In 1903 Folsom Bros. Co. also acquired the college campus property and after renovating the former college buildings opened as the Hotel Balboa in 1905. However the hotel was also unsuccessful and in 1910 Folsom Bros. leased the property to Capt. Thomas A. Davis, a veteran of the Spanish-American War, who founded a military academy on the site, initially with 13 cadets and himself as the only instructor. The San Diego Army and Navy Academy was only for ‘manly boys’ and originally included only grade school subjects, but within two years enrollment had increased to over 70, the faculty had grown to 6 and the curriculum extended to high school subjects. By 1918 the academy had continued to grow and was recognized as ‘by far the liveliest institution of the community, and at the same time Pacific Beach’s most substantial asset’, according to the Union. Although some local boys attended the academy, most of the cadets were from elsewhere and boarded in wooden cottages built on the campus. In 1921 Capt. Davis attempted to move the academy to Point Loma, adjacent to the new Navy and Marine Corps training centers, but when this effort failed he purchased the college campus property that he had been leasing and beginning in 1923 also acquired most of the two blocks on the north side of the campus and the two blocks on the west side.

The surrounding community had also been growing, partly due to the academy’s positive economic impact, and although some local boys attended the academy the public school became increasingly crowded; attendance for the 1922 school year was 116 students. The school district had purchased the block between Emerald, Diamond, Ingraham and Haines streets, a few blocks from the existing school, in 1921, and in 1922 announced plans for a new school on the site. A school building with six classrooms and an auditorium was built on the north side of Emerald Street, just west of Ingraham Street in time for the 1923 school year. Five teachers were assigned to the new Pacific Beach school; a principal, who also taught 7th and 8th grades, and teachers for 5th and 6th, 3rd and 4th, 2nd and 1st grade. The original schoolhouse, which had stood next to the Presbyterian Church from 1896 to 1923, was moved to the campus of the Army and Navy Academy where it was enlarged and turned into the academy’s junior school.

Paving of the coast highway through Pacific Beach along Garnet Avenue and Cass Street in 1919, completion of a fast electric streetcar line between downtown and La Jolla on Mission Boulevard in 1924 and a new entertainment and business district around Crystal Pier in 1926 contributed to a growth in the population of Pacific Beach during the 1920s, and a corresponding increase in the number of school-age students. Faced with another shortage of classrooms the school board in 1928 purchased a 9-acre site west of Fanuel between Turquoise and Tourmaline streets. The board announced that it would begin construction of a junior high school on the site as soon as the ‘estimated and probable’ enrollment reached 200 pupils, although they expected that total enrollment in September 1930 would be only 176. At a board meeting in April 1930 40 Pacific Beach residents led by Neil Nettleship, promoter of Crystal Pier, appeared at a board meeting and presented a list of 209 children who they said would be eligible to attend the school by the next February. The board was apparently persuaded and in May voted to advertise for bids for the construction of a $55,000 junior high school.

The Pacific Beach junior high school opened on February 1, 1931 with Dr. J. R. Nichols, who had been vice principal of the La Jolla junior and senior high school, as principal. Two months later Dr. Nichols was suspended without pay for three days as penalty for ‘boxing the ears’ of a student on the school grounds. The board of education noted that corporal punishment was not itself contrary to board rules but that Dr. Nichols had ‘acted in haste and without due regard to controlled action’. Apologies all around had satisfactorily concluded the incident.

Consolidated Aircraft moved to San Diego in 1935 and in the runup to World War II established a complex of manufacturing plants near the San Diego airport to build military aircraft. Tens of thousands of people moved to San Diego to work in these plants, creating a serious housing shortage. In 1941 the federal government acquired a number of tracts within commuting distance of the plants for temporary housing projects, including one in the eastern part of Pacific Beach. The Bayview Terrace project included over 1000 ‘demountable’ plywood homes and other facilities, including an elementary school. The Bayview Terrace elementary school opened in April 1942 with 270 students, who had previously been attending the Pacific Beach elementary school under crowded conditions that required double sessions. The school was built and owned by the federal government but leased to the city board of education and operated as a public school. The temporary homes for defense workers were removed in the 1950s and replaced by homes for military families, now the Admiral Hartman Community. The Bayview Terrace school, also built of plywood, was condemned by the fire department and rebuilt in the 1950s.

The number of defense workers in San Diego continued to grow during the war and the buildup of military forces in the San Diego area further contributed to population growth. Pacific Beach was a short distance from the aircraft plants and military facilities around San Diego Bay and had an abundance of vacant land, much of it already improved with paved streets and sidewalks and utilities like water and gas. The federal government added two more temporary housing projects in Pacific Beach during the war. Los Altos Terrace, with 428 housing units, was built in 1942 on the blocks surrounding the junior high school on Tourmaline Street, and the Cyane project, with 232 units, was built in 1944 in Fortuna Park between Pacific Beach Drive and Crown Point. Commercial developers also stepped in to meet the increasing demand for housing, particularly in improved subdivisions like Crown Point, North Shore Highlands and Braemar. But although these housing developments led to a huge increase in the population of Pacific Beach, including school-age children, wartime budget restrictions did not allow for further expansion of the school system.

The war ended in 1945 and in 1946 one of the first new schools to be authorized in San Diego was an elementary school in southern Pacific Beach, near the hundreds of new homes of the Cyane housing project and the Crown Point subdivision. A four-block area between Pacific Beach Drive, Fortuna Avenue and Ingraham and Jewell streets was purchased for $36,000 and Crown Point Elementary school opened for 525 boys and girls in January 1948. The San Diego Union reported that San Diego’s first post-war school relieved serious overcrowding at Pacific Beach Elementary, but that increased school enrollment in the area had already outstripped its facilities and two grades destined for Crown Point would remain at the Pacific Beach elementary school. Within a month of its opening the board of education approved an addition to the new school, practically doubling its size, and predicted that another elementary school would soon be needed for the Pacific Beach area if school enrollment there kept expanding. 1948 was also the year when St. Brigid Church and Academy was dedicated. A generation of Catholic children attended this private school on Cass and Diamond streets before it closed in 1971.

Over the summer of 1950 the school district accommodated the growing school-aged population in Pacific Beach by adding classrooms and other facilities, and by switching the functions of the existing Pacific Beach elementary and junior high schools. The campus of what had been the elementary school was doubled in size with the acquisition of the block between Emerald and Felspar streets west of Ingraham (and the closing of Emerald in that block). A new physical education building, assembly/cafeteria building and additional classrooms were built for what would become the junior high school there. An assembly/cafeteria building was also added to the former junior high school, which was then reopened as the elementary school. The board explained that placing a larger junior high school near the center of the community and smaller elementary schools in more outlying areas was in line with ‘up-to-date planning’ in which elementary schools serve a smaller section of the community so younger children will not have so far to walk or ride to school. In fact most children from the Los Altos Terrace project would only have to walk a block or two to the elementary school and children from North Shore Highlands only a few blocks further.

The population of Pacific Beach continued to grow in the 1950s and another school in the southwestern part of Pacific Beach was opened in 1953 on the site of a former trailer park on Cass Street between Thomas and Reed avenues and next to the Braemar subdivision. Martha Farnum Elementary was built for $337,450, financed by the federal government under the ‘defense impact area’ program, and initially served 400 students. The school was named for the first woman to hold a top administrative position in the San Diego school district. Martha Farnum had been the assistant superintendent in charge of elementary education and when she died the year before, while still in her 40s, the school board announced that a school would be named in her honor. 1953 was also the year that a new high school was opened south of Grand Avenue and west of Rose Creek, built on fill dredged from Mission Bay while transforming the natural marshland in the northwest corner of the bay into De Anza Cove and Point. Mission Bay High School also benefitted from federal ‘defense impact area’ funds.

In 1956 the last new public school to be built in Pacific Beach opened at the northeastern corner of the community, on Beryl Street north of Noyes Street. The site was then undeveloped land at the base of the Mt. Soledad foothills and there was nothing but more undeveloped land north or east of the school. Kate Sessions Elementary was named for horticulturist Kate Sessions, best known as the ‘mother of Balboa Park’, who had established a nursery operation and made her home in Pacific Beach not far from where the school was built. 499 students were present when it opened (including me).

Brown Military Academy in 1938. Newer concrete dormitory buildings stand behind the older college buildings on the original college campus (San Diego History Center Photo #83_14603-1)

While population growth in Pacific Beach had spurred construction of public schools, it had a negative impact on the military academy. In the late 1920s a number of large reinforced-concrete dormitories had been built to accommodate a corps of cadets that had grown to over 400, but the depression of the 1930s had reduced enrollment and, unable to repay the building costs, the San Diego Army and Navy Academy was sold to John Brown College in 1937 and renamed Brown Military Academy. In the 1950s the Brown organization announced that the academy was increasingly being ‘hemmed in’ by the community’s growth and ‘retention of the campus for school purposes would not be wise financially in view of land’s increased commercial value’. The campus was sold for over a million dollars to an investment company and Brown Military Academy relocated to Glendora. Most of the academy buildings, including the original College of Letters buildings, were demolished and the Pacific Plaza shopping center built on the site. The concrete dormitories remained standing, abandoned and heavily vandalized, until they were torn down in 1965.

The population of Pacific Beach continued to grow as single-family homes gave way to multi-unit condominiums and apartments and as residential developments moved into previously undeveloped areas such as the Mt. Soledad foothills. However, many of the new residents were college students or young adults without children and school attendance actually went down. At the same time, newer communities like Mira Mesa and Scripps Ranch were being developed and attracting families with school-age children. The school board decided to close one of the under-utilized schools in the southern part of Pacific Beach and lease the property to fund school construction elsewhere. Since the Crown Point school had a larger campus and could better accommodate future expansion if needed, the board decided to close the Martha Farnum school in 1983. The school was razed and is now the site of the Earl and Birdie Taylor – Pacific Beach Branch Library. Other Pacific Beach schools have remained but many of their students come from outside the community. Since 2008 the Crown Point school, now known as Crown Point Junior Music Academy, has attracted students through a music magnet program. The Bayview Terrace school was converted to a Mandarin language magnet school in 2013 and is now called Barnard Elementary. Mission Bay High School also responded to declining enrollment by busing students in from other areas.

No new schools have been built in Pacific Beach for over 60 years, but existing schools have undergone additions, reconstruction and upgrades. The school building originally constructed in 1923 as the elementary school and switched to a junior high school in 1950 did not meet state earthquake safety standards and was reconstructed in 1976. And the campus, now Pacific Beach Middle School, is currently (2020) in the midst of a ‘whole site modernization’ project in which the two-story classroom buildings built in 1950 are being torn down and replaced.

Draining Pacific Beach

Pacific Beach lies on a coastal plain at the foot of Mount Soledad, which rises toward a summit north of the community. The area receives an average of about ten inches of rain a year, most of it coming during winter storms that can drop a large volume of water in a short period of time. In its natural state, even heavy rainfall was absorbed in the relatively flat plains region, although the extreme southwest corner along the shore of Mission Bay is barely above sea level and drains very slowly. In this area, where the Catamaran Resort is now, rainwater remained at or near the surface and an early settler developed a spring to water a flock of sheep. There are also other locations where natural ‘sinks’ or depressions in the otherwise level plain could collect rainwater and become seasonal ponds or marshes. Rain falling on Mount Soledad ran off into canyons: Tourmaline Canyon, near the northwest corner of the community, runs into the ocean and the canyon now followed by Soledad Mountain Road drains into Rose Creek and then Mission Bay, but Bone Canyon, above Vickie Drive, and the canyon between Kate Sessions Park and Kate Sessions school, above lower Academy Street, both empty into areas that have become populated.

1943 topographic map of Pacific Beach, showing intermittent streams flowing from canyons and a ‘sink’ off Ingraham four blocks south of Garnet

In the first decades after its founding in 1887 Pacific Beach was a rural community covered with fields and orchards that largely benefited from the winter rains. The San Diego Union reported in February 1903 that ‘the glorious rains have put everything in the best of shape: the hay fields are looking fine, and the orchards have had a soaking way down deep’. As time went on houses and roads replaced hay fields and orchards, and for these new uses of the land glorious rains could instead leave things in worse shape. In 1901 Fred T. Scripps built a palatial home on the shoreline of Mission Bay in the same low area where the sheep herder had his spring. In January 1916 a series of winter storms that caused devastating floods all over southern California also drenched Pacific Beach. The Union reported that Scripps’ home was practically surrounded by water left by the storm and city employees were sent out to help drain the pool.

The canyon above today’s Academy Street once sustained a seasonal stream that in winter months flowed south along what became Noyes Street toward Mission Bay. In 1900 the Evening Tribune described the area along Noyes between Diamond Street and Garnet Avenue as ‘rich bottom land’ and reported that a local farmer was setting out 4000 strawberry plants. But in 1926, after houses had replaced strawberries along Garnet, property owners petitioned the city council to take some action to prevent water draining down Noyes from forming a ‘small lake’ at the intersection of Noyes and Garnet. They suggested that a closed conduit be constructed along Noyes to care for the flood waters. The Manager of Operation recommended that the City Engineer be instructed to prepare plans for paving Noyes between Garnet and Diamond to take care of the storm waters. Neither of these ideas was implemented at the time.

The war effort of the 1940s led to enormous growth in the population of Pacific Beach, accompanied by increased homebuilding and street improvement, some of which took place in areas prone to flooding. The area around Thomas and Reed avenues between Ingraham and Jewell streets is in one of the natural depressions which earlier owners had drained by digging a ditch westward across Ingraham. The ditch interfered with development of nearby property and in 1941 the city council awarded a contract for what was apparently the first underground storm drain in Pacific Beach, under Reed Avenue between Ingraham and Haines streets. The ditch was then filled in and by 1950 these blocks were lined with houses. This storm drain was later extended to Mission Bay at the foot of Fanuel Street and up Ingraham to Garnet Avenue.

Alley between Thomas and Reed avenues and Jewell and Ingraham streets, illustrating the natural ‘sink’ in this area drained first by a ditch and then a storm drain

A storm drain also made development possible in a section of northwest Pacific Beach, near where Tourmaline Canyon enters the ocean. The original railroad line between Pacific Beach and La Jolla had crossed this canyon over a bridge but when the line was upgraded to a fast streetcar line in the 1920s the bridge was replaced by a solid dirt embankment over a concrete culvert. The canyon originally continued east for another block or so, between the embankment, now La Jolla Boulevard, and Turquoise Street, but in 1952 the city laid a storm drain in this section of the canyon and in the years since it has been filled in. In its place is a row of houses and the Barrier Reef condominiums along a new block of Sapphire Street.

As streets were paved and houses built on formerly absorptive land, stormwater runoff became an increasing problem in Pacific Beach, particularly in the ‘rich bottom land’ in the vicinity of Noyes Street. In 1953 the city council came up with a plan for a storm drain system that would empty into Mission Bay at the foot of Olney Street. The drain would run under Olney between the bay and Grand Avenue and under Grand between Olney and Kendall street. A branch would run under Noyes Street between Grand and Diamond Street and from there one branch would run west to Lamont and another would run north to Academy Street and under Academy to Beryl. Half of this project was to be funded by the city under a 1952 storm drain bond issue, but half was to be funded by the owners of over 1000 lots in an assessment district bordering the route of the proposed drain.

When the council met to consider this storm drain project a large group of property owners appeared to protest the project. Most of the complaints were about the boundaries of the assessment district, with owners of property at higher levels complaining that only the owners lower down whose property was affected by stormwater would see any benefit from their assessment payments. Other protesters contended that underground storm drains were not needed at all. Richmond Jackson, who owned a home on Noyes overlooking Academy Street, suggested that the drainage problem could be solved with settling basins, which could also be used for fishing. Any runoff could be contained in surface drains within paved streets. Academy Street, below his house, had been paved a few years earlier and Jackson claimed that it had been successful at draining stormwater in that area. Faced with a survey indicating that 90% of affected property owners opposed it, the council abandoned this ambitious storm drain project in March 1954. Instead the city used its own funds to build a storm drain on Grand Avenue and Olney Street draining into Mission Bay. The city also acquired easements and built a storm drain under two blocks between Morrell and Noyes streets and Grand and Reed avenues, a particularly low area in these ‘bottom lands’ with a history of flooding, and connected it to the Olney drain.

Outlet of the Olney Street storm drain into Mission Bay

In 1955 a city council proposal to pave and otherwise improve Noyes from Reed to Beryl streets included construction of a storm drain between Grand Avenue and Diamond Street. Again there were protests; the people below wanted the drain, the people above did not. However, this time the council overruled the protests and the street improvements, including the storm drain, were made in 1956. In the years since, as development continued in the foothills above Pacific Beach, this storm drain has been extended up Academy Street and Edgeworth Road to beyond Kate Sessions Park, effectively solving the drainage problems originating from this canyon.

Increased runoff due to development also increased the drainage problems in the low-lying areas of southwestern Pacific Beach, periodically flooding the area around Mission Boulevard and Pacific Beach Drive. In 1953 the existing sewage pumping station there was upgraded to also handle storm water. After a major storm in January 1964 flooded the area once again, city manager Tom Fletcher told the San Diego Union that ‘ponding’ began at the Mission Boulevard-Pacific Beach Drive intersection after storms of any magnitude, and spread to Oliver Avenue, which is about the same elevation. When the ponding reached a depth of about two feet excess water also ran south on Mission Boulevard, placing a load on the drains there. However, he announced that a project included in the city’s capital outlay program for the year would double the capacity of the drainage system. This storm drain project ran up Dawes Street from Mission Bay and along Grand, Fanuel and Felspar as far as the corner of Gresham and Emerald streets. Over the next few years storm drains were also added under Missouri, Loring and Sapphire streets, leading to the ocean.

Outlet of the Missouri Street storm drain at the beach

Pacific Beach has continued to grow, and storm drains along Soledad Mountain Road and Vickie Drive were among those added to handle increased runoff as development expanded onto Mount Soledad. In addition to mitigating flooding, some of these large concrete tubes turned out to have other unanticipated uses, at least during the dry season. Members of a Facebook group for Pacific Beach old-timers responded to the question ‘Who explored the underground storm drains of PB?’ with claims to have not only explored but to have ridden skateboards and Flexies, some with flashlights taped on them for headlights, through the drains. Some recalled riding from the end of Vickie Drive to Tourmaline Beach or skateboarding to Mission Bay. In the wet season, though, the storm drain system is meant to keep Pacific Beach dry and it has generally been effective, although storms of any magnitude still cause ponding in the area where sheep once drank from natural springs and city workers had to bail out Fred Scripps’ home.

Storm drain system in Pacific Beach

Grand Avenue, Pacific Beach

In 1887 a group of wealthy San Diego businessmen formed the Pacific Beach Company, which acquired several square miles north of Mission Bay, drew up a subdivision map and began selling lots in the tract they christened Pacific Beach. The map showed Pacific Beach extending from the ocean nearly to Rose Creek and divided into rectangular blocks separated by north-south streets and east-west avenues. The map also showed a railway line then under development by the same group of businessmen which circled around a race track on the other side of Rose Creek, slicing through several of these blocks and passing through the center of the community to a depot near the beach. On the map the railway’s right of way was called Grand Avenue. The founders named the avenues south of Grand after themselves and north of Grand they were mostly named for states. The streets were numbered, from First Street near the beach to Seventeenth Street near the creek, except for Broadway, between Eighth and Ninth streets. Since the company had granted the railway a 40-foot right of way along its centerline Grand Avenue was made wider than most other avenues and streets in Pacific Beach, 125 feet instead of the standard 80 feet. The railway and Grand Avenue departed from the rectangular street pattern east of Eleventh (now Lamont) Street to bypass the race track. Today the railway is gone and what was originally called Grand Avenue east of Lamont has become Balboa Avenue. Grand now continues straight from Lamont to beyond Rose Creek over what was then called Ivy Avenue.

The Pacific Beach Company intended for the community to develop around a college opened in 1888 on a campus two blocks north of Grand at College (now Garnet) Avenue and Eleventh Street, and the railroad located a station on its right of way just west of Eleventh that became known as the College Station. C. E. Frost opened a store nearby carrying stationery, notions, and a supply of food items. The railroad also built a siding on the east side of Eleventh where the Pacific Beach Lumber Company set up a lumber yard to supply home builders in Pacific Beach (where the 7-Eleven market is now). Fannie Gleason purchased the lot next door and built one of these early homes, one that is still standing and is now Mamma Mia’s restaurant. Further west on Grand, a grocery store, which also served as the community post office, was opened at the southeast corner of Eighth (now Haines) Street. These businesses were advertised in The College Rambler, the student newspaper in 1889. In 1893 San Diego’s board of aldermen also ordered a water trough to be installed at Eleventh Street and Grand Avenue.

The railroad had its terminus at the foot of Grand Avenue, which is also where the Pacific Beach Company had built a hotel and dance pavilion. The track (and Grand Avenue) actually curved south at Second (now Bayard) Street to what was called the Depot Grounds, which included the railroad’s engine shed. The hotel was located in Lot A, between this curve and the avenue that continued straight from Second to the beach, then called Elm Avenue. In 1893 the railroad extended the line to La Jolla, turning north at Second to a right of way along First Street (later Allison Street and now Mission Boulevard). Elm Avenue later disappeared from maps and Grand Avenue was shown continuing straight to the beach.

In 1896 the Pacific Beach Company sold the hotel and dance pavilion at the beach and also half of the block east of Eleventh and north of the lumber yard and Gleason’s home to Sterling Honeycutt. As part of the deal, Honeycutt was required to move the hotel and pavilion from the beach to this new location. The buildings were moved in early 1897 and the hotel was put down on the west side of the block, at Eleventh Street and California Avenue (now Hornblend Street) and the pavilion on the east side, at California and Twelfth (Morrell) Street. At the same time the College Station depot was enlarged and ‘beautified’ and the San Diego Union reported that the changes had ‘greatly improved the appearance of this place’. Since Grand Avenue, and the railroad, sliced diagonally through the south half of the block, the pavilion building ended up next to the railroad siding and Honeycutt converted it to a lemon curing, packing and shipping plant (in 1907 it was converted again, into a Methodist church).

Also in 1896, Frost sold his grocery store and post office at the College Station and W. F. Ludington became the grocer and postmaster. The store was enlarged and in 1901 it was taken over by E. Y. Barnes, a former student at the college, who also became the postmaster. In 1904 W. P. Parmenter and his sons-in-law the McCrary brothers built another store on the southwest corner of Grand and Lamont. This store was a substantial two-story building made of cement blocks. When Barnes left Pacific Beach in 1905 the McCrary store became the post office, with Parmenter as postmaster, and Clarence Pratt took over the store on the north side from Barnes. When Robert Ravenscroft acquired the McCrary store in 1913 the post office moved back across Grand to Pratt’s store and Pratt became postmaster. These stores remained at the corner of Grand and Lamont until the mid 1920s, when the post office moved and Ravenscroft built a new grocery, both of them on Garnet Avenue. The cement block store on the south side of Grand later became the Full Gospel Tabernacle before being replaced by a gas station in the 1950s.

Pacific Beach was not the only subdivision in San Diego to have a Grand Avenue, or numbered streets, or avenues named for states. In 1899 the city had adopted a policy to require street names throughout the city to be unique, and in 1900 a city ordinance changed the names of most of the streets and avenues in Pacific Beach. The numbered streets were all renamed after statesmen, from Allison to Randall, and the state-themed streets north of Grand were renamed for gemstones. College Avenue was also renamed for a gemstone; Garnet Street (now Avenue). Grand Avenue and the avenues south of Grand retained their original names (and the Grand Avenue in La Jolla became Girard Street). Broadway, the main north-south street, was renamed Izard Street but this name was apparently unpopular and it later became Ingraham Street.

In the early years of the twentieth century the Folsom brothers, Murtrie and Wilbur, purchased most of the Pacific Beach subdivision, nearly 100 blocks and over 650 acres, and began an ambitious program of development and improvement in an effort to stimulate sales of residential lots. Much of their development effort involved street improvements, particularly in the College Station area, then the heart of the community. In 1907 the city council granted a petition by property owners fronting on Grand Avenue between Lamont and Ingraham streets to grade that section of Grand at their own expense. The list of property owners included the Folsoms, Pratt, Parmenter and the McCrarys, and also C. L. Boesch, who in 1906 built the home that is still standing at the northeast corner of Grand and Jewell Street. Streets were graded by gangs of men and teams of horses cutting and filling to bring the surface of a street to the grade or elevation established by the city engineer. In the days before automobiles few streets were paved, but in 1908 the council also ordered curbs and sidewalks on Grand Avenue between Lamont and Ingraham. Some of these sidewalks can still be seen.

The Pacific Beach race track had been built on the east side of Rose Creek in 1887 and the railway from San Diego had looped around it before angling southwest toward the College Station at Lamont Street. However, the race track had been unsuccessful and had repeatedly been washed out by flooding of Rose Creek. In 1906 it was sold to a group of investors who subdivided the property as Mission Bay Park, which extended Pacific Beach avenues, including Grand and Ivy, into the new subdivision. With the race track no longer an obstacle, the railway company shortened the route to Pacific Beach with a cutoff through the former race track on Ivy Avenue, continuing west to Lamont. Service over the new line began in 1907.

Los Angeles & San Diego Beach Railway train on Ivy Avenue right of way, now Grand Avenue, about where Mission Bay High School is now, in 1914 (San Diego History Center photo, #91:18564-1666)

In 1910 the city council ordered Grand to be graded from Pendleton Street to the Ocean Front and contractors Clouse and Goodbody completed the work in September of that year at a cost of $9552. At its highest point around Broadway (Ingraham) the grade was lowered substantially; the Evening Tribune reported that property owners were building retaining walls in front of their properties on Grand Avenue since the grading had made a six-foot cut in front of their properties. Some of these retaining walls, made of cobblestones, are still standing on the south side of Grand between Ingraham and Haines streets, with the yards and homes behind them standing on the natural surface of the land, several feet above the street.

By 1912 automobiles were becoming more common and the city engineer was asked to recommend the most feasible route to connect San Diego with the state highway to be constructed north from Del Mar. His report concluded that a coastal route, via Pacific Beach, La Jolla and the Torrey Pines grade, was preferable to a route through Rose Canyon. The coast road was relatively level, except for the Torrey Pines grade itself, and would be easier to grade and maintain. It was also considered an advantage that the coast road passed through a populous district and would thus accommodate local as well as through traffic. The Rose Canyon route was built as a wagon road ‘before the automobile was dreamed of’ and although it was about four miles shorter it was a ‘side-hill’ road carved into the slopes of Mount Soledad with many sharp turns. The engineer argued that since 90 per cent of travel was then by automobile, a straight alignment, allowing higher speeds, was preferable to a shorter distance.

In 1914 the council authorized the city engineer to submit plans and specifications for paving Grand Avenue and Cass and Turquoise streets in Pacific Beach as part of this route.  However, a delegation of Pacific Beach property owners appeared before the council with a request to change the routing of the proposed coast highway from Grand to Garnet Avenue. Their main objection was that Grand Avenue was divided by the tracks of the La Jolla railroad and was undesirable for automobile traffic. Nevertheless, in November 1914 the city council passed a resolution of intention to pave ‘with an asphaltic oil wearing surface, laid upon a concrete base’ the roadway of Grand Avenue, except for the 40-foot strip of land in the center of Grand under the control of the railroad, by then called the Los Angeles and San Diego Beach Railway. This work was to be funded by assessments on property owners in the district deemed to benefit by the improvement of Grand Avenue, which was essentially all of Pacific Beach and Fortuna Park.

A. R. Pease, secretary of the San Diego Beach Company, successor to the Folsom brothers as owner of much of this property, sent a postcard to Pacific Beach property owners noting that an expense of over $60,000 would be chargeable against a district in which their property was located. His company and other large owners of property desired to protest against doing the work during those ‘times of financial stringency’. ‘Will you join with us in the protest? If so, sign and return annexed return card at once’. More than 900 property owners signed the protest and in February 1915 the council met and sustained the protests. The resolution to pave Grand Avenue was repealed. The city eventually agreed that since the coast highway was of value to the entire city half of the cost of the paving would be paid from the general fund. The council also agreed to alter the route, and the coast highway, via Garnet and Cass streets, was finally paved in April 1919.

Also in 1919, after years of declining service, the Los Angeles and San Diego Beach Railway was abandoned and the tracks taken up and shipped to Japan as scrap. The right of way, 40 feet in width, 20 feet on each side of the tracks, was quitclaimed and restored to the city in June 1923. In 1924 the San Diego Electric Railway Company opened a fast streetcar line that entered Pacific Beach via Mission Beach and continued over the route of the original railway on Allison Street toward La Jolla.

The coast highway and fast streetcar line improved access to Pacific Beach and attracted the attention of a new set of real estate promoters, who planned to transform the beach area by building a ‘pleasure pier’ at the end of Garnet Avenue and developing a new business center around the intersection of Garnet and Cass. In 1925 work was begun on Crystal Pier and Dunaway Pharmacy was opened to anchor the new business district. The promoters also pressed the city for street improvements in the area and in April 1927 a contract was awarded to E. Paul Ford to pave the streets and alleys extending from the beach to Cass Street between Emerald Street and Thomas Avenue, including Grand Avenue. Wider than the other streets, the pavement on Grand west of Cass was divided by an unpaved island in the center. Diamond Street was paved between Cass and Pendleton streets in 1926 and streets were paved in mid-1920s real estate developments in other areas of Pacific Beach, like North Shore Highlands, Braemar and Pacific Pines, but Grand Avenue east of Cass Street remained unpaved for decades.

For fifty years, from 1887 to 1937, Grand Avenue had followed the route of the original Pacific Beach railroad, straight between the beach and Lamont Street then angling northward toward Garnet Avenue and curving around the race track east of Rose Creek. On the map the continuation of the roadway east of Lamont had been called Ivy Avenue. In 1907, after the race track was abandoned, the railroad was realigned to run across the former track over Ivy Avenue to Lamont. In 1937 the map was changed and the section of Grand Avenue east of Lamont was renamed Balboa Avenue. Ivy Avenue was renamed Grand Avenue.

The newly renamed section of Grand Avenue east of Lamont Street had been graded in 1907, and between Noyes and Olney streets the grade was lowered over 10 feet leaving adjoining lots far above the street. However, there were no residences or other improvements along the former Ivy Avenue and no bridge over Rose Creek, so this section of Grand was unused and was not even shown on gas station road maps. In 1941, during World War II, the federal public housing authority expropriated most the land east of Olney Street in Pacific Beach, including both sides of Grand Avenue, for a temporary housing project for defense workers. The Bayview Terrace project eventually included over 1000 ‘demountable’ homes and a new street system, including two blocks of Grand Avenue east of Olney. However, this section of Grand did not extend across Rose Creek to join Pacific Highway.

When Pacific Beach was founded in 1887 Mission Bay was a shallow estuary at the mouth of the San Diego River, much of it covered in mud flats. Dredging projects had begun as early as the 1920s to deepen the bay and utilize the material removed from the bottom to build up and shape the shoreline and create islands. By the late 1940s the west side of the bay had been dredged it to a depth of 8 feet, with points and bays created along the western shore and an island created in the middle. In 1948 work began on the eastern side of the bay, and the dredging spoil was deposited on shore in the vicinity of Rose Creek, creating De Anza Point and Cove and building up nearly 200 acres of land extending from the bay to Grand Avenue. Mission Bay High School and the baseball fields, tennis courts and golf course bordering Grand were built on this fill.

The high school opened September 1953 but even before it opened Pacific Beach civic organizations had approached the city council about paving Grand Avenue and extending it to Pacific Highway, citing the ‘already bad situation’ and the ‘condition which will develop’ with the opening of the new school. In June 1954 the council responded by passing a resolution to pave Grand between Cass and Ingraham with three inches of asphalt concrete over a six inch cement base. The contract was awarded to Griffith Company in September 1954. This was followed by a resolution to pave Grand between Ingraham and the high school In May 1955. This project also specified a two inch asphalt concrete surface to be laid in a raised island between curbs in the center. That contract was also awarded to Griffith in September 1955. From the high school to Pacific Highway, including a bridge over Rose Creek, a joint venture involving R. E. Hazard and Company and W. F. Maxwell Company was awarded a contract in February 1955. By the end of 1956 Grand Avenue in Pacific Beach was paved from end to end.

Grand Avenue and Lamont Street, once the site of the College Station and PB’s stores, post office, lumber company and water trough

A Hot and Stormy Scene

San Diego College of Letters (San Diego History Center Photo 9800)

He came to build a college, a scientific and literary light-house which would guide people into the golden harbor of wealth, culture, character and happiness, but his own passage into this harbor was thrown off course by turbulence in his domestic life. The tabloids of the day spread the rumor that his wife had rediscovered her first love and ‘on by-streets and in moon-lit cover’ had enjoyed ‘enchanting trysts’. She left town, a divorce suit followed, and then came news that she had died. He also organized the local church and became its first minister, and finding himself single again he married the Sunday school pianist, a 16-year-old girl who had once been a playmate of his own sons. After only a few months the yellow press struck again with a story that she had fallen for a youthful instructor at the college and flown the coop. She denied the rumor about the instructor but defended her decision to split, adding that the marriage was through the influence of others, not of her own free will. Another divorce suit followed. This was Pacific Beach in 1889.

Cecil Spencer (C. S.) Sprecher was born in 1846 in Chambersburg, Pennsylvania, where his father Samuel Sprecher was pastor of the Lutheran Church. In 1849 his father became president of Wittenberg College in Springfield, Ohio, serving as president until 1874 and remaining there as a professor until 1884. C. S. Sprecher attended Wittenberg where he received a BA degree in 1868 and a DD degree in 1871. He was ordained a Lutheran minister in 1871 and in 1872, while pastor-elect of the Lutheran Church of Tiffin, Ohio, was married to Irene (Rena) Robinson, of nearby Bucyrus. He later served as pastor in Lutheran churches in Findlay and Ashland in Ohio. In October 1883 The Mail of Stockton, California, reported that Rev. C. S. Sprecher of Ashland had been engaged to occupy the pulpit of the First Presbyterian Church in that city and would preach there next Sunday. He had not only moved most of the way across the country but had switched denominations (his older brother Samuel had preceded him to become a prominent Presbyterian minister in Oakland and San Francisco).

C. S. and Irene Sprecher brought four children with them to Stockton; Samuel (born 1873), James (1875), Katherine (1879) and Blanche (1881). In September 1885 ‘Jimmie’ Sprecher was a guest at a 13th birthday party there for Miss Eunice Stacey. Misses Lillie Logan, Maude Gilbert and Myrtle Visher were also among the guests. The next month James and Samuel Sprecher and Misses Logan and Stacey were guests at a surprise party given for Miss Visher. However, the Sprechers’ stay in Stockton was relatively brief; The Mail reported in December 1886 that the Rev. C. S. Sprecher had left town on the steamer Mary Garratt and after spending a few days in San Francisco he would go to Los Angeles to take charge of a church in that city. That church was the Second Presbyterian Church at the corner of Daly and Downey (now North Broadway) in East LA.

The Sprechers’ time in Los Angeles was even shorter. In July 1887 the San Diego Union reported that Rev. C. S. Sprecher, the prominent preacher and educator, had arrived in San Diego and that Professor Davidson, of Springfield, Ohio, would arrive in a few days; ‘these gentlemen are associated with Harr Wagner in locating a high grade college in the vicinity of San Diego’. A month later the San Francisco Examiner reported from Los Angeles that Rev. C. S. Sprecher, pastor of the Second Presbyterian Church, had resigned to take charge of a new Presbyterian college to be established at San Diego, endowed by a syndicate of capitalists who were building a city on False Bay, north of San Diego. The regents would be C. S. Sprecher, F. P. Davidson and Harr Wagner.

Harr Wagner was editor of the San Diego literary magazine Golden Era which had been promoting a college in San Diego. F. P. Davidson was Sprecher’s brother-in-law, married to his sister Ella. Both Wagner and Davidson were also Wittenberg graduates. The ‘syndicate of capitalists’ mentioned by the Examiner was the Pacific Beach Company and their city on False Bay was to be christened Pacific Beach (False Bay was also to be christened Mission Bay). A prime four-block location in the center of the tract (now Pacific Plaza) was reserved for the college campus. The San Diego College Company was incorporated in August 1887 with Wagner, Sprecher and Davidson as the principal stockholders and directors. In October 1887 college company president Sprecher formally accepted the college campus property from the Pacific Beach Company. Back in Stockton a surprise party was given to Miss Maude Gilbert and the time was pleasantly spent in games and refreshments. Among the young folks present was Miss Eunice Stacey, who would have been 15.

Laying the Cornerstone, San Diego College of Letters, January 28, 1888

The cornerstone for San Diego College of Letters was laid with great ceremony on January 28, 1888. The San Diego Union reported that college president C. S. Sprecher delivered the keynote address on ‘The Influence of the College in opening up the Higher Avenues of Wealth and Happiness’, concluding with the promise that San Diego College would become a ‘scientific and literary light-house, guiding the people of the city and the world into the golden harbor of wealth, culture, character and happiness’. The cornerstone was then loaded with copies of the Union and other local papers, the addresses given on the occasion and a Bible, and lowered into place while Rev. Sprecher declared that ‘we lay the corner-stone of San Diego College – unsectarian but not un-Christian – her faith the faith of Christendom – her hope the hope of the civilized Christian world’. The City Guard Band played the national anthem and the ceremonies were concluded with a benediction (when the college building was razed in 1958 workers reportedly found a tin baking soda can containing old newspapers).

As work on the college continued through the summer of 1888, Rev. Sprecher took the opportunity to spread the influence of the Presbyterian church around the San Diego area. The San Diego Union reported in March that Rev. Sprecher, Rev. Seward and Rev. Noble had organized a Presbyterian church in the school-house at Coronado Beach with twenty-four parishioners and in July the Union reported that Rev. C. S. Sprecher, D.D., of Pacific Beach College, would preach for the Presbyterians at that old school building ‘across the bay’. However, out-of-town papers found more sensational news about Rev. Sprecher to report from San Diego. A July 1888 San Francisco Examiner headline read ‘Not Dimmed by Time’; ‘The affection a minister’s wife retains for her first love’, and ‘Meetings by moonlight’.  According to the Examiner, ‘social circles of San Diego’ and the ‘Presbyterian stratum in particular’, were startled by an announcement that Rev. C. S. Sprecher had applied for a divorce. A little inquiry elicited the fact that the couple were not occupying their home and the estrangement was long standing and permanent.

The Mail from Rev. Sprecher’s recent home of Stockton summarized the news; ‘When the Rev. Mr. Sprecher and his pretty wife left Stockton some time ago and went to San Diego, Mrs. Sprecher was delighted to find a former lover there. The pastor and his wife have now separated, although the matrimonial knot has not as yet been untied by the courts’. The Alameda Daily Argus was more succinct; ‘Rev. Sprecher seeks a divorce. Mrs. S. admires a jeweler’. However, in the Bucyrus Evening Telegraph, the Ohio town where Rev. Sprecher had preached and Irene Robinson had lived, and where they were married in 1872, there was skepticism about the Examiner’s account of the affair in its ‘usual sensational style’. Noting that both Mr. and Mrs. Sprecher were well known there, the Telegraph dismissed the contention that prior to her marriage she had known and loved one J. K. Boyse, ‘which all here know is false’. The Telegraph concluded that the article was ‘probably exceedingly overdrawn’, and the Examiner had ‘drawn upon its imagination in the absence of facts, and at the expense of justice’.

While newspapers across the country were discussing the Sprechers’ marital situation, nothing could be found in the San Diego Union. Instead, an article in September 1888 reported that Rev. Sprecher, again with Revs. Seward and Noble, held a meeting in the reception room of the college at Pacific Beach to organize a Presbyterian church. The Pacific Beach Presbyterian Church, now at the corner of Garnet Avenue and Jewell Street, traces its origins to that meeting, September 9, 1888, and notes that eight members were enrolled that day. These original members included Eunice Stacey and her parents, James and Esther. The first minister was C. S. Sprecher. According to the Union a Sunday school had already been flourishing there with an attendance of 36 on a recent Sunday and among the ‘officers’ listed for the school was Miss Eunice Stacey, pianist.

The San Diego College of Letters opened with 37 students on September 20, 1888 and a month later, October 18, C. S. Sprecher’s father Samuel Sprecher, the long-time president of Wittenberg College, arrived to assume the presidency of the college and was welcomed with an elaborate ceremony. The first term ended before the Christmas holiday. On December 27, 1888, an item in the Brief Mentions column of the San Diego Union mentioned that a marriage license had been granted to Cecil S. Sprecher and Eunice A. Stacey, both of San Diego. The actual marriage license and certificate notes that Eunice A. Stacey was 16 years of age and that James Stacey, her father, described as a resident of Pacific Beach, was present as a witness. On January 3, 1889, The Mail of Stockton reprinted an article from the local Pacific Beach weekly under the headline ‘Married Again; Rev. C. S. Sprecher Takes a Stockton Girl Unto Himself’. According to the Pacific Beach, the wedding occurred at 3 o’clock on December 26 with groom’s father, Dr. Samuel Sprecher, officiating. The happy couple took the 4:20 train for the north at Morena and would spend a week at Elsinore. Their many friends, including the Pacific Beach, wished them a long and happy life. ‘It only remains to add’, wrote The Mail, ‘that the bride formerly resided in Stockton and was of the flock presided over by the reverend gentleman while pastor of the local Presbyterian church’. ‘The former Mrs. Sprecher, it will be remembered, found her previous lover when the couple moved to San Diego from Stockton. Divorce followed, and she married the lover’.

The college opened for its second term on January 3, 1889, and the Union reported on January 6 that Rev. C. S. Sprecher and bride had returned. However, the long and happy life, or at least marriage, that their many friends had wished them did not last for long. On May 4, 1889, the San Francisco Examiner reported from San Diego that ‘The Bird Has Flown; Rev. Dr. Sprecher’s Young Wife Flits From Her Cage’ and ‘Natty Major Birdsall. An Exciting Race and a Stormy Scene – A Divorce Suit Expected’. The Examiner’s bombshell explained that Eunice Stacey Sprecher, wife of the President of the College of Letters at Pacific Beach, took the train for the north accompanied by Major Birdsall, an instructor of military tactics at the college. The affair was thought to have been an elopement until Birdsall returned alone. The young wife, only a few months a bride, was now at home with her parents at Stockton. ‘She has left her reverend spouse, with the determination never to live with him again. What her relations have been with the youthful Major is the subject of much conjecture’.

The story continued that Rev. Dr. Sprecher was nearly fifty years of age and was divorced last summer from his former wife, who uttered all sorts of dreadful complaints against him. She made no defense to his suit for divorce on the ground of desertion, and went away East to her former home, where she died one day last November. On the day following, society was astounded by the announcement that Dr. Sprecher had married Miss Stacey, a beautiful girl of sixteen. It was said that her parents, who are poor people, persuaded her into the unequal match. The couple had resided at the college but the husband was said to have been insanely jealous; the wife permitted too much attention from ‘big boy scholars’, Major Birdsall being of the number and especially favored by her. They would stroll and take rides together.

The Examiner went on to say that Dr. Sprecher moved from his Pacific Beach house to his house downtown but his duties at the college kept him away from home considerably and matters became worse. He tried to break up the growing intimacy with Birdsall but the couple met surreptitiously and took long buggy rides. The account reached a climax when ‘one day last week Mrs. Sprecher drove to a prominent drugstore and the Major stepped out and took a seat in the buggy with her’. The husband was watching and rushed up to interfere, but the couple drove off excitedly with Dr. Sprecher in hot pursuit. He gave up after a chase of nearly a mile through the city and ‘a hot and stormy scene followed at the town residence that night’. In conclusion, it was understood that Dr. Sprecher would seek a divorce and friends of Mrs. Sprecher said that he could have it ‘and welcome’. For his part, ‘young Birdsall denies that he had anything to do with Mrs. Sprecher’s going away’.

Two days after the Examiner story The Mail published a letter to the editor from Mrs. Sprecher herself:

To the Editor of the Mail – Sir: To my great surprise I read in your paper several false statements in the report about my leaving San Diego, so I write this for the public to read as the truth.
I married Mr. Sprecher a few months ago, not of my own free will, but through the influence of others; and being young, I believed that I could be contented, but since then I have not seen a happy day.
I did my best to please him and stood a great deal of misery, because I had married him and thought it my duty. But when things kept growing worse, and he did not seem disposed to change his ways, I decided the best thing would be to separate.
I left San Diego alone, and as for Major Birdsall, there was never anything between us, and as far as I know Major Birdsall had no idea of my leaving San Diego. I am sorry to hear that any one would lower himself enough to start such reports. I wish to say that I was never in a buggy with Major Birdsall, nor had I any such intention, nor did I take any such walks as are reported. Mr. Sprecher never accused me of so doing, as he had no occasion, and I cannot understand how he would allow such a report to be circulated, without correcting it.
Major Birdsall was never seen in a buggy with me, and as for the hot and stormy scene that followed, as the paper states, there was no such a scene.
Examiner please copy.

Eunice Stacey Sprecher
Stockton, May 6th.

The San Diego Union weighed in on May 7 with its own account of Mrs. Sprecher’s departure; ‘Major Birdsall. Denies Emphatically the Charges Made Against Him. He Will Sue the Examiner. The Story of Elopement Said to Be Entirely Without Foundation – True Facts in the Case’.  According to the Union, she had left San Diego on a visit to her parents at Stockton. Mrs. Sprecher was somewhat younger than her husband and this, allied with the fact that she was very popular, had given rise to a scandal appearing in the Examiner which tied Mrs. Sprecher’s departure to ‘undue familiarity with the youths of the college, singling out particularly the name of Major Birdsall as her especial favorite, and charging him with accompanying her a certain distance on her journey home’. The Union ‘detailed one of its representatives to inquire into the matter’, and the result was such as to ‘contradict entirely this version of a very ordinary circumstance’. The officials and others connected with the college had been seen, and all agreed in denouncing the allegations as totally without foundation, and expressing sympathy for the parties so unjustly wronged. The day Mrs. Sprecher left San Diego Major Birdsall was in town all day and was seen in company with many of his numerous friends. The Major belongs to one of the most respectable families in San Diego and has always enjoyed an enviable reputation. He holds his title by virtue of a commission from Governor Waterman, and was for some time Drill Instructor at the Pacific Beach College. Proceedings would be immediately instituted against the Examiner for libel. Much sympathy was expressed in the community on behalf of Professor and Mrs. Sprecher, who have been so unjustly dragged into such unpleasant notoriety.

While the Examiner’s  sensational account of Mrs. Sprecher’s departure from San Diego may have been exaggerated, particularly with respect to Major Birdsall, the Union’s contention that it was a very ordinary circumstance, a visit to her parents, and that the San Francisco paper’s allegations were totally without foundation, turned out to be incorrect. Mrs. Sprecher herself wrote the editor of The Mail that she had been persuaded to marry Mr. Sprecher through the influence of others and that it was her decision to separate after a great deal of misery. The false statements she objected to were about the alleged drama over Major Birdsall and the ‘hot and stormy scene’.

In October 1889 she wrote another letter, this time to Rev. Sprecher:

Stockton Oct. 11, 1889

Mr. C. S. Sprecher:-

I take the liberty to write you a few lines, asking what you are going to do in regard to a divorce, you must certainly know by this time that I will never live with you again. I am able and capable of taking care of my self and I certainly will not live with you.
And it is as little as any man can do when a woman cannot and will not live with him to release her. Now if you will apply no matter what grounds you take I will not say a word but I suppose of course you would have closed doors in court and have no causes published. I am sure that is the way I should do, and if you do not apply I certainly shall and further more it need not be any trouble to you if you will apply I will settle all bills and I am sure that is reasonable.
It will save me a great deal of trouble as I never was in court but I shall certainly go if you do not.
Hoping to hear your answer soon I will close.

Eunice A. Sprecher
257 Washington St.
Stockton
Cal.

Mr. Sprecher did file for divorce and this letter was introduced as Exhibit A in testimony taken in October 1890. In other testimony, Rev. Sprecher said that he did not know why his wife had left him other than she claimed she was not happy. They had not quarreled about anything except that he wanted her to stay and she would not. When he remonstrated with her on the proposition of her going away she would not entertain his remonstrance and became a little irritated about that. He denied that he treated her ill in any way and affirmed that he had provided for her, that she had plenty of food and clothing, and that he had ‘exercised such an affection as a man ought to for his wife’. He said that he had written to her shortly after she had gone away and she had replied that she would come back to him if he would move from San Diego. He did make arrangements, business arrangements, to change his location, ‘selling out and everything of that sort’, but when he went to Stockton to have her come with him and live elsewhere she had changed her mind. A few months later she wrote that she would apply for a divorce if he would ‘make no appearance against her’ but he replied that he would most certainly resist it; she had no grounds for divorce and he could not afford to have her apply on false grounds and not appear to vindicate himself.

A number of Mr. Sprecher’s colleagues at the college added testimony that supported the view that Mrs. Sprecher had been treated well and had no reason to leave. Harr Wagner testified that the Sprechers lived at the college and he saw them every day when he went there to teach (he was professor of literature). His observation of the treatment that the defendant received from the plaintiff was that it was very considerate and kindly; he never heard any harsh words or of any ill treatment of any kind. His brother E. R. Wagner, a German professor, testified that he also lived at the College of Letters, in sleeping room 22, and that the Sprechers resided in the suite just adjoining to the south in the same building and on the same floor. He always went to breakfast with them and his observation of Mr. Sprecher’s conduct toward his wife was that it was always gentlemanly and Christian. He endeavored to be very kind, possibly to overstep the boundary by being too kind. They had the best furnished suite and rooms of any one in the college. None of these middle-aged men had anything to say about Major Birdsall or the fact that she was a teenage girl and that he was nearly three times her age with children of her age, or about the suggestion that she had been married against her will. Mrs. Sprecher did not make an appearance and on December 1, 1890, the marriage between C. S. Sprecher and Eunice Sprecher was dissolved and the parties freed and released from the bonds of matrimony.

By then Eunice Stacey Sprecher had apparently resumed a normal life in Stockton. The Mail had reported in March 1890 that the Turn Verein masquerade ball proved to be a very pleasing affair, many of the costumes being quite handsome. Among the maskers was Mrs. Eunice Sprecher, whose costume was a ‘fancy dress’. In April the San Francisco Call reported that Mrs. Eunice Sprecher was home at Stockton from a brief visit to San Francisco. And in July 1891, a little more than half a year after her divorce, The Mail reported that a marriage license had been issued to Frank D. Higginbotham, aged 27 years, of San Francisco, and Eunice A. Stacey, aged 18, of Stockton. He remarried in 1897 but she seems to have disappeared from the printed record.

During the summer of 1890 Harr Wagner, C. S. Sprecher and F. P. Davidson, who owned 99.5% of the stock in the college ‘transferred their interests to eastern parties’. Wagner ‘vacated his chair’ at the college and returned to his position as editor of the Golden Era and Sprecher also resigned and joined him there as associate editor (Davidson also left, to become principal of the Russ high school, later San Diego High). In 1892 Sprecher moved to Los Angeles where he first worked as an agent for the Golden Era and then as an independent publisher and printer. In 1897 he also resigned, or ‘demitted’, from the ministry. After the departure of its founders, the college opened for one more term in the fall of 1890 but then closed for good in 1891.

Major Birdsall also became a printer, for Cosmopolitan magazine and the New York Herald, but before leaving San Diego in about 1893 he was often seen in parades on downtown streets in the uniform of the California National Guard. A roster of guard officers listed Alfred W. Birdsall; Major and Military Instructor Pacific Beach Military College, Jan. 15, 1888; term expired May 26, 1889; appointed 1st Lieut. and Signal Officer 9th Infantry, June 20, 1890. Nearly 30 years later, in 1919, the Union reported that Major Fred W. Birdsall, a native San Diegan who had recently returned from overseas service, was in town for a short visit after an absence of 26 years. According to the Union, Major Birdsall had the distinction of being the first white child born in San Diego, in 1870. He had received his first military training in this city where he was military instructor at Pacific Beach. He had enlisted in the army at the outbreak of the European war and went to France with the first American troops. The Union noted that among his assignments in France was command of an army prison in Finistere. The Union did not mention that he was court martialed there for striking, cursing and abusing prisoners, and was ‘reduced to the foot of the list of majors’ and fined $600. The Union also did not have anything to say about his term as military instructor at Pacific Beach, or why the term ‘expired’ in May of 1889.

PB’s First Black Residents

867 Missouri Street in 2020. This house was built in 1906, the first house in the Ocean Front subdivision. Frank Tate became the first Black homeowner in Pacific Beach when he bought it in 1908.

Pacific Beach was first subdivided and lots offered for sale in 1887. The first residents were attracted to what was expected to be a college community surrounding the San Diego College of Letters, located where Pacific Plaza is now. However, the college closed in 1891 and the community was soon transformed into a center of lemon cultivation. Some of the lemon ranchers came from Southern states and brought their entire households, and even their servants, with them.

In 1899 Mrs. Carrie Belser Linck bought a lemon ranch on acre lot 33, at the northwest corner of Lamont and Chalcedony streets. She came from Tennessee along with her mother, three sisters and brother Charles. When Charles Belser arrived in January 1900 to assume management of his sister’s ranch, the San Diego Evening Tribune noted that ‘Mr. Belser of Nashville Tenn. and his colored man servant had arrived’. In June 1900 the San Diego Union reported that in Pacific Beach Belser & Co., lemon packers, were shipping cars east at the rate of two a week, but residents were complaining that they had seen nothing of the ‘census man’ and hoped he would not forget them. The census man did come around on June 22 and enumerated the Linck household, including 18-year old John Miller, servant, for the 1900 United States census. The census form had a column for ‘color or race’ and John Miller was listed as ‘B’, while Mrs. Linck, the Belsers and the other 200+ residents of Pacific Beach at the time were listed as ‘W’. John Miller may well have been the first Black resident in Pacific Beach.

Mrs. Linck sold the ranch in May 1901 and moved to San Francisco with her sisters, the ‘Misses Belser’, but there was no further news of Charles Belser or John Miller. In 1903 the Tribune reported that Mr. and Mrs. Roberts from Arkansas had moved into the upper Baker ranch; ‘They bring with them a carload of household goods, a colored family for servants besides horses and dogs’ (the upper Baker ranch was on acre lot 30, the northwest corner of Chalcedony and Olney streets). Lettie Lee Roberts died in 1905, Preston Roberts moved downtown in 1907, and there was no additional information about the ‘colored family’ who had accompanied them to Pacific Beach and would presumably have been its first Black family.

In 1900 Fred T. Scripps, brother of newspaper tycoon E. W. Scripps, bought several acres of land along the shore of Mission Bay at the southwest corner of Pacific Beach and by 1901 had completed an imposing bayfront home, Braemar Manor. His wife Sarah, better known as Emma, was an avid gardener who developed the elaborate landscaping on the grounds surrounding their home. An estate like this required domestic help, and the 1905 San Diego City Directory listed ‘Corushia’ Tate as domestic and Frank Tate as coachman for F. T. Scripps. In the 1906 directory Frank Tate was a gardener and Crozier Tate a cook living in Pacific Beach, and the 1908 directory listed Frank as cook for F T Scripps and also James Tate as a gardener in Pacific Beach.

The 1910 United States census attempted to account for everyone in a ‘dwelling’ and to list, among other things, their name, relation, age, ‘color or race’, marital status and number of years married, place of birth and occupation. At the Scripps dwelling, in addition to Frederick T., head, and Sarah E., wife, and their two sons and two daughters, the census also listed James, Josephine, Frank and ‘Crosha’ Tate, servants (as well as Frederick Hagan, chauffeur). James, 49, and Josephine, 50, were from Alabama and had been married 35 years. His occupation was gardener and hers was ‘house’, presumably a maid. Frank was 31 and also from Alabama, and Crozier, 26, was from Missouri. They had been married for 7 years. He was a gardener and she was a cook. Although the data on the census form doesn’t connect all the dots, in fact James and Josephine Tate were Frank Tate’s parents and Crozier was his wife. In the ‘color or race’ column, James, Josephine and Frank Tate were listed as ‘B’ and Crozier was ‘Mu’, presumably meaning Mulatto or a person of mixed White and Black ancestry. Of the 420 other Pacific Beach residents enumerated in the 1910 census, one other entry was listed as ‘B’, 19-year-old Abbey Benjamin, who was from South Carolina. She was a servant in the household of Alfred Pease, an executive of the Folsom Bros. Co., which owned much of Pacific Beach at the time. Everyone else was listed as ‘W’, although 22 had the additional notation on the form that they were ‘Mexican’.

In 1903 F. T. Scripps purchased acre lots 43 and 44 of Pacific Beach, the property between Diamond, Cass and Chalcedony streets and what is now Mission Boulevard, and subdivided it as Ocean Front. Although many lots were sold in the four blocks of the Ocean Front subdivision there were no improvements until Scripps had a house built in 1906 on lots 17 and 18 of block 4, a home that is still standing at 867 Missouri Street. Although Scripps presumably built it as a rental he sold the property to Frank Tate in November 1908 and for more than 20 years it was home to members of the extended Tate family. The 1913 city directory, for example, reported that James Tate and Homer Tate, Frank’s father and brother, lived on ‘Missouri s w cor Bayard’. Homer was a nurseryman, although not for the Scripps but with Cash’s nursery in Pacific Beach.

Frank Tate himself did not live in his house for long. Although city directories from 1908 to 1911 had listed him as cook for F. T. Scripps and living in Pacific Beach, a ‘situation wanted’ ad in the Union in 1912 sought a position in a private family as cook; ‘Good worker, a very fine cook, young colored man. Apply at Scripps bldg. Frank Tate’. In 1914 the city directory listed Tate Frank (Crozier), janitor Scripps Bldg, home 525 C. 525 C Street is the address of the Scripps Building, built by F. T. Scripps in 1907-1908 and still standing at the southwest corner of 6th Avenue downtown. Apparently the janitor position came with living quarters and Frank and Crozier Tate made their home there.

While living downtown, Frank Tate was one of ‘long list of signers’ of a petition to the city council protesting a sign on the front of the Plaza Theatre reading ‘The patronage of white people only solicited’. The petition called the sign ‘out of harmony with the spirit of the best and highest citizenship of this state’, and added that it ‘breeds contempt and prejudice’. As ‘citizens and taxpayers contributing to the upbuilding of the city’ the signers felt ‘unjustly humiliated before the eyes of all classes of citizens’ (there is no indication that the council responded to the petition). Frank Tate was also a baseball player, a member of the San Diego Hornets, which the Evening Tribune noted was a ‘colored outfit’. The sports page of the Union in 1914 included a note that the San Diego Hornets would like a game with any ‘fast’ team at a suburb or in town, ‘notify Frank Tate, Scripps building’. The Hornets were good, defeating the ‘Cycle & Arms nine’ 12 to 5 in August 1914 and claiming the championship of the county. However, the Tribune reported that the ‘darktown’ heroes managed only five hits and made five errors as they were ‘taken down a peg’ in June 1915 by Carmen, 6-3, at Athletic Park.

Frank Tate’s brother Homer died at the age of 29 in 1915 and Frank himself died in 1916, aged 37. His widow, Crozier, made news in 1918 in a Union article about C. Chrisman, a ‘negro fighter’ who was with the ‘Buffaloes’ over in France during World War I. The story included an extract of a letter he had just written to his sister, Mrs. Crozier Tate, of Coronado. Crozier later married Clarence E. Brown and in 1923 C. E. and Crozier Brown sold the property on Missouri Street in Ocean Front to Josephine Tate, Frank’s mother.

In 1911 James Tate’s sister Georgia Pickens had also gone to work for the Scripps as a domestic. The 1912 city directory listed William Edwards, janitor, as residing in Ocean Front, Pacific Beach, presumably meaning the Ocean Front subdivision and presumably in the home owned by Frank Tate, the only home in the subdivision at the time. By 1914 they had married and Mrs. Georgia Edwards was listed as a cook for F. T. Scripps. In the 1918 city directory William Edwards, gardener, Georgia Edwards, laundress, James Tate, gardener, Josephine Tate, cook, Ellen Pickens (James and Georgia’s mother) and Elliott Tate (Ellen’s grandson, James and Georgia’s nephew), were all said to be residing at the ‘south end of Bayard’. This is the same location or address listed in the city directory for F. T. Scripps himself, so the extended family may have been living at Braemar Manor, either under the same roof as the Scripps or in separate buildings on the grounds. The 1920 U. S. Census listed Georgia Edwards, 41, Ellen Pickens, 83, and Elliott Tate, 28, as living in a dwelling on Bayard Street, which could describe the Frank Tate house at the corner of Bayard and Missouri or the Scripps’ property at the foot of Bayard. James and Josephine Tate, both 63, were listed in the same dwelling as the Scripps family. The ‘color or race’ of all five of the Tate relatives was listed in the census as ‘Mu’ (surprisingly, only 57 of the 100 names on the two pages containing their names were ‘W’; 38 others were ‘Jp’ – Japanese).

In 1915 a second house had been built in the Ocean Front subdivision, on lots 31 and 32 of block 3, 936 Diamond Street, and in 1920 it was purchased by Elliott Tate, then working for the city street department. Also in 1921 James and Josephine Tate moved in to the Missouri Street house, joining his mother Ellen Pickens. His sister Georgia Edwards and her husband moved to La Jolla, to Cuvier Street adjacent to the Bishops School.

In 1924 Henry Campbell purchased another property in Ocean Front, lots 35 and 36 of block 4, 812 Diamond, and built a home where he lived with his wife Cath and two children. This property was near the corner of Diamond and Allison streets, a block from the beach (Allison has since been renamed Mission Boulevard). Allison was also the route of the San Diego Electric Railway No. 16 fast streetcar line between downtown and La Jolla, opened in 1924, which stopped at Diamond. The Campbell family was also Black, and like Elliott Tate, Henry Campbell was employed by the city street department. In 1925 he received a building permit for a ‘shed’ on his property and in 1926 he petitioned the city council for a license to operate a dance hall on the site. The petition was protested by the Pacific Beach Chamber of Commerce, which asserted that Diamond Street and vicinity was a strictly residential neighborhood and ‘not adapted to jazz band concerts and Charleston contests’. The license was granted anyway and dances ‘for colored people only’ were held at Campbell’s Pavilion or Campbell’s Beach for several years.

(Kitty McDaniel collection)

Campbell may have held dances on his property even before the pavilion was licensed; on June 20, 1924, the Evening Tribune reported that police led by the local ‘dry’ agent interfered with plans for a ‘negro dance’ near the ocean front at Pacific Beach. Nine ‘negroes’ were arrested and charged with illegal possession of 16 pints of intoxicating liquor. The dance was to have been a celebration of the emancipation of colored residents of Texas on June 19, 1865 – Juneteenth. They were each fined $50 in police court.

The Campbells left Pacific Beach and moved back downtown in 1929. The 1930 census listed nearly 1500 names in Pacific Beach and of these only 9 were identified as ‘Neg’ in the color or race column (there were also 70 ‘Mex’, 50 of whom were located at the brick yard in Rose Canyon, 35 ‘Jp’ and 2 ‘Fil’, Filipinos, the new servants at Braemar Manor). The 9 Black residents included the Elliott Tate family at 936 Diamond, Josephine Tate and Ellen Pickens, then 98 years old, at 867 Missouri, and Jessie Coleman, a 44-year-old female servant working at a home on Los Altos Road. Also included were James and Ella Bass, who lived at 4811 Pendleton Street, then a remote spot at the northeast corner of Pacific Beach overlooking the canyon where Soledad Mountain Road now runs, but at the time undeveloped land. The Basses had purchased the property in 1922 and built a board house valued at $600 there in 1925. He had been a janitor at the Spreckels Building downtown but by 1930 was a caretaker for the city play and recreation department. They also raised rabbits on the property.

In 1934 James Bass suffered a leg injury which developed into blood poisoning and required the amputation of the leg. The Pacific Beach chamber of commerce offered to sponsor a series of benefit plays on the school stage in hopes of buying him an artificial leg (the Union reported that Pacific Beach residents were ‘showing a fine and friendly spirit toward James Bass, Negro, who recently had the misfortune to lose a leg’). The benefit plays came up short but friends and fellow playground employees made up the difference and Bass did receive an artificial leg; a photo of the ‘well known colored man’ and his artificial leg appeared in the Union. Ella Bass died in 1937, and James Bass moved away soon after.

James Tate had died in 1927 and Josephine Tate remained in the house at 867 Missouri in Ocean Front until her death in 1931. A White family lived in it for most of the rest of the 1930s but by 1940 it was again occupied by a Black family, Theodore and Elsie Mills and their 3 children. Theodore remarried and moved to the Skyline district about 1965 but Elsie remained at the Missouri Street home into the 1970s.

Elliott Tate and his family also remained in Ocean Front for decades. Ramón Eduardo Ruiz Urueta, later a history professor at UCSD, was born and raised in Pacific Beach during the 1920s and 30s and he devoted a chapter in his 2003 book Memories of a Hyphenated Man to his ‘home town’. He remembered that ‘on almost any day, Mr. Tate, who swept the streets for the city of San Diego, could be seen pushing his two-wheel cart’. The Tates’ daughter Edna was in his grade and ‘took no guff from any of the boys in school’; their son Frank, one of his sister’s classmates, was ‘always courteous’. Mr. Tate and his family were the ‘sole blacks in town’ but as far as he knew no one ‘bothered’ them. ‘Yet by choice or design,’ Dr. Ruiz wrote, ‘the Tates lived on the west end of Diamond Street, far from any neighbors’.

While the Ocean Front subdivision was near its western extremity, Pacific Beach was sparsely settled at the time and the Tate home was actually no farther from its neighbors than many others in the community. The Tate family’s situation had more to do with their association with the Scripps family at Braemar Manor, another home at the west end of the community. F. T. Scripps had originally owned Ocean Front and offered the first house built there, 867 Missouri, to Elliott’s cousin Frank in 1908. In 1920 Elliott Tate bought the second house there, 936 Diamond, half a block away, remaining there until his death in 1966. By then there were few if any vacant lots anywhere in Pacific Beach and he was surrounded by neighbors (including his daughter Edna and her husband Joseph Fields, who lived next door at 944 Diamond into the 1980s). In 1968 the Tate home at 936 Diamond was replaced by an 8-unit Ray Huffman apartment building, appropriately named Tate Manor. The Tate name still identifies the site over a half-century later, although it is now mostly hidden behind a tree.

The Higbees in Pacific Beach

The E. R. Higbee house, 953 Reed Avenue, in 1979 (Pacific Beach Historical Society photo)

The April 2020 Pacific Beach Historical Society newsletter featured a letter describing the migration of the ‘Higbee clan’ from Hillsdale, Michigan, to Pacific Beach in 1906. George Higbee, Carrol Higbee and Lillian Higbee Ward and their families loaded all their worldly goods into a boxcar and embarked on a four-day train trip to San Diego, where they changed trains for the one-hour trip to Pacific Beach. The boxcar arrived in Pacific Beach the next day and the families went on to build homes on Thomas Avenue, some of which are still standing today. Anna Pittman, the author of the letter, was the daughter of Lillian and Edson Ward and would have been about six years old when she made the trip. Her letter noted that two other Higbees had preceded them to Pacific Beach; Herbert Higbee, a carpenter who had arrived about two years earlier and Elbert Rollin Higbee, who she said came to Pacific Beach around 1900. Anna and the ‘clan’ moved on after a few years, to El Cajon and Santee, but Herbert and E. R. Higbee remained residents of the southwestern corner of Pacific Beach for the rest of their lives.

Herbert Higbee was George’s son. In 1901 he had married Ruby May White in Hillsdale and the couple moved to Pacific Beach in 1905. In 1906 Herbert Higbee and Edson Ward, Anna’s father, bought lots in Block 263, the 900 block of Thomas Avenue, and built homes there. A couple of years later, in 1908, George Higbee also built next door to Herbert. Although Ward and George Higbee soon moved away, their houses are still standing, at 935-937 and 961-963 Thomas Avenue, as is a house Ward built and briefly lived in the year before, at 864 Thomas. Ironically, it is Herbert and Ruby Higbee’s house that is no longer there. Ruby’s 1957 obituary noted that she was the widow of Herbert Higbee, who built many of the early-day homes in the beach area but who had died in 1940; she had died in her home at 969 Thomas, where she had  resided for more than half a century. Today 969 Thomas is the address of an apartment building.

E. R. Higbee had been the first of the Higbees in Pacific Beach, acquiring a pair of lots on the shore of False (Mission) Bay in 1896. This property, lots 33 and 34 of Block 387, is now on the grounds of the Catamaran Resort Hotel. It had once been owned by James Poiser, an Englishman who had spent time in Canada and Australia before arriving in the San Diego area. Poiser had purchased a plot of 40 acres in the north end of Pueblo Lot 1803 from Alonzo Horton in 1885 (Pueblo Lot 1803 included everything south and west of what would become the intersection of Pacific Beach Drive and Cass Street, including the peninsula that became Mission Beach). Pacific Beach rancher Wilbur Conover wrote in 1901 that Mr. Poiser owned and pastured this land to thousands of sheep and that his ranch house was down on the bay where there were then some very fine springs.

Conover added that Poiser, the sheep man, had then sold his holdings to the Pacific Beach Company for $50,000. This sale took place in September 1887, a month before the company drew up its subdivision map for Pacific Beach and three months before its opening sale of lots in the new subdivision. The deed described the parcel as 40 acres in the north end of Pueblo Lot 1803 excepting therefrom one acre ‘around the house now occupied by me to be taken off the end of any block that may be laid out to cover said ground’. The house, referenced in this deed months before lots were first offered for sale, was probably the first house ever built in what became Pacific Beach. The acre of land surrounding it was known thereafter as Poiser’s 1 Acre and it went on to pass through the hands of George Sikes and Susie Blackmer in 1894 and A. G. Strandberg in 1897 before being acquired by F. T. Scripps in 1899. Poiser’s 1 Acre was the first of many acres acquired by Scripps for his Braemar Manor estate and for the subdivisions that Scripps eventually developed in this corner of Pacific Beach.

The Pacific Beach Company’s subdivision map of October 1887 laid out a grid of city blocks divided by streets and avenues in the land it had acquired from Poiser and others. Block 387 was north of Hensley Avenue and east of Second Street, and adjacent to Poiser’s 1 Acre, which was ‘off the end’ of Block 391, south and west of Hensley and Second (Hensley Avenue was later closed by the city and absorbed into Scripps’ property; Second Street was renamed Bayard Street in 1900). In 1889 the Pacific Beach Company sold lots 33 and 34 of Block 387, the southwest corner of the block and closest to Poiser’s 1 Acre, to Poiser’s son Richard. In 1894 Richard Poiser sold these lots to George Sikes and it was Sikes who sold them to E. R. Higbee (or Higby) in 1896.

Elbert Rollin Higbee had been born in 1844, three years before his brother George. They lived in Chagrin Falls, Ohio, on the outskirts of Cleveland, where their father was a Free Will Baptist clergyman. According to the 1850 United States census they were neighbors of the Goodman family and their two daughters, Hattie and Celia. After serving in the civil war in the 125th Ohio Volunteer Infantry regiment he worked as a photographer in Chagrin Falls and in 1887 he and Hattie Goodman were married. They later moved to California and in March 1896 purchased the lots in Block 387 of Pacific Beach, where the San Diego Union reported he was building a three-room cottage. In 1896 their only neighbors would have been a row of three residences built for railway workers in Block 262, on Reed Avenue west of Bayard Street, adjacent to what was then the railway depot (one of these residences is also still standing).

The 1900 United States census listed Elbert and Hattie Higbee as living in Pacific Beach in the same home as her sister Celia Goodman and a lodger, John Rockwood. Elbert Higbee was described as a painter and paper hanger and Rockwood as a miner. The 1900 census also listed a new neighbor, Lida Clarkson, who the Evening Tribune had described as one of the most celebrated women in the country, known far and wide as art editor of The Ladies’ Home Journal and with a world reputation as an artist. She had purchased one of the railway workers’ homes at the corner of Reed and Bayard in February 1900 and was having it remodeled. In July 1900 Lida Clarkson and John Rockwood were married and he moved out of the Higbees’ house and into her remodeled home.

In 1904 the Rockwoods built an apartment building, Rockwood Flats, next to their home on Bayard Street. The Rockwood Flats was the first apartment building in Pacific Beach and was noted for its dining room. The San Diego Union reported in May 1909 that the Monday Night 500 Club was royally entertained by the Braemar 500 Club at the Rockwood Flats on the Ocean Front and that the large dining room was beautifully decorated for the occasion. Among the hosts from the Braemar club were Mr. and Mrs. F. T. Scripps, Mr. and Mrs. J. M. Rockwood, Mrs. H. L. Higbee, Mrs. E. R. Higbee and Miss Celia Goodman.

Celia was still living with the Higbees in 1910, according to that year’s census, and the Rockwoods were still living at Bayard and Reed. The Higbees’ other neighbors in 1910 were the Scripps family, with four children, four servants and a chauffeur, at Braemar Manor directly across Bayard Street. Beginning with the purchase of Poiser’s 1 Acre at the end of 1899, Scripps had accumulated property in that corner of Pacific Beach north to Reed Avenue and east to Dawes (except for the two lots in Block 387 owned by the Higbees) and subdivided it as the Braemar subdivision in 1907. Also in 1907, Scripps, J. M. Rockwood and E. R. Higbee petitioned the city council for grading, sidewalking and curbing Bayard Street from Grand Avenue to Braemar Lane, the work to be done by these property owners under private contract. The curbs and sidewalks that still line Bayard date from this time.

E. R. Higbee died in 1914 and Hattie sold the property, lots 33 and 34 of Block 387, to his nephew Herbert Higbee in 1921. In 1925 Herbert sold it to F. T. Scripps, and with the area between Bayard and Dawes streets then completely under Scripps’ control it was re-subdivided as Braemar Extension in 1926. What had once been Block 387 became Block B of Braemar Extension, bayfront property intended as home sites for the Scripps’ children. To make room for a house for the oldest son, Thomas, the Higbees’ former home was moved to 953 Reed Avenue, where it still exists today (under a more recent second story). The Scripps estate on Mission Bay was itself replaced by the Catamaran resort in 1959 and its Building 700 now occupies the site where the Thomas Scripps and E. R. Higbee families once lived.

Aerial view of the Scripps’ Braemar Manor on the shore of Mission Bay about 1920. Bayard Street, extending from Mission Bay to Grand Avenue to the right of the Braemar estate, is graded and lined with palm trees. The E. R. and Hattie Higbee home is to the right of Bayard, across from the Scripps property. The large building on the left side of Bayard a few blocks further north, between Reed and Thomas avenues, was the Rockwood Flats. (Pacific Beach Historical Society photo)

 

Spanish Flu in San Diego

Like the rest of the world, San Diego is suffering from the coronavirus pandemic which arrived in North America in early 2020. Once infected with the highly contagious virus, some people may have mild or even no symptoms while others experience severe respiratory distress which may develop into pneumonia and, particularly for the elderly and those with existing health issues, death. As yet there is no vaccine or cure and the only defense against its continued spread is ‘social distancing’. In San Diego and elsewhere this has taken the form of increasingly restrictive orders to prevent gatherings and require people to remain separated by at least six feet. Schools were closed, sports events were cancelled, restaurants and other gathering places were shut down. Only businesses deemed essential remain open, with employees required to wear face masks. People are supposed to stay home, and to wear a mask if they do leave home for essential activities. As of mid-April 2020, social distancing seems to be slowing the rate of infections but at the cost of massive disruption to the economy and to people’s lives. The current coronavirus pandemic and the official response to it is not entirely unprecedented, however. In 1918 the Spanish influenza epidemic entered the United States from Europe and eventually spread to San Diego, where thousands of people were infected and hundreds died. Then, as now, there was no cure for the disease and health authorities resorted to social distancing measures to control it.

The Evening Tribune first reported in mid-September 1918 that extensive epidemics of influenza had occurred at several army camps on the east coast and might be expected to appear in other camps soon. A few days later, an editorial in the San Diego Union noted that Spanish influenza had assumed epidemic proportions of virulent character in Europe and along the eastern coast of the United States, where it was prevalent in military training camps, but had not appeared anywhere in the west except for eleven cases from an army camp in the state of Washington. The Union quoted from a letter sent to a San Diego woman by her brother, a doctor in Berne, Switzerland, where there were 10,000 sick out of a population of 100,000. According to the doctor, the first precaution was to avoid infection by forbidding all assemblies, including theatres, concerts, churches and street crowds. Everyone should converse with their neighbor at a distance (the doctor added that kissing was almost unknown, indulged only by recklessly frivolous persons). The Union added that San Diego’s board of health had received ample warning and were taking every precaution in local camps and communities.

In the fall of 1918 the world was at war, with an alliance led by the British empire and France fighting imperial Germany on the western front in France and Belgium. The United States had entered the war on the side of Britain and France in 1917 and large numbers of troops were trained in camps around the country, including in and around San Diego, before being sent overseas, where they played a major role in bringing World War I to an end on November 11. In San Diego, the navy had taken over Balboa Park for one of these training camps, and since influenza seemed to spread through the movement of recruits through camps the first local precaution against influenza was to place the naval training camp in Balboa Park under a strict quarantine. The quarantine imposed on September 25 would be kept in place until all danger of an epidemic had passed. No civilians would be permitted to enter the grounds and sentries were posted at all the park gates. Although a number of suspected cases had been placed in isolation wards, officers initially declared that no actual cases had been discovered among the 5000 men in camp.

The San Diego area was also the site of a huge new army base; Camp Kearny had been set up in the summer of 1917 as a National Guard training center at a then-remote site that has since become Camp Elliott and the Miramar air station. By September 1918 over 30,000 troops were stationed at the camp, at a time when the civilian population of San Diego was about 75,000. In late September the Union reported that the strictest sort of a watch was being maintained at that camp for anything looking like the Spanish influenza, but that nothing which could be identified as such had appeared. No camp quarantine had been established and the medical authorities were loath to resort to one. On October 9, however, a quarantine was established as a precautionary measure, directing no officer, enlisted man or civilian to leave the camp. The camp still had no cases of Spanish influenza of its own but two cases were brought there by soldiers arriving from an eastern camp where it had been prevalent. They were placed in quarantine and others had had no communications with them.

A partial embargo was also imposed on Fort Rosecrans, the coast artillery base on Point Loma. Officers and men were forbidden to go to Los Angeles or attend theatres or other public gatherings in San Diego. The embargo would be extended to a real quarantine if the ‘menace’ approached any further from the north. Meanwhile, the funeral for the first San Diegan to die of Spanish influenza was held on October 1. Dr. Gordon Courtenay had been commissioned a lieutenant in the navy and had been assigned as chief surgeon on a warship, but the night before his ship was to sail he was suddenly taken ill. He had contracted the disease from ‘bluejackets’ he had been treating in Boston and died in Brooklyn on September 20.

The city board of health issued a bulletin on October 2 stating that the present pandemic seemed to exhibit an unusual virulence and that the gravity of the situation on the eastern seaboard had prompted the board to adopt all measures at their command for its control on this coast. Accordingly, under section 2979 of the political code, influenza was made reportable and all physicians must report cases to the health department immediately. Although no influenza cases had yet been noted in the San Diego newspapers, the board of health moved on October 12 to forbid all public gatherings in San Diego by closing theatres, moving picture shows, schools, dance halls, churches and bath houses. The school board, theatre managers and ministers were said to be in support of the plan and no violations of the order were expected. It was believed that by preventing large bodies of people from congregating indoors all danger of the spread of influenza would soon be eliminated. The order did not affect saloons; the health office stated that ‘men do not congregate in saloons in large numbers’ and the order was to ‘discourage or prevent large gatherings, such as was held last night in the interest of the anti-single tax measure’. A request to hold outdoor church services in Balboa Park was also turned down and the state convention of the Elks in San Diego was cancelled.

By October 14 the health board restrictions were extended to prohibit public funerals; hereafter all burials would be private. High school football games were cancelled for two weeks. Fort Rosecrans and the navy flying school on North Island were put under quarantine. By then 63 cases of influenza, but only one death, had been reported to health authorities, who were optimistic that they would clean up the scourge and schools could reopen the next week. The optimism seemed misplaced, however. The next day’s report was that there had been three deaths and a total of 103 cases, which the Tribune noted were mostly of Mexicans or ‘people of small means’ who were apparently ignorant of the symptoms and made no effort to secure proper treatment. The health department also ordered reading rooms of the public library system to close. Libraries would remain open for books to be issued and returned but all windows in the library buildings would be open and every book returned from a household where a case of influenza had existed would be thoroughly fumigated before putting it back in circulation. The restrictions in place on crowding had one interesting side effect; the Tribune noted that October 16 was the greatest opening day for duck hunting in many years as the influenza quarantine bans about everything other than the healthful field sports.

On October 16 the Tribune reported that only 22 cases had been reported against 26 the day before and that the authorities now believed that the tide had turned and that within a very short time the malady would pass to such an extent that the quarantine could be lifted. However, further precautions were being taken including closing the public market where farmers sold their wares and requiring masks on employees of large stores. The next day, as the influenza situation did not improve, more drastic regulations were imposed. Every server to the public, including clerks, waiters and waitresses, barbers, and bartenders, must wear the gauze face mask. Spectators would be excluded from trials. 56 new cases and 2 deaths were reported, including 4 cases from the navy training camp at Balboa Park. With 212 cases and 10 deaths so far, new regulations were laid down by the board; gatherings of a purely social nature, such as bridge parties, were ‘absolutely taboo’.

As the number of influenza cases grew, existing medical facilities were overwhelmed, and on October 19 it was reported that the Fremont school in Old Town was being made into a temporary receiving hospital. Desks were being removed and the rooms were being overhauled under the direction of the Red Cross. The new hospital would be for receiving and treating influenza patients and would have a capacity of 80 beds. It would be operated under the direction of E. Chartres-Martin, city health officer, assisted by a corps of volunteer physicians and surgeons. When the Fremont hospital opened on October 21 the Tribune reported that it would be designated an isolation hospital and that all influenza cases were to be isolated and treated there with a view to preventing further spread. Meanwhile, the health board reported that the number of new cases had been ‘almost stationary’ over the last several days, with daily totals in the 40s, which suggested that the outbreak would soon be curbed. Still, the board would take steps to strictly enforce precautions to prevent further spread of the malady, particularly the wearing of face masks would be insisted on and enforced, in spite of criticism.

The face mask order took effect on October 26, 1918, and required every individual in any office or place of business where he or she came into contact with the public to wear a gauze face mask. However, with 55 new cases and four deaths, the progress of the disease showed no signs of let-up and the health board urged citizens to continue to take every precaution to combat the disease. One of the new cases was the city health officer, Dr. Chartres-Martin, although his attack was considered mild and he was considerably improved by October 28. When the health department made public figures on October 30 showing 61 new cases of Spanish influenza, the increase was laid almost entirely to growing laxity in the use of the gauze masks. The department warned that unless every preventive measure was carried out, including wearing masks, no effort could be made to lift the quarantine at the different army camps. At Camp Kearny, 36 new cases of influenza were counted, as well as 21 cases of pneumonia and four deaths. There were 750 cases in the base hospital and the total number of influenza cases in camp since the epidemic began was 3242. There had been a total of 50 deaths.

The influenza epidemic continued its spread both at Camp Kearny and in San Diego in the first week of November. In camp on November 9 50 new influenza cases were taken to the base hospital and there were six deaths, making a total of 3404 cases and 64 deaths. In San Diego on November 12 there were 57 new cases and one death. However, Dr. Chartres-Martin did not consider the sudden rise in the number of cases to indicate that the influenza had returned to the epidemic state; ‘On the contrary, that stage has passed and we have now to deal with cases of mild form which will soon be cleared up’.  The quarantine which had closed theatres, churches and schools was set to be lifted on November 18 and Dr. Chartres-Martin maintained that the situation did not warrant its extension. Public schools would remain closed, however, since state law apparently prohibited opening any public schools unless all were opened and the Fremont school was still being used as a hospital from which the 40 or more patients could not be moved. Health authorities had begun fitting and furnishing the office and bottling building of the recently closed Mission Brewery as an isolation hospital for 100 influenza patients and when the building was ready patients at the Fremont school would be moved and schools could be reopened.

Although regulations intended to prevent crowding were still in effect on November 11, news of the armistice ending World War I brought out the largest crowds ever seen in San Diego to that time. According to the San Diego Union, men, women and children, hundreds of them in scant attire, rushed from their homes breathlessly to read the tidings that victory had rewarded the Allied arms. Celebrations continued through the long, exquisite day and far into the night as humanity poured into the streets in innumerable streams, lighted by faces radiant with happiness long deferred. Thousands of homes gave forth their precious occupants, who gravitated to the business section. Aged and stooped men and women and dignified professional men strode the sidewalks shoulder to shoulder with men who wore marks of hard toil. In the afternoon the crowds lined the curbs to cheer units of army, navy and marines marching down Broadway in a hastily organized parade. An official parade was scheduled for November 15 and the Evening Tribune noted the although the flu had prevented other big mass meetings it would not affect this celebratory parade and carnival. However, an accompanying sports carnival was postponed until the Thanksgiving holiday ‘when the flu bans shall be lifted’.

The ‘flu bans’ were lifted on November 18 and by November 23 the local papers were reporting that San Diego was facing the worst week since the outbreak of the disease in early October, with 61 new cases and 4 deaths reported in each of the previous two days and 91 new cases and three deaths the day before that. The authorities did not offer an explanation for the increases but the Union noted that in some circles it was believed due to the termination of the quarantine and in others to several days of rainy weather the previous week. With 70 more new cases and three deaths the next day the authorities suggested that the increases may have been partly explained by the fact that doctors had only recently been making complete reports. Perhaps it would have seemed unpatriotic to suggest that the victory parades could have contributed to the surge of new cases after November 11.

That the epidemic had taken a ‘somewhat alarming course’ was borne out by figures made public November 26, which showed 73 new cases and three deaths the day before, a Monday, and a total of 115 over the preceding weekend. In the six days between November 19 and 25 there were 27 deaths while total deaths from October 31 to November 18 had only been 24. The disease was also spreading geographically, having left the bayfront and the ‘Mexican quarter’, and was breaking out in the ‘better residential sections’. The cases were also of a more serious form than those previously encountered. The idea was advanced that the situation might justify drastic corrective measures; a revival of the quarantine had been hinted at unofficially. Dr. Chartres-Martin said he would urgently request all churches which used the sacramental cup to dispense with it in their services for the present. Meanwhile the health department had practically vacated the Fremont school in favor of the new emergency isolation ward at the old Mission Brewery.

With influenza conditions having taken such a serious turn, plans to reopen the public schools were abandoned. By November 30, with conditions continuing to deteriorate, the health board announced that the quarantine, lifted less than two weeks earlier, would be put into effect again, affecting theatres, churches and other places where crowds gather. When theatre owners announced that they would refuse to comply, and questioned the health board’s authority to enforce the order, the city council met and passed a city ordinance to establish a quarantine, although it didn’t go into effect until December 6 and was limited to four days. Meanwhile, at Camp Kearny, the influenza situation appeared to have stabilized at about 50 new cases a day despite the general liberty granted during the week of Thanksgiving when thousands of soldiers, practically the entire command, mingled with the populace at Los Angeles and San Diego. The new cases were said to be mild and no changes were contemplated in quarantine regulations.

The reintroduction of the quarantine in San Diego on December 6 went smoothly; even the Theatrical Managers Association had a change of heart and voted to lend the health department every assistance in stamping out the epidemic, even offering the services of one man from each theatre each day to assist the board. Most stores were closed and the business district was almost deserted. The San Diego Union reported that there were many minor violations but no arrests, although the police announced that they would not be so lenient in the future. That future soon arrived, with the Tribune reporting on December 9 that the one place in San Diego that had drawn crowds despite the influenza epidemic was police court. The judge entertained representatives from practically every walk of life – ‘Chinese, merchants, white men and women, negroes, the rich, the poor, druggists, trash collectors, chauffeurs, clerks, all sorts’ –  and sent them away $5 poorer in most cases and ‘with an abiding desire to live up in the future to every single influenza law’. The judge handled about 100 of the 300 arrests and the ‘court coin box’ was enriched by about $500. According to the Tribune the outstanding feature of the campaign against those who refused to wear masks was that those individuals were fast disappearing. Mask wearing had become ‘almost general’ among those who entered stores or did business with the public.

When the strict quarantine measures introduced on December 6 expired after December 9 the council adopted a new ordinance effective for another nine days making the wearing of the gauze mask obligatory in all places but the home. The mask should be made from at least four ply surgical gauze, or six ply cheese cloth, or preferably, from at least three ply butter cloth. A person was permitted to remove the mask when eating or if it would render the wearer physically unable to perform his occupation, or while receiving the sacrament. By December 11 the Union reported that San Diegans had faced the ordeal of the gauze mask and grinned and bore it. Whither one looked he saw masks which concealed all vestige of visage but smiling, twinkling eyes. Men, women and little children, even the newsboys running through the streets ‘wore ‘em’. Even the councilmen at city hall were at their desks, masked. On December 12 the news was of an abrupt drop of 64 in the new cases, to 115 yesterday from 179 the day before, the lowest total in 10 days. Authorities were unwilling to say if the sudden drop was due to the enforced wearing of gauze masks or was a product of the recent four-day ban on all business, but it was expected that churches would remain closed.

Over the next few days the number of new cases was substantially lower, in the 20s, and health authorities ventured to say that the epidemic in San Diego was on its last legs. Only two deaths were reported. The emergency hospitals were not so crowded. The authorities were not prepared to say whether the universal wearing of masks was responsible; bright sunshine weather might also have been a factor. At Camp Kearny the influenza conditions also showed continued improvement, with only 11 new cases and one death reported on December 12. The Sunshine and Kearny theatres at the camp would be permitted to reopen, the only exception to the regular order being that patrons must wear gauze masks. By December 16 the Tribune reported that authorities were of the opinion that the decrease in cases and fatalities which began with the adoption of the universal gauze mask ordinance had continued. Only 13 cases had been reported the day before, including two admitted to the old Mission Brewery. Each day showed a wonderful improvement of the situation and led health officials to believe that the epidemic may be entirely stamped out. The continuation of the most rigid precautions, however, was urged. On December 18 only 29 new cases were reported, which the Union claimed was the smallest for any one week day since the outbreak of the epidemic in San Diego. The number of cases was a decrease of 150 compared with December 10, when the universal wearing of the face masks was made compulsory, there being 173 cases that day. Although the face mask ordinance was due to expire on December 18 the council extended if for another week, to December 24.

In the final weeks of 1918 influenza cases in San Diego continued to decline. New cases on December 19 numbered 21, the lowest figure in weeks. Better still, 10 of the cases were in houses where the disease already existed, evidence that it was not spreading except where there had been direct exposure. The wearing of masks since that method of precaution was adopted was given full credit. On December 20 only 9 cases were reported in San Diego. In Camp Kearny, only four cases were reported, and one death. The last previous date on which this low number was reached was October 10. The total since September 25, when the scourge began, was 4654 cases and 145 deaths at the camp.

By December 27 the news was even better. In San Diego only one new case of influenza was reported, making six cases since Christmas eve. For the last five days only 25 cases had been reported, equaling the total number of cases for one day on December 17, when the decline began, and by December 30 the health board was anticipating an early end of the epidemic. On January 1, 1919, the Union claimed that influenza nearly made an exit for the New Year, with only eight new cases and no deaths reported on New Year’s Eve. Schools would reopen on January 6. On January 2 Camp Kearny reported that after a ‘flare-up’ on December 31 new cases fell from 13 that day to five, and one death, the first in nine days.

Influenza did not make an exit for the new year; new cases of influenza, and deaths, continued to be reported in the first weeks of 1919. On January 7, 12 new cases were reported, nearly all young persons, under 40 years old. There had been 12 deaths in the year so far, an average of 2 a day. Readers in San Diego were also informed of notable cases outside of their city. Walter Johnson, pitcher for the Washington Senators (and future Baseball Hall of Famer), had been seriously ill for two weeks with the influenza but was recovering rapidly at his farm in Kansas. Mary Pickford, noted film star, was suffering from Spanish influenza but was also considerably improved, although still confined to her bed at home with two nurses in attendance. The Evening Tribune also claimed that although there had been 20 new cases and three deaths over the last few days, San Diego was favored in mildness of the epidemic compared to Los Angeles, where there were 600 to 700 new cases reported daily. Every effort was being made to prevent importations of flu cases from that city. By January 12, with 24 new cases, four fewer that the previous day, and two deaths, the Union reported that with further improvements being shown in the influenza situation the board of health had made no further effort to adopt another face mask ordinance nor did it order the schools closed.

The influenza epidemic in and around San Diego affected local affairs beyond theatres, churches and schools. San Diego’s highly anticipated direct rail connection to the east, the San Diego & Arizona Railway, had been under construction since 1907 and by the end of 1918 the work had reached its final and most challenging phase, blasting tunnels out of solid rock in Carrizo Gorge in eastern San Diego County. However, work camps in the gorge proved to be ideal incubators for influenza and 215 cases and 28 deaths had been reported among the crew of about 350 men, seriously impacting construction work. By the middle of January 1919, however, the railroad was able to report that influenza had been eradicated in the gorge and labor conditions had become more settled. Excellent progress was reported on tunnel work and everything seemed favorable for completion of the line (a ceremonial golden spike was driven in Carrizo Gorge to complete the line in November 1919). In sports, the San Diego High School football team advanced to the league championship game because six players on the Pomona team, which had earlier beaten the ‘Hilltoppers’, were ‘out of the game’ with influenza and Pomona was forced to forfeit its final game against Fullerton (Fullerton went on to beat San Diego in the championship game).

By the end of January 1919 the Union was reporting that influenza was at a low ebb, only about five new cases a day, better than at any time since the disease first broke out in this city. Each day saw fewer cases and the authorities predicted that the disease would entirely disappear soon. No deaths had been reported in a week. While conditions were slightly improved in Los Angeles they were still bad, around 100 a day. At Camp Kearny, the number of new cases was also the lowest since the epidemic began; only about one a day. It had also been weeks since any deaths were reported at the camp.

The influenza situation continued to improve in February. On February 6 the Union reported that the hospitals were nearly empty and there were few ‘quarantines’; homes where influenza had been reported and the residents were forbidden to leave. On the 9th, Camp Kearny reported that there had been two days which ‘scored zeroes in the three columns in the base hospital report devoted to influenza, pneumonia and death from either of these’, and two consecutive days on which not a single new case of influenza was reported. In fact Camp Kearny had reported only seven new influenza cases, one pneumonia case and one death during the first half of the month. By the middle of the month influenza was also regarded as a ‘dead issue’ by San Diego health authorities; only one case being reported over the last several days. At the end of February there was a report of five new cases, the first in several days, but they appeared in only two families (the report in the Tribune included the families’ names and addresses).

Reporting on the influenza epidemic all but disappeared from local papers after February 1919. While there were still a few new cases they were described as mild and even fewer deaths were reported. By April the only news was the accounting of costs for the recent Spanish influenza epidemic; more than $20,000, due the American Red Cross for operation of the Fremont and Mission Brewery emergency hospitals, most of which was provided by the United States government for caring for sailors at the isolation hospitals.

Spanish influenza had probably arrived in San Diego by October 1918 and by the middle of that month its spread had prompted quarantines of Camp Kearny and other military camps in the area and the closing of schools, churches, theatres and other activities where people gathered in San Diego. Employees of businesses that served the public were required to wear face masks. Churches and theatres, but not schools, were reopened in mid-November when the levels of new cases had seemed to level off, but in early December a renewed rise in cases prompted a four-day total business shutdown followed by a three-week period when all residents were required to wear masks outside the home. Possibly as a result, the number of new cases began to subside around Christmas and schools were reopened in early January 1919. By mid-March the disease had essentially disappeared. It is estimated that nearly 5000 people were infected with the virus in San Diego and 366 deaths were blamed on it.

A few relics of the epidemic still exist in San Diego. Fremont Elementary school, on Congress Street in Old Town, reopened in 1919 and remained active until 2001, although most of the original school was torn down and rebuilt in 1948. It is now a school district training center, although like most other schools and offices it has presumably been closed again during the 2020 pandemic. The Mission Brewery, which had opened in 1913 but closed earlier in 1918 and was used as an isolation hospital for flu patients, reopened as a plant for producing agar from kelp in the early 1920s and operated intermittently until 1987. Now the Mission Brewery Plaza, it is still standing at West Washington and Hancock streets in Middletown and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Marshalls and Hinkles in PB

The Hinkle house, built in 1896 on a lemon ranch a half-block to the east and moved to 1576 Law Street in 1926

On September 16, 1889, two sisters appeared before a notary in Kansas City, Missouri, to sign applications for marriage licenses. Application No. 2511 was filled out for May E. Goff, who solemnly swore that she was of the age of 24 years, single and unmarried, and could lawfully contract and be joined in marriage to Frank J. Marshall, who was also 24, single and unmarried. Application No. 2512 was for Carrie Goff, who swore she was 22, single and unmarried, and could lawfully marry Victor A. Hinkle, who was 32 years of age. The brides were stenographers or ‘typewriters’, living in Kansas City with their widowed mother. The grooms were both salesmen for the Mosler Safe Company, where Frank’s older brother Thomas B. Marshall was manager.

In March 1894 the San Diego Union reported that Frank J. Marshall of Kansas City had bought two ten-acre blocks in Pacific Beach and had them plowed, piped and planted to trees; 1400 lemon trees and also prune, orange, peach, pear and apricot trees. A hedge of Monterey cypress would also be set out all around his land. Mr. Marshall would be returning to Kansas City in April but would return to Pacific Beach early next fall. He would bring his brother with him and each would build a handsome residence. The Union explained that Mr. Marshall had come from Kansas City to Los Angeles and wrote to a San Diego resident for information regarding climate, land, etc. He was advised to come and see for himself and was fully satisfied with what he saw in Pacific Beach.

The ‘ten-acre blocks’ that Frank Marshall purchased in February 1894 were laid out in the amended Pacific Beach subdivision map of 1892, on which the area north of the College Campus (now Pacific Plaza) and Alabama Avenue (now Diamond Street) had been divided into ‘acre lots’ of about 10 acres each, intended for agriculture. Mr. Marshall had paid $2150, or $125 an acre, for acre lots 30 and 53 (which were actually 8.6 acres each). On the map these lots were between 14th (now Olney) and the northern projection of 15th (Pendleton) streets and were separated by Idaho Avenue (Chalcedony Street), with lot 30 extending north to Georgia Avenue (Beryl Street) and lot 53 south to Alabama (Diamond; although the area is now part of the Admiral Hartman Community, where this street no longer exists).

In 1895 the San Diego Directory contained only 37 listings in Pacific Beach, half of whom were described as farmers or ranchers, many of them growing lemons on ranches developed on the acre lots. Lemon ranching was the principal economic activity in Pacific Beach and the Union’s weekly column of news from Pacific Beach regularly reported on developments affecting the lemon business. In February 1895 the column announced that the Marshalls, who owned twenty acres of fine lemon ranch at this place, were preparing to come to California and build on their ranch and make their homes there. In May the news was that the Marshalls expected to have their arrangements completed for removal to this place shortly. Their 20-acre ranch was looking well. They arrived in Pacific Beach in June and the Union reported that they had rented the Wilson house until they could build on their lemon ranch; ‘They come fully equipped for business and pleasure, having brought with them no less than four vehicles, and an abundance of home-making necessities’.

The Marshall lemon ranch on acre lots 53 and 30 of Pacific Beach from the east (San Diego History Center Photo #283)

The Wilson house was the lemon ranch house on Acre Lot 33, a few blocks west of the Marshalls’ property, but the Marshalls didn’t occupy it for long. In September 1895 the Union reported that Mr. Marshall’s new house made a fine showing against the hills (and that Gen. Stearns, an ex-United States senator, had purchased the Wilson place). A few weeks later the paper reported that the Marshalls were moving into their new house and added that Mr. Marshall’s brother and brother-in-law were making arrangements to come to California and would locate at this place. The two families expected to reach Pacific Beach before winter.

Mr. Marshall’s brother arrived in January 1896; according to the San Diego Union T. B. Marshall and family of Kansas City had arrived from the east and were at the Horton House hotel downtown. The February 1, 1896, Union announced that T. B. Marshall was building on his ten-acre tract. Construction must have been rapid because by February 24 the paper noted that several artistic cottages had been built at this place during the year but the architecture of T. B. Marshall’s new house was a decided change. In April the report was that T. B. Marshall had moved his family into his new residence and a month later that Mr. T. B. Marshall’s new home was ‘the finest in our colony’. Photos of house, located at the corner of Olney and Diamond streets, do indicate that the architecture was a decided change from the plain frame houses on other lemon ranches at the time, such as the one built in 1892 on acre lot 34 and still standing at 1860 Law Street. The T. B. Marshall home included Queen Anne-style design features like bay windows and a square tower topped with a decorative widow’s walk.

Thomas B. Marshall home on acre lot 53 (Pacific Beach Historical Society Photo)

Frank Marshall’s brother-in-law, Victor Hinkle, with his wife Carrie, May Marshall’s sister, were the other family that had made arrangements to locate at ‘this place’ and expected to arrive before winter. In December 1895 the Union reported that Mr. and Mrs. Hinkle had moved into the Will Wagner cottage (on Diamond Street a half block west of where the T. B. Marshall house would be built). In February 1896 the Hinkles purchased acre lot 36, 10.2 acres lying between what today are Chalcedony, Ingraham, Beryl and Jewell streets, paying Alzora Haight $2000 or nearly $200 an acre for a developed lemon ranch. Acre lot 36 had originally been purchased by George Tutton in January 1892 but had been owned by Mr. and Mrs. Haight since September 1892. The Haights apparently never built a home on their property; a news item from 1894 reported that Mr. Haight and family had been ‘camping’ on their ten-acre ranch. In May 1896 the news was that Mr. Hinkle, who had bought the Tutton ten acres set to lemons, was building a fine residence there. Early photos show that the architecture of the Hinkles’ new residence was also in the Queen Anne style of the T. B. Marshall home, including a square tower with a decorative widow’s walk.

Frank and Thomas Marshall were joined in Pacific Beach by another brother later in 1896 when Clifford Marshall and his wife took up residence in Martha Dunn Corey’s cottage, also on Diamond Street in the block west of the new T. B. Marshall home. Like most Pacific Beach residents, the extended Marshall family and the Hinkles joined the Presbyterian Church and participated in church and community activities. When Miss Marian Thresher, the soprano in the church choir, departed for Jamul for a year in November 1896 Mrs. Clifford Marshall gave her a farewell party and her place in the choir was taken by Mrs. Hinkle (Miss Thresher was a former student at the San Diego College of Letters in Pacific Beach). Choir practice was held every Saturday afternoon at Mrs. Clifford Marshall’s residence.

Frank Marshall had purchased two Pacific Beach acre lots and had them plowed, piped and planted to trees while he returned to Kansas City, leaving the ranch in charge of Ed Barnes, another local lemon rancher (and another former College of Letters student). It was more than a year later that Frank and his brother Thomas moved from Kansas City with their families and built impressive homes on the ranch, and still much of their time was spent away from Pacific Beach, leaving day-to-day operations of the lemon ranch to others. In April 1897 the local news was that T. B. Marshall and family had returned to their beautiful home and young lemon grove after a prolonged stay in Los Angeles. They had also come down from Los Angeles to spend the holidays at their Manjessa ranch (presumably named for their two daughters, Maude, or Mandy, and Jessie). In July 1897 the news was that T. B. Marshall and family were to leave for Los Angeles for a year and in January 1898 Mr. Dorst and wife moved into T. B. Marshall’s elegantly furnished house. In April and again in July 1899 T. B. Marshall spent a few days in Pacific Beach looking after his interests before returning to Los Angeles, where he was listed in the 1900 census as general agent for Mosler Safe Co.

The lemon business depended on growing and harvesting lemons but also on curing, packing and shipping them to distant markets, mostly in the Midwest. In December 1896 Sterling Honeycutt, also a lemon rancher, made a deal with the Pacific Beach Company in which he acquired the north half of block 239, south of Hornblend between Lamont and Morrell streets, and also the company’s hotel and dance pavilion on the ocean front near the foot of Grand Avenue. The agreement required Honeycutt to move the hotel and pavilion from the beach to block 239, where the hotel ended up at the corner of Hornblend and Lamont and the pavilion at the corner of Hornblend and Morrell, adjacent to the tracks of the San Diego, Pacific Beach and La Jolla railway, which then ran along what is now Balboa Avenue. Honeycutt refurbished and reopened the hotel, but the dance pavilion was converted to a facility for curing and packing lemons and loading them onto railroad cars at the adjacent siding. In November 1897 Honeycutt sold the northeastern quarter of block 239, including the packing plant, to F. J. Marshall and F. W. Barnes, who each acquired an undivided half-interest in the property (F. W. Barnes was Ed Barnes’ father and was also a lemon rancher).

Although Frank Marshall owned a lemon ranch and a half-interest in the community lemon packing plant, he also remained connected to the safe company in Kansas City and at the end of 1897 he returned to resume his former position there (the 1899 Kansas City directory listed Frank and Thomas Marshall, both working for Mosler Safe Co. and living at the same address). Clifford Marshall moved from Dr. Corey’s house into Frank Marshall’s house in January 1898. The Union reported that Mrs. Marshall and daughter Verna would spend the winter in San Diego and would remain until spring, then would return to Pacific Beach to make their future home. In October 1898 Frank Marshall returned from Kansas City to ‘make quite a visit’ and in April 1899 he returned once again ‘with the intention of making his home in San Diego’ (the 1900 federal census listed Frank Marshall, rancher, living with wife May and daughter Birdie at 1460 3rd Street in San Diego). In the absence of the Marshall brothers Mr. Lewis Martin had been in charge of the ranches in 1899 and Mr. Jacobson took over their care in 1900.

In December 1900 Frank and May Marshall sold acre lot 30 as well as their undivided half-interest in the packing plant in block 239 to Robert M. Baker and in 1901 Mr. Baker also bought the adjoining acre lot 30. The Frank Marshalls moved to Los Angeles and later to Riverside. The Thomas Marshalls remained in Los Angeles, although in September 1904 the Evening Tribune reported that T. B. Marshall of the Mosler Safe and Lock Co. was in San Diego to oversee the work of hanging the four big doors upon the vaults of the National Bank of Commerce building. And when T. B. Marshall’s automobile won a prize in the floral parade at the Los Angeles Fiesta in 1906, Mrs. Hinkle of Pacific Beach was a passenger.

Unlike the Marshalls, the Hinkles had adapted to the semi-rural lifestyle of late nineteenth-century Pacific Beach and continued living in their ‘commodious and elegant’ home on acre lot 36 well into the twentieth century. A Horticultural Notes column in the Union in 1899 noted that V. A. Hinkle of Pacific Beach was one of the ranchers who ‘lives on the ranch’ and the result was deep cultivation, fine fruit and clean trees. When lemon ranching became uneconomical after the turn of the century Mr. Hinkle transitioned into general farming but also specialized in beekeeping. In 1911 the city council amended the city bee ordinance to allow hives to be kept to within 100 feet of highways after V. A. Hinkle appeared before it and declared that bees did not use their stingers on people except to protect against interference. It was necessary to bother them at their hive before one could experience the ‘stinging rebuke’ which made them so feared. He placed ads in the Evening Tribune offering to sell ‘strong and healthy’ bees, in addition to ads offering a Jersey cow cheap, a large ranch horse – bargain, and two fine young milk cows.

Mrs. Hinkle became a member and later an officer of the Pacific Beach Reading Club, and often hosted meetings at the Hinkle home. In 1914 the reading club opened the library in its club house to the public and made its collection of books available for circulation. Mrs. Hinkle was appointed to oversee the library and is considered the community’s first librarian. The Hinkles had two daughters, Lucille and Mildred, who went to the Pacific Beach school and, like their parents, were active in community affairs. Lucille, born in 1896, entertained Reading Club meetings with mandolin and guitar selections and later attended Stanford University. Mildred, born in 1899, played the violin and sang and went on to Northwestern College in Chicago.

A January 1921 ad in the San Diego Union listed a house of 8 rooms, bath and sleeping porch for sale – $3000, easy terms, Mrs. V. A. Hinkle, telephone Pacific Beach 264. The home faced south, had a good garage, gas, electricity, fireplace and a fine view. The home did not sell in 1921 but Mr. Hinkle died in January 1922 and in September 1922 Mrs. Hinkle sold acre lot 36, with the Hinkle home, to Lawrence Adams. Mrs. Hinkle moved to New York City where in 1927 Mrs. F. T. Scripps, embarking for England on the Leviathan, spent a few days with friends, among them Mrs. Carrie Hinkle, an oldtime resident of Pacific Beach.

In January 1924 Mr. Adams also bought lots 21-24 of block 87 of Pacific Beach, the northwest corner of Ingraham and Law streets, and in 1926 he had the Hinkle house moved there, where it is still standing today, one of the oldest and best preserved historic homes in Pacific Beach. Adams sold both properties in 1928. In 1947 the portion of acre lot 36 now facing Law Street was subdivided as Chalcedony Terrace and the portion facing Beryl Street became Chalcedony Terrace Addition. The southerly 125 feet, the portion facing Chalcedony Street, has not been subdivided and is still described as acre lot 36, although the lemon trees and bees have long since been replaced by houses and apartments.

The Marshall ranches in acre lots 30 and 53 were among the properties in the eastern portion of Pacific Beach that were taken by the federal government and incorporated into the Bayview Terrace federal housing project for defense workers in 1941. They are now within the Admiral Hartman Community for military families, and although the Frank Marshall family’s house on acre lot 30 is no longer standing the site is still marked by a huge Moreton Bay fig tree that once stood over it. The T. G. Marshall house on acre lot 53, once considered the ‘finest in our colony’, is also no longer standing. It burned to the ground after being struck by lightning on Christmas Eve in 1940.

Pacific Beach Driving Park

Grandstand and clubhouse at the Pacific Beach racetrack about 1906. The central section of Pacific Beach is visible in the background beyond the track, with the former college buildings at top left (San Diego History Center photo #344)

In July 1887 the Southern California Breeders’ Association acquired San Diego Pueblo Lot 1797, a 160 acre half-mile square lot extending from what today is the intersection of Garnet Avenue and Mission Bay Drive at its northeast corner to the southwest corner of the Mission Bay High School campus. At the time this lot and Pacific Beach Company’s property to its west were entirely undeveloped, although the Pacific Beach Company would draw up a subdivision map and hold an opening sale of lots by the end of 1887. The Breeders’ Association announced that its lot would be developed as a racetrack and by September 1887 the San Diego Union reported that they were ‘pushing along operations lively’ in construction of their track and buildings.

Eastern section of 1887 Pacific Beach subdivision map showing location of racetrack and the railroad line to Pacific Beach

The buildings would include a grandstand with a frontage of 150 feet and a depth of 32 feet, a three-story judges’ stand and a club house, a very fine and convenient structure 45- by 32-feet in size, with an attic, two towers and two large bay windows giving the front a very showy appearance. There would also be a shed 100 feet long for the accommodation of teams and fifty stables, each 14 by 14 feet in size. A tight board fence, eight feet high, would surround the track. A month later, in October, the Union reported that the grading of the track and the fence were almost completed, 30 stables had been finished, the grandstand was ready for painting and work would begin the next week on the club house.

Detail from the map shows the locations of the clubhouse, grandstand, judges’ stand and stables

The grandstand had apparently been painted by November 15, 1887, when the Pacific Beach Driving Park was the scene of a baseball game between the San Diegos and the Philadelphias, or Phillies, the same National League franchise that plays there today. That morning’s Union reported that the boys from Philadelphia had arrived on the evening train and the San Diego club would cross bats with them at the Pacific Beach racetrack.  The home team had been in training for several days and the game promised to be an interesting one.  Round trip train tickets and admission to the grandstand, with special accommodations for ladies, would be 75 cents. A special train would leave the California Southern station at 1 o’clock for the park.

The November 16 Union reported that the Philadelphia and San Diego baseball clubs had crossed bats the previous afternoon and the home team was most woefully beaten, 31 – 7. The paper explained that the visitors were athletes who made a profession of playing ball while the San Diego club was a new organization only lately put in the field and the members had practiced together but once. The game was played at the new driving park at Pacific Beach and about 300 lovers of the National game witnessed the exhibition, among the spectators being a number of ladies. The game was interesting only from the fact that the spectators had an opportunity to see a first-class club play on a San Diego ball field.

Pacific Beach Driving Park had been built for racing, however, and in April 1888 the San Diego Union reported that it was being put into condition for the spring meeting. The track, built entirely of ‘made ground’, had been pronounced a good track by prominent horsemen.  The clubhouse, a three-story building of 22 rooms, was just about finished. The Grand Opening of the Pacific Beach Driving Park under the auspices of the Breeders’ Association of Southern California would include three days of racing, May 1, 2 and 3, and $1,250 in purses.

According to the Union, opening day at the new racetrack was a good day for horses, and by noon a large crowd was ‘off for the races’:

The procession which passed through the gates at Pacific Beach Driving Park was a jolly and good-natured, and expectant throng of well-dressed admirers of horse-flesh – and the pools.  They were there, all of them.  Gentlemen of leisure and gentlemen of business.  Ladies too, in their brightest array of spring colors sat in their carriages, and the throng which filled the grandstand was a lively and interested one.  The broad track over which the racers were to fly was smooth as a floor, firm, fast and in fine condition as any race-course could be.

The Union’s report on the second day of racing also emphasized the makeup of the crowd, especially the ‘fair’ members:

From early morning until afternoon the motor trains bore out their loads of merry freight, and the road to the north along the bay, was lined with carriages laden with business men, beaux and beauty, bound for the races at Pacific Park.  Every man who could get away from the busy duties of city life and evade the rules of domestic remonstrances against the seductive attractions of the uncertain pool box, donned his brightest plaid, and with dustproof hat, departed for the track.  Many there were who pleased their wives and at the same time avoided all danger of a cross-examination by taking with them the fair members of the family to enjoy the pleasures of the day.  Long before the bell had sounded the summons for the contending steeds, the carriage space of the Driving Park was well filled with a variety of gay equipages, a happy throng of pedestrian spectators moved to and fro and the grand stand presented a picture of fashion and feminine beauty.  In fact, if not in name, it was “Ladies’ Day” at the races, and the fairest of San Diego’s fair were out in all their style and bright colors of spring costumes.

The third and final day of the first race meeting at Pacific Beach Driving Park proved irresistible, according to the Union, and found the largest crowd of the season at the Pacific Beach Driving Park:

Everybody was there that could get there, and they went without much regard to the manner of their going.  They came in the closed coaches, and in the open cars of the motor, and even crowded upon the flat-cars and came out with the band. Vehicles of all descriptions were brought into use, and a constant stream of carriages poured through the gates of the Park.  There were buggies, phaetons, tandems and more than one four-in-hand in the procession, and even the “one-horse shay” was not missing, while manly equestrians and lovely equestriennes added their skillful grace to the scene of motion.  It was a great day and all had come prepared to enjoy it, so that not a cloud arose to cast its shadow over the field of pleasure – at least not until the unforeseen contingencies of the race course began to drop like a moist blanket upon the spirits of the heavy losers.

A second race meeting was scheduled for the Fall of 1888 and as that meeting approached an advertisement appeared in the Union promoting not only the Fall Race Program!, Four Days of First-Class Racing! Including running races, trotting and pacing, but also Two Extraordinary Special Days!, a Ladies’ Day and the People’s Day, which promised to be ‘the two greatest days in the annals of sport on the Pacific slope’.

As the San Diego Union had promised, People’s Day on Sunday, October 28, 1888, was a great day in the annals of sport, at least for Pacific Beach.  According to the Union, nearly 7,000 people were in attendance (out of a total San Diego population of perhaps 25,000 in late 1888). The crowd first watched a series of footraces and a blindfold wheelbarrow race before a recess was taken at noon for luncheon, ‘served in excellent style in the clubhouse’.  After lunch there were a couple of quarter-mile horse-races before the ‘event of the day’, a mounted sword combat between Captain Wiedemann and the woman who called herself Jaguarina.

Captain Wiedemann was from Germany and a leader of the local Turnverein, a gymnastic movement popular among the German immigrant population in the nineteenth century.   According to the Union he weighed 185 pounds with a chest measurement of 43 inches and biceps measuring 15 inches, and had received a thorough training in fencing. Jaguarina was described as a famous swordswoman now at Ensenada who had participated in (and generally won) similar battles in the past (her fine French military cuirasse, of brass and copper, ‘still bears deep indentations, as marks of respect from Captains Davis, Jennings and Marshal, received in former contests’).

The Union provided a blow-by-blow description of the resulting battle, which was tied after twelve rounds, each contestant having scored five points (no points had been scored in two of the rounds):

When the trumpet called the contestants to the charge for the thirteenth and last time the score stood five to five, and this final attack ended with Wiedemann aiming a cut at Jaguarina in high carte, which she parried and, before he could protect himself, ‘the sound of Jaguarina’s blade was heard on his cuirasse from a vigorous and unmistakable cut in carte’ which ended the contest with a score of six to five in favor of Jaguarina. The victor at once doffed her helmet and cuirasse and received round after round of applause from those present, many of her more enthusiastic friends throwing their caps high in the air.  After a gallop round the track with her second, Jaguarina returned to her dressing room receiving the congratulations of her friends en route.

Pueblo Lot 1797 is located at the foot of Rose Canyon, which drains a wide area extending upstream to beyond Miramar. Rose Creek normally carries the runoff from this area through Pueblo Lot 1797 and into Mission Bay but the racetrack’s location on the banks of the creek made it vulnerable to flooding from winter storms. A particularly severe storm on December 16, 1889, caused extensive flooding that washed out bridges over Rose Creek and wreaked havoc on the track.  According to the December 17 Union:

The Pacific Beach racetrack was demolished by a stream that came down Rose’s Canyon and was deflected across the north side of the grounds across the track, in the neighborhood of the Judges’ stand.  It is estimated that fully one-fourth of a mile of the track has been washed away on the east side, and several hundred feet more on the west side at the grandstand.  The water at one time was five feet deep and backed up the hill to the Pavillion.  Several of the lower sheds, down near the private gates, were also washed down.

The Pacific Beach racetrack was never fully repaired after this flood and racing never entirely recovered, but crowds still came to the grandstand to enjoy other forms of entertainment.  In November 1891 the Union reported that fully 1,000 people visited Pacific Beach to watch as a great balloon flew skyward about 2,000 feet and ‘from that giddy height a woman and monkey descended by means of parachutes’.  A triple parachute jump involving a man, a woman and a monkey and a ‘monstrous’ balloon 75 feet high and 41 feet in diameter was held at the Pacific Beach racetrack on Christmas Day 1891.

In 1890 the Breeders’ Association’s title to Pueblo Lot 1797 was challenged in court and in 1893, after a number of judicial proceedings, the property came under the control of Frederick Schulenburg, a retired lumber magnate from St. Louis. However, Schulenburg died in 1894 and in 1897, apparently in response to unpaid debts, the court ordered his estate to sell it. The Evening Tribune noted what it called ‘A Rare Opportunity’ in January 1898:

Attention is called to the legal notice in this paper offering for sale the 160-acre tract known as the ‘Race Track’ in this city.  The sale, by the administrator of the Schulenburg estate, affords the opportunity of securing a fine acreage adjoining the elegant suburban ranch homes and lemon orchards of Pacific Beach. This land is capable of producing as equally fine orchards, and a portion has been pronounced the best of alfalfa land.  The improvements alone cost more than is asked for the place.

The Union reported in September 1898 that the administrator had sold 160 acres of land belonging to the estate to a Los Angeles man, Dr. J. Mills Boal, who intended to ‘plow up’ the racetrack and set out the property to trees.  However, in November 1898, the news was that Col. A. G. Gassen had outbid Dr. Boal and became the owner of the Pacific Beach racetrack. Gassen had been involved with the Breeders’ Association and also owned other property in the area, including the brickyard in Rose Canyon. The Union added that he would spend about $2,500 for improvements intended to make the racetrack and neighboring property a pleasure resort and summer home for himself and his family.  He was expected to set out about 2,500 eucalyptus trees, build a five-board fence around the track, clear willows and other unnecessary trees and bushes from the creek bed and put part of the land into grain and alfalfa.

In May 1903 the San Diego Union reported a rumor that Col. Gassen had sold the track to A. G. Spalding, the sporting goods magnate then living in Point Loma, noting that the track had at one time been one of the finest speedways on the Pacific coast but had fallen into disrepair and would have to be wholly rehabilitated to become what it once was. Albert Goodwill Spalding was a former professional baseball player who in 1876 had founded the A. G. Spalding & Bros. sporting goods company which made baseballs and, in 1877, the first baseball gloves, which he was one of the first players to wear. Spalding and his second wife, an ardent Theosophist, moved to Point Loma in 1903 to participate in Katherine Tingley’s Lomaland Theosophical community.

Although the rumor of the track’s sale was false, or at least premature, Spalding’s interest apparently inspired Gassen to consider rehabilitating the track. In June 1903 the Union reported that he was having the track overhauled and more stalls built in anticipation of reopening in the fall and winter.  Fifty or sixty fine animals from Kentucky and Illinois would winter there, with the possibility of many more joining them during the cold season. Gassen said it was ‘not improbable’ that there would be a number of meets involving the eastern and local horses. He did not expect that the track would require a great deal of work to put it in proper shape and the fence, which had been out of repair for some time, had been repaired and painted and the grandstand and judges stand had also been fixed up. A new organization, the Belmont Breeders Association, was incorporated and Gassen tried to convince the Santa Fe Railroad to build a siding to the track so that horses could be unloaded at the stables.

The first shipment of the eastern horses arrived in September 1903, but the big news, a few weeks later, was that Spalding had taken over the Belmont Breeders’ Association and the track and stables of the Pacific Beach racetrack. The name was to be changed to the American Saddle-Horse Breeding Farm and the track to be hereafter known as American Park.  The Tribune noted that Mr. Spalding had always been an admirer of the American or Kentucky type of combination gaited saddle and driving animals and ‘the breeding of this high class of horses will be the special purpose of the establishment’. However, the saddle-horse breeding venture was not successful and was abandoned later the same year. Although the newspapers had referred to Spalding’s take-over of Gassen’s Belmont Breeders’ Association as a purchase or buy-out, the transaction apparently did not include the racetrack property itself and there is no record of any actual transfer at the San Diego County Recorder’s office. Gassen had retained ownership and in November 1904 granted ‘all of that certain property known as the Pacific Beach Race Track’ and other property at the mouth of Rose Canyon to U. S. Grant, Jr., son of the Civil War general and former president.

The track continued to be neglected, although in March 1906 the Union reported that while not much had been done with the track of late years it was still in good condition. There was a club house and grandstand on the grounds, the latter having a good seating capacity, and the accommodations at the track were first class in every respect. However, in October of that year another Union headline announced that the Pacific Beach Track had been sold For $75,000.00; this time U. S. Grant, Jr. had sold Pueblo Lot 1797, popularly known as the Pacific Beach race track, and other adjoining property to Archibald Hart, who intended to divide the property into villa lots and city lots. In November 1906 Hart and others incorporated the Mission Bay Park Company to lay out, improve and beautify their acquisition, particularly that part known as the Pacific Beach Race Track. The racetrack itself was to be eliminated; beginning in early 1907 the railroad that had serviced Pacific Beach since 1888 and had originally circled around the track via what today are Mission Bay Drive and Garnet and Balboa avenues (all then called Grand Avenue) was realigned along the route of today’s Grand Avenue (then called Ivy Avenue), cutting through the area where the track had once been.

The map of the Mission Bay Park tract filed in February 1907 subdivided the property in much the same grid pattern as that of the Pacific Beach subdivision to its west, including extensions of Hornblend, Ivy, Thomas, Reed, Oliver and Pacific Avenues from Pacific Beach and new streets like Figueroa Boulevard, Magnolia Avenue and Bond Street. Curiously, the Mission Bay Park subdivision map did not include Rose Creek, a stream which flows through the center of the tract and during wet winters in the recent past had inundated much of it. Today the Rose Creek flood control channel runs through the subdivision on what was originally laid out as Pico Street.

However, the Mission Bay Park Company failed to effectively develop or market its tract and the only property sale recorded was for lots 6, 7 and 8 of block 29 and lots 1, 2, 3 and 30 to 33 of block 32, the locations of the actual structures remaining from the former racetrack; the judges’ stand, club house and grandstand. This parcel was sold in March 1907 to Ye Olde Mission Inn Company, a corporation set up in February 1907 by James H. Babcock and others. The clubhouse became known as the Mission Inn and a year later, in February 1908, it narrowly escaped destruction when volunteers using a garden hose and bucket brigade prevented fire at a nearby shed from spreading to the hotel ‘formerly used by the racetrack people as a club house’. One of the volunteers was former San Diego fire department chief A. B. Cairnes, who lived in a home overlooking the racetrack property and who naturally responded to the sight of smoke and flames. However, the Mission Inn caught fire again later the same year, in November 1908, and was completely destroyed.

Unable to interest prospective buyers in their tract, the Mission Bay Park Company transferred it back to U. S. Grant, Jr. in November 1908, minus the 1.25-acre Mission Inn property, which was auctioned at the courthouse door in February 1912. The structures remaining on the site were abandoned and fell into disrepair. The San Diego Sun reported in 1931 that the ruins of the grandstand and the stables were still to be found ‘almost hidden by the rank vegetation of two score years’.  Aerial photos of the area from 1941 show the outlines of some of the streets laid out in the Mission Bay Park subdivision map but little actual development and no trace of anything resembling the former mile-long oval racecourse.

The Federal Public Housing Authority took over much of the property of the Mission Bay Park tract in 1941 and parts of the Bayview Terrace Project for wartime defense workers and Bayview Terrace (now Barnard) Elementary School were built on the western portions.  The southern portion of Pueblo Lot 1797 eventually became Mission Bay High School, the Mission Bay Athletic Fields and the back nine of the Mission Bay Golf Course.  One structure from the track itself, a three-story wooden judges’ stand, remained standing and was incorporated into the Rancho 101 Motel on Pacific Highway (Mission Bay Drive) in 1947.  The motel (and judges’ stand) was finally demolished in 1968, eliminating the last remaining trace of the former racetrack in Pacific Beach. The block west of Mission Bay Drive between Magnolia Avenue and Hornblend Street where the club house, grandstand and judges’ stand once stood and where thousands of nineteenth century San Diego sports fans once gathered to enjoy races, baseball games, mounted sword combat and parachute drops is now (2020) occupied by an automobile dealership.