An expansive Spanish-style house on a bluff at the northern end of Noyes Street has overlooked Pacific Beach for more than 90 years. Now hemmed in by housing developments to the east and west, an elementary school to the north and multi-story condominiums to the south, it was originally at the farthest corner of the community, surrounded by vacant land that had once been lemon ranches. Enclosed behind a white plaster wall the house seems isolated and remote, but on a recent weekend the doors were open and throngs of people were attending an estate sale there. The estate agent explained that the house had been sold and added that the new owners intended to preserve it and to live there themselves.
The address on the fence outside the driveway says 4830 but for years the property was known simply as Holiday Hill. It was built in 1931 for Richmond and Ruth Jackson. Riley Richmond Jackson was born in Wisconsin in 1899 but moved to San Diego with his family about 1910 and lived at 3358 (now 3360) 4th Street. This home was directly across the street from the home of Edward (E.Y.) and Lulo Barnes, at 3361 4th, and the Jackson family and Barnes family became close. The Barnes family had been prominent among the early pioneers of Pacific Beach. Edward Barnes and Lulo Thorpe had been in the first class at the San Diego College of Letters there when it opened in 1888. Edward and his father Franklin had been leaders in the lemon industry which sustained Pacific Beach after the college closed in 1891. Lulo’s mother, Rose Hartwick Thorpe, was a world-famous poet who claimed to be the first resident of Pacific Beach. They had relocated to the vicinity of 4th and Upas Streets in 1906 after the lemon business in Pacific Beach turned unprofitable. Apparently through their association with the Barnes family the Jacksons also became interested in Pacific Beach and on holidays they would take picnics to an elevated location on the outskirts of the community that they called Holiday Hill.
In 1918 Richmond Jackson was appointed to the Naval Academy at Annapolis. After graduation in 1922 he was commissioned an ensign in the navy and assigned to the destroyer USS Fuller, based in San Diego. In September 1923 the Fuller was part of a flotilla of 14 destroyers returning to San Diego from fleet week at San Francisco when, after dark and in dense fog, the entire formation turned east into what the navigator reckoned to be the entrance to the Santa Barbara channel, between Point Conception and San Miguel Island. Instead, the three columns of destroyers steamed at 20 knots into jagged rocks at Point Honda, the Devil’s Jaw, 15 miles to the north. The last ships in line managed to reverse course before reaching the rocks but seven of the destroyers, including the Fuller, were wrecked, and 23 sailors lost, in what is still considered the navy’s worst peacetime disaster. The Fuller grounded on a reef offshore and was nearly awash in the heavy seas. Its crew evacuated with great difficulty to a larger rock from which they were rescued by a fishing boat in the morning.
Richmond Jackson resigned from the navy later in the 1920s and in 1928 became a clerk with the law firm of Wright & McKee in San Diego. Also in 1928 he was married to Ruth Remington and the couple moved into an apartment at 306 Grape Street where they welcomed their first son, Remington, in 1929. By 1930 Richmond Jackson had become a lawyer with Wright & McKee; a second son, born in 1930, was named Dempster McKee in honor of a founding partner of the firm.
In Pacific Beach, the spot the Jackson’s called Holiday Hill was included in a new subdivision, Nettleship-Tye Tract No. 3, which was accepted by the city council and mayor in May 1930. A few weeks later, in June 1930, Richmond and Ruth Jackson purchased lots 13-23 of block 2 of Nettleship-Tye Tract No. 3 from the San Diego Beach Company. These lots included all the property between Academy and Noyes streets from Chalcedony Street north to where Law Street intersected Academy, approximately an acre and a half. The Jacksons began building a home in the northern section of this property in the Spanish style, double-studded so that the walls appeared to be adobe, and in June 1931 the San Diego Union reported that Mr. and Mrs. Richmond Jackson would move into their new Spanish home at Pacific Beach next week. The 1931 San Diego city directory listed Richmond and Ruth Jackson’s home address as “Holiday Hill” Pacific Beach. Two daughters, Marcia, born in 1932, and Lucia, in 1937, were born after they had moved there. Richmond Jackson became active in civic affairs in Pacific Beach; he was a member of the Pacific Beach Toastmaster’s Club and became a director of the Pacific Beach Chamber of Commerce.
E.Y. Barnes, the Jacksons’ neighbor on 4th Street and former Pacific Beach lemon rancher, had joined a wholesale produce company downtown but also continued his interest in farming by leasing and later purchasing a plot of land in Pine Hills, near Julian. Manzanita Ranch, as the property was called, produced pears and apples, and cider made there was sold in the popular Manzanita Ranch store on the Julian highway in Wynola. In 1922 his son Franklin moved to Pine Hills where he built a house and took over operation of the family fruit business. Franklin Barnes was about the same age as Richmond Jackson and the former neighbors from 4th Street became neighbors again when Richmond Jackson purchased the property across Pine Hills Road from Manzanita Ranch. His cabin there was known for its weekend getaways; the San Diego Union society page in 1939 noted that Richmond Jackson was host at another one of his jolly stag house parties at his Pine Hills place.
Richmond Jackson had retired from the navy in the 1920s but remained in the naval reserve and by 1940 he was a reserve lieutenant and commander of the first reserve division in San Diego, participating in weekly armory drills and an annual training cruise. The training cruise in August 1940 involved 25 officers and 420 enlisted men from the six naval reserve divisions in southern California. According to the San Diego Union these reservists spent two weeks aboard six recently recommissioned destroyers performing boat, signaling, and engineering drills, gunnery practice and tactical exercises. Two months later, in October 1940, the Union reported that the first division, commanded by Lt. Comdr. R. R. Jackson, U.S.N.R., had been called to active duty aboard destroyers performing coastal patrol duty between San Diego and San Pedro. In November 1940, the news was that Lt. Comdr. and Mrs. Jackson had leased the Williams ranch in Bonita Valley, where they would make their home after the first of December. They planned to rent their ‘rambling casa in Pacific Beach’ (Bonita was nearer to the destroyer base, now the site of Naval Base San Diego). In June 1941 the paper reported that Lt. Comdr. and Mrs. Richmond Jackson, who had been residing in Bonita, had returned to their ‘Pacific Beach hacienda’.
Later in 1941, as the navy continued to build up strength in the Pacific in anticipation of hostilities with Japan, Lt. Comdr. Jackson was transferred to Hawaii where he remained after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor and the declaration of war in December 1941. In December 1942 the Union reported that he returned ‘by clipper’ from Honolulu to spend the holidays with Mrs. Jackson and their four children at Holiday Hill, Pacific Beach. In August 1943 the news was that Comdr. Richmond Jackson had returned after two years in Honolulu, and that he and Mrs. Jackson and their four children would leave for Miami, where he would report for duty. During their absence their ‘Pacific Beach hacienda on Holiday Hill’ would be occupied by Mrs. Jackson’s mother. In February 1944, Mrs. Jackson and the four children returned after an absence of several months to ‘reopen’ her Pacific Beach home.
In 1941, shortly after Lt. Comdr. Jackson had departed for Hawaii, the federal government acquired most of the land east of Olney and south of Chalcedony streets in Pacific Beach to be used for temporary housing for defense workers attracted to San Diego by the growth of Consolidated Aircraft and related defense industries. The Bayview Terrace housing project of 1000 ‘demountable’ plywood homes, extending to about a block south and east of the Jacksons’ property, was ready for occupancy in January 1942. In June 1942 another tract was acquired for an additional 127 homes. This tract, Bayview Heights, was located between Olney, Chalcedony, Noyes and Beryl streets, directly across Noyes from Holiday Hill.
The western side of Holiday Hill sloped down to what appeared on the map as Academy Street, but which in the 1940s was just an intermittent creek draining a portion of Mount Soledad into Mission Bay. The bottom land around the creek was ideal for vegetable crops and had been cultivated by Japanese truck farmers, some of whom lived in the former lemon ranch houses along Lamont and Diamond streets. In 1942, after war was declared against Japan, these Japanese farmers (and their American-born children) were declared ‘enemy aliens’ and sent to internment camps, and the vegetable farms below Holiday Hill were left untended. By the time the war ended in 1945 the wartime boom in the population of Pacific Beach had made this land more valuable for housing than farming. In 1947, most of the property between Academy, Chalcedony, Lamont and Beryl streets, including the portion of Nettleship-Tye Tract No. 3 west of Academy, was subdivided as Lamont Terrace. The entire tract was cleared and the houses with the brick chimneys and shingle siding still there today were constructed. The streets, including Academy Street, were paved. In 1950 the south side of Chalcedony between Academy and Lamont streets was also subdivided, as Picard Terrace, and another row of houses encroached on the isolation of Holiday Hill.
Richmond Jackson had been promoted again by 1949 when Capt. and Mrs. Jackson announced the engagement of their daughter Marcia to Roger Mackey Jr., son of the commander of the Naval Hospital in San Diego; the Union wrote that the Jacksons would entertain friends of the betrothed couple that evening at Holiday Hill, their home in Pacific Beach. After the wedding a few weeks later at the Naval Hospital chapel the paper noted that the wedding reception also took place at the Jacksons’ Pacific Beach home, Holiday Hill. The Mackeys later moved into a house built on the southernmost lots of the Holiday Hill property, at 2060 Chalcedony Street. A daughter, Nancy, was born in 1950 and twin daughters Pamela and Patricia, in 1951.
From 1952 to 1976 Eileen Jackson (no relation to Richmond) wrote the ‘Straws in the Wind’ society column for the San Diego Union, informing readers about the lives of socially prominent San Diegans, including the residents of Holiday Hill (‘the straws caught here . . . will show which way the social winds are blowing’). In one of the first of these columns she reported that Roger and Marcia Mackey lost their most faithful sitters when Capt. and Mrs. Jackson, grandparents of Nancy and twins Pat and Pam, left for a couple of weeks to attend their son Dempster’s graduation (and Richmond’s 30th reunion) at Annapolis. A month later, she wrote that Holiday Hill, Pacific Beach, had become a ‘family colony’ now that Mr. and Mrs. Remington Jackson had moved there. They were occupying Remington’s former ‘bachelor quarters’ in the rose garden at the home of his parents, and his sister and family were closest neighbors (Remington Jackson had married Frances Wilson in 1951; they later moved to Del Mar). The births of the Mackeys’ younger daughters (‘pretty blond sorority grows’) were also announced in ‘Straws in the Wind’.
After heavy downpours large quantities of stormwater had flowed down the creek bed below Holiday Hill, inundating low-lying areas along Noyes Street further to the south. In 1953 the city proposed a storm drain under Academy and Noyes streets that would empty into Mission Bay at the foot of Olney Street. The project would be funded in part by an assessment on property owners bordering the route of the drain, including the Jacksons. Property owners at higher elevations objected to this plan, arguing that all the benefits would go to the owners of property at lower elevations that were being flooded. Richmond Jackson became the spokesman for those objecting to the plan, arguing that since Academy Street had been paved it had been successful at draining stormwater in that area. He also suggested that the drainage problem could be solved with settling basins, which could also be used for fishing. The project was abandoned in 1954 but revived in 1955 and completed in 1956, effectively solving drainage problems in this area (the settling basins or fishing ponds were never built).
Lamont Terrace, Picard Terrace, and the many other housing developments in Pacific Beach had attracted large numbers of families with school-aged children, and in 1954 the school board approved plans for a school on the north side of Beryl Street, a block north of Holiday Hill. Construction began on Kate Sessions Elementary School in 1955, the school opened in 1956 and Beryl Street was paved up the hill to the school. The increased availability of commercial housing also led to the closure of the federal housing projects in Pacific Beach. As residents moved out during the 1950s the temporary plywood homes were removed and the tract was redeveloped as housing for military families. The Admiral Hartman Community, across Noyes Street from Holiday Hill, was opened in 1961. The neighborhood surrounding Holiday Hill became even more crowded in 1969 when a pair of apartment buildings, the four-story 75-unit Villa Del Rey and two-story Pacific Heights, was built a block south on Noyes Street.
The Jackson and Barnes families had remained close and in 1958 ‘Straws in the Wind’ noted that Mrs. Richmond Jackson and daughter Lucia would give a pottery shower in honor of Miss Mary Alice Barnes, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Franklin Barnes of Julian. Miss Barnes married Carlyn Tuttle in the garden of her parents’ home, Manzanita Ranch, in August. Also in 1958, ‘Straws in the Wind’ reported that Lt. Dempster Jackson, married with two sons, had installed his family in a home in Chula Vista before leaving for Japan where he was in command of the LST Sumner County. The family soon moved again, to the ’family colony’ at Holiday Hill, taking up residence at 2060 Chalcedony. When Lt. and Mrs. Jackson moved again to make their home in Monterey in 1960, ‘Straws in the Wind’ noted that their home adjoining the Richmond Jackson hacienda would be occupied by Mr. and Mrs. Tuttle.
In 1962 the senior Jacksons found a second home in Kailua on the east coast of Oahu and their original Holiday Hill residence became the home of the Mackeys and their five daughters. When the Jacksons returned to the mainland in 1971 they took up residence in Coronado, where Richmond Jackson died in 1975. Ruth Jackson died in 1990 in Imperial Beach. Holiday Hill had been occupied by their daughter Marcia and her family since the early 1960s but in 1975 her husband, Roger Mackey Jr., also died. She married Robert Thaxton in 1978 and moved into a home in Point Loma. The Mackey family retained ownership of the Holiday Hill property and it has been home to other family members, most recently Marcia’s daughter Jeannette, or Bliss. When Marcia Thaxton died in early 2022 the northern section of Holiday Hill, including the 1931 ‘hacienda’, was sold. What remained inside after 90 years of occupation by the Jacksons and their descendants was offered to the public in a final estate sale.
In July 1887 the San Diego Union reported on a Great Enterprise, a New City About to be Built at False Bay by a Syndicate of Millionaires. Articles of incorporated had been filed at the county clerk’s office for the Pacific Beach Company, to be allied with the San Diego and Pacific Beach Railroad Company incorporated a few days earlier. The Union listed the principals of the Beach company as R. A. Thomas, J. R. Thomas, O. S. Hubbell, D. C. Reed, each of whom had subscribed $100,000, and D. P. Hale, Thomas E. Metcalf, W. W. Thomas, G. B. Hensley and Charles Collins, who had subscribed between $25,000 and $50,000 each. The subscribers to the railroad were the same.
According to the Union, the articles of incorporation showed little or nothing of the intentions of the company and the magnitude of the undertaking was only ascertained by conversation with the incorporators. It was learned from one of the gentlemen that the syndicate had obtained by purchase 1,663 acres of land fronting on False Bay for the purpose of laying out a town. The town would be christened Pacific Beach and the railroad would connect it to downtown San Diego. Behind these two corporations, ‘going hand in hand, so to speak’, was a College Company which intended to build and conduct an educational institution second to none in the United States on land near the center of Pacific Beach.
The layout of the new town was established in October 1887 when City Engineer H. K. Wheeler produced a map of the Pacific Beach subdivision. A broad thoroughfare named Grand Avenue traversed the community from its western limit at the Pacific Ocean to its eastern edge near Rose Creek and would also serve as the right of way for the railroad between downtown San Diego and a depot near the beach. Other avenues (running east and west) and streets (north and south) divided the community into rectangular blocks. The streets were numbered, from First on the west to Seventeenth on the east, with a somewhat wider street named Broadway between Eighth and Ninth streets. The avenues north of Grand were named for states, except for College Avenue, where the college was to be built. South of Grand, the avenues were named after participants in the great enterprise; Thomas, Reed, Hubbell, Hensley, Metcalf, Hale and Collins. A. C. Platt, Hensley’s real estate partner, and A. G. Gassen and James Poiser, area landowners allied with the Pacific Beach Company, also had avenues named for them.
An opening sale of lots was held on December 12, 1887, and the Union reported the next morning that it was, all things considered, the most successful in the history of San Diego real estate transactions. According to the Union the Pacific Beach Company did not resort to the usual methods of ‘booming’ the sale and, notwithstanding the fact that no band was in attendance and there were no free carriages and no free lunch, over $200,000 worth of lots were disposed of. The buyers were all legitimate investors and many of them signified an intention of improving their lots. Many persons had been viewing the ground in the last few weeks and without doubt all purchasers bought intelligently. College Avenue was the favorite street with purchasers since there was no doubt that it would be the main business street.
The opening sale of lots in Pacific Beach took place at the height of San Diego’s ‘great boom’ of 1886-1888, when thousands of people arriving in town over the newly completed transcontinental railroad connection had set off a real estate bonanza. Unfortunately for the Pacific Beach Company, and for those intelligent and legitimate investors in Pacific Beach building lots, the boom faded in early 1888 and the market for residential real estate collapsed. The Pacific Beach Company responded by shrinking the community and eliminating many of the streets and avenues outside of a central area between Alabama and Reed avenues, converting them into agricultural ‘acre lots’.
An amended subdivision map filed in 1892 no longer included the avenues south of Thomas and Reed, erasing those named for the other Pacific Beach Company officials. Thomas and Reed avenues remained, however, even after every other street and avenue (except Grand) was renamed in 1900 in order to prevent duplication of street names throughout San Diego. Broadway became Ingraham Street, the numbered streets were renamed for statesmen, in alphabetical order, and the state-themed avenues north of Grand were renamed for gemstones, also in alphabetical order from Agate to Hornblend (Alabama Avenue became Diamond Street). College Avenue, north of Grand and no longer the site of the college (it closed in 1891), was also renamed for a gemstone and as predicted has become the main business street in Pacific Beach, Garnet Avenue.
With their names removed from the map most of PB’s founders have faded from memory, and while some residents are aware that Reed and Thomas avenues were named for people in their community’s past their histories are also little known. So who were these founders, what were their backgrounds, and what happened to them in the decades following the founding of Pacific Beach?
D. C. Reed
David C. Reed was born in New York but had been a resident of San Diego since about 1870, just a few years after what is now downtown San Diego was established by Alonzo Horton in 1867. Daily ads for D. C. Reed, attorney and real estate dealer, appeared in the San Diego Union beginning in 1872. In 1873 the Union reported the marriage of D. C. Reed and Juliet Guiou, both of San Diego, and in 1874 the news was that plans were complete for an elegant cottage residence for D. C. Reed, Esq., to be erected on D Street (now Broadway). He took an interest in politics and in 1875 became secretary of the Republican County Committee and ran as the Republican candidate for district attorney. In 1879 he was a candidate for lieutenant governor and in 1884 he was the delegate from the Sixth Congressional District to the Republican National Convention in Chicago (the party nominated James Blaine, who was defeated by Grover Cleveland in the presidential election).
Reed’s business interests also expanded. In 1876 he became an insurance agent, the local representative for the Firemen’s Fund and others, and by 1880 he no longer represented himself as an attorney. He ran daily ads in the San Diego Union; a Union Local Brevities column in 1881 noted that readers would observe that there was a live Real Estate man named D. C. Reed in these parts who believed in printer’s ink and advertised by the column (his ad in that issue of the Union indeed did take up an entire column). In 1885 the completion of a transcontinental railway link to San Diego and the arrival of thousands of newcomers from the east created new opportunities for real estate operators like Reed. He and T. J. Daley purchased Pueblo Lot 1159 in what is now Logan Heights and in 1885 subdivided a portion of it as Reed & Daley’s Addition. In 1886 Reed and O. S. Hubbell subdivided Reed & Hubbell’s Addition in Pueblo Lots 1162 and 1163, now part of Barrio Logan between 26th and 30th streets, Marcy Avenue and NASSCO. Reed and Hubbell were also involved in suburban real estate, Reed as president and Hubbell as secretary of the San Marcos Land Company in 1887, before both became directors of the Pacific Beach Company later in the year. Also in 1887, Reed and Aaron Pauly built the three-story Reed-Pauly building at the northeast corner of Sixth Avenue and E Street. The Reed-Pauly building, later the Leland Hotel, is still standing, although without its original bay windows.
In the 1890s Reed again became active in politics, taking the side of the San Diego Flume Company, which delivered water from Lake Cuyamaca, against a plan backed by John D. Spreckels and E. S. Babcock to supply the city with water from a proposed Morena Dam on Cottonwood Creek. As a result, the Spreckels-owned San Diego Union campaigned against Reed and his Municipal Ownership Club when he ran for mayor of San Diego in 1896, labeling him Demon C. Reed, and endorsing his opponent. Reed won anyway and served a single term as mayor from 1897 to 1899.
In 1902 Reed was involved in a controversy involving Katherine Tingley’s Theosophical Institute on Point Loma. The Theosophists had recruited a group of children from Cuba to be educated at the institute but after the Los Angeles Times published articles criticizing conditions there the children were detained on arrival at Ellis Island pending an investigation. D. C. Reed became a member of the investigating committee and after concluding that the criticism was unwarranted he was sent to New York to escort the children to San Diego (Madame Tingley later sued the Times for libel and won). He also returned to the Pacific Beach real estate market, creating Reed’s Ocean Front Addition, a subdivision of the southeast 40 acres of Pueblo Lot 1783 between Bayard, Turquoise and Loring streets and a line about halfway between Dawes and Everts, in 1904.
In June 1919 D. C. Reed placed a final real estate ad in the San Diego Union, taking up nearly an entire page. ‘Read what one of San Diego’s most successful real estate merchants has to say’, he began. He continued that in years past his advertisements had been read by thousands because they were ‘snappy’ and offered good bargains, then presented his ‘best offer’, his own beautiful home and adjacent income property for sale. ‘I am 72 years of age, and I have quit. I am quitting the game I love – real estate’. Ever the Republican politician he blamed the poor real estate market at the time on ‘a democratic school teacher as president; one who desires to be dictator of the whole world’ (the president in 1919 was Woodrow Wilson). However, he predicted that things would improve now that we were ‘finally about to realize the sniffing of a little railroad smoke’ (the San Diego and Arizona Railroad was completed in November 1919). The ad described a beautiful modern home with 9 large rooms, complete in every detail, automatic hot water heater, bath room, two toilets, furnace, new garage with cement floor, everything in first class condition, and situated on an elevation possessing a most charming view. There was even a large painting of Yosemite Valley for which $1000 had been refused, but now the home, including the valuable painting, and the two-story four-flat and garage on the adjoining lot, were offered for sale at $25,000 (the ad claimed that $50,000 had been refused in 1913). Later in 1919 the Union reported that D. C. Reed, veteran real estate man and former mayor, had sold his fine residence at First and Elm streets for $20,000, but that he was not going to leave the city.
That prediction proved to be inaccurate. On the same day that D. C. Reed’s ad appeared in the Union the paper also reported that his daughter Mrs. Vida Reed Stone and her husband were now in charge of a music school in the foothills near Hollywood. Mrs. Ethel Reed Stanton, another daughter, was also an instructor there. The sisters each had homes on Glen Green Street in Hollywood, and after selling his home in San Diego Reed apparently joined them; the 1921 Los Angeles city directory listed David C. Reed at an address on N. Beachwood Drive, a few blocks away (Beachwood is directly below the Hollywood sign, although the sign, then reading “Hollywoodland’, wasn’t erected until 1923). This move might have been foreshadowed by an October 1920 report in the Los Angeles Times that Ethel Stanton had filed a petition to be appointed guardian of the estate of her father, a former mayor of San Diego, claiming that he had been mentally infirm for the past three years and was not competent to transact his business affairs. According to the Times the estate was valued at $140,000 and included property in San Diego and Los Angeles. D. C. Reed died in Los Angeles in July 1928 but his funeral was held in San Diego and he is buried at Mount Hope cemetery.
R. A., J. R., and W. W. Thomas
Thomas Avenue in Pacific Beach commemorates three brothers who were among its founders. Richard A., John R. and William W. Thomas were born in Wisconsin where their father Edward, an immigrant from England, was a farmer. By 1880 R. A. and J. R. Thomas had moved to Kansas where they became lumber merchants. In 1883 they were in San Diego and on the occasion of the completion of the new building of the First National Bank in February 1884 the San Diego Union wrote that a short account of the enterprise of the Messrs. Thomas and associates was in order. The short account was that the bank was organized in June 1883 with R. A. and J. R. Thomas, recent arrivals from Kansas, and a local capitalist Jacob Gruendike among the directors. Gruendike was elected president and R. A. Thomas vice president, and another Thomas brother, C. E. (Charles), was made cashier. R. A. Thomas later became president, and then vice president again, before the Thomas brother left to pursue other interests in the late 1880s. Gruendike and R. A. and J. R. Thomas were also directors and officers of the San Diego Lumber Company.
One other interest the Thomas brothers pursued was real estate. Jacob Gruendike had acquired the Rancho Rincon del Diablo, which covered over 12,000 acres around where Escondido is now located, and in 1885 R. A., J. R., C. E. and W. W. (William) Thomas joined Gruendike and others, including D. P. Hale and Thomas Metcalf, in forming the Escondido Land and Town Company to develop the property. A fifth Thomas brother, G. V. (George), a lumber merchant, was also associated with the Escondido company, although not an officer or director. W. W. Thomas was named superintendent and the company laid out the town of Escondido, built a hotel, and began selling lots in 1886. The Thomases were also involved in founding the neighboring North County town of San Marcos. An advertisement in the San Diego Union from September 1887 announcing that the San Marcos Land Company have now on sale lots in the new town of San Marcos was signed by J. R. Thomas, Secretary. Incorporation of the Pacific Beach Company and the Pacific Beach railroad and the opening sale of lots in Pacific Beach took place later in 1887.
Profits from their banking and real estate activities allowed the Thomas brothers to live in some of the city’s finest residences. The Union reported in 1887 that J. R. Thomas of the Escondido Land and Town Company was building a residence at Fifth and Maple streets that would be one of the handsomest buildings in that beautiful section of the city. It would cost $10,000 and be surmounted by a turret observatory (the Thomas house is no longer there but was comparable to the Britt – Scripps house still standing next door, at Fourth and Maple, built in the same year and with the same assessed value, and also with a turret observatory). In 1893 R. A. Thomas traded 300 acres of land in Escondido for the home of Henry Timken, the wealthy inventor of the Timken roller bearing, and moved in with his family. The Timken Mansion, at First and Laurel streets, is still standing and is another fine example of Victorian residential architecture in San Diego.
During the 1890s the Thomas brothers’ interests transitioned again, from San Diego real estate to the hardware business, and then to Los Angeles. The Los Angeles Herald reported in 1896 that articles of incorporation had been filed for the Consolidated Hardware Company; the directors included R. A., J. R. and W. W. Thomas, and Edward Beven (R. A. Thomas’ brother-in-law). The 1897 Los Angeles city directory had a listing for Thomas Bros., R. A. Thomas, prest.; J. R. Thomas, vice-prest. and mgr.; W. W. Thomas, secy., hardware, 230 S. Spring Street. John R. and William W. Thomas had Los Angeles addresses but Richard A. Thomas was listed as resident in San Diego, where he had remained and served as chairman of the chamber of commerce in 1898.
In San Diego, the Union reported in 1899 that R. A. Thomas, ex-president of the chamber of commerce, had traded his fine residence property at First and Laurel for a property with three houses owned by Col. A. G. Gassen at Eleventh and E streets. Both properties were valued at $20,000. The Union explained that Mr. Thomas had become interested in the mining business at Jerome, Arizona, and found it more convenient to reside in Los Angeles, where he would remove with his family. His fine residence could not be rented to advantage but the three houses at Eleventh and E brought in a good revenue. Col. Gassen had been living in the clubhouse at the Pacific Beach race-track but would take possession of the Thomas residence as soon as possible (another avenue on the original Pacific Beach map was named for Gassen).
In Los Angeles, the other Thomas brothers and Thomas Metcalf, who had also moved to Los Angeles in 1898, followed R. A. Thomas into the mining business. The 1901 Los Angeles directory showed John R. Thomas as president of the California Oil Co., Wm. W. Thomas as secretary of the Black Hills Copper Co., and Richard A. Thomas as president and Thomas Metcalf vice president of the Mingus Mountain Copper Co. (Mingus Mountain is a peak in the Black Hills, where Jerome is located). Their Jerome mining ventures were apparently unsuccessful, however, and in 1902 the Los Angeles Times reported that R. A., J. R. and W. W. Thomas, and Thomas Metcalf, were incorporators of the Choix Consolidated Mining Company, with mines in Sinaloa and Chihuahua, Mexico (Choix was a copper mining town in Sinaloa). In 1903 the city directory listed Thomas Brothers & Metcalf, R. A. Thomas president, Thomas Metcalf vice president, J. R. Thomas secretary and W. W. Thomas treasurer, investments, at an address on South Broadway in Los Angeles. The company remained listed at that address for decades, although its business changed from ‘investments’ to ‘mines and mining’ in 1908.
Thomas Metcalf died in 1911, after which Thomas Brothers & Metcalf ceased to exist and the South Broadway address became the office of Choix Consolidated Mining, R. A. Thomas president and J. R. Thomas secretary, until R. A. Thomas’ death in 1918. The South Broadway office then became the headquarters of El Fuerte Mining and Smelting Company, J. R. Thomas Secretary, which later merged with the Choix Consolidated company (the Fuerte River is near Choix in Sinaloa). W. W. Thomas also shared the office and was involved with mining, mostly in British Columbia, until his death in 1926. J. R. Thomas remained with the El Fuerte mining company until he also died, in 1929, the last of the founders of Pacific Beach.
O. S. Hubbell
Oren Sage (O. S.) Hubbell was born in 1858 in Iowa but his family had relocated to San Diego by 1874 and his father, Charles, was cashier at the Bank of San Diego. The 1880 census listed O. S. Hubbell as a ‘clerk in bank’ and by 1885 he had become assistant cashier of the First National Bank, the bank where the Thomas brothers were officers and directors. He joined D. C. Reed in subdividing Reed & Hubbell’s addition in what is now Logan Heights in 1886 and in 1887 became a director of the San Marcos Land Company, of which D. C. Reed was president. In addition to his participation in the Pacific Beach Company he was also involved with the Morena Company and the El Cajon Valley Company, developers of Lakeside, in 1887. Hubbell is credited with leading the negotiations with the San Diego College Company that resulted in the Pacific Beach Company granting four blocks in the center of Pacific Beach for a college campus. San Diego’s first college, the San Diego College of Letters, was built there and opened in September 1888. Although the college closed in 1891 the campus was reopened in 1910 as the San Diego Army and Navy Academy, later Brown Military Academy, before finally closing and being dismantled in 1959. The former campus is now the site of Pacific Plaza shopping center.
Like many of his associates in the real estate business, O. S. Hubbell exhibited his apparent success with an opulent home on a prominent view lot. In his case the property was at the corner of 7th and Ash streets downtown, the apex of what was then called Nob Hill. The home was said to have cost $92,000 to build, an astounding sum in 1888, and was ‘not excelled for comfort and elegance by any home in Southern California’. However, Hubbell had financed his holdings with debt and in the ‘bust’ that followed the great boom of 1886-1888 found himself unable to repay his obligations, including to the bank where he had been an officer. In early 1889 the First National Bank succeeded in obtaining a verdict from O. S. Hubbell for over $10,000 and in November of that year he ‘made over’ all of his holdings, estimated at $200,000 and including the Nob Hill mansion, to L. S. McLure, an officer of that bank, apparently to repay debts. By 1890 he was the defendant in a number of foreclosure cases in the San Diego superior court.
In October 1890 the Jacksonville (Alabama) Republican reported that Mr. O. S. Hubbell, of San Diego, Cal, had located in Jacksonville to participate in the prosperity of the town. The Republican added that Mr. Hubbell was formerly Secretary of the Coronado Beach Land Company, which built the celebrated Coronado hotel (Hubbell had been a director and officer of a number of land companies in the San Diego area, but not the Coronado Beach Company, which had built the Hotel del Coronado). The Jacksonville paper later reported that O. S. Hubbell had put up a corrugated iron building in town to serve as a real estate office. However, by 1892 the Hubbells had moved on again; the Jacksonville paper carried a legal notice to the effect that O. S. Hubbell and his wife Kate were defendants in a case but were thought to be non-residents and to reside in Chicago. His legal issues also continued in San Diego; in June 1893 he filed a petition for discharge as an insolvent debtor and was discharged from insolvency in July, although cases against Hubbell, ‘an insolvent debtor’, continued at least until 1903.
Also in 1893 his former San Diego home changed hands again. According to the San Diego Union, the magnificent residence at Seventh and Ash streets, built by Oren Hubbell, was sold to Mrs. U. S. Grant, Jr. for $25,000. U. S. Grant Jr. was the son of the former Union general and president, who had moved to San Diego and become a major player in the real estate industry. The U. S. Grant Hotel, built in 1910 and still standing on Broadway between 3rd and 4th avenues, was one of his real estate ventures. U. S. Grant Jr. lived at the former Hubbell home until 1915, after which it was turned into a rooming house, the Grant Terrace, an attractive room for adults with two meals, close in, exclusive surroundings, 718 Ash. In 1926 the property was sold to make room for a new hotel. Thirty rooms of good furniture, ‘much better than will be found in the average rooming house’, including antiques that had ‘been in the Grant family for ages’, were sold at auction. The house itself was to be ‘wrecked’ and the wrecking company advertised that the house was built at tremendous expense and only the highest grade materials obtainable were used in its construction. This well-seasoned, beautiful material would be available at much less than new low grade materials – sale starts Monday morning. With the house cleared from the site construction began on the El Cortez Hotel, completed in 1927 and still standing on what is now known as Cortez Hill.
Meanwhile, O. S. Hubbell had moved from Alabama to the Chicago area where he worked as an insurance agent. By 1910 he had moved again, this time to Portland, Oregon, where he was listed as a real estate dealer. He died in Portland in 1921.
D. P. Hale
There is no Hale Avenue in Pacific Beach today but there is one in Escondido, where Daniel P. Hale, one of PB’s founders, later became general manager of the Escondido Land and Town Company. D. P. Hale came to San Diego from Sioux City, Iowa, where he was president of the Sioux City Vinegar and Pickling Works. In February 1886 the San Diego Union reported that D. P. Hale had been elected secretary and treasurer (and Thomas E. Metcalf had been elected vice president) of the San Diego Savings Bank which was about to open in San Diego. The Union added that these gentlemen were among the ‘new blood that has in the recent past been infused into our business circles’, were ‘gentlemen of large business experience, thorough training and acute minds’, had ‘made honorable records in the communities from whence they came’ and would no doubt sustain those records in San Diego. There is no record that the savings bank ever did open, however, and instead Hale purchased an interest in an established real estate partnership as San Diego’s great real estate boom got underway. In 1887 he was one of the original partners of the Pacific Beach Company, subscribing $25,000 in paid-up capital for 250 shares.
One of the company’s early accomplishments had been attracting the San Diego College of Letters to build on a campus granted by the company in Pacific Beach. When the college opened in 1888 Hale’s daughters Della and Libba joined fellow founder D. C. Reed’s sons Bert and Oliver in its inaugural class, where Della assisted with the college paper The Rambler. Over time D. P. Hale became more involved with land companies in north San Diego County where he (along with Metcalf and the Thomas brothers) had been among the founders of the Escondido Land and Town Company in 1886. Hale served as vice president and general manager of both the San Marcos and Escondido land companies before his death in 1900.
Thomas E. Metcalf, originally from Delaware, had joined D. P. Hale in the 1886 savings bank venture and was later involved with Hale, Reed and the Thomas brothers in the Escondido and San Marcos as well as Pacific Beach companies. He was also a director of the San Diego, Old Town and Pacific Beach Railway Company, which built and operated the railroad link between San Diego and Pacific Beach. In 1897 he joined Jacob Gruendike in forming the La Costa Land and Town Company on property they owned around the La Costa station on the railroad line between Leucadia (then called Merle) and Carlsbad in San Diego’s North County. Although the station already served as a shipping point for the area’s farmers Metcalf and Gruendike also promoted the area as a promising oilfield and attempted to develop a salt production facility at the lagoon there. T. E. Metcalf remained president of the La Costa company even after moving to Los Angeles in 1898, where he again joined the Thomas brothers as Thomas Brothers & Metcalf, an investment and mining company. He died at his home in the Ocean Park section of Los Angeles in 1911. His obituary in the Los Angeles Times described him as one of the founders of Escondido and later of Pacific Beach who had moved to Los Angeles and taken an active interest in copper operations in Mexico and Arizona, in which he was a partner of the Thomas brothers.
George B. Hensley
George B. Hensley was a ‘delegate elect’ in the 1882 Republican primary election, representing the Monument precinct where he was deputy collector of customs at the Mexican border. In 1883 the Union reported that Mr. Henley and family had moved into town and taken up residence in the Switzer house in the east part of the city. In 1884 he was a ‘searcher of records’ at the courthouse and in 1885 was a founder and became secretary of the Building and Loan Association. An ad in the Union in 1886 said that Hensley & Platt, real estate, loan and insurance agents, had $10,000 to loan on real estate (in the original Pacific Beach subdivision map Platt Avenue was between Hensley and Metcalf avenues). In May 1888, a few months after lots in Pacific Beach first went on sale, Reed & Hensley, Managers, invited readers to buy a home at Pacific Beach, overlooking ocean, bay, San Diego and Coronado, and send your children to college, the only one now being built in Southern California and ready for occupancy September 1, 1888. In addition to his real estate interests, George Hensley was an incorporator and later superintendent of the cable railway that ran along Sixth and Fourth streets between the bay and Mission Cliff Gardens in University Heights in 1890 and 1891. Hensley was named receiver of the bankrupt cable railway in 1892. When he died in 1893 the San Diego Union wrote that he had been prominent in public affairs for years and was universally esteemed.
When fellow Pacific Beach founder Charles Collins also died in 1893 the Union noted that he had been a notable character in the Missouri Valley from 1861 until his arrival in San Diego eight years earlier, a leader in the movement that opened the Black Hills of Dakota to settlement. A native of Ireland, Collins wrote and published directories for towns and mining districts in Colorado and Nevada in the early 1860s before moving to the Midwest, where he published newspapers as well as city directories in towns such as St. Joseph, Leavenworth and Omaha. In 1870 he was in Sioux City, Iowa, across the Missouri River from the Dakota Territory, where as publisher of the Weekly Times he promoted Sioux City as a base for the exploration and exploitation of Dakota’s Black Hills. In 1872 he formed the Black Hills Mining and Exploring Association to organize and outfit parties of pioneers prospecting for rumored deposits of gold there, but since the Black Hills were then part of the Great Sioux Reservation the army initially enforced treaty provisions by turning back or arresting trespassers. Collins and others continued their agitation and in 1874 a reconnaissance expedition under the command of Col. George Custer did enter the hills and confirmed the existence of gold. The government then attempted to acquire the mining region from the Indians but the Indians resisted and left their reservations. Another expedition led by Custer to force them to return encountered a large camp of hostile Indians at the Little Bighorn River in June 1876 and a battalion of the Seventh U. S. Cavalry including Custer himself were massacred.
The Indians were eventually rounded up and returned to new reservations and the Black Hills were opened to mining. Collins joined the settlers there, publishing another newspaper, the Black Hills Champion, in Central City, but after a few more years, according to an article in South Dakota Magazine, ‘Charlie Collins’ left for California, ‘where it is said that he made a fortune in real estate ventures before fading into the cobwebs of history’. Those real estate ventures included about 100 acres north of False Bay in San Diego which Collins acquired beginning in 1885, and which were presumably part of his subscription of $25,000 in paid-up capitol for 250 shares of Pacific Beach Company stock in 1887. This property was in the southwest section of what became Pacific Beach and in 1888 he regained a portion of it, Block 264, known as the Collins place and later the site of the De Luxe Trailer Court, Martha Farnum Elementary School and the Earl and Birdie Taylor Pacific Beach Branch Library. After Charles Collins died in 1893 his wife Annie continued to deal in real estate around Pacific Beach, including acreage in the foothills above Pacific Beach which she sold to Kate Sessions in 1912 and which Miss Sessions subdivided as Soledad Terrace in 1913.
When the Pacific Beach Company voted to dissolve in 1898 D. C. Reed was the only one of its founders whose name appeared on the dissolution petition submitted to the superior court. The company still owned a large amount of real estate in Pacific Beach and it was distributed to the current stockholders in proportion to their respective interests. The list of these stockholders submitted to the court did not include any of the founders, even Reed. A vast majority of the company’s stock, about 61%, was then owned by Oliver J. Stough and another 31% was held by the First National Bank of San Diego, the bank once associated with the Thomases. Six more individuals, none of them original stockholders of the company, divided the remaining 7-8%. When the company’s unsold property was finally distributed Stough ended up with over half of the property in Pacific Beach. It is thought that Oliver Avenue, the avenue south of Thomas and Reed, is named for him.
The San Diego Union-Tribune recently published a Life Tribute for Franklin Lockwood ‘Woody’ Barnes, who had passed away in July 2021 at the age of 86. The tribute noted that Woody was born in San Diego but had lived most of his life in Julian, attending the Julian elementary and high schools. His family had operated an apple and pear orchard in Julian since 1906 and had built the Manzanita Ranch store in Wynola. He was very active in the agricultural life of Julian and believed that he was the only one who remembered most of that earlier era. He shared these memories in a 2020 book Woody Barnes – A Farmer’s Life in Julian, compiled by his son Scott.
Woody’s memories of earlier eras and the agricultural life also extended to another local community where his forebears had attended school, operated orchards, and had a store. In fact, his great-grandmother claimed to be the very first resident of that community — Pacific Beach – when she came to help start a new college that opened there in 1888. One great-grandfather was among its first lemon ranchers and owned the lemon packing plant at a time when lemons were the community’s main product. Another great-grandfather was a contractor who built many of the first homes there, including his own.
These pioneers came to Pacific Beach in part so that their children, Woody’s grandparents, could attend the new college. The college closed after a few years, but those former students married and started their own family in Pacific Beach, where Woody’s father was born and his grandfather became the community’s grocer and postmaster. Their days in Pacific Beach were limited, however, and by 1906 the family had relocated to uptown San Diego. Some, including Woody’s father, later moved on to Julian where Woody and his sister Jo grew up.
Although their family had left over a century earlier Woody and Jo were very conscious of their Pacific Beach roots. Both became members of the Pacific Beach Historical Society and have shared family photos and other memorabilia from those days that have enhanced our knowledge of PB’s early history, and their family’s prominent role in it.
Pacific Beach began in 1887 when a group of San Diego businessmen bought most of the land north of Mission Bay (then known as False Bay), drew up a subdivision map, and began selling lots. Their plan was to attract residents by making it the site of San Diego’s first college. The San Diego College of Letters opened in 1888 on a campus where the Pacific Plaza shopping center is now located. There were 37 students in the inaugural class, 15 young ladies and 22 young men, including Woody and Jo’s grandparents Lulo Thorpe and Edward Barnes.
Lulo’s mother, Rose Hartwick Thorpe, was a poet, perhaps the most popular poet of her day, world-famous for the ballad Curfew Must Not Ring Tonight which she had written at the age of 16. The Thorpes had been living in Texas when the promoters of the college invited Mrs. Thorpe to come to Pacific Beach to assist with its creation. Lulo’s father, Edmund Carson (E. C.) Thorpe, had been a carriage maker but in San Diego he joined the real estate boom then underway by becoming a provider of small portable cottages, put together with removable pins rather than nails. Mrs. Thorpe later claimed they became the very first settlers in Pacific Beach when they set up their own portable house on a lot near where the college was being built.
Edward Young (E. Y.) Barnes had come from Nebraska, where his father Franklin Wile (F. W.) Barnes had been a banker before moving to California for his health. They settled in Pacific Beach where Edward and his brother Theodore enrolled in the college. The Barnes family was among the first to build a house in Pacific Beach, at the northwest corner of what are now Lamont and Emerald streets, just across Emerald from the college campus.
Pacific Beach, and the college, had been founded during San Diego’s ‘great boom’ when rapid population growth fueled an apparently limitless demand for residential real estate. The developers of Pacific Beach endowed the college with hundreds of building lots with the expectation that they could be sold to fund its operations, but the great boom collapsed in 1888 and despite several auctions complete with a free barbecue lunch few lots were sold and the college closed in 1891. Most of the academic community departed but the Thorpe and Barnes families remained and found that their property on the ‘sunny slope’ in the vicinity of the college campus was ideal for lemon cultivation. The developers of Pacific Beach encouraged this new industry by re-subdividing much of the area into ‘acre lots’ of about 10 acres which were sold to potential lemon ranchers.
The Barnes’ property was included in one of these acre lots, 9.32 acres surrounded by Emerald, Jewell, Diamond and Lamont streets, on which F. W. Barnes planted 600 lemon trees. By 1897 these trees were yielding 1400 boxes of lemons annually (a box contained about 40 lemons and sold for about one dollar). The Thorpes did not get an entire acre lot but did buy the city block across Lamont from the Barnes on which they planted lemons and other fruit trees, and in 1895 E. C. Thorpe built a house there that they named Rosemere Cottage in honor of Mrs. Thorpe. Also in 1895, E. Y. Barnes built a house at the southwestern corner of his father’s acre lot, the northeast corner of Emerald and Jewell, and named it El Nido, or the nest.
In July of that year the San Diego Union reported that the most interesting event at Pacific Beach was the marriage of Miss Lulo Thorpe and Edward Y. Barnes, impressively performed at the home of the bride’s parents. According to the Union a lovelier bride could hardly be imagined, and the happy couple were then escorted to their handsome home El Nido, recently built by the groom, which was but one block from both of their parents. A year later the western half of F. W. Barnes’ acre lot, including El Nido and several hundred lemon trees, was transferred to Edward Y. and Lulo Barnes.
The Barnes not only grew lemons on their ranch but were also responsible for handling and shipping much of the local lemon crop. In 1897 a large building which had been built as a dance pavilion at the beach was moved to the corner of Hornblend and Morrell streets, adjacent to the railroad line that ran between San Diego and La Jolla over Balboa Avenue. The building was converted into a lemon curing and packing plant and the railroad company put in a new siding to allow fruit to be shipped directly from its rear doors. Later in the year F. W. Barnes and another rancher purchased the plant and E. Y. Barnes was put in charge of its operation. In December 1897 the Union reported that Barnes & Son had the most commodious packing and curing house in the county and were shipping between 75 and 100 boxes of lemons weekly.
F. W. Barnes was also an enthusiastic promoter of the local lemon business, describing Pacific Beach in an 1898 Union article as the natural home of the lemon, one of the few localities in the whole country where conditions were almost perfect for its successful culture. When the county horticultural society held its quarterly convention that year in Pacific Beach the stage was decorated with ‘festoons’ of lemons and F. W. Barnes gave the featured address on ‘How We Handle Our Lemons’. He was nominated for president of the society for the coming year and declared elected.
F. W. Barnes had also been elected to the San Diego Board of Delegates (a predecessor of San Diego’s city council) in 1897 and in 1900 he was the winning candidate for the 79th State Assembly district, representing the city of San Diego in Sacramento. With the added responsibilities of political office he divested his business interests in Pacific Beach, selling his share of the lemon packing plant in 1901. In 1904 he and Phoebe left Pacific Beach altogether, selling their home and lemon ranch and building a new home at 4th and Upas streets in the uptown area. After three terms as an assemblyman he resigned and was appointed Collector of Customs for the Port of San Diego by President Theodore Roosevelt in 1905.
The Thorpes owned the city block between Diamond, Morrell, Emerald and Lamont streets in Pacific Beach, directly across Lamont from the Barnes’s ten-acre ranch. Although there were lemon trees on the property lemon ranching was not their primary occupation. The 1900 census listed E. C. Thorpe as ‘Contractor and Rancher’ and he had become one of the principal home builders in Pacific Beach and La Jolla. One home he built in 1896 was for the Gridley ranch, just across Diamond Street from the Barnes ranch and about a block from his own property. In an 1896 diary passed down to her great-grandchildren Mrs. Thorpe wrote that her husband ‘Ned’ had secured the contract and started building Mrs. Gridley’s house on January 13. There were rainy days when Ned couldn’t work but on March 11 she noted that house was finished and Ned had gone to San Diego to pay the bills. The Union’s Pacific Beach Notes confirmed on March 15, 1896, that Mrs. Gridley was moving into her new house. The Gridley house stood until 1968 at 1790 Diamond Street (next door to the house I grew up in).
The Thorpes had also listed their own home for sale in 1896; Mrs. Thorpe’s diary entry for January 8 noted that the advertisement had appeared in the paper for several days. That day’s Union did include an ad for a home, ‘substantial and beautiful, for I built it for myself’, consisting of a 7-room house and the finest, best located 5-acre tract of lemons in the city. However, the house was not sold and the Thorpes remained there for several more years.
Rose Hartwick Thorpe continued to publish poems in literary magazines and to hold ‘recitations’ of her work. One poem, Mission Bay (‘now blue, now gray’), is often cited as the origin of the current name for what was then False Bay. Her husband often joined her performances, assuming the character of ‘Hans’ and affecting the ‘broken English of a Dutchman’ to recite his own poems such as ‘Dot Bacific Peach Flea’ (‘Vot schumps und viggles und bites . . . Und keepen me avake effry nights’). In 1896 the couple went on a six-month tour giving ‘entertainments’ in churches and other meeting halls around the country. Rose Hartwick Thorpe, Phoebe and Lulo Barnes and other local women started the Pacific Beach Reading Club in 1895 and Mrs. Thorpe was elected its first president. Before a clubhouse was built in 1911 meetings were held in members’ homes, often those of the Thorpe and Barnes families. The club, now known as the Pacific Beach Woman’s Club, is still active and its logo, a lemon branch, pays tribute to its lemon-ranching founders.
By 1901 most of Mr. Thorpe’s business was in La Jolla and the Thorpes purchased lots on Girard Avenue and built another home there, Curfew Cottage. In 1902 they transferred Rosemere Cottage and their block of land in Pacific Beach to their daughter Lulo and son-in-law Edward (E. Y.) Barnes. The Barnes and their three children, Hartwick Mitchell (1897), Franklin Lockwood (Woody and Jo’s father, born in 1899) and Margaret (1901), moved the two blocks from El Nido to Rosemere.
E. Y. Barnes had managed operations at the curing and packing plant for several years after its conversion in 1897, shipping carloads of lemons east. When his father sold his interest in the plant in 1901 it closed briefly but at the end of 1901 Barnes & Son rented and reopened it and were soon shipping more carloads to eastern destinations. Later that year E. Y. diversified his business interests by taking over the community’s general store at the northwest corner of Grand Avenue and Lamont Street, and in 1904 he sold the lemon ranch and exited the lemon business entirely. The San Diego Union reported that he would greatly enlarge his store and give his entire attention to it. The Barnes store also served as the community’s post office and E. Y. Barnes became postmaster. In addition, the polling place for municipal elections was Ed Barnes’ store and he was the inspector.
There were less than 200 people living in Pacific Beach at the turn of the twentieth century and their activities, particularly the activities of the prominent and popular Barnes and Thorpe families, were noted in weekly Pacific Beach Notes columns in the local papers. Some of the photos passed down from those days appear to illustrate items that also appeared in these columns. One family photo showed Mr. and Mrs. Thorpe and their daughter Lulo and her three children seated in a vintage automobile (with two other children standing in the back).
Automobiles were making their first appearances in the early years of the century and the Union found it newsworthy to report in July 1903 that Assemblyman F. W. Barnes and E. C. Thorpe, of Pacific Beach, had each purchased a handsome French-make automobile in Los Angeles and rode down in them to their homes, covering the 125 miles in comparatively short time and without mishap. These latest arrivals brought the total number of cars in San Diego to 19. The Union later clarified that the two vehicles were actually Cadillacs and that in view of the popularity of these machines the San Diego Cycle and Arms company had secured the agency for them so that it would no longer be necessary to purchase them in Los Angeles. They cost only $950, were able to make almost any road or hill with perfect ease and could attain a speed of forty miles an hour (the car in the photo was indeed a 1903 Cadillac runabout, the very first Cadillac model, with a single cylinder engine and chain drive). In another photo Mr. Thorpe is apparently making repairs, probably to the chain, while Mrs. Thorpe holds an umbrella.
Although it was said these early Cadillacs could attain a speed of 40 MPH there were few improved roads in the vicinity where such a speed would actually be attainable. Pacific Beach provided an alternative, a hard, flat, miles-long beach which at low tide was hundreds of feet wide, and a September 1903 Pacific Beach Notes column reported that F. W. Barnes and E. C. Thorpe had ‘raced’ their automobiles on the beach. They made the entire length in eight minutes, about 30 miles per hour over the nearly 4-mile distance (in 1912 ‘Wild Bob’ Burman covered a mile course on the same beach in 28 seconds, nearly 130 MPH).
The Evening Tribune reported (in a ‘Newsy Letter from Pacific Beach’ in July 1903) that Mr. E. Y. Barnes had also ordered an automobile from the east, but apparently it hadn’t arrived when another of the Barnes family photos was taken, showing him and his children in a carriage on Emerald Street in front of Rosemere Cottage.
The Barnes and Thorpes may have been responsible for introducing automobiles to Pacific Beach, but cars were not necessarily welcomed there at the time. One Tribune dispatch from Pacific Beach in 1903 noted that the horses didn’t seem to fancy them. Another said that people had given up pleasure driving (i.e., horse and carriage) for fear of the automobile.
Another century-old family photo captured of a group of children around a May pole in what appears to be the Barnes’ front yard, between Rosemere Cottage and Emerald Street. Although the photo is undated, the San Diego Union’s Pacific Beach Notes column reported on May 4, 1906, that Hartwick Barnes, the little son of Mr. and Mrs. E. Y. Barnes, had entertained sixteen friends with a party, the greatest enjoyment being found in weaving the many colored ribbons into a perfect braid around a May pole, singing appropriate songs while skipping and dancing in and out (the ‘artistic’ pole was then used to test the agility of the boys in climbing). The Union article included the names of those present, who in addition to the Barnes children were from the Hinkle, Richert, Dula, Scripps, Corey and other pioneer Pacific Beach families.
Hartwick Barnes’ May Day party turned out to be one of the Barnes family’s last appearances in Pacific Beach. In September 1906 the Union reported that Mr. and Mrs. E. Y. Barnes and family had moved into San Diego to superintend the building of their new home there. The new home was just across Upas Street from his parents’ home, at the southeast corner of 4th and Upas, and the Barnes children continued to celebrate May Day there. After relinquishing his retail produce business in Pacific Beach E. Y. Barnes joined Jarvis Doyle to form the Doyle-Barnes wholesale produce company at 326-336 5th Avenue, a warehouse that is now Cerveza Jack’s Gaslamp. He also leased and later bought property in the Pine Hills area of Julian where his son Franklin moved in 1922 and where Franklin’s children Woody and Jo grew up. The home at 4th and Upas streets is still there, although extensively remodeled, and the family still owns Manzanita Ranch, the property in Pine Hills.
Back in Pacific Beach, few of the landmarks seen in the Barnes photos are still in existence. The college which had originally attracted the families to the area and where E. Y. and Lulo Barnes had been students closed in 1891. In 1905 it was refurbished and reopened as a resort hotel, the Hotel Balboa. The hotel was also unsuccessful but in 1910 Thomas A. Davis acquired it and founded the San Diego Army and Navy Academy, later Brown Military Academy. In 1923 Davis expanded the academy campus by purchasing what had once been the Barnes lemon ranch on the other side of Emerald Street. The Barnes families’ former homes became residences for academy staff. Col. Davis’ brother, the academy commandant, also purchased the Thorpes’ former home at Lamont and Emerald in 1924 and the Davises’ mother lived there until 1954. That house burned down in 1957 and is now the site of the Lamont Emerald apartments. Two years later the academy itself relocated to a new campus in Glendora and the original college buildings and the former Barnes homes were demolished. The site of F. W. and Phoebe Barnes’ home is now a parking structure for the Plaza condominium complex and E. Y. and Lulo Barnes’ home, El Nido, is an employee parking lot for the Pacific Plaza shopping center.
Other landmarks associated with the Barnes are also gone. The former dance pavilion moved to Hornblend and Morrell streets and converted to a lemon packing plant, owned by F. W. Barnes and operated by E. Y. Barnes, underwent one more conversion in 1907, this time into a Methodist church. The church operated there until 1922 and the site was then cleared and is now covered with houses and apartments. Ed Barnes’ store and post office at Grand and Lamont was taken over by Clarence Pratt when the Barnes left Pacific Beach. In the mid-1920s Pratt opened a new store and post office two blocks north on Garnet Avenue and the former Barnes store was abandoned. The site of Ed Barnes’ store is now a strip mall.
In 1887 a group of San Diego businessmen acquired most of the property north of Mission Bay (then called False Bay) and founded a community they christened Pacific Beach. Their Pacific Beach Company’s original subdivision map platted the entire area into residential blocks separated by streets (running north and south) and avenues (running east and west), with the widest avenue, Grand, also the route of a railway between downtown San Diego and a depot near the beach. The founders also set aside space for a college campus on what is now Garnet (then College) Avenue, between Jewell and Lamont (then 9th and 11th) streets, which they hoped would attract a nucleus of refined and cultured residents.
The San Diego College of Letters opened in 1888 and college students and their families were some of the first residents of Pacific Beach. Among the students were Edward and Theodore Barnes, Mary Cogswell, Evangeline and Mabel Rowe and Lulo Thorpe. The Barnes brothers’ parents, Franklin and Phoebe, moved to Pacific Beach in 1889 and bought several lots at the northwest corner of Lamont and Emerald (Vermont) streets, across Emerald from the campus, where they built a house. Dr. Thomas Cogswell was a dentist with a practice in downtown San Diego. He and his wife Elizabeth lived at the northwest corner of today’s Jewell and Diamond (Alabama) streets, a short distance from the college. Mary Rowe, mother of the Rowe sisters, had recently returned from India after her husband, a missionary there, died of typhoid. The Rowes lived in a house on the ocean front at the foot of Garnet. Lulo Thorpe’s mother was the then-famous poet Rose Hartwick Thorpe who had come to Pacific Beach to help establish the college. Lulo’s father, E. C. Thorpe, was a carpenter and building contractor.
As an inducement to locate in Pacific Beach the founders had endowed the college with a number of city lots to be sold to finance its construction and administration. However, 1888 turned out to be the end of San Diego’s ‘great boom’ and despite several auctions held on the college campus few lots were sold. Unable to pay the architect’s construction bill the college closed in 1891 and most of the faculty and students moved away. With the departure of many residents and downturn in the residential real estate market the Pacific Beach Company reoriented its sales toward larger plots of land suitable for agrarian uses. An amended subdivision map was drawn up which eliminated many of the streets and avenues north of Diamond Street and south of Reed Avenue and transformed the former city blocks in these areas into ‘acre lots’ of about 10 acres. The amended map was recorded in January 1892 as map 697 (the numbered streets and state-themed avenues were renamed in 1900 to avoid conflicts with other numbered and state-themed streets in the city).
Writing for the San Diego Union in 1896, E. C. Thorpe recalled that by 1891 only three or four families remained from the college community but that the tract had then been placed upon the market as acreage property and in a few weeks a force of workmen were clearing the first hundred acres preparatory to planting lemon orchards — ‘Rabbits and rattlesnakes were driven back to mesa and canyon and the sunny southern slopes were soon clothed in fragrant lemon foliage’. The acre lots were sold for $100 an acre and one of the first to be sold was purchased by Franklin Barnes. Map 697 had incorporated his 8 lots at the corner of Lamont and Emerald into a larger acre lot 64, 9.3 acres enclosed by Lamont, Emerald, Jewell and Diamond streets, and in January 1892 he acquired the entire acre lot for $930. Mary Rowe bought acre lot 49, 8.6 acres west of Lamont Street between Diamond and Chalcedony (Idaho) streets, in April 1892 for $860. In 1893 she had her house moved from the ocean front to a location on her lemon ranch later to become Missouri Street. The Cogswells also acquired property for a lemon ranch, purchasing the western half of acre lot 48, 5.45 acres across Jewell Street from their home, for $545.
Altogether about a dozen purchases of acre lots on the ‘sunny slopes’ north of the college campus were recorded in the first half of 1892. Ida Snyder acquired acre lot 20, north of Beryl (Georgia) and east of where Lamont runs today (streets did not extend north of Beryl on Map 697). According to the Union Miss Snyder, of Omaha, immediately made arrangements to have her property put out to lemons. A contiguous group of 3 acre lots, lots 33, 34 and 50, which met at Chalcedony and Lamont streets, were sold to R. C. Wilson and G. M. D. Bowers from Tennessee in February. The Union reported that Wilson and Bowers, who had been business partners in Tennessee, were having 4,000 feet of water pipe laid over their thirty acre tract and that the property was to be put into lemons in the next few weeks. They also built houses on their properties, the Bowers family on acre lot 34, west of Lamont Street in 1892 and the Wilsons on lot 33, east of Lamont, in 1893. Wilson and Bowers also later purchased acre lot 51, north of Diamond and west of Noyes (13th) streets. Acre lots 19, 35, 36, 47 and the east half of acre lot 48, all north of Diamond Street, were also sold in the first half of 1892.
South of Reed Avenue, acre lot 61 was acquired in April 1892 by C. H. Raiter, a banker from Minnesota who had spent the winter in Pacific Beach. Mr. Raiter returned to Minnesota but left instructions to have his ten-acre tract put equally into lemons and oranges and to reserve a good building site. The property was to be piped, fenced and broken and planted as soon as possible. The Raiters never did build on their ranch but did add the adjoining acre lot 62 in 1894.
The acre lots were located in what were then undeveloped outlying areas of Pacific Beach but much of the land in more central areas of the community was also undeveloped and some city blocks in these areas were also turned into lemon ranches. The Thorpes purchased block 167, across Lamont Street from the Barnes ranch, in February 1892 for $466 or $150 an acre. Sterling and Nancy Honeycutt bought lot 205, across Lamont from the college buildings and the four blocks around the intersection of Hornblend and Kendall streets in 1893 for a lemon ranch. J. L. Holliday acquired a pair of adjacent blocks between Garnet Avenue and Ingraham (then Broadway), Emerald and Jewell streets, blocks 183 and 202, and set them to lemons in 1895. The Holliday lemon ranch was sold to Nathan Manning in 1898.
E. C. Thorpe reported from Pacific Beach in 1894 that ‘Lemons do nicely here, and Pacific Beach expects much from its future lemon culture’. He noted that Pacific Beach had a great diversity of soil and that the sandy soil nearer the bay was not considered as valuable as the heavier soil on higher lands where the trees make the best growth and require less water. In March 1894 Frank Marshall of Kansas City bought two ten-acre lots in these higher lands, paying $2150 or $150 an acre for acre lots 30 and 53, 8.6 acres each between Diamond and Beryl and east of Olney (14th) Street. According to the San Diego Union he had plowed, piped and planted 1400 lemon trees and a hedge of Monterey cypress would be set out all around his land as a windbreak. He had returned to Kansas City but would come back in the fall with his brother and each would build a handsome residence. In his absence the ranch would be managed by Edward Barnes.
Mr. Marshall did not come back in the fall of 1894 but did return in June 1895 and built a handsome residence on acre lot 30 where he lived with his wife May. His brother, T. B. Marshall, finally arrived in Pacific Beach in January 1895 and in April moved into a handsome residence on acre lot 53 that the Union’s correspondent called the ‘finest in our colony’. Frank Marshall’s brother-in-law Victor Hinkle also followed in December 1895 — Carrie Hinkle was May Marshall’s sister; the couples had been married on the same day in 1889. In February 1896 the Hinkles purchased acre lot 36, 10.2 acres lying between Chalcedony, Ingraham, Beryl and Jewell streets, paying Alzora Haight $2000 or nearly $200 an acre for what was then a developed lemon ranch. Although the Haights had owned acre lot 36 since 1892 they had ‘camped’ on the property rather than building a house and the Hinkles had another fine residence built there in 1896.
In 1895 the Wilson and Bowers families decided to move back to Tennessee and put the four acre lots of their lemon ranch up for sale. The eastern 3.5 acres of lot 51 had been sold for $500 in 1894 but between September and November of 1895 they sold lot 33 to Ozora Stearns and lot 34 to William Davis for $5500 each, lot 50 to Lewis and Elizabeth Coffeen for $3000 and the western five acres of lot 51 to B. F. Colvin for $1000 (lots 33 and 34 each came with houses while lots 50 and 51 were unimproved). The Coffeens had a house built on acre lot 50 and had moved in by December but when they were compelled to return east for business reasons in 1897 their 10 acres in bearing lemons with water under pressure and a 6 room house was sold to Maj. William and Henrietta Hall.
The Franklin Barnes family lived in a house at Lamont and Emerald streets, at the southeast corner of their lemon ranch in acre lot 64. In 1895 their son Edward built another house at the southwest corner of lot 64, the corner of Jewell and Emerald, which he named El Nido (the nest). Also in 1895, E. C. Thorpe and his family moved into the house he built on block 167, across Lamont from the Barnes and named Rosemere Cottage for his wife Rose Hartwick Thorpe. In July 1895 the Thorpes’ daughter Lulo and Edward Barnes were married at Rosemere and moved the two blocks west to El Nido. In 1896 ownership of El Nido and the west half of acre lot 64, 4.5 acres, was transferred to Edward and Lulo Barnes.
Also in 1896, Edward Barnes built the first lemon curing house in Pacific Beach. Tree-ripened lemons tended to be too large and were graded down by commercial buyers. Better grades and prices could be obtained by picking the lemons before they were fully grown, and still green, then ‘curing’ them for 30 – 60 days until they reached a lemon-yellow color. Cured lemons not only had a more acceptable and uniform appearance but also thinner rinds and better keeping qualities. In January 1897 the San Diego Union reported that Mr. Barnes had picked 72 boxes of lemons in December alone from 280 4-year-old trees and that for the year his yield had been 1,200 boxes, netting $1 per box (a box held about 40 pounds of lemons).
In 1888 the Pacific Beach Company had built a hotel and dance pavilion near the railroad depot at the foot of Grand Avenue but neither had been very successful. In 1896 they were sold to Sterling Honeycutt with the provision that they be moved to property he had purchased in block 239, the south side of Hornblend between Lamont and Morrell streets and adjacent to his lemon ranch. The move was completed in early 1897; the hotel was set down on the southeast corner of Hornblend and Lamont streets and the pavilion on the southwest corner of Hornblend and Morrell. At the time the railroad between Pacific Beach and downtown San Diego ran over Grand Avenue from the depot near the beach to Lamont Street, where it turned toward the northeast on what is now Balboa Avenue, passing close to the new location of the pavilion (the raised ‘island’ in the center of these streets was once the railroad right of way). Mr. Honeycutt and other lemon ranchers including Franklin Barnes and Frank Marshall turned the pavilion into a lemon curing and packing house and the railroad added a siding where boxcars could be parked while being loaded with boxes of lemons. On August 13, 1897, the Evening Tribune reported that Pacific Beach reached an important event in its history when the first full carload of lemons loaded in Pacific Beach was shipped east, directly to Duluth. Later in 1897 Honeycutt sold the property, with the ‘most commodious packing and curing house in the county’, to Barnes and Marshall. Edward Barnes was placed in charge of packing and shipping and initially shipped from 75 to 100 boxes of lemons weekly.
In February 1898 Franklin Barnes reported that there were about 25,000 lemon trees in bearing and that during 1897 he had picked 1,400 boxes from 600 trees and was then picking from the same trees 200 boxes per month. The leading varieties were Lisbon, Villa Franca and Eureka and about 7,000 boxes were shipped in the last year. Mr. Barnes was also a featured speaker when the County Horticultural Society met in October 1898 at Stough Hall, a former college building and then the principal meeting place in Pacific Beach (the front of the stage had been very prettily decorated with festoons of lemons). He told the delegates that his expenses for cultivation and water had averaged $200 a year for five years and that the orchard had paid over $1000 the previous year.
Many participants in the Pacific Beach lemon industry were women. Mary Rowe, Martha Dunn Corey and Ida Snyder had been among the first purchasers of acre lots in 1892. The San Diego Union noted in 1897 that Mrs. Rowe’s ranch had been developed from the raw condition to one now valued at $9000 and that the ladies of Pacific Beach were justly proud of their ranches. William Davis, who purchased the lemon ranch on acre lot 34 in 1895, was a mining engineer who spent much of his time at the Arizona mines leaving the ranch in the hands of his sister Louise. The Union reported in June 1896 that Miss Davis had shipped 84 boxes of choice lemons from Ondawa ranch (many ranchers in Pacific Beach gave their ranches names). Ozora Stearns had purchased the ranch in acre lot 33 in 1895 but he died in 1896 leaving it to his widow Sarah. Their eldest daughter married in 1897 and her husband John Esden took over operation of the lemon ranch, making improvements including what the Union called an ‘up-to-date curing house’. J. D. Esden & Co. became one of the largest lemon producers in Pacific Beach, shipping carloads of lemons in 1898. When acre lot 33 was sold again in 1899 the buyer was also a woman, Carrie Belser Linck, and her son Charles Belser assumed management of the ranch and the curing and packing operation.
Maj. William Hall, who had acquired the lemon ranch in acre lot 50 in 1897, was the author of the San Diego Union’s New Year’s Day report from Pacific Beach in 1900. According to Maj. Hall about three hundred acres of lemon groves from three to seven years old and from 2 ½ to 10 acres were clustered at the center of this beautiful spot, dotted here and there with fine residences with well kept yards, beautiful with every variety of flowers and in bloom all year round. The Pacific Beach lemon groves were not only attractive but productive; during the past year thirty carloads of lemons (and two of oranges) had been raised and shipped (a carload was about 600 boxes, or twelve tons of lemons). A few months later, in July 1900, Maj. Hall profited by selling a portion of his investment in this beautiful spot, the north half of acre lot 50, ‘with 12 rows of trees running east and west’, to Alfred and Margaret Roxburgh for $2500. After a few years living in houses on neighboring lemon ranches the Roxburghs built a home on their own ranch in 1904, described by the Evening Tribune as both substantial and artistic looking, being built largely of stone.
An enumerator for the United States census visited Pacific Beach in June 1900 and counted a total of 54 dwellings and 185 residents. For the ‘head of the family’ in each of these dwellings the ‘occupation, trade or profession’ column listed twelve as ‘Lemon Rancher’ (or ‘L. Rancher’) and two more as ‘L. Packer and Rancher’ (F. W. and E. Y. Barnes). Lemon rancher Francis Manning was listed as ‘Carpenter and Rancher’ and E. C. Thorpe was a ‘Contractor and Rancher’. Dentist Thomas Cogswell and Dr. Martha Dunn Corey were both listed as ‘Physician’, but both also owned lemon ranches. Some family heads listed as ‘Rancher’ (Gridley), ‘Farmer’ (Williams) or ‘Farming’ (Hodges) and some with no occupation listed (Conover) were also actually lemon growers. Two other heads were listed as working in packing houses. Other family members and lodgers in these dwellings included a packing house laborer and farm laborers and farm help, some of whom presumably labored or helped on lemon ranches. Altogether at least 23 of the 54 households counted in the 1900 census in Pacific Beach were involved in the lemon business.
1900 may have been the lemon industry’s best year in Pacific Beach. Reports from Pacific Beach in the Evening Tribune invariably described the activities of lemon ranchers and packers in superlative terms. Belser and Co. lemon packers were doing a land office business, shipping cars east at the rate of two a week. F. W. Barnes and Son shipped two carloads of lemons one week. The price of lemons has reached a point where growers will soon be wearing diamonds and saying ‘ither and nither’. However, some growers apparently were not as convinced about the future of the lemon business. The Snyder lemon orchard was for sale at less than half cost, Maj. Hall had sold half of his ranch to the Roxburghs and Sterling Honeycutt sold one of his five-acre lemon ranches to Mr. McConnell. In December 1900 Frank Marshall sold his ranch in acre lot 30 and also his half interest in the packing house at the former pavilion to R. M. Baker.
Mr. Baker continued his acquisitions of lemon properties in 1901. In January he bought out Franklin Barnes’ half interest to become sole owner of the packing house (Barnes had been elected to the California state assembly and took office on January 1). In March 1901 the news was that the packing house had been running full handed since it changed ownership and was handling lemons by the ton as the lemon trees were bearing wonderfully; a dozen carloads were packed waiting for cars. Mr. Baker also bought the other Marshall lemon ranch on acre lot 53 and the southern half of Maj. Hall’s ranch in acre lot 50.
Although the lemon trees were ‘bearing wonderfully’ the Tribune also noted that the price of lemons stayed in the depth because of cold weather in the east and importation of foreign lemons which, in the words of its correspondent, were ‘loaded with the germs of bubonic plague and delirium tremens’. In July they were selling for 2¢ a pound, which would be about 80¢ for a 40 pound box, down from $1 a box in 1896. The turnover of the ownership in lemon ranches continued into 1902 as the Raiters sold their ranch in acre lots 61 and 62 in April and the Gridley five-acre lemon ranch on the east half of acre lot 48 was sold to ‘eastern people’ for $5500 in July. Still, the Baker packing house was shipping two cars a week and the Tribune added that a class in physical culture had been started that would get the muscles in fine shape for picking lemons. One grower was trying out a new market, paying $5 a box freight in advance to ship lemons to the Klondike. The papers speculated that he would need to get a good-sized nugget for every lemon shipped. Edward Barnes was trying out a new crop, putting out several thousand tomato plants on the old Snyder ranch on the hill.
The packing house was still running full-handed in 1903 and the February and March crop of lemons were said to be simply immense; Mr. Baker had picked from his lower ten-acre ranch 1600 boxes at 40 pounds a box or 64,000 pounds of lemons, which the Union called the record picking off a ten-acre ranch so far (Baker’s lower ranch, presumably meaning in elevation, was acre lot 53). Recent rains had made the fishing in False (Mission) Bay very good and ‘that attraction was keeping anglers busy when not employed in the orchards’. Still, ‘lemon prices not all that could be wished for’ and in November 1903 Mr. Baker sold the packing house to Sterling Honeycutt. The new packing house firm, Honeycutt & Pike, was doing business at the Honeycutt Hotel building and had shipped a carload of lemons to Kansas City.
The lemon business that had sustained Pacific Beach for the decade after the college failed in 1891 continued to decrease after 1903. Markets for lemons were mostly in the East where lemons from foreign sources, particularly Sicily, could often be delivered at lower cost and undercut growers on the west coast. In Pacific Beach the diminished profits from lemon cultivation also coincided with a resurgence of residential development, providing an incentive for lemon ranchers to turn their acreage property back into building lots or to sell it to real estate operators. One major operator, Folsom Bros. Co., had acquired much of Pacific Beach in 1903 and implemented improvements like grading streets and pouring concrete sidewalks to stimulate sales to potential home buyers. Folsom Bros. also purchased and refurbished the college and reopened it as a resort hotel, the Hotel Balboa. There were persistent rumors that the steam railroad would be upgraded to a fast electric line, improving access to downtown San Diego (in 1907 the route was shortened and straightened to run over today’s Grand instead of Balboa Avenue east of Lamont Street, but it was never electrified).
Sterling Honeycutt was one lemon rancher who made a successful transition into the real estate business. His lemon ranch had been located on the four city blocks around the intersection of Hornblend and Kendall streets. In 1901 he sold block 216, north of Hornblend and west of Kendall, and by 1904 several houses had been built on the north side of Hornblend Street in this block. In 1903 Honeycutt also sold block 238, south of Hornblend and east of Kendall, to William Pike and Pike built his home on the south side of Hornblend. In 1904 Honeycutt sold Pike block 237, south of Hornblend and west of Kendall, and also sold several lots in block 215, north of Hornblend and east of Kendall, where more houses were built along Hornblend. In less than five years Hornblend Street went from lemon ranch to the first residential neighborhood in Pacific Beach, and some of these first homes can still be seen. In 1905 Pike sold the western quarter of block 237 to Charles Boesch and in 1906 Boesch built the house at the southwest corner of his property, Grand Avenue and Jewell Street, that is still standing and was restored in 2021.
Honeycutt’s brother-in-law W. P. Parmenter and the Parmenters’ sons-in-law Charles and Frank McCrary moved to Pacific Beach in 1903 and were also involved in making former lemon ranches into residential homesites. In December 1903 Frank McCrary purchased Edward and Lulo Barnes’ lemon ranch and their home, El Nido, on the west half of acre lot 64. Edward Barnes had opened a store at the corner of Grand Avenue and Lamont Street and had transitioned from the lemon business to storekeeping; his family had moved into the Thorpes’ home on block 167 after the Thorpes moved to La Jolla where E. C. Thorpe was busy building houses (in 1906 the Edward Barnes family moved again, leaving Pacific Beach for 4th and Upas streets in San Diego where Assemblyman Franklin Barnes had moved the previous year).
Parmenter and Charles McCrary also acquired block 213, the lemon ranch of John Berkebile between Garnet Avenue and Noyes, Hornblend and Morrell streets. Parmenter sold the north half to Madie Arnott Barr, another major Pacific Beach real estate operator, and McCrary sold the south half to H. J. Breese, who in 1904 built the home still standing at the northeast corner of Morrell and Hornblend (in the 1920s this property became the site of H. K. W. Kumm’s passion fruit ranch). Also in 1904, Parmenter and Frank McCrary purchased acre lot 20, formerly the Snyder lemon ranch, northeast of Lamont and Beryl streets. They passed it on to Honeycutt who in 1906 had it subdivided, returning it to its original configuration as blocks 53 and 66 of Pacific Beach. In 1907 Andrew and Ella MacFarland bought corner lots in block 66, at Lamont and Beryl streets, and built the classical revival home still there today.
Former lemon ranches on acre lots 35 and 34 were also re-subdivided into city blocks with their original block numbers. The Scott brothers were from England and since 1895 had grown lemons on acre lot 35, between Chalcedony, Jewell, Beryl and Kendall streets (they also had a lemon ranch in Chula Vista) and they subdivided it as blocks 89 and 106 of Pacific Beach (and Kendall and Law streets) in 1904. Acre lot 34 had been part of WIlson and Bowers’ original lemon ranch and had since been owned by the Davis, Jowett and Boycott families and, since 1903 the Mannys. On New Year’s Day in 1907 an advertisement appeared in the San Diego Union for an elegant Pacific Beach residence and also lots in the choicest residential location of Pacific Beach, with fine fruit trees and water on each lot, all in acre lot 34. The entire acre lot was purchased four days later by Robert Ravenscroft and in October 1907 Ravenscroft had it subdivided as blocks 90 and 105 of Pacific Beach (and an 80-foot strip between them for Law Street). After Mary Rowe sold her lemon ranch on acre lot 49 to John and Julia Hauser in 1903 the Hausers also subdivided it into two blocks identical to what had appeared on the original 1887 Pacific Beach map. The street between the two blocks was even derived from the original map’s Missouri Avenue. However, their subdivision was officially recorded in 1904 as Hausers Subdivision of Acre Lot 49.
Other acre lots were not subdivided but instead were sold off piecemeal as homesites. In 1906 Sterling Honeycutt bought the east half of acre lot 48, excepting the southeastern corner where E. C. Thorpe had built a ranch house for Orrin and Fannie Gridley in 1896. The Gridleys had left in 1902 and their five-acre lemon ranch had since been owned by J. W. Stump. Strips of land were reserved and dedicated to the city for Missouri Street and two alleys and the remainder divided into parcels of various sizes for building lots. The southeast corner lot and house was offered for sale in 1907 for $4000. That house stood at 1790 Diamond Street (next door to where I grew up) until it was demolished in 1968.
Most of acre lot 50 was also never subdivided and lots there are still described in terms like the east 50 feet of the west 150 feet of the south 135 feet of acre lot 50. A strip of land 52 feet wide between the northern and southern portions of the lot was granted to the city in 1916 for an extension of Missouri Street. The portion on the south side of Chalcedony Street was subdivided as Picard Terrace in 1950.
In 1904 Estes and Margaret Layman, from Des Moines, Iowa, paid $15,000 for the lemon ranch in acre lot 33 (and changed its name to Seniomsed, Des Moines spelled backwards). This ranch had always been one of the most productive in Pacific Beach and the Laymans continued that legacy, at least for a few more years. In 1906 the Union reported that Mrs. Layman was ‘busy as a bee in a tar barrel’, picking, packing and shipping a carload of lemons (to Des Moines). However, that carload of lemons may have been the last shipped from Pacific Beach, and later that year the landmark pavilion building which had been the main lemon packing plant since 1897 was closed. Many of the lemon ranchers were Methodists and their congregation had outgrown the ‘little chapel’ then in use. Sterling Honeycutt was a founding member of the Methodist church and he also owned the packing plant, which had been experiencing a decline in business. In August 1906 he donated the building and the five lots surrounding it to the church under the condition that $2000 should be raised to cover the necessary alterations. By September the news was that the great building known for so long as the packing house was rapidly assuming the graceful lines and sober colors of a church. The handsome new structure was dedicated in February 1907.
Transition of the former lemon ranches into housing developments occurred over many decades and was not complete until the 1950s, and a few continued with agrarian activities in intervening years. Victor Hinkle turned acre lot 36 into a general farm and also specialized in beekeeping. The former ranch houses in acre lots 33 and 50 were rented to Japanese families who operated truck farms on the fertile land there. Others were subdivided when Pacific Beach experienced periods of population growth in the 1920s and again in the 1940s. Kendrick’s subdivision of acre lot 47 occurred in 1925, and Pacific Pines on acre lots 61 and 62 and C. M. Doty’s Addition on acre lot 19 were subdivided in 1926. Portions of acre lot 36 became Chalcedony Terrace and Chalcedony Terrace Addition in 1947, although the portion that actually fronts on Chalcedony was not included and lots there are still described as portions of acre lot 36. 1947 was also the year that acre lot 33 became part of the Lamont Terrace development. In 1941 most of Pacific Beach east of Olney Street, including the former Marshall and Baker ranches in acre lots 30 and 53, was expropriated by the federal government for the Bayview Terrace housing project. Most of this property remains under government ownership, now known as the Admiral Hartman Community.
In 1910 the census enumerator again made the rounds of Pacific Beach. This time there were more than twice as many residents counted but none mentioned lemons in their occupation, trade or industry, or in the general nature of their industry or business. Instead, the pendulum had swung decidedly from lemon ranching toward residential development. Ten residents were described as real estate agents, including Sterling Honeycutt, eleven listed contractor, carpenter or stonemason as their trade, and building or houses as the general nature of their business, and another five were concrete or cement workers in the ‘street’ business. Of the few former lemon ranchers still living on their ranches Victor Hinkle was listed as a farmer and E. H. Layman as ‘own income’.
The 1910 census was held in April; just a few months later, in November 1910, Capt. Thomas A. Davis leased the Hotel Balboa and turned the former college campus back into an educational institution, this time as a military academy. Beginning with 13 cadets and himself as the only instructor Capt. Davis’ San Diego Army and Navy Academy grew steadily. In 1922 he expanded the campus into the former lemon ranches in acre lot 64 to the north and blocks 183 and 202 to the west for athletic fields and a parade ground. The former homes of the Franklin and Edward Barnes families were put to use as residences for academy staff. In 1924 Davis’ brother John also purchased the former Thorpe home across Lamont Street in block 167 and the Davis’ mother lived there into the 1950s. The academy, later called Brown Military Academy, also survived into the 1950s until it too declined and was turned into a shopping center.
The lemon trees and packing plant have been gone for over a century but there are still signs of the lemon era to be found in Pacific Beach. On what was once Wilson and Bowers’ lemon ranch around the corner of Chalcedony and Lamont streets the Bowers’ original house on acre lot 34, built in 1892, is still standing at 1860 Law Street (although it was moved from its original location on the other side of Law in 1912). In acre lot 50, also once part of the Wilson and Bowers ranch, the house built by the Coffeens in 1895 remains at 1932 Diamond and the Roxburghs’ home from 1904 is on the alley at 4775 Lamont. When acre lot 33 was cleared in 1947 to make way for the Lamont Terrace development the only thing spared from the former Wilson ranch house there was the Moreton Bay fig tree still growing between 1904 and 1922 Law. A Moreton Bay fig spared by developers of the Bayview Terrace (1941) and Capehart (1960) housing projects is also the only sign of Frank Marshall’s ranch in acre lot 30, now the corner of Chalcedony and Donaldson Drive. A palm tree between apartments at 1828-1840½ Missouri once stood in front of Mrs. Rowe’s ranch house in acre lot 49. And the house built by the Hinkles on acre lot 36 in 1896 was moved in 1926 across Ingraham Street to where it now stands at 1576 Law Street.
The lemon era in Pacific Beach is also recalled in less tangible forms. In 1895 a group of women including Rose Hartwick Thorpe, Phoebe Barnes and Elizabeth Cogswell formed the Pacific Beach Reading Club. The club was initially led by Mrs. Thorpe and met at the homes of club members, most of which were lemon ranches at the time. After Sterling Honeycutt sold a portion of his lemon ranch to William Pike and Mr. Pike sold the western quarter of his portion to Charles Boesch, Mr. Pike and Mr. Boesch, whose wives were both Reading Club members, donated the two lots on Hornblend Street where their properties met for a clubhouse. Workers donated free labor, Mr. Pike, the former lemon packer, supervised construction, and the clubhouse had its formal ‘housewarming’ in October 1911. Club members had always been women and it became known as the Pacific Beach Woman’s Club, a name that was officially adopted in 1929. The club is still active, although the lemon-yellow clubhouse at 1721 Hornblend was sold in 2021, and the heritage of its lemon-ranching founders is commemorated in its lemon-themed website.
Captain Thomas A. Davis was a retired army officer who had seen service in Puerto Rico during the Spanish-American War in 1898. In 1910 he moved to Pacific Beach and founded the San Diego Army and Navy Academy at what had originally been the campus of the San Diego College of Letters on the four blocks surrounded by Garnet Avenue and Jewell, Emerald and Lamont streets. The college had opened in 1888 in an imposing building designed by the architects of the Hotel Del Coronado, and a second building, Stough Hall, was added in 1890. However, the college closed in 1891 and in 1904 it was converted into a resort hotel, the Hotel Balboa. The hotel venture was also unsuccessful and in 1910 the buildings and grounds were leased to Capt. Davis.
San Diego Army and Navy Academy began with 13 cadets and with Capt. Davis as the sole instructor but by 1915 the ‘battalion of cadets’ totaled more than 100, most of whom were resident on campus. When enrollment grew beyond the capacity of the original college buildings the additional cadets were housed in small wooden cottages built on the academy grounds. In 1921 Capt. Davis attempted to purchase the Point Loma Golf and Country Club in Loma Portal and move the academy to that larger facility but was unable to obtain the terms he wanted. Instead, Davis purchased the property and buildings he had been leasing in Pacific Beach and between 1923 and 1925 also added most of the two blocks to the north, between Emerald, Jewell, Diamond and Lamont streets, and to the west, between Garnet Avenue and Ingraham, Emerald and Jewell streets. When a new public elementary school was built for Pacific Beach in 1923 the old schoolhouse was moved from its original location next to the Presbyterian Church on Garnet to the academy’s northern addition, near the corner of Lamont and Emerald streets, and enlarged to become its junior school, the first of many expansion projects to be undertaken in the 1920s.
By 1924 enrollment was over 200 and another construction project, a mess hall seating over 300, was completed. A new concrete gymnasium/auditorium building with a stage, motion picture projection room and an indoor range for rifle practice was built in 1927 and an infirmary building, in the Spanish architectural style with sun porches and an excellent view of the bay and ocean, was also added that year. In 1928 enrollment stood at over 300 and Col. Davis (he had received an honorary ‘Kentucky Colonel’ commission in 1922) announced an ambitious construction program designed to give the academy a housing capacity of 1000 cadets. A three-story concrete dormitory intended to house at least 60 was scheduled for completion in time for the fall term, when 400 or more cadets were expected. A year later, in 1929, work began on a large swimming pool with dressing rooms, showers and a chlorination plant ‘to guarantee absolute sanitation’. Another concrete dormitory, this one of four stories, was also started.
On January 1, 1930 more than 400 cadets in full dress uniforms led by their band marched in the Rose Parade in Pasadena. The new four-story dormitory was dedicated a month later and plans were announced for two additional four-story dormitories, housing 270 more cadets, to be completed in time for the fall term. The two new dormitories were dedicated in the fall of 1930, the academy’s twentieth anniversary. Like the two original dormitories they were of California-Spanish architecture, ‘distinguished by graceful arches, long esplanades and a beauty of design that is typically Californian’. This row of massive concrete dormitories or barracks completed in 1930 dominated the skyline of Pacific Beach for decades.
1930 was also the year that the economic effects of the Great Depression began to be felt and establishments of all kinds, including private boarding schools, experienced painful contractions. The academy’s enrollment declined and revenue was no longer sufficient to cover the combined costs of operations and of the recent building program. To make up the difference Col. Davis mortgaged first the original college campus property, with all the major academy buildings, then the mostly vacant blocks of academy land to the north and west, and finally, in 1932, ‘furniture, furnishings and equipment of every kind and character’, down to mess hall utensils, band instruments and even the drum major’s baton. By 1932 enrollment had declined to about 200 and remained near that level for years, causing the academy to fall further behind in payments to its creditors.
In March 1936 Security Trust & Savings Bank declared the academy’s loans to be in default and the balance immediately due and payable, and gave notice of its intention to sell the property. Unable to meet the bank’s demands Col. Davis stepped down; the San Diego Union carried a special announcement in August 1936 from Col. Davis, president, and his brother Major John Davis, vice president and commandant, that they had resigned their positions and would no longer be associated with San Diego Army and Navy Academy. The announcement added that personal communications could be addressed to them care of the Davis Military Academy in Carlsbad. A separate article in the Union reported that the Davis academy had leased the former Red Apple Inn in Carlsbad and would open in September. There was no further explanation at the time of the reasons behind the resignations or the creation of the Carlsbad academy. A week later the Union followed up with a report that the Pacific Beach academy would reopen for the fall term in September 1936 with most of the previous year’s faculty and Major Edmund Barnum, professor of military science and tactics, as commandant. 150 cadets had already enrolled for the fall term.
In March 1937 the academy property in Pacific Beach was purchased by the John E. Brown College Corp. and the San Diego Union reported that Dr. Brown and his staff would take over operation of the academy. The Davises would be allowed to retain the San Diego Army and Navy Academy name for their new school in Carlsbad so the Pacific Beach school would be renamed Brown Military Academy. Present policies and curriculum would continue until the close of the current school year. The new administration did initiate a landscaping project to transform the campus into a ‘garden of beauty’ beginning with the quadrangle enclosed by the Spanish-style dormitories, to be laid out as a formal garden flanked by towering palms, lawns, flower gardens and walks.
John E. Brown had begun as an evangelist preacher and founded John E. Brown College (later John Brown University) at Siloam Springs, Arkansas, in 1919. He was a proponent of vocational training and believed that schooling should be oriented toward ‘skilled labor and craftsmen’ and not the ‘white collar field’. He also favored strict discipline, religious observance and righteous morality at his schools, and the academy was expected to fit into his education philosophy. One activity that did not fit, however, was dancing, and the balls and dinner dances that had been fixtures of the academy social calendar were banned (at John Brown University today dancing is only allowed if conducted ‘in a way that upholds the scriptural principles of modesty and respect for others’).
A little over a year later, in December 1938, Col. Davis resigned the presidency of his academy in Carlsbad and shortly after that, in March 1939, went back to Pacific Beach to work for Dr. Brown as assistant to the president. In February 1940 he was appointed president of Brown Military Academy, assuming essentially the same position he had held, with a short interruption, since founding the academy 30 years earlier. Ironically, the academy he returned to in Pacific Beach is now long gone while the Carlsbad academy, its name shortened to Army and Navy Academy, is still in operation.
Col. Davis remained at the head of Brown Military Academy for nearly 15 more years, retiring in 1954. Although a strict disciplinarian himself, he did what he could to soften the more ascetic policies instituted by the new administration. In the matter of dancing, Col. Davis wrote to the manager of a local orchestra in 1941 that while Dr. Brown had banned dancing on campus, or even attending dances in the city, there had been ‘something of a change’ since his return and the boys ‘sometimes arranged social affairs of this kind off campus’. They might be planning ‘something of the kind’ soon and he was interested in details about her orchestra, including prices. By the 1950s these off-campus social affairs had become regular items on the society pages of the local papers. In 1954, for example, the Union announced a formal Valentine’s Day ‘Sweetheart Dance’ hosted by the senior class at La Jolla Beach and Tennis Club. The academy orchestra would provide the music and the guests would include young ladies from The Bishop’s School at La Jolla. Girls from The Bishop’s School were again guests of Brown’s Letterman’s Club for a formal dance at the Beach and Tennis Club in October.
When not entertaining Bishop’s girls at formal dances Brown Military Academy cadets existed in a highly structured environment with a heavy emphasis on military discipline and training. The academy combined a junior school for students from kindergarten to eighth grade and a senior school for high school and junior college students. The ‘battalion of cadets’ was organized along military lines and individual cadets held military ranks ranging from private to major. They were commanded by a battalion staff of higher ranking cadets and further divided into military companies and the band, each with their own cadet staffs. The companies competed in intercompany athletics and in military drills, where the best-drilled company received streamers for the company flag. Cadets woke to the sound of reveille in the early morning, wore uniforms on campus and ate with their military company in the mess hall. The day ended with the sound of call to quarters.
Mornings at the academy were devoted to academics and afternoons to athletics. The academic and military preparation provided to cadets enabled the academy to nominate them for admission to the national service academies. Athletically, the academy fielded teams which competed in local interscholastic leagues. Music was a major emphasis and Brown Military Academy had a highly regarded marching band (and also a dance orchestra for those occasional off-campus social affairs). The marching band appeared in academy ceremonies and also in parades around the city. Patriotic holidays in Pacific Beach often featured the academy band in parades on Garnet Avenue, beginning near the beach and often ending with a ceremony at the academy flagpole. For parades and other formal occasions the cadets, including junior school students, wore full dress uniforms like those worn by cadets at the United States Military Academy at West Point.
The years following the Brown acquisition of the academy in 1937 were also a period of tremendous growth in Pacific Beach. Consolidated Aircraft had moved to San Diego in 1935 and opened a factory near the airport, attracting tens of thousands of aircraft workers to San Diego to build B-24 Liberator bombers. World War II led to the arrival of even more workers, as well as military personnel and employees, creating a major housing shortage in San Diego. The federal government responded with temporary housing projects in areas within commuting distance of the factories and bases, including Pacific Beach, and commercial builders also began construction of low-cost homes in Pacific Beach subdivisions like Pacific Pines, North Shore Highlands and Crown Point. Population growth and housing construction continued in the post-war period and by the mid-1950s most areas of Pacific Beach, including the area surrounding Brown Military Academy, had been fully built out (my family lived in one of these homes, built in 1950 right across Diamond Street from the academy).
Population growth also led to commercial development in Pacific Beach, particularly on Garnet Avenue, the community’s main street. Brown Military Academy occupied three blocks on Garnet and as the commercial value of this property increased it began selling off portions of it to developers. Part of the athletic field and parade ground fronting on Garnet west of Jewell became the site of a Safeway supermarket in December 1950. However, in February 1958 the San Diego Union reported that the entire academy would close that summer and relocate to the site of another Brown school in Glendora to make way for commercial development of its remaining 23-acre campus in Pacific Beach. The academy administration announced that the land was being ‘released’ to meet the community’s need for its rapidly increasing business expansion; retention of the campus for school purposes would not be wise in view of the land’s increased commercial value. The move had been under study for three years as the school was increasingly being ‘hemmed in’ by the community’s growth. The purchase price was said to be more than a million dollars.
The Pacific Beach academy’s final commencement exercises were held in June 1958 and Col. Davis was present as honorary reviewing officer. The Evening Tribune reported that Col. Davis, then 84 years old, was unable to stand to take the review but he sat at rigid attention with his cane held straight up as 400 of his ‘gray-clad boys’ marched by. His life story, which included the founding of the academy in 1910, was read over the public address system as a tribute to him. The Tribune added that immediately after the commencement exercises Brown Military Academy would move to Glendora.
Although it was expected that most of the 475 cadets and 90 faculty members would make the move to Glendora, a few who preferred to remain in the San Diego area joined former headmaster Louis Bitterlin in opening the San Diego Military Academy in the former Las Flores Inn in Solana Beach. This academy also closed in 1977 and the site, on Academy Drive in Solana Beach, is now occupied by Santa Fe Christian Schools.
Development of the southern and western portion of the college campus property was soon underway, beginning with the demolition of the historic buildings dating to the days of the San Diego College of Letters. In August 1958 the San Diego Union reported that workmen razing buildings of the former Brown Military Academy found papers dating from 1887 in a tin baking soda can in the building’s cornerstone. These were artifacts from the January 1888 ceremony for which many residents of San Diego traveled over a new railroad line to the new community of Pacific Beach to welcome its first building, originally a college, later a hotel and finally a military academy.
A groundbreaking ceremony for the Pacific Plaza shopping center was held on May 17, 1960, and stores were open within a year. The original plan was to retain and remodel the four reinforced concrete dormitory buildings in the north eastern portion of the College Campus as a ‘geriatrics center’. The geriatrics center never happened but the abandoned buildings did remain standing for years, during which time they were thoroughly ransacked and all their windows broken (and the former academy property between the abandoned buildings and Diamond Street became a de facto playground for neighborhood kids). Col. Davis lived across Lamont Street from the dormitory buildings and sadly had to witness the deterioration of the institution to which he had devoted nearly 50 years of his life. Col. Davis died in 1964, the last academy buildings were finally demolished in 1965, and the Plaza apartments (later condominiums) were being built on the site by 1970. Today the only sign of Brown Military Academy in Pacific Beach is a small plaque in a parking lot at the corner of what was once its campus.
Pacific Beach grew dramatically during the twentieth century and nowhere was that growth more apparent than along Garnet Avenue, the community’s main street. Development had taken off during the war years of the 1940s and by the late 1950s Garnet was lined with commercial establishments ranging from shops, bars and gas stations to supermarkets, department stores and banks. These establishments identified themselves and advertised their businesses with signs, some painted on the sides of buildings but others mounted on roofs or projecting over sidewalks and other public property, many of them illuminated at night. The increasing number, size and brightness of signs had an increasingly negative effect on the community’s aesthetics, eventually generating resistance among residents.
The Pacific Plaza Shopping Center was built in 1960 on the former campus of Brown Military Academy on the north side of Garnet between Jewell and Lamont streets. One of the outlets in the center was a J. J. Newberry junior department store which was crowned with a large three-faced sign featuring the Newberry logo on a white background which was brilliantly illuminated at night. The store opened in February 1961 and the sign immediately provoked outrage among nearby residents. Within a month a petition signed by 173 Pacific Beach residents was submitted to the city council protesting its brilliance, which one councilman agreed was the brightest he had seen anywhere (my home at the time was a block away, facing the sign, and was among those most affected). However, the city planning director informed the council that the city had no control over signs in commercial zones. He said he would study the factors involved in the brilliance of a sign and report to the council, perhaps with a recommendation for some type of control. For its part, J. J. Newberry apparently recognized the negative public relations impact of its sign and the white background was soon turned off, leaving only the blue logo to be seen at night (which was still very large and offensive to nearby residents).
The Newberry sign was a particularly glaring example but sign pollution continued to blight Garnet Avenue and other commercial districts in San Diego for years, generating periodic complaints from citizen’s groups and occasional action by the city. After the Clairemont Town Council complained about ‘sign clutter’ and ‘visual pollution’ on a section of Morena Boulevard the San Diego City Council voted in 1971 to impose restrictions on the height and size of signs in that area. The San Diego Union noted at the time that similar zoning rules had been in effect in La Jolla for years. The Clairemont council had also called for a citywide sign ordinance and in 1973 the San Diego City Council did adopt an ordinance to regulate the number, size and other characteristics of what were called ‘on-premises signs’ in all commercial and industrial zones.
The 1973 ordinance established the legal framework for the regulation of on-premises signs. It presented a set of standards and controls designed to ‘optimize communication between the citizen and his environment’, to facilitate the ‘protection not only of the public, but the aesthetic character of the City’, and to ‘ensure the availability to the business community of adequate quality on-premises signs’. The ordinance imposed limits on the number and size of signs and required all signs to have a city permit. New or modified signs would need a building permit conforming to the new requirements; existing signs which already met the requirements could obtain a use permit. Signs that did not conform to the new requirements would be declared ‘public nuisances’ and abated ‘as prescribed by law’. Importantly, a fee based on the area of the sign would be assessed for each permit, and permits had to be renewed, and an additional fee paid, every two years.
The ordinance specified that a business having frontage on a public right-of-way of 250 feet or less would be entitled to one freestanding ground sign. The height and permitted area of ground signs would depend on the right-of-way’s width and the traffic speed allowed (although on Garnet Avenue most buildings extended all the way to their property line at the public sidewalk, leaving no space for a ground sign). Signs would be allowed on the walls of buildings visible from a public right-of-way but the permitted area of wall signs depended on the length of frontage on the right-of-way and the right-of-way’s width, and also on whether or not the premise had other ground, roof or projecting signs. Roof signs were permitted instead of, but not in addition to, ground or projecting signs if no reasonable alternative sign location existed. If permitted, roof signs would also be limited in height and area depending on the width and traffic speed of the adjoining public right-of-way. Any one premise with frontage on a public right-of-way would be permitted one projecting sign along that right-of-way instead of, but not in addition to, a ground and roof sign. The area of the projecting sign would depend on the width and traffic speed of the public right-of-way and also the frontage of the premise on that right-of-way. The maximum projection over the public right-of-way was also limited to no more than five feet or two-thirds of the width of the sidewalk, whichever was less. About 21,000 sign owners were expected to require permits for about 42,000 signs throughout San Diego.
The council passed the sign ordinance in April 1973 but it faced resistance from business owners opposed to the new regulations, and especially to the fees. According to the San Diego Union some merchants ‘lit up’ with ‘neon-like indignation’ when they learned what their fees would be and pledged to work for the recall of councilmen who voted for the sign law. For example, the Union noted that Pacific Honda at 1277 Garnet Ave. was billed $3,139 for two signs. The United Business Commission filed suit and enforcement of the ordinance was delayed for several years until an appellate court ruled that the sign fee was a ‘valid exercise of the city’s police power’ in March 1979. The city council also compromised with the business group by amending the ordinance to reduce fees for permit renewal and to allow non-conforming signs to remain until 1980.
Apparently some combination of the restrictions and fees on signs, and perhaps increased community resistance to sign pollution, have had an effect and in the decades after the 1970s the aesthetics of the city’s commercial districts have improved considerably, particularly along Garnet Avenue in Pacific Beach.
Garnet Avenue has always been the ‘main street’ of Pacific Beach. It began as College Avenue in 1887 when the community’s founders placed the college campus they expected to become the foundation of their new subdivision on the north side of the avenue, between Jewell and Lamont streets. The San Diego College of Letters was built there in 1888, but the college failed financially and closed after a few years. In 1910 the college campus was reborn as the San Diego Army and Navy Academy, later Brown Military Academy, which finally fulfilled the founders’ expectations and for several decades was the community’s most important institution. Growing enrollment at the academy during the 1920s attracted commercial development to the area, including a grocery store across the street at the southeast corner of Jewell and another commercial block with a grocery, restaurant, barber, confectionary shop and the local post office at the southwest corner of Lamont.
College Avenue had been renamed Garnet in 1900 and with the proliferation of automobiles in the first decades of the twentieth century became a link in the main coast highway between San Diego, Los Angeles and points north. Paved in 1919, the coast highway passed through Pacific Beach over Garnet, Cass and Turquoise streets and continued through La Jolla to Del Mar. As traffic increased on the coast highway in the 1920s the area around the intersection of Garnet and Cass became another focus of commercial activity, centered on the Dunaway pharmacy building on the northwest corner. However, there was little development on Garnet between the ‘old’ Pacific Beach which had grown up around the college and academy and the ‘new’ Pacific Beach around Dunaway’s, and little development anywhere in Pacific Beach during the depression years of the 1930s. By 1940 there were still only 75 addresses listed on Garnet Avenue in the San Diego city directory.
In 1935 Consolidated Aircraft moved to San Diego and attracted tens of thousands of workers from around the country to build B-24 Liberator bombers at its manufacturing complex near the airport (in 1941 Consolidated merged with Vultee to become Consolidated Vultee Aircraft, or Convair). The war years of the early 1940s also brought large numbers of military personnel and their families to San Diego which added to the influx of aircraft workers to create a massive housing shortage. The federal government built temporary housing projects within commuting range of Consolidated, including several in Pacific Beach, and private contractors also began building low-cost homes in Pacific Beach, including on Garnet Avenue.
Between Dawes and Everts streets, where the only existing improvements had been Snyder’s gas station at 1106 and the Pacific Beach Lumber Company at 1121 Garnet, houses were built at 1160 in 1938 and 1140 Garnet in 1939. Across the street, at 1151 Garnet, a ‘1940 Honeymoon Economy Cottage’, described as a two-bedroom home and large lot on a paved street, was offered for $142.50 down. The houses at 1140 and 1160 Garnet are actually still there, at the back of their lots behind the storefronts on the sidewalk. Four 1-bedroom homes, built in 1946, are also still standing at 1757 – 1765 Garnet, across from what was then Brown Military Academy and is now a CVS pharmacy in Pacific Plaza. Further east on Garnet, many houses and apartments built in the 1940s and 1950s are still standing between Morrell and Pendleton streets.
However, most development along Garnet Avenue from the 1940s on has been devoted to businesses and other services for the growing number of residents moving into homes elsewhere in Pacific Beach. When the Spanish Mission-style Pacific Beach Presbyterian Church was built in 1941 at the southwest corner of Garnet and Jewell Street, replacing the community’s first church, which had occupied that location since the 1880s, the San Diego Union reported that the new edifice was designed to serve a community whose population had more than doubled in the last year and a half. On the same block, at the southeast corner of Ingraham, H. C. Curtis built a masonry and stucco store and opened a grocery and meat market in 1941. In 1942 another store building was constructed diagonally across that intersection, at 1570 – 1580 Garnet. War had been declared in December 1941 and a number of items including sugar and tires were rationed to prevent shortages or increase availability for the war effort. The office of the rationing board for the Pacific Beach area was in this new building, at 1570 Garnet; the other three storefronts there began as a church, beauty shop and grocery. A nursery opened in the same block, at 1530 Garnet, in 1942.
Further west, between Dawes and Everts, the Victory Café and Victory Billiard Parlor opened in 1941 at 1159 and 1161 Garnet. Between Bayard and Cass streets two small shops, a barber at 954 and a variety store at 933 Garnet, were built in 1942. Next door to the barber, at 956 Garnet, a restaurant opened in another new building in 1944. These storefronts in the 900 block joined the Dunaway pharmacy buildings at the corner with Cass, built in the 1920s, as the only buildings on the block at that time. Other buildings built during the war years at this end of Garnet included a barber shop at 1036 and a liquor store at 1038 Garnet.
World War II ended in August 1945 and a little over a year later, in September 1946, the Mission Bay branch of the Security Trust & Savings Bank opened in an imposing building at 875 Garnet, the southwest corner of Garnet and Bayard (the original bank building is now gone and a clothing store occupies this corner today). An ad in the San Diego Union inviting residents to an open house included a message from the Pacific Beach Chamber of Commerce, ‘Another Forward Step’, which noted that the population of Pacific Beach had been 6000 in 1941 and had grown over the war years to over 24,000. According to the chamber, a well-planned business development had been under way since January 1945 which had given Pacific Beach close to two million dollars in business buildings and service establishments. Many more business buildings had been contracted for and would go into construction when war-time restrictions were eased. The war emergency had stopped plans for the bank but these plans were activated immediately upon cessation of hostilities.
The 1946 ad for the Security bank included a list of 23 existing Pacific Beach businesses that extended a hearty welcome and best wishes for the bank’s success. All but one were on Garnet (the other was a block south, on Ingraham), and 15 had opened in new buildings along Garnet within the previous year. Seven of these new businesses were in the 1500 block, between Haines and Ingraham streets, including Pacific Beach Hardware at 1520, Academy Cleaners at 1525, Pacific Seafood at 1535, H & R Sporting Goods at 1559 and H & W Electric at 1561. Sibley’s Shoes and Bonnie’s Sportswear, at 1560 and 1562 Garnet, were in one of four new buildings extending along the north side of the block.
Three of the other new businesses listed in the chamber’s 1946 ad were in the 1900 block of Garnet, between Lamont and Morrell streets; Les Hanson Plumbing at 1936, Henry Rigoli’s real estate office at 1958, and George Brooks’ real estate office at the northwest corner of Morrell, 1976 Garnet. Other stores that had opened on Garnet and welcomed the new bank in 1946 included John’s food market and drug store at 1260 and 1280, Pacific Beach Auto at 1321, Western Auto at 1401 and a photography studio at 1845 Garnet, now absorbed into Broken Yolk café.
As the chamber had predicted, many more business buildings went into construction after wartime restrictions were lifted. In the first block of Garnet there had been a restaurant at 701 Garnet, the southeast corner of Ocean Boulevard since the 1920s, and in 1945 another restaurant opened on the northeast corner, at 704 Garnet. A building at 714 Garnet, built in 1947, became Bert’s Place bar in 1951 and by 1952 a building in between, at 710 Garnet opened as Sleep E-Z Mattress, soon to become the Elbow Room bar.
Between Bayard and Cass the row of storefronts at 951 to 959 Garnet had been built by 1950. A jewelry store, beauty shop and liquor store were among the early tenants. Across the street, Ted Schiller’s camera store and a furniture store had opened at 936 and 930 Garnet. The store at 930 was demolished to make way for a Bank of America parking lot in 1979 but the store that had been Ted Schiller’s is still there.
In the 1000 block of Garnet Malanga Shoe Repair and Malanga Dry Cleaner opened at 1029 and 1031 Garnet in 1948 and in 1949 another pair of buildings went up next door, Bryan’s Paint and a photo supply store at 1035 and 1037 and women’s clothing, shoes and a paint supply store at 1041 to 1045 Garnet. Also in 1949 a medical arts building with two physicians and a dentist went up at 1050 and a barber shop opened next door at 1058 Garnet. A Western Union telegraph office occupied the building at 1059 Garnet by 1950.
The Victory Lanes bowling alley, a long-time Pacific Beach landmark, held its grand opening in October 1948 at 1165 Garnet. In the same block of Garnet a pair of new buildings went up in the late 1940s, 1118, an auto repair shop and 1122, a paint store. The buildings at 1136, 1138 and 1140 and, across the street, the Arcade building at 1135 Garnet had all opened by 1950. In addition to two storefronts on Garnet, the Arcade building had a long interior corridor that was lined with offices and shops. These buildings are all still there, although the iconic sign on the former Victory Lanes building was taken down in the 1980s and only the base remains. A gas station at 1186, the northwest corner of Everts, had also opened by 1950 but closed by 1970.
Also opened before 1950 were a row of adjoining storefronts in the 1300 block, extending from 1331 to 1349 Garnet. At the time these were a stationer, real estate office, clothing stores, the North Shores Sentinel newspaper and Waibel’s Café. Used car lots at 1375, the southwest corner of Gresham, and 1370, the northwest corner, had opened and a brick dentist office at 1344 and the Pacific Beach Veterinary Clinic, still open at 1362 Garnet, had all been built by 1950.
There had been three homes in the 1400 block of Garnet since the 1920s but no further development until a Western Auto store opened at 1401, the southeast corner of Gresham, in 1946. By 1950 a row of storefronts had been built on the south side of the street, between 1415 and 1433, with Garnet beauty shop, H & H model store, a restaurant and an electric contractor. On the north side, between 1430 and 1466 Garnet were Harry Malin optometry, real estate offices, a lawyer, Boney’s market and another restaurant. A Tastee Freeze ice cream shop also opened in 1949 at 1474 Garnet, the northwest corner of Haines, but that building is no longer there and today’s Mr. Frostie shop is located in the strip mall that replaced it in the 1960s.
Between Ingraham and Jewell streets the north side of Garnet had long been the parade ground and athletic fields of Brown Military Academy. In 1950 Safeway built what it called its largest and most modern supermarket in San Diego, along with a parking lot that together covered most of that side of the block. In 1961 Safeway replaced that store with what was again characterized as San Diego’s most modern supermarket, set further back on the property. The store has since undergone other changes in ownership and been rebuilt again and the space is now anchored by a Trader Joe’s market. On the south side of Garnet, Sampsons’s Store for Men and Boys also moved into a new building at 1625 Garnet in 1950.
Across from Brown Military Academy in the 1700 block of Garnet an automobile paint shop at 1717, an auto repair shop at 1727 and an appliance shop at 1753 had opened by 1949, Milton’s Fix-It shop at 1721 and Lloyd’s Bike Shop at 1749 were added the next year and a chiropractor office at 1711 the year after that. In the 1800 block, also across from the academy, a pair of buildings built in 1949 at 1833 and 1837 Garnet became a sheet metal business and poultry shop. The Mission Bay Masonic Club was meeting at 1827 Garnet in 1950.
Development continued along Garnet Avenue during the 1950s. A ‘small café’ opened in 1950 at the southwest corner of Mission Boulevard which by 1953 had been superseded by Oscar’s drive-in. The Old Ox later occupied the site and it is now the Fat Fish. And in January 1951, a month after Safeway held the grand opening of the city’s largest supermarket in the 1600 block of Garnet, another supermarket, a Food Basket, said to be the largest in the county, opened at the northwest corner of Garnet and Mission Boulevard.
Dr. Mitchell opened an office at 845 Garnet in 1951 and across the street Earl Taylor built a real estate office at 826 Garnet in 1952. By 1956 a dentist office had also been built next to the doctor at 835 Garnet. In November 1953 a 35,000 square foot building at 909 Garnet, the southeast corner of Bayard, became a J. C. Penney department store. Two other companies, Highlander men’s clothing and Evelyn Wigton’s apparel, also occupied 25-foot storefronts in the same building, at 915 and 919 Garnet. F. W. Woolworth at 945 and a Singer Sewing Center at 939 Garnet both opened in 1955, and Kirby’s Shoes at 929 and Anita Frocks at 931 Garnet were in business by 1957. By 1958 the building at 967 – 969 Garnet had also been constructed; 967 was originally a bargain women’s clothing shop and 969 an Italian restaurant.
In the 1000 block of Garnet Bryan’s Paint moved across the street from 1035 to a new building at 1060 Garnet in 1950. In 1952 the paint store moved again, to 1062 Garnet, and the Ten Thirty Eight Club became the first of many bars to occupy 1060 Garnet, moving from its previous address at 1038 Garnet. Barbecue Pit opened in 1953 at 1030, Frazee Paint opened next door at 1020 Garnet in 1954 and in 1958 Vic Tanny’s gym opened across the street at 1019 Garnet. There had long been a gas station at the northeast corner of Cass but in January 1959 a new branch of Home Federal Savings and Loan opened on that corner, at 1000 Garnet. According to the San Diego Union the two-story Monterey style building included 7,500 square feet and cost a quarter-million dollars. Suburban Savings and Loan had an office across the street at 1001 Garnet, the southeast corner of Cass, but in 1960 a permit valued at $192,000 was issued for construction of a new building to replace their old quarters. In the 1970s and 80s that new building became a Pacific Bell service center.
A & A Hardware opened at 1220 Garnet in 1950 and in 1951 Muehling’s department store, at 1277 Garnet, the southwest corner of Fanuel, a Cornet 5-10-25-cent store at 1257 Garnet, and a building in between with four storefronts, 1261, 1263, 1265 and 1269, then Karl’s Shoes, Sid’s men’s wear, Jewel Box and Mode O’Day women’s clothing stores, were built. Two more women’s clothing stores, Berner Shops and Remar’s, at 1221 and 1231 opened in 1953 and the Thrifty ‘cut rate drug store’ at 1211 Garnet in 1956. At the opposite end of the block Telisales had opened a television salesroom at 1200 Garnet in November 1952. By 1956 this building had become the Green Room cocktail lounge and has been a drinking establishment ever since (Flamingo, Pink Phink, Daily Planet, Tavern at the Beach).
Kitty-corner across Fanuel from Muehlings’s, at 1302 Garnet, the U. S. National Bank building was completed in 1951. The Union reported that bank president C. Arnholt Smith was trying something new, getting away from the conventional design for banks, and that the one-story brick building followed ‘Normandy architectural lines’. The brick bank building is still there but is now a Wells Fargo. In 1952 an optometrist and the Allison-McCloskey escrow company moved into a new building at 1350 – 56 Garnet and a lawyer occupied the new building at 1360 Garnet. Another optometrist office had opened by 1956 at 1330 Garnet and a doctor and dentist office at 1324 was open by 1957. Allison-McCloskey escrow moved to a new office building at 1336 Garnet in 1960.
A number of buildings went up in the first years of the 1950s in the 1400 block of Garnet. On the north side, a building at 1420 – 22 Garnet housed Valdon Shops, a women’s clothing store, and the Mission Trails gift shop . Across the street, McDaniel’s dime store opened at 1439 Garnet and H & R sporting goods, the Hollywood beauty shop, Togs for Tots and Cameron’s shoes occupied the building at 1447 – 53. Alexander’s book and stationery store opened in one building at 1459 and Golden State Fabrics in another at 1471 Garnet (the house that had been numbered 1471 Garnet since the 1920s was renumbered 1465 and remained, as the Pacific Beach Mortuary and Tommy’s TV, until replaced by a bicycle shop in 1970). In the 1500 block a new building at 1550 housed a restaurant in 1950 and one at 1554 Garnet had a furniture business by 1952. In 1954 Golden State Fabrics moved from 1471 into a new building across Haines Street, at 1501 Garnet. The building next door, then numbered 1515, 1517 and 1519 Garnet, had opened the year before as a beauty salon and men’s clothing store.
At the southwest corner of Kendall a seat cover center and auto body shop had gone into business at 1775 and 1777 Garnet by 1953. The building at 1735 Garnet was built in 1954 and for years was a Frontier Furniture outlet. Robert Ravenscroft had built a grocery with living quarters upstairs at 1701 Garnet, the southeast corner of Jewell, in 1926. The grocery was closed in 1942 and the upstairs converted to apartments, and in 1977 the entire building, and the adjoining building at 1711 Garnet, was replaced by a San Diego Federal Savings and Loan branch, one of the first to have an automated ’24-hour Teller’. The building at 1717 Garnet later became a parking lot for the savings and loan branch, which is now a V-Outlet. The other buildings on this block remain, including a house built in 1926, the first improvement on this side of the block, still standing behind the façade of a smog check station at 1741 Garnet. In the 1800 block, Balboa Electric had opened at 1811 Garnet by 1952. The building which had stood at the southwest corner of Lamont since the 1920s continued to support a variety of commercial activities including a drug store, grocery, laundry, variety store, beauty salon and eventually the Back Door bar throughout the 1950s until it was replaced by a gas station in 1964.
One of the first buildings on Garnet Avenue, and the first residence, had been built in 1894 at the southeast corner of Lamont Street by Sterling Honeycutt, an early Pacific Beach lemon rancher. In the 1920s another structure was built in front of the Honeycutt house that by the 1940s had become Eno’s soda fountain, stationer, news dealer, utility company collection office and Greyhound bus depot. Mrs. Eno lived in the former Honeycutt house behind the store. In 1954 these buildings were replaced by Henry’s drive-in, at 1905 Garnet. A building across the street at 1926 Garnet was constructed in 1955 for a furniture and appliance store. A building at the northeast corner of Lamont, built in 1958, became a carpet store and the Tumbleweed Tavern before being replaced in 1974 by a Glendale Federal bank.
Brown Military Academy was located on the north side of Garnet between Jewell and Lamont streets. The academy had begun in 1910 as the San Diego Army and Navy Academy in the buildings constructed in the 1880s for the San Diego College of Letters but in the late 1920s had added a number of new buildings including four large reinforced concrete dormitories. Burdened by the construction costs the Army and Navy Academy failed financially during the depression years of the 1930s and the campus had been sold to John Brown Schools in 1937. Since then the academy had been increasingly ‘hemmed in’ by Pacific Beach’s growth and in 1958 Brown Schools ‘released’ its 23-acre campus ‘to meet the community’s need for its rapidly increasing business expansion’; retention of the campus for school purposes ‘would not be wise financially in view of the land’s increased commercial value’. Brown Military would move to a campus in Glendora and the property was sold for over a million dollars to a commercial development company to become a shopping center and apartment project.
The academy’s last commencement exercises were held in June 1958 and demolition began soon after; the Union reported in August that workers razing the former college buildings had found artifacts dating from the 1888 ceremonial laying of the cornerstone of the college, the first significant building in Pacific Beach. A groundbreaking ceremony for the Pacific Plaza shopping center was held in 1960 and a supermarket, bank, bowling alley, cinema, numerous stores and huge parking lots filled these two blocks along Garnet soon after. This shopping center was itself extensively rebuilt in the 1980s. Another groundbreaking had taken place at the other end of Garnet in 1959 where a 31,000 square foot building at the southeast corner of Mission Boulevard became the new home of Muehling’s department store and later Miller’s West. This building was also replaced in 1980 and is now Sea Coast Square.
Garnet Avenue had originally ended just east of Pendleton Street, where it merged into what was then called Grand Avenue (which was also the right of way of the railway between Pacific Beach and downtown San Diego). Grand Avenue (and the railway, before it was scrapped in 1919) continued across Rose Creek and around what had been a race track before turning south on the route of today’s Mission Bay Drive. In 1937 what had been Grand east of Lamont Street was renamed Balboa Avenue and Grand Avenue was extended over what had been Ivy Avenue, the street that continued in a straight line from Lamont to Mission Bay Drive through the former race track property. In 1960 the section of Balboa east of the merge with Garnet was renamed again, becoming the extension of Garnet Avenue.
The extension of Garnet Avenue east of Pendleton developed at a different pace and with a different character then the original section of Garnet. Grand Avenue had been much wider than other streets and avenues in Pacific Beach to accommodate the railway which once ran down its center so the section that became Balboa and then the eastern extension of Garnet is wider, and carried more traffic, than the original section of Garnet.
East of Rose Creek Garnet Avenue is now dominated by automotive services, drive-in fast food eateries and strip malls with large parking lots. In 1940 the only consumer business in this district was Boland’s grocery near the northwest corner of Mission Bay Drive, then called Pacific Highway. By 1942 a gas station had also opened on southeast corner of the Pacific Highway. Wartime population growth, particularly from the nearby Bayview Terrace housing project, led to commercial building in the block west of Pacific Highway, then the 2700 block of Balboa, with another gas station on the south side of the block and another grocery, a restaurant and a liquor store on the north side. In the intervening years most development in this section has replaced whatever was there before, although the Wienerschnitzel at the corner of Bond Street dates from the mid 1960s. In 1973 Home Savings & Loan built a branch at the southwest corner of Garnet and Mission Bay Drive, now a Chase Bank. The only building remaining from the 1940s is the former Boland’s grocery building, now the Nite Owl cocktail lounge.
West of Rose Creek the extension of Garnet now passes through what was once the Bayview Terrace federal housing project and is now the Admiral Hartman Community, a government-owned residential area with no frontage on Garnet. In the years before the federal government acquired this property the Kate Sessions nursery sales office was located on this street just west of the creek, a site now commemorated with a California historic landmark plaque. From 1888 to 1893 a plant making asbestos products was also located on the north side of the street, about where it now intersects Soledad Mountain Road. Across the street is the Rose Creek Cottage, the tudor-style dining room from the Scripps Braemar Manor on Mission Bay transplanted to this location in the 1980s. From there a sign points the way to the business district of Garnet Avenue, the main street in Pacific Beach.
On the original 1887 subdivision map of Pacific Beach ‘avenues’ ran in an east-west direction between the Pacific Ocean and the vicinity of Rose Creek and ‘streets’ ran north and south between False (now Mission) Bay and the Mt. Soledad foothills. One avenue, Grand Avenue, was also the right-of-way of the railway between Pacific Beach and downtown San Diego and was considerably wider than the others. The avenues south of Grand were named for PB’s founders, who included J. R. Thomas and D. C. Reed. The avenues north of Grand, with a single exception, were named for states. The exception was College Avenue, two blocks north of Grand, so-called because it was the site of the San Diego College of Letters campus, on the north side between 9th and 11th (now Jewell and Lamont) streets. The college, opened in 1888, was the first significant development in Pacific Beach and was intended to be the economic and cultural magnet that would attract residents to the new community. The first church was also located on College Avenue, across from the college, and in 1896 the schoolhouse was moved next door to the church. In 1900 the avenues north of Grand were renamed for gemstones and College became Garnet Avenue, but it is still the community’s main street.
The college failed in 1891 and for the next decade Pacific Beach flourished as a center of lemon cultivation. One of the first lemon ranchers was Sterling Honeycutt, who in 1893 planted his trees on the blocks directly across from the college campus, south of Garnet. In 1894 Honeycutt also built a house across Lamont Street from his ranch, at the southeast corner of Garnet and Lamont. The Honeycutt house was the first home on Garnet Avenue, joining the college buildings, the church and the school as its only improvements at the time. In fact, only a portion of the avenue itself was improved; according to the 1903 edition of the United States geological survey map the roadway in front of the former college buildings only extended from Haines to Noyes streets. The map showed that only Grand Avenue (and the railway) and Diamond Street actually extended from one end of the community to the other.
Lemon ranching declined after the turn of the twentieth century and in 1903 most of the property in Pacific Beach was purchased by Folsom Bros. Co., real estate operators who believed that the future of the community was in residential development. Folsom Bros. took over and refurbished the former college and it opened as the Hotel Balboa in 1905. They also began improving streets in the area surrounding it, including Garnet Avenue. Residential development did follow; the Evening Tribune reported in December 1903 that work had begun on Sterling Honeycutt’s new home on College between 12th and 13th worth nearly $5000 (the new street names, actually Garnet, Morrell and Noyes since 1900, were apparently not yet widely accepted in PB). The news in April 1904 was that Mr. Honeycutt’s new house was nearly completed and that another handsome residence on Garnet would be built by Mr. Overshiner. The Honeycutt home was at the northwest corner of Garnet and Noyes; the Overshiner home, also completed in 1904, was at the northwest corner with Olney. Another new resident on Garnet was Charles McCrary, who moved into a home he had built on the south side of Garnet west of Morrell Street. In 1905 George Harris also built a home on Garnet, on the north side between Olney and Pendleton.
By 1906 the San Diego Union reported that ‘from a hamlet to a flourishing suburb . . . from a district marked by quiet and solitude to one where business activity and social gaiety are everywhere – this in brief is the history of Pacific Beach, covering a period of but a year or two. To the visitor of a few years back, Pacific Beach would hardly be recognized as the same place. Instead of fields covered with their green verdure are to be found city blocks interweaved with a network of graded streets and wide boulevards with a multitude of sightly residences dotting the surface of the suburb . . . The year just closed has witnessed more improvement than may be found in the entire aggregate of all the other years of the existence of the suburb’. The Union added that ‘Many new residences, some of them of beautiful and elaborate design’, had been constructed and occupied, including that of George Harris.
Over the next few years several more homes were built on Garnet Avenue in the vicinity of Noyes Street. Two houses were built in 1907 at the northeast corner of Noyes, across from Honeycutt’s new home, and Mr. Honeycutt himself had two more homes built in the same block, between Morrell and Noyes, in 1909 and 1912. The four blocks of Garnet between Lamont and Pendleton streets became one of the two main centers of residential development in Pacific Beach. Some of the original homes are still standing in the other area, Hornblend between Morrell to Ingraham streets, a block south and a few blocks west, but none of the first homes on Garnet have survived. A driver training video captured a couple of them in the background around Noyes Street during the 1960s.
The first automobile appeared in San Diego in 1900 and as automobile ownership grew in the new century the San Diego city council designed a system of ‘boulevards’ radiating from downtown to more distant suburbs like Pacific Beach and La Jolla. The La Jolla boulevard was planned to pass through Pacific Beach following Garnet Avenue to Cass Street, then north to Turquoise and on through Bird Rock to La Jolla. The populated section of Garnet Avenue, between Lamont and Pendleton, had been graded in 1907 and in 1908 a force of 30 men and several teams began grading the section between Pacific Beach and La Jolla. The surface of the boulevard was to be of natural earth, thoroughly rolled.
While the roadway had been improved in places there were still no structures along Garnet west of the former college and the church and schoolhouse, which were at the corner of Jewell Street. This changed in 1909 when the San Diego Union reported that H. W. Parker had completed a new house on the north side of Garnet, less than two blocks from the beach, between Allison and Bayard streets (Allison was renamed Mission Boulevard in 1929). Two years later J. W. Simmons built a home next door to the Parker house, on the corner with Bayard, and in 1913 Parker built a second house adjoining his existing residence. These three frame houses stood alone near the western end of Garnet Avenue for decades. One of them, later the long-time home of Rev. George Williams, then Casa Aljones, Diego’s Mexican restaurant and the PB Bar & Grill, survived until just a few years ago when it was replaced by Mavericks Beach Club. Also in 1913, Michael McCusker built a 5-room cottage at the northeast corner of Haines in the formerly empty stretch of Garnet between Bayard and Jewell streets.
The Hotel Balboa, the former college buildings on the north side of Garnet between Lamont and Jewell streets, had not been successful and in 1910 it was leased to Capt. Thomas Davis. Capt. Davis turned the former college and hotel buildings into the San Diego Army and Navy Academy, ‘a select school for manly boys’. In its first year the academy only had 13 cadets and Capt. Davis was the only instructor, but it grew rapidly and by 1918 it was described as ‘by far the liveliest institution of the community, and at the same time Pacific Beach’s most substantial asset’. By 1920 the ‘battalion of cadets’ had grown from 13 to over 100, most of whom were housed in wooden cottages on the academy campus. Some teachers and staff, including cooks, housekeepers and janitors, were housed in the former hotel buildings.
With still more cars on the road the city engineer was asked in 1912 to recommend a route for a highway to connect San Diego to the state highway that had reached the city limits at Del Mar. Although there was a winding wagon road through Rose Canyon the engineer recommended a route over the straight and level streets of Pacific Beach, over Grand Avenue and Bayard Street, continuing through La Jolla and over Torrey Pines Mesa. The proposed highway would be paved and local residents would be assessed the paving costs. The railway still ran down the center of Grand at that time and Pacific Beach residents complained that it would be unsuitable for automobile traffic, and that the costs of paving both sides would be excessive. Their recommendation was for the coast highway to run through Pacific Beach over Garnet Avenue and Cass Street, and the council eventually agreed. Garnet Avenue was paved in November 1919 and Seth Mitchell opened an ‘oil station’ at the northeast corner of Garnet and Cass, the first commercial establishment on the street.
Although there were few houses and fewer businesses along Garnet Avenue, the coast highway traffic made it a prime target for billboard advertising. In July 1919 the Pacific Beach Citizens’ Improvement Club petitioned the council to prohibit the erection of billboards and to remove those already erected. The billboards were declared to be an eyesore and a traffic hazard; ‘For the past two years our community has been blessed with these unsightly and disfiguring billboards. In consequence of these obstructions three or four serious accidents have occurred. Three machines have gone into the ditches, another has had a wheel torn off and another had a side stove in, all caused by the view being cut off by great boards. We ask you to prohibit the erection of any more boards here, and would ask for the removal of boards already here’. The council apparently disregarded this petition; the billboard company Foster & Kleiser obtained a building permit for another ‘poster panel’ at 1280 Garnet in 1926 and for many years billboards were the only ‘improvements’ on several blocks of Garnet Avenue. Like other improvements they were assigned a value for property tax purposes; the city lot books recorded their assessed values at $40 each.
The coast highway and plans for a fast electric streetcar line between downtown and La Jolla over Allison Street attracted the interest of out-of-town real estate speculators who in October 1923 closed a $750,000 deal for hundreds of acres in Pacific Beach. One of these capitalists was Earl Taylor, and according to the San Diego Union he had acquired more than 100 lots near the ocean front:
This property extends from Cass boulevard over which the state highway runs north, to Allison street, which will be used by the new electric car line to La Jolla, extension of which has been a factor in the big deal now announced. More than half of these lots face on Garnet street, the east and west highway through Pacific Beach. Mr. Taylor plans a business district here, beginning at the point where the highway turns to the north, and which now is occupied by a service station. He has plans prepared for a big business block at the corner of Cass and Garnet. A drug store, grocery and confectionery store already have asked for space in this building, he says.
In March 1924 Taylor announced the commencement of construction on the New Business Center of Pacific Beach. The first building – a modern brick store – would be started the next day and others would follow on Garnet between Cass Street and the ocean front. Around this, ‘as a nucleus’, would cluster the ‘splendid business and home development of the new Pacific Beach’. He added that the paving of Garnet from Cass to the ocean front for its whole 52 feet of width had already been authorized and would be pushed through as rapidly as possible. Sidewalking of several of the blocks 14 feet wide would be started at once. It was the intersection of the main artery to the beach and the main coast highway, it was convenient to the present population of over 1000, which was rapidly increasing, and over 6000 autos daily, including about 70 auto stages, passed or turned at this point; over 25,000 people going through each day. Before July electric cars (i.e., the streetcar line) would be running on Allison Street, two blocks west.
The modern brick store, the first building in the new Pacific Beach business district, was the original Dunaway pharmacy, at 981 Garnet Avenue, the southwest corner of Cass. During the prohibition years of the 1920s prescriptions for ‘medicinal’ alcohol could be filled at pharmacies and in 1926 the Evening Tribune reported that 12 pints of bonded whisky, as well as a revolver and $5.50 in cash, were included in the loot obtained by burglars at Dunaway’s drug store. Later in 1926 work began on the two-story brick edifice on the northwest corner of Garnet and Cass and Samuel Dunaway moved across the street to this building, 980 Garnet, in 1927. The new Dunaway pharmacy and soda fountain operated on this corner for decades and the building, where the Dunaway name is still carved in the lintel over the front door, is the best-known historic building in Pacific Beach. There was also a one-story brick extension to the west on Garnet with several storefronts on Garnet. In 1927 two of these storefronts were occupied by a plumber and a hardware company. The original pharmacy building across Garnet became a real estate office.
Earl Taylor had also reached out to Ernest Pickering, the developer of successful ‘pleasure piers’ in Santa Monica and Venice, and in 1925 Pickering announced plans for a million-dollar pleasure pier in Pacific Beach (a pleasure pier was basically an amusement park built out over the beach, with amusements such as Ginger Snaps, Great Slides, Over-the-Tops, and Treat-em-Roughs). However, Pickering soon backed out and development of the project was turned over to Santa Monica realtor Neil Nettleship. Under Nettleship the plan changed from a pleasure pier to a ballroom, the Crystal Ballroom on Crystal Pier, which would extend from the western end of Garnet Avenue nearly 1000 feet into the ocean. The pier and ballroom were among the improvements Nettleship hoped would change the character of Pacific Beach, which he also wanted to rename San Diego Beach. Construction began on the office building at the head of the pier in 1925, a ‘formal christening’ was held in April 1926 and the pier and ballroom opened to the public in July 1927.
However, it turned out that the pier’s pilings had not been treated with the proper preservatives and within a few months they had been attacked by marine borers and weakened to the point that the pier and ballroom were condemned and closed. It would be another nine years before the pier at the end of Garnet was repaired and reopened. Nettleship and his partner Benjamin Tye maintained a real estate office in the pier building and Burt Bircher opened a restaurant across Ocean Boulevard, the southeast corner of Garnet in 1926. Also in 1926 Earl Taylor had a small real estate office built at the other end of the block, the northwest corner of Garnet and Allison. Allison Street was renamed Mission Boulevard in 1929, extending the boulevard from Mission Beach through Pacific Beach, and also in 1929 another gas station was opened at the southeast corner of Mission and Garnet.
Although neither Taylor’s New Pacific Beach nor Nettleship’s San Diego Beach had the immediate success that had been anticipated for them, other business establishments and homes were built along Garnet in the 1920s. Herman Owen had built a house in the same block as the service station, at 1078 Garnet, in 1920. In 1924 William and Laura Samuel opened a restaurant opposite the Dunaway building on the southeast corner of Cass and Folsom Bros., attempting to reenter the real estate market in Pacific Beach, moved into an office built next door at 1011 Garnet in 1925. Across the street, buildings erected at 1020 Garnet in 1925 and 1038 Garnet in 1926 became another real estate office and a furniture store.
Another service station had been built on Garnet in 1923 at the northeast corner of Dawes, and across Garnet, on the southeast corner of Dawes, the Pacific Beach Lumber Company opened in 1925. Further east, at the northeast corner of Everts, Rose Murphy opened the Pacific Beach Laundry in 1926. The blocks between Fanuel and Haines streets, previously only occupied by billboards, saw homes built at 1471 and 1425 Garnet in 1922 and 1925 and more real estate offices opened at 1365 and 1440 Garnet in 1926. Between Haines and Ingraham, in 1925 Martha McCusker built a new house at 1506, next door to her former home at 1504 Garnet, and in 1926 another residence was constructed on the same block at 1526 Garnet. Across the street, Percy Eldridge had lived at 1551 Garnet since 1922 and Sigmund Mattey opened the Pacific Beach Garage at the southwest corner of Ingraham Street the same year. A home was also built at the other end of the block, at 1503 Garnet, the southeast corner of Haines, in 1926.
The San Diego school district built a new school for Pacific Beach two blocks north of Garnet, on the west side of Ingraham Street, in 1923. The original schoolhouse, on Garnet west of Jewell, next to the Presbyterian church, was moved to a new site on the San Diego Army and Navy Academy campus to become its junior school. In its place W. E. Standley built a frame cottage and garage valued at $2800 at 1655 Garnet in 1924. Another cottage had been built west of the schoolhouse, at 1637 Garnet, by Henry Gist in 1922. This house, later a restaurant, toy store, and Tommy’s TV, remained standing into the 1990s.
On the north side of Garnet between Ingraham and Jewell, a former lemon ranch was acquired by the San Diego Army and Navy Academy for use as a parade ground and athletic field in 1925. The academy’s main campus occupied the blocks between Jewell and Lamont streets north of Garnet. The original academy buildings constructed for the college in the 1880s and renovated for the Hotel Balboa in 1905 faced Garnet. During the 1920s the Garnet Avenue frontage was supplemented by a stone arch, dismantled from the Isis theater downtown and reconstructed opposite Kendall Street in 1928, and in 1929 by a concrete triple arch over the academy’s main entrance at the northwest corner of Garnet and Lamont Street. The number of cadets had reached nearly 400 by the mid-1920s and the academy accommodated the growing numbers by building a number of 3- and 4-story reinforced concrete dormitory buildings along Lamont and Emerald streets between 1928 and 1930. A concrete auditorium/gym building was built in 1927 along Garnet west of the original campus buildings.
The property across Garnet from the academy was also a vacant former lemon ranch but in 1926 Robert Ravenscroft opened a new grocery store on one corner, across Jewell from the Presbyterian church, and a commercial block was built on the other corner, with Lamont. The Pacific Beach post office, a barber, a confectioner and a Nettleship-Tye real estate office initially occupied storefronts in the new commercial building. Ravenscroft’s new grocery was in a two-story building with apartments upstairs. Before moving to Garnet and Jewell he had operated a grocery at the southwest corner of Lamont and Grand Avenue since 1913. The post office, with Clarence Pratt as postmaster, had also been located at that intersection, at Pratt’s store on the northwest corner, and Pratt continued as postmaster in the new location at 1865 Garnet.
Also in 1926, Henry Saville had a house built at 1741 and a stucco building that served as a store and a restaurant was built at 1851 Garnet. The Saville home is actually still there, hidden behind the façade of a smog testing station. The restaurant at 1851 Garnet, later a bar called the Roller Derby Room, was remodeled in 1967 and became the Beef House, Pablo’s, and since 1985 the Broken Yolk restaurant. Major Peterson, the headmaster of the Army and Navy Academy, built a house at 1965 Garnet, on the south side east of Lamont, in 1922. Across the street, a small building at the northeast corner of Lamont and Garnet served as a real estate office. Two more gas stations were built at this end of Garnet, one at 2015 Garnet in 1927 and another at 1945 Garnet in 1929.
Growth in Pacific Beach and development along Garnet Avenue was limited during the 1930s. The entire country suffered the effects of the great depression but in Pacific Beach the depression was further deepened by the Mattoon Act, which was intended to fund development projects, like the Mission Bay causeway, by assessments on property owners in improvement districts that would benefit from the projects, like Pacific Beach. The Mattoon Act also included a provision that ‘pyramided’ delinquencies onto the next year’s assessment, meaning in effect that property owners that did pay their assessments would have the delinquent assessments of those who did not added to their assessment in subsequent years. Many property owners could not or would not pay the increased assessments, leading to a ‘death spiral’ of increased delinquencies and growing assessments until the county government engineered a bailout in 1937. The combined effects of the depression and the Mattoon Act had a negative effect in Pacific Beach; on Garnet Avenue 24 of the existing 76 addresses, nearly a third, were listed as vacant in 1933. The depressed economy was good for some types of business; the Ocean View tourist camp, a trailer park offering low cost housing, opened on the south side of Garnet between the beach and Mission Boulevard in 1938.
By the start of the 1940s, Pacific Beach had mostly recovered from the depression and the Mattoon Act, but had not grown significantly since the 1920s. Garnet Avenue was still a significant traffic artery but had seen little further development. The 1941 city directory listed 75 addresses on Garnet Avenue, including 7 gas stations and garages, 6 real estate offices, 4 restaurants, 3 groceries, 2 liquor stores, 2 barbers and a beauty shop, and only 4 addresses were still listed as vacant. Several of the businesses were housed in the brick Dunaway building at the northwest corner of Cass Street, which was also the community’s only drug store. Several other businesses and the post office were located in the other retail block, also built in 1926, at the southwest corner of Lamont across from the academy. The half-dozen blocks between these two centers of business were occupied by about a dozen businesses and another dozen homes. The academy itself had failed financially, unable to repay the construction costs of its large concrete dormitories, and in 1937 had been sold and renamed Brown Military Academy.
But things were about to change. In 1935 Consolidated Aircraft moved to San Diego and by 1940 had expanded into several large manufacturing plants along the Pacific Highway north of the airport to produce B-24 Liberator bombers as the country rearmed in anticipation of the coming world war. Tens of thousands of aircraft workers moved to San Diego to work for Consolidated, creating a serious housing shortage. In 1941 the federal government stepped in with temporary housing projects within commuting range of the factories, some of which were in Pacific Beach, and commercial home-builders also began development projects in Pacific Beach. The rapid growth in population led to a corresponding growth in the local economy, much of it centered on PB’s main street, Garnet Avenue.
Pacific Beach was expected to be an academic community when it was founded in 1887. A four-block campus in the center of the community, now the site of the Pacific Plaza shopping center, was set aside and granted to the San Diego College of Letters. The college opened in September 1888 and in its first year enrolled over 100 students. Collegiate students had to be at least 14 years old and meet stringent requirements for admission, particularly proficiency in Latin, but the college also included a preparatory course for younger students or students not meeting the admission requirements. The students were both male and female, some as young as 8. The college did attract residents to the new community. According to the 1889 San Diego city directory, 13 of the 37 residents listed for Pacific Beach were associated with the college. The college directory showed that about a quarter of the students were Pacific Beach residents, many of them the children or relatives of faculty members.
However the College of Letters closed after two years, and many in the college community moved away. Some of the faculty went on to careers in the San Diego school district. Harr Wagner, a professor and one of the founders of the college, became superintendent of schools in 1891 and F. P. Davidson, another college founder and professor, was principal at the Russ high school downtown from 1890 until he resigned to become superintendent of schools in 1898. Other college faculty and a number of former students became teachers in the school system. With the college no longer an option, Pacific Beach children of high school age could attend the Russ school, taking the train downtown from a station at Grand Avenue and Lamont Street. Grade school children attended school at a one-room public schoolhouse built in 1888 at the southwest corner of Hornblend and Everts streets (now a parking lot behind Crunch Fitness). In 1892 there were 22 students at the Pacific Beach schoolhouse and their teacher was Miss Eliza Lundegreen.
After the college closed the principal economic activity in Pacific Beach became lemon ranching. Most of the ranches were concentrated in the area around the college campus, the social and business center of the community. The former college buildings were used for community meetings and dances, and stores, businesses, the station and the Presbyterian church were all just a few blocks away. In 1895 Pacific Beach residents petitioned the school board to also move the school to this more central location. A site was acquired on Garnet Avenue west of Jewell Street and the church, and the schoolhouse was moved there in 1896. The Pacific Beach schoolhouse was still just one room with one teacher, who taught all grades. In 1898 the teacher was Miss Lu Jennings, who received a salary of $72.50 per month. In 1901 Miss Jennings transferred to the University Heights school and Miss Edith Phillips was appointed to the Pacific Beach school. The fact that these teachers were all ‘misses’ was no coincidence; it was the stated policy of the school district to only hire unmarried women, apparently because wives were assumed to be provided for by their husbands. A meeting of the board in 1902 adopted the following resolution:
Resolved, that no married woman shall be employed as a teacher of the public schools of San Diego unless it shall be proved to the satisfaction of the board that said teacher is the support of the family, or that other good and sufficient reason exists that in the judgement of the board makes such an appointment advisable.
At the turn of the twentieth century Pacific Beach was still a lightly populated agricultural community and in 1902 only 25 students were attending the Pacific Beach school. However, lemon ranching was in decline and in 1903 most of the property in Pacific Beach was purchased by Folsom Bros. Co., real estate operators who believed that the future of Pacific Beach was in residential development. Folsom Bros. began a campaign of civic improvements, grading, ‘curbing’ and ‘sidewalking’ streets to make the area more attractive to homebuyers. Lots were sold, houses were built, and families moved in, and by 1906 attendance at the Pacific Beach school had increased to 40. A principal who also taught 5th and 6th grade was added to the faculty, but residents complained that crowding two teachers and all grades and classes into one small room was unfair to teachers, scholars and parents. In the summer of 1906 a large south wing containing two rooms was added to the original schoolhouse and finished ‘with paint outside and plaster within’. The San Diego Union reported that the enlarged schoolhouse would accommodate 150 children and was an improvement long needed by the rapidly increasing population. The improvements were none too soon; by 1907 attendance had increased to 50 pupils. However, attendance at the Pacific Beach school actually went down at the beginning of the 1908 school year. The Union speculated that the less-than-expected attendance was because the ‘vaccination question’ had not been settled; some parents would not send their children to public schools if vaccination was required and were waiting to find out.
In 1903 Folsom Bros. Co. also acquired the college campus property and after renovating the former college buildings opened as the Hotel Balboa in 1905. However the hotel was also unsuccessful and in 1910 Folsom Bros. leased the property to Capt. Thomas A. Davis, a veteran of the Spanish-American War, who founded a military academy on the site, initially with 13 cadets and himself as the only instructor. The San Diego Army and Navy Academy was only for ‘manly boys’ and originally included only grade school subjects, but within two years enrollment had increased to over 70, the faculty had grown to 6 and the curriculum extended to high school subjects. By 1918 the academy had continued to grow and was recognized as ‘by far the liveliest institution of the community, and at the same time Pacific Beach’s most substantial asset’, according to the Union. Although some local boys attended the academy, most of the cadets were from elsewhere and boarded in wooden cottages built on the campus. In 1921 Capt. Davis attempted to move the academy to Point Loma, adjacent to the new Navy and Marine Corps training centers, but when this effort failed he purchased the college campus property that he had been leasing and beginning in 1923 also acquired most of the two blocks on the north side of the campus and the two blocks on the west side.
The surrounding community had also been growing, partly due to the academy’s positive economic impact, and although some local boys attended the academy the public school became increasingly crowded; attendance for the 1922 school year was 116 students. The school district had purchased the block between Emerald, Diamond, Ingraham and Haines streets, a few blocks from the existing school, in 1921, and in 1922 announced plans for a new school on the site. A school building with six classrooms and an auditorium was built on the north side of Emerald Street, just west of Ingraham Street in time for the 1923 school year. Five teachers were assigned to the new Pacific Beach school; a principal, who also taught 7th and 8th grades, and teachers for 5th and 6th, 3rd and 4th, 2nd and 1st grade. The original schoolhouse, which had stood next to the Presbyterian Church from 1896 to 1923, was moved to the campus of the Army and Navy Academy where it was enlarged and turned into the academy’s junior school.
Paving of the coast highway through Pacific Beach along Garnet Avenue and Cass Street in 1919, completion of a fast electric streetcar line between downtown and La Jolla on Mission Boulevard in 1924 and a new entertainment and business district around Crystal Pier in 1926 contributed to a growth in the population of Pacific Beach during the 1920s, and a corresponding increase in the number of school-age students. Faced with another shortage of classrooms the school board in 1928 purchased a 9-acre site west of Fanuel between Turquoise and Tourmaline streets. The board announced that it would begin construction of a junior high school on the site as soon as the ‘estimated and probable’ enrollment reached 200 pupils, although they expected that total enrollment in September 1930 would be only 176. At a board meeting in April 1930 40 Pacific Beach residents led by Neil Nettleship, promoter of Crystal Pier, appeared at a board meeting and presented a list of 209 children who they said would be eligible to attend the school by the next February. The board was apparently persuaded and in May voted to advertise for bids for the construction of a $55,000 junior high school.
The Pacific Beach junior high school opened on February 1, 1931 with Dr. J. R. Nichols, who had been vice principal of the La Jolla junior and senior high school, as principal. Two months later Dr. Nichols was suspended without pay for three days as penalty for ‘boxing the ears’ of a student on the school grounds. The board of education noted that corporal punishment was not itself contrary to board rules but that Dr. Nichols had ‘acted in haste and without due regard to controlled action’. Apologies all around had satisfactorily concluded the incident.
Consolidated Aircraft moved to San Diego in 1935 and in the runup to World War II established a complex of manufacturing plants near the San Diego airport to build military aircraft. Tens of thousands of people moved to San Diego to work in these plants, creating a serious housing shortage. In 1941 the federal government acquired a number of tracts within commuting distance of the plants for temporary housing projects, including one in the eastern part of Pacific Beach. The Bayview Terrace project included over 1000 ‘demountable’ plywood homes and other facilities, including an elementary school. The Bayview Terrace elementary school opened in April 1942 with 270 students, who had previously been attending the Pacific Beach elementary school under crowded conditions that required double sessions. The school was built and owned by the federal government but leased to the city board of education and operated as a public school. The temporary homes for defense workers were removed in the 1950s and replaced by homes for military families, now the Admiral Hartman Community. The Bayview Terrace school, also built of plywood, was condemned by the fire department and rebuilt in the 1950s.
The number of defense workers in San Diego continued to grow during the war and the buildup of military forces in the San Diego area further contributed to population growth. Pacific Beach was a short distance from the aircraft plants and military facilities around San Diego Bay and had an abundance of vacant land, much of it already improved with paved streets and sidewalks and utilities like water and gas. The federal government added two more temporary housing projects in Pacific Beach during the war. Los Altos Terrace, with 428 housing units, was built in 1942 on the blocks surrounding the junior high school on Tourmaline Street, and the Cyane project, with 232 units, was built in 1944 in Fortuna Park between Pacific Beach Drive and Crown Point. Commercial developers also stepped in to meet the increasing demand for housing, particularly in improved subdivisions like Crown Point, North Shore Highlands and Braemar. But although these housing developments led to a huge increase in the population of Pacific Beach, including school-age children, wartime budget restrictions did not allow for further expansion of the school system.
The war ended in 1945 and in 1946 one of the first new schools to be authorized in San Diego was an elementary school in southern Pacific Beach, near the hundreds of new homes of the Cyane housing project and the Crown Point subdivision. A four-block area between Pacific Beach Drive, Fortuna Avenue and Ingraham and Jewell streets was purchased for $36,000 and Crown Point Elementary school opened for 525 boys and girls in January 1948. The San Diego Union reported that San Diego’s first post-war school relieved serious overcrowding at Pacific Beach Elementary, but that increased school enrollment in the area had already outstripped its facilities and two grades destined for Crown Point would remain at the Pacific Beach elementary school. Within a month of its opening the board of education approved an addition to the new school, practically doubling its size, and predicted that another elementary school would soon be needed for the Pacific Beach area if school enrollment there kept expanding. 1948 was also the year when St. Brigid Church and Academy was dedicated. A generation of Catholic children attended this private school on Cass and Diamond streets before it closed in 1971.
Over the summer of 1950 the school district accommodated the growing school-aged population in Pacific Beach by adding classrooms and other facilities, and by switching the functions of the existing Pacific Beach elementary and junior high schools. The campus of what had been the elementary school was doubled in size with the acquisition of the block between Emerald and Felspar streets west of Ingraham (and the closing of Emerald in that block). A new physical education building, assembly/cafeteria building and additional classrooms were built for what would become the junior high school there. An assembly/cafeteria building was also added to the former junior high school, which was then reopened as the elementary school. The board explained that placing a larger junior high school near the center of the community and smaller elementary schools in more outlying areas was in line with ‘up-to-date planning’ in which elementary schools serve a smaller section of the community so younger children will not have so far to walk or ride to school. In fact most children from the Los Altos Terrace project would only have to walk a block or two to the elementary school and children from North Shore Highlands only a few blocks further.
The population of Pacific Beach continued to grow in the 1950s and another school in the southwestern part of Pacific Beach was opened in 1953 on the site of a former trailer park on Cass Street between Thomas and Reed avenues and next to the Braemar subdivision. Martha Farnum Elementary was built for $337,450, financed by the federal government under the ‘defense impact area’ program, and initially served 400 students. The school was named for the first woman to hold a top administrative position in the San Diego school district. Martha Farnum had been the assistant superintendent in charge of elementary education and when she died the year before, while still in her 40s, the school board announced that a school would be named in her honor. 1953 was also the year that a new high school was opened south of Grand Avenue and west of Rose Creek, built on fill dredged from Mission Bay while transforming the natural marshland in the northwest corner of the bay into De Anza Cove and Point. Mission Bay High School also benefitted from federal ‘defense impact area’ funds.
In 1956 the last new public school to be built in Pacific Beach opened at the northeastern corner of the community, on Beryl Street north of Noyes Street. The site was then undeveloped land at the base of the Mt. Soledad foothills and there was nothing but more undeveloped land north or east of the school. Kate Sessions Elementary was named for horticulturist Kate Sessions, best known as the ‘mother of Balboa Park’, who had established a nursery operation and made her home in Pacific Beach not far from where the school was built. 499 students were present when it opened (including me).
While population growth in Pacific Beach had spurred construction of public schools, it had a negative impact on the military academy. In the late 1920s a number of large reinforced-concrete dormitories had been built to accommodate a corps of cadets that had grown to over 400, but the depression of the 1930s had reduced enrollment and, unable to repay the building costs, the San Diego Army and Navy Academy was sold to John Brown College in 1937 and renamed Brown Military Academy. In the 1950s the Brown organization announced that the academy was increasingly being ‘hemmed in’ by the community’s growth and ‘retention of the campus for school purposes would not be wise financially in view of land’s increased commercial value’. The campus was sold for over a million dollars to an investment company and Brown Military Academy relocated to Glendora. Most of the academy buildings, including the original College of Letters buildings, were demolished and the Pacific Plaza shopping center built on the site. The concrete dormitories remained standing, abandoned and heavily vandalized, until they were torn down in 1965.
The population of Pacific Beach continued to grow as single-family homes gave way to multi-unit condominiums and apartments and as residential developments moved into previously undeveloped areas such as the Mt. Soledad foothills. However, many of the new residents were college students or young adults without children and school attendance actually went down. At the same time, newer communities like Mira Mesa and Scripps Ranch were being developed and attracting families with school-age children. The school board decided to close one of the under-utilized schools in the southern part of Pacific Beach and lease the property to fund school construction elsewhere. Since the Crown Point school had a larger campus and could better accommodate future expansion if needed, the board decided to close the Martha Farnum school in 1983. The school was razed and is now the site of the Earl and Birdie Taylor – Pacific Beach Branch Library. Other Pacific Beach schools have remained but many of their students come from outside the community. Since 2008 the Crown Point school, now known as Crown Point Junior Music Academy, has attracted students through a music magnet program. The Bayview Terrace school was converted to a Mandarin language magnet school in 2013 and is now called Barnard Elementary. Mission Bay High School also responded to declining enrollment by busing students in from other areas.
No new schools have been built in Pacific Beach for over 60 years, but existing schools have undergone additions, reconstruction and upgrades. The school building originally constructed in 1923 as the elementary school and switched to a junior high school in 1950 did not meet state earthquake safety standards and was reconstructed in 1976. And the campus, now Pacific Beach Middle School, is currently (2020) in the midst of a ‘whole site modernization’ project in which the two-story classroom buildings built in 1950 are being torn down and replaced.
Pacific Beach lies on a coastal plain at the foot of Mount Soledad, which rises toward a summit north of the community. The area receives an average of about ten inches of rain a year, most of it coming during winter storms that can drop a large volume of water in a short period of time. In its natural state, even heavy rainfall was absorbed in the relatively flat plains region, although the extreme southwest corner along the shore of Mission Bay is barely above sea level and drains very slowly. In this area, where the Catamaran Resort is now, rainwater remained at or near the surface and an early settler developed a spring to water a flock of sheep. There are also other locations where natural ‘sinks’ or depressions in the otherwise level plain could collect rainwater and become seasonal ponds or marshes. Rain falling on Mount Soledad ran off into canyons: Tourmaline Canyon, near the northwest corner of the community, runs into the ocean and the canyon now followed by Soledad Mountain Road drains into Rose Creek and then Mission Bay, but Bone Canyon, above Vickie Drive, and the canyon between Kate Sessions Park and Kate Sessions school, above lower Academy Street, both empty into areas that have become populated.
In the first decades after its founding in 1887 Pacific Beach was a rural community covered with fields and orchards that largely benefited from the winter rains. The San Diego Union reported in February 1903 that ‘the glorious rains have put everything in the best of shape: the hay fields are looking fine, and the orchards have had a soaking way down deep’. As time went on houses and roads replaced hay fields and orchards, and for these new uses of the land glorious rains could instead leave things in worse shape. In 1901 Fred T. Scripps built a palatial home on the shoreline of Mission Bay in the same low area where the sheep herder had his spring. In January 1916 a series of winter storms that caused devastating floods all over southern California also drenched Pacific Beach. The Union reported that Scripps’ home was practically surrounded by water left by the storm and city employees were sent out to help drain the pool.
The canyon above today’s Academy Street once sustained a seasonal stream that in winter months flowed south along what became Noyes Street toward Mission Bay. In 1900 the Evening Tribune described the area along Noyes between Diamond Street and Garnet Avenue as ‘rich bottom land’ and reported that a local farmer was setting out 4000 strawberry plants. But in 1926, after houses had replaced strawberries along Garnet, property owners petitioned the city council to take some action to prevent water draining down Noyes from forming a ‘small lake’ at the intersection of Noyes and Garnet. They suggested that a closed conduit be constructed along Noyes to care for the flood waters. The Manager of Operation recommended that the City Engineer be instructed to prepare plans for paving Noyes between Garnet and Diamond to take care of the storm waters. Neither of these ideas was implemented at the time.
The war effort of the 1940s led to enormous growth in the population of Pacific Beach, accompanied by increased homebuilding and street improvement, some of which took place in areas prone to flooding. The area around Thomas and Reed avenues between Ingraham and Jewell streets is in one of the natural depressions which earlier owners had drained by digging a ditch westward across Ingraham. The ditch interfered with development of nearby property and in 1941 the city council awarded a contract for what was apparently the first underground storm drain in Pacific Beach, under Reed Avenue between Ingraham and Haines streets. The ditch was then filled in and by 1950 these blocks were lined with houses. This storm drain was later extended to Mission Bay at the foot of Fanuel Street and up Ingraham to Garnet Avenue.
A storm drain also made development possible in a section of northwest Pacific Beach, near where Tourmaline Canyon enters the ocean. The original railroad line between Pacific Beach and La Jolla had crossed this canyon over a bridge but when the line was upgraded to a fast streetcar line in the 1920s the bridge was replaced by a solid dirt embankment over a concrete culvert. The canyon originally continued east for another block or so, between the embankment, now La Jolla Boulevard, and Turquoise Street, but in 1952 the city laid a storm drain in this section of the canyon and in the years since it has been filled in. In its place is a row of houses and the Barrier Reef condominiums along a new block of Sapphire Street.
As streets were paved and houses built on formerly absorptive land, stormwater runoff became an increasing problem in Pacific Beach, particularly in the ‘rich bottom land’ in the vicinity of Noyes Street. In 1953 the city council came up with a plan for a storm drain system that would empty into Mission Bay at the foot of Olney Street. The drain would run under Olney between the bay and Grand Avenue and under Grand between Olney and Kendall street. A branch would run under Noyes Street between Grand and Diamond Street and from there one branch would run west to Lamont and another would run north to Academy Street and under Academy to Beryl. Half of this project was to be funded by the city under a 1952 storm drain bond issue, but half was to be funded by the owners of over 1000 lots in an assessment district bordering the route of the proposed drain.
When the council met to consider this storm drain project a large group of property owners appeared to protest the project. Most of the complaints were about the boundaries of the assessment district, with owners of property at higher levels complaining that only the owners lower down whose property was affected by stormwater would see any benefit from their assessment payments. Other protesters contended that underground storm drains were not needed at all. Richmond Jackson, who owned a home on Noyes overlooking Academy Street, suggested that the drainage problem could be solved with settling basins, which could also be used for fishing. Any runoff could be contained in surface drains within paved streets. Academy Street, below his house, had been paved a few years earlier and Jackson claimed that it had been successful at draining stormwater in that area. Faced with a survey indicating that 90% of affected property owners opposed it, the council abandoned this ambitious storm drain project in March 1954. Instead the city used its own funds to build a storm drain on Grand Avenue and Olney Street draining into Mission Bay. The city also acquired easements and built a storm drain under two blocks between Morrell and Noyes streets and Grand and Reed avenues, a particularly low area in these ‘bottom lands’ with a history of flooding, and connected it to the Olney drain.
In 1955 a city council proposal to pave and otherwise improve Noyes from Reed to Beryl streets included construction of a storm drain between Grand Avenue and Diamond Street. Again there were protests; the people below wanted the drain, the people above did not. However, this time the council overruled the protests and the street improvements, including the storm drain, were made in 1956. In the years since, as development continued in the foothills above Pacific Beach, this storm drain has been extended up Academy Street and Edgeworth Road to beyond Kate Sessions Park, effectively solving the drainage problems originating from this canyon.
Increased runoff due to development also increased the drainage problems in the low-lying areas of southwestern Pacific Beach, periodically flooding the area around Mission Boulevard and Pacific Beach Drive. In 1953 the existing sewage pumping station there was upgraded to also handle storm water. After a major storm in January 1964 flooded the area once again, city manager Tom Fletcher told the San Diego Union that ‘ponding’ began at the Mission Boulevard-Pacific Beach Drive intersection after storms of any magnitude, and spread to Oliver Avenue, which is about the same elevation. When the ponding reached a depth of about two feet excess water also ran south on Mission Boulevard, placing a load on the drains there. However, he announced that a project included in the city’s capital outlay program for the year would double the capacity of the drainage system. This storm drain project ran up Dawes Street from Mission Bay and along Grand, Fanuel and Felspar as far as the corner of Gresham and Emerald streets. Over the next few years storm drains were also added under Missouri, Loring and Sapphire streets, leading to the ocean.
Pacific Beach has continued to grow, and storm drains along Soledad Mountain Road and Vickie Drive were among those added to handle increased runoff as development expanded onto Mount Soledad. In addition to mitigating flooding, some of these large concrete tubes turned out to have other unanticipated uses, at least during the dry season. Members of a Facebook group for Pacific Beach old-timers responded to the question ‘Who explored the underground storm drains of PB?’ with claims to have not only explored but to have ridden skateboards and Flexies, some with flashlights taped on them for headlights, through the drains. Some recalled riding from the end of Vickie Drive to Tourmaline Beach or skateboarding to Mission Bay. In the wet season, though, the storm drain system is meant to keep Pacific Beach dry and it has generally been effective, although storms of any magnitude still cause ponding in the area where sheep once drank from natural springs and city workers had to bail out Fred Scripps’ home.
Looking back at what used to be . . . mostly in San Diego and especially Pacific Beach.