Category Archives: Places

Kate Sessions in PB

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pacific Pines

Pacific Pines is a subdivision in Pacific Beach surrounded by Reed Avenue, Pacific Beach Drive, and Jewell and Lamont streets. The four blocks that became Pacific Pines in 1926 had originally been included in the Pacific Beach Company’s 1887 subdivision map as residential blocks 283, 284, 305 and 306, surrounded by Reed and Hubbell avenues and Ninth and Eleventh streets and separated by Gassen Avenue and Tenth Street. However, few lots were sold south of Reed Avenue (or north of Alabama Avenue, now Diamond Street) and in 1892 an amended map of the Pacific Beach subdivision, Map 697, re-subdivided the area south of Reed by eliminating the east-west avenues (including Gassen and Hubbell) and most of the streets (including Ninth and Tenth). The former residential blocks (and the former avenues and streets) were consolidated into ‘acre lots’ of around 10 acres each, intended for agricultural purposes. Between Reed and what had been Hubbell avenues, the area between Ninth and Tenth streets (including what had been Ninth and Gassen Avenue) became Acre Lot 62; the area between Tenth and Eleventh (including Tenth and Gassen) became Acre Lot 61. Reed Avenue and Eleventh (now Lamont) Street continued to exist on map 697, which also transformed much of the area north of Alabama Avenue into acre lots.

Map 697, Recorded January 1892

Although property in these areas hadn’t sold well as residential lots, the acre lots proved to be extremely popular and thirteen were sold within the first few months after map 697 was recorded in January 1892. One of these was Acre Lot 61, sold to C. H. Raiter, a director of the First National Bank of Alexandria, Minnesota, who had spent the past winter in the vicinity. Mr. Raiter paid $1010, $100 an acre for the 10.1-acre parcel, in April 1892. When he left for home a few weeks later, the San Diego Union reported that he intended making this his home, in the winters at least, and had sent instruction to have the ten-acre tract put equally into oranges and lemons and to reserve a good building site. The property was to be piped, fenced and broken and planted as soon as possible, and Mr. Raiter intended coming back in the fall to superintend the construction of a residence.

The Raiters did return, in the winter at least, and in February 1894 Mrs. Anna Raiter recorded the deed for the adjoining Acre Lot 62, paying $940 for the 9.4 acre plot. However, Mr. Raiter never did superintend the construction of a residence; no improvements were ever assessed for acre lots 61 and 62 although the property was apparently planted to orange and lemon trees and ‘had 1000 little cypress plants put around it’. In 1895 the Union reported that Mr. Raiter was piping his entire tract and when the Raiters arrived for another winter visit in February 1897 and the Santa Fe train rolled him in sight of the beach, his orange and lemon grove with its surrounding hedge surpassed his most sanguine expectations and he (again) decided to make San Diego the home of his retirement.

Although the Raiters never built a retirement home they did continue to visit the San Diego area in the winter months. In February 1899 they were on the Union’s list of hotel arrivals at the Horton House downtown, and were said to be visiting with Sterling Honeycutt, then a leading lemon rancher and landowner in Pacific Beach. In April 1902 the Raiters were listed as arrivals at the Lakeside Hotel. It was during that trip to the San Diego area that they sold their Pacific Beach property to D. C. Campbell, who then sold it to Alexander and Mary McGillivray, wealthy absentee owners from Dickinson, North Dakota.

The amended Pacific Beach subdivision map of 1892, Map 697, had ended at the southern boundary of acre lots 61 and 62 but in 1898 the trustees of the Pacific Beach Company purchased the northern 61 feet of Pueblo Lot 1800, immediately south of and adjacent to these acre lots. Another five-acre parcel at the eastern edge of Pueblo Lot 1800, immediately south of this 61-foot strip and opposite Acre Lot 61, was purchased by Eliza Turner. In the remainder of Pueblo Lot 1800, the eastern half was subdivided as the Fortuna Park Addition in 1902 and the western half (except for a six-acre parcel in the southwestern corner) as Second Fortuna Park in 1903. The five-acre parcel opposite Acre Lot 61 was subdivided by Sterling Honeycutt in 1909 as Sterling Park.

Many acre lots had been developed as lemon ranches and lemon cultivation dominated the economy of Pacific Beach for the decade after 1892, but by the first years of the twentieth century the agricultural economy had begun to fade and real estate operators led by Folsom Bros. Co. were converting lemon groves into residential blocks by grading streets and building concrete curbs and sidewalks. One of the first areas to be developed was Sterling Honeycutt’s former lemon ranch between Garnet and Grand avenues and Jewell and Lamont streets, and one of the first streets to be graded, ‘curbed’ and ‘sidewalked’ was Kendall, the former Tenth Street (San Diego had decided in 1900 to require all street names to be unique and there were already ‘numbered’ streets downtown).

Grading of Kendall Street between Garnet and Grand was done in April 1907 and there were plans to grade it all the way to the bay to make a ‘splendid entrance’ to Fortuna Park, south of acre lots 61 and 62 and then controlled by Folsom Bros. Cement sidewalks were also planned for Kendall between Garnet and Grand, to be extended south to Reed Avenue and later all the way to Mission Bay. Since the 1892 subdivision map had eliminated Tenth Street south of Reed Avenue this route to Fortuna Park and Mission Bay was then private property, but in April 1907 the McGillivrays reconveyed the westerly 80 feet of Acre Lot 61 to the city for use as a street and public highway. In June 1907 the city ‘confirmed and accepted’ the conveyance and the property was ‘set apart as a part of Kendall Street’. This part of Kendall Street was graded shortly afterward, completing what the Union called a ‘main thoroughfare from hotel to bay’ (the Hotel Balboa, the former San Diego College of Letters building, was at the other end of Kendall, across from its intersection with Garnet Avenue).

However, the opening of a main thoroughfare through acre lots 61 and 62 did not lead to their development into residential blocks, at least not right away. Mr. McGillivray died in 1907 and although Mrs. McGillivray acquired additional property in Pacific Beach and Fortuna Park, she continued to live in North Dakota until her death in 1924 (the McGillivray House in Dickinson has since become famous as a ‘haunted house’). In 1925, acre lots 61 and 62 were acquired by Exchange Securities Corp, headed by J. H. Shreve, and then passed to Roy Snavely and Charles Brown, former realtors from Pasadena. Snavely and Brown also acquired the 61-foot strip south of acre lots 61 and 62. In May 1926 they announced that the 20-acre tract would be subdivided and would be known as Pacific Pines, since it was surrounded by a row of beautiful pine trees (presumably the ‘1000 little cypress plants’ put around the property in the 1890s). The Union reported that it was the aim of the owners to preserve every tree on the tract, and all streets would be improved with concrete paving, curbs and sidewalks. Spanish style construction would be suggested to everyone building a residence.

The subdivision map of Pacific Pines, Map 1917, was recorded in June 1926. Other former acre lots in Pacific Beach had already been returned to residential blocks, including the 1904 Subdivision of Acre Lots 57, 58, 59 and 60, Map 922, just to the east across Lamont Street. These earlier re-subdivisions generally recreated the blocks of the original 1887 map by replacing the streets eliminated in the 1892 revision, usually with the original pattern of 40 25- by 125-foot lots and a 20-foot alley, and with the original block numbers. At Pacific Pines, Kendall Street had already been replaced and Map 1917 also set aside the westerly 80 feet of Acre Lot 62 as Jewell Street. An extension of Oliver Avenue from Map 922 replaced the original Gassen Avenue and recreated the four blocks which had existed here before the acre lots. However, these blocks looked somewhat different than most others in Pacific Beach; 20 50-foot lots with depths that depended on the block. In blocks 1 and 2, between Reed and Oliver, the lots were all 134.5 feet deep. In block 3, south of Oliver and west of Kendall, lots 1-10 were 125 feet deep and lots 11-20 were about 130 feet deep. In block 4, east of Kendall, the lots were all about 120 feet deep. The alleys were 16 feet wide and Oliver Avenue was 50 feet wide, narrower than the standard 80-foot streets in Pacific Beach (including Reed Avenue and Kendall, Jewell and Lamont streets) and the 75-foot streets in Fortuna Park to the south. Another unusual feature of the Pacific Pines subdivision map was the wide curvature of the street corners that cut off a portion of corner lots.

The Pacific Pines subdivision map also included another street, Pacific Avenue, along its southern boundary. East of Kendall, opposite the Sterling Park subdivision, the Pacific Pines map set aside 81 feet for Pacific Avenue. West of Kendall, Pacific Pines adjoined Fortuna Park, which already had a street named Pacific Avenue, 78.5 feet wide, along its northern boundary. In this area the Pacific Pines map placed Pacific Avenue in the 61-foot strip, which, combined with the existing 78.5-foot avenue in Fortuna Park, would have created a street 139.5 feet wide. The developers announced that Pacific Avenue in this area would be divided into two roadways with a park in the center, a solution that can still be seen today. Pacific Avenue was renamed Pacific Beach Drive in 1935 to avoid any confusion with Pacific Highway, the new route from downtown to Del Mar through Rose Canyon (although the old name still appears on curbstones).

Brown and Snavely opened their new subdivision for public inspection and sale in June 1926. The Union announced that the Pacific Pines company had adopted ‘the subdivision of distinction’ as its slogan and that it would provide home sites where formality was not demanded but where restrictions had been provided. It was near the ocean and bay, bordered by rows of stately pine trees. In September the city council passed a resolution of intention that all streets in Pacific Pines were to be graded and paved with five inch Portland cement pavement, concrete curbs, sidewalks, cast iron water mains, fire hydrants, etc. The contract was awarded to Harris & Wearn in December 1926, and paving was completed in 1927, giving Pacific Pines some of the first paved residential streets in Pacific Beach. The curved curbs and sidewalks around the wide street corners, particularly the intersection of Oliver and Kendall at the center of the tract, became a signature feature of Pacific Pines.

The opening of Pacific Pines for inspection and sale coincided with the opening of several other subdivisions in Pacific Beach, including North Shore Highlands, Crown Point, Braemar and the Palisades, and all of these tracts initially experienced disappointing sales. In Pacific Pines only five lots were sold in 1927, and only one residence built, a stucco cottage valued at $9000 for J. P. Harris (of Harris & Wearn, the paving contractor). Mr. Harris’ home faced the ‘park’ laid out by his company in the wide expanse of Pacific Avenue. The number of addresses on the streets of Pacific Pines grew to 5 in 1929 and 7 by 1930, but growth stalled in the 1930s and only one additional address had been added by 1940 (6 of these early homes remain, recognizable by the Spanish style construction suggested to everyone building a residence in Pacific Pines).

Consolidated Aircraft moved to San Diego in 1935 and built a manufacturing complex next to the airport downtown. In 1940 Consolidated began production of the B-24 Liberator bomber, hiring tens of thousands of aircraft workers who mostly arrived from out of town. Thousands of military personnel were also stationed in San Diego and many more began arriving after war was declared in December 1941. Even before the government stepped in to develop temporary housing projects for defense workers, including several in Pacific Beach, commercial developers began meeting the demand for affordable housing in existing residential neighborhoods like Pacific Pines.

In July 1941 the Original Dennstedt Company advertised that 19 Title VI homes were under construction at Pacific Pines, a tree-shaded, home-like atmosphere in a marine location 7 minutes from San Diego, and more than thirty were planned. $250 down and no ‘extras’ was all you would need to move into a Dennstedt luxury home. Dennstedt ads emphasized that each home was different – original and individual; a buyer could choose from Norman, Colonial, Cape Cod, English, and others.  The $250 down payment applied to 2-bedroom homes; 3-bedrooms required $350 down. Dennstedt was joined by other developers and affordable 2-and 3-bedroom homes in Pacific Pines were sold nearly as fast as they could be built. The 1941 San Diego city directory had listed 8 addresses in Pacific Pines but by 1942 the list had grown to 67 addresses and in 1943 77 addresses were listed on these four blocks of 20 lots each. The city directories also showed that most of these residents were aircraft workers or military personnel.

Seventy-five years have passed since that Pacific Pines building boom and some of those homes have since been replaced by apartment buildings or town homes, but many remain, still recognizable as Cape Cod, English or the even earlier Spanish style. Some of the trees growing in Pacific Pines may also be the original pine (or cypress) trees that the developers had aimed to preserve.

PB Asbestos Works

In September 1888 the San Diego Union published an article about a new industry, an important manufacturing establishment to be located at Pacific Beach. According to the Union, an asbestos manufactory would soon be in operation near the driving park. Asbestos was found in large quantities near Elsinore and constituted the base material for manufacturing boiler covering, fire-proof cement and roof-paint. The San Diego Asbestos Mining and Manufacturing Company would put in an establishment capable of crushing 8,000 pounds of that mineral per day. A number of men were at work upon the necessary buildings and the enterprise would be pushed forward with all rapidity possible. A spur would be extended from the San Diego and Pacific Beach railroad to the buildings to facilitate shipments. George W. Hazzard of San Diego was one of the prime movers of the new industry and John D. Hoff, of Elsinore, was manager.

The driving park was the race track that was once located north of Mission Bay and east of Rose Creek, and the railroad once circled around the race track over what are now Mission Bay Drive and Garnet Avenue. The site of the proposed asbestos manufactory was on the north side of the railroad and west of Rose Creek, where Soledad Mountain Road now intersects with Garnet. John D. Hoff had located asbestos mines in Terra Cotta City, near Elsinore, and in 1888 San Diego’s transcontinental rail connection via Colton ran within a few miles of these mines, enabling shipment by rail to the mill on the Pacific Beach railroad. George W. Hazzard was a prominent San Diego businessman and two-time president of the chamber of commerce, with a particular interest in ventures involving mining and minerals. The Pacific Beach Company had donated the property to Hazzard and Hoff, granting Fractional Blocks 173 and 174 of Pacific Beach and a parcel extending 400 feet east of these blocks, in Pueblo Lot 1788, ‘upon the express condition and for no other consideration’ than that Hoff and Hazzard should ‘construct a corrugated Iron Building to be located on the lands herein described and to provide the necessary machinery to carry on the manufacture of Asbestos Goods and Wares’. Said building and machinery were to cost not less than $4000, construction was to commence within 30 days and to be completed and in full operation within 3 months, and the grantees were to maintain and operate such manufactory for a period of 3 years.

Within a month the Union reported that the boiler, engine and pumps for the asbestos works had been tested and all worked satisfactory. The Union also carried advertisements for the asbestos goods offered by the San Diego Asbestos Mining and Manufacturing Company, with works at Pacific Beach and mines near Terra Cotta City. The goods included indestructible fire proof roof paint, boiler covering and fire proof cement. Apparently the company did meet its deadline for being in operation within three months and by March 1889 were offering testimonials by ‘well-known persons and manufacturing establishments’ that had their asbestos goods in use. Among the persons and establishments listed were the San Diego College of Letters and the First Presbyterian Church in Pacific Beach, and Harr Wagner, Thos. Cogswell, J. W. Fairfield and Captain Woods, residents of Pacific Beach. The timetable for the Pacific Beach railway listed a stop at Asbestos Works, along with stops at the Driving Park, the College and the Pacific Beach depot near the foot of Grand Avenue.

In October 1889 the asbestos company, now incorporated as the John D. Hoff Asbestos Company, ran another series of ads in the Union, this time featuring asbestos roof paint. One ad claimed that Roofs! Old Rusty Roofs, Leaky Roofs, and even New Roofs could be made to last many years by using Hoff’s Asbestos Fire-Proof Roof Paints – bright red and brown. Another ad asked readers to Look at your Roofs! See if they are Rusty or Decaying. If they were the ad suggested using Hoff’s Asbestos Fire-Proof Roof Paint, which would stop leaks as the fibre of the Asbestos fills all holes and stops the rust microbe and makes a covering that protects it from the acids in the air.

A January 1890 article on the ‘extraordinary developments of one of San Diego’s principal enterprises’ in the San Diego Union singled out the John D. Hoff Asbestos Company as being among the manufacturing industries of San Diego which is specially entitled to the notice of the public. According to the Union, it was little more than a year since the plant was put in, at which point the company’s efforts had been very problematical, but the operations of the institution had become so well established and so widely appreciated that it had come to be regarded as one of the most valuable permanent industries of this section. The company had secured a contract for covering the boilers at Governor Waterman’s gold mine at Stonewall with asbestos (the Stonewall Mine, located under what is now Cuyamaca Lake, was the largest gold mine in San Diego County). There would be 1,800 square feet of surface to cover; the factory was running day and night and the force at the mines had been correspondingly increased.

Production of asbestos paint and other commercial products had also become well established. In May 1890 the Union reported that another large shipment of asbestos goods had been sent down from Pacific Beach and forwarded by steamer to San Francisco. An order had been received from Denver for two tons of asbestos roofing and asbestos paint. The company had applied for patents for its paints and was the only manufacturer who had succeeded in amalgamating asbestos, white lead, zinc and linseed oil. To keep pace with the increase in its business the asbestos company began upgrading its operations in Pacific Beach. In June 1890 the Union wrote that a paint machine had arrived at the asbestos works and was ‘a corker’. The large combination paint mill weighed three thousand pounds and was a combination of three machines of large capacity, producing the paint ground, colored and canned, ready for market; ‘it mixes the paint thoroughly and evenly and grinds finer than can be done by any other process’.  It also required more power, and in July 1890 the asbestos works in Pacific Beach replaced its original engine with two new ones to power a crusher and a grinder to work up the asbestos to be mixed into paint. This expansion seems to have run into problems, however, and the Hoff Asbestos Company later sued George W. Beermaker et al for damages resulting from the sale of an alleged dangerous and worthless boiler which is said to have caused delay in the works for a number of weeks over the summer.

The San Diego Union was not the only publication following the story of the asbestos works in Pacific Beach. The Golden Era was an illustrated monthly magazine ‘devoted to the artistic and industrial progress of the West’ which had relocated from San Francisco to San Diego in 1887. An article in the November/December 1890 issue about manufacturing in the San Diego Bay region noted that from Pacific Beach on the northwest, and around the bay to National City, a cordon of plants was growing up within easy reach of railroad and wharf. The John D. Hoff Asbestos Company’s steam manufacturing works at Pacific Beach was one of those plants whose ‘mechanical sinews are waking the echoes, painting their silhouettes of smoke on the sky, and spreading their silvery clouds of steam on the golden abyss of the busy day’.  It had been newly fitted with 30-horse engine power and must soon double its room and capacity. The article speculated that the business of utilizing asbestos could be developed and extended indefinitely. The Golden Era also published full-page ads for the asbestos company and its general agents, Story & Isham Commercial Company, illustrated by John C. Hill, the company’s advertising artist.

The Golden Era’s editor was Harr Wagner, who had also been a founder of the San Diego College of Letters in Pacific Beach where he was professor of English. Wagner and his wife Madge Morris, also a writer at the Golden Era, had moved to Pacific Beach and built a home when the college opened in 1888. A special issue of the Golden Era in December 1890 was entirely devoted to a novel by Madge Morris entitled ‘A Titled Plebeian’, and included a testimonial that noted that the author wrote the narrative at her Villa Home, Pacific Beach – made attractive and beautiful – both interior and exterior – by Hoff’s Glossy Asbestos Paints and that the views through her open casement windows reflect on the shores of the Bay – a net-work of buildings – alive with busy men Amalgamating, Packing and Shipping, Hoff’s Asbestos Paints and Lubricants (the Wagners’ home is still standing at the corner of Diamond and Noyes streets, presumably still including a layer of Hoff’s Glossy Asbestos Paint, and still with a view of the bay).

However, that view of buildings alive with busy men producing Hoff’s asbestos paints did not last much longer. The glowing reports about the asbestos industry and the memorable ads for Hoff’s asbestos products disappeared from the Union and the Golden Era after 1890. Perhaps the company did not fully recover from the difficulties and delays surrounding the equipment upgrade to the works in the summer of 1890. San Diego’s ‘great boom’ had peaked in 1888 and the city’s population, potential customers for asbestos paint and other products, had steadily declined since then. Customers for boiler and steampipe coatings, like the Stonewall mine and San Diego’s cable railway, were also failing. In February 1891 the railroad between San Diego and Elsinore washed out and was never rebuilt, cutting off the direct rail link between the mines and processing plant in Pacific Beach. The Story & Isham Commercial Company had been the asbestos company’s general agents, promoting, marketing and distributing the asbestos products, but that support ended when Story & Isham failed in early 1891.

In December 1891 the San Diego Union reported that the Pacific Asbestos Company, described as successor to the John D. Hoff Asbestos Company, had filed articles of incorporation. Although the works would remain in Pacific Beach and John D. Hoff was named as one of the directors, the new company’s main office would be located in Los Angeles with a branch office in San Diego. In July 1892 Hoff sold his half-interest in the Pacific Beach real estate to A. B. Cairnes, then serving as San Diego’s first fire chief, while reserving the ‘right to use the one-half acre of ground now occupied by the Asbestos Works’. George Hazzard deeded his half-interest in the property to Cairnes unconditionally in August.  The timetable of the Pacific Beach railroad still listed a stop at Asbestos Works on July 1, 1892, but Asbestos Works was missing from the July 24 timetable.

Although Hoff had reserved the right to use the asbestos works, that right was apparently not exercised, at least not for long. The 1893-94 city directory listed a Hoff John D. Asbestos Co factory in Pacific Beach, but that entry was gone in the 1894-95 directory. City lot books, which list property assessments for tax purposes at the beginning of each year, showed that John D. Hoff owned 4.6 acres in the southwest corner of Pueblo Lot 1788 with improvements worth $2000 in 1892; in 1893 Pacific Asbestos Co. owned ‘1/2 A. in SW Co’ with improvements worth $1500 (and Cairnes owned 4 acres with no improvements). In 1894 Cairnes owned all of the southwest corner with improvements worth $150. $1500 or $2000 was a very large assessment, consistent with a building and machinery that cost ‘not less than $4000’ while $150 was less than the assessment for a typical house at the time, perhaps representing the value of an empty corrugated iron building. These facts suggest that the asbestos works in Pacific Beach had not only been shut down and abandoned by the end of 1893 but had been dismantled and removed, leaving the empty building behind. That building was apparently suitable to be used as a residence; the Union’s notes from Pacific Beach in July 1894 included the fact that the Murrays had moved back into their own cottage on the hill and the asbestos place was without a tenant.

A. B. Cairnes retired from the fire department on his 65th birthday in 1905 and in 1906 began building a home in Block 173, at the northwest corner of the parcel he had purchased from Hoff and Hazzard. When the surrounding area was included in the Bayview Terrace federal housing project for defense workers and cleared in 1941, this house was spared and became the Bayview Terrace community building. The community building burned down in 1957, but some traces of its walls and gateposts can still be seen at the corner of Soledad Mountain Road and Felspar Street. No traces of the asbestos works remain, however, and its location is not known precisely. According to the 1893 lot book it was in the southwest corner of the half-mile square Pueblo Lot 1788. A July 1892 deed described the land on which the asbestos works was located as the ‘E ½ of Block 174 being a subdivision of Pueblo Lot 1788’. Since Pueblo Lot 1788 was never actually subdivided into blocks and Block 174 was actually in the Pacific Beach subdivision, in Pueblo Lot 1789, this was probably meant to describe where the eastern portion of Block 174 would have been if it was a full-sized block of 20 lots and did extend into Pueblo Lot 1788. The dividing line between these two pueblo lots is now the western side of Soledad Mountain Road, so the asbestos works would have been located in or just to the east of Soledad Mountain Road, and just north of Garnet Avenue.

Selling the Palisades

In the mid-1920s the ocean-front area of Pacific Beach was still mostly vacant, but it was becoming less isolated. More people were driving automobiles and the Coast Highway between San Diego and Los Angeles, paved since 1919, ran through Pacific Beach on Garnet Avenue and Cass Street. Another branch of the highway, also paved, connected Garnet and Cass to downtown through Mission Beach. For those without cars, the San Diego Electric Railway opened a ‘fast’ streetcar line between San Diego and La Jolla in 1924. The No. 16 streetcar ran through Mission Beach and Pacific Beach over what is now Mission Boulevard.

This increased accessibility caught the attention of out-of-town real estate speculators and in October 1923 the San Diego Union reported that capitalists from Los Angeles and Long Beach had purchased about 350 acres in various areas of Pacific Beach, including more than half of its ocean frontage. The buyers indicated that they intended to spend money liberally to develop their holdings into one of the best residence sections in Southern California. In March 1925 they announced that one of their investments would be a ‘million-dollar pleasure pier’ at Pacific Beach. This development was to be financed and built by Ernest Pickering, who had successfully developed pleasure piers in Santa Monica and Venice (pleasure piers were essentially amusement parks built over the beach). Property values had skyrocketed after construction of the piers in these beach cities and the developers expected a similar return on their investment in Pacific Beach. Construction of the pier in Pacific Beach began in September 1925.

However, Pickering soon withdrew from the project and turned over the development of the Pacific Beach ocean-front to Neil Nettleship, an associate from Santa Monica. Nettleship believed that in order to prosper Pacific Beach would require an entirely new identity, beginning with a new name, San Diego Beach. He continued construction of the pier, which would be the centerpiece of the new San Diego Beach, and also began marketing selected tracts in the nearby ocean-front property that he controlled.

On April 18, 1926, with the pier ‘rapidly assuming form and substance’ at the foot of Garnet Avenue, the public was invited to its ‘formal christening’ as Crystal Pier. The christening of the pier would also be the occasion for the opening sale of the Palisades, scenic ocean-view sites one block from the beach and five blocks north of the new pier. The Palisades consisted of the four blocks lying between Chalcedony, Loring and Bayard streets and the streetcar line on Mission Boulevard, then called Allison Street. According to the official program the events would begin at the Palisades in the morning, with amplified music, a dance orchestra, nail-driving contests and airplane stunt-flying (any purchasers of Palisades home sites would also get a free airplane ride). The actual christening at the unfinished pier, where a mammoth bottle would be crushed by a new electrically-driven pile-driver, would occur in the afternoon. The keynote address would be delivered by Dr. H. K. W. Kumm, geographer, explorer, climatologist, the first white man to explore the last unknown inhabited portion of the globe in Central Africa, and a recent arrival in Pacific Beach, where he was planning to develop a better strain of passion fruit. There would also be a free treasure hunt for children and a surfboard riding exhibition.  Despite threatening weather and actual showers Nettleship claimed that a crowd estimated at 10,000 persons attended the christening ceremonies, ‘many sales of property being the consequence’.

Neil Nettleship had formed a partnership with Ben Tye and the Nettleship-Tye Company in turn formed the Crystal Pier Amusement Company, offering stock to investors to raise capital for their improvement projects. Some of these improvements were apparently in place by May, when Miss Palisades, the official representative of San Diego Beach, invited San Diegans to week-end near the pier where the Nettleship-Tye Company had installed a free public beach oven, picnic tables and benches (the invitation in the Union included a photo of Miss Palisades inspecting a pile-driver ‘now busy building Crystal Pier’).

Memorial Day, which even in 1926 was considered the beginning of ‘beach season’, came on Monday, May 31, and the promoters of San Diego Beach planned an elaborate ‘beach warming’ to usher it in. Like the Crystal Pier christening a month earlier, the beach warming would be the occasion for the opening sale of another Palisades tract, Palisades Ocean Front, between the beach and the streetcar line from Chalcedony to Loring streets. In preparation for a busy summer sales season the Nettleship-Tye Company had announced the appointment of the George F. Emery Organization as its general sales agent and the Emery Organization began its sales campaign by inviting all San Diego to help celebrate their taking over for sale the Nettleship-Tye land holdings, including Palisades Ocean Front, the choicest property in San Diego Beach. The beach warming arranged for the next Sunday and Monday would be the greatest free entertainment of its kind in the city’s history. The two-day ‘jollification’ would include music, a free luncheon, contests and souvenirs, and everything was free; you could make your headquarters at the big tent on the Palisades Ocean Front just north of the pier; ‘take No. 16 street car at Third and Broadway, or motor out and we shall park your car free’.

According to the Evening Tribune the first day of the beach warming was a great success; George Emery was quoted as saying that the sale of Palisades Ocean Front was gratifyingly large and he expected a repetition of the success on the second day. The results of that second day were also encouraging, convincing the Emery Organization to inaugurate a series of ‘weekly thrills’, beginning with a ‘tug-of-war’ between a Curtis airplane and a race car to be held at the picturesque Palisades, ‘now being eagerly purchased’. On that occasion the airplane won, but the car’s driver claimed mechanical problems and a ‘momentous second tug-of-war’ was scheduled for the following weekend.

In July the weekly thrills gave way to an ‘Announcement Extraordinary!’. A free lecture by the famed psychologist Brookhart, the idol of men and women who think of tomorrow in life’s calendar, would be given at the Palisades, San Diego Beach – at the big tent on Sunday, August 1. The subject would be ‘San Diego as I See and Analyze It’. The ad explained that Bae Pierre Brookhart, mentalist, philosopher, prophet, would tell you what the future holds in store for San Diego, how it would look 10 years from now. ‘This Great Seer, who sees all and knows all, will unroll the curtain of knowledge for all to read. Be at the Big Tent at 2 P.M. Sunday; you will be astounded at his revelations’. Free transportation would be furnished for those without cars but directions were provided for those who wished to drive out with their own car: ‘take Coast Highway toward La Jolla. After turning to the right at Pacific Beach corner, drive five blocks, look for big tent on left, and drive in’. In 1926 the ‘Coast Highway to La Jolla’ was Garnet Avenue and Cass Street and ‘Pacific Beach corner’ their intersection, where Dunaway Pharmacy was being built at the time. Five blocks north would be Chalcedony Street where the big tent could apparently be seen off to the left, within the Palisades tract (Bae Pierre Brookhart was described as a French-Indian philosopher; his book Sciences of Life as an ‘introductory amalgam of spiritual, esoteric tidbits’)

August 1 was also the day that plans were announced for construction of the North Shore Club at the Palisades. It would cost approximately $1,000,000, be six stories high, built of brick and art stone, with a huge arch over the highway, a pedestrian crossing connecting the first floor of the building to the beach and also a tunnel under the highway from the basement to the beach. There would be 100 guest rooms, a roof garden, veranda overlooking the ocean, a mezzanine floor entirely circling the building, and two elevators. Other amenities included a large dining room, main lobby, ballroom, swimming pool, gymnasium, locker rooms, tennis courts, gardens, fountains and a drug store and other concessions on the first floor. According to the San Diego Union, the entire block bounded by Chalcedony and Law streets and Ocean Boulevard, with 270 feet of ocean frontage, had already been purchased from the Geo. F. Emery Organization for $46,600.

The Geo. F. Emery ads in the Tribune repeated this news and announced that the ‘Deal is Closed! A group of lots in Block 79, Palisades, sold to a Beach Club Hotel Syndicate for $46,600, exactly what our printed price list call for – not a thin dime discount’. By September the North Shore Club itself was advertising; its September 3 ad in the Tribune, in advance of Labor Day, said that ‘Next Labor Day you can flee to this wonderful building – and so escape the greatest crowd in the city’s history’. ‘This wonderful building’ was represented by a drawing of a nine-story edifice occupying the entire block, with towers at the corners surmounted by radio masts. A ‘pedestrian overhead promenade’ crossed over the wide boulevard in front of the building and a tunnel opened onto the beach. The accompanying text explained that the tunnel directly connected the beach with the wonderful indoor swimming pool and that the building would include a radio broadcasting station.

The San Diego Union explained that beach clubs had saved the beaches of Los Angeles from overcrowding and cheap commercialism, they bestowed privacy and assured living quarters and breathing space for those who wished to go periodically to the beaches. In effect, they constituted a beach residence on an expenditure of a few hundred dollars, instead of the thousands required for a beach home of one’s own. San Diego would soon have the same beach problems as LA if it did not provide itself with adequate beach clubs. The North Shore Club continued to advertise through September 1926 but interest among potential members was apparently underwhelming and the ads and other references to a beach club at the Palisades soon disappeared from the papers.

In addition to advertisements aimed at potential purchasers, the promoters of Palisades real estate also targeted potential salesmen. An August ad by the Geo. F. Emery Organization in the Tribune was for Creative Salesmen for the Palisades, Top Commissions, Prospects Furnished. ‘Big money for men of ability who can handle high class clients’. Another August ad was for Salesmen With Cars; ‘Palisades going good. Big development to be started will make it go faster. Bus, lunch, lecture. Want efficient salesmen for permanent, high-class business’.

When the relationship between the Geo. F. Emery Organization and the Nettleship-Tye Company ended in October the Nettleship-Tye Company began placing its own classified ads for salesmen in the Tribune (the Emery Organization moved over to the North Shore Highlands subdivision a few blocks to the east of the Palisades, where it arranged an opening sale December 5 with another big tent, bands, refreshments and a free lunch). One Nettleship-Tye ad announced ‘This Is It’; they would start their fall campaign selling Palisades at San Diego Beach and could place a few more eager, earnest salesmen. Another ad said ‘Our men are hitting on high and no knocks. Buyers are buying Palisades at San Diego Beach. There is nothing better to buy and nothing better to sell’. Another said ‘Here’s the deal. Palisades, parlor car buses, solicitors, lunch, lecture and plenty of half page ads. Can use few high class salesmen with cars. More prospects than we can handle. See us quick for big money’. In another, ‘more real honest to goodness prospects than our force can handle – Palisades – San Diego’s hot-spot subdivision. If you have a good car and can sell here’s your permanent job’.

Information about the Palisades could also be found in the real estate sections of the local papers. An October article in the Union featured a view inside the new downtown offices of the Nettleship-Tye Company and of Mr. Tye working at his private desk. Tye claimed that an extensive improvement program would be rushed to completion following the fast sale of Palisades. The improvements would include gas, water, electricity, paved sidewalks, curbs and gutters, but since the improvements would more or less halt traffic in the area the public was urged to inspect the property prior to the improvement program and take advantage of the free dinner served daily at the Palisades Pavilion tent followed by a lecture on the scarcity and desirability of beach frontage.

In an article in the Tribune Mr. Tye commented on the large number of easterners buying homesites in the Palisades; one of the most prominent professional men of Kansas City, a capitalist of Detroit, and a woman very prominent in the social world of New York. ‘The most striking feature of the progress made by San Diego Beach in general and the Palisades in particular the past few months, is the tone of the beach. San Diego Beach will be a high class residential district of San Diego, as already proved by the Braemar development and now by the Palisades’. He continued that ‘It is certainly inspiring that former Pacific Beach, which never did seem to get a start, should now blossom into one of San Diego’s finest dwelling communities, as the swan proceeded from the duckling in the folk-story’. The story included a photo illustrating ‘home building at the Palisades’; the first and only home in the Palisades at the time, one that is still standing at 834 Beryl Street.

Beginning in August 1926 ads for the Palisades had begun to threaten a ‘price advance’; an ad in the Tribune asked ‘Do you want it? You will have to act now, for the present opportunity will be withdrawn in 30 days’ then went on to suggest the free parlor car tour with a delightful lunch and educational lecture at the Palisades and added that the Geo. F. Emery Tours were ‘the talk of the city’. As the year went on the warnings increased; in October it was ‘2nd Call. Only one more week-end until the first Palisade price advance! The buying stampede on November 7th – last day of the old prices – will be so great that you better act now. Let the last-minute throngs rush over your property instead of you’.

Although these warnings of last-minute throngs and a buying stampede matched the rhetoric that the Palisades’ promoters had been proclaiming throughout the 1926 season, the actual results of the Palisades marketing campaign appear more modest. City lot books from that era document the ownership of each lot in each block of every subdivision in the city at noon of the first day of January every year. On January 1, 1927, the close of the year when the Palisades tracts had first been opened for sale, only 6 pairs of lots had changed hands in the original Palisades tract east of the streetcar line (Palisades ‘homesites’ were pairs of the standard 25-foot lots). In the Palisades Ocean Front tract west of the tracks, what had been three Pacific Beach blocks between Law and Loring streets (Blocks 41, 78 and 116) were re-subdivided in August 1926 as Nettleship-Tye Subdivision #1. In this new subdivision, which included the new Crystal and Dixie drives and a new city park, Palisades Park, no property had changed hands in 1926. The only substantial transfers of property had been on Block 79 in the ocean front tract, between Chalcedony and Law streets west of Allison, where on January 1, 1927 J. E. Dodd owned 27 lots; all 10 of the lots along Ocean Front Boulevard, the 16 lots on Chalcedony and one lot on Law Street. J. E. Dodd had represented the North Shore Club and was described as its president, but plans for a 9-story building on this property had not materialized and a year later, on January 1, 1928, all of Dodd’s holdings had reverted to the Crystal Pier Amusement Company (the other property on Law Street in Block 79 had already been in the hands of private owners before 1926 and was not part of the Palisades sales campaign). As for the prominent easterners buying homesites in the Palisades, all but two of the new owners of lots in these tracts had been listed in the San Diego city directory in recent years.

By the end of 1926 the Nettleship-Tye Company seemed to recognize that sales of homesites in the Palisades were lagging, and the company tested the idea of actually building and selling homes on the sites instead. A classified ad appeared in the Houses for Sale column of the San Diego Union in December 1926; ‘Modern bungalow, Palisades, San Diego Beach, half block off car line, beautiful home, large lot, two bedrooms and all modern conveniences, ready to move in, $1000 cash will handle. Will gladly show by appointment. Nettleship-Tye Co.’. An ad for Beach Property in July 1927 offered 1 new 5-room stucco, up-to-the-minute bungalow, beautiful Palisades location, very desirable, right place, easy terms. These ads could only refer to the home at 834 Beryl, the only home in existence in the Palisades at the time. It would eventually be purchased by Fay and Mary La Baume, the first actual residents of the Palisades (Mr. La Baume was a salesman for S. F. Woody, another Pacific Beach realtor).

In 1927 the promoters of the Palisades shifted their sales strategy again. Instead of the ‘half-page ads’ inviting the public to a luncheon and lecture, a Nettleship-Tye Company ‘salesmen wanted’ ad in May 1927 sought experienced subdivision salesmen and closers who know the ‘lunch and lecture method’ for a big summer campaign opening now. ‘We have the system and outside organization to put qualified out-of-town buyers on our beautiful Palisades beach property daily all summer long. City improvements going in now’.

‘City improvements’ such as paved sidewalks, curbs and gutters, had been mentioned before in Palisades ads but in May 1927 these improvements were finally happening. The city council had received a petition to pave the streets in the Palisades district in October 1926. An ordinance establishing the grade of these streets passed in January 1927, a resolution of intention was adopted in February and a resolution ordering work was adopted in March. Bids for the improvements were received in April the contract was awarded to E. Paul Ford. The improvements actually were ‘going in’ in May 1927 and were completed in June and July, dates that are stamped in the concrete sidewalks of the Palisades. In October 1927 the San Diego Beach Chamber of Commerce voted to hold a dance at the Crystal Pier Ballroom to celebrate the completion of paving in the Palisades (the pier, which included a ballroom over the water, had also been completed and opened in July 1927, but it turned out that the pilings had not been properly treated and were soon attacked by marine borers; it was condemned and closed in 1928, and not rebuilt until 1934).

Lot sales in the Palisades continued at about the same pace in 1927. Eight more homesites, or pairs of lots, had new owners on January 1, 1928, in the Palisades tract east of the streetcar line (including the homesite under the only actual home in the tract, which had been purchased by the La Baumes). West of the tracks, no lots had been sold yet in the Nettleship-Tye #1 subdivision and in Block 79 the 27 lots owned by J. E. Dodd for the North Shore Club at the beginning of 1927 had returned to the ownership of the Crystal Pier Amusement Company by 1928. With sales of lots lagging, in April 1928 the promoters changed direction again and advertised their ocean frontage for lease; ‘long term lease at low rental on an entire block of ocean front property at Pacific Beach, on the car line and suitable for beach cottages’.

The developers also revisited to the idea of actually building and selling homes instead of homesites in the Palisades. In April 1928 building permits were issued to the Nettleship-Tye Company for houses at 820, 827 and 838 Wilbur Street. Later that year the house at 820 Wilbur was one of four homes around the city that were featured in an educational exhibit by ‘Home Beautiful’ expert Rosalie Ann Hager. An article in the Union explained that this home in the lovely Palisades district overlooking the sea was built by the Nettleship-Tye Company and loaned to Miss Hager for the occasion. It was a medium-priced home of pure Spanish design with five rooms besides a large breakfast nook. There was a photo of the exterior of the home and a detailed description of its interior, including the color scheme, draperies, floor coverings and furniture, which Miss Hager had planned for a young couple. The Union reported that nearly 10,000 guests attended the week-long open house for these ‘Home Beautiful’ residences.

Despite the talk of buying stampedes and throngs of eager purchasers, only about 10 percent of the lots in the Palisades had actually been sold by 1928. The three homes built on Wilbur and the La Baume home on Beryl were the only actual residences and the La Baumes were the only residents. San Diego was still a small town in the 1920s and Pacific Beach was a remote suburb, even if it was served by a highway and a streetcar line. Potential buyers could also choose from other nearby subdivisions including Crown Point, Braemar, Pacific Pines and North Shore Highlands, all of which also opened in 1926 (and also had disappointing sales). Real estate sales would not improve for many years; the Great Depression which began in 1929 and lasted through the 1930s reduced economic activity of all kinds and in Pacific Beach the Mattoon Act further depressed the market by pyramiding ever-higher assessments on property owners to pay for construction of the causeway across Mission Bay.

The Nettleship-Tye company closed its branch office in the Crystal Pier building in 1930 and the partnership itself had ended by 1931 when Nettleship had Tye charged with grand theft for allegedly depositing the proceeds of lot sales into his own account instead of the company’s (the indictment was dismissed and the judge indicated that whatever difference the partners had should be settled in civil litigation). By 1940 only five more residences had been built in the Palisades, all in the section east of Mission Boulevard (which had been paved in 1928 and renamed in 1929) and there was still no home construction west of Mission Boulevard in the Palisades Ocean Front tract.

All of this changed in the 1940s as Consolidated Aircraft and other defense industries ramped up production during the war years and attracted tens of thousands of workers to San Diego. Many of these workers were first housed in temporary government housing projects in Pacific Beach, including the Los Altos Terrace project just two blocks from the Palisades. When the Federal Housing Authority made loans available for defense workers to buy commercially-built homes, builders attempting to meet the demand were attracted to tracts like the Palisades that had already been improved with paved streets, sidewalks and utilities but were still mostly vacant. This home-building surge continued even after the war and by the early 1950s there were few vacant lots to be found in any residential area of Pacific Beach, including the Palisades.

Cocktail Springs

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The McKellars’ grave at Mt. Hope Cemetery

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

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

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

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

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

One Paseo under construction at Cocktail Springs site, 2018

Pacific Beach, 1918

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Winners of the 1918 Bathing Suit Fashion Show.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The J. J. Richert home today.

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

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

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

The Norris Home as it appears in 2018

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

Bay View Apartment Building, 2018.

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

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

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

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

Rose Canyon Brick

San Diego’s Rose Canyon is endowed with what has been described as an inexhaustible supply of clay, ideal for making bricks, and millions of bricks were produced there until the last brickyard closed in the mid-1960s. The canyon was named for Louis Rose, who had come to San Diego in 1850 and beginning in 1853 had acquired most of what was then called La Cañada de las Lleguas. A monument to Rose near the northern entrance to Rose Canyon, on what was once the median of the Pacific Highway and is now a lawn on the University of California campus, credits him with being a brickmaker as well as a tanner, outstanding citizen and pioneer of Rose Canyon. In fact, while Rose was a prominent citizen of early San Diego and his tannery made him a Rose Canyon pioneer, there is no evidence that he was actually involved in brickmaking.

In 1861 Rose was forced to sell his holdings in the canyon to a creditor, Lorenzo Sota, and in 1875 Sota’s daughter and heir Rosa sold the canyon to Adolf G. Gassen. By the late 1880s San Diego had developed to the point where substantial multi-story buildings were being built downtown and in October 1888 the San Diego Union reported that bricks were being ‘burned’ in the Rose Cañon kiln for the Pauly & Gassen building. By November 1888 the news was that work on the Pauly-Gassen block, Fourth and E streets, would be rushed as soon as the material could be hauled to the ground. The first load of brick had been brought in the day before from the yard of Quereau & Bowman in Rose’s Canyon and no building in the city would have a better article for foundation or walls (the brick Pauly-Gassen Building is still standing on the northeast corner of Fourth and E).

In April 1890 the Union reported that Charles H. Hill had secured a ten-year lease of eighty acres of land in Rose Canyon that was said to be well supplied with good clay for brick. He also began work on a ‘continuous brick kiln’ capable of firing 9 million bricks a year. According to the Union the kiln was the invention of Max Boehncke and was a large circular or elliptical structure divided into sixteen compartments, each large enough to hold a day’s work of the brickyard. In a continuous kiln of this type newly molded clay bricks would be loaded into one of the compartments and remain there while the compartment was advanced through the different phases of brickmaking each day by moving the fire to a new compartment and altering the flow of air between compartments. Outside air would be drawn first through cooling compartments, cooling fired bricks and warming the air before it entered the firing compartments, where it combined with fuel in combustion that raised temperatures to over 2000° F, vitrifying or ‘burning’ the bricks. The exhaust from the firing compartments would then be fed through ‘water smoking’ compartments, warming and drying the unfired bricks and preparing them for firing, before escaping through a chimney in the center of the structure which produced the draft for the entire process. At any given time five or six of the compartments would be for water smoking, three compartments would be used for firing the dried bricks and four for cooling the bricks after firing. Each day a compartment of cooled bricks would be emptied and made available for another load of newly molded bricks, perpetuating the continuous process. The kiln would be 100 feet long and 60 feet wide and was expected to be completed by the middle of the summer.

By the middle of summer, in July 1890, the Union reported that the continuous brick kiln recently built by C. H. Hill in Rose Canyon was in operation, turning out 25,000 bricks per day. The company had the contract for furnishing the brick for the new opera house and was already delivering the material. The brick delivered so far were of particularly fine quality, being evenly burned and of uniform hardness. Mr. Hill also expected to find a market shipping brick by sea; vessels leaving San Diego often took on rock or sand ballast, which they had to pay for, so if a load of bricks were taken on instead of ballast a ship might save money even without charging freight.

The Union also reported that Charley Hill’s continuous brick kiln in Rose Canyon had become a ‘curiosity’ and was visited by a large number daily. The curiosity might have been due to the kiln’s peculiar 114-foot high chimney. During construction it was found to be out of plumb; some said the mason had made a mistake and others claimed that it had settled unevenly as it rose and gained weight. The builders attempted to straighten the unfinished portion of the chimney with the result that it not only ‘leaned’ but was ‘bent’ at the top. There are reports that its lean was further increased by flooding of Rose Creek in 1916, when water stood six feet deep around the chimney, and possibly even by earthquakes on the Rose Canyon fault. In the 1930s measurements of the chimney showed that it leaned 3° 26” from vertical and the center of the top was 6.3 feet from the center of the bottom.

A Union article in December 1890 stated that the seven ‘pressed brick machines’ at Rose Canyon brickyard had been started up for the first time and Charles Hill said that they would turn out from 20,000 to 25,000 bricks a day to begin with, but when running at full capacity 100,000 could be made. An order for 75,000 bricks for the three additional stories of the George J. Keating building would be filled first (the Keating building, its upper three stories made of red brick, is still standing at Fifth Avenue and F Street downtown). In January 1891 Hill said that 100,000 bricks would be ready to leave the kiln, and that some would go north to fill orders (the California Southern Railroad built a siding at the brickyard and named it Ladrillo, Spanish for brick). As expected, some bricks were also shipped by sea; in February 1891 the Union reported that the schooner David Park was taking on 82,000 bricks from the Rose Canyon yards for Eureka. In March the schooners Bertha Dolbeer and Lottie Carson sailed for Eureka with 26,000 and 86,000 bricks, respectively, from Rose Canyon. In May it was the schooner Ruby A. Cousins taking 60,000 bricks from the Rose Canyon brickyard to Eureka. Other local projects also required bricks; in 1891 E. W. Scripps, the newspaper tycoon, contracted with Charles Hill to furnish 40,000 bricks to begin work on his planned family residence at Miramar that became the Scripps Ranch.

Like other land that the American city of San Diego had taken over from the former Mexican pueblo, Rose Canyon was divided into pueblo lots, generally a half mile square and 160 acres. A. G. Gassen’s purchase from Rosa Sota had included four pueblo lots in the lower part of Rose Canyon, lots 1788, 1787, 1778 and 1777. In August 1891 G. A. Garrettson and Jacob Gruendike incorporated the Rose Canyon Brick Company and bought Pueblo Lot 1778 from Gassen, apparently giving them control of Hill’s continuous kiln. According to the San Diego Union the Rose Canyon company seemed to be doing a big business and employed a large number of men. Two million of their bricks were used in the upper three floors of the Fisher Opera House which once stood on Fourth Street between B and C streets downtown, previously said to be Hill’s customer.

However, the brickmaking operations that the Rose Canyon Brick Company had taken over from Hill apparently extended into the adjoining Pueblo Lot 1787, which Gassen still owned, and in May 1893 Gassen sued the Rose Canyon company to recover possession of lot 1787, which his lawsuit claimed the defendants had ousted him from in August 1891. The lawsuit was decided in Gassen’s favor; he was awarded Pueblo Lot 1787 and $100 damages and the Rose Canyon company was ordered to refrain from digging up or removing clay from the premises or removing any machinery. A descendant of D. F. Garrettson noted later that when the property was surveyed the boundary went right through the brick kiln. Although the Rose Canyon Brick Company continued to exist and owned the Rose Canyon property until it was sold in 1938 for nonpayment of state and county taxes, Gassen’s lawsuit put an end to its brickmaking operations.

Brickmaking in Rose Canyon resumed in 1901 when Gassen sold 7 acres in the northwest quarter of Pueblo Lot 1787 to James R. Wade, a masonry contractor. In April 1904 Wade, his brother William and Homer G. Taber founded Union Brick Company. In August of that year Taber announced that new machinery would be installed at the company’s Rose Canyon plant giving it a capacity of 35,000 bricks per day. Two years later, in 1906, the Union reported that arrangements had been completed for the removal of the Union Brick plant from its Rose Canyon location to near the foot of 22nd Street, although Rose Canyon remained the source of the company’s clay. The owners would build a boarding house for employees who wanted to live near the new brickyard, as the company preferred they should.

In 1908 the Union Brick Company’s stock and plant was acquired by J. T. Maechtlen, J. W. Rice and General E. C. Humphrey. The Union reported that they expected to have the plant in operation shortly, employing about 25 men and turning out between 25,000 and 30,000 bricks a day. This plant was still downtown; in an ad for Union Brick Company, ‘manufacturing first class building bricks’, on New Year’s day 1909 J. J. Maechtlen was listed as president, J. W. Rice as vice president and E. C. Humphrey as secretary, office 510 Granger Block, yard foot 23rd St. The 1911 city directory indicated that the office and yards were at the foot of 23rd St. and that clay pits were located in Rose Canyon. Presumably the four brickyard laborers who were counted in Rose Canyon in the 1910 federal census, all Spanish-speaking and born in Mexico, worked in the clay pits. John W. Rice became president of Union Brick Co. in 1910 and in 1916, when contributions were being solicited for Mercy Hospital campaign fund, as ‘San Diego’s sole manufacturer of bricks’ he forwarded a note to campaign headquarters to the effect that he would make his contribution in the form of bricks to be used in construction of the hospital buildings.

By 1917 the company had moved its yard from the foot of 23rd Street back to Rose Canyon. Other construction projects in San Diego created an additional demand for bricks and the ‘sole manufacturer’ stepped up production. A story in the Evening Tribune in 1921 described how a Fordson tractor at the Union Brick Company in Rose Canyon was ‘moving a mountain at the rate of 25,000 bricks a day’; turning a mountain of clay into buildings for the naval training station, marine base and naval hospital that were then being built in San Diego by the federal government. One man on the Fordson was plowing the clay pit with a 14-inch deep tillage bottom and carrying it to a hopper, doing the work that it formerly took four men and eight horses to accomplish. In 1923 the Union Brick Company took out an ad in the San Diego Union to correct some misleading statements made in regard to the brick situation in San Diego. Apparently the Union had stated that 1800 cars of brick were shipped into San Diego the previous year. This was absolutely incorrect, according to the ad; all these bricks had been shipped from Rose Canyon, which is within the city limits. The level of activity in the Rose Canyon brickyard was also reflected in the 1930 census, which showed that a dozen Spanish-speaking Mexican natives were then employed as laborers there and living with their families in the vicinity.

When the Union Brick Company moved its brickyard from 23rd Street back to Rose Canyon, it also closed its office there and moved its business address to 3565 Third Avenue, the residence of president John W. Rice (which of course was made of brick). In 1946 John W. Rice turned the company over to his son, John W. Rice Jr., although he continued to go to work at the brickyard daily for many years. Under the younger Rice the company undertook a number of improvements to boost production to keep pace with San Diego’s growth. One improvement was substitution of the traditional sand-molded process to the more modern wire-cut method. In 1952 the Union Brick Company supplied the bricks for the new Sears, Roebuck building (500,000 bricks) and Telephone Company building (250,000) in Normal Heights. Production tripled to 12 million bricks a year by 1954.

Rose Canyon and the Union Brick Co. brickyard, 1953.

In 1955 the company announced plans for another expansion to initiate production-line techniques and year-round production. Up to that time the company’s production season had been limited to April 1 through September 15, based upon prospects for favorable weather. Untimely rains could ruin quantities of unfired bricks stacked for four to six weeks in the drying yard at the Rose Canyon plant. The new process would include a tunnel for continuous drying under controlled humidity conditions and a new continuous kiln for pre-heating, burning and cooling the brick.

While Rose Canyon had been an ideal location for brick production it was also a natural route of travel to and from San Diego. San Diego’s main rail link to the outside world ran through the canyon and a road first opened in 1894 became the Pacific Highway in the 1930s. With increasing numbers of travelers passing the brickyard along their route, its leaning chimney became one of San Diego’s most prominent landmarks. In December 1958 it was even decorated for Christmas; the Union reported that a helicopter was used to lower a likeness of Santa Claus onto the leaning chimney of the Union Brick Yard in Rose Canyon. However, traffic continued to increase and in 1960 the news was that an additional four lanes of U. S. 101 would force the Union Brick Company to move from Rose Canyon, although in recognition of its landmark status the ‘leaning tower of Rose Canyon’ would be spared.

The chimney’s reprieve turned out to be a short one, however; in January 1962 the ‘leaning smokestack’ toppled over during heavy winds accompanying a rainstorm with only the bottom third still standing. A photo in the Union showed a figure of Santa Claus, which had once stood atop the tower, lying among the ruins. A couple of days after the leaning chimney blew down, Union Brick president John W. Rice Jr. proposed that a replica, tilted at a similar angle, would be built as a monument to the original at the company’s new location in Sorrento Valley.  The company’s sales manager added that the area, without the leaning chimney, looked like a ‘woman without her earrings’ and said that construction, using bricks from the original stack, would begin as soon as approval was granted. Approval was not granted and the replica chimney was never built, but Rose Canyon’s brick heritage has been commemorated in other ways. In 1963 the masonry contractor for the new Rancho Bernardo community announced that more than 25,000 bricks had been salvaged from the ‘leaning chimney of Rose Canyon’ and would be used in fireplaces in Rancho Bernardo homes and apartments. And more than 50 years after the chimney fell and the last brick was made in Rose Canyon, when the Karl Strauss brewery and tasting room opened in Rose Canyon in 2013, one of the items on its menu was a cask-conditioned barleywine named Union Brick.


Pacific Beach Reading Club

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

False Bay to Mission Bay

The San Diego area was first visited by Spanish explorers in 1542, when Juan Rodriquez Cabrillo sailed into San Diego Bay (and named it San Miguel). The next visit by explorers occurred in 1602, when Sebastian Vizcaino anchored in the bay, which he renamed San Diego. A survey party sent ashore on Point Loma reported that they could also see another good port to the north. Ensign Sebastian Melendes was sent aboard a frigate to sound, map and explore this port, and reported that they had entered it and that it was a good port, although its entrance had a depth of only about two fathoms. Ensign Melendes and his crew thus became the first to sail in Mission Bay.

Vizcaino did not name Mission Bay; the map accompanying his report described it as ‘ensenada de baxa entrada’ or bay of shallow entrance. The bay later appeared on a map drawn up in 1782 by Juan Pantoja, a pilot in a Spanish fleet which had visited San Diego. The Pantoja map named it Puerto Falso, which, after the American takeover of San Diego in 1846, became False Bay.

The basic topography of False Bay was shown on a nautical chart from 1891. It was protected from the ocean by a narrow peninsula called Pt. Medanos. A channel between Pt. Medanos and Ocean Beach connected the bay with the ocean and continued diagonally across most of the width of the bay. Outside of this channel, the bay was extremely shallow, often dry at low tide. Rose Creek, Tecolote Creek and the San Diego River all flowed into False Bay. The river had been diverted into False Bay by a dike or restraining wall built in 1853 to prevent its silt and debris from building up in San Diego Bay. The silt and debris built up ‘mud flats’ along the south shore of False Bay instead.

In 1769 the Spanish had established a presidio or military post on the bluffs near the mouth of the San Diego River. Padres accompanying the expedition also established the first of the California missions near the presidio, and a few years later moved it upstream to the present location of Mission San Diego de Alcala, in what became known as Mission Valley. In 1887 the San Diego Union announced a new city to be built at False Bay called Pacific Beach, which would have an institution of learning second to none, the San Diego College of Letters.  The college was the idea of Harr Wagner, editor of The Golden Era, a San Diego literary magazine, to which he had recruited Rose Hartwick Thorpe, author of Curfew Must Not Ring Tonight, perhaps the best-known poem of the era. Mrs. Thorpe later contended that in conversations with Wagner the name Mission Bay had come to one or the other of them as more fitting than False Bay for the estuary at the mouth of Mission Valley. That name was picked up by the local press and when the San Diego Union reported an excursion on the newly completed railroad line to Pacific Beach in April 1888, the ride was ‘around the eastern shore of Mission Bay’. Another Union article in August 1888 predicted that around False Bay, ‘or Mission Bay, as it is now called’ there would soon be a large settlement radiating from Pacific Beach, Morena and Ocean Beach.

Mrs. Thorpe popularized the new name for the bay with a poem in the August 1888 edition of The Golden Era:

Mission Bay

Beyond the bay the city lies,
White-walled beneath the azure skies,
So far remote, no sounds of it
Across the peaceful waters flit.
I watch its gleaming lights flash out,
When twilight girds herself about
With ocean damps. When her dusk hair
Wide-spread fills all the salt sea air,
And her slow feet,
Among the fragrant hillside shrubs,
Stirs odors sweet.

Fair Mission bay,
Now blue, now gray,
Now flushed by sunset’s after glow,
Thy rose hues take the tint of fawn
At dawn of dusk and dusk of dawn.
God’s placid mirror. Heaven crowned,
Framed in the brown hills circling round,
Not envious that thy sister can
More fully meet the needs of man,
Nor jealous that her broader breast
is sacrificed at man’s request,
While in the shelter of her arm
The storm-tossed resteth safe from harm.

This thy grand mission, Mission Bay –
To smile serene through blue or gray;
To take whatever God has sent,
And teach mankind a full content.

Despite the growing acceptance of the new name, False Bay did not officially become Mission Bay until 1915, and the two names continued to be used interchangeably for decades. Harr Wagner himself described Pacific Beach in January 1891 as a large plateau sloping southward to False Bay and west to the Pacific Ocean. As late as 1929 the ZLAC Rowing Club announced in the Union that their annual fete would be held at Brae Mar, the charming home of F. T. Scripps at the head of False Bay (Brae Mar was demolished in 1959 and replaced with the Catamaran Resort Hotel, but the nearby ZLAC clubhouse, on the shore of Mission Bay, is still standing).

In the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, False Bay or Mission Bay was mostly visited by sportsmen; its shallow waters and marshy shores were ideal duck habitat and fish could be found in the deeper channel leading to the ocean. In 1908 the Union reported that the just completed Bay View apartment house situated on the shore of False Bay was proving deservedly popular with sportsmen and duck hunters, and that one party had bagged 33 ducks in a couple of hours (not all duck hunters were sportsmen, however; in 1891 there were complaints that some professional hunters were slaughtering ducks using a regular mountain howitzer in a skiff, and sometimes killing a hundred at a shot).

Fishing was also a popular attraction, but the quality of fishing depending on variable natural conditions. The Evening Tribune reported in 1901 that False Bay was invested with seals that had eaten up all the fish, or at least enough of them to make fishing poor. In 1902 the fishermen said the water was too clear and the fish had all deserted False Bay. In 1903, by contrast, the recent rains had made the fishing in False Bay very good, and that kept anglers busy when not employed in the orchards. Some of the fish stories were memorable. While fishing in False Bay in 1901 Rufus Martin hooked a shark of such dimensions that it broke his pole after he had played it for an hour and a half. Lloyd Overshiner landed with hook and line a stingray over five feet long and four feet wide and after landing it he had to kill it with a shotgun.

In addition to fish, sharks and seals, whales occasionally entered Mission Bay. The Union reported in 1904 that two ‘monster whales’, one at least 30 feet long, furnished a spectacle just a few feet off the shoreline at the foot of Eleventh (Lamont) Street. They were first discovered by W. A. Pike, who, being a sportsman returning from a shooting jaunt, promptly emptied both barrels of his gun into the side of one of them, which responded by spouting high into the air.

Swimming and boating in the bay were also popular. In 1890, the Union reported that the fifty students of the College of Letters were adding swimming to their accomplishments. Material for a bath-house and pier were furnished by the college and the students accomplished the building in a little sand beach cove on Mission Bay, below the college (near the foot of today’s Kendall Street). Students and faculty had swimming lessons two afternoons each week. By 1898 the Union reported that Mission Bay was a favorite bathing place; every day saw more or less of a crowd and on Saturdays about forty, old and young, took a swim. In 1906 an ad for Folsom Bros. Co., which owned much of Pacific Beach, stated that as an indication of how residents and visitors enjoyed Mission Bay it was not unusual to see from 40 to 60 people taking a dip at the Fortuna bath house and wharf.

In June 1906 the Union reported that nature had caused the waters of Mission Bay to present a wonderful sight when darkness set in. Thousands of tiny electric eels, fireflies and glow-worms appeared to be creeping over the smooth surface. This effect was said to be produced by the warm night breeze, greatly ruffling the water, which is filled with ‘microscopical luminous animalculae’. An occasional clump of reeds and other submarine growths could be passed over, showing distinct and white, with fish of opal fire gliding in and out; ‘From under the bow of the boat light spreads as though a lantern were fastened there, and near the cliff, where it is still as a pond, the oars ignite a six-foot circle of bluish-white light’. Many parties from the newly-opened Hotel Balboa and elsewhere in the suburb had been out enjoying this magnificent spectacle.

In 1914 the Mission Beach Company announced a new residential and amusement tract on the peninsula between the Pacific Ocean and Mission Bay. Development would begin with a bridge built across the entrance to the bay by the Bayshore Railroad to carry a trolley line and an automobile boulevard between Ocean Beach and Mission Beach. The bridge was completed in 1915 and in 1916 the trolley line had reached Redondo Court in North Mission Beach, where J. M. Asher, a Pacific Beach real estate operator, was contracted to develop a tent city to accommodate tourists. Asher’s tent city, which included a bath house, swimming pool and pier into Mission Bay, was completed by October 1916.

In 1923 the Mission Beach Company and the San Diego Electric Railway Company jointly announced a project to build an amusement center in South Mission Beach. The amusement center would provide a choice of swimming in the surf, in a large indoor swimming pool, or in the still water of the bay, where a cove called Bonita Bay had been dredged on the inside of the Mission Beach peninsula. The rail company would absorb the Bayshore Railroad company and connect its line to downtown San Diego over a causeway through the southern portion of the bay and across the adjacent mud flats. Bonita Bay and the electric railway line thus became the first substantial dredge and fill projects in Mission Bay.

In 1927 residents of north shore communities petitioned the city to build a causeway across the bay from the southern tip of Crown Point to provide a more direct route auto route between the north shore and downtown. The plan was to dredge material from the bottom of the bay to create a 2100-foot section of fill connected to Crown Point on the north and the mud flats on the south with bridges built on concrete piles. The section of causeway across the mud flats would also be raised with fill from the bay and include a 72-foot culvert over a low point on the bay shore. The dredging operation would have the added benefit of improving boating conditions on the bay; there were already channels along the east side of Mission Beach and the west side of Crown Point, but no connection between them. The dredging would remove sufficient material from the mud flats and islands in the center of the bay to provide a new channel and create an oval course around the western bay.

Although there was considerable opposition to the causeway project, particularly over the decision to fund it using Mattoon Act bonds, it was finally approved in 1928, although continued litigation delayed the start of actual construction until mid-1929. The culvert and road construction on the south end of the causeway were finished in September 1929 and by January 1930 the 2100-foot fill in the middle of the bay had been completed. Work on the bridges continued during the summer of 1930 and by July the Union reported that it was possible to motor over almost its entire length except for the unfinished south bridge. Further delays and a change of contractors postponed final completion and a formal opening and ribbon-cutting (by cadets from the San Diego Army and Navy Academy in Pacific Beach) until January 1931.

The water and tidelands of Mission Bay were owned by the state, and in August 1929 the state declared it to be a state park. In 1945 the state transferred the nearly 4000 acres of tidelands in and around Mission Bay to the city and the city initiated condemnation proceedings to acquire more than 1000 other parcels of land along the southern and eastern shores of the bay. The city announced plans to develop Mission Bay as an aquatic park.

Mission Bay in 1943; the bridge across the entrance, Bonita Bay, the Mission Bay Causeway and the San Diego Electric railway line were the only significant developments at that time.

Although several dredging projects had been proposed to improve the park, none reached the implementation stage until 1942 when a contract was let to the Newport Dredging Co. for dredging and filling in the vicinity of Bonita Bay. However, wartime needs for the dredge at other places once again delayed the start of the project. When the company’s dredge, Little Aggie, did become available it was brought to Mission Bay and in January 1946 begin pumping 300,000 cubic yards of mud from the bottom of the bay to form a new peninsula extending northeasterly from the north end of Bonita Bay, the peninsula now known as Bahia Point. In April 1946 Little Aggie began work on a second contract, pumping 500,000 yards of mud from the bay and depositing the material in a southeasterly direction from the end of Ventura Place. This fill, now Ventura Point, was needed to form an approach for a new bay bridge, ultimately connecting Mission Beach to Ocean Beach and replacing the original bridge over the mouth of Mission Bay.

The original bridge became an issue for the next phase of Mission Bay park improvement, which called for the removal of 850,000 cubic yards of material to be used to build two points of land off the eastern shore of Mission Beach. The problem was that the dredge proposed by the Franks Dredging Co., the low bidder, was too large to fit under the bridge. However, city officials discovered that the Bayshore Railroad had been required to include a 40-foot section in the middle of the bridge that could be removed if necessary, and the Franks company agreed to stand the cost and assume any liability for opening the bridge for its dredge. The plan was to slide a barge under the removable section at low tide and let the rising tide lift the span free. Once the dredge had passed through, the barge would move the section back into position at high tide and have it drop into place with the falling tide.

This plan was put into action in October 1946, and the dredge, named Dallas, began work along the shores of Mission Beach. By December it had created Santa Clara Point and, by April 1947, El Carmel Point off Mission Beach and Tierra del Fuego Island, on the west side of the 2100-foot causeway fill. Meanwhile, the Newport company and Little Aggie had gone back to work dredging Dana Basin and building up Sunset Point on the eastern approach to the proposed new Mission Bay bridge.

The old Mission Bay bridge was opened again in November 1947 to allow dredges to pass under it. This time it was Little Aggie leaving the bay and the dredge Newport entering. The Newport was owned by the Newport company but had been leased to the Franks company to help the Dallas with a new contract to dredge a channel from the causeway to the northeast corner of the bay where it would also create De Anza Cove and De Anza Point. It actually took two tries to move the dredges through the bridge on this occasion; the removable section of bridge was removed but the water was too rough to attempt to tow the dredges through on the first try and the bridge section was replaced. The dredges were able to pass through the bridge on a second try a week later.

In 1948 the Newport and Dallas were put to work dredging the northwest portion of Mission Bay to a depth of 8 feet. Although some of the spoil was deposited on the northwest shore of the bay off the end of San Rafael Place, most of it was pumped across to the ocean side of Mission Beach and dumped in front of the Old Mission Beach lifeguard station in July, the height of the beach season. This aroused citizens of the area, who claimed it made the beach unusable and muddied the surf for almost a mile on either side of Old Mission Beach, forcing bathers to other areas where there were riptides and no lifeguards. The city apologized for the timing and offered to move the lifeguard station but refused to delay the work, adding that the material would actually improve the beach, filling up holes and widening the beach for miles up and down the shore line as the currents distributed the sand from the bay.

In September 1949 the Mission Bay bridge was opened up to allow the Dallas to move to San Diego Bay, where it dredged a deep water tuna clipper mooring between the foot of Ash Street and the Coast Guard Air Station. The bridge was opened again in March 1950 to allow the Dallas back into Mission Bay to participate in another dredging project around the bay entrance. This project included dredging a ‘pilot channel’ for a new entrance to Mission Bay between the north and middle jetties, which were then being built into the ocean from Mission Beach. The dredged material would be used to construct levees for a flood control channel extending east from between the middle and south jetties.

The new bay entrance would cut off the southern tip of Mission Beach, eliminating 700 feet of Mission Boulevard and the connection to the existing bridge, which was closed permanently in April 1950. In May 1950, while an excited crowd looked on, dredge operators cut a ‘navigable channel’ 150 feet wide and 8 feet deep between Mission Bay and the Pacific Ocean. An official dedication, including a boat race from San Diego Bay Bay to Mission Bay, was held on June 4, 1950. However, the expected widening and deepening of the channel was delayed because of the Korean War and sand bars and treacherous currents in the narrow channel caused a number of boating mishaps and drownings. After a particularly tragic incident in December 1951 took six lives, the channel was ordered closed until it could be dredged properly.

Mission Bay in 1952. Most of the west bay had been developed but much of the east bay had not.

Another round of dredging in the De Anza Point section of the bay began in November 1951 and by August 1952 200 acres north of the bay, up to what would become the eastern extension of Grand Avenue in Pacific Beach, had been filled. The Mission Bay golf course and sports fields and Mission Bay High School were built on this land.

In August 1954 President Eisenhower signed a supplemental appropriations bill that included funds to complete the dredging of the Mission Bay entrance channel to a depth of 20 feet and a width of 250 feet. A contract was awarded in December and work began early in 1955. The Mission Bay channel was officially opened (again) in July 1955 during a festival which included a parade of boats, led by the mayor, and with the Buccaneer Band from Mission Bay High School playing in one of the lead boats.

In 1958 the City Council adopted a master plan for Mission Bay Park which specified that the entire bay was to be dredged to a depth of at least 8 feet and the spoil, some 17 million cubic yards, was to be deposited on an island in the east bay which was to be called Cabrillo Island. The contract was awarded in August 1958 to the Western Contracting Corp. of Sioux City, Iowa, which began the project by building a 180-foot-long dredge in Kansas City, Missouri, and towing it to Mission Bay via the Missouri and Mississippi rivers, the Gulf of Mexico and the Panama Canal, a trip of 4,400 miles. The dredge, named Western Eagle, arrived in April 1959 and began work in the northwest bay. By November 1959 Cabrillo Island was taking shape as the Western Eagle dumped sand from the west bay to build dikes around the perimeter of the island. The dredging moved to the east bay in early 1960 and was completed in 1961, although by the time the fill had settled enough to be usable Cabrillo Island was no longer on the map. In 1962 it was renamed Fiesta Island and Tierra del Fuego, the island that had begun as the 2100-foot fill for the Mission Bay causeway in 1929, became Vacation Isle. When the Western Eagle finally departed in August 1962, the transformation of False Bay, the sportsman’s paradise, to Mission Bay, the aquatic park, was substantially complete.

Calvary Cemetery

In the 1960s, Richard Pourade, then editor emeritus of the San Diego Union, began a 7-volume history of San Diego. In The Glory Years, the fourth book in the series, published in 1964, he introduced the ‘people who started it all’, who built Southern California in the ‘boom and bust’ years between 1865 and 1900, by visiting an old graveyard ‘where are buried so many of the pioneers who helped to found and build San Diego’. While many headstones were broken or lying on their side, names eroded by the weather, others were well-marked, if seldom visited. The grave of Father Antonio Ubach, the last of the padres, born in Spain in 1835, was marked with a stately monument. Nearby was the grave of Cave Johnson Couts, born in 1821 and a graduate of West Point, and lying beside him his wife, Ysidora Bandini de Couts, daughter of a Spanish Don, the names telling of the ‘melting together of two peoples’. Other names – Ames, O’Brien, Lyons, McCoy, Clark, Hinton, Warnock – told of the great tides of humanity that flooded across a continent in the later 1800s, ‘to find their resting places under eucalyptus trees on a barren hill overlooking a harbor that few people in the world had ever heard of’.

The graveyard Pourade visited was Calvary Cemetery, the old Catholic burial ground next to U. S. Grant Elementary School in Mission Hills. However, even before Pourade had finished his final volume in 1977 that old graveyard had been transformed. The pioneers’ resting place under the eucalyptus trees was no longer a barren hill but a grassy park. No headstones were broken or lying on their sides; most had been removed and dumped at the city’s Mount Hope Cemetery while others, including the monuments of Father Ubach and the Couts family, had been spared and were lined up in a corner of the park in grudging recognition of the park’s original purpose. The names of those believed buried in the cemetery were inscribed on six bronze panels ’dedicated to the memory of those interred within this park’. Those interred within the park remained, beneath the new lawn, sidewalks and parking lot.

The story of Calvary Cemetery began in 1873 when the city purchased ten acres of land near Old Town from J. S. Mannasse ‘for Cemetery purposes’. In October 1873, after the City Attorney had prepared the necessary papers and the City Engineer had made a survey of the grounds and submitted a plat, the Board of Trustees adopted Charter Ordinance No. 46, ordaining that the real estate purchased by the city from J. S. Mannasse for cemetery purposes, containing ten acres, ‘is hereby set apart, dedicated, donated to and reserved as and for a Cemetery’. A second section of the ordinance specified that the west half of the property, containing five acres, ‘is hereby placed under the free and exclusive control of the Parish of the Immaculate Conception . . . to be held in trust and to be used and controlled exclusively by the parish forever, for Cemetery purposes only’. However, the land being found impractical for such purposes, in March 1876 the trustees repealed Ordinance No. 46 and adopted Charter Ordinance No. 78, exchanging the property for a different ten-acre tract owned by J. S. Mannasse after the Pastor of the Parish, A. D. Ubach, relinquished the church’s claim to the property. Ordinance No. 78 likewise set apart and reserved the ten-acre tract for a Cemetery and placed the western five acres under the control of the Parish forever for Cemetery purposes. Curiously, the Catholic cemetery, which became known as Calvary Cemetery, actually occupied the southern, not the western five acres of the cemetery tract; the northern five acres, shown on early maps as the Protestant Cemetery, was never used as a cemetery and was reclassified as a park in 1909.

Cave Johnson Couts attended United States Military Academy at West Point, class of 1843, where he was a classmate of Ulysses S. Grant, later Commanding General of the Union army during the Civil War and President of the United States. A cavalryman, Couts was posted to California in the aftermath of the Mexican War and met Ysidora Bandini, daughter of Don Juan Bandini, one of the most prominent residents of Alta California, while stationed at the San Luis Rey mission in 1849. According to California writer George Wharton James, Miss Bandini had visited the mission with some friends and while wandering around the building had fallen from a parapet. The young lieutenant, observant of the maid whose bright eyes had already penetrated his heart, dashed forward and caught her, averting a catastrophe. They then and there fell mutually in love and when they were married in 1851 she was given the Guajome rancho near San Luis Rey as a wedding present by her sister and brother-in-law. James claimed that Helen Hunt Jackson, author of the popular novel Ramona, spent time at Guajome and absorbed much of her understanding of life at a California rancho from what she observed there. Late in life Col. Couts converted to Catholicism, receiving his first communion shortly before he died in 1874. When Mrs. Bandidi de Couts died in 1897 the San Diego Union reported that the ‘lady of unusual intelligence and noble qualities’ would be buried beside her husband at the Catholic cemetery. However, since Col. Couts died in 1874 and the cemetery was not established at its present site until 1876, and its previous site had been found ‘impractical’, it is unclear how her husband came to be buried there.

Father Antonio D. Ubach’s burial in the Catholic cemetery, by contrast, was witnessed by thousands of mourners in what must have been the most notable day of its existence. Father Ubach was born in Catalonia and came to San Diego in 1866 where he took charge of what was then a small Catholic parish. He served as Pastor for 41 years and was greatly respected and admired, particularly by his Indian and Mexican parishioners. He is generally considered to have been the model for the Father Gaspara character in Ramona, and in later life confirmed that he did perform a marriage ceremony for an Indian couple much as described in the novel, although at his chapel, not in the building that has become known as Ramona’s Marriage Place. As Pastor of the Parish of the Immaculate Conception Father Ubach was given responsibility for the cemetery and is assumed to have supervised its planning and development. When he died in 1907 his funeral at St. Joseph’s Church was described as the largest ever held in San Diego, attracting an estimated four thousand people. After the service, the Union reported a line of carriages over a mile and a half long followed the hearse and that hundreds of poor Mexicans and Indians, who could not afford the luxury of riding, walked the four miles from the city to the Catholic cemetery.

In January 1919 a new Catholic cemetery, Holy Cross, was opened on Hilltop Drive, near Mount Hope Cemetery and Greenwood Memorial Park, and in 1920 the church ended the sale of plots in the old Catholic cemetery, although burials were still permitted in plots that had already been purchased. With few new burials and no budget for perpetual care, the old cemetery, which began to be referred as Calvary Cemetery, soon begin to show signs of neglect. In 1935 Albert Mayrhofer, president of the California State Historical Association, presented plans to the City Engineer for improving Calvary Cemetery. Mayrhofer had been instrumental in the restoration of Mission San Diego in 1930-31, for which he and his wife had been dubbed Sir Albert and Lady Marie, Knight Commander and Lady of the Holy Sepulcher, by Pope Pius XI (he also designed the San Diego flag, still in use today). The plan for Calvary Cemetery was to build an adobe wall with gates around the cemetery to deter trespassing and vandalism.

Sir Mayrhofer had secured funding for the adobe wall as a Works Progress Administration project and the WPA required that the city take ownership of the site and agree to sponsor the project. Work on the wall began in November 1938 and was completed in October 1939. A rededication ceremony was held in November 1939 with religious services and a civic program, after which Mayrhofer presented the key to the gates to Bishop Buddy and the bishop unveiled a large granite boulder on which the names of those who contributed to the restoration of the cemetery were carved. While the city retained ownership of the cemetery, the expectation was that it would be maintained by the church.

Even though Calvary Cemetery was virtually abandoned after 1920, some San Diego pioneers still chose to be buried in family plots located there. The San Diego Union reported in 1936 that by special arrangement, the body of Mrs. Ester Smith Kerren would be buried in her ‘ashes-of-roses’ wedding dress beside her husband at Calvary Cemetery, in a plot given to her by Fr. Antonio D. Ubach. She was a San Diego resident since her birth in 1853, daughter of Albert B. Smith and Maria Guadalupe Machado. She sang in the first choir that Fr. Ubach organized in the adobe chapel in Old Town. Her father had become famous when he spiked two Mexican cannons and climbed a flagpole in Old Town to attach an American flag in October 1846.

Cave Couts II, considered the last of the San Diego Dons, died in 1943. According to the Union, ‘In the old Catholic cemetery, rarely used any more and only recently rescued from years of neglect and vandalism, the old don was buried beside the almost legendary first Cave Couts and his beautiful Ysidora’. In 1949 Lily Bell Schrader, his first wife, was also buried at Calvary Cemetery.  Altogether 46 burials were recorded in the cemetery after 1920, the last occurring in 1960.

Also in 1949, the San Diego Union noted the continuing deterioration of Calvary Cemetery under the headline Broken Monuments, Maimed Statues Desecrate Sleeping City of Dead. ‘Desolation broods uneasily over historic Calvary Cemetery in Mission Hills’, the Union story began. ‘Headstones have been broken and overturned; rusted metal railings, which once protected burial plots of distinguished citizens, have been twisted, torn away and looted’. Perhaps most dramatic was a photo of the stone cross marking the grave of Father Antonio Ubach, who the article described as the founder of Calvary Cemetery, and the adjoining grave of Albert Mayrhofer, for whom there was no marker of any kind. The Union explained that Mr. Mayrhofer had been deeply interested in Calvary Cemetery and worked tirelessly to resist its growing neglect, but although he had died 10 months earlier his grave was without a marker and a visitor would be able to find the spot only through instructions from Mrs. Mayrhofer. She had been so disturbed by the evidences of vandalism and lack of care and protection for the cemetery that she had been unwilling to risk setting up the kind of memorial she would want (a marker was eventually erected over Sir Mayrhofer’s grave, and as Lady Mayrhofer had anticipated, it had been vandalized, but she had not anticipated that by the time of her death in 1993 she could not be buried next to her husband under the marker that already bore both of their names).

Other photos in the 1949 Union story showed a ‘wooden cross torn from its grave by vandals’, ‘solid granite headstones torn from their bases and flung sprawling on graves’, ‘stone monuments which had developed a list by reason of the ground underneath settling’ and an ‘old grave in a sad state of dilapidation brought about by repeated, prankish acts of desecration’.

Not much had changed by 1962 when the Union again reported on Calvary Cemetery: Where History Lies Abandoned. This article noted that since the 1939 restoration there had been no full-time caretaker and left unguarded the burial ground had become a rendezvous and playground for vandals with graves desecrated and headstones toppled, broken and carried away. However, a recent state law gave the city authority to convert abandoned cemeteries into memorial parks, and this was being considered by the Park and Recreation Department. Some relatives of those buried in the tract said they would prefer a well-grassed park properly marked with a monument to the present condition.

With no caretaker and no perpetual care funding, maintenance was left to community service groups. In 1963 and 1964 a Boy Scout Explorer post spent weekends cleaning up trash and debris and straightening and resetting toppled headstones. However, most community interest in Calvary Cemetery had turned to the proposal to convert it into a ‘pioneer park’. A letter to the editor of the San Diego Union in 1967 noted that funds for the Calvary Cemetery project had been approved in a park bond election the previous year but that development was tentatively scheduled for 1971-72 and that was too long to wait; ‘Calvary Cemetery, the target of vandals and the scene of nightly beer parties, is an unwholesome situation to be left so long’. Also in 1967, Hillcrest and Mission Hills residents told the Union that Calvary Cemetery was dangerous and a neighborhood eyesore. It had been run down for years and was a disgrace to the neighborhood and the city. It was filled with weeds, bottles and tipped-over headstones and ‘ghosts would be afraid to go in there at night’. They also asked for more police patrols and more cleanup work.

In 1968 the city initiated the legal process of transforming the cemetery into a memorial park by passing a resolution that whereas Calvary Cemetery was a nonendowment care cemetery, and that no human dead bodies had been interred for at least five years, and that the cemetery and all its ‘copings, improvements and embellishments’ were a threat and danger to the health, safety, comfort and welfare of the public, that the cemetery ‘is hereby abandoned’. The City Manager was directed to remove all the copings, improvements and embellishments. The resolution was unopposed.

An architectural firm hired by the city for design work proposed grouping the individual monuments together as one large memorial. An alternate plan proposed moving all the monuments to the city’s Mount Hope Cemetery and building a large central memorial. Some descendants of the pioneers expressed opposition to any plan that would disturb the monuments marking the graves of their ancestors. Descendants of the Pedrorena and Altamirano families wrote city officials to say that while they were not opposed to the idea of a park, they thought their ancestors’ monument should be left intact as part of a central memorial. These wishes were disregarded, and the contract for converting the old Calvary Cemetery into a pioneer memorial park awarded in February 1970 required that the headstones be moved. According to the City Manager, some would be relocated in the park but the others would be stored at Mount Hope. A group of Mission Hills residents had agreed to work with the city to select headstones of historical significance that would be retained in the park.

However, when the Mission Hills – Hillcrest Improvement Association selected 600 headstones to be retained for their historical importance, other Mission Hills residents protested. In May 1970, the day after workmen had started the improvement project, placard-bearing demonstrators, including children carrying signs reading ‘Creepy’ and ‘Spooky’, picketed the site to demand the removal of all the tombstones. Work was resumed after the two sides met with city officials and agreed to a compromise in which 142 of the most historically important stones would be retained, clustered in the south-east area of the park. The anti-stone group’s agreement was halfhearted; according to their spokesman, Albert A. Gabbs, the concept of a park would be utterly destroyed by the somber sight of a graveyard superimposed upon the landscape. The tombstones would present a ‘morbid attraction’ to the ‘sick, witchcraft and spook-oriented element of our society’. Parents would think twice about allowing their children to visit the park and the elderly and retired who live nearby would find the markers a ‘constant reminder of the grim reaper’. The improvement association spokesman, however, noted that the markers are ‘part of our history and our heritage’ and the park is a ‘historically interesting site’. The improvement association also turned over the records and materials they had accumulated and photos of the headstones to the San Diego Historical Society.

A few of the tombstones from Calvary Cemetery were spared and are lined up in a corner of what is now Pioneer Park.

Landscaping was finished and Pioneer Park was opened to the public in April 1971, although not officially dedicated until December 1977, but the controversy over the tombstones continued. In July 1977 the Union had published photos of 7- and 8-year old brothers playing on the relocated monuments at the edge of the park, one stepping from one former grave stone to another and the other sitting on top of a grave stone inscribed with the name of Nellie Grace Dorval, a child who died in 1918. This prompted an angry letter to the editor from a reader who had known Miss Dorval and still remembered her suffering and death, calling the photos sacrilegious and disrespectful and wondering why parents would allow children to jump on the grave stones (an editor’s note clarified that these were not technically grave stones, having been removed from their original sites over graves years previously and lined up along one side of the park). Albert A. Gabbs took the opportunity to again warn of the attraction the former tombstones presented for those interested in the macabre, claiming that the area was littered with ‘things better not described left over from unusual gatherings which take place during the night’, and all because the Park and Recreation Board appeased the Historical Society by allowing the tombstones to remain.

In 1983 the San Diego Union published an article about a ‘graveyard of tombstones’ dumped near a railroad track in Mount Hope Cemetery (by one account the tombstones had been noticed by then-mayor Roger Hedgecock while inspecting the proposed route of the East Line of the San Diego Trolley, which would eventually operate over that track). These were some of the 400-500 tombstones from Calvary Cemetery which had been sent to Mount Hope, and the Union reported that although they had been put in a small canyon for ‘indefinite storage’, many of the ‘chipped and battered grave markers’ were covered in weeds and dirt and gradually disappearing into the undergrowth while their importance faded from memory. The Evening Tribune followed up with a report in July 1985 that there were 288 cracked or shattered gravestones haphazardly strewn near the proposed route of the East County extension of the San Diego Trolley.

The rediscovery of the discarded tombstones at Mount Hope and their undignified treatment there revived the debate about their proper disposition. The San Diego Historical Society asked that the gravestones be stored in a dignified manner or moved, but the City Manager’s office recommended that the area in which the gravestones were piled be fenced off for five years to allow the stones to be claimed by descendants of the deceased, or otherwise disposed of. The city Historical Site Board, an advisory board to the city council, voted unanimously not to support the City Manager’s plan and expressed support for relocating them back to Pioneer Park. The directors of the Save Our Heritage Organization also voted unanimously in favor of moving the gravestones back to Pioneer Park, where ‘at least they’ll be in the right cemetery’. The National Society of Colonial Dames of America pledged to contribute $500 toward placement of the stones, saying ‘the stones belong with the bones’.

Monument made up of the few tombstones from Calvary Cemetery salvaged from their ‘mass grave of gravestones’ at Mount Hope.

In January 1986 the matter came to the attention of the city council where ‘shocked’ members of the Public Facilities and Recreation Committee voted unanimously to restore the tombstones and move them back to the Mission Hills site; the tombstones ‘had been given no more respect than discarded beer cans . . . this is really quite shameful’. However, despite the committee’s vote, the move never happened. The tombstones taken to Mount Hope in 1970 remain there, although they are no longer strewn haphazardly along the trolley tracks. Most were buried in a ‘mass grave of gravestones’ while a group of about twenty stand beside the tracks on a concrete base, much like the 142 that remained at what was once Calvary Cemetery, where so many of the pioneers who helped to found and build San Diego are still buried under the eucalyptus trees.