Category Archives: Places

Pacific Beach Schools

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Draining Pacific Beach

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Outlet of the Olney Street storm drain into Mission Bay

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

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

Outlet of the Missouri Street storm drain at the beach

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

Storm drain system in Pacific Beach

Grand Avenue, Pacific Beach

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

PB’s First Black Residents

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

(Kitty McDaniel collection)

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Higbees in Pacific Beach

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Marshalls and Hinkles in PB

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pacific Beach Driving Park

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Hidden History in Acre Lot 50

Acre Lot 50, Pacific Beach, in the 1930s (San Diego History Center 83:14603-1)

In February 1892 R. C. Wilson and G. M. D. Bowers, brothers-in-law and business partners from Henning, Tennessee, purchased Acre Lots 34 and 50 of Pacific Beach and in March 1892 added Acre Lot 33, lots that met at the corner of what are now Chalcedony and Lamont streets. The price was $100 an acre; $1850 for lots 34 and 50 and $990 for lot 33. These acre lots originated in an amended subdivision map recorded by the Pacific Beach Company in January 1892 that partitioned Pacific Beach north of Diamond Street (and south of Reed Avenue) into ‘acreage lots’ of approximately 10 acres, intended for agricultural use. By the end of March 1892 a six-inch water main had been laid up Lamont as far as Chalcedony and the San Diego Union reported that Wilson and Bowers were having 4,000 feet of water pipe laid over their 30-acre tract. The Union added that the property was to be put in lemons during the next few weeks. Other purchasers also acquired acre lots in the vicinity and Pacific Beach soon became a thriving center of lemon cultivation. On Acre Lot 34, west of Lamont between Chalcedony and Beryl streets, the Bowers built the first lemon ranch house in Pacific Beach in 1892, a house which is still standing at 1860 Law Street. The Wilsons built in 1893 on Acre Lot 33, on the other side of Lamont. Their ranch house was razed in the 1940s but a large Moreton Bay fig tree that once stood over it still marks its location.

In 1895, having developed their properties into a profitable lemon ranch, the partners sold them and returned to Tennessee. Lot 33, including the Wilsons’ home, was sold for $5500, lot 34, with the Bowers’ home, also sold for $5500 and lot 50, with no improvements at the time, went for $3000. The purchasers of Acre Lot 50, east of Lamont Street between Chalcedony and Diamond streets, were Lewis and Elizabeth Coffeen, recent arrivals from Michigan. They built a ‘fine cottage’ on their new possession which the city assessed at $100 and in December 1895 the Union reported that they had moved into their new house. This house is also still standing, at 1932 Diamond Street. However, the Coffeens did not live in the fine new cottage for long; he was compelled to return east for business reasons and the ranch was sold in March 1897 to Major William D. and Henrietta Hall.

According to the Union, Maj. Hall, a new arrival who spent three years in Phoenix, Ariz. seeking restoration to health, was induced to visit Pacific Beach to examine a ten-acre improved tract by an advertisement in the Union. Three days after first sight, Maj. Hall was the proud possessor of a four-year-old lemon grove, beautiful for situation, commanding a view of Mission Bay, the breakers at Ocean Beach, Point Loma, San Diego city and Coronado. He had already erected a curing house and had a hundred boxes of lemons packed therein. Maj. Hall was reportedly delighted in the soil, location, climate and environment and especially the price of water, for which he said he paid as much for his ten acres as he would have paid for an acre and a half in Phoenix. At the end of 1897 the Union reported that Maj. Hall had received $200 from the abandoned orchard that he took charge of ten months earlier and in June 1899 it reported that he netted $100 from a picking of four acres of lemons. Presumably he used the proceeds for the ‘quite important additions and improvements’ made to his house in December.

On New Year’s Day the San Diego Union regularly featured articles celebrating each of the outlying communities and on January 1, 1900, the article from Pacific Beach was written by Wm. D. Hall. According to Maj. Hall, Moses’ view of the promised land from Mount Pisgah could not be compared with the view of Pacific Beach from Point Loma, and nearly in the center of this beautiful spot were clustered about three hundred acres of lemon groves from three to seven years old and from 2 ½ to 10 acres, dotted here and there with fine residences with well kept yards, beautiful with every variety of flowers and in bloom all year round. He noted that the Pacific Beach lemon groves were not only attractive but productive; during the past year thirty carloads of lemons (and two of oranges) had been raised and shipped. However, like Wilson and Bowers, Maj. Hall apparently decided that there was more profit to be made selling the groves than the lemons and in 1899 the Halls sold about half of Acre Lot 50, the northern 298 feet, with 12 rows of trees running east and west, to A. F. and Margaret Roxburgh. In 1901 the Halls sold the other half, the southern 322 feet including their home, to R. M. Baker.

The Roxburghs were from Scotland and had come to Pacific Beach to join her brother William Kyle who had established a poultry ranch in Pacific Beach, specializing in ducks. Kyle was also an elder and Sunday School superintendent at the Pacific Beach church; the Union reported that the Santa Claus who entered through a church window and distributed gifts to the children on Christmas Eve in 1896 had a broad Scotch accent. His sister and her husband arrived in February 1899 and in June of that year Mr. Kyle’s and Mrs. Roxburgh’s mother also arrived from Scotland. Kyle, his mother and the Roxburghs initially rented rooms at the College Inn, originally the home of the San Diego College of Letters but used as a rooming house after the demise of the college in 1891. Once they had acquired their ranch in the north half of Acre Lot 50 the Roxburghs moved out of the inn and for several years lived in houses on neighboring lemon ranches including Mary Rowe’s on Acre Lot 49 in 1900, R. P. Dammond’s in Block 180 in 1902 and Harold Scott’s on Acre Lot 35 in 1903. In 1904 they built a house on their own ranch which the Evening Tribune described as both substantial and artistic looking, being built largely of stone. This house is also still standing, at 4775 Lamont, although it is set back from the street and nearly hidden by surrounding structures.

The Roxburghs did not live in their new home for long either; in 1906 they sold their portion of Acre Lot 50 to M. F. Chesnut, a real estate investor, who sold it the following year to Folsom Bros. Co. At the time Folsom Bros. owned most of the property in Pacific Beach and was engaged in improvement projects, particularly grading streets and pouring concrete sidewalks, which they hoped would attract purchasers and increase the value of their holdings. In 1912 the property was purchased by Alfred Hatch Brown, who also extended his ranch with a strip of land 125 by 250 feet just across Chalcedony Street in Acre Lot 33. Mr. Brown and his wife St. Claire Brown lived in the stone ranch house until they moved downtown in 1918, after which they rented out the house and land. The lemon boom had faded years earlier but this irrigated ranch land was ideal for vegetables and the tenants were mostly truck farmers, some of them Japanese immigrants. Arthur Yamaguchi occupied the house in 1920 and Yatoro Yamaguchi and his family lived there between 1929 to 1931, paying $40 a month rent. The Y. Yamaguchis and their American-born children were still living in Pacific Beach in 1942 and were among those sent to the Poston relocation center for ‘enemy aliens’ in Arizona during World War II.

The south half of Acre Lot 50 had been sold in 1901 to R. M. Baker, who had also acquired two other lemon ranches and a half-interest in the main lemon packing plant on the Pacific Beach and La Jolla railway line at the corner of Hornblend and Morrell streets. However, he also didn’t hold that property for long and in July 1902 sold it to Peter and Mary Vessels. In May 1908 the San Diego Union reported that Mrs. Vessels attended a city council meeting and spent half an hour asserting her rights over the removal of a hedge fence which stood in the way of the grading of Lamont Street being carried out by Folsom Bros. Co.  According to the San Diego Union she told the councilmen that she would position herself on the fence and the only way they could get her off would be to push her off and plow her under. After a ‘spicy encounter’ between the fence owner and the vice-president of Folsom Bros. and a ‘long and tiresome debate with Mrs. Vessels in the lead’, the council passed a resolution directing the city engineer to enforce the grading of Lamont Street to the full width thereof including the sidewalks (and presumably any hedge fences that encroached on it). Lamont Street was graded, apparently without injury to Mrs. Vessels, and in October 1909 cement sidewalks were laid along Lamont, including a section in front of the Vessels property between Diamond and Missouri streets that still exists today .

In 1911 the Vessels began selling off portions of their property in the south half of Acre Lot 50, first the southeastern quarter and then the northeastern corner. Unlike most other acre lots in Pacific Beach, Acre Lot 50 was not re-subdivided into blocks and lots and these transfers were described as the easterly 275 feet of the southerly 135 feet and the easterly 100 feet of the northerly 135 feet of the southerly 270 feet of Acre Lot 50 (most property within Acre Lot 50 is still described in this manner). In 1916 the Vessels granted the city a strip of land 52 feet wide at the northern edge of their property, intended as a continuation of Missouri Street. The city did not receive a corresponding grant from the owner of the north half of the lot and as a result the continuation of Missouri Street today is not aligned with the street to the west and is much narrower (also, unlike most Pacific Beach blocks, there is no alley in the south half of Acre Lot 50). In 1917 the Vessels sold the southwestern 200 feet along Diamond Street and the northwestern 455 feet along Missouri Street, about three-quarters of their property, to Jesse and Lena Pritchard, leaving the Vessels with a 105-foot lot on Diamond which went to their daughter Blanche Vessels Lane. The house originally built for the Coffeens was included in the southwestern 200 feet of the lot but the Pritchards did not live in it. Instead it was rented, including, in 1919, to Yataro Yamaguchi, the Japanese truck farmer who later moved into the Roxburgh house.

In 1920 the southwest corner of the acre lot, including the Coffeen ranch house, was sold to George and Mary Churchman, who took up residence there and remained for over fifty years. George Churchman was a San Diego police officer who began with the bicycle detail and advanced to be head of substations in Ocean Beach and La Jolla and for a time during the prohibition era was in charge of the police vice squad. In one sensational 1921 incident (‘Bluecoat shoots 2 in dark store’), Patrolman Churchman shot a pair of burglars, killing one, after being struck in the head by a tire iron and threatened by a shotgun, which fortunately wasn’t loaded. While trying to ‘dry up’ the Sunset Supper Club while in charge of the Ocean Beach substation in 1925 Sergeant Churchman found a 23-year-old woman sitting on a bottle of gin and a 26-year-old woman with a bottle of gin ‘parked’ between her feet. A 26-year-old man approached, showed him a roll of bills, and offered him $50 to ‘forget about it’. All three were placed under arrest.

In April 1929 Churchman was elevated from sergeant to lieutenant and put in charge of the vice detail. A few months later, in August, the ‘dry squad’ led by Lt. Churchman raided a storeroom downtown and seized 4500 quarts of whisky, gin and other liquors worth $27,000. The illicit beverages had apparently been brought in for an American Legion state convention and there was a widespread belief that the Legion’s ‘irrigation committee’ thought that the police had been ‘fixed’. At the trial a witness testified that ‘someone got sore at the Legion’ and gave a tip to Churchman; if the tip had gone to the mayor or the chief of police the raid would never have happened. Churchman also led a raid that uncovered an illicit 200-gallon still and two 800-gallon mash vats in a house in Loma Portal.

However, in 1931 the vice squad came under attack by the bar association after a woman was arrested and held in jail over the weekend without being permitted to post bail. The San Diego Union reported that Lt. George Churchman, head of the vice squad, had determined that she was a ‘woman of a disreputable character’ and deemed it wise to hold her without bail until he could check up on her story (she was eventually charged with vagrancy but the charge was dismissed). The bar association threatened damage suits against the vice squad members, including Churchman, involved in what it called illegal arrests. Two members of the city council joined in denouncing the police department and demanded a general vice cleanup. The police chief resigned, claiming that his job had been made impossible by political interference, and Churchman was reassigned to head the La Jolla substation. After he also resigned from the police department he continued to be involved in security work, including the security of Camp Callan, on Torrey Pines Mesa, during the war years. He also continued to live in Acre Lot 50 until the early 1970s when he moved a block down the street to the new Plaza apartments.

By the mid-1930s the south half of Acre Lot 50 had been divided into a number of separate parcels and there were 5 residences existing along Diamond, Lamont and Missouri streets. However, the northern half had remained intact with the Roxburgh ranch house as the only residence. In 1937 the northern 125 feet, including the house, was sold to a construction company, but no additional homes were built until the 1940s. In 1940 Consolidated Aircraft began production of its B-24 Liberator bomber and hired tens of thousands of workers for its factories around the San Diego airport, creating a  demand for housing in nearby areas like Pacific Beach. In 1941 the federal government built over 1000 temporary homes in the Bayview housing project just a few blocks east of Acre Lot 50 and commercial developers also began building affordable homes in the area for the new workers. There were still only 9 homes in Acre Lot 50 in 1941, 4 on Diamond, 2 on Lamont and 3 on Missouri but 6 more were built by 1945. By 1950 there were 20 homes, 9 on Diamond, 5 on Lamont and 6 on Missouri, but still none on the south side of Chalcedony Street. In 1950 Pacific Beach contractor Stanley Picard acquired this property, the northern 125 feet of Acre Lot 50 except for the 75-by-130 foot space around the Roxburgh ranch house, and in 1950 this parcel was subdivided as Picard Terrace. By 1955 eight homes had been built along Chalcedony Street in Picard Terrace and more than 20 addresses were listed in the 1900 block of Missouri. Like most of the rest of Pacific Beach, Acre Lot 50 was fully built out before 1960 and since then many of the first generation of single-family residences have been converted to multi-unit apartments and condos, but Acre Lot 50 has the distinction of having preserved not one but two of its original lemon ranch houses, even if they are well hidden.

Acre Lot 50 today (Google Maps satellite view)

The Implausible Railroad

Last month the Pacific Southwest Railroad Museum staged a reenactment of what was considered the greatest event in the history of San Diego when it took place a century ago. On November 15, 1919, in a remote desert canyon, J. D. Spreckels, founder and president of the San Diego & Arizona Railroad, drove the golden spike that symbolized completion of a new rail line linking San Diego with the Imperial Valley and points east. Speakers impersonating the dignitaries who spoke at the original ceremony emphasized the difficulties involved in building the line, which had already become known as the ‘impossible railroad’, and praised Spreckels for his determination in leading the effort that finally overcame the many challenges – for doing the impossible.

Work on the SD & A had begun in 1907 but a number of difficulties, principally the challenging terrain along the planned route, had stretched construction out for over twelve years. The most challenging section of the route was in Carrizo Gorge, north of Jacumba, where for 11 miles the SD & A right-of-way was blasted out of a sheer canyon wall, requiring 17 tunnels totaling 2 ½ miles in length and 14 wood trestle bridges. In November 1919 construction crews laying track from both ends of Carrizo Gorge finally came together and Spreckels and a trainload of the city’s leading citizens congregated there to celebrate his triumph by driving in the last spike. However, the 2019 reenactment of this historic occasion did not occur at Carrizo Gorge, which has been closed to passenger rail service for nearly 70 years, but instead at a railway museum in Campo where railroad enthusiasts can still ride in vintage coaches with SD & A lettering over the few miles of the route that are still open. The audience was well aware that the reenactors’ tributes to Spreckels for doing the impossible were ironic, and that the railroad turned out to be impossible after all.

Passenger service over the new railroad line was inaugurated on December 1, 1919, but after only six weeks, in January 1920, the San Diego Union (which was also owned by Spreckels) reported that a rock slide, not large enough to do any ‘real damage’ but just large enough to prevent temporarily the passage of trains, occurred on the SD & A in Carrizo Gorge. The landslide was just west of Tunnel No. 13 and the railway stated that this particular point had been questionable for some time and dynamiting had been considered, so the slide actually relieved the company of this trouble. The Evening Tribune (also owned by Spreckels) added that although nature had ‘saved the powder’ the line was still blocked and passengers on the westbound train No. 3 and eastbound train No. 4, which had arrived at opposite ends of the slide, had to be ‘transported’ around the slide to the other train, which then reversed course and took them on to their destinations. Despite this inconvenience, the railway company emphasized that the track through Carrizo Gorge was becoming more settled each day and was in a very satisfactory condition, and there should be no trouble from this time on. This optimistic assessment was reinforced a month later, in February 1920, when the Union reported that rainfall in the mountain regions was heavy enough in Carrizo Gorge to put the new roadbed to the test that had been awaited by railroad officers. The many precipitous water courses that the rails passed over flowed strongly during the storm but since the many tunnels, cuts and trestles successfully withstood the forces of the first big storm no future trouble of any kind was looked for.

Future trouble occurred anyway, and it was of the kind that did cause real damage. The Union reported in May 1920 that a slide on the side of a mountain over tunnel No. 7 in Carrizo Gorge would probably put the San Diego & Arizona railway out of commission temporarily; although the tunnel was open and trains could be operated through it that was not considered advisable until the part that had given way was removed, which would require several days. Arrangements had been made to transfer passengers between Campo and El Centro by automobile. According to the railway this was the only tunnel through the gorge that had given trouble of any consequence. Two days later, however, the report was that a rift in the rock formation had caused a shift of a huge mass of rock and earth bearing down on the west end of tunnel No. 7. A section of the mountainside 590 feet long, 200 feet high and 200 feet wide at the west portal of the tunnel was unstable and was sliding downhill, crushing 128 feet of the tunnel and 480 feet of track leading to the tunnel. Blasting would be required to break down practically the entire side of the mountain. This would close down the line for a period of five weeks and cost the company approximately $250,000 but, on the plus side, would make impossible any recurrence of the trouble and make the tunnel absolutely safe for all time. A big steam shovel with a force of about 100 men was already at work on the west end of slide. Another shovel with its crew, based a few miles west of the slide, had started a roundabout trip of about 430 miles via Colton and El Centro in order to reach the east end of the slide.

Blasting off the side of the mountain required miners to sink three shafts 25 to 35 feet deep near the top of the slide and oil-drilling rigs to drill six holes 50 to 60 feet deep near the roadbed.  These were filled with 50 to 60 tons of black powder and dynamite and in early June J. D. Spreckels himself made the trip to Carrizo Gorge by special train to throw the switch setting off the blast. According to the Evening Tribune, there followed a heavy roar with a concussion that rocked the ground. Vast clouds of dust were sent skyward and thousands of tons of rocks and boulders went hurtling and bounding into the canyon below. Good results were obtained, although not entirely up to expectations, and no accidents of any kind were recorded. A film crew was on hand when the big blast occurred and a few weeks later citizens of San Diego were able to watch it on the big screen; the ad in the Union read ‘Blown Up! A Whole Mountain to Make Carriso Gorge Safe on the S. D. & A. Railroad. See the Big Blast at the Cabrillo. Now — This Week.

However, debris from the Big Blast and a subsequent shot still had to be cleared away and the tunnel rebuilt and two months later the railroad reported that progress had been much slower than expected. Four steam shovels were working two full shifts and the obstruction had been cleared up to approximately 100 feet from the tunnel portal. The railroad predicted that the line should be handling traffic by the end of August and denied a statement in the Los Angeles Examiner that the blasts had been a complete fiasco since the many tons of earth and rock thrown clear of the roadbed had reduced the material to be handled by the steam shovels. The end of August came and went and in October the railroad announced that although the slide had been cleared and the roadbed widened it would still be necessary to drive 166 feet of new tunnel to connect with the present tunnel, possibly by mid-November.  When the line did reopen on Thanksgiving Day after being closed for seven months an editorial in the Union declared that every possibility of future delay by reason of similar obstruction had been permanently removed and henceforward San Diego would serve as the Pacific terminal of a direct transcontinental railway.

Actually, other possibilities for delays still existed and in August 1921, less than a year later, the line was closed for several days after heavy and sudden rain hit the western side of Imperial Valley. The terrific downpour had caused 20 washouts along a stretch of about nine miles there leaving a much weakened roadbed in its path. After another storm in December 1921 good progress was reported on repairs to the SD & A roadbed at washed-out points between Tijuana and Carrizo Gorge, although several more days would be required to open the line to through traffic. Through service was restored early in January 1922 but trains were required to travel slowly over three of the washouts so the train making a connection with the Golden State at Yuma would have to leave San Diego an hour earlier than regularly scheduled (at Yuma a sleeper car from the SD & A train was switched to the Southern Pacific’s Los Angeles to Chicago Golden State Limited so that a passenger could go all the way from San Diego to Chicago in the same car). Closures of several days also occurred in December 1926 at the edge of Imperial Valley, February 1927 between San Diego and Tijuana, and September 1929, when 11 miles of track in Carrizo Gorge and 18 miles in the desert approach to the gorge had to be repaired after a cloudburst.

1932 turned out to be an even worse year for the SD & A. In January a fire was discovered in Tunnel No. 3, located south of the Mexican border between Tecate and Campo. Heavy smoke and heat from the flames prevented fire crews from entering and the railroad announced that all traffic would be diverted through Los Angeles until the fire burned itself out, possibly after several days. When the fire had burned out and the tunnel cooled crews began removing debris and installing new timbers, around 1,500,000 board feet of redwood, which had arrived by ship from Northern California. One shipment of nearly 1,000,000 feet from Fort Bragg, including huge squared balks of redwood, four-by-sixes and planking, was unloaded at Pier 1 in San Diego and taken to the tunnel on 50 flat cars. Tunnel No. 3 had originally been 1296 feet long but a section near the east end had collapsed as a result of the fire, ‘daylighting’ that section and dividing the tunnel into two sections, to be named Tunnels No. 3 and 3 ½. Crews finished retimbering the tunnels at the beginning of March 1932 and service was resumed after six weeks and an estimated cost of $100,000, not counting loss of revenue.

In late March 1932, three weeks after the line was reopened at Tunnel No. 3, a slide apparently due to heavy mountain rains blocked the line of the SD & A at the east portal of Tunnel No. 15 in Carrizo Gorge and traffic was again rerouted through Los Angeles. Although the initial report was that the trouble was temporary and service would soon be resumed, the mountain continued to slide and it became apparent that Tunnel No. 15 could not be repaired and the tracks would have to be realigned around it. The realignment would include a new, shorter Tunnel No. 15 and a curved trestle bridge 633 feet long and 185 feet above the canyon floor. The trestle was also built of redwood and is said by some to be the largest curved wood trestle in the world. It is certainly spectacular and has since become a symbol of the SD & A line.

Construction work on the Tunnel No. 15 realignment was completed and the line reopened in early July. However, in October 1932 the railroad experienced another tunnel fire, this time in Tunnel No. 7 in Carrizo Gorge, the same tunnel that had caused problems in 1920. Again there was no possibility of fighting the fire and instead both entrances to the tunnel were sealed in an effort to snuff it out, and traffic was rerouted through Los Angeles. Once the fire had burned out and the tunnel cooled enough for inspection, railroad officials determined that it too was beyond repair and would have to be abandoned. The roadbed was realigned in a series of sharp curves 2200 feet long that bypassed the abandoned tunnel and the line reopened in January 1933 after having been closed for more than half of 1932.

J. D. Spreckels had founded and initially owned the SD & A but had required financial support from the Southern Pacific railroad for its construction. In 1916 the Southern Pacific recovered a portion of this outlay by taking a half-interest in the SD & A. Spreckels died in 1926 and in 1932 his estate’s remaining half-interest was also acquired by the Southern Pacific. While wholly owned by the Southern Pacific, the railroad was operated as a separate unit and renamed the San Diego & Arizona Eastern Railway, or SD & AE. The sale was finalized in February 1933 and the SD & AE operated relatively successfully for a number of years thereafter, particularly during the war years of the early 1940s when there was a heavy flow of materiel and military personnel to the port and military bases around San Diego. However, more people were driving cars and more and better highways were being built, including US Route 80 which duplicated the route of the SD & AE between San Diego, the Imperial Valley and the east. Commercial aviation was also improving and attracting growing numbers of passengers. In the years after the end of the war in 1945 traffic on the SD & AE declined and in 1952 passenger service was abandoned.

Freight service continued, although not without incident, especially in Carrizo Gorge, where the rough road and sharp curves made the line prone to derailments. One particularly memorable derailment occurred in May 1965 and closed the line for several days. According to the San Diego Union, one car loaded with wine from New York state was destroyed to prevent looting and two truck trailers with 72,000 cans of beer slid from a flat car 600 feet into Carrizo Gorge (in the following months 24 persons were apprehended in quest of free beer).

In September 1976 tropical storm Kathleen drenched San Diego’s east county and the Union reported that a torrent of water ripped through Carrizo Gorge to destroy portions of three bridges supporting the SD & AE railway. Two trains had been turned back and it would be at least two weeks before rail service was restored. In fact service was not restored until December 1982, over six years later. In the meantime the Southern Pacific sold the railway to San Diego’s Metropolitan Transit Development Board which wanted the SD & AE’s suburban rights of way for the light rail system that became the San Diego Trolley. One of the conditions of sale was that the Southern Pacific had to restore the line to service, but just a week after service was restored another storm dropped 2 inches of rain on the desert approach to Carrizo Gorge near Ocotillo and blocked the route again with tons of rocks and landslides. Six months after that damage was cleared a brush fire in June 1983 burned two trestles and threatened a tunnel in Carrizo Gorge. Although the tunnel did not sustain serious damage, the trestles were destroyed. Fires in tunnels No. 16 in 1986 and No. 8 in 1988 further damaged the line in Carrizo Gorge and Tunnel No. 3 in Mexico caught fire again in 1999. This damage was eventually patched up (Tunnel No. 3 was ‘daylighted’) and the line was open for occasional freight service between 2004 and 2008, but it is now inactive except for the short excursions around Campo. The ‘impossible railroad’ still has its boosters, however, and J. D. Spreckels would have been proud to hear one of the speakers at the centennial celebration declare that the line would be open again next year.

Hauser’s Subdivision in PB

Aerial photo showing Hauser’s subdivision (and military academy barracks) in the 1930s  (from San Diego History Center photo 83:14603-1)

In October 1889 the San Diego Union reported that Mrs. Mary E. Rowe and her charming daughters Miss Mabel and Eva were stopping at the Horton House hotel downtown. The Rowes were on their way to Pacific Beach, where the girls, then in their mid-teens, would become students at the San Diego College of Letters. Pacific Beach had been founded in 1887 and was not even two years old at the time. The college, which the founders hoped would become the nucleus of a refined and cultured community, had opened in 1888 and was beginning its second year. It was located on what was then College (now Garnet) Avenue where the Pacific Plaza shopping center is today.

The Rowe family had spent years in India, where Mrs. Rowe’s husband served as a missionary and where Evangeline (Eva) and her younger sister Nellore (Nellie) and brother Percy had been born. They returned to the United States after Rev. Rowe died of typhoid, and once in Pacific Beach acquired a home on the ocean front at the foot of College (the site that was later Maynard’s bar and is now the See the Sea condominiums). In the summer of 1890 the college newspaper reported that the students were enjoying their vacations in ‘divers and sundry ways’, including an evening passed pleasantly telling ghost stories at Mrs. Rowe’s ‘cottage by the sea’, with Misses Mabel and Evangeline doing the honors.

However, the college’s second year turned out to be its last. Its financial position had deteriorated and many in the administration and faculty resigned over the summer. The college did begin the fall term in September 1890 but it never reopened after the Christmas holidays. After the collapse of the college many of the people it had attracted to Pacific Beach moved on, but some remained and were instrumental in relaunching Pacific Beach as a center of lemon cultivation. One who remained was E. C. Thorpe, whose daughter Lulo had also been a student (and whose wife, Rose Hartwick Thorpe, was famous as the author of the poem Curfew Must Not Ring Tonight). Mr. Thorpe remembered those times in an article for the San Diego Union in 1896:

At the close of the college as an institution of learning in 1890 many of those to whom this had been the attraction moved away, and the following year but three or four families remained in the college settlement. In the fall of 1891 the tract was placed upon the market as acreage property, and in a few weeks a force of workmen were clearing the first hundred acres preparatory to planting lemon orchards. Rabbits and rattlesnakes were driven back to mesa and canyon, and the sunny southern slopes were soon clothed in fragrant lemon foliage.

Among those families from the former college settlement that settled on the sunny southern slopes and became lemon ranchers was the Rowe family. As Thorpe had recalled, an amended map of Pacific Beach was filed in 1892 that re-subdivided most of Pacific Beach north of what is now Diamond Street (and south of Reed Avenue) into ‘acre lots’ of about 10 acres. In April 1892 Mrs. Rowe purchased one of these acre lots, Lot 49, containing 8 6/10 acres, for $860 or $100 an acre. Acre Lot 49 was located between what are now Diamond and Chalcedony streets and west of Lamont. Mrs. Rowe also apparently had her ‘cottage by the sea’ moved onto her new property; the $400 improvement assessed on her lots in block 226 in 1893 was no longer there in 1894 but there was a $400 improvement assessed on Acre Lot 49.

The ’sunny slopes’ north of the college campus turned out to be ideal for lemon cultivation and the lemon ranches established there flourished. The Union reported in 1895 that Mrs. Rowe was daily improving her place (and also that the society of her daughters was much sought after on account of their charming qualities). A Horticultural Notes column in 1897 included the note that Mrs. Mary E. Rowe had a ranch that from the raw condition had been developed to one now valued at $9,000; ‘The ladies of Pacific Beach are justly proud of their ranches’. In 1900 the report from the Union was that Percy Rowe was in charge of the ranch and had recently done much to improve its condition; ‘It is no little task for a lad to tackle a ranch which needs so much renervation, but pluck and industry generally win’ (Percy would have been about 20 at the time).

The Rowe girls had come to Pacific Beach for an education and after the college closed they continued their studies in the public schools. The only high school in San Diego at the time was the Russ School downtown (now San Diego High), and students from Pacific Beach could take the train from the station at the corner of Lamont Street and Grand Avenue, a few blocks from the Rowe ranch. Evangeline Rowe appeared in the second row in a photo of the Russ School graduating class of 1894. After graduation Mabel and Evangeline Rowe went to Los Angeles to further their educations. Evangeline attended the College of Medicine at the University of Southern California where she met and married Dr. Charles Caven. Evangeline Rowe Caven graduated with a medical degree in 1898 and the couple briefly returned to Pacific Beach before moving back to Los Angeles, then on to Bisbee in the Arizona Territory.

In 1898 the Jowett family had purchased the lemon ranch on Acre Lot 34, which lay across Chalcedony Street on the north side of the Rowes’ ranch. The Jowetts also had children of about the same ages as the Rowes and the neighborhood kids often got together. On one occasion the Union reported that a wagon-load of sea moss with its surface bristling with young people from Pacific Beach had arrived and had dinner on the rocks at La Jolla, after which a musical program was rendered at the pavilion, followed by dancing. The party returned home at a late hour; those present included the Misses Nellore Rowe and Ruth Jowett and Messrs Percy Rowe and Oliver Jowett. Although Mabel Rowe was missing from this particular party (she was studying in Los Angeles), she did return home on occasion and apparently became acquainted with Oliver Jowett. They were married in Los Angeles in 1900, although they later divorced and ‘O. J.’ remarried in 1909.

Nellore Rowe graduated from the Russ School in 1898, was certified as a kindergarten teacher in 1899, and was teaching school in National City in 1900. She later moved to Bisbee, where her sister Evangeline was practicing medicine, and in 1908 married William Gohring, superintendent of mines for the Calumet and Arizona Mining Company. The Gohrings moved to Phoenix in 1918, where he was an executive of the Arizona Copper Company.

The Cavens came back to San Diego in 1910, living in a house on Quince Street at the western end of the Quince Street footbridge (which had been finished in 1907). When the Panama-California Exposition opened in Balboa Park in 1915 Dr. Charles Caven was appointed the official physician and while there he made the news as perhaps the first opioid overdose victim in San Diego history. According to the Evening Tribune he was found in a semi-conscious condition in a garden near the California Building and taken to the Exposition hospital where he died of what the attending physicians determined to be an overdose of morphine (friends said he had no reason to be taking morphine and they believed he took it by mistake). Evangeline remained in San Diego and in 1919 joined a group of doctors, nurses and child welfare workers who traveled to Serbia to assist orphans from World War I. She eventually returned to San Diego where she purchased property overlooking a canyon at the corner of Brant and Upas streets and lived in the home now known as the Evangeline Caven bungalow. She later moved to Los Angeles where she lived with her sister Mabel.

Back in Pacific Beach, Mary E. Rowe had sold Acre Lot 49 with her home and lemon ranch in July 1903 to John and Julia Hauser. By 1903 the lemon era had run its course and real estate developers hoping to sell residential lots were converting acre lots back into the residential blocks originally laid out in the Pacific Beach subdivision map of 1887.  F. T. Scripps, for example, had created the Ocean Front subdivision between Mission Boulevard (then Allison Street), Diamond, Chalcedony and Cass streets from Acre Lots 43 and 44 in 1903. The Hausers also followed this model, drawing up a map for Hauser’s Subdivision of Acre Lot 49 that divided the 8.6 acre lot into two blocks of 40 lots each, separated by Missouri Street (like in the original 1887 map). The city council accepted the Hauser’s subdivision map and the dedication of its streets and alleys for public use at the end of September 1904.

A couple of weeks after Hauser’s subdivision had been accepted by the city an ad appeared in the Evening Tribune for a Big Bargain, house and ten lots $2500 or whole block of 40 lots for $5000; apply to owner, John Hauser.  Apparently this ad produced an offer and he sold all of block 1, which included the Rowe ranch house, to John S. Hoagland. In 1906 Hoagland sold lots 31-34, where the ranch house was located, as well as lots 7-10, across the alley from the house and fronting on Chalcedony Street, to D. C. Shively. The Hausers continued to own block 2 and in 1906 they built a home for themselves on the northeast corner, in lots 17-20.

In 1910 the Hausers sold their home to Sterling Honeycutt, a prominent Pacific Beach real estate operator, and moved away from the subdivision. At the same time they sold lots 21-24, at the southeast corner of block 2, fronting on Diamond Street, to Kate Woodman (Mrs. Woodman already owned the block across Diamond Street, the eastern half of Acre Lot 64). However, the rest of the property in block 2 remained in the Hauser name for many years after that. Julia Hauser died in 1937 and in 1939 John Hauser married Martha Smiley. When he died in 1947, Martha Hauser assumed ownership and was still selling lots into the 1950s.

Sterling Honeycutt had also purchased the property with the Rowes’ former ranch house from D. C. Shively in 1910 and in 1911 he sold it to Emma Wood. Between 1917 and 1937 the house served as the parsonage for the Pacific Beach Presbyterian Church, occupied by Rev. J. William Millar until 1927 and then by Rev. William McCoy. In 1912 Honeycutt also sold the Hauser’s former home in block 2, which changed hands several more times before being acquired in 1922 by H. A. Hodge. D. C. Shively continued to own the lots on Chalcedony Street and he built a home there in 1910. This property, with the only other house in the subdivision to this time, was sold to E. R. Rounds in 1924 and Shively moved into another home he had built in the adjoining Acre Lot 48, a home that is still standing at 1782 Missouri.

Capt. Thomas Davis had founded the San Diego Army and Navy Academy in 1910 on the former college campus, located a block south of Hauser’s subdivision between Garnet Avenue and Emerald Street. The academy grew and in 1923 he extended the campus a block north by acquiring the eastern portion of Acre Lot 64, between Emerald and Diamond, from Kate Woodman. Also in 1923, a new elementary school was built for Pacific Beach at the corner of Emerald and Ingraham streets and Capt. Davis had the former wooden schoolhouse moved from Garnet Avenue to a site on the expanded campus near the corner of Emerald and Lamont streets, where it became the academy’s junior school. Davis hired Lt. E. H. Mohan to be principal of the junior school and in 1927 Lt. Mohan purchased lots 33-36 in block 2 of Hauser’s subdivision from the Hausers and built a Spanish revival home there on Diamond Street, across from his junior school. These houses, the Mohan home, the former Hauser home, the Rowe ranch house and the home built by D. C. Shively on Chalcedony street remained the only structures in Hauser’s subdivision throughout the 1930s.

In 1940 there were still only the four homes in Hauser’s subdivision, but Pacific Beach was on the verge of a population explosion brought about by Consolidated Aircraft’s move to San Diego in 1935 and the military buildup during World War II. In 1941 the federal government expropriated most of Pacific Beach east of Olney Street to build a housing project for defense workers made up of temporary ‘demountable’ homes (this land has never been returned to private ownership and is now the Admiral Hartman Community for military families). In other areas of Pacific Beach, like Hauser’s subdivision, only three blocks away from that housing project, private developers also began building homes for defense workers and military personnel. 14 new homes were built in Hauser’s subdivision in 1941, 5 on Chalcedony, 5 on the north side of Missouri and 4 on Lamont. In 1947 five more homes were built on Missouri Street, four of them on the south side. However, there were still no homes on Diamond Street other than the Mohan home.

My family arrived in Pacific Beach in 1947 and were living at the De Luxe trailer park on Cass Street. In 1950 my parents and the family in the trailer next door went looking for more permanent homes and found what they were looking for in Hauser’s subdivision of Acre Lot 49. They bought adjoining lots at the southwest corner of block 2, on Diamond Street, where they had homes built and continued to live as neighbors. Our home was on lots 39 and 40, theirs was on lots 37 and 38. The deeds were granted by Martha H. Hauser, and Mrs. Hauser also included an easement over lot 6 for a water pipe to the main in Missouri Street until the city got around to installing one in Diamond Street. My grandmother later bought the neighbor’s house. Both houses are still standing, although both have been renovated over the years.

By 1955 Hauser’s subdivision was built out, mostly with 2-and-3 bedroom homes on double lots but also a few duplexes on single lots. The Rowes’ former ranch house still stood at 1828 Missouri and I remember it was the polling station for the neighborhood in the early 1950s. It finally met its end in 1957 and the Hausers’ former home was also razed in 1965, both replaced by multi-unit apartments. The Mohan’s Spanish-style house on Diamond Street lasted until the late 1970s before it was torn down and replaced by a town home. Today, most of the first generation of detached homes built during the 1940s and 1950s have also been supplanted by apartment complexes or town homes. The only sign of the past remaining in Hauser’s subdivision is a large palm tree standing alone in front of the apartment buildings at 1828 and 1840 ½ Missouri Street, a tree that once stood in the front yard of the Rowes’ ranch house when it stood alone in Acre Lot 49.

Google Maps satellite view of Hauser’s subdivision today