Category Archives: People

Venice Park and the Marsh

Looking southeast over Venice Park and the Kendall-Frost Marsh – 2019 Google Maps satellite view

Venice Park is a subdivision in the southeastern portion of Pacific Beach, extending east from Lamont Street and south from Pacific Beach Drive to the marshland around the shore of Mission Bay. The area was once part of the Pacific Beach subdivision, which, south of Reed Avenue, had been divided into ‘acre lots’ of about 10 – 15 acres. Acre lots 72 and 73 were south of what became Pacific Beach Drive, with lot 72 between Lamont and Morrell streets and lot 73 between Morrell and Noyes. These two lots had never been sold to private buyers and when the Pacific Beach Company was dissolved in 1898 and its unsold properties distributed to shareholders they were among the properties that went to one of the largest, the First National Bank of San Diego. In March 1906 the bank sold acre lots 72 and 73 to Abstract Title and Trust, which then granted them to E. H. Hinkle, a principal of the Kirby-Hinkle Realty Company, and F. E. Patterson, a purveyor of photo supplies. Hinkle and Patterson drew up a subdivision map of ‘Venice Park, being a portion of lots 72 and 73 Pacific Beach’ and the map was approved by the San Diego city council in April 1906.

The map of Venice Park extended the streets of the Fortuna Park addition to its west, with Mission View Boulevard along the shoreline intersected by the east-west Pacific, Sunset and Roosevelt avenues (although Roosevelt Avenue remains, the other streets are now called Crown Point Drive, Pacific Beach Drive and Fortuna Avenue). ‘Morell’, the extension of Morrell Street in Pacific Beach, and a new street, Honeycutt Street, ran north and south between Pacific and Mission View and intersected Sunset (Honeycutt was named after a prominent local resident, Sterling Honeycutt; the misspelling of Morrell was officially corrected in 1935). Venice Park met Fortuna Park along a widened Lamont Street and like Fortuna Park, but unlike most of Pacific Beach, Venice Park lots faced the north-south streets – Lamont, Honeycutt, Morrell, and the shoreline boulevard.

E. H. Hinkle left Kirby-Hinkle Realty shortly after the approval of the Venice Park map but development of the subdivision continued under his former partner Bert Kirby. In September 1906 a building permit was issued to Kirby Realty for a dwelling in Venice Park valued at $2000 and in October Kirby Realty received a permit for a cottage on lots 41-42, block 1, Venice Park, valued at $1800. In addition to building the two houses, Kirby Realty had spent much of 1906 on other improvements to Venice Park. An ad in the San Diego Union in January 1907 stated that they had been nine months putting the property in a condition to appeal to the ‘most conservative of buyers’ and now had ‘something to crow about’; oiled streets and boulevards, city water to every lot, attractive homes and a public park. The lots were high, level and of good soil, and had an unsurpassed view of mountains, bay and ocean, according to the ad. This choicest of suburban beach subdivisions was reached by the Pacific Beach motor line (‘now being electrized’), and featured boating, bathing, fishing and hunting. $10 down would secure one of these homesites with the balance at $10 per month without interest or taxes (in early 1907 the Los Angeles & San Diego Beach Railroad, which ran through Pacific Beach, was being realigned to run over what is now Grand Avenue instead of Balboa Avenue east of Lamont Street, but it was never converted to electricity). Kirby Realty also produced an illustrated brochure featuring Venice Park, ‘the ideal home spot’.

Kirby Realty ads for Venice Park in 1907 were attributed to B. S. Kirby and R. S. Requa, who were not only business associates but also members of San Diego Lodge No. 18 of the Fraternal Brotherhood. The Evening Tribune described one ‘delightful social’ given for members and friends of the brotherhood in September 1906 where one of the ‘friends’, Miss Viola Hust, played the piano and Mr. Kirby performed two ‘illustrated songs’, the slides for which were colored by Richard S. Requa and were very beautiful indeed, including scenes in and about San Diego. In February 1907 the papers reported that Miss Hust had married Mr. Requa, a member of Kirby Realty. The happy couple had left on the noon train for a brief honeymoon in the north and would be ‘at home’ to their many friends and acquaintances after March 15 at Venice Park, Pacific Beach (presumably in one of the two existing homes there, built by Kirby Realty).

Richard Requa did not remain a member of Kirby Realty for long, however. By 1908 he was working with the prominent architect Irving J. Gill and in 1910 a special notice appeared in the Union announcing the dissolution of the partnership which heretofore had existed between Gill and Requa. Mr. Requa would open offices in the McNeece Block, as the Keating Building at the northwest corner of Fifth Avenue and F Street was then called. Irving Gill and Richard Requa both went on become important figures in San Diego architecture during the early 20th century. Requa was notable for the Spanish Revival designs that characterized communities like Kensington Heights.

In Venice Park, the Kirby Realty sales campaign initially had a positive effect and 101 lots had been sold (out of a total of 224) and a total of 5 houses built by the end of 1907. By 1911 all but 16 lots had been sold, but most buyers apparently purchased the lots as investments and only two more homes had been constructed. Most of the homes were in block 1, perhaps because it was closest to the train station and stores at Lamont Street and Grand Avenue, four blocks away. There was one home at the northern end of block 2 and one a block further south on block 4, but no homes had been built on block 3 or on blocks 5 through 8. The number of homes in Venice Park actually decreased that year when, according to the Pacific Beach Notes column in the Evening Tribune, the total destruction of the home of H. A. Collins by fire again demonstrated the need for fire protection in this part of the city. A committee of the Pacific Beach Progressive Club would again try to induce the city fathers to give the needed fire and police protection (a fire station was not built in Pacific Beach until 1934).

In 1913 Dr. George S. Hollister purchased the five lots in block 7 of Venice Park and in October he received a building permit for an 11-room, two-story frame residence valued at $7500 on Mission View Drive. The builder was D. L. Furry, who was married to Dr. Hollister’s sister and who also lived in Venice Park, on Honeycutt Street. The home built for Dr. Hollister, on a point east of the bayside boulevard overlooking Mission Bay, was for many years the crown jewel of Venice Park and one of the showplace homes around Pacific Beach. In 1919 Dr. Hollister also purchased E. H. Hinkle’s undivided half (actually .5854) of the portions of acre lots 72 and 73 that had not been included in the Venice Park subdivision, marshland that surrounded his home to the east and south.

The Hollister – Harris – Kendall home (Pacific Beach Historical Society photo)

The home and property on block 7 and Dr. Hollister’s share of the surrounding marshland were sold in 1923 to Robert and Mary Harris. ‘Bob’ Harris was described as a former horseman and well-known sportsman, a familiar figure at racing and boxing events in Tijuana (a horse that ran at the Aqua Caliente track in the 1920s was named Bob Harris in his honor). Mrs. Harris was a former star on the Orpheum vaudeville circuit whose stage name had been Lotta Gladstone. However, in August 1926 the Union reported that Bob Harris, retired capitalist and former race horse owner and trainer, had disposed of his Pacific Beach manor and moved back to town (in 1931 it reported that two bodies found in a wrecked car at the bottom of a deep canyon off the Torrey Pines grade had been identified as Mr. and Mrs. Robert Harris, a widely known race horse owner better known as ‘Bob’ and the once-famous Lotta Gladstone).

The buyers of the Harris manor in 1926 were Dr. Oscar J. Kendall and his wife Lena. A few months later, in March 1927, F. E. Patterson, who still retained his .4166 share of the portions of acre lots 72 and 73 not included in Venice Park, agreed to remise, release and quitclaim to the Kendalls his right, title and interest in acre lot 73, giving them full control of that portion of the marshland behind their home. In exchange, the Kendalls quitclaimed to Patterson all their right, title and interest in acre lot 72. Later in 1927, after the death of their 17-year-old son Billie, the Kendalls moved back to their old San Diego residence on First Street and donated the use of their Pacific Beach home to the Talent Workers, a charitable organization that Mrs. Kendall had co-founded in 1910. The home would be known as Bill Kendall’s House and would be headquarters for a new division of the Talent Workers to be called the Bill Kendall Division. Before the Kendalls returned to Venice Park in 1931 their house there was used for bridge parties and other events to benefit worthy organizations like the Talent Workers and the Pacific Beach Woman’s Club. Dr. Kendall died in 1936 but Lena Kendall continued living in the bayfront home into the 1960s. In 1951 she donated her property in acre lot 73, except for the area immediately surrounding her home, to the Scripps Institution of Oceanography. This section of acre lot 73 and most of the adjoining acre lot 74, donated by the Frost family, is now preserved as the Kendall-Frost Mission Bay Marsh Reserve.

Little additional development had occurred in Venice Park in the years after construction of the bayfront home in 1913. In 1920 John Garino, a downtown café owner, acquired the 12 lots at the northeast corner of block 1, which also included one of the two original cottages built by Kirby Realty in 1906. His developments were primarily agricultural and when he placed it on the market in 1923 the ad described a modern 6-room house, garage, 100-foot chicken house, 60 fruit trees and 200 grape vines, for only $4500. The house, possibly the one where Richard and Viola Requa were ‘at home’ to their friends in 1907 and likely designed by Requa while he worked with Kirby, is still standing at 4068 Honeycutt Street (in 1937 Mr. Garino died after eating poisonous mushrooms he had gathered from Balboa Park). In 1921 one of the few other homes that had been built in Venice Park to that time was purchased by John L. Davis, Sr., father of the founder of the San Diego Army and Navy Academy, and moved to a site at the corner of Garnet Avenue and Lamont Street on the academy campus where he lived while serving as the academy’s business manager. By 1930 the San Diego city directory still showed only nine residences on the streets within Venice Park.

The 1930s began as a period of minimal growth in San Diego, and Venice Park. Like the rest of the nation it suffered the economic effects of the Great Depression and like other parts of Pacific Beach it was severely impacted by the provisions of the Mattoon Act, which allowed development projects like the Mission Bay causeway to be paid for with escalating property tax assessments in districts that would benefit from them, like Venice Park. The economic situation improved in the mid-1930s as the depression eased and the county stepped in to take over payment of the Mattoon causeway construction bonds and restore property tax assessments to pre-Mattoon levels. Also in the mid-1930s, the Consolidated Aircraft Company, later known as Convair, moved to San Diego and began employing tens of thousands of aircraft workers in its factories near the San Diego airport, only a few miles from Venice Park over the new causeway.

In 1941 the federal government expropriated much of Pacific Beach northeast of Venice Park and built the Bayview Terrace temporary housing project to accommodate the influx of aircraft workers (this property has never been returned to private ownership and is now the Admiral Hartman Community for military families). Private developers also began building in underdeveloped parts of Pacific Beach, including Venice Park, which was soon transformed by the resulting housing boom. The 1940 city directory had listed only 12 addresses, but nearly 50 were listed in 1950 and by 1960 there were over 125 addresses on Lamont, Honeycutt and Morrell streets and Crown Point Drive in Venice Park. When Lena Kendall died in 1968 her showplace home was demolished and replaced with rows of five-story apartment buildings. These and other multi-story apartments, particularly along Crown Point Drive, doubled the number of residences in Venice Park again by 1980. For the creators of what they called the choicest of suburban beach subdivisions, this would be something to crow about.

Dairy in PB’s Bone Canyon

The abandoned dairy in a canyon north of Pacific Beach from a 1960s article in the Sentinel

In February 1930 the San Diego Union reported that fire from an undetermined cause had destroyed the feed storage building of the La Jolla Dairy, located in Bone Canyon, a mile north of Pacific Beach. According to W. C. Rannells, the owner, several tons of feed and 700 bales of hay were lost but the fire departments of La Jolla and Pacific Beach had saved two other buildings adjoining the feed house.

This fire wasn’t the first one that Rannells had experienced. In July 1924, at a time when the dairy was located at the south end of Fay Street in La Jolla next door to the newly opened La Jolla High School, the La Jolla fire department had fought three fires there in a single week. These fires were believed to have been set by a ‘fire bug’ or ‘pyromaniac’ who objected to the operation of the dairy at its location adjacent to the school. This sentiment was apparently shared by many in La Jolla, including Miss Ellen Browning Scripps, who announced that if the board of education would buy the Rannells dairy she would donate enough of her adjoining land to ‘square out’ the property. The board did acquire the dairy and accepted Miss Scripps’ donation and the former dairy site is now the Vikings’ football field. Mr. Rannells reestablished the dairy in what was then called Bone Canyon, north of Pacific Beach.

Bone Canyon was ‘as nice a little green canyon as you’ll ever be surprised to find’, according to the San Diego Union in 1938; ‘There’s a dairy at the head of it, a commercial vegetable patch at the mouth and a goldfish ranch in between’ (the goldfish ranch belonged to Shizur Nakashima and was near where Foothill Boulevard now meets Vickie Drive). The Union columnist added that some fossils once found there gave it the name. A few days later he reprinted a letter from Mrs. Grace Lapham of La Jolla correcting him. She wrote that she didn’t object to having her forebears designated as fossils but that the canyon and surrounding hills was once the property of her grandfather, S. W. Bone, a pioneer San Diego merchant, and for that reason was still known as Bone Canyon.

Samuel W. Bone had been the proprietor of a dry goods store on Fifth Street in San Diego and although he lived downtown he invested in property in Pacific Beach. One of these investments was the east half of Pueblo Lot 1780, 80 acres extending from what is now the northern end of Vickie Drive north to around Camino Ardiente in the La Jolla Alta community and east to about Thunderbird Lane. The canyon that came to bear his name runs through the center of this property. Mr. Bone purchased the property in 1893 and held it until 1912 when it was sold to O. J. Stough. After passing through the hands of Mr. Stough’s attorney Arthur Casebeer it was acquired by William C. Rannells in 1925.

William Rannells was born in 1890 on a ranch in what was then called Linda Vista but would now be on Mira Mesa Boulevard near Black Mountain Road. In 1902 the family moved to Pacific Beach, buying Block 264, the block where the Earl and Birdie Taylor – Pacific Beach Branch Library now stands, but then undeveloped land that the Rannells intended to develop as a ranch. After about a year in Pacific Beach, though, they moved on to La Jolla where William’s father and his older brother Nathan or Nate established the Rannells & Rannells livery service. In 1906 his younger sister Katherine married Fred A. Wetzell and two years later Fred Wetzell and William Rannells started the Wetzell & Rannells dairy in La Jolla. By 1910 William Rannells was sole proprietor of the dairy business, which became known as the La Jolla Dairy. From 1912 to 1914 William and another brother, D. W. Jr., also operated Rannells Brothers Confectionery, fine candies and ice cream.

In 1917 and 1918 the San Diego Union carried ads in the help-wanted section for a man for milking and general dairy work. A married man was preferred. There were 20 cows to milk and a house would be provided; apply to W. C. Rannells, La Jolla. In 1922 the Union reported that Will C. Rannells, a prominent dairyman and one of La Jolla’s pioneers, narrowly escaped death when he was knocked down and gored by a ‘pet’ bull at his dairy in La Jolla. He had owned the bull since it was young and had cared for it himself and considered it harmless. He had gone into its pen to repair a water pipe when the bull leaped on him and forced him against a fence and attempted to trample and gore him. The hired man eventually drove the bull away with a shovel but Rannells suffered a deep cut in his thigh. He was taken away by workers who had started building the new high school next to the dairy. The bull was to be dehorned and have a ring put in its nose. Rannells returned to work and in 1924 the Rannells dairy was among the leaders in ratings of San Diego’s milk supply by the state department of agriculture, earning a rating of 94.0 in the Grade A Raw category.

After moving from Fay Avenue W. C. Rannells continued to operate the dairy in Bone Canyon for over 20 years. In 1930 the Union carried an ad in the livestock wanted section for a young, registered Guernsey bull, 12 to 18 months old, W. C. Rannells, La Jolla. Ads for La Jolla Dairy, the only dairy serving fresh, raw, guaranteed milk twice daily, also ran in the Union. In March 1941 the San Diego County farm bureau’s dairy department met at the W. C. Rannells dairy in Pacific Beach and in 1942 W. C. Rannells was listed as a director of the dairy department of the farm bureau. Also in 1942, he advertised in the Union for an experienced machine milker, married, one understanding feeding, etc., apply Dairy, Pacific Beach, or W. C. Rannells, La Jolla, ph. Glencove 5-3143. Another help wanted ad, for a machine milker, 30 cows, W. C. Rannells, and the Glencove phone number, appeared in 1943.

The war years of the early 1940s had seen tremendous growth in the population of Pacific Beach, including federal housing projects for the thousands of aircraft workers who flooded San Diego to work at Consolidated Aircraft and other wartime industries. One of these housing projects, Los Altos Terrace, was located at the mouth of Bone Canyon with a street, Sylvanite Drive, that followed the course of today’s Vickie Drive and Castle Hills Drive to Windsor Drive. Commercial development was also booming and Pacific Beach was beginning to expand into the Mount Soledad foothills along the road from Lamont Street to the top of the mountain. This road ran across a corner of the Rannells’ land in the hills east of the canyon, making it attractive to real estate speculators. In August 1946 the Rannells sold the portion of their property lying east of the road, the property that one day would be the neighborhood along Parkview Drive, to Arthur and Marion Hansen. A few months later, in October 1946, they sold the remainder of their property, which included the canyon and the dairy (and the road) to Eugene and Thelma DeVoid (in 1949 the DeVoids granted the city an easement and right-of-way for the road, to be dedicated as a public street and named Soledad Road).

The DeVoids financed the purchase of the canyon property with a promissory note for $8,893.22, secured by a chattel mortgage for the livestock at the dairy, which in 1946 included 68 milk cows, 36 Guernsey heifers 6 to 28 months old, 13 Guernsey heifer calves 1 week to 6 months old and 2 registered Guernsey bulls, a total of 119 head of dairy cattle. The DeVoids’ dairy operation in Bone Canyon was apparently a success and their herd grew over time. In 1950 their chattel mortgage for livestock included 1 Jersey, 38 Holstein, and 61 Guernsey cows, 16 heifer calves, 30 heifers, and 2 bulls, one a Holstein and the other Guernsey, a total of 147 head, all branded with an ‘X’ on their right hip. Also mortgaged were dairy equipment like refrigerating units, milking machines, milk aerators, a sterilizer and all other various and sundry equipment of every name and nature used in the operation of the dairy at the DeVoid ranch two miles north of Pacific Beach in a canyon leading north from Sylvanite Drive.

The DeVoids also followed the Rannells’ example by selling off portions of their property along Soledad Road as residential building sites. Three parcels on the west side of the road, overlooking the canyon and the dairy, were sold between 1951 and 1954. In 1957 the DeVoids sold the remainder of their property, the east half of Pueblo Lot 1780 less the four parcels along Soledad Road that had previously been sold, to James M. Banister, a real estate developer, for $109,220.00.

In the early 1960s the Sentinel, a Pacific Beach newspaper, reported on the discovery by four youngsters of what appeared to be an abandoned farmhouse in a canyon north of Pacific Beach. A Sentinel reporter investigating the story called upon ‘oldtimers’ to ‘rack their memories of the old days’. He interviewed Nate Rannells, then 79 and retired as La Jolla’s postmaster, who was sure that the farmhouse was the remains of the old Will Rannells dairy. ‘My brother, Will, built the dairy there in the early winter of 1924. It lies in the canyon to the west of the old Kate Session nursery. It originally comprised three cottages, a milk shed and storage house, cow and horse barns and a corral.’ He added that his brother had 100 cows and a few horses and delivered milk by the dipper-full or by the can to homes and to the trade. The Sentinel reporter noted that the milk-shed and storage house were then still standing, although the roofs had caved in. The corral, one cottage and remains of a horse barn were also still there. The reporter visited a vantage point at the end of Soledad Way and reported that the remains of the Will Rannells dairy could still be seen and was a sight worth seeing. He added that in the distance to the west bulldozers were slashing out sites for new dwellings and soon even the remains of the old Will Rannells dairy would be just a memory.

The property that the DeVoids sold to James Banister was eventually acquired by Techbilt Construction, which had amassed hundreds of acres on the slopes of Mt. Soleded north of Pacific Beach. Techbilt constructed a number of developments around Vickie Drive and Castle Hills Drive in the 1960s and in 1970 began developing the La Jolla Alta developments on the hills on both sides of the canyon. In March 1974 the city council rejected a master plan that called for another 808 homes on a 223-acre site when nearby residents objected to development in the canyon. Techbilt then submitted a scaled-back plan for a 649-unit development that preserved 165 acres for open space, most of it in the canyon, and this plan was accepted in September 1974. The La Jolla Alta community was constructed and Alta La Jolla Drive built across the canyon but most of what was once called Bone Canyon has so far been spared by the bulldozers. The remains of the Rannells and DeVoid dairy, however, are just a memory.

Screen grab from Google Maps satellite view of ‘Bone Canyon’ today

Pacific Building Co. in PB

Pacific Building Company built this home at 1132 Diamond Street for its president O. W. Cotton in 1907 (Pacific Beach Historical Society photo)

In early 1903 O. M. Schmidt and A. J. Dula filed subdivision maps for the Fortuna Park and Second Fortuna Park additions south of what became Pacific Beach Drive and commissioned Dula’s brothers-in-law Murtrie and Wilbur Folsom as sales agent for the new tract. The Folsom Brothers’ ads in the Evening Tribune described Fortuna Park as a beautiful home spot, destined to be one of San Diego’s best suburbs, and where a $25 lot was likely to quadruple in value in a few months. They then embarked on a marketing expedition to the Arizona Territory where they expected to find eager buyers for summer homes surrounded by the cool waters of Mission Bay. There they sold dozens of lots to buyers in places like Morenci, Prescott, Douglas, and Bisbee, which is where they sold lots 39 and 40 in block 2 of Second Fortuna Park to O. W. Cotton for $40.

Oscar W. Cotton had been born in San Francisco in 1882 and was working at his first job in Bisbee, making $70 a month. He was apparently so impressed with the Folsom brothers’ sales pitch that he not only purchased lots for himself but also became their agent, selling Fortuna Park lots to other residents of the Arizona back country. In July 1903 Cotton came to San Diego to see for himself the properties he had bought, and had represented to others, and decided to stay and join the Folsom Brothers firm. In November 1903 Folsom Brothers significantly expanded their interests, acquiring O. J. Stough’s holdings of almost the entire territory of Pacific Beach. An ad in the San Diego Union a month later announced that the company would make improvements, including the erection of many sightly residences, that would make it the most attractive suburb of San Diego and insure its rapid development.

Work on the sightly residences was soon underway; the Tribune reported in December 1903 that the new concrete dwelling on Broadway near Sunset Avenue now being erected by Folsom Brothers was fast nearing completion and foundations had been laid by the same firm for the erection of four other structures, work upon which would be commenced within a few days (Broadway is now Ingraham Street and Sunset is Fortuna Avenue). In January 1904 the Tribune reported that Mark Folsom, their father, had laid the foundations for a handsome dwelling at the corner of Broadway and Thomas Avenue. The building would be constructed of concrete cement, elaborately finished on the exterior and surrounded by spacious lawns.

Home built for Mark Folsom in 1904 at the corner of Ingraham and Thomas, since demolished (Pacific Beach Historical Society photo)

In February, the handsome office building of Folsom Brothers which was being erected at the corner of Broadway and Grand Avenue was fast nearing completion and would be ready for occupancy within a few weeks. This building was also of concrete cement and very attractive in its architectural design. Although the main part of the office would be devoted wholly to the business of selling building sites in Pacific Beach, there would also be a department to be used as the headquarters of the architect who would superintend the building operations of the firm.

The business of selling building sites in Pacific Beach was a good one for Folsom Brothers in 1904; the Evening Tribune reported that on occasion no less than five teams might be seen conveying prospective buyers through the suburb and along the famous ocean strand. Anticipating further growth in its real estate business the company filed articles of incorporation in August 1904. Murtrie Folsom became president and Wilbur Folsom vice-president of the new Folsom Bros. Co. and O. W. Cotton was named secretary and treasurer. The construction side of the business was also promising and in September the Pacific Beach Construction Company was incorporated with the Folsom brothers and Cotton as directors. A Folsom Bros. Co. ad in the Union explained that the construction company was organized primarily for the upbuilding of Pacific Beach property. It would manufacture and deal in all kinds of building materials, including the most modern and practical style of cement blocks, and would build houses of this and other materials. It was listed in the 1905 San Diego City Directory as Folsom Bros. Co. Building Department, alabastine stone and building material, at the same address as Folsom Bros. Co. Real Estate.

The next few years were busy ones for the Folsom Bros. Co. building department. The San Diego Union reported in October 1904 that developments of the past week in building improvements in Pacific Beach had surpassed those of any like period since Folsom Bros. Co. started their immense and comprehensive plans of development. The foundations and framework of no less than ten structures in various stages of completion could be found within a radius of only two blocks from the Pacific Beach Hotel. Some were store buildings and some residences and nearly all either in whole or in part being constructed of the patent cement-concrete building blocks manufactured by Folsom Bros. Co.

The Pacific Beach Hotel was at the center of the community at the time, the corner of Lamont and Hornblend streets, where the Patio restaurant is now (the hotel building later became the Folsom Bros. Co. sales office). The new store buildings included the ‘handsome two-story edifice’ of McCrary and Parmenter at the southwest corner of Grand Avenue and Lamont Street, a block south of the hotel, which ‘threw open its doors’ in January 1905 and which was constructed ‘in whole’ of concrete blocks. (this store, ‘the largest in the suburb’ in its day, became Ravenscroft’s grocery in 1913 and was later the Full Gospel Temple before being demolished in the 1950s). The residences in various stages of completion in 1904 included a number on Hornblend Street within two blocks of the hotel, some of which are still standing, including the home built for H. J. Breese at the northeast corner of Hornblend and Morrell (later the passion fruit ranch of Dr. H. K. W. Kumm) and the homes built for Anna Boulet and Ansel Lane (now the Baldwin Academy) on the north side of Hornblend between Jewell and Kendall streets. Outside of the central two-block radius, the Union reported that the magnificent home of James Haskins on Diamond Avenue, fast nearing completion in December 1905, was constructed partly of the concrete blocks manufactured by Folsom Bros. Co.

In 1906 O. W. Cotton was the author of a piece in the San Diego Union that promoted Folsom Bros. Co. as an establishment that had grown from three employees to having a payroll that included from fifty to sixty names. Their alabastine stone plant, a factory for the manufacture of artificial stone (concrete building blocks), had grown from a little experimental block yard in Pacific Beach employing four people to a third of a block downtown employing thirty people that furnished building materials for nearly every structure built in San Diego. And this was just the beginning of what they planned to accomplish.

In a memoir published in 1962 Cotton later explained that the experimental yard had actually been the engine house of the San Diego, Pacific Beach and La Jolla railroad near the foot of Grand Avenue, where Folsom Bros. had attempted to make concrete blocks from beach sand. It turned out that beach sand is too fine-grained to bind into blocks and the plant was moved away from the free source of this raw material to the downtown site where the blocks were made of coarser river sand. Even with better quality products, however, the venture was not profitable and the company soon got out of the concrete block business to concentrate instead on lot sales.

In December 1906 Folsom Bros. Co. announced a new ‘opening sale’ of 250 Pacific Beach lots beginning on January 1, 1907. Their ad in the Union explained that the company had just inaugurated a policy of improvement and development and homebuilding. The improvement and development would include grading permanent streets and boulevards and paving sidewalks. The homebuilding would be accomplished by the Pacific Building Company, which would be opening for business on January 1, 1907, and would build houses costing from $1,500 to $10,000 at Pacific Beach upon easy monthly payments about equaling rent (the lots themselves were another $250). Other Folsom Bros. Co. ads emphasized that the Pacific Building Company, an allied company, would build houses ‘for purchasers of lots from us’.

The Pacific Building Company had been incorporated in December 1906 with Cotton heading the list of five founding directors and stockholders and serving as president and general manager. The company would be allied with Folsom Bros. Co. and initially shared the same office at 1015 5th Street but the Folsom brothers were not included as directors or even stockholders of the new company. In early 1907 the report of building permits in the San Diego Union generally included at least one for Pacific Building Company in Pacific Beach or Fortuna Park. One week in April the building permits report in the Evening Tribune listed four permits for the company to be erected in Pacific Beach; two frame dwellings valued at $1800 each, one frame cottage, also $1800, and a cement cottage at $2800. In May the Union reported permits for two one-story frame cottages at Pacific Beach, one valued at $2600 and the other $2300, a two-story residence at $5000 and a cottage at $2300.

In June 1907, a report on developments in Pacific Beach mentioned that the Pacific Building Company was erecting a six-room house in Fortuna Park for Mr. DeHart and also a large cottage for Mr. Mott (actually Macht) on Missouri Avenue. It had just completed a large cottage for Mr. J. M. Asher, Jr., and a smaller one, and was then finishing a large house on Diamond Avenue. In July the Union listed two more houses started by the Pacific Building Company and credited the reorganization of Folsom Bros. Co. at the beginning of the year with generating so much activity that the arrival of freight cars full of lumber in the suburb was commonplace (the freight cars would have arrived at the West Coast Lumber Company siding off the La Jolla railroad line on Grand just east of Lamont, where the 7-11 is now).

Mr. DeHart’s home in Fortuna Park is no longer there but three houses built in 1907 in the 1100 block of Missouri, including the home built for Mr. Macht, are still standing . Other homes built by the Pacific Building Company also remain today in Pacific Beach. A building permit was issued in June 1907 for the one-story frame building on Reed Avenue between Lamont and Morrell streets to cost $1700 that still stands at the southwest corner of Reed and Morrell. In October 1907 the Pacific Building Company started work on the much larger house at Lamont and Beryl streets for the MacFarlands valued at $3500-$4000.

The large house that Pacific Building Company was finishing on Diamond Avenue in 1907 was intended for Cotton himself. In June the Union reported that Mr. and Mrs. O. W. Cotton had returned from a wedding journey to Yosemite, and that Mrs. Cotton, who had been Miss Violet Savage, would be remembered as one of the ‘charming members of the younger set in Los Angeles’. They were staying at the Hotel Robinson to await completion of their attractive cottage at Pacific Beach. That attractive cottage is also still there, at 1132 Diamond Street. While living in Pacific Beach Mrs. Cotton was noted for her musical talent; a former concert pianist, she entertained guests at Mrs. Haskins annual holiday reception for members of the Pacific Beach Reading Club. ‘The appreciative audience demanded many recalls and Mrs. O. W.  Cotton continued to give rare pleasure to the parting guests to the very last’.

In 1907 Pacific Building Company and Folsom Bros. Co. shared an office and O. W. Cotton was a director and officer of both companies but in February 1908 the Evening Tribune reported that Cotton had disposed of his interest in Folsom Bros. Co. to devote his entire time to managing the Pacific Building Company, where he was president and general manager. W. W. Whitson, president of the Hillcrest Company, bought out Cotton’s interest in Folsom Bros. Co. and was installed as first vice-president and treasurer (Murtrie Folsom remained as president and Wilbur Folsom was moved to second vice-president and secretary). In a 1984 interview with the San Diego Union, Cotton’s son John claimed that there had been a ‘falling out’; the Folsoms wanted to build houses out of concrete and his father thought that was pure folly. Whatever the reasons, separation from Folsom Bros. Co. allowed Pacific Building Company to expand its home construction business beyond Folsom Bros. Co.’s base in Pacific Beach.

The Cottons also moved from Pacific Beach, selling their Diamond Street home to G. H. Robinson, a Folsom Bros. Co. salesman, in 1908. According to the Union, Mr. Robinson had been married in Los Angeles and had bought for his bride the beautiful home on Diamond formerly owned by O. W. Cotton. The Cottons first moved to Hillcrest, where they bought a lot from Whitson and had another home built by Pacific Building Company valued at $4000. In 1912 they moved again; the Union reported that among the many handsome homes recently completed in South Park was a beautiful two-story residence erected by the Pacific Building Company for O. W. Cotton, president of the corporation which had erected 532 buildings to date.

Most of these homes and the hundreds more built over the ensuing years were in the fast-growing communities served by streetcar lines radiating from San Diego. One such ‘streetcar suburb’ was the company’s Tract No. 4, built in 1910 at the end of the line that once ran out Imperial Avenue (then called M Street) and at the time just outside of the city limits (which then ended at Boundary Street). Most of the homes built by Pacific Building Company in Tract No. 4, or Sierra Vista, can still be seen in the Mountain View district of San Diego. Other tracts of inexpensive homes were developed in Normal Heights and East San Diego, also then outside the city limits along the streetcar lines on Adams and University avenues (at the time homes like these could be purchased for less than $1500; in 2019 one built in 1911 on the 30th Street streetcar line in South Park was the San Diego Union-Tribune’s example of what could be bought today for San Diego’s median home price, $560,000). Pacific Building Company also continued to build larger custom residences throughout the city, including the showplace home for Charles Norris on Collingwood Drive in Pacific Beach in 1913.

O. W. Cotton had started his real estate career with Folsom Bros. Co. and then departed to concentrate entirely on construction, but in 1926 he decided to get out of the building business and back into subdivision sales and general real estate practice. Readers of the real estate pages in the local papers in June 1926 would have seen an announcement that the Pacific Building Company was marketing a magnificent tract stretching from the hilltops overlooking La Jolla right down to the water’s edge but could not hit on a name to do it justice and were offering a $100 reward for a suitable name. A week later the Pacific Building Company announced a winner; the tract would be known as Monte Costa. The next week’s Evening Tribune carried an ad for Monte Costa, but it was attributed to ‘O. W. Cotton, Successor to Pacific Building Company’, and by the end of 1926 ads for Monte Costa were by ‘O. W. Cotton Real Estate’ (the tract was actually the Bird Rock subdivision and the new name never caught on). In November 1926 Pacific Building Company underwent voluntary dissolution but as late as 1930 the San Diego city directory still had a listing for ‘Pacific Building Company O. W. Cotton Successor’ (and an entry for ‘O. W. Cotton Successor to Pacific Building Company’ at the same address).

O. W. Cotton continued to be one of San Diego’s best known real estate personalities for decades. In 1946 he was joined by his sons John and William as partners in O. W. Cotton Co., later Cotton Management Co. and Cotton Co. He died in 1975 at the age of 93. Hundreds of homes built by his Pacific Building Company are still standing in San Diego’s former streetcar suburbs and even in Pacific Beach, where the company commenced operations with three houses in 1907.

The home built for O. W. Cotton at 1132 Diamond today

The Richerts in Pacific Beach

The home built in 1914 for Joseph and Margaret Richert and their eight children at the corner of Diamond and Olney streets in Pacific Beach.

In April 1896 Margaret B. Richert purchased lots 13 to 28 in Block 140 of Pacific Beach, the eastern portion of the block surrounded by what are now Diamond, Noyes, Missouri and Olney streets. The Richerts, Margaret and Joseph J., both then 30 years old, moved into a small home on Diamond with their baby daughters Helen and Ruth. A few months later the San Diego Union’s Pacific Beach Notes column reported that the Richerts’ cottage was being enlarged by building an addition of two rooms. Pacific Beach was a lemon-growing center at the time and like most of his neighbors Mr. Richert identified himself in the 1900 census as a lemon rancher. Dr. Martha Dunn Corey, the first physician in Pacific Beach, lived on the western section of the block and resided in the house still standing at the corner of Diamond and Noyes streets. Dr. Corey’s husband George was also a lemon rancher and it is likely that the rest of the block was covered with lemon trees.

The Richerts were active participants in Pacific Beach community affairs. They became members of the Pacific Beach Presbyterian Church 1894 and Mr. Richert was elected a ruling elder in 1914. Mrs. Richert joined the Pacific Beach Reading Club, now the Pacific Beach Women’s Club. Before its clubhouse was built in 1911 the Reading Club met in members’ homes, and meetings were often held at the Richerts’. Their family also grew with the addition of another daughter, Martha, in 1898 and their first son, Ralph, in 1899. The Pacific Beach Notes column noted in October 1899 that J. J. Richert had built another addition to his cottage.

Although J. J. Richert was counted as a Pacific Beach lemon rancher in the 1900 census, he was also interested in dairy ranching and began to accumulate grazing land in the Rose Canyon area, a few miles north and east of his home in Pacific Beach. This area was part of the pueblo lands of San Diego, a legacy of San Diego’s time as a Mexican pueblo that had been subdivided into pueblo lots of about 160 acres. In June 1897 Richert purchased 40 acre parcels in pueblo lots 1299 and 1300 from George Selwyn and by 1902 had added another 40 acres in each of these lots, leaving him with the east half of lot 1299 and the west half of lot 1300 (La Jolla Village Square is now located within this parcel).

Much of the other property in this area was owned by George Gilbert, also a dairyman, who was married to Mr. Richert’s sister. One of Gilbert’s properties was pueblo lot 1291, where Rose Canyon changes direction from mostly north-south to east-west and where Gilbert had built a ranch house. The Pacific Beach Notes column in the Union frequently noted visits between Mrs. Richert and her sister-in-law Mrs. Gilbert; in October 1898 Mrs. Gilbert was the guest of Mrs. Richert for a few days and in March 1899 Mrs. Richert and her daughters were spending the week with Mrs. Gilbert. Although Mrs. Gilbert died in 1900 the family visits continued; in 1902 Mrs. Richert and family spent part of the week at the Gilbert Ranch and in 1903 the news was that Mrs. Richert had returned home after spending the summer at the Gilbert ranch in Rose Canyon.

In April 1903 J. J. Richert was elected to the San Diego city council as one of two delegates from the First Ward (the First Ward included all of San Diego north of the San Diego River but in those days the only significant population centers north of the river were Pacific Beach and La Jolla). He was appointed to the water and the health and morals committees but he resigned from the council in November 1903 giving as his reason prolonged illness in his family which prevented him from attending to his duties. He was replaced by F. T. Scripps, another prominent Pacific Beach resident.

In the early years of the twentieth century the Richerts family grew some more with the addition of another son, Roy in 1902, and daughter Elizabeth (Bessie) in 1904, followed by two more sons, Joseph J. Jr. in 1906 and Thomas in 1909. The Richerts also continued to spend much of their time at the Gilbert ranch in Rose Canyon. In 1905 Richert and Gilbert joined forces; Gilbert became co-owner of Richert’s holdings in the pueblo lands and Richert became co-owner of the west half of pueblo lot 1301, one of Gilbert’s holdings. A year later Richert became co-owner of three more of Gilbert’s holdings, pueblo lots 1295, 1292 and 1291, the site of the ranch house. In 1908 Gilbert and Richert became co-owners of pueblo lot 1267 and by 1910 three more pueblo lots, 1302, 1303 and 1308, were jointly owned by Gilbert and Richert.

Richert and Gilbert used their land for grazing cattle, but Rose Canyon was also an important transportation corridor between San Diego and the north. The Santa Fe railroad had long held a right-of-way through their ranch and portions of the city’s wagon road to Sorrento Valley also had a right-of-way over their property. As automobiles and trucks became more numerous in the early years of the twentieth century, the city began improving the roads through Rose Canyon. In 1908 Richert transferred a strip of land 40 feet wide through pueblo lot 1299 to the city for road purposes, the first stage of the project that eventually became the Pacific Highway in 1933 and is now Gilman Drive. A year later they granted the U. S. Long Distance Tel. & Tel. Co. a right of way over the same pueblo lot.

In 1909 W. G. Kerckhoff and H. W. Kellar, promoters of Del Mar, proposed a railroad between San Diego and Del Mar which would have followed a route similar to today’s Interstate 5, passing through a 2000-foot tunnel between Rose Canyon and Sorrento Valley. Part of their route passed over land owned by Richert and Gilbert and in 1909 they granted the Kerckhoff-Kellar railway a 175- to 200-foot right of way through their property. The deeds included a clause that the land would revert to them if the railroad was not completed within three years and at least one train each way a day was being operated, and although some grading was done along Morena Boulevard the railroad was never built and the right-of-way was forfeited.

Although the Richerts spent much of their time at what the papers had started calling the Gilbert-Richert ranch in Rose Canyon, they were residents of Pacific Beach and the children attended the Pacific Beach school, where Helen and Ruth Richert were two of the four students graduating with the January class in 1911. Pacific Beach students could continue their education by taking the train to San Diego High School where Martha Richert was among the victors of an inter-class swimming meet in 1916. Boys could choose to attend the San Diego Army and Navy Academy, opened in 1910 in the former college and hotel building a few blocks from the Richerts’ home in Pacific Beach, and cadet corporal Ralph Richert won the prize for individual drill in a military field day there in 1916. At the academy’s graduation exercises in 1918 Ralph was one of sixteen ‘soldierly young men’ who received diplomas.

The Richerts’ eighth child was born in 1909 and although their home on Diamond Street had been enlarged over the years it was evidently too small for the family and in 1914 they built a much larger house at the corner of Diamond and Olney streets. The new J. J. Richert residence was one of the showplaces of the community and its photo was featured along with the Norris home, the Hollister (Kendall) home and the Army and Navy Academy in a story headlined ‘Pacific Beach Delightful Resort Near San Diego’ in the Union on New Year’s day 1918.

George Gilbert died in 1911 and J. J. Richert assumed sole ownership of their holdings in Rose Canyon. In 1912 he acquired another pueblo lot, 1278 (where University City High School is now located). However, the dairy business was suffering from rising costs for everything from feed to milk bottles and caps, and in July 1917 Richert was one of the United Dairymen of San Diego County who signed their names to an advertisement in the San Diego Union requesting unanimous support on the part of the consumer to an increase in the retail price of milk (to 7¢ a pint or 13¢ a quart). Richert also looked for other commodities that could be produced on his ranch lands. In 1918 he became a director of the Encinitas Bean Growers Association, which pledged that 40,000 acres of land in the county would be planted to lima beans. The Union reported that an educational food production tour under the auspices of the county farm bureau stopped at the ranch of Joe Richert of Rose Canyon, a grower of bush lima beans, where from 20 to 30 sacks per acre were harvested. The rancher told of his seed selection, method of planting and cultivation.

In 1920 Richert increased his holdings in Rose Canyon by purchasing a portion of pueblo lot 1277 and additional acres in pueblo lot 1267. A number of other pueblo lots near Richert’s holdings were still city property and the city had passed an ordinance in 1908 freezing sales of pueblo lots until 1930. Richert petitioned the city council to lease these lots instead, and in 1922 he was granted leases to pueblo lots 1272, 1273, 1279, 1304 and 1306. By 1924 Richert owned all or part of 15 pueblo lots, amounting to over 1700 acres in the Rose Canyon area, and leased the 5 city-owned pueblo lots with more than 750 additional acres adjacent to his land.

View of the former Gilbert-Richert ranch from Mount Soledad about 1953. The ranch buildings can be seen among the trees in the canyon. This area is now covered by a freeway and housing tracts.

After the United States entered World War I in 1917 the army built a huge training base in what was then called the Linda Vista mesa, a few miles east of the Richert ranch (the Miramar air station now occupies a portion of this area). Thousands of soldiers passed through Camp Kearny and some of them apparently found opportunities to fraternize with their neighbors. In December 1919 the Richerts’ eldest daughter Helen was married to Andrew Pittman, formerly a lieutenant of the U. S. Army artillery corps who had been stationed at Camp Kearny. In 1921 their daughter Martha married Evan Carey, also a former artillery officer at Camp Kearny. The weddings took place in the Richerts’ home and were officiated by the minister of the Pacific Beach Presbyterian Church, where the Richerts were long-time members.

Ruth Richert was married in 1923, not to a former soldier but to former neighbor Fred Corey, the son of Martha Dunn Corey. The Richerts’ eldest son Ralph was married in 1924 to a woman he had met when both were students at the Oregon Agricultural College (now Oregon State University). Another Richert son, Roy, attended San Diego High School where he starred as a tackle on the football team. He was described as a silent, savage fighter who hit the line hard and crashed through opponents. He also attended the Oregon college and starred on the Aggie football team where he was named captain in his senior year. He was married on New Year’s Eve 1927 in the St. Francis chapel at Balboa Park. Roy Richert turned down a chance to become the football coach at San Diego High and instead became a coach in Oakland. Elizabeth (Bessie) Richert married James Bowers, a dentist, in 1928, and moved to Monrovia. In 1935 the Richerts’ youngest son Thomas, a star athlete and medical student, married Loretta Turnbull, world’s champion woman speedboat pilot, in St. James-by-the-Sea Church in La Jolla. The Union reported that after a short reception the couple boarded the Turnbull yacht for a brief honeymoon in local waters before motoring to Montreal where he would complete his medical studies.

Joseph J. Richert died in January 1936. His obituary in the Union noted that he had come to San Diego in 1887, spent most of his life here as a rancher, and owned extensive property in Rose Canyon. Margaret Richert died in 1951 at her home on the corner of Diamond and Olney streets. The home is still standing today, recently restored to its former glory.

In 1940 Mrs. Richert had sold the ranch property in Rose Canyon to George Sawday and Oliver Sexson, ‘cattle barons’ who already ran large herds around Ramona, Julian and Warner Springs (and at the nearby Los Penasquitos ranch). However, the pueblo lands around Rose Canyon were also in the path of San Diego’s urban growth and cattle ranching was not to be part of the plan. In 1956 San Diego voters approved a proposition authorizing the sale of pueblo land on Torrey Pines mesa to the University of California for a San Diego campus, and in 1960 the university regents voted to acquire the land and begin development of UCSD. The city also developed a master plan for a University City to surround the new campus and provide housing and commercial services for the tens of thousands of students, faculty and staff expected to be attracted to the university. This new city would extend east and south of the campus as far as San Clemente Canyon, most of it on land once owned or leased by the Richerts. Development began in the 1960s with the University City housing tract and is still underway, most recently with construction of a new San Diego trolley line through Rose Canyon to the university.

Approximate location of pueblo lots in the La Jolla Village and University City area today. Lots once owned by Richert are outlined in red; lots outlined in green were leased from the city (Google Maps satellite view)

 

 

The Scripps at Braemar

Braemar Manor, prior to 1926 renovation (San Diego History Center #93:18888)

Frederick Tudor (Fred, F. T.) Scripps was born in 1850 in Rushville, Illinois. His widowed father had emigrated from England with six children from his previous marriages (among whom was Ellen Browning Scripps), married again, and raised five more children in the Rushville area. Fred was the third of these children; the youngest, Edward Willis (E. W.) Scripps, born in 1854, went on to establish a newspaper empire which eventually became the E. W. Scripps Company, a media conglomerate which exists to this day. While E. W., Ellen and her brother (his half-brother) James were prospering in the newspaper business, Fred remained a farmer in the Rushville area. He was described as the ‘problem’ sibling in the Scripps family; never settling on a career, moving from one venture to another, and losing money along the way. Nevertheless, the Scripps family remained close and in 1890 Fred and Ellen travelled to California to visit his sister (her half-sister) Annie who had moved to Alameda for her health. After a month in northern California Fred and Ellen traveled to San Diego to visit cousins and spent some time traveling around the region, including Pacific Beach and La Jolla and the undeveloped land east of these suburbs that was then called Linda Vista.

Both Ellen and Fred were impressed with the San Diego area, particularly Fred who, like his sister Annie, suffered from arthritis and felt that he would benefit from the milder climate. They convinced E. W. to visit later in the year and he also liked what he saw and agreed to join Ellen in purchasing property in Linda Vista. They began by purchasing three tracts of land totaling 400 acres north of Carroll Canyon, extending east from about where Interstate 15 runs today. Fred sold his farm in Rushville and moved to San Diego to oversee development of the new Scripps estate. Construction of a palatial home on the property, which E. W. Scripps named Miramar, began in 1891 and proceeded throughout the decade; when completed in 1898 it had grown to 49 rooms.

Sarah Emma Jessop was born in England in 1871. Her father, Joseph Jessop, a jeweler, had been told by his English doctor that his ‘chances for health’ depended on moving to Southern California. His doctor also prescribed a change of careers, giving up his jewelry business in favor of the outdoor life of a rancher. Accordingly, the Jessops moved to San Diego County in 1890 and bought a 50-acre ranch in Linda Vista, a location which is between today’s Black Mountain Road and Interstate 15, north of Miramar Road and south of Carroll Canyon Road. The Jessops and the Scripps thus became neighbors; the northeast corner of the Jessops’ property met the southwest corner of the Scripps’. Fred Scripps and Emma Jessop became acquainted and in December 1893, when he was 43 and she was 20, they were married.

E. W. and Ellen Scripps had intended for their ranch to become a home not only for themselves but also for other members of their extended family, but even with the addition of separate wings it apparently was never large enough for all of them. Ellen was the first to leave, beginning her long association with La Jolla when she bought property on Prospect Street in 1896. Fred and Emma followed soon after, purchasing property on the shore of Mission Bay and building their bay-front home Braemar Manor.

The land at the northwest corner of Mission Bay had once been the property of James Poiser, who had raised sheep there and watered them at freshwater springs in the area.  Poiser had purchased 40 acres in the north end of Pueblo Lot 1803 from Alonzo Horton in 1885 and was among those whose land was acquired by the Pacific Beach Company in 1887.  Poiser’s deed granted the Pacific Beach Company his 40 acres ‘excepting therefrom 1 acre previously sold, and 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’. On a map of the Pacific Beach subdivision recorded at the end of 1894, Map 791, this property had become Acre Lots 70 and 71, Blocks 387 and 389, and ‘Poisers 1 Acre’.

The bayside Poisers 1 Acre tract passed through the hands of several other owners before F. T. Scripps acquired it in December 1899. He also bought Acre Lot 71, at the southwest corner of the streets that became Bayard Street and Pacific Beach Drive. Scripps wasted little time developing his property; the San Diegan – Sun newspaper (owned by E. W. Scripps) noted in October 1900 that ‘F. Scripps is making a fine home on the old Poiser place near the bay. The inside finish of his house is of white cedar. He has also a fine, commodious barn, wharf and all conveniences of a seaside home’. Landscaping of the 7-acre site was also underway; the Evening Tribune reported in November 1900 that Mr. Scripps was improving his place at the ocean front by putting in roses and bulbs.

By the end of 1901 the home had become ‘Mr. Fred Scripps beautiful residence on the bay’. Early photos showed a large two-story home with a central gabled section which featured a balcony overlooking the bay, dormer windows to each side and a covered porch extending the full width of the building on the bay side. The Scripps’ home was notable not only for its size and architecture but also for its landscaping.  Emma Scripps was an avid gardener and, with Kate Sessions, one of the founding members of the San Diego Floral Association in 1907. In an article she wrote for the association journal The California Garden in 1909, Mrs. Scripps figuratively led visitors through her garden, from a ‘geranium walk’ to beds of asters, penstemons, dahlias and a glorious bed of gladiolus flowers, over 600 bulbs, each with a stem of cherry-red blossoms 18 inches in length and all in bloom at the same time. There was also a bed of chrysanthemums, a Japanese garden, and flat stepping stones picked up on the beach leading through a pergola of cypress logs.

Aerial view of Braemar Manor and grounds (Pacific Beach Historical Society photo)

Mr. Scripps went on to purchase and subdivide other tracts of land between his home on Mission Bay and Ellen’s home in La Jolla, becoming prominent as a real estate developer. His holdings included the Braemar subdivision adjacent to his home, the Ocean Front subdivision between Diamond and Chalcedony streets, and F. T. Scripps Addition to La Jolla Park, between Marine and Westbourne streets in La Jolla (which included Rushville Street, named for his home town). He was also instrumental in improving the road connecting his properties that became La Jolla Boulevard.

Mrs. Scripps belonged to a number of community organizations, including the Pacific Beach Reading Club, and frequently hosted these groups’ meetings in her home. The Scripps property was also the scene of elaborate public events to benefit causes which Mrs. Scripps supported. In 1910 the San Diego Floral Association cordially invited the public to the beautiful garden of Mr. and Mrs. F. T. Scripps, at Brae Mar, which would be converted into Fairyland for the benefit of the Talent Workers’ Hospital fund. The garden would be decorated in the most lavish manner and there would be Japanese and oriental refreshment booths, a flower booth, fortune teller’s booth, candy booth and apron, fancy work and tooled leather booths. The San Diego Union added that the booths would be filled with bright articles, not the least of these being the ‘pretty and popular girls’ who would be in charge of them. ‘Misses Violet, Fanny and Linda Jessop, sisters of Mrs. Scripps, are to meet the guests and look after their welfare generally’.

In 1914, Mrs. Scripps invited the Floral Association to Braemar Manor for an outdoor meeting.  The California Garden reported that whereas the only living things on the place when the Scripps took possession twelve years before were a few cypress trees and Bermuda grass, today the grounds were surrounded with double rows of Phoenix Canariensis palms, ‘large and sturdy in appearance’.  Here and there were various out-buildings, including a substantial wigwam built by ‘real red men’ and filled with numberless Indian relics and curios. There was a lath house, rich in ferns and tuberous begonias and a luxuriant grapevine formed an arbor which the sun could not penetrate. On the bay front were other summer houses, including a Japanese teagarden and a little log hut. Florally, despite sitting just off the ocean front and with sandy soil, Braemar had produced creditable blooms of almost every flower family. Mrs. Scripps’ roses had long been famous through having won many ribbons and cups at the flower shows.

In 1921 Miss Annie Scripps, the Scripps’ youngest daughter, married Austen Brown, a graduate of the Army and Navy Academy in Pacific Beach. The wedding took place at ‘Brae Mar Manor, the Scripps home in Pacific Beach’ and was solemnized in the conservatory of the home. The Tribune reported that the bride looked very pretty in her white velvet gown and veil, and her sister Miss Mary Scripps, set her well off in a charming dark frock. The roles were reversed two years later when Mary Scripps married William Gardner Corey, son of Pacific Beach pioneer Dr. Martha Dunn Corey, in July 1923.   That wedding took place at Saint James-by-the-Sea in La Jolla with Mrs. A. G. Brown (nee Annie Scripps) as matron of honor, followed by a wedding reception at the home of the bride’s parents in Pacific Beach.

Braemar Manor had always been an impressive residence but in the mid-1920s it underwent an extensive renovation which included both new construction and a change in style. The new construction included the addition of a dining room with an arched ceiling that was attached to the west end of the estate (and which is the only surviving portion of the home, although now in a different location). The new dining room was finished in the then-popular half-timbered look with leaded windows called English cottage style, and the original portions of the house were also upgraded with leaded windows, towering brick chimneys and exposed exterior woodwork to match.

Braemar Manor, after 1926 renovation (San Diego History Center #87:16174)

Scripps also took steps during 1926 to make the surrounding neighborhood more to his liking. In May the Common Council adopted a resolution closing the half-block of Bayard Street that had continued south of what is now Braemar Lane. The property east of the closed portion of Bayard Street was divided into three parcels fronting on Mission Bay which were distributed to three of the four Scripps children (F. Tudor, Jr., the youngest, was only 18 at the time). Thomas Scripps, the oldest, received the western-most lot, separated from his parents’ property by the closed portion of Bayard Street, and his own bayside home was completed by the end of the year. The closed portion of Bayard Street effectively became a private drive into the grounds of the Scripps compound.

The upgrades to the Scripps’ property were followed by even larger and more elaborate social and community events. In June 1926 Emma Scripps and two of her sisters gave an elaborate garden tea in honor of their other sister, Fannie, Mrs. Frederick C. Sherman.  Mrs. Sherman was moving to Long Beach soon to join her husband, who was an officer aboard the battleship USS West Virginia. The Union reported that the affair, to be given at the Scripps’ home, Braemar, at Pacific Beach, would present a lovely setting with colorful awnings and umbrellas throughout the gardens, and on the beautiful strip of beach which adjoined the garden. An orchestra would provide special music during the afternoon on the spacious lawn.

In 1928 the Scripps’ neighbors, the ZLAC Rowing Club, needed funds to build a clubhouse and money was raised by selling tickets to a May fete in the ‘beautiful and spacious gardens of Mrs. F. T. Scripps who is now an honorary member of the club’. According to the Evening Tribune, the garden fete at the Fred Scripps home in Braemar on June 2 was one of the most important social functions of the season;  ‘The Scripps gardens are among the show places of San Diego, and include many interesting features, among them being the log cabin, where a dark mammy will tell fortunes; an adobe house built by the Indians of Mesa Grande, and an unusually attractive lath house’.

A year later, in April 1929, the Union announced that Brae Mar, the charming home of F. T. Scripps at the head of False Bay, with its colorful gardens and walks, had again been chosen by the ZLAC Rowing Club as the setting for its annual garden fete. In addition to an open air dancing pavilion, a crystal gazer to read fortunes, a Japanese tea room and a novel Indian house, special entertainment for children had been planned; ‘On the Scripps private beach is a replica of the Mayflower and around this boat will be treasure hunts, ponies to ride, and story tellers to interest the little ones’.

Replica of the Mayflower on the beach in front of Braemar Manor (San Diego History Center #2380-2)

By 1931 the ZLAC fete had become a ‘brilliant function’ on the ‘social horizon’ of the ‘elite sets’ in San Diego. The Evening Tribune heralded the Fourth Annual Garden Fete of the ZLAC Rowing Club as the most important of forthcoming affairs; ‘Ever since the first Garden Fete was given four years ago, this function has climaxed the social activities of each Spring season’. The outstanding feature of the afternoon’s entertainment was expected to be the Tom Thumb Wedding in which the little four- and five-year-old sons and daughters of older ZLAC members were to come down through the Grape Arbor to the open garden where the ceremony was to be solemnized. After the event the Tribune reported that the colorful garden fete in the beautiful gardens of Mrs. Fred T. Scripps at Braemar had been one of the most successful ever, with over 1500 guests and over $1000 collected for the new club house fund. An unusually large number of children were present to enjoy the pirate ship, puppet show and Tom Thumb wedding. Miss Ann Packard and her twin sister Mrs. Norman Karns, members of ZLAC crew 11, were in charge of the exciting pirate ship and Myra Rife Smith, another ZLAC member, was the veiled fortune teller.

ZLAC garden fetes were held again in 1932 and 1933, described as the opening event of the early summer season which marked the beginning of the highly enjoyable out-of-doors events which made summer a season of gayety. No fete was held in 1934 however, and in 1935 the Union noted that while Garden Mayfairs are in San Diego’s social tradition, the ZLAC Rowing Club had given up its annual garden party in May at Braemar. Fortunately, the Neighborhood House was carrying on the tradition by opening the George Marston gardens each springtime for a similar fete.

The end of the ZLAC fetes did not mean an end to other social events on the Scripps estate, which included gatherings of the Scripps’ and Jessops’ large extended families. In September 1935 the San Diego Union carried a photo spread (‘Young Society Splashes in Good Old Summertime’), showing cousins Billy Corey, Mitch Corey and Carroll Scripps ready for a slide at Braemar, Carrington Corey, Jack Sherman, George Jessop and Tommy Scripps being taught to swim, and Virginia Corey ready for a plunge, at the home of their grandparents in Pacific Beach.

Frederick T. Scripps died at the age of 85 in January 1936. The brother of the late E. W. Scripps and the late Ellen Browning Scripps was said to have lived quietly, devoting himself to his family and real estate activities. His widow, Emma, remained on the family estate for many years and continued the tradition of gracious entertainment for the community. In July 1936 the Union reported that many of the same attractions seen at the ZLAC affairs were again put to use for a charming English garden fete arranged by the Pacific Beach Presbyterian Church in the lovely bayside home of Mrs. F. T. Scripps; ‘booths and tables common to this sort of outdoor fair, fortune tellers of mystic powers, pirate ship and treasure chest attractions for the youngsters, wandering troubadours and Spanish and Mexican dances on the green’. Refreshments would be served in the music room with the assistance of a group of ‘charming sub-debs’.

In 1937 the lovely gardens of Mrs. F. T. Scripps at the foot of Bayard Street in Pacific Beach were scheduled to be the scene of one of the prettiest garden parties of the opening of summer, this time under the auspices of the Pacific Beach Women’s Club. Again, fortune tellers would peer into the future and would reveal what is in store for inquirers and there would be a fish pond and puppet show and treasure chests for the youngsters aboard the old ‘pirate ship’ which stood on the water’s edge of the big estate which borders Mission Bay. The Union even carried a photo of Little Miss Annie Linda Brown and Miss Diana Scripps, cunning granddaughters of Mrs. Scripps, contemplating the beauty of the garden as they planned which of the many exciting things to interest small folk they would patronize at the garden party the following afternoon.

Mrs. Sarah Emma Scripps continued to live at Braemar until her death in September 1954. The 7-acre estate was then acquired by Vernon Taylor and Clinton McKinnon, who began the process of rezoning so that a 3 million dollar hotel could be constructed on the property. Braemar Manor was razed in 1959 and construction began on the Catamaran Motor Hotel, an ‘oriental-styled modern hostelry’ on Mission Bay, with completion anticipated for early summer. In January 1960 the Union’s society columnist attended a party at the new hotel on the site of the ‘Stratford manor house of the late Mr. and Mrs. F. Tudor Scripps’ and reported that the dining room (with cathedral arches) was being developed as a wedding chapel and the Old English garden, setting for the ZLAC fairs of two decades ago, had become severely simple Japanese walks paved with grey beach pebbles from Mexican beaches.

Weddings at the Catamaran Wedding Chapel began in 1962 and were popular until the chapel was again moved to make way for a parking garage in 1986. The building was donated to the Pacific Beach Town Council and moved to a site on the other side of Pacific Beach, a ‘useless and vacant lot’ owned by the Navy on the south side of Garnet Avenue, across from Soledad Mountain Road and bordering Rose Creek. The site had been acquired by the government as part of the wartime Bayview Terrace public housing project and later transferred to the Navy for its Capehart housing project. Nothing was ever built on that particular parcel and the Navy offered to lease the property as a community service. Now known as the Rose Creek Cottage, it is still available for weddings and other special events.

While nothing remains of the F. T. Scripps family’s presence in Pacific Beach, the enduring legacy of the extended Scripps family is familiar to most San Diegans. E. W. and Ellen Browning Scripps provided support for the Marine Biological Association laboratory in La Jolla in 1903; the lab later merged with the University of California, becoming the Scripps Institution for Biological Research, then, as the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, was the foundation of the University of California, San Diego campus in La Jolla. Scripps Hospital and Scripps Metabolic Clinic, established by Ellen Scripps in 1924 and originally located near her home in La Jolla, have evolved into Scripps Health, now considered San Diego’s premier health care provider. Ellen Scripps and her sister Virginia also supported The Bishop’s School, founded in 1909, again near her home in La Jolla, and which is still one of San Diego’s, and the country’s, top independent college-prep schools. In 1926 Ellen Scripps founded Scripps College, a women’s liberal arts college on the Claremont Colleges campus in Claremont, California. Miramar, the Scripps’ ranch and their first home in the San Diego area, gave its name to the nearby military air station and the development that grew up around it and when the ranch itself was sold by the Scripps heirs in the 1960s the residential community built on the property was named Scripps Ranch.

The Jessop name is also still remembered in San Diego. Disregarding his doctor’s advice, Joseph Jessop gave up the outdoor life of his ranch in Linda Vista and opened a watchmaking and jewelry shop on F Street downtown. Jessop Jewelers became a San Diego institution and was still operated by the Jessop family until 2018, when the last shop was closed. Jessop’s watchmaking background was memorialized in a 24-foot-tall street clock built over a century ago that had stood outside Jessop Jewelers on Fifth Avenue and more recently in Horton Plaza shopping center. The clock was vandalized and removed from the mall for repair in 2019 but Jim Jessop, Joseph’s grandson, has announced that it will be restored and put on display at a new location.

Legendary Collingwood Estate

In 1974 San Diego Union columnist Frank Rhoades wrote about a businesswoman who had bought a four-story, 14-room Pacific Beach house on a huge lot at 1650 Collingwood Drive in Congress Heights. Rhoades wrote that the famed house had been built early in the century by a state senator named Collingwood and was known as the Senator Collingwood Estate. The new owner, Patrice Dorough, had spent $30,000 restoring it to the mansion it was when built in 1914. An ad in the Union a few years later (‘View View View’) offered the ‘prestigious Collingwood estate’ for lease, a 4 BR, 2 ½ ba home w/turn-of-the century charm. Rhoades soon reported that the historic 17-room house, built in 1910, the main structure on the Collingwood estate and perhaps the first house in Pacific Beach, had been leased.

Patrice Dorough did live at 1650 Collingwood in the 1970s and perhaps she did have her residence restored to what it had been in 1914, but what it had been then was not the estate of a mythical state senator, much less the first house in Pacific Beach, but instead the home built for a young Pacific Beach real estate salesman named Charles Norris. In August 1913 the San Diego Union listed a building permit for a nine-room frame residence at Wilbur near Jewell in Pacific Beach, valued at $6500. A month later the Union followed up with a story that included a ‘perspective design’ of the residence and provided what amounted to a guided tour:

The house is entered through a porch having a cement floor and steps leading thereto. The reception hall is of white enamel trim, with birch doors and window sash stained with a mahogany finish, the stairs are of the old colonial type, having a spiral newel post composed of a spindle balustrade carried around a central post and on up the stairs. The spindrels, risers and strings are to be painted white, while the hand rail and treads will be of birch with a mahogany finish. The dining room, which is large and has light from two sides with French doors leading onto a side porch, is finished the same as the hall. The living room is finished in a natural white cedar. In this room is a large tile mantel of unique design, and bookcases. The kitchen and pantry are in white enamel and have all the built-in features.

On the second floor there are four bedrooms, a sewing room and two baths with tile floor and base. This floor is to be finished entirely in white enamel.

In the basement there is a large furnace room, storage room and a cistern with pump to furnish the house with rain water. A solar heater on the roof will supply hot water. The entire exterior is to be plastered over metal lath.

The structure was designed and is being erected by the Pacific Building Company.

The Evening Tribune reported in November 1913 that the beautiful new home of Charles Norris, under construction on the hills, was nearing completion; ‘It is the first residence being built on the new tract just opened, owned by A. H. Frost. The grounds are being improved and a number of sites are being located for other new homes. Mr. Norris and family expect to be settled in their new home for the Christmas holidays.’

Like most property in Pacific Beach at the time, the site had belonged to the San Diego Beach Company, the former Folsom Bros. Co. renamed in 1911 when the Folsom brothers retired and A. H. Frost became president. In 1913 the company had transferred about four blocks north of Beryl Street and between Ingraham and Kendall streets to Frost, and in early 1914 Frost incorporated these blocks into a new subdivision to be called the Congress Heights Addition. The map of Congress Heights replaced Wilbur Street with Collingwood Drive and added Malden Street, Monmouth Drive and Colina Street (the original map included a short extension of Jewell Street that was further extended in 1926 when Colina Street was renamed Jewell). The recently completed house, the only residence in the new subdivision, stood on lots 119 and 120, at the corner of Collingwood, Colina and Malden in the center of Congress Heights. The assessed value of the improvement in the city’s tax books was $750 (compared to an average assessment of $150-$250 for other houses in Pacific Beach).

In April 1915 Pacific Beach was the subject of the San Diego Union’s series of ‘Little Journeys to the Suburbs’ which reported that PB was one of the most desirable of the local communities, a locality of homes composed largely of people who had retired from active business. Several of the county’s show places were within its environs, notably the homes of F. T. Scripps, James H. Haskins and Charles C. Norris (the Scripps home, also assessed at $750, once stood where the Catamaran is now and the Haskins home, assessed at $450, is still standing on Diamond Street across from the middle school).

Charles Norris was not one of those Pacific Beach residents who had retired from active business. When he moved in to his new home around the Christmas holidays in 1913 he was not yet thirty years old and was an active real estate salesman. In the 1900 census he had been living on Julian Street in the Ocean View area of San Diego with his mother Sarah and his older sister Alice. Charles, age 15, was ‘at school’ at that time and a ‘student’ in the 1903 city directory, by which time the family had moved to 1534 Fifth Street. In April 1903 the family apparently visited La Jolla; a list of arrivals at the Seaside Inn included Mrs. S. R. Norris, Alice G. Norris and Chas. Norris (A. H. Frost was also on the list and they may have first met there). By 1904, when the family lived at 1644 Tenth Street, near the corner of Tenth and Date, Charles was a clerk at E. J. Swayne, a local real estate office. Charles Norris was listed as a salesman at E. J. Swayne in the 1905 city directory.

The Norris family made news in September 1906 when their home at Tenth and Date streets was burglarized while the family were out calling on some friends on Golden Hill. According to the Evening Tribune, when Mrs. Norris and son Charles Norris of the E. J. Swayne real estate company returned home about 9:20 o’clock they were surprised to find the doors open and to hear someone moving about the house, but the thief had seen their approach and darted out the rear door when they entered. Within the house everything was turned upside down, drawers being opened on the floor and the whole house in general disorder. The Tribune noted that the thieves were experts of the highest order; they took only the solid silver, discarding the plate, and only the best of Mrs. Norris’ and her daughter’s jewelry. Charles Norris, immediately after phoning to police headquarters, set out after the thieves, tracking them from footprints under the window. The plunder taken consisted of many valuable pieces of silver and jewelry many of which were heirlooms of the family, the total value being about $500. The police were watching all trains and had notified the jewelry stores and pawnshops.

About a week later the thief was caught by police officers at the San Diego Savings Bank when he attempted to change a pocketful of small change. The Tribune explained that at one of his recent heists he had gotten away with the contents of a child’s savings bank containing about $20, mostly in small silver and nickels. The police surmised that the thief would attempt to change this ‘chicken feed’ into money of larger denomination, and had requested all banks, saloons, cigar stores and business houses to be on the watch and report anything suspicious. After prolonged ‘sweating’ following his arrest, H. F. Hammond broke down and confessed to robbing five residences and was jailed in lieu of $2,000 bond. He had been living at the Willard Hotel and on searching the room the stolen jewelry was found hidden between the sides of the upper drawer of his bureau and its outside casing. From Mrs. Norris’ residence he had taken two watches, one of which was a lady’s silver watch; two solid gold necklaces, one diamond ring worth over $75, two gold rings, one pair of diamond ear rings, two gold chain watch fobs, one costly razor, one silver neck chain and one diamond pin.

In 1907 the Norris family moved to Pacific Beach where they lived in a home owned by A. H. Frost at the northwest corner of Olney Street and Garnet Avenue. Charles Norris still worked for E. J. Swayne but was also involved in real estate transactions on his own account, including a lot with a nine-room house on Fifth Street between Maple and Nutmeg ‘amidst the best in the Florence Heights residence section’ which he bought for $6000 as an investment in 1908. In 1909 Norris sold a lot on Tenth between I and J streets to D. C. Reed for $5000. C. C. Norris also owned unimproved property in Pacific Beach, including several lots on Diamond Street across Ingraham from the Haskins home. Mrs. Norris was active in social circles in Pacific Beach; she was one of the ‘handsomely gowned’ ladies who assisted Mrs. Haskins in receiving at the annual reception for the Pacific Beach Reading Club in December 1908 and was also among the guests present at the club rooms of the Pacific Beach Country Club on the occasion of the 12th wedding anniversary of Mr. and Mrs. Alfred Pease in 1909 (Mr. Pease was secretary of the San Diego Beach Company). The 1910 census found the family still living on Garnet Avenue, Charles reporting his occupation as real estate salesman and Sarah as ‘own income’.

In the years after 1910 Charles Norris apparently left E. J. Swayne and worked independently out of an office in the Granger building on Fifth Street downtown while continuing to live with his mother and sister in Pacific Beach. After moving into the house in Congress Heights in 1914 his listing in the San Diego city directory no longer referred to a downtown office, simply listing his occupation as ‘real estate’ and his residence (and his mother’s and sister’s) as ‘nr Lamont North Pacific Beach’.

The 1916 city directory listing for Charles Norris, real estate, added that he worked at 4437 Lamont Street, the address of A. H. Frost’s San Diego Beach Company office, formerly the office of Folsom Bros. Co. and before that the Pacific Beach Hotel (the building had been moved to the corner of Lamont and Hornblend streets from the beach area by Sterling Honeycutt in 1897). Although he lived at the home on Collingwood Drive until 1918 that property (and all other property in Congress Heights) was also actually owned by A. H. Frost.

In July 1918 Charles Norris married Miss Ethel Thomas in Toledo, Ohio, and after an extended wedding trip the couple returned to Pacific Beach in August. Miss Thomas had lived on Collingwood Avenue in Toledo and there is speculation that she had a hand in naming the street in Congress Heights (even though the street was named years before her marriage and relocation to Pacific Beach). The couple did not remain on Collingwood for long, however; they were not listed in the 1919 San Diego city directory and the 1920 census showed Charles and Ethel Norris living in Monroe, Michigan, near Toledo, where he was a salesman for Delco Light. They did return to California after a few years, first to Riverside and, fifteen years later, Pasadena, and finally to Orange County.

A. H. Frost sold lots 119 and 120 of Congress Heights to William Young in November 1918 and in April 1919 it was sold again, to Carolyne Percy. In 1932 Mrs. Percy sold the property to Charles Benton, a paint manufacturer and roofing contractor. When the Bentons moved in it was still the only address on Collingwood Drive but with the population explosion in Pacific Beach during and after the second world war the Bentons had 14 neighbors on Collingwood by 1954. In 1960 the home was owned by retired rear admiral John Andrew and made news when a 21-month-old baby who had wandered away from a nearby birthday party fell into the pool. The baby was pulled out within minutes and resuscitated by a neighbor using mouth-to-mouth respiration.

The Norris home had originally occupied two lots and was surrounded on three sides by streets; Collingwood Drive, Malden Street and Colina (later Jewell) Street. In 1961 Admiral Andrew sold the eastern-most 50 feet of lot 120, facing Jewell Street, and the new owners built a home there, at 4960 Jewell, completing the buildout of homes on the block. What was once the first residence in a new tract, and a notable show place, is now one of the row of elegant homes lining Collingwood Drive, but the one with a legacy (and a legend).

Pacific Beach Historical Society Photo

1704 Grand – Then and Now

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Train Wreck and Reckoning

On January 16, 1908, the 1:55 PM train with 30 passengers bound for Pacific Beach and La Jolla departed from the Los Angeles & San Diego Beach Railway station at the foot of C Street in San Diego. According to the San Diego Union, the train was steaming through Middletown at a fair rate of speed when it left the rails and plowed along the ties for fully 300 feet before the engine turned over on its side at right angles to the track. The engineer, Thomas Robertson, was pinned in the engine’s cab by the reverse lever and scalded to death by steam escaping from the boiler. The fireman, Thomas Fitzgerald, was hurled head foremost into a clump of cactus and also badly burned by escaping steam (he died of his injuries 10 days later). Although women screamed and men made for the doors, the two coaches and mixed coach/baggage car making up the train remained upright and came to a standstill amid the hiss of the steam. Not a passenger was even so much as scratched nor was there a window in either of the three cars broken; the fright incident to the cars bumping along over the ties and a severe shaking up summed up the damage to the passengers.

The Union interviewed one passenger, Miss Zoe Overshiner, a 16-year-old girl from Pacific Beach who was on a front seat of the first car and ‘tells a graphic story of the accident’:

I was talking with [a] friend of mine about something, I’ve forgotten what it was now, when all of a sudden the engine began to act funny and our car began bumping heavily. This was due, as we afterwards found out to the fact that it had left the rails. The first shock was not so bad as might have been expected and we were not frightened until we saw the engine plunge over the bank and turn over on its side. Then the steam hid the engine and I climbed through the window of the car and jumped to the ground. I didn’t want to get hurt and the door wouldn’t open, or at least, I though it wouldn’t. I don’t remember whether I screamed. Maybe I did. It was enough to make any one scream when the engine reared up in the air and turned over on its side. It’s no joke to be in a railroad wreck.

The writer added that ‘it is probable that she is right’.

The 1908 train wreck occurred where Winder Street then crossed the railroad right-of-way, near where West Washington Street passes under I-5 today. The immediate cause was said to have been ‘spreading of the rails’; spikes holding one of the rails to the ties had come loose, the rail had shifted and the engine had fallen through and bumped along on the ties. The railroad company admitted that while much of the line had recently been improved with heavier 60-pound rails, the work of relaying the track had stopped short of the site of the accident, where the rails were of the lighter 35-pound type first used on the line and in service ever since. However, the company claimed that the track where the wreck occurred had been put in good shape two or three days before.

Like Miss Overshiner, most of the passengers who had been scared and severely shaken up in the accident were residents of Pacific Beach or La Jolla, and the two victims were also long-time local residents. Thomas Fitzgerald had worked for what was then the San Diego, Old Town and Pacific Beach Railway when it was first completed to the foot of Grand Avenue in 1888, and he had built a house on Reed Avenue near the depot there. Thomas Robertson’s family had once lived in the Pacific Beach Hotel building near the depot and Mrs. Robertson was a charter member of the Pacific Beach Reading Club. When the railroad was extended to La Jolla in 1894, becoming the San Diego, Pacific Beach and La Jolla Railway, these railway employees had moved to its new base there, where the Robertsons’ home was noted for its rose garden (although the company’s name was changed again in 1906, suggesting a move even further up the coast, the tracks were never extended beyond La Jolla).

Understandably, a fatal train wreck involving a number of their fellow citizens and raising doubts about the safety of their only transportation link to the city caused concern, and sparked anger and outrage, in the affected communities. On January 27, eleven days after the accident, the Union reported that 25 or 30 people attended a hearing before the city council of a petition signed by nearly 200 citizens of Pacific Beach, La Jolla and other points along the line of the LA&SDB asking for an investigation (at the time there were only about 300 households in Pacific Beach and La Jolla combined):

We the undersigned, citizens of Old Town and patrons of the Los Angeles & San Diego Beach railway, most respectfully request that your honorable body fully investigate the conditions and methods of said railroad. That all laws and ordinances of every kind regulating said railroad be vigorously enforced, so that not only our rights as citizens be secured, our comforts and conveniences be regarded, but our lives and those of our families be made reasonably secure when forced to use said railroad. We would call your attention to the following notorious facts:

First. This road is and has been for some time in a frightfully dangerous condition, many of the ties being rotten and the spikes in such a state that they can be extracted with the fingers. Even the new parts of the road being, in the opinion of those competent to judge, badly constructed. The engines and cars are very old, small, out of date and without the safety equipment the law requires, all this making travel perilous to the last degree, so much so that the late sad accident, long predicted, might have been a frightful calamity.

Second. The convenience or wishes of the citizens are in no way considered as to train service or the time table. The trains are too few in number and are run at inconvenient hours.

Only a part of the abuses have been stated, but we pray your honorable body that steps be taken by you to secure our rights and restore our comforts and safety.

At the council meeting, which was also attended by General Manager Hornbeck and Attorney Leovy representing the railroad company, a Mr. Dyer, said to have lately located at Pacific Beach, stated that every statement made in the petition was true (there is no contemporary record of a Mr. Dyer in Pacific Beach; possibly the speaker was Mr. De Hart, who had recently moved to a home on Shasta Street). He said that with reasonably safe and proper railway service many hundreds would be added to the population of Pacific Beach but as it was, every time people boarded the trains they did so with fear and trembling. Mr. Rockwood (of The Rockwood, PB’s first apartment building, at Bayard Street and Thomas Avenue, a block from the railroad’s Ocean Front station on Grand at Bayard) described how he had found a broken rail just the day before the accident and had flagged down a train with a red bandana, possibly preventing another accident. He also explained how it was possible to pull spikes from the ties with the fingers and that dozens of the ties were rotten. A. C. Pike (presumably W. A. Pike, who owned most of the two blocks north of the railroad’s Grand Avenue right-of-way, adjacent to its Pacific Beach station at Lamont Street) stated that he had actually counted 702 rotten ties, that many spikes were not properly driven and many of the rails were rusty, being, in fact, crystalized with it. He closed his remarks with the ‘somewhat  abrupt conclusion’ that the whole road was rotten, equipment, roadbed, even the official management. A. S. Lane (whose home on Hornblend, now the Baldwin Academy, was a block from the Pacific Beach station) asked that a committee be appointed to go over the railroad, although he noted that considerable improvement work had been done since the recent accident.

General Manager Hornbeck replied to the criticisms at considerable length, beginning by complaining  that the petition had been prompted by the spirit expressed by Mr. Pike, that the official management of the railroad was ‘rotten’. He dismissed criticism of the ties, saying that the new, heavier rails were laid on the same class of ties and would have been laid on the existing ties at the scene of the accident except for construction delays. When a protester interrupted Mr. Hornbeck to ask why the railroad had been in such a hurry to burn the ties damaged by the train leaving the track, Mr. Hornbeck replied that this was a dirty, contemptuous story; he agreed that the ties had been burned but that it was 24 hours after the accident, they were worthless and they were burned to get them out of the way.  When Mr. Hornbeck alleged that unfair means had been used to secure signatures for the petition and some had signed without knowing what they were signing, one of the petitioners ‘came to his feet in a hurry’ and declared that Mr. Hornbeck’s statement was a lie. The president of the council attempted to restore order, saying that personalities must not enter into the discussion – to which the petitioner replied that Mr. Hornbeck had started it. Mr. Hornbeck did agree to the suggestion of a first-hand inspection and invited every member of the council to go over the railroad and see for themselves. After further discussion it was decided to make the trip the following week.

Eight out of the nine members of the city council accompanied by City Engineer Crowell, General Manager Hornbeck and a number of the petitioners, made the inspection trip in a special train. To make the examination thorough, the councilmen walked much of the way from the city to the ‘Scripps station beyond Pacific Beach’, presumably referring to the Ocean Front station on Grand at Bayard Street, the palm-lined drive leading to F. T. Scripps’ bayfront mansion (where the Catamaran Hotel now stands). From Pacific Beach to La Jolla, which would have followed a route along today’s Mission Boulevard, La Jolla Hermosa and Electric avenues, and Cuvier Street, the party inspected the roadbed from an open flat car. According to a report in the San Diego Union the following day, the eight council members were expected to report that the statements in the petition were much exaggerated and that the line was reasonably safe for travel, probably as much so as any of the railroads running out of the city. ‘After the representations made by the petitioners I was surprised to find things in as good shape as they are’, said one councilman.

The ninth council member, F. J. Goldkamp, dissented from the general consensus of his colleagues. He had made a personal inspection trip over the railroad before the official inspection because, he said, a petition signed by 200 people, 20 of whom had appeared before the council, was a matter that should not have been delayed for 10 or 12 days and that in the meantime the company had a chance to make improvements of the existing conditions. For example, he reported that he saw a worker being employed driving spikes into the ties. Mr. Goldkamp contended that the complaints of the people were fully borne out by the conditions as he found them, and he had personally pulled spikes out of the ties with his fingers.

The two reports resulting from the separate inspections of the LA&SDB were presented to the city council at a meeting on February 18, 1908. According to the San Diego Union, the report by City Engineer Crowell ‘practically exonerated’ the company from the charges made by citizens of Pacific Beach and La Jolla and concluded that the roadbed was perfectly safe for public travel. Mr. Crowell’s report stated that the roadbed from the downtown station to a point past Winder Street in Middletown was in fine condition, having been recently relaid with new 60-pound steel rails and the grades much improved by cutting down the hills and filling in the low points besides straightening the line and eliminating two bad curves. From the end of the new track to Old Town the track had the old light rails and there were many bad ties, although they were no worse than was found on any other railroad leading out of the city.

Through Old Town the track had been straightened out and entirely reconstructed with new ties and 60-pound rails. The bridge over the San Diego River was in good condition except for some bolts that needed to be tightened. ‘In one or two instances’ he found a tie in a condition that would allow pulling a spike out with the fingers, a condition which also applied to the parallel Santa Fe (a mainline railroad with much more traffic carrying much heavier loads).

From Old Town to Pacific Beach the roadbed had been widened and a cut-off built across the race track, eliminating a number of curves (this cut-off replaced the circuitous route around the former race track east of Rose Creek via what are now Mission Bay Drive and Garnet and Balboa avenues to Lamont Street with the more direct route along present-day Grand Avenue to Lamont). He walked over a good portion the track from the Pacific Beach station (Lamont Street) toward the ocean front and found that portion in good condition. ‘After going over the whole length of the road, I have no hesitancy in saying that I do not consider the roadbed in a dangerous condition’.  Mr. Crowell’s report was referred to the city attorney.

Councilman Goldkamp’s report stated that the complaints of the people were fully borne out by the condition of the road at the time of presenting their petition. Owing to the lapse of ten days between presenting the petition and the inspection the railroad people were enabled to employ a large staff of extra men to repair all the worst parts of the road, to replace broken ties, to drive in loose spikes, to put in new ones and cover up all the defects sufficiently to pass the investigation of the councilmen. Mr. Goldkamp contended that this work of making the road appear safer at the time was only of a temporary nature and owing to the rottenness of the ties and the lightness of the rails these parts were liable to become unsafe again very soon. The rolling stock was old and out of date and made more unsafe by the use of old-fashioned link and pin couplings connecting the cars. He concluded that in view of the growing population of Pacific Beach and La Jolla it was time for the service to be modernized. The owners had apparently expressed a desire to ‘electrize’ the line and the council should call upon them to complete that process within six months or their franchise should be forfeited. Mr. Goldkamp’s report was simply filed.

Although the LA&SDB was never ‘electrized’, it did upgrade its rolling stock in the next few months with a pair of new gasoline-powered McKeen rail cars that had the added advantage of being able to operate over the city’s street railways and convey suburban passengers to and from businesses and theaters near the center of town without changing trains (steam trains were not allowed on downtown streets and could only go as far as the line’s terminus at the foot of C Street). The McKeen cars were painted a ‘rich Tuscan red’ and soon became known as ‘Red Devils’. And despite Mr. Goldkamp’s misgivings, the rottenness of the ties and the lightness of the rails did not contribute to any further accidents on the La Jolla line, although about 20 passengers were injured, one seriously, when a La Jolla train collided with a Santa Fe train in 1917 at a crossing near Old Town. The railroad was also involved in accidents with automobiles, including one in which a woman was killed and several other passengers seriously injured when it collided with a La Jolla train in Old Town in 1909.

Automobiles were first introduced to San Diego in 1900 and as their use increased over time, and roads to Pacific Beach and La Jolla were improved, fewer residents were ‘forced’ to use the train to reach destinations downtown. With fewer passengers to pay operating costs, the Los Angeles & San Diego Beach Railway applied to the Public Utilities Commission to discontinue service and in 1919 the line was abandoned. The rails were torn up and sold for scrap, although the section of right-of-way between Grand Avenue and Bird Rock over what are now Mission Boulevard and La Jolla Hermosa Avenue was reused between 1924 and 1940 for an electric railway line from downtown to La Jolla via Mission Beach. North coast residents forced to use that line were still not entirely secure, however. In 1937 a pair of the electric cars collided head-on in heavy fog in the Midway area, injuring 31 passengers, some seriously.

Kate Sessions in PB

Kate Sessions is a legendary figure in San Diego history, best remembered as the ‘Mother of Balboa Park’, which she is credited with transforming from a barren mesa into a landscaped beauty spot and where she is now honored with a bronze statue. Miss Sessions is also honored in Pacific Beach, where a California Registered Historical Landmark at the corner of Garnet Avenue and Pico Street ‘commemorates the life and influence of a woman who envisioned San Diego beautiful’ and explains that she operated a nursery and gained world renown as a horticulturist at that site. A city park overlooking the community and a nearby elementary school are also named in her honor.

In 1892 Kate Sessions had been awarded a 10-year lease on 32 acres of Balboa Park, then called City Park, that required her to plant and maintain 100 ‘choice and varied’ trees in the park and to provide 300 ornamental trees ‘in crocks and boxes’ to the city each year, the trees that transformed the park and eventually shaded many downtown streets. Her lease also allowed her to cultivate and grow additional plants on the site for sale. When her lease in the park and the agreement to provide trees for public spaces came to an end she moved her commercial nursery business to land she had acquired in Mission Hills, then mostly open land in the north of the city. However, Mission Hills was in the path of residential development as San Diego continued to grow and a streetcar line was extended there in 1909. Property values increased and assessments for property taxes also grew. Although Miss Sessions objected, she was unable to obtain relief and she began looking for another area with the climate and soil, and open space, for nursery operations. In 1912 she found what she was looking for in the Mount Soledad foothills above Pacific Beach.

Pueblo Lot 1785 is the half-mile square lying north of Loring Street and east of a northerly projection of Ingraham Street (and the Pacific Beach reservoir site). The eastern 86 acres of Pueblo Lot 1785 had been set apart for the city in 1889, but Miss Sessions and her brother Frank bought the western 74 acres, Frank the northern half and Kate the southern half. Frank Sessions also obtained a 5-year lease on the city’s portion and obtained city permission to install a pumping plant at the adjacent Pacific Beach reservoir to supply a private reservoir he dug at a high point at the northeast corner of his property, near where Soledad Way now meets Soledad Road. He relocated his poinsettia fields from Mission Hills to these lands and by the winter of 1914-15 the San Diego Union reported that the whole hillside was a mass of brilliant red easily discernable from the city.

However, Kate Sessions had other plans for her half of the property in the southwest of the pueblo lot. In 1913 she recorded a subdivision map for Soledad Terrace, dividing the 37-acre parcel into 28 lots connected by Los Altos Road and Soledad Road. Most of these lots were between one and two acres, larger than the typical residential lot but smaller than the acreage lots in the nearby Pacific Beach subdivision. Miss Sessions hoped that lots in her subdivision would appeal to buyers interesting in planting gardens. In April 1915 at least a hundred members of the San Diego Floral Association and other ‘lovers of flowers’ made a ‘pilgrimage’ to Soledad Terrace to inspect the Sessions’ gardens and greenhouses and to hear Miss Sessions’ plans for the development of that section. One of these plans was for completion of Soledad Road to the top of Mount Soledad, and the following April the Floral Association’s visit to Soledad Terrace included a trip by automobile to the top, guided by Miss Sessions, where they celebrated the completion of the road by planting five Torrey pine trees that she donated for the occasion. However, despite the publicity associated with the Floral Association’s annual meetings at Soledad Terrace, Miss Sessions’ real estate venture got off to a slow start. One lot was sold in 1914, another in 1915, and two more in 1916, but sales then stalled until the 1920s and most lots in the central portion of the subdivision remained unsold into the 1930s. The first home in Soledad Terrace was not built until 1926.

Frank Sessions’ five-year lease on the city-owned eastern portion of Pueblo Lot 1785 came to an end in 1917 and he moved on to become superintendent of the city pueblo farm on the mesa between La Jolla and Torrey Pines (where prisoners cut hay and raised vegetables and planted the eucalyptus groves which still stand around the university campus there). His property in the pueblo lot was acquired by Miss Sessions, giving her ownership of the entire western section of the lot. This property included the reservoir that had been used to irrigate the leased land and which she then granted to the city along with an easement for the pipeline supplying it from the Pacific Beach reservoir.

Although she had moved most of her nursery operations to the new growing fields in the Mount Soledad foothills, the Kate Sessions Nursery sales lot remained in Mission Hills into the 1920s and Miss Sessions continued to live in Mission Hills, on Montecito Way, a name she had personally proposed to the City Council. In 1924 she purchased nearly 7 acres of property on Rose Creek in Pacific Beach, property that fronted on Garnet Avenue, then called Grand Avenue and part of the paved highway from San Diego to the north via Pacific Beach and La Jolla (the Pacific Highway through Rose Canyon was not paved until 1930). The nursery sales lot was then moved from Mission Hills to this site, now marked by the historical monument at the corner of Garnet and Pico Street. A tipuana tree that Miss Sessions is supposed to have planted also stands on the site as a ‘living monument’.

In 1927 Miss Sessions herself moved to Pacific Beach, to a ‘two-story cement home’ on lot 22 of Soledad Terrace with a view that ‘could never be obstructed’. In Pacific Beach she was noted for providing inspiration and leadership to community organizations. She frequently addressed the Pacific Beach Woman’s Club and other groups on horticultural topics and was instrumental in founding the Pacific Beach Garden Club. The Floral Association continued to meet annually at her gardens. The Kate Sessions Nursery not only sold plants and trees to retail customers and provided landscaping services to private residences, many of them in Pacific Beach, but also donated plants and landscaping to public institutions such as the new fire station and the school. She was made an honorary member of the ZLAC Rowing Club for her services landscaping their clubhouse on the shore of Mission Bay.

Soledad Road, the extension of Lamont Street that continues to the summit of Mount Soledad, originally climbed the steep slope just north of Loring Street by looping to the west through the Soledad Terrace subdivision before turning north along the boundary between Soledad Terrace and the city land in the eastern part of Pueblo Lot 1785 (although Soledad Road was straightened in 1961, portions of the original loop still exist as Kate Sessions Way and a driveway and storm drain south of today’s Soledad Club). This loop isolated the extreme southwest corner of the city’s property, south and west of the road and east of Soledad Terrace. In 1933 Pacific Beach residents led by Kate Sessions proposed turning this isolated 2-acre section of public property into a city park. Miss Sessions proposed that the little park would be planted with two exotics, blue plumbago and bougainvillea, in addition to native Matilija poppy and two native oak trees (Miss Sessions would donate the exotics and the oak trees). The native shrubs already on the tract would be maintained. The exotic plants would provide color, sky blue and purple, and be visible as a ‘gorgeous splotch’ across the bay. The park would be known as Color Park. Color Park was approved and dedicated in 1935 and the Union reported in 1937 that Boy Scouts under the capable direction of Miss Sessions were at work clearing weeds in the park.

By 1937 Kate Sessions had been a presence in Pacific Beach for 25 years and a full-time resident for 10 years. 1937 was also the 50th anniversary of the founding of Pacific Beach and the chamber of commerce planned a golden jubilee dinner to celebrate the occasion. The president of the chamber announced that Miss Sessions’ devotion to the interests of Pacific Beach through the years and her confidence in its future had earned her the distinction of being the ‘community’s foremost citizen’, and that the jubilee dinner would be held on her 80th birthday and she would be the guest of honor. Over 500 people, including many ‘old-time’ residents, were present as community leaders presented testimonials to her character and achievements.

Kate Sessions died on Easter Sunday, 1940, following a lengthy hospital stay that resulted from falling and breaking her hip while watering plants in her garden. She is buried in Mount Hope Cemetery, where her grave lies along Kate Sessions Avenue under a twisted juniper, her favorite tree. Most of her nursery sales lot on Rose Creek was taken over by the United States government in 1941 for a public housing project but the site is marked by the tipuana tree and the historical monument, dedicated in 1961. Her home in Soledad Terrace is still standing but the large garden lots that once characterized the subdivision have mostly been divided up and filled with large homes, swimming pools and tennis courts. An elementary school built between her former growing fields in the foothills and her nursery site on Rose Creek was named in her honor and opened in January 1956 (I was one of the 499 students who began classes that day).

The city had leased Frank Sessions its property on the eastern side of Pueblo Lot 1785 between 1912 and 1917 and in 1935 had dedicated the 2-acre Color Park in its southwest corner. In 1948 the entire tract became a city park called Soledad Terrace Park. Without Miss Sessions’ supervision the original Color Park had become neglected and was in a state of ruin, according to a 1956 article in the Sentinel, a Pacific Beach weekly. The Sentinel noted that Color Park was the last undertaking of Kate Sessions’ life, and the only one left unaccomplished, and asked what could be more appropriate than to dedicate a revived and completed Kate O. Sessions Color Park on the 100th anniversary of her birth. The city council actually improved on this suggestion and on the 100th anniversary of her birth, November 8, 1957, 79 acres in the eastern part of Pueblo Lot 1785, all of the city land east of Soledad Road, was dedicated as Kate O. Sessions Memorial Park.

Cocktail Springs

Before the railway arrived in the early 1880s, travel between San Diego and other California destinations was either by sea or over the trail that once connected it to the other California missions and pueblos, now called El Camino Real but also known at different times as Fremont’s trail, Kearny’s trail, the Los Angeles road and the Temecula road. In 1868 Alfred Seeley began operating stagecoaches from Old Town to Los Angeles over this route, at first weekly, then, by 1871, six days a week. In 1869 Seeley acquired the former Bandini adobe in Old Town, added a second story, renamed it the Cosmopolitan Hotel, and used it as the San Diego terminus of the Seeley stage line.

The trip from San Diego to Los Angeles covered about 130 miles and took two days, including an overnight stop in San Juan Capistrano. The passengers rode in the same coach for the entire journey but the horses had to be exchanged for a fresh team at regular intervals, so stage stations with barns or corrals for horses and dining facilities for passengers grew up along the way. The first relay of horses leaving the Cosmopolitan Hotel were ready for replacement by the time they reached the Sorrento Valley area, where the stage station was operated by Ellar McKellar.

McKellar was born in Scotland in 1841 and served in an Ohio cavalry regiment in the American Civil War. After the war he re-enlisted in the army and served three years during the Indian wars. After his discharge in 1868 he ended up in San Diego where in 1871 he married and became a naturalized citizen. McKellar first kept Seeley’s horses in Sorrento Valley but in 1874 he moved a few miles further north, near the divide between the Sorrento and San Dieguito River valleys, to a place known as Cocktail Springs. In 1876 he filed a homestead application for the property, in Section 18 of Township 14 South, Range 3 West. According to Del Mar historian Nancy Ewing there was already an adobe structure on the property but McKellar added a dining room and kitchen for travelers and also built a blacksmith shop and corral for horses. A delinquent tax list published in the Union in 1879 listed 40 acres of government land about 1 mile north of Cordero Valley, known as Cocktail Springs and claimed by E. McKellar, with a valuation of $50 and with $50 in improvements (Cordero Valley is now known as Carmel Valley, after a group of Carmelite Sisters of Mercy who settled there in the 1890s).

John Davidson, the first curator of the San Diego Historical Society’s Junipero Serra Museum, speculated in a 1934 article in the Evening Tribune that Cocktail Springs was the medium-sized pool of fresh water that the diarist of Governor Portola’s overland journey from San Diego to Monterey had reported in 1769 at the end of the valley about half a league north of Sorrento Valley. Davidson’s article was accompanied by photos of the adobe buildings still standing at Cocktail Springs in 1934.

The stage station at Cocktail Springs did not serve travelers for very long, however. The California Southern Railroad began laying track north from National City in 1881 and the tracks had reached Oceanside by the end of the year, then continued to Colton and, by 1885, a connection with a transcontinental rail line at Barstow.  From San Diego to Oceanside the railway paralleled the route of the Seeley stage line, and was far faster and more comfortable, so stagecoach travel, and the stage station at Cocktail Springs, soon became obsolete. Ellar McKellar remained on the land and in November 1884 his homestead claim, No. 1731, was ‘established and duly consummated’ and he was awarded a patent for the SE ¼ of the NW ¼, the N ½ of the SW ¼ and the SW ¼ of the SW ¼ Section 18, Township 14 south, Range 3 west, 161 and 62/100 acres centered around the present-day intersection of El Camino Real and Del Mar Heights Road.

Ellar McKellar did not farm his homestead for long either. In September 1885 the San Diego Union reported that a man had fallen or jumped into San Diego Bay from the Steamship Company’s wharf, and despite the efforts of a bystander and the crew of a passing schooner to save him he had sunk, leaving a hat and an empty leather purse in the water. A fisherman who had seen him go out on the wharf reported that he had been whistling ‘The Ship That Never Returned’.

A few days later the Union reported that the man who drowned in the bay had been identified by his wife from the hat and purse recovered from the water. The Union interviewed the wife and learned that the drowned man was Ellar McKellar, who had resided in the San Dieguito Valley at a point known as Cocktail Springs and had a farm of 160 acres. Mrs. McKellar also told the Union that he sometimes drank very heavily but had not been on a spree for six or seven months. She usually came to the city with him to keep him from drink – he never drank at home – but he had left earlier in the week with a two-horse team to bring some farm products to market. He had received six dollars in money and with that must have got drunk.

The next day McKellar’s body was recovered from the bay and identified by Mrs. McKellar, and a coroner’s inquest brought in a verdict of accidental drowning. The Union noted that he had many friends who looked upon him as a jolly Scotchman, possessing many excellent qualities and one fatal vice, but he hadn’t known when he walked along the wharf merrily whistling ‘The Ship That Never Returned’ that it was waiting for him with black sails set.

The McKellars’ grave at Mt. Hope Cemetery

In March 1886 McKellar’s estate, the acreage around Cocktail Springs and personal property including two horses, one wagon, one barrow, one plow, one set of harness, two goats, one colt, carpenter’s tools, three dozen chickens, one hog, one ton of hay and one lot of household property, was assigned to his widow, Eliza. In March 1887 Eliza McKellar acquired another 160 acres in Section 19, south of and adjoining the homestead in Section 18. Over the next few years she sold off both of these properties in 40- and 80-acre parcels. The last parcel to be sold, to Martha Waters in March 1893, was the NW ¼ of the NW ¼ of Section 19 and the SW ¼ of the SW ¼ of Section 18, the 80 acres surrounding the springs and stage station and traversed by the old stagecoach road.

Later In 1893 Martha and B. J. Waters granted the county an easement of right-of-way for a new public road over this property, changing the route of what they called the ‘old Temecula and San Diego road’. The new road would be fifty feet in width and would leave the old road about 190 feet north of Cocktail Springs and rejoin it about 420 feet south of Cocktail Springs, being about 700 feet long and running about 90 feet from the existing road in a curve, as shown in a ‘rough diagram’ included in the deed. This bend in the county road that became known as El Camino Real remained for more than 80 years.

Cocktail Springs was not in the news much after the stagecoaches stopped visiting. In 1899 the Union reported that Mr. Froehlich of Miramar was opening a blacksmith shop at the old stage station, known as Cocktail Springs, on the county road. In 1941 an ad in the San Diego Union offered Cocktail Springs Rancho for sale; ‘One mile east of Del Mar; 73 acres; beautiful large trees; 2 springs; old adobe ruins; 30 acres in black-eyed beans; ideal horse ranch: price $5500’. It was for sale again in 1947 as Historical Cocktail Springs Rancho, 73 acres at $200 per acre, 1 mile east of Del Mar, 1st stage stop on El Camino Real. It was ideal for a horse or dude ranch with many huge trees and adobe ruins. A portion of the ranch was listed again in 1957 as a 3-B.R. 2 bath on 3 acres (historically known as Cocktail Springs); ‘trees, natural beauty, quiet pet pony stays’. The 3-bedroom house was probably not the adobe ruin; in 1955 John Davidson’s wife Winifred, herself an eminent historian and a founder of the Historical Society, wrote in the Union that the last time they visited Cocktail Springs the only reminder of the old days was the huge eucalyptus with pock-pitted bark shadowing Fremont Trail (although Nancy Ewing wrote that the adobe ruins remained into the 1970s).

Cocktail Springs stage station site in the 2010s. El Camino Real, the former stage route, crosses Del Mar Heights Road at top right and runs diagonally through the 80-acre parcel where the springs and stage station were once located.

In the 1970s San Diego’s growth extended to what was then called North City West, the area between the Sorrento and San Dieguito River valleys east of Interstate 5, now called Carmel Valley and home to tens of thousands of residents. El Camino Real was realigned and widened into a major thoroughfare through Carmel Valley, obliterating any sign of the original road. Residential neighborhoods were built in the area around El Camino Real and Del Mar Heights Road during the 1980s and in the 1990s a major shopping center was built south of Del Mar Heights and east of El Camino Real. The property southwest of this intersection, where the stage station had once stood, was also graded but then sat vacant for decades. A biosciences company campus was built on a portion of the site in 2004 and just last year construction began on the One Paseo mixed-use project on the remaining 23 acres. Scheduled to open in 2019, One Paseo will include over 600 apartments and condominiums, over 95,000 feet of retail space, 280,000 square feet of office buildings and probably a new ‘watering hole’ or two at what was once Cocktail Springs.

One Paseo under construction at Cocktail Springs site, 2018