Category Archives: People

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

Pacific Beach, 1918

A new year can be a time for retrospection, a look back at life in earlier days, especially some significant number of years ago, like a century. A century ago, in 1918, the community of Pacific Beach was thirty years old. The Pacific Beach Company’s opening sale of lots had occurred in December 1887 and since then nearly 500 people had become residents (two years later, in 1920, the federal census counted 464 residents in 138 residences in Pacific Beach). Many residences were clustered around the intersection of Lamont and Hornblend streets, the first district in Pacific Beach to have been improved with concrete curbs and sidewalks in an effort to encourage residential development. This district also contained the community’s school, its two churches, stores, post office, Woman’s Clubhouse and a stop on the railway to downtown San Diego. The most important institution in Pacific Beach at the time, the San Diego Army and Navy Academy, was a block away, on Garnet Avenue. Other residents lived on the slopes above this central district in what had been lemon ranch houses, and some lived along the ocean front near the foot of Grand and Garnet avenues where there was also a railway stop. Much of the rest of Pacific Beach, Crown Point and the Mt. Soledad foothills were entirely vacant.

A look back at life in this Pacific Beach of a century ago was provided in the New Year’s Day 1918 edition of the San Diego Union. A story headlined ‘Pacific Beach Delightful Resort Near San Diego – Residents Enjoy Unusual Advantages and Diversions’ included photos and sections devoted to Recreation, Ideal Homesite, Social Features, Industries, and Schools-Churches.

At the top of the page was a photo of the San Diego Army and Navy Academy – ‘a select school for manly boys’. The manly boys, the battalion of cadets, were standing at attention in their dress uniforms in front of the academy buildings, formerly the San Diego College of Letters and later the Hotel Balboa. Capt. Thomas A. Davis had leased the Hotel Balboa building and founded the academy in 1910 with thirteen cadets, and the 70 or 80 cadets who posed for this photo seven years later were evidence of its early success. Below the photo of the academy were photos of other buildings in Pacific Beach; the residences of George Hollister, C. C. Norris,  J. J. Richert and J. W. Simmons, the Pacific Beach Reading Club House, the Bay View Apartments (‘where accommodations may be had by visitors’) and a cottage at Ocean Front (‘showing sample of cottage for rent’).

An introduction by Mrs. Laura J. Defrenn, the corresponding secretary of the Reading Club, described Pacific Beach as a pleasing expanse of sunlit hills, shady dells and rolling plains with the murmuring ocean spreading away in seeming infinity of space on the west while on the south and east the vista of mesa, city, shipdecked harbor, majestic mountains and rugged Point Loma presented a picture too beautiful for brush or pen to paint. Homeseekers would be pleased, she said, as the hills on the north and the land gently sloping away south to Mission Bay afforded all kinds of locations in beautiful Pacific Beach. The climate was the most ideal in the world and being a suburb within a few minutes’ ride of San Diego, the city of opportunity, Pacific Beach people had all the benefits of city life, as evidenced by the number of business and professional men who had their homes at Pacific Beach and conducted their business in the city. With a rich alluvial soil, gardens flourished the year round and all kinds of fruits abound so that an energetic man could get a living from the soil, if other ways failed. There were many fine homes and comfortable locations could be obtained for a reasonable price. The streets were bordered with palms and pepper trees and there were many fine fruit orchards. After the rainy season in the winter months the hills and every available spot were ablaze with wild flowers and all vegetation sprung into marvelous growth.

Mrs. Defrenn also noted that another valuable asset of Pacific Beach was its proximity to Camp Kearny, no other place being as near, and people wishing to be near their loved ones in the camp could obtain homes in the ‘village’. Camp Kearny, a huge army base intended for training troops from six southwestern states, had been hastily constructed in 1917 after the United States entry into World War I. The camp was located in the Kearny Mesa area, then called Linda Vista Mesa, and parts of it are now incorporated in the Miramar air station. Soldiers began arriving at the camp in August 1917 but the paved road to the camp from San Diego that became Linda Vista Road was not completed until June 1918, so in January 1918 Mrs. Defrenn may have been correct in claiming no other place was as near the camp as Pacific Beach. She was also apparently correct in thinking people might wish to be near their loved ones.  An article in the Union in June 1917 had said that hundreds of Arizona people would become residents of San Diego as soon as Camp Kearny opened. Practically every member of the First Arizona Infantry, a national guard unit that would be training at Linda Vista, was preparing to send family members to San Diego where the majority of them would remain for the entire period of training, and many even after the men had been sent to France.

J. D. Pritchard was a newsman at the Evening Tribune and he was the author of the section on Recreation for the New Year’s Day Pacific Beach story. Stating that a home, like a business, must be protected against the monotony of its daily duties (‘all work and no play, etc.’ applies with equal pertinence to the home and business, he wrote) it was therefore essential in determining an ideal home location to know that the opportunity for ‘play’, recreation or amusement, was conveniently arranged and provided for.

In this respect, Pacific Beach was equipped with the natural facilities to provide most any form of recreation or amusement that the heart might desire, being surrounded by Mission Bay, the ocean, Mt. Soledad and Rose Canyon. According to Mr. Pritchard Pacific Beach perhaps had no rival in the matter of providing free, public bathing accommodations. The citizens of ‘the beach’ had built a substantial pier on the bay front which extended out into the channel of deep water and had two sets of dressing rooms, one for ladies and one for men (the ‘Plunge’ at the foot of Kendall Street). This provided a lively scene daily as scores of enthusiastic bathers indulged in their aquatic frolic (Mr. Pritchard’s interest in bathing extended to bathing attire, and in June 1918 he was a judge at a ‘bathing suit fashion show’ in which the committee wandered around on the beach and tagged those they found worthy of special attention; a photographer then took photos of the girls which the judges used to determine winners based on the shapeliness and personal beauty of the contestant and the ‘economical arrangement’ of the costume).

Winners of the 1918 Bathing Suit Fashion Show.

According to Mr. Pritchard, boating was another favorite form of recreation at Pacific Beach. While the little rowboat would be all-satisfying to some, there were also those who preferred the greater speed and lesser labor of the motor boat, and there are still those of greater courage or love for adventure whose particular idea of pleasure would be driving a launch out through the channel and tasting the briney life on the high seas (courage and love of adventure would have mattered; before the channel between Mission Bay and the ocean was flanked by stone jetties and finally dredged in 1955 this channel was a rough passage that caused numerous accidents, some of them fatal).

Naturally enough, where boating and bathing had been so conveniently and abundantly provided for by nature, fish would likewise abound in quantity and variety (Mr. Pritchard was also a fisherman, and reportedly landed a 34-pound halibut at Point Loma in June 1918). The truant schoolboy would not be alone upon the pier or along the shore, in fact his mother or father would also likely be found there. The borders of Pacific Beach also provided a great resort for the nimrods of the community. Ducks and sea fowls of various varieties haunted the water boundaries while quail, doves and rabbits were found on the brush-covered slopes and hills to the north and canyon tributaries to the east.

Mr. and Mrs. James W. Simmons lived in a house at the corner of Garnet and Bayard featured in one of the photos accompanying the New Year’s article. Mr. Simmons had been a school superintendent and member of the Michigan state board of education and they had chosen Pacific Beach as a retirement home a few years earlier, which presumably qualified him to comment on what made Pacific Beach the Ideal Homesite (Mr. Simmons was also the enumerator for the 1920 census in Pacific Beach). His thesis was that Pacific Beach had the environment that would satisfy nearly every individual. It was within the corporate limits of San Diego and an average of twenty-five minutes from the center of business by auto or car (meaning train; the railroad between downtown and La Jolla passed through Pacific Beach on Grand Avenue and what became Mission Boulevard, although it was discontinued later in 1918). It had an excellent water system, as well as the service of the gas and electric plants, and an excellent school which was part of the city department (the two-room schoolhouse was replaced a few years later, in 1923, by a new elementary school at Emerald and Ingraham streets, later expanded and now the Pacific Beach Middle School). More advanced pupils could attend the Russ High School (now San Diego High School, the only high school in San Diego at the time; Pacific Beach residents began attending La Jolla High School when it opened in 1922 and since 1953 have attended Mission Bay High School on Grand Avenue). There was also an up-to-date naval and military academy where young men from several states received an academic training that prepared them for the state university, West Point and Annapolis.

There were churches, a post office, clubs and a business center with good supply stores in Pacific Beach (these, and the school and military academy, were all within a block or two of Lamont and Hornblend). Both morning and evening papers were left at your door by carrier, and postal and grocery deliveries were made daily. Pacific Beach was on the state boulevard along the coast northward so residents were far from an isolated people (the coast highway, the main route from San Diego to the north, ran through Pacific Beach on Garnet Avenue, Cass and Turquoise streets and would be paved later in 1918). But these essentials did not constitute the larger part of what made Pacific Beach the ideal place for locating a home. According to Mr. Simmons, the topography was ideal; it lay south of the foothills and extended to the ocean on the west and to Mission Bay on the south. The eastern section was somewhat rolling while the western portion was generally level. The land-locked Mission Bay was an excellent place for boating and sailing, and afforded the best fishing grounds to be found in this region. Ducks by the thousands during the seasons of their migration found ample feeding grounds in the bay.

Mr. Simmons added that the charm of the ocean would always be of interest to most people and the ocean front was an ideal place for recreation, rest and pleasure. The long sandy beach was a favorite resort for picnic parties and the ideal place for children to romp and play. The beach was absolutely safe; there was no undertow and no ‘suddenly deepening places’, so that the most timid could go out into the line of breakers. There was no better beach for surf bathing to be found on the western coast. At extreme low tide the beach was about 600 feet in width and composed of sand so clean that the daintiest dress would not be soiled by contact. Those portions where the water had receded were so hard and compact that driving (i.e. a horse and buggy) and ‘automobiling’ were a perfect delight.

Many found sport in surf fishing, especially in the season of the corvina; others never tired of clam digging at low tide. During the open season of the abalone, large numbers were found clinging to the rocks at the north end of the beach. For those who took pleasure in growing things, PB was again the ideal place. The soil was easily worked and one could easily get the evidence of what could be grown by visiting the various places where flowers, fruits and vegetables had been assisted by man’s knowledge and encouragement. As for the view, the outlook from Pacific Beach was both great and pleasing; the broad expanse of ocean, the more quiet waters of the bay, the slopes of Point Loma and beyond the point the Coronado Islands.

For her part, Mrs. Simmons contributed a section on Social Features. The social life of Pacific Beach revolved around its two churches and its clubs. An active and progressive woman’s society was associated with each church, and all strangers were especially made welcome, but the enterprise and public spirit of the women was particularly shown in their excellent club and up-to-date clubhouse. The Pacific Beach Reading Club had been organized twenty-two years earlier and while it was still small, with fifty members, it had always been among the foremost in club affairs of the county (Mrs. Simmons was vice-president and later became president of the club). In the present national crisis (the United States entered World War I in April 1917) it was showing its patriotism by opening the clubhouse to the Red Cross for a work room. Two sewing machines had been purchased for its use and had already done much work in making hospital garments and other needed supplies.

The civic issues of Pacific Beach were looked after by the Improvement Club. This club by its committees kept in touch with all business affairs of a public nature, called public meetings of all the citizens when it is deemed advisable and in general promoted the public interests of the community. Take it all together, Pacific Beach was ‘wide-awake and homey’. There was a spirit of fraternity and neighborliness that is rare and that makes life worth living. The moral and spiritual atmosphere was high and those who lived there agreed that for a home with real neighbors and friends, where one can really live, it is second to none.

Pacific Beach resident J. J. Richert was the author of the section on Industries, and he began by asserting that Pacific Beach, although a small place, was not without industry. There were two grocery stores in Pacific Beach and one in Mission Bay Park addition which did a flourishing business on account of the army and navy academy and the summer resorts along the beach (the two grocery stores in PB were on opposite sides of Grand Avenue at Lamont Street, two blocks from the academy, Ravenscroft’s on the southwest corner and Pratt’s on the northwest; the Mission Bay Park addition is the former race track property east of Rose Creek and Ponder’s grocery was on what is now Garnet Avenue near Mission Bay Drive, opposite the Nite Owl bar). Groceries were not all that the beach could boast, however; there was also a large dairy, which provided not only the home customers but also quantities of milk and cream for San Diego, eight miles distant (Chapman’s dairy, and hog ranch, was on Reed Avenue, between Ingraham and Jewell streets and Pacific Beach Drive).

The J. J. Richert home today.

One of the most beautiful spots of the little town was Miss Sessions poinsettia garden on the top of the hills that form a background for Pacific Beach. They were always in demand and the leading florists of San Diego looked to her for their Christmas supply. There were also Japanese gardens of violets and carnations near the beach. There were several profitable chicken ranches but almost every housewife had her pen of chickens, and freshly laid eggs for breakfast was the result. Leaving Pacific Beach proper and going north a short distance, there were brickyards which furnished San Diego with building material. The bricks and tile turned out there were considered the best in the market. In the same vicinity were several large cattle ranches that extend into the back country and raise hay, grain, corn and vegetables (the brickyards and the cattle ranches, one of them owned by Richert, were in Rose Canyon).

The New Year’s 1918 article about Pacific Beach concluded with a section on Schools and Churches by C. W. Wood (although it is probable that the author was actually Charles M. Wood, an attorney who lived in a former lemon ranch house on Missouri near Lamont Street; the only C. W. Wood in the 1918 city directory was a streetcar conductor who lived on Meade Avenue in University Heights). According to Mr. Wood, Pacific Beach was well supplied with schools and churches. Of the two churches the Presbyterian was by far the older, being the first on the field and with much the largest membership. It had a flourishing Sunday school, two young peoples’ societies of Christian Endeavor, and a Ladies’ Aid and Mission Society (the Presbyterian Church now at the corner of Garnet Avenue and Jewell Street was built in 1941, replacing the original church building on the site). The Methodist Episcopal Church was the younger of the two organizations and though much smaller in point of numbers was nevertheless a ‘wideawake and efficient organization’. It also supported a Sunday school and Ladies’ Aid Society (the Methodist church met in a building that had begun as a dance pavilion on the beach near Grand Avenue, was moved to the corner of Hornblend and Morrell streets in 1897 where it became a lemon packing facility, and was renovated and dedicated as a church in 1907; it was sold and torn down in 1922).

On the subject of schools, Mr. Wood wrote that the public school In Pacific Beach would rank favorably with those of all of San Diego’s flourishing suburbs but by far the liveliest institution of the community, and at the same time Pacific Beach’s most substantial asset, was the San Diego Army and Navy Academy, a high-grade military school which was founded November 23, 1910 by Captain Thomas A. Davis, late of the Sixth United States Volunteer Infantry. From an enrollment of thirteen cadets at the beginning there had been an aggregate attendance, during the seven years of its history, of over 500 students from over 20 states and four foreign countries. Each year a representative of the war department inspected the battalion of cadets and the last report was certainly complimentary, the military zeal and appearance of the cadets being rated as ‘excellent’. Pacific Beach was certainly proud of her military academy.

The Norris Home as it appears in 2018

Many things have changed in Pacific Beach since New Year’s Day 1918. The Hollister house, later owned by Dr. Oscar Kendall, once overlooked Mission Bay at the end of Fortuna Drive where the Crown Point Villa Condos are now and J. W. Simmons’ home has become a parking lot and sunglasses store at the corner of Garnet Avenue and Bayard Street, but a century later the Norris home on Collingwood Drive near Jewell Street and the Richert home at the corner of Diamond and Olney are still standing.

Bay View Apartment Building, 2018.

The Bay View Apartment building is still on Shasta Street near La Playa Avenue and although the Reading Club changed its name to the Pacific Beach Woman’s Club in 1929 it still occupies the same clubhouse, also known as Hornblend Hall, on Hornblend between Jewell and Kendall streets. The rental cottage at Ocean Front, however, was demolished just last year and is now the parking lot for a building under construction at the corner of Hornblend and Mission Boulevard. The most important institution in Pacific Beach in 1918, the Army and Navy Academy, is long gone. Enrollment continued to increase in the 1920s and by 1930 several large reinforced-concrete barracks had been built to supplement the original college buildings, but in 1958 the academy moved, the buildings were all demolished and the property was redeveloped as the Pacific Plaza shopping center and Plaza condominium community.

The Cottage at Ocean Front (732 Hornblend Street). Screen grab from Google Street View some time before January 1, 2018. The site is now a parking lot.

As Mrs. Defrenn had predicted in 1918, homeseekers have been pleased with Pacific Beach and there are now about 50,000 more of them, in 25,000 more homes, which along with paved streets, parking lots and sidewalks have mostly covered over the rich alluvial soil and the spots once ablaze with wild flowers (although some today might question her contention that fine homes and comfortable locations can be obtained for a reasonable price). Miss Sessions’ poinsettia garden no longer exists either, but in its place is Kate Sessions Memorial Park, still one of the most beautiful spots in the little town. The gardens (and truck farms) planted by Japanese residents in 1918 disappeared when those ‘enemy aliens’ (and their U. S. born children) were sent to relocation camps in 1942.

However, the ‘natural facilities’ that provide recreation or amusement still surround Pacific Beach a century later, and although no-one is ‘automobiling’ on the beach today, and the abalone have long since been pried off the rocks, most would agree that there is still no better place on the coast for ‘surf bathing’. Mission Bay has been transformed by dredging and filling and is now an aquatic park famous for boating and other recreational opportunities, although duck hunting is no longer one of them. A century later, the residents of the delightful resort near San Diego still enjoy unusual advantages and diversions.

Pacific Beach Reading Club

Hornblend Hall, the Pacific Beach Woman’s Club clubhouse on Hornblend Street between Jewell and Kendall, is one of the best-known historical buildings in Pacific Beach. It was built in 1911 for what was then known as the Pacific Beach Reading Club, which traced its origins to 1895 and the world-famous poet Rose Hartwick Thorpe, then a Pacific Beach resident. In 1867, when she was 16 years old, she had written the poem Curfew Must Not Ring Tonight about a young girl, Bessie, who saved her lover Basil from execution by Oliver Cromwell’s troops during the English Civil War. Basil was scheduled to die when the curfew bell rang, so Bessie climbed the tower and clung to the bell as it swung, preventing it from ringing. Then she climbed down and begged Cromwell to spare Basil, and, his heart touched with pity at her anguished face and bruised and torn hands, he pardoned Basil. ‘Go! Your lover lives, cried Cromwell. Curfew shall not ring tonight’.

In 1887 Rose Hartwick Thorpe was living in Texas when Harr Wagner, editor of the literary magazine Golden Era, recruited her to come to San Diego to write for his magazine and help him promote a college he was hoping to establish in Pacific Beach. She did move to Pacific Beach, and when the San Diego College of Letters opened in 1888 her daughter Lulo was one of the first students. Edward (E. Y.) Barnes and Mary Cogswell were two other students at the college whose parents had relocated to Pacific Beach. When the college closed in 1891 the Thorpe, Barnes and Cogswell families remained in Pacific Beach and were among the first to take up lemon ranching, the business that sustained the community for the next decade. In March 1895 Mrs. Thorpe, Phoebe Barnes and Elizabeth Cogswell were among the ladies of Pacific Beach who met at Mrs. Thorpe’s and formed a reading club ‘for the purpose of studying ancient history, the leading topics of the day and of receiving mutual benefit’. Other charter members included Alice Johnson, Fannie Gleason, Rebecca Ash, Catherine Furneaux, Ella Woodworth and Prudence Robertson (Mrs. Johnson was a widow, the Ashes and Gleasons were also lemon ranchers, Rev. Mr. Furneaux was the Presbyterian minister and the husbands of Mrs. Woodworth and Robertson worked for the Pacific Beach railway). Mrs. Thorpe was elected president.

In its early years the Reading Club met at the homes of members, usually Mrs. Thorpe or Mrs. Barnes, although meetings were also held in the homes of Mrs. Robertson, Mrs. Cogswell and Mrs. Stearns, another lemon rancher. By October 1895, the San Diego Union noted that these meetings were becoming quite an important feature of the social life of Pacific Beach. Meetings generally included a study session on a historical or literary topic, often led by a member with some experience in the subject, a musical program which might include performances by young people of the community, and a social hour featuring ‘dainty’ refreshments. The meetings were not necessarily restricted to members; in March 1896 the ladies invited their husbands and friends to attend a pleasant gathering at the home of Mrs. Barnes in honor of president Rose Hartwick Thorpe. The entire program was devoted to her works; each member responded to roll call with a selection from her writings and the honoree herself delivered a recitation of her famous poem. Annual business meetings were also held to elect officers, and the club took a two-month vacation over the summer.

Lulo Thorpe and E. Y. Barnes were married in 1895 (and also became lemon ranchers), and Lulo Barnes soon became an active member of the Reading Club. At one meeting in her home in December 1898 the ladies discussed patriotism very earnestly and at the close sang heartily some very patriotic songs (the Spanish-American War had taken place during 1898). Mary Stoddard Snyder was a botanist and authority on marine algae who enjoyed collecting and mounting specimens of locally-collected sea weeds. She had joined the Reading Club when she moved to Pacific Beach in 1896. At the annual meeting of the club at Mrs. Thorpe’s in March 1898 Mrs. Thorpe earnestly requested to be relieved of the presidency and Mrs. Snyder was elected in her place. Dr. Martha Dunn Corey, who owned a lemon ranch and was also the first physician in Pacific Beach, was elected secretary (Dr. Corey also moved into the house built for Harr Wagner after he moved downtown). These officers were reelected in 1899, along with Ida Johnston, wife of the Presbyterian minister (who had replaced Rev. Furneaux), who became vice president. At Reading Club meetings these women could be counted on to present interesting information based on their own backgrounds. In February 1898 the regular meeting of the Reading Club spent the time very pleasantly upon a study of ancient Egypt. Mrs. Johnston, who had spent many months in that interesting country, contributed largely to the interest of the subject. In 1899 Mrs. Snyder delivered a paper on the trees of California (followed by a tasty lunch of tea and cake and a most pleasant social time). Dr. Corey spoke on the assimilation of foods in 1900.

Emma Jessops Scripps joined the Pacific Beach Reading Club in 1900 when she and her husband, Fred T. Scripps, brother of the newspaper tycoon E. W. Scripps and half-brother of La Jolla philanthropist Ellen Browning Scripps, moved into Braemar Manor, their elegant mansion on Mission Bay. A 1906 remodel of Braemar included a room built ‘especially for the pleasure’ of the different clubs she belonged to and thereafter Reading Club meetings were held regularly in Mrs. Scripps’ ‘cozy clubhouse’. Mrs. Scripps also held an annual musicale for the benefit of the club.

In 1905 Frances Haskins and her husband moved to Pacific Beach from Chicago and built the home that still stands at the corner of Diamond and Ingraham streets. Mrs. Haskins joined the reading club and was noted for her annual holiday receptions for club members and their guests, first ushering in the new year with good company and a good welcome in January 1908. When members and their friends were invited for another holiday reception in December 1908 over a hundred guests responded, having learned that ‘no greater treat was in store for them’. They were received by Mrs. Haskins, assisted by Mesdames Howard, Norris, Robinson and Pease, all handsomely gowned and showing the Christmas spirit. During the musical part of the program, Mrs. Haskins entertained the guests with many a merry tune on the gramophone.

The blocks surrounded by Grand Avenue and Lamont, Hornblend and Jewell streets had been part of a lemon ranch belonging to Sterling Honeycutt but when lemon ranching began to decline in the first years of the twentieth century Honeycutt sold these blocks to William and Hannah Pike; the block east of Kendall in 1903 and the block west of Kendall in 1904. In 1905 the Pikes sold the western quarter of the western block to Charles and Mary Boesch, who built the house still standing at the corner of Grand and Jewell in 1906. Hannah Pike and Mary Boesch both joined of the Reading Club, and Miss Ruth Boesch often performed as accompanist for the musical session at club meetings.

House built for the Boeschs in 1906 at Grand Avenue and Jewell Street.

A 1907 roster of the Pacific Beach Reading Club listed 30 members, including Mesdames Pike, Boesch, E. Y. Barnes, Haskins, Johnson, Johnston, Scripps and Snyder (Rose Hartwick Thorpe, Phoebe Barnes, Dr. Corey and others had moved away). Newer members included Helen Folsom and Lillian Dula, mother and sister of the Folsom brothers, whose Folsom Bros. Co. had purchased most of Pacific Beach in 1903. As the club grew it became more difficult to hold meetings in members’ homes and even in Mrs. Scripps’ clubhouse, and many meetings were held in the parlors of the Hotel Balboa, the former College of Letters building that had been renovated and reopened in 1904.  When that building was leased to Capt. Thomas A. Davis for his San Diego Army and Navy Academy in 1910, Capt. Davis continued to offer space for reading club functions.

However, the club increasingly felt the need for a place of its own and in February 1911 a ‘fancy delsarte entertainment’ was held at the academy with proceeds to be applied to a new clubhouse fund (in the Delsarte system of dramatic expression gestures and poses represented attitudes and emotions). The San Diego Beach Co. (formerly Folsom Bros. Co.) donated a pair of lots in Fortuna Park but the club chose to build on a site donated by the Pikes and the Boeschs, who each offered a lot from their adjacent properties on Hornblend. The Hornblend location had the advantage of being centrally located in the most developed portion of Pacific Beach at the time; it was within a block or two of the community’s two churches, the school, stores, post office, railway station and the Army and Navy Academy. Hornblend Street between Lamont and Jewell had been ‘sidewalked and curbed’ in 1908, one of the first streets in the community to receive these improvements.

In March 1911 a mass meeting was held to discuss plans for a new clubhouse on the donated lots and this enthusiastic meeting resulted in a material subscription toward the fund. The building fund was enhanced by the sale of the other donated lots and a pledge by workers of five days free labor. C. M. Doty, a concrete contractor whose wife was a club member, poured the sidewalk and Mr. Pike, who was a building contractor, supervised the construction.

Doty and Mitchell poured the sidewalk in front of the clubhouse. Mrs. Doty was a club member.

Plans for the new clubhouse were fully discussed at a meeting in April 1911 and the preliminary work was said to be progressing favorably. A meeting in June at the hall of the Army and Navy Academy discussed work on the new club building and scheduled executive meetings every week during what was normally the club’s summer vacation for the purpose of pushing work on the building. After a meeting in August at the home of Mrs. Pike the club reported that progress thus far had been most satisfactory but there remained many details to be finished. The club expected to be in its elegant new quarters in the autumn.

Formal opening of the new clubhouse and a ‘housewarming’, with an interesting musical and literary program and dainty refreshments, was scheduled for October 5, 1911, and invitations were extended to other woman’s clubs. The Los Angeles and San Diego Beach Railroad, as the local line to Pacific Beach and La Jolla was then known, announced that a special car would leave Fourth and C Streets at 7 o’clock, returning from Pacific Beach at 11 o’clock. The railway’s Pacific Beach station was on Grand Avenue just west of Lamont Street, about a block from the Reading Club’s new clubhouse (a trip originating at Fourth and C downtown would have been aboard a McKeen gasoline rail car – a Red Devil – since steam trains weren’t allowed on downtown streets).

The San Diego Union reported that the formal opening was a fine program and that the clubhouse had been filled with friends of the club from San Diego, La Jolla and National City, many of whom contributed substantially to the furnishing of the home. The club president, Mrs. Elizabeth Ravenscroft, spoke of the many kindnesses and the great amount of work accomplished in so short a time through the untiring efforts of Mrs. Lucy Woodward, who looked after all the details of the building.

The Reading Club held several other events for the benefit of the new clubhouse over the next few months, including a Halloween party, where witches, spooks and goblins reigned supreme and a December ‘dish shower’ to supply the new clubhouse with dishes. A large number of members were present and all came bearing packages which, upon being opened, revealed besides pretty chinaware a number of silver pieces. A concert for the clubhouse fund in April 1912 included a recitation by Rose Hartwick Thorpe herself of Curfew Must Not Ring Tonight, and also of her latest poem.

Rose Hartwick Thorpe had been the Reading Club’s first president, followed by Mary Snyder, Ida Johnston, Violet Conover and Elizabeth Ravenscroft, each of whom had served two or three years. At the annual business meeting in June 1912, Lucy Woodward was elected president, a position she held for twelve years. Coincidently or not, the Woodwards also moved to a site across the street from the clubhouse; their house was literally picked up from its previous address on Ingraham Street where Crown Point Elementary is now and put down on Hornblend Street.

The clubhouse of a reading club would seem like the natural place for a library, and in 1914 the club offered space in their building and their collection of books to the public library system. Club member Carrie Hinkle became the community’s first librarian and served for eight years. The clubhouse was also offered for other public services, including as a polling place.

The Reading Club had always been a woman’s club and was a founding member of the county Federation of Woman’s Clubs in 1898. During the 1920s it was increasingly referred to as the Pacific Beach Woman’s Club and in 1929 the members officially adopted the new name. The Pacific Beach Woman’s Club continued meeting at Hornblend Hall until 1962 when it moved to a new clubhouse on Soledad Road across from Kate Sessions Memorial Park, a building that is now the Soledad Club. The club retained ownership of Hornblend Hall, however, and in 1977 decided to return to its roots, the clubhouse built for the Pacific Beach Reading Club. Today’s Woman’s Club also recalls the heritage of its predecessor in other ways; the club color is lemon yellow, a lemon blossom is the club flower, its logo is a lemon branch and lemons form the background of its web site.

PB’s Japanese Truck Farmers

In the first years of the twentieth century Pacific Beach was a semi-rural community with few houses or other structures and a lot of open land, much of which was used for agricultural purposes. From 1892 to about 1905 the primary agricultural activity had been lemon ranching, but by 1910 the lemon economy had collapsed and most of the groves had disappeared. In some areas, like on Hornblend Street between Lamont and Jewell streets, the former lemon ranches were being converted to residential blocks, with graded streets, paved sidewalks and new house construction. Other areas remained agricultural but adopted different crops and methods, like truck farming – vegetables grown for shipment to distant markets. Folsom Bros. Investment Co. advertised a whole block of 40 lots in Pacific Beach as ‘suitable for chicken ranch or small truck farm’ in 1912.

Among those who moved to Pacific Beach to become truck farmers were immigrants from Japan. Yataro Yamaguchi was born in Japan in 1865. Census records indicate that he arrived in the United States in 1890 and in 1910 was working as a fruit farmer in El Cajon. By 1915 he had been joined by Matsu, apparently a ‘picture bride’ who had arrived in the United States in 1912, and the couple moved to Pacific Beach where the 1916 city directory described him as a rancher living at the northeast corner of Diamond and Olney streets (the house on that corner was the ranch house built in 1896 for lemon rancher Thomas Marshall, and then owned by the Baker family).

Mr. Yamaguchi made news in 1915 when he retained an attorney and threatened a criminal libel suit against the San Diego correspondent of the Los Angeles Japanese Daily News for writing an article (in Japanese and English) that accused the ‘Pacific Beach vegetable dealer’ of treating his young wife with great cruelty after he had induced her to come to California to marry him following an exchange of photographs. According to the Evening Tribune, Mr. and Mrs. Yamaguchi both emphatically denied the charges and claimed that no couple ever had more harmonious relations. In the end, the journalist agreed to publish an apology and denial of his former story, in two languages, and displayed as conspicuously as the original article.

By 1920 the Yamaguchis had three children and had moved to the northeast corner of Lamont and Diamond streets (again a lemon ranch house, built in 1895 for the Coffeens). Apparently they intended to move to a new home in July 1924 but after Mr. Yamaguchi had spent the Fourth of July cleaning and painting it he arrived with his belongings the following morning to find only a ‘heap of ashes and charred lumber’. According to the local papers, the home of Y. Yamaguchi on Jewell Street, across the street from a schoolhouse, was totally destroyed. No alarm had been received and no effort made to stop the fire. Neighbors reported that they had seen the fire but thought it was a bonfire celebrating the national holiday, and speculated that a skyrocket may have been responsible. Presumably this was the property near the southeast corner of Jewell and Law streets where an improvement assessed at $30 until 1924 was ‘gone’ in 1925 (the $30 value also suggests a very small building; houses in the vicinity ranged in assessed value from about $150 to over $500). This lot was a few blocks from the Pacific Beach school, which opened in 1923 on Ingraham between Emerald and Diamond streets and is now the PB middle school, but at the time they would have been separated only by open fields and Ingraham Street.

The 1920 census also listed two other Japanese households along Lamont Street. A. J. Yamaguchi (apparently no relation to Yataro), his wife Tomoye and daughter Yuriko lived 4775 Lamont, south of Chalcedony Street (also a former lemon ranch house, built in 1904 for the Roxburghs). The Morimoto family, Chonosuki, his wife Masuye and four children were listed as living on Lamont, near Beryl. The heads of these households were each described as truck farmers. The Japanese families rented these homes and presumably rented the land that they farmed, located east of Lamont along the intermittent creek that is now a storm drain under Academy Street.

Academy and Law streets, formerly Japanese truck farms, now Lamont Terrace subdivision.

Further to the east, near Rose Creek, Aizo and Komuma Sogo and their two daughters lived at 2480 Garnet. He was described as a garden laborer, and possibly worked at Kate Sessions’ nearby nursery.

Another group of Japanese lived in the area at the northwest corner Pacific Beach. The 1920 census listed 31-year-old Toshitaro Yamashita as manager of flower gardens in Bird Rock, along with his 33-year-old wife Tome. Eight Japanese men ranging in age from 17 to 61 at the same address were listed as helpers. Yonesuke Nakata, a farmer, and his brother Yozo, a laborer, with his wife Kataye and their month-old daughter Riuo, lived next door. Two other adjacent residences housed another seven Japanese men described as truck farmers or truck farm laborers. A note on the census form stated that this group of Japanese ‘speak English a little’. Two other residences housed Japanese truck farmers, their wives, relatives and helpers, 13 in all, nearby on Turquoise Street. These residents were said to ‘speak English very poorly’.

In March 1923 the Yamashitas bought three blocks of land north of Turquoise Street, across from what is now Pacific Beach Elementary School. Apparently the California Alien Land Laws of 1913 and 1920 prevented Mr. Yamashita, an ‘ineligible’ alien, from purchasing the property directly. Instead, an American citizen, Charles Butler, acquired the land for $8000 and then the ‘contract and all right, title and interest in the land’ was ‘assigned, transferred and set over’ to Shigeru Yamashita and Shizu Yamashita, ‘native born citizens of the United States of America’ (the Yamashita’s son, 3, and daughter, who would turn 1 in another week). A year later, in March 1924, a building permit was issued to T. Yamashita for a ‘frame cottage and garage, 1166 Turquoise, $2700’. In January 1925 he received another permit for a board house at 1254 Turquoise Street, Pacific Beach, valued at $200.

By 1930 the Yamaguchis had three more children and were paying $40 a month to rent the house at 4775 Lamont Street. Another family of Japanese-Americans, Kimitaro and Hatsuyo Nakamoto and their four children, were boarding at a house a block north at 4807 Lamont, north of Law Street (this was also a former lemon ranch house, built in 1893 for R. C. Wilson). The 1930 census described the heads of these households as truck ranchers and noted that they were able to speak English, although their wives were not. Across Pacific Beach, the Yamashitas lived with their four children and four Japanese boarders at 1166 Turquoise Street, on the property they had acquired in 1923. In the census, Mr. Yamashita and the boarders were listed as gardeners at truck and flower farms and everyone except one of the boarders could speak English. Another Japanese family, Tokubei and Yone Ono, with two daughters, lived nearby at 1186 Tourmaline. According to the census, both parents were gardeners at truck and flower farms and Mrs. Ono did not speak English. Strawberries were apparently the main crop in this area; a Journal of San Diego History article about the electric railway line to La Jolla noted that in the 1930s the open country, truck garden land, between Turquoise and Colima streets consisted of strawberry fields then commonly called by a culturally insensitive abbreviation for Japanese.

The Yamaguchi family was still living in Pacific Beach in 1940, at 1871 Grand Avenue, where Mr. Yamaguchi was described as a farmer and Mrs. Yamaguchi as a farm laborer. It is not clear whether their farm was near their home on Grand or whether they traveled up Lamont to Chalcedony Street and the same plot they had worked in previous years. Their son Alfred, 25 years old at the time, still lived with the family and was listed as a gardener for a private home. Daughter Yone, or Lois, 24, had moved to Los Angeles and worked as a cosmetologist in a beauty shop. The Yamashitas still lived at the 1166 Turquoise address with three of their children, and five Japanese and five Mexican hired hands. Their oldest son, Edward, 31, had married and lived on E Street in downtown San Diego, where he was a wholesale florist.

Although PB’s Japanese residents initially clustered together in neighboring homes and had a limited ability to communicate with the larger community, they were certainly aware of current events and on occasion showed a remarkable level of pride in their adopted country. In August 1923, after United States President Warren Harding died and was succeeded by his vice-president Calvin Coolidge, the San Diego Union reported that San Diego was believed to bear the distinction of having the first baby named after the new president. The distinguished youngster was Samuel Coolidge Yamaguchi, son of Pacific Beach truck gardener Yataro Yamaguchi (the ‘Samuel’ was said to be taken from ‘Uncle Sam’).

The children of the Japanese immigrants attended local schools and participated in community activities. 11-year-old Yone Yamaguchi received a silver star for 90 percent attendance in Big Chief Troop of Pacific Beach girl scouts in 1928.  Her 9-year-old sister Edith joined the troop in 1934. Third-grader Yuriko Ono played an Indian in a Thanksgiving play at the Pacific Beach school in 1929. Alfred Yamaguchi was in the first class to graduate from Pacific Beach Junior High School in 1932. Several of the Yamaguchi and Yamashita children graduated from La Jolla High School, where Ed Yamashita played football and wrestled for the Vikings and Kiku Yamashita was vice president of the Girls’ Athletic Association. Shigeru Yamashita was a champion model yacht racer in the mid-1930s and went to the University of California at Berkeley in 1940.

The assimilation of Japanese residents into Pacific Beach came to an abrupt end in 1942 after the United States declared war on Japan following the December 7, 1941 surprise attack on Pearl Harbor. Fearing that some members of the Japanese immigrant community could engage in subversive activity on behalf of their former homeland, the military declared the coastal areas of the western states exclusion zones and planned to evacuate all Japanese aliens and their Japanese-American children to relocation or internment camps outside of the coastal areas.

Restrictions on ‘enemy aliens’ began soon after war was declared. Japanese were required to surrender cameras, short-wave radios, firearms and other ‘contraband’. Beginning in February 1942 they were subject to a 9 P.M. curfew and only allowed to travel between home and work. Voluntary evacuation began in March, when 1000 Japanese from the Los Angeles area agreed to go to Manzanar in the Owens Valley to help set up a reception center there, and authorities made it clear that evacuations would continue with or without such cooperation.

In San Diego County, operators of Japanese controlled farms were registered and required to list details of their acreage and crops to assist in their transfer to American ownership with minimal effect on the food supply. They were told they must be ready move out ‘very shortly’, and advised to make preparations to transfer their properties and wind up their other affairs prior to their projected move inland. The first mass evacuation of 1150 Japanese and Japanese-Americans from the south half of San Diego County, including Pacific Beach, occurred on April 7. The evacuees departed from the San Diego union depot on two 16-car trains for an assembly center at the Santa Anita race track near Los Angeles. The San Diego Union noted that the departing Japanese left behind many farms and truck gardens, which the county agricultural department was seeking to staff with citizens to prevent loss of food.

Most of the former Pacific Beach residents ended up at the Colorado River Relocation Center, also known as the Poston Internment Camp, near Parker on the Arizona side of the Colorado River. The camp was built in early 1942 on the land of the Colorado River Indian Reservation, over the objections of the tribal council, and opened on June 1, 1942.

The Yamashitas; Toshitaro, Tome and three children, arrived at Poston from Santa Anita on August 27, 1942. The parents remained at Poston for the duration of the war, returning to San Diego in September 1945 after more than three years at Poston. Since the internment program was nominally intended to remove Japanese from coastal areas, some internees could obtain ‘indefinite leave’ from the camps, under certain conditions, as long as they went to non-coastal destinations. Shigeru Yamashita, 22 years old when interned, received indefinite leave by ‘community invitation’ and left for Chicago in April 1943. Shizu, or Elizabeth, 20 years old in 1942, left for Milwaukee in February 1944, also by community invitation. The youngest Yamashita daughter, Kikuya or Kiku, who was 18 when she arrived at Poston, married fellow evacuee Nobuo Kawamoto in February 1943 and their daughter Christine was born at Poston in December 1943. Nobuo received indefinite leave for employment at Salt Lake City in September 1943 but Kiku and Christine Kawamoto remained at Poston until July 1945, when they departed for San Diego.

The Yamashitas’ oldest son Edward, who had married and was living in downtown San Diego in 1942, also went to Poston via Santa Anita, arriving with his wife Florence and daughter Mildred on August 28. His wife and daughter received leave to join family in Colorado in April 1943 and he received leave for employment in Colorado in July 1943. They also returned to San Diego after the war, living in Lemon Grove.

The Yamaguchis; Yataro, Matsu and five of their children were sent directly to Poston on August 3, 1942, avoiding the Santa Anita assembly center. Their oldest son, Alfred, 27 in 1942, had also been sent directly to Poston, on May 15, 1942. Yataro, Matsu and their youngest daughter Jane, who was 15 years old in 1942, remained interned for the duration of the war, departing on September 19, 1945 for San Diego. The other Yamaguchi children did receive indefinite leave from Poston; Alfred joined the U. S. army and left in May 1943, Yone (Lois), 26 in 1942, departed to Chicago for employment in March 1943, Manuel and Edith, 20 and 17, also went to Chicago to join family (presumably Lois) in October 1943 and February 1944. Samuel Coolidge Yamaguchi, who turned 19 a week after arriving at Poston, went to Smithfield, Utah, by community invitation in June 1943. He later enlisted in the army and was deployed to Italy as a member of the famed all-Japanese 442nd Regimental Combat Team, where he was wounded in July 1944.

Several Japanese families who had lived in Pacific Beach in the 1920s but who lived elsewhere in San Diego in 1942 were also reunited, first at Santa Anita and then at Poston. Aizo and Komume Sogo, with six daughters and a son arrived at Poston on August 27, 1942. The parents and youngest daughter, 13 when she was interned, remained until 1945 but the other children, ranging in age from 15 to 25, were given indefinite leave and departed for eastern cities in 1943. Chonosuke and Masuye Morimoto and two of their children arrived on August 28. Chonosuke and Masuye remained for the duration, leaving for San Diego in September 1945. A 30-year-old son and 27-year-old daughter received indefinite leave for employment in 1943. Seiichi and Ekino Matsumoto, who had lived on Turquoise Street in 1920, arrived at Poston with three children on August 27 and remained with their youngest daughter, 13, until August 1945. Two other children, 15 and 21 when interned, received indefinite leave in 1944.

Yonesuke Nakata, his wife Haruno, and his brother Yozo, wife Kataye and their three children, who had moved from Turquoise Street to Solana Beach, were sent directly to Poston on May 17, 1942. The adults remained for the duration, returning to San Diego at the end of October 1945. One of Yozo and Kataye’s children went to Chicago in 1944, another returned to Encinitas in September 1945. The oldest daughter married another internee in September 1943 and the couple remained until they were released and returned to Monterey in September 1945.

Not all of the former PB residents sent to relocation camps went to Poston. Tokubei and Yone Ono, gardeners who had owned a home at 1186 Tourmaline Street in 1930, had moved on to Gardena by the 1940s and after assembly at Santa Anita they were sent to Arkansas, to the Rohwer Relocation Camp, with their two daughters, Lillie (Yuriko), 24 and Mary (Meriko), 23, arriving on September 30, 1942. Another 23-year-old from Gardena, James Ichiya Yoshida, also arrived at the same time and when he received leave for employment in April 1943 he and Meriko were married. She then also received indefinite leave and the couple moved to Chicago, where Lillie also went to ‘join family’ in October. The adult Onos remained until March 1945 when they also left for Chicago.

Kimitaro and Hatsuyo Nakamoto and their three children had lived on Lamont Street in Pacific Beach while working a nearby truck farm in 1930 and had moved to a farm on Torrey Pines Road in La Jolla by 1940. In 1942 the family was first sent to the Santa Anita assembly center and then to the Heart Mountain relocation center in Wyoming in September 1942. A year later, in September 1943, they were transferred to the Tulelake segregation center in California. Although the circumstances of their transfer are not clear, Tulelake was the center with the highest level of security and more armed guards and was where internees considered less loyal to the United States were segregated. It was also the last camp to close after the war; Kimitaro and Hatsuyo and their daughter Chieko (Katherine), 14 years old in 1942, remained at Tulelake until January 1946. The older children, Kenichi (Ken), 22, and Kimiye (Kay), 19, did not leave until March 1946.

Back in Pacific Beach, the war years had brought thousands of defense workers from the huge Consolidated Aircraft plant downtown to federal housing projects which in many cases were built on the site of the displaced Japanese residents’ former homes, farms and gardens. The Los Altos Terrace project, 428 homes, was built on land surrounding the Pacific Beach Junior High School (now PB Elementary), covering the former farmland and homes of the Japanese families who once lived there. When the federal government filed suit to condemn and acquire the tract in July 1942, Shigeru and Shizu Yamashita, the 22-year-old son and 20-year-old daughter of Toshitoro Yamashita, were among the defendents; the ‘apparent and presumptive owners’ of three blocks around Everts and Agate streets, across Turquoise from the school. Another large housing project, Bayview Terrace, with 1127 homes, occupied almost all of Pacific Beach east of Olney Street, including what had been Kate Sessions’ nursery property where a number of Japanese gardeners had formerly worked.

Although the land between Lamont and Academy streets was not taken over by housing projects during the war years, population growth in Pacific Beach had made it far more valuable for residential development than for truck farming and it was soon subdivided, as Lamont Terrace between Chalcedony and Beryl streets, in 1947, and Picard Terrace on the south side of Chalcedony, in 1950. The developers of Lamont Terrace cleared the entire subdivision, including the ranch house at 4807 Lamont where the Nakomoto family had boarded in 1930 (only sparing a large Moreton Bay fig tree still standing in front of 1922 Law Street). The former ranch houses at 4775 Lamont and 1932 Diamond, occupied by the Yamaguchis in the 1920s and 1930s, are still there but are surrounded by newer construction and barely visible from the street. With Pacific Beach transformed during their absence, former residents who had spent the war years in internment camps settled elsewhere; the Yamaguchis in the Shelltown area of Southeast San Diego and the Yamashitas in Lemon Grove.

The former ranch house at 4775 Lamont where Japanese truck farmers lived in the 1920s and 1930s.

 

Ye Olde Mission Inn

Club house, soon to be Ye Olde Mission Inn, and grand stand of the Pacific Beach Driving Park about 1906 (San Diego History Center #344)

In July 1887 a group of sporting men formed the Southern California Breeders Association and purchased Pueblo Lot 1797, a half-mile square below today’s Garnet Avenue through which Rose Creek flowed toward Mission Bay. The Breeders Association planned to build a race track at the site with stables, a grand stand and a clubhouse. These would actually be the first improvements in the area north of Mission Bay that was soon to become Pacific Beach.

The grandstand was completed by November 1887, in time for a baseball game between the National League’s Philadelphia team and a group of local amateurs, which the Phillies won 31 – 7. The Pacific Beach Driving Park was opened for racing on May 1, 1888, by which time the clubhouse, a three-story building of 22 rooms, had also been completed. Later, in October 1888, nearly 7,000 people crowded the track to watch the noted swordswoman Jaguarina defeat Captain Wiedemann in an exhibition of mounted sword combat.

However, the race track’s location at the mouth of Rose Creek made it vulnerable to flooding during winter storms. The San Diego Union reported that the Pacific Beach race track was demolished by a stream that came down Rose’s Canyon during one storm in December 1889. Other storms in March 1893 and January 1895 compounded the damage to the race course and racing never recovered, although the grand stand was still used for crowd-pleasing events like rodeos, balloon ascents and parachute drops.

In May 1903 the rumor spread that the track had been purchased by A. G. Spaulding, the sporting goods magnate and former major league pitcher, who was then a resident of Point Loma. Although the rumor turned out to be false, or at least premature, the renewed interest in the track prompted its then-owner Col. A. G. Gassen to initiate a program of improvements. Gassen also formed the Belmont Breeders Association and brought a number of thoroughbred horses to the stables at the track. Spaulding did take over the Belmont Breeders Association in September 1903 and renamed it the American Saddle-Horse Breeding Farm. The track itself became known as American Park. However, Spaulding’s ownership was also brief and in November 1904 Pueblo Lot 1797 was acquired by U. S. Grant, Jr., son of the civil war general and former president. Grant sold it to the Mission Bay Park Company in November 1906 and the property was included in the Mission Bay Park subdivision in 1907.

Although the race track had been abandoned, the grand stand, club house and a judges’ stand remained standing and in March 1907 the lots where these buildings stood, about where Figueroa Boulevard and Magnolia Avenue intersected on the Mission Bay Park subdivision map, was purchased by Ye Olde Mission Inn Company, a corporation set up in February 1907 by James H. Babcock and others. Babcock reputedly had an extensive background in the hospitality business. According to the San Diego Union, his first success was as proprietor of the Hotel Bartholdi in New York and he later conducted the Lick café and restaurant in San Francisco, then delighted the palates of the Alaska miners with his St. Nicholas restaurant at Nome. After winning a fortune in the gold mines, he returned to San Francisco and inaugurated the celebrated Bab’s café, which the Union called the most noted restaurant on the coast. Somewhere along the line he was also said to have been proprietor of one of the most famous resorts in Denver. Bab’s, in San Francisco, was a ‘Bohemian’ café, ‘divided into little rooms made to represent prison cells, undertaking establishments, mausoleums and other strange places. Coffins were used for tables and skulls for drinking cups’. Bab’s was destroyed in the San Francisco earthquake and fire of April 1906 but Babcock himself made a ‘sensational escape’ from the ruined city. He turned up in San Diego where he purchased Ye Olde Mission Inn at American Park and was ‘fitting everything up in modern elegance’.

Bad fortune had apparently followed him to San Diego, however, and in February 1908 the Mission Inn, a ‘picturesque country resort’, narrowly escaped destruction when a shed at the rear of the hotel used as a carpenter shop caught fire. Although the shed was a total loss, volunteers using a garden hose and bucket brigade prevented the flames from jumping across to an adjacent building formerly used as a judges’ stand. The Union reported that had the fire reached the judges’ stand nothing could have saved the nearby hotel building, formerly the race track’s club house. Among the volunteers fighting the fire was A. B. Cairnes, the first chief of the San Diego fire department, who had retired in 1905 and built a home on a prominent rise overlooking the race track. Chief Cairnes presumably saw the smoke and flames and reacted instinctively by rushing to the fire.

In September 1908 Babcock announced a renovation and improvement of the property that would ‘eclipse’ any country club house in the west, but instead the Mission Inn was completely destroyed by a second fire in November 1908. The Evening Tribune reported ‘only a heap of smoldering ruins where last night there was a pretty and substantial structure’ and the Union added that there was little left to remind one of the ‘old days’. The building was valued at $15,000 and insured for $7000.

Ye Olde Mission Inn Company continued to own the property and in 1910 Babcock proposed building a new club house on the site with 15 sleeping rooms, a large dining hall and a grill, for the use of members of the Pacific Coast Automobile & Driving Club. Membership in the club, of which Babcock was the ‘leading spirit’, would be limited and a membership certificate would cost $25. Every courtesy would be extended to women in the families of members; they would be allowed the privileges of the club at all times and even permitted to invite their women friends as guests. However, although automobiles were beginning to travel along the boulevard connecting Los Angeles and San Diego, which at the time passed through Pacific Beach on what is now Garnet Avenue, the Automobile & Driving club’s club house was never built and the property was auctioned at the courthouse door in February 1912. In 1947 a motel was built on the site to accommodate motorists passing by on the Pacific Highway, U.S. 101. The Rancho 101 Motel incorporated the last remaining structure from the race track, the three-story judges’ stand.

After abandoning the Mission Inn venture James Babcock tried his hand at the hospitality business in downtown San Diego. In November 1911 he was one of the incorporators of the Cecil Hotel Company which leased a new six-story building on Sixth Street between B and C, said to be the first steel frame structure in San Diego. The Union reported that the deal was made through the Babcock Investment Company, whose president James H. Babcock became secretary of the hotel company and whose reputation as a restauranteur guaranteed the success of the new venture from the culinary and epicurean point of view; ‘No man on the Pacific coast commands a higher reputation in this line’.

Babcock became proprietor of the grill in the Hotel Cecil building and also opened a beer garden in an adjoining space; a November 1912 ad in the Union announced that Bab’s German Garden Restaurant, next door to the Cecil Hotel, was ‘quaint and cozy’. Under the personal supervision of James H. Babcock, the entertainment was high class – the chef and cuisine could not be excelled. Tourists and San Diegans were invited to inspect San Diego’s most popular restaurant, where refined ‘Bohemianism’ reigned. However, on December 31 the Evening Tribune reported that patrons of Bab’s German Garden would be robbed of the privilege of ushering in the New Year by frequent libations from the flowing bowl, for the flowing bowl was gone for good from Bab’s and from the emporium of its adjoining neighbor, the Hotel Cecil Grill. Apparently both places had allowed liquor to be served after midnight, without purchase of a bona fide meal, and as much as the patron desired, all apparently in violation of their licenses, which were thereby revoked. Conversations overheard between several chambermaids also indicated that morals at the Hotel Cecil were not all that could be desired (sensitivity about ‘morals’ was high at the time; a few weeks earlier a massive raid on the Stingaree red-light district had rounded up 138 women, all but two of whom had agreed to leave town rather than face further legal proceedings – although most purchased round-trip tickets).

In February 1913 the Tribune reported that the newly organized Olympic Athletic Club had secured quarters at 1140 Sixth Street, the place formerly occupied by Bab’s Restaurant, where it proposed to stage boxing bouts. In April the Union reported that attorneys for the First National Bank had resorted to supplementary proceedings in an effort to discover whether James H. Babcock, secretary of the Cecil Hotel Company, was possessed of funds or property sufficient to satisfy a judgement. No property, funds or things of value had been uncovered. And in July 1913, the Tribune noted that Nick Sargent, a well-known caterer, had returned to San Diego and bought the Hotel Cecil Grill on Sixth Street.

O. J. Stough Owned PB

Oliver J. Stough never lived in Pacific Beach, but at the turn of the twentieth century he actually owned most of it. He had acquired property in what was then an undeveloped area from a defunct railroad company and sold it to the group of investors who became the Pacific Beach Company. The company combined Stough’s former holdings with their own to create the Pacific Beach subdivision in 1887. Stough later joined these investors and eventually became the majority owner of the Pacific Beach Company. The company was dissolved in 1898 and its Pacific Beach real estate was distributed to the stockholders, primarily Stough. When he sold to Folsom Bros. Co. in 1903 the San Diego Union reported that ‘Pacific Beach has changed owners’.

O. J. Stough was a native of Pennsylvania, born in 1828, and a veteran of the Mexican-American war of 1846-48. In 1868 he purchased land that became a part of the Chicago suburb of Hinsdale, co-founded by Stough in 1872 (there is still a Stough Street and Stough Park in Hinsdale). In the 1880s Stough began spending parts of his year in San Diego, where he also acquired large property holdings. Among his purchases in San Diego were Pueblo Lots 1773, 1775, 1784, 1789, 1792, 1794, 1796, and 1799, over 1000 acres north of what was then called False Bay, now Mission Bay. This property, which covered about half of what is now Pacific Beach, as well as parts of Bird Rock and Mount Soledad, had been part of a subsidy granted by the city to the Texas and Pacific Railroad Company to encourage it to build a railroad connecting San Diego directly to the east. Although the railroad was never built, the company kept the land and passed it to a successor, the Los Angeles and San Diego Railroad Company. That company sold its rights in these pueblo lots to Milton Santee, and Santee assigned the rights to Stough in January 1887. Stough then sold the southwest quarter of Pueblo Lot 1794 to Charles Collins and a one-quarter interest in the remaining property to O. S. Hubbell.

pueblolots2

Collins and Hubbell were among the group of investors who established the Pacific Beach Company in July 1887, and in September 1887 they transferred the property they had acquired from Stough to their new company. Stough also sold his remaining three-quarters interest in Pueblo Lots 1789, 1792, 1794 (minus the southwest quarter), 1796 and 1799, 706 acres, to the company for $300,000. In October 1887 City Engineer H. K. Wheeler drew up a map for the Pacific Beach Subdivision which included this property along with the Pacific Beach Company’s other holdings north of False Bay. An opening sale of lots for the new subdivision was held in December 1887.

The centerpiece of the new community of Pacific Beach was to be the San Diego College of Letters, with a four-block campus on College Avenue (now Garnet) where the Pacific Plaza shopping center is located today. The cornerstone was laid for a college building in January 1888 and classes began in September, but financial problems prevented the college from starting other buildings planned for the site. However, in August 1889 the Union announced that arrangements had been made for erection of a central hall and recitation rooms; ‘the bills are to be sent to O. J. Stough, who has generously come to the front in providing for the needs of this institution’. Construction began in September and in January 1890 Stough Hall, ‘a neat and substantial brick edifice’, was opened with a program of music and speech making. In addition to its educational purposes, Stough Hall was used for elocution contests, lectures and the college commencement exercises attended by trainloads of San Diego citizens.

Financial problems continued at the college, however, and the college company was forced to sell bonds backed by mortgages on its campus and other real estate assets. Most of these bonds were then purchased by O. J. Stough, but despite his support the college still failed in early 1891 and the college campus property was auctioned by the sheriff at the court house door to pay off the college’s accumulated debts. Stough reacquired the campus property from the successful bidder in July 1892 but since the property was still security for the college’s mortgage bonds, which were in default on their interest payments, another sheriff’s sale was ordered to satisfy the bondholders (primarily Stough himself). An auction in August 1894 was cancelled when the successful bidders failed to complete the sale, claiming a technicality, but after the state supreme court affirmed the original order of sale a final auction was held in April 1896. The college campus was acquired by a community group dedicated to restoring a college on the site, but this effort went nowhere and the proposed college never opened.

O. J. Stough had not been one of the original directors or stockholders of the Pacific Beach Company at its creation in 1887 but by the time the company filed for dissolution in 1898 he owned over 60% of its shares (the First National Bank of San Diego held most of the rest). In 1898 the company still owned most of the property in Pacific Beach and as part of its dissolution this property was divided among the stockholders in proportion to their respective interests, with Stough receiving the lion’s share: 41 acre lots, 20 whole blocks and over 50 partial blocks. Although Stough did not live in Pacific Beach (his home was on Fourth Street between Hawthorn and Ivy) he did put his property in Pacific Beach to use; the Union reported in 1899 that O. J. Stough had rented a house and installed a foreman preparatory to beginning the fall plowing and sowing of 1200 acres to hay.

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Pacific Beach property distributed to O. J. Stough after the dissolution of the Pacific Beach Company in 1898. Stough later sold most of this property to Folsom Bros. Co.

In November 1903 the San Diego Union announced that ‘Pacific Beach has changed owners’; ownership of the larger portion of land had passed from O. J. Stough to the firm of Folsom Bros. The Union article explained that Mr. Stough had been the owner of over seven-tenths of the unimproved property at the charmingly situated suburb and the sale included the whole of his interest, about a hundred blocks or four thousand lots, the whole amounting to nearly 660 acres at Pacific Beach. The Union went on to explain that the deal was already closed and the papers in escrow but that the transfer would not take place until the next year. In fact, the transfer was not finalized until December 1906, over three years later, but by 1907 O. J. Stough’s involvement in Pacific Beach had ended. Where Stough had been content to cut hay on his Pacific Beach property, Folsom Bros. Co. began an improvement program which included grading streets and installing curbs, sidewalks and water mains in hopes of attracting residential buyers.

Stough Hall, built in 1889 for the San Diego College of Letters, had become the community’s primary gathering place for ‘entertainments’, dances and other events that were regularly described in the San Diego Union’s Pacific Beach column. In 1894 a good program was rendered at the young people’s entertainment; cake and lemonade were served. In 1895 the ‘Red and White’ cream festival under the auspices of the Ladies Aid Society was a most enjoyable entertainment. A very enjoyable entertainment was given on Friday night by the Endeavor Society in 1896 and in 1897 a mass meeting was held at Stough Hall to consider raising money to purchase the college property to present to the state for a normal school. The County Horticultural Society met at Stough Hall in 1898 and heard local lemon rancher F. W. Barnes describe his experiences; ‘How we handle our lemons’.  Stough Hall was beautifully decorated and dancing was indulged in at Miss Eugenia Johnson’s eighteenth birthday in 1902.

In 1904 Folsom Bros. Co. also acquired the college campus and developed the buildings, including Stough Hall, into a resort that they called the Hotel Balboa. However, the hotel was not a success and in 1911 the buildings became the nucleus of the San Diego Army and Navy Academy, which in 1937 became Brown Military Academy. When Brown Military Academy moved in 1958 one of the first buildings torn down to make room for the Pacific Plaza shopping center was Stough Hall, the last reminder of O. J. Stough in Pacific Beach (although some say that Oliver Avenue was named in his honor).

Hotel Balboa about 1906. Stough Hall is on the left and the original college building on the right.

Hotel Balboa about 1906. Stough Hall is on the left and the original college building on the right.

PB Passion Fruit Ranch

Hermann Karl Wilhelm (H.K.W.) Kumm was born in Germany in 1874. He was drawn to missionary work in Africa and served on missions in Eqypt and the Sudan in the late 1890s. In 1900 he formed the Sudan United Mission, dedicated to establishing Christianity and preventing the spread of Islam among the pagan tribes of sub-Saharan Africa. Dr. Kumm led the mission for more than twenty years and traveled widely within Africa, including areas previously unexplored by Europeans, for which he is sometimes considered the ‘last of the Livingstones’. He also wrote several books describing the lands he had visited and the lives of other African missionaries.

On one of his expeditions into the jungles of the Congo region he contracted a fever which undermined his health. His doctors advised him to relocate to a mild climate and in 1925 Kumm moved with his family to Pacific Beach, where his reputation as an explorer, geographer and writer quickly earned him celebrity status. He was chosen to be the principal speaker at the ‘formal christening’ of the new $150,000 Crystal Pier in April 1926 and the May 1926 celebration of a new road to the top of Mt. Soledad.

Dr. Kumm had moved to Pacific Beach not only for his own health but because he believed that local conditions were ideal for the cultivation of passion fruit. He had developed an interest in botany and hoped to produce a better variety of passion fruit, large and tasty, by crossing the small but highly flavored Australian variety with the larger but less flavorful South American type. The Kumms’ home at the northeast corner of Hornblend and Morrell streets (named Passiflora after the genus of the passion vine) was on ten lots, the entire southwest quarter of the block, and within a year he had started 500 seedlings and had nearly 200 plants growing, of which 50 were bearing.

In order to continue his experimentation on a larger scale, Dr. Kumm leased 20 acres of pueblo land from the city on Torrey Pines Mesa, in the vicinity of Miramar Road, in August 1927. The Evening Tribune reported that the initial planting of 5 acres was believed to be the largest area ever planted in the United States to the passion fruit vine. In April 1929 he was also granted a lease of 37 acres of city-owned pueblo land in Pueblo Lots 1780 and 1781, in the hills north of Pacific Beach where the Emerald Cove and Crystal Bay gated communities are now located (despite the opposition of the PB chamber of commerce, which felt that the property would be put to better use as a golf course).

The April 1929 lease of land above Pacific Beach coincided with an announcement in the San Diego Union that the growing of passion fruit had passed the experimental state and that acreage coming into bearing and demand for products necessitated construction of a factory and immediate development of a business; ‘Opportunity open for business man with at least $30,000 to take over complete control of manufacturing end and establish profitable business in sale of products’. While business men were considering this offer, Pacific Beach residents were given the opportunity to sample the products. When the Pacific Beach Woman’s Club met at Braemar Manor, the home of Mrs. F. T. Scripps, for her annual musical entertainment in April 1929, the refreshments included ice cream made with passion fruit from the gardens of Dr. H. K. W. Kumm. A month later, the Woman’s Club garden fete at the Scripps’ home included booths of various kinds where refreshments were served. Mrs. H. K. W. Kumm was in charge of passion fruit products.

While in Pacific Beach Dr. Kumm occasionally recounted his African travels in talks to various civic organizations. He brought trophies including the tusks of a buffalo that once treed him to a meeting of the University Club. He told the Lions Club that in 1908 he penetrated the darkest part of Central Africa and crossed the continent at a latitude where other explorers had failed. A meeting of local realtors learned that he crossed Africa on foot, accompanied only by natives, and explored lands never before touched by whites, his work bringing him many signal honors in the scientific world.

He also developed a new interest, this time in gliders. In the summer of 1929 glider clubs from around Southern California had held competitions in which gliders were launched from the top of Loring Street hill and the hills behind the corner of Fanuel and Agate streets. In November 1929, at an organizational meeting at his home, Dr. Kumm was unanimously elected president of the Associated Glider Clubs of Southern California. He and his wife also sponsored San Diego Girl Gliders and helped them to purchase their own sailplane.

H. K. W. Kumm died in 1930 of heart disease induced by the fever he had contracted in Africa. He was 56 years old. Despite his efforts, the passion fruit industry he hoped to develop in Pacific Beach never really took off. A visitor in 1931 noted that Passiflora, the Pacific Beach home of the late Dr. and Mrs. Kumm, was a particularly delightful spot to visit, with the passion fruit blossoms as well as an abundance of fruit on the vines, but regretted that Dr. Kumm could not have been spared to carry on his work at Passiflora. Mrs. Kumm returned to her native country of Australia in 1931, listing her home in the Evening Tribune; ‘Passiflora, a delightful home with an assured income at 2004 Hornblend’. According to the Tribune, 12,000 pounds of passion fruit were picked the previous year and a contract existed for the crop at 12 cents a pound. The property included a 7-room and a 3-room house, a garage, packing house, lath house and greenhouse, 75 varieties of roses, all kinds of bearing fruits and avocados, a fish pond, many fine trees, tropical plants and shrubs. ‘Was appraised at $12,000. Submit any offer over $8,000’.

Today the tropical plants and shrubs, bearing fruits, and roses that once flourished at Passiflora are all gone and the packing house, greenhouse and fish pond have given way to apartments and town houses. The Kumms’ former home at the corner of Hornblend and Morrell is now the only reminder of their Pacific Beach passion fruit ranch.

Passiflora, Dr. Kumm’s home and passion fruit ranch in Pacific Beach, now modernized with a false mansard fascia