Tag Archives: Sterling Honeycutt

Early PB Water Supply

When the Pacific Beach Company was formed in 1887 one of the tasks the founders assigned themselves in developing the new community was to ‘construct water works, reservoirs, [and] lay down mains and water pipe’. In the days leading up to the opening sale of lots at Pacific Beach in December 1887, their advertisements emphasized that arrangements had been made to give Pacific Beach a ‘splendid water system’, and that ‘men were already at work laying the pipe from the city water works’. When they cut prices in half a few months later to revive lot sales (San Diego’s ‘great boom’ collapsed in the spring of 1888), they also assured potential purchasers of an ‘abundant supply of city water’ and other substantial improvements.

The city water that was piped to Pacific Beach in 1888 was provided by the San Diego Water Company from wells beneath the San Diego River in Mission Valley. Construction was also underway on a 35-mile wooden flume which would reach up the river to Boulder Creek and deliver a flow of mountain water to the city water system. The completion of the flume was marked by a gala celebration and parade in San Diego on Washington’s Birthday, February 22, 1889.

This additional water became particularly important for Pacific Beach when the community turned to agriculture, especially lemon cultivation, after the failure of its original centerpiece, the San Diego College of Letters, in 1891. In March 1892 the San Diego Union’s Local Intelligence column noted that a Mr. Bowers, who had come west last fall from Tennessee, had purchased a thirty-acre tract at Pacific Beach and was having 4,000 feet of water pipe laid over his land. The property was to be put in lemons during the next few weeks. In April, C. H. Raiter, a Minnesota banker who had spent the previous winter in Pacific Beach, sent instructions to have a ten-acre tract in PB piped, fenced and broken. In July, George Hensley, secretary of the Pacific Beach Company, claimed that much of the new water available to San Diego was going to waste and proposed giving anyone planting an orchard of at least five acres free water for the next year. He reported that the 170 acres lately planted in Pacific Beach were making a fine growth.

The lemon ranches in Pacific Beach were concentrated between what are now Ingraham and Noyes streets and extended from Pacific Beach Drive uphill to north of Beryl Street (the Bowers ranch bordered Beryl, the Raiter ranch PB Drive). The lower ranches began at an elevation of about 50 feet while the upper ranches were at nearly 200 feet above sea level. The Pacific Beach Company built a reservoir at an elevation of about 300 feet and in August 1893 asked for permission to connect with the city water system. The reservoir, located in the foothills near Los Altos Road, is still used to store water for Pacific Beach.

Although the flume was often represented as a new source of water for San Diego, in fact both the wells in Mission Valley and the flume from Boulder Creek were ultimately dependent on rainfall in the San Diego River watershed. In 1894 the San Diego region experienced a drought which dried up the river and its tributary creeks and drained the relatively shallow Cuyamaca reservoir, which held the flume company’s reserves. With flume deliveries cut back the water company was unable to maintain consistent supplies of water to more remote areas, including Pacific Beach. In October 1894 the Union’s Pacific Beach Notes column reported that the reservoir was dry and those living in the higher lands were out of water a good part of the time. In this instance the rains did return; a storm in the middle of January 1895 caused flooding all over the county. In Pacific Beach, Rose Creek was reported to be a roaring river, the country around the race track east of the creek was a vast lake and the tracks of the Pacific Beach railroad were nowhere to be seen.

The flume was built of redwood and open to the sky and the essence of the wet wood apparently infused the pure mountain water on its 35-mile ride to the city. In June 1896 Pacific Beach Notes noted that some citizens were buying Coronado water because of the ‘rare old peculiar odor of flume water’. Worse than the odor, some believed that the water was unhealthy. The Union reported in September 1896 that a worker on Mrs. Rowe’s ranch in Pacific Beach had typhoid fever caused, it is said, by drinking too much flume water. The water was cheap, however. In July 1897, Maj. W. D. Hall told the Union that he did not pay so much for water for his entire 10 acres as for enough, in Phoenix, Arizona, to water an acre and a half. He used it so plentifully that his trees were kept free from scale.

Drought returned in 1898; a June Pacific Beach Notes column reported that the ranchers near the hillside had been absolutely without water the past two days. Although the Union’s correspondent hoped this was only a temporary scarcity, the report in August was that the water situation was becoming serious. The ranches nearest the hillside were the greatest sufferers. Again, the correspondent held out hope that ‘that the experience of August, 1873, will be repeated, when, according to the Union, 1.95 inches of rain fell’. History did not repeat itself in this case; in November the news was that water on the higher levels was at a premium. ‘Weeks go by without any water at all, that being used for domestic purposes being hauled in tanks’.

The 1898 drought was not relieved by a January storm either, and in March 1899 the Union’s Local Intelligence column reported that F. W. Barnes of Pacific Beach was tired of waiting for the San Diego Water company to furnish water, and was putting in a well; ‘If he gets water, William D. Hall will at once put in a well, and others at the Beach will probably do the same. The seriousness of the water situation overshadows every other topic. For several days past the service has been very insufficient, the higher levels feeling the situation very keenly’. There is no indication that Barnes ever got water, though, or that others at the Beach did the same.

Although a delightful shower freshened the grass and trees wonderfully in May 1899, wells were sunk in Rose Canyon and a pumping plant put in with the hope of insuring a good supply of water during the coming summer. Connection was made with the Rose Canyon well in June and the water service was said to have improved. The president and an engineer from the San Diego Water Company visited Pacific Beach in July with a view to making an ‘equal distribution of water’. They concluded that if the reservoir could be filled and an extra check valve installed for the higher ranches, it would solve all the difficulties.

The water shortages also caused lemon ranchers to take other conservation measures. Pacific Beach Notes noted in December 1899 that many ranchers were cutting out their cypress hedges, as it had been proved they do more harm than good, and enough water cannot be given them to satisfy their thirst. ‘They will take all you give them and rob the lemon trees as well. It is a pity as a cypress is a thing of beauty’.

The water company’s improvements apparently did have a beneficial effect and an Evening Tribune Pacific Beach Notes column in March 1900 reported that everybody in Pacific Beach was grateful to the water company for carrying them through the drought. In September 1900 the Tribune reported that the water service had been very good on the beach that summer; ‘when we remember that this is our third dry year that is a good deal to say that water has been of the very best quality and has been furnished in abundance’.

In 1901 the holdings of the San Diego Water Company within the city limits were purchased by the city and water distribution became the responsibility of the city water department. This reorganization did not include any new sources of water, however, and the water supply to relatively remote sections like Pacific Beach remained unreliable. The Evening Tribune reported in June 1902 that the water service on the Beach had been very poor that summer. Sterling Honeycutt had become the latest resident to try his luck with a well and in October the news was that his well had struck salt water and then, at 215 feet, indications of oil. This had led to much excitement but in the end neither oil nor fresh water in sufficient quantities were found.

Water shortages in Pacific Beach were compounded by a deteriorating water distribution infrastructure. The superintendent of the city water system reported in January 1903 that the mains in many places had ‘outlived their usefulness’, especially if laid in salt, alkali or adobe soil. He particularly called attention to the Pacific Beach pipeline and announced that he had ordered 5000 feet of cast iron pipe to replace portions of kalamein pipe that were giving trouble and causing the loss of millions of gallons of water (kalamein was an alloy coating for iron pipes). A letter to the editor of the Evening Tribune in March by a Pacific Beach resident described the condition of a water main that supplied some of the upper ranches at Pacific Beach. The main was about 500 yards long and during the past seven years had often experienced two or three breaks in one week. About 25 yards of the main was simply covered with a string of rubber bands and clamps. The writer claimed that during the past two years out of a total of 230 acres of bearing orchard at Pacific Beach, 60 acres had been cut down or abandoned, largely on account of the difficulty and expense of procuring an adequate supply of water.

The new cast iron section of the Pacific Beach pipeline was completed and connected in May of 1903 and concern about the water supply subsided. ‘Abundant water is now assured’ reported the Tribune correspondent, but the water that came through the new pipes ‘is very much in the nature of ink on account of the tar in the pipes’. It was not unwholesome to drink on that account, but was ‘unsatisfactory just now to wash with’.

The Pacific Beach Company had been dissolved in 1898 and its remaining holdings, the property it had been unable to sell, distributed to its shareholders. However, the five-acre site of the Pacific Beach reservoir had not been included in this distribution and the trustees of the defunct company finally sold the site, and the reservoir, to the city for $2000 in 1906.

Most of the other unsold property was acquired by Folsom Bros. Co. and this company initiated an ambitious effort to market Pacific Beach to prospective purchasers by developing or improving the community before offering lots for sale. The improvements would include grading streets, putting in curbs and sidewalks, and laying water mains. In January 1907 the Union reported much improvement going on in Pacific Beach; miles and miles of water pipe laid and streets graded by Folsom Bros. Co. By June Folsom Bros. Co. ads highlighted its improvements; sidewalks are being laid on block after block, avenues of fine palms are being planted. New water mains are being laid to tap each section as it is developed.

By August 1909 nearly a mile of cement sidewalk and curbing has been laid in Pacific Beach. Over two miles of street grading has been completed. The water supply has been increased. A concrete storage reservoir had been completed (presumably meaning that the Pacific Beach reservoir had been lined with concrete).

In 1912 horticulturist Kate Sessions and her brother Frank bought the western portion of Pueblo Lot 1785, 74 acres, as additional growing fields for their expanding nursery operations. Frank Sessions also leased the eastern 86 acres of the pueblo lot from the city. Pueblo Lot 1785 is in the foothills above Pacific Beach and adjoins the Pacific Beach reservoir site; the eastern portion is now Kate Sessions Park. Since much of this land was above the level of the existing reservoir, Frank Sessions dug another reservoir at the highest point on his land, above today’s Soledad Way, where he could store water to irrigate the growing fields below. In January 1913 he received a permit from the city to build a pumping plant on the city reservoir site to pump water further uphill to his reservoir. The Sessions’ reservoir was also eventually deeded to the city, in 1918 (the site is now a private home and tennis court).

The water situation in Pacific Beach stabilized, but for some the memory of drought and shortages remained. In September of 1913 the San Diego Union described a palatial home being built in Pacific Beach for C. C. Norris. The home, still standing on Collingwood Drive, is only a short distance from the Pacific Beach reservoir and not far below its elevation, and Norris apparently was well aware of the history of water shortages at the higher elevations of Pacific Beach. Among the details provided of the home’s interior (birch doors . . . old colonial type stairs with spiral newel post composed of a spindel balustrade . . . large tile mantle of unique design) the basement included a cistern with pump to furnish the house with rain water.

Over the ensuing century the San Diego region has expanded its water supply to keep pace with population growth, at first from a system of dams on local rivers, then by importing water from the Colorado River and Northern California, and most recently by desalinating sea water, so even though the past few years have seen a return of drought conditions like in the 1890s, the residences built on what were once the upper lemon ranches in Pacific Beach are not out of water a good part of the time, at least not yet.

Pacific Beach Hotel

The Pacific Beach Hotel was built in 1888 at the foot of Grand Avenue, a location near the beach and the terminus of the railroad from San Diego. Along with a nearby dance pavilion it was expected to be one of the main attractions of the new suburb. In 1897 it was moved from its original location to what had since become the center of the community, Lamont and Hornblend streets, and for another quarter century served first as a hotel then as the offices of the succession of real estate companies that hoped to benefit from the community’s growth. When it burned down in 1931 it had been vacant for years and was considered a haunted house by local residents.

The heart of Pacific Beach from Wheeler's map. The 'Avenues' south of Grand Avenue are named for early PB land speculators including Thomas, Reed, Gassen and Hubbell (Thomas and Reed Streets survive to this day). This map also shows Missouri Avenue (Street), the only surviving 'state' street name in the PB grid.

In 1887 a ‘syndicate of millionaires’ acquired most of the property in the undeveloped area north of Mission Bay (then called False Bay), christened their new tract Pacific Beach, and incorporated themselves as the Pacific Beach Company. These developers also built a railroad line that ran from downtown to the ocean front in Pacific Beach over what are now Garnet, Balboa and Grand avenues. At about where Second (now Bayard) Street intersects Grand the railroad line curved south to a passenger depot and maintenance facility at the end of the line. In 1888 the Pacific Beach Company built a hotel, the Hotel del Pacific, on Block A along this curve, the site of the present-day Starbucks on the southeast corner of Grand and Mission.

News from Pacific Beach during the late 1880s and early 1890s suggested that the hotel was not initially a success. In November 1889 a Special Notice in the San Diego Union, ‘Removed to 872 Sixth St. The remnant of furniture from Pacific Beach Hotel, cheap’, implied a clearance sale. By September 1890 the hotel had apparently dropped the Hotel del Pacific name and was under new management; the Union ran an ad for ‘Pacific Beach Hotel, new management–reasonable rates. Choice rooms, with lovely ocean view; excellent meals. Special rates made to parties and families. Picnics supplied on short notice. Magnificent beach; fine surf bathing; bath house in connection; free use of pavilion. Round trip by motor from San Diego, 25 cents. For rates and further information address Pacific Beach Hotel, San Diego, Cal. Telephone 198’.

There may also have been difficulties with vendors or contractors; the Union’s Local Intelligence column in March 1891 reported that the argument to set aside the order for sheriff’s sale in the case of the Southern California Lumber Company vs. the Pacific Beach Hotel was continued before Judge Torrance (a sheriff’s sale was a public auction of real property at the courthouse door to satisfy a judgement against the property owner). Not all of the news was discouraging, though; the Union reported in February 1892 that the Pacific Beach Hotel was full. In February 1893 the Pacific Beach railway advertised Sunday excursions to Pacific Beach for 25 cents, round trip. Luncheon could be had at the Pacific Beach Hotel for 25 cents.

In 1894 the Pacific Beach railway was extended to La Jolla, which had its own hotel among other attractions, and the added competition may have diminished the appeal of the Pacific Beach Hotel. In October 1894 the Pacific Beach Notes column in the Union noted that the Robertsons had moved into the hotel building, wording which suggested an extended stay and a possible change in the hotel’s purpose (Thomas Robertson was an engineer for the Pacific Beach Railway; he was killed, ‘literally cooked alive’, in a 1908 train wreck). A state committee considering sites for a normal school in February 1895 was offered the former San Diego College of Letters buildings and its 16 acres of land in Pacific Beach and also the Pacific Beach Hotel and pavilion.

By December 1896 the hotel had apparently become such a liability that the Pacific Beach Company reached an agreement with Sterling Honeycutt to take it off their hands. The company granted Honeycutt the north half of Block 239 of Pacific Beach and required him to move the hotel building situated in Block A and the building known as the pavilion located on Block 261 to this new location within six months. The new property, the south side of Hornblend between Lamont and Morrell streets, was over a mile inland and near the College railway stop at Lamont and Grand Avenue. The price was $2000.

hotel

The move was completed within the allotted time with the hotel building placed upon the northwest corner of the block, the southeast corner of Lamont and Hornblend, and the pavilion on the northeast corner of the block, the southwest corner of Hornblend and Morrell. The San Diego Union reported in February 1897 that three carpenters and several masons and plasterers were working on the Hotel del Pacific, and it would soon be ready for the painters (the old name was still faintly visible on the porch roof in photos taken at the new site). It was apparently ready for business by the end of the year and ads appeared in the Union in October 1897 for ‘Business Chances; the Pacific Beach Hotel, 20 rooms, with all heavy furniture, to rent on reasonable terms. Address S. Honeycutt, Pacific Beach, Cal’. In November the Union reported that Mr. Honeycutt had rented the hotel to a Mr. Hurd. Another series of ads then announced that the Pacific Beach Hotel was open for guests; ‘large sunny rooms, most pleasant dining room in the county. Everything new, and best of attention shown to our guests’.

However, even in its new location the Pacific Beach Hotel was apparently not a very good ‘business chance’. It was listed in the Union again in May 1898: ‘For rent—The Pacific Beach Hotel, modern building containing fifteen rooms completely furnished; one of the nicest seaside hotels near San Diego; motor railroad stops in front of the hotel. A good chance for a nice family. References required’. In July 1899 Pacific Beach Notes in the Union noted that the hotel had been opened by Messr. Gregg and their mother, Mrs. Greenwood, arrangements with Mr. Rowen not being consummated. For his part, Mr. Honeycutt granted an undivided half of his interests in Block 239, ‘including the building known as the Pacific Beach Hotel and furniture’, to Mrs. Honeycutt in 1899.

Business did improve when a Y.M.C.A Summer Camp was held at the college in August 1899 and the hotel and college buildings were filled with summer school students. Business also apparently picked up in the winter; in February 1900 Pacific Beach Notes noted that the hotel was full of visitors from the East and in September 1900 many eastern people were said to have engaged rooms for the coming winter.

In November 1903 the San Diego Union reported that a big Pacific Beach hotel building formerly owned by Sterling Honeycutt has been sold to purchasers represented by Folsom Bros., the well-known real estate men, who would not say who the purchasers were but promised big improvements. The purchasers turned out to be the Folsom Bros. themselves and the improvements may not have been that big; a month later the news was that the new hotel owned by Folsom Bros. was expected to be opened to the public before the expiration of the present week. Mrs. M. I. King, well known in San Diego as a first class hotel manager, would be in charge. The Pacific Beach Hotel did open and was listed in the 1904 and 1905 San Diego City Directory, with Mrs. M. I. King as manager.

However, Folsom Bros. Co. still felt the need for a modern, attractive and at the same time reasonably priced resort hotel to accommodate their clients from the north and east. In 1904 they leased and a year later completed the purchase of the campus and buildings of the former San Diego College of Letters, a block northwest of the Pacific Beach Hotel on the north side of Garnet. Folsom Bros. Secretary O. W. Cotton explained to the Union in 1906 that the company then remodeled and rebuilt these buildings from top to bottom, named the place Hotel Balboa, and had one of the most delightful year around hotels on the coast, which was rapidly becoming one of the most popular.

With a modern, attractive, delightful and popular hotel only a block away Folsom Bros. Co. had no need for a second hotel in the vicinity and instead took over the former hotel building for their offices. When Lamont Street was graded in 1907, the Union reported that work on curbs and sidewalks would commence in a few weeks, starting at the railway depot at Lamont and Grand and continuing up Lamont past the general offices of the Folsom Bros. Co. and to Hotel Balboa.

The Folsom brothers retired from active management of Folsom Bros. Co. in 1910 and in 1911 the company was renamed the San Diego Beach Company, which San Diego City Directories listed at ‘Lamont cor Hornblend’ and later at 4437 Lamont, Pacific Beach. San Diego Beach Company notices for stockholders meetings and assessment (and delinquent) notices for stockholders posted in the Evening Tribune listed the company’s address as 4437 Lamont as late as 1921. After the San Diego Beach Company moved its office downtown later in 1921 the building was apparently abandoned, although in 1928 the Evening Tribune carried a story about an Easter outing given by the Dixie Riding Academy of Pacific Beach, 4437 Lamont Street.

Magner White, then a reporter for the San Diego Sun, had received the 1924 Pulitzer Prize for a story about an eclipse of the sun. In 1930, writing for the Evening Tribune, White wrote about a ‘foray’ into an old deserted dwelling at Pacific Beach: ‘A house vacant more than two years immediately becomes a “haunted” house—and in Pacific Beach, on Lamont avenue, there’s one, a 20-room, high-windowed, high-ceilinged frame structure, that has been vacant more than five times two years.’ It had once been a hotel but ‘aloof and deserted and weed-bordered’ it had since been gathering the traditions of a “haunted” house; children wouldn’t go into it, mysterious lights were seen in upper rooms, doors slammed mysteriously and broken panes rattled and sometimes fell out. Nevertheless, accompanied by two squealing, giggling little girls, his party decided to investigate.

There was a health department notice on the front door warning that the place was unfit for human habitation until brought up to date with plumbing (although there wasn’t any sign of plumbing, even in the kitchen). There were long half-inch pipes hanging from the ceiling which curled up to end in spigot-like fixtures, plainly gas pipes indicating that the place had once been lighted with gas. Old letters and other papers dating back more than 20 years were scattered over one of the floors, including O. W. Cotton’s June 1907 pay stub from Folsom Bros. Co. (for $150). They paused at the top landing and an old door chose that moment to fall off its hinges. White admitted that he jumped, and the little girls squealed. In the attic they found the source of the mysterious lights; candles discarded by hoboes who had been sleeping there. There were also old cans and more than two dozen empty whiskey bottles. When they opened the door to one room that probably had been closed for months if not years a jar of canned fruit in the room exploded, possibly due to the sudden admission of fresh air. The little girls ran back downstairs and the rest of them decided it was time to get out.

White had noted that a story such as this always brought out the facts and that within a few days someone was bound to write in, and indeed a few days later he reported that M. W. Folsom had written him with some interesting facts. The huge “haunted house” frame building in Pacific Beach was the building known at first as the Pacific Beach Hotel and that was later used as the general offices of his company, Folsom Bros. Co. Except for the Hotel Coronado, it was San Diego’s first beach-front hotel, built at the end of Grand Avenue, and later moved to its present site.

A little over a year after Magner White’s story, on December 3, 1931, the San Diego Union reported that fire of unknown origin had destroyed the Old Pacific Beach Hotel building, corner of Lamont and Hornblend streets, Pacific Beach. The fire was discovered at 10:30 the previous night and firemen were still fighting the blaze in the morning. The hotel, a historic landmark in Pacific Beach, was built more than 40 years ago. It was three stories high, had been vacant for several years, and was last occupied by the local telephone company. More than 35 cadets from the San Diego Army and Navy Academy had arrived at the scene of the blaze first and had prevented the flames from spreading to nearby buildings. They used a fire hose from the academy and made connection to the street hydrant (the Academy had been founded in 1910 in the former Hotel Balboa buildings). The next day the Union reported that the fire marshal believed that the fire was incendiary, based on two previous attempts set fire to the structure on June 21, but that this belief had not been substantiated by evidence. The building was admittedly a fire trap.

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The site of the former hotel, real estate office and haunted house is now occupied by the Patio on Lamont Street restaurant. Ornate bike racks have replaced the paved walkways which once led from the curb to the entrance doors facing Lamont. The towering palm trees along Lamont Street that were planted nearly a century ago in front of the Folsom Bros. Co. office are all that remain today of this historic Pacific Beach landmark.

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PB Methodist Churches

The first church in Pacific Beach was organized in September 1888, the year after the community’s creation and opening sale of lots. The founder was Rev. C. S. Sprecher, who was also one of the founders of the San Diego College of Letters which opened the same month on the College Campus, now the site of Pacific Plaza. In 1889 the church acquired property across the street from the college and a year later a building was moved onto the site for church services. The Pacific Beach Presbyterian Church is still there, at the southwest corner of Garnet Avenue and Jewell Street, although the original wooden church gave way to the current mission-style building in 1941.

The college failed in 1891 but Pacific Beach found a new purpose as a center of lemon cultivation. Many of the lemon ranchers, however, were not Presbyterians and in 1901 a Methodist congregation was also established in Pacific Beach. At first the Methodists met at the Presbyterian church but in 1904 they purchased ten lots at the southeast corner of Lamont and Emerald streets and modified the existing building on the site for their own church building (in 1906, the Methodist minister, Henry Roissy, also purchased the former home of E. C. and Rose Hartwick Thorpe on the other side of Emerald Street, the northeast corner of Lamont and Emerald).

In the first years of the twentieth century the lemon industry also declined but real estate speculation, led by Folsom Bros. Co., generated new growth in the population, and in church congregations. The San Diego Union reported in April 1906 that Easter services in both Pacific Beach churches were well attended, especially the Methodist chapel; ‘Mr. Roissy being very much liked and an able speaker, the chapel will soon have to be enlarged’.

Fundraising for a new Methodist church included what the Union called a good, old-fashioned, healthy (for body, soul and pocket-book) box social held in the church parlor. ‘To the uninitiated-and there were many-the excitement of buying at auction, suppers, in dainty boxes; hunting the fair partners who had prepared them; then examining and partaking of the delicious feasts, was wholly enjoyable’ (attendance was good, in spite of inclement weather, and the treasurer was able to add $10 to the steadily growing church fund). If box socials were already old-fashioned in 1906, the custom may require explanation today. Young ladies would bring a dinner for two in an elaborately decorated box to the box social, where the boxes were auctioned off to the young men in attendance. When all the boxes had been claimed, the young men would discover which of the young ladies had prepared their box, then sit down to enjoy the contents with her. The proceeds of the auction would go to the church. The boxes were supposed to be anonymous, but it wasn’t unheard of for the girl who donated one to provide a favored boy with a hint.

Instead of enlarging their existing church building, the Methodists acquired one of the largest buildings in town and remodeled it. This building had originally been built in 1888 as a dance pavilion overlooking the beach near the foot of Grand Avenue and close to the terminus of the railway between San Diego and Pacific Beach. In 1896 lemon rancher Sterling Honeycutt had purchased the north half of Block 239, the south side of Hornblend Street between Lamont and Morrell streets, and moved the dance pavilion (and the hotel which had adjoined it) to this property, which was across Lamont from his lemon ranch. At its new location on the southwest corner of Hornblend and Morrell the former dance pavilion was also on the railway line to San Diego and Honeycutt had converted it into a lemon curing and packing plant. By 1906, however, the lemon business in Pacific Beach had also run its course, and Honeycutt, a founder and trustee of the Methodist Church in Pacific Beach, donated the packing house to the church. $2,500 in repairs was required to transform the building into the ‘beautiful church edifice’ that was dedicated in February 1907.

(SDHC #395-A)

The Pacific Beach Methodist Church (former dance pavilion, left) and Folsom Bros. Co. office, (former hotel, right), on Hornblend Street between Lamont and Morrell, dominate the PB skyline in 1908. Lamont Street is in foreground. (San Diego History Center #395-A)

In 1912 the old church property at Lamont and Emerald was sold to Bessie Davis, wife of San Diego Army and Navy Academy founder Capt. Thomas A. Davis. The Davises built a home on the property, which was just across Lamont Street from the academy, and spent the rest of their lives there. The Roissys sold the former Thorpe home to John L. Davis, Jr., Capt. Davis’ brother, in 1924 and ‘Mother’ Davis, their mother, lived there into the 1950s. That house burned down in 1957.

The Methodists continued to worship in the church at Hornblend and Morrell until 1922 when it was sold and apparently torn down. It had disappeared from the tax rolls by 1924 and for the next 25 years Methodists in Pacific Beach had to attend services elsewhere. As the population surged in the 1940s a new Pacific Beach Methodist Church was established in 1947, led by Rev. Alfred Hughes. This congregation met in a church building built for the Wee Kirk by-the-Sea in 1943 at the southeast corner of Emerald and Haines streets.

Wee Kirk by the Sea

A few months after re-establishment of the Methodist church at Emerald and Haines, the San Diego school district announced an ‘exchange of functions’ between the Pacific Beach Elementary School, then located on the north side of Emerald Street, across from the church, and the Pacific Beach Junior High School, then located where PB Elementary is now, at Fanuel and Tourmaline streets. The junior high school would occupy the site of the elementary school, which would be expanded to accommodate its expected growth. The school superintendent was authorized to acquire the two blocks of property south of the school, which included the Methodist church.

In May 1948 the school board offered the Methodist church $36,000 for the property and Rev. Hughes accepted (he also paid $5050 for a house and garage that the school auctioned off after acquiring another parcel in the expansion area, in what is now right field of the recreation center softball diamond). Rev. Hughes’ and most of the other buildings on the new school property were moved or cleared away before the school reopened in time for the 1950 school year. However, many former students of the junior high school (now PB Middle School) remember the church building still standing in the middle of their school playing fields into the 1960s.

A month after selling the former Wee Kirk by-the-Sea building to the school district, the Methodists dedicated a site at the southwest corner of Ingraham and Thomas streets for a new church. Former barracks buildings from Camp Callan in Torrey Pines were moved to the site and served as church buildings until a new sanctuary was built in 1959. This sanctuary and the former barracks (now known as Hughes Hall) remain the home of the second oldest church congregation in Pacific Beach.

Folsom Bros. Co.

In January 1902 the San Diego Union reported that a new real estate firm, Folsom Bros., whose ad appeared in another column, had located at 1015 Fourth Street; ‘These gentlemen are from the east, having business affiliations there, and are enthusiasts on San Diego’s climate and natural resources’. The ad in the other column announced that Folsom Brothers, 1015 Fourth St., had some parties coming to San Diego from the east early in the year who contemplated investing and making their homes here, and invited owners who had houses or good building lots for sale to call their office; ‘Your chance for a sale will be better with us, as we have been hustling on the quiet outside of San Diego for the past year and do not depend merely on local transfers’. The new company also acquired a two-seat steam Locomobile, enabling them to hustle around inside San Diego as well.

The Folsom brothers, Murtrie (M. W.) and Wilbur (W. A.), were in their mid-20s in 1902 and their enthusiasm for the local climate and natural resources might have been encouraged by their parents, Mark and Helen Folsom, who had relocated to San Diego a few years earlier. Shortly after their debut in the papers, in March 1902, they reported that one of the parties they had recently induced to come here from the east, A. J. Dula of North Carolina, had purchased a 5-acre orange and lemon ranch in Chula Vista for $5000, and that they had other sales on the way.

Aurelius J. Dula was a native of North Carolina, a Confederate veteran who had been wounded at Gettysburg and Cold Harbor and had been elected in 1895 to the North Carolina state senate. Although he was nearly 60 years old, he was also the Folsom brothers’ brother-in-law, having married their older sister Lillian in 1892. Although Dula and the Folsom brothers first collaborated on the lemon ranch in Chula Vista, they soon turned their attention to the Pacific Beach area and Pueblo Lot 1800, part of the endowment that the American city of San Diego had inherited from the Mexican pueblo and had granted to the San Diego Land and Town Company, a subsidiary of the Santa Fe Railroad, as a subsidy for building the railroad that connected San Diego to the east. Pueblo Lot 1800 is located within the perimeter of today’s Lamont Street and Crown Point, Moorland, Riviera and Pacific Beach Drives (pueblo lots were typically a half-mile square and 160 acres, but the southeast corner of this lot was cut off by Mission Bay).

In November 1902 A. J. Dula and O. M. Schmidt, a retired wholesale grocery merchant from St. Louis, purchased most of the east half of Pueblo Lot 1800, everything except the northerly 61 feet and 5 acres in the northeast corner, and filed a map subdividing it as Fortuna Park Addition. In February 1903 they bought most of the west half as well, everything except the northerly 61 feet and about 6 acres in the southwest corner, and filed a subdivision map for Second Fortuna Park Addition. Folsom Bros. Co., representing their brother-in-law and his business partner, placed ads in the local papers offering lots in these new subdivision for $25. A few months later, in August 1903, Dula granted all his right, title and interest in these two tracts (excepting any portions already sold) to M. W. Folsom, who in November 1903 granted this interest to his father, Mark Folsom (O. M. Schmidt followed suit in 1905, granting all of his remaining interest in Fortuna Park, Second Fortuna Park and all bay frontage or any other property in Pueblo Lot 1800 to Folsom Bros. Co.).

With a foothold in the Fortuna Park additions, Folsom Bros. Co. set its sights on the Pacific Beach subdivision on the other side of Pacific Avenue, as Pacific Beach Drive was then called. In 1903 Pacific Beach was primarily an agricultural community with an economy centered around lemon cultivation. The first lemon groves had been planted in 1892 and over the next few years had grown to cover over 300 acres. Nearly half of the 54 households in Pacific Beach enumerated in the 1900 census were lemon ranchers or involved in harvesting and packing lemons, and many of the rest were also engaged in agriculture, as ranchers, farmers, or farm laborers. The Folsom brothers believed that Pacific Beach had more potential as a residential district, and that this would be achieved by development; grading streets, lining them with curbs and sidewalks, and most importantly, building houses.

When the Pacific Beach Company had been dissolved in 1898 its unsold land in the Pacific Beach subdivision was distributed to the remaining stockholders, principally Oliver J. Stough, whose share amounted to about a hundred blocks, four thousand lots, nearly 660 acres or about 70% of the unimproved land in the subdivision. In November 1903 the San Diego Union reported that Pacific Beach had ‘changed owners’; the larger portion of the suburb had passed from Mr. Stough to the firm of Folsom Bros. Co. (although they noted that even with the deal closed and the papers in escrow the actual transfer was not expected to take place until later). When asked about their plans, M. W. Folsom replied that ‘improvement and development’ would best express what the future had in store for Pacific Beach. There would be houses, and lots of them, not mere renting or beachfront shacks, but homes, quiet, refined and beautiful homes. He declared that at least sixty first-class modern dwellings would be built within one year, probably constructed from cement blocks. He added that the original liquor-selling restrictions of the old Pacific Beach Company would be rigidly adhered to (all deeds granted by the Pacific Beach Company had included a clause banning the vending of intoxicating liquors, either directly or under some evasive guise). Folsom family members were among the participants in the planned housing boom; one of the first new homes, started in January 1904 at Thomas Avenue and Ingraham Street (then called Broadway), was to be the home of Mark Folsom. Plans were for it to be constructed of concrete, elaborately finished on the exterior, and surrounded by spacious lawns. The Dulas and Wilbur Folsom also built homes nearby on Broadway, while Murtrie Folsom’s home was on Garnet Avenue.

Folsom Bros. Co. also acquired other properties in Pacific Beach, including the hotel building which in 1897 had been relocated from its original location at the beach to the corner of Lamont and Hornblend streets, and in January 1904 it reopened as the Pacific Beach Hotel. In April they leased the 16-acre College Campus between Garnet Avenue and Jewell, Emerald and Lamont streets, together with buildings and improvements, and announced plans to convert the former San Diego College of Letters into a first class resort (the lease included an option to buy after one year, which Folsom Bros. Co. exercised in 1905). While the conversion was underway, Folsom Bros. Co. offered a $100 prize for the best name for their new hotel and in July 1904, after careful consideration of over 1200 entries, announced that the name finally selected was Hotel Balboa (the lucky winner, the first to suggest Balboa, had the choice of a $100 lot in PB or $100 in gold; nine other contestants, who had also mentioned Balboa, were given a consolation prize of $20 off any PB lot).

Hotel Balboa

Over the next few years Pacific Beach did undergo a period of growth which many attributed to the Folsom Bros. Co.’s activities. The Evening Tribune reported in April 1904 that the sale of building lots by Folsom Bros during the past week had been unprecedented and that the recent growth in the population of PB was due to the enterprise of Folsom Bros. Co.; ‘on a number of occasions no less than five teams might be seen conveying prospective buyers through the suburb’. In August 1904 the Union noted the marked success of Folsom Bros. Co. in developing the suburb; ‘the large number of new residences and the amount of improvements fully attest to the rapid advance of this section of the city’. Twenty-one families were said to have been added to the population in the previous month. In response to their own growth, the Folsom Bros. Company filed articles of incorporation in August 1904, adding O. W. Cotton, F. M. Elliot and B. S. Kirby as stockholders and directors.

In July 1906 Folsom Bros. Co. secretary O. W. Cotton wrote a glowing testimonial about his company for the San Diego Union in which he said that in their three and one-half years of business they had grown from employing three people until today their regular payroll included from fifty to sixty names, and that this was just the beginning of what they planned to accomplish. An Alabastine stone plant, a factory for the manufacture of artificial stone or concrete building blocks, which had started as a little experimental block yard at Pacific Beach employing four men now employed thirty with a factory downtown. They had remodeled and rebuilt the Pacific Beach college, named it Hotel Balboa, and now have one of the most delightful year-round hotels on the coast.

Dr. Martha Dunn Corey was the first physician in Pacific Beach and, with her husband, had been among the first to attempt lemon ranching. She had moved away in 1900 to practice medicine in Ohio and when she returned in 1906 to set up a practice in La Jolla she claimed to be delighted with the changes she saw. She found the growth and improvement remarkable and said that every old resident of Pacific Beach should thank Folsom Bros. Co. for what they had done. Not everyone was ready to thank Folsom Bros. Co. for the growth and improvement, however. In January 1907 Pacific Beach rancher Wilbur Conover sent a letter to the common council complaining that ‘real estate town lot boomers’ were destroying numbers of fine trees and making a barren waste of what was once a beautiful section while grading ‘useless and silly 80-foot streets’ that there was no need for and no one wanted. O. W. Cotton explained to the council that the trees were within the areas dedicated for streets and were above the grade of the streets and had to go.

The 1903 transactions making Folsom Bros. Co. ‘owners’ of Pacific Beach had not actually been finalized at the time and for several years M. W. and W. A. Folsom, or Folsom Bros. Co., were listed as ‘trustees’ of these properties in the city lot books. In December 1906 another blockbuster land deal was announced involving the same parties and the same properties, which Folsom Bros. Co. had ‘held under contract for some time’ according to the papers, and this time deeds were recorded and Folsom Bros. Co. did become the owners of most of Pacific Beach. At the same time it transferred some of the properties which it already owned in its own right, including the College Campus, to Union Title and Trust Co. The completion of these transactions was accompanied by a reorganization of Folsom Bros. Co., with a number of prominent citizens including A. H. Frost and O. M. Schmidt, and Pacific Beach residents Sterling Honeycutt and H. L. Littlefield, added as stockholders. Frost and Schmidt joined the Folsom brothers and Cotton on the board of directors.

With its ownership in the tract established and reinforced with additional stockholders and capital, Folsom Bros. Co. renewed its efforts to market lots in Pacific Beach. A series of ads appeared in the San Diego Union predicting rapid increases in property values and encouraging buyers to ‘buy as early as you can at Pacific Beach’. An opening sale of 250 building lots was announced for January 1, 1907. Pacific Building Company, recently incorporated by prominent business men of San Diego and stockholders of Folsom Bros. Co., would be open for business January 1, and would build houses costing from $1,500 to $10,000 at Pacific Beach for any lot owner. The Pacific Building Company did open for business and did build homes in the Pacific Beach area; the report of building permits in the San Diego Union in early 1907 generally included at least one for the company in Pacific Beach or Fortuna Park, mostly of the ‘up-to-date bungalow type’. One of these up-to-date bungalows, built for Joseph Israel in 1907, is still standing at the southwest corner of Reed Avenue and Morrell Street (Joseph Israel was the son of lighthouse keeper Robert Israel and had grown up in the old Point Loma lighthouse).

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In January 1907 work had begun on a ‘cut-off’ to allow the railway from San Diego to reach the Pacific Beach station at Grand Avenue and Lamont Street over the route of today’s Grand Avenue rather than the circuitous route it had taken around the former race track via Mission Bay Drive and Garnet and Balboa Avenues. The improvements to the line led to speculation that it would also be electrified, and possibly even continued beyond La Jolla to Los Angeles. Folsom Bros. Co. was quick to exploit the publicity surrounding the work; an ad in the Union announced that ‘dirt is flying’ on the new short-line to Pacific Beach, shortening the line and reducing travel time. It was the beginning of the re-construction of the whole line for rapid transit. The time to buy lots at Pacific Beach was NOW, not after the line was completed, since prices would be doubled and over on the day the first electric car passed.

Improvements to the infrastructure in Pacific Beach also continued in 1907. One project involved grading, curbs and sidewalks on Lamont Street from the railroad station at Grand Avenue north past the Folsom Bros. Co. offices in the former Pacific Beach Hotel and the Hotel Balboa to Emerald Street. Another project was improvement of the grounds of the Hotel Balboa itself and the grading of Kendall Street from the hotel to the bay, making a ‘splendid entrance into Fortuna Park’. A two-inch water main was also laid and ‘avenues of fine palms’ were planted.

In March 1908 Folsom Bros. Co. further increased its stake in Pacific Beach property, purchasing 366 lots from Madie Arnott Barr for $40,000. This property was in the eastern half of Pueblo Lot 1791 west of Ingraham Street between Felspar and Chalcedony. The company also purchased what the San Diego Union called the ‘front door’ to Pacific Beach; the property on the south side of Grand Avenue, between the Brae Mar railroad station at Bayard Street and the ocean, giving it a large ocean frontage at the foot of Grand, which the paper predicted would soon be ‘graded and oiled’.

Further changes also occurred in the corporate structure of Folsom Bros. Co. in 1908. In February of that year, W. W. Whitson bought out the shares of O. W. Cotton, its secretary, and O. M. Schmidt, its treasurer, and several other stockholders, and was elected vice-president and treasurer. Murtrie Folsom continued as president and Wilbur Folsom became second vice-president and secretary. Cotton left the company to become president and general manager of Pacific Building Company. Later in the same year, November 1908, the Folsom brothers bought out Whitson and several smaller stockholders. Two new directors, Philip Morse and Dr. F. R. Burnham, were added to the board of the company, which then owned 4000-5000 lots and improved property in Pacific Beach, including the Hotel Balboa, and was valued at $1 million.

However, growth in Pacific Beach had slowed after 1907 as potential residents were increasingly moving to the new districts opened up by the extension of street car lines north and east of downtown San Diego. The lists of building permits published in the Union in 1908 often showed that Pacific Building Company had taken out six or eight permits, but generally none were for Pacific Beach and instead were for areas such as Mission Hills, Hillcrest, North Park and Mountain View. One list in 1909 showed Pacific Building Company with ten permits, including three in Point Loma and Ocean Beach (which were served by an electric railway) but none in Pacific Beach (the electric cars of the rapid transit line that Folsom Bros. Co. had predicted never did pass through Pacific Beach and the railroad was scrapped in 1917, although a portion of the right-of-way along the beach was incorporated into the San Diego Electric Railway line to La Jolla via Mission Beach in 1924).

In 1907 the San Diego city directory listed 170 names in 125 households for Pacific Beach, more than double the number reported in 1903. One indication of Folsom Bros. Co.’s involvement in that growth was that 20 of these residents were directly employed by Folsom Bros. Co., including laborers, gardeners, salesmen, a cook and a waiter, presumably at the Hotel Balboa, and the Folsom brothers themselves. In 1909 the city directory listed 193 residents in Pacific Beach in 130 households, barely more than were listed in 1907. The rise in property values predicted by Folsom Bros. Co. ads had also failed to materialize. In 1907 they had reported the sale of 125 lots at an average of $250. In 1909 pairs of lots in a bay-front block with unlimited views were selling for $295. The Hotel Balboa, which Folsom Bros. Co. had created from the former San Diego College of Letters in 1905 and turned into a ‘first class resort’ also did not live up to expectations. In 1909 a portion of the hotel was leased to the Pacific Beach Country Club and in 1910 the entire campus became the San Diego Army and Navy Academy.

In January 1910 the Folsom brothers announced that they had retired from active management of Folsom Bros. Co., and were joining forces with D. C. Collier, one of San Diego’s leading real estate firms, to form the Collier-Folsom Sales Offices (although they continued to hold a large stock interest in the company they had founded). A. H. Frost became president of Folsom Bros. Co. and in January 1911 changed its name to San Diego Beach Company. San Diego Beach Company, initially based in the same offices at the former Pacific Beach Hotel building, continued to own much of Pacific Beach and was a major player in the PB real estate market for decades. Ironically, one of its first major real estate transactions was the August 1910 sale of its interests in Fortuna Park, the Folsoms’ first foothold in the Pacific Beach area, to the Asher-Mollison Company.

The Folsom brothers’ association with D. C. Collier was brief, and by 1911 they were again in business together as the Folsom Investment Company, Pacific Beach property a specialty, with Murtrie as president and manager and Wilbur as vice-president and treasurer. They also still lived in Pacific Beach; Wilbur’s family, his mother Helen and the Dulas were neighbors on Broadway (Ingraham Street), and Murtrie’s family lived on Garnet Avenue. By 1912, however, they had all moved away from Pacific Beach (also to the new streetcar suburbs) and for the next ten or twelve years the brothers worked independently as salesmen and real estate agents.

After a long period of stagnation, the real estate market in Pacific Beach began to show signs of life again in the early 1920s. In 1924 Earl Taylor established a Pacific Beach business district centered at the corner of Garnet Avenue and Cass Street and anchored by the Dunaway Pharmacy building, built in 1925. In 1924, the San Diego Electric Railway opened the ‘Beach Line’ between downtown San Diego and La Jolla via Mission Beach which ran along what is now Mission Boulevard in Pacific Beach and was expected to boost the local economy in general and real estate values in particular. Once again, grading, paving and sidewalking of a new business center, this time on Garnet Avenue between Cass and the beach, was underway.

The Folsom brothers joined the anticipated real estate boom and attempted to re-enter the market they had dominated two decades earlier. For about a month, in June 1924, they advertised as Folsom Bros., general sales and development agents for Consolidated Pacific Beach Properties with their office, ‘Headquarters for Pacific Beach real estate’, at Garnet and Cass. However, while they maintained an office in PB for several more years by June 1926 their occasional ads in the Union, ‘Shank for bargains. He knows values at Pacific Beach’, referred readers to Joseph Shank, mgr. city office, Folsom Bros, 1126 7th St. In October 1926 Geo. Hawley announced that his company had opened an office at 1148 7th and that Folsom Bros. would also make it their city headquarters. In the end, the revival of the real estate market in Pacific Beach was brief, the great depression of the 1930s led to another downturn, and Folsom Bros. disappeared from the real estate scene.

In the 1930s Murtrie Folsom was described in city directories as a publisher or writer and on the 1940 census described himself as a statistician. In the 1940s, styling himself an ‘economic engineer’, he developed the idea for a ‘low-grade’ highway, a highway with grades of less than 3% and a maximum elevation of 4000 feet, between San Diego and Imperial County. He formed the Southwest Express Highway Association to promote his views and even travelled to Washington in the early years of the war to try to interest the military. Wilbur Folsom continued to sell real estate with occasional ads for individual properties in the local papers.

Although Folsom Bros. Co. actually owned the majority of Pacific Beach in the first decade of the twentieth century, and spent years improving and developing it, what little evidence there is of those activities is easily overlooked today. Gangs of men and teams of horses working for the company graded the streets and put in the cement curbs and sidewalks in some of the older sections of the community, especially in the area around Lamont and Kendall streets and Grand and Garnet avenues. The streets have since been paved but otherwise remain the same, and many sections of the curbs and sidewalks appear to date from those days. The most visible legacy of Folsom Bros. Co. though are the ‘avenues of fine palms’ which still line parts of Lamont Street and, after more than a century of growth, tower over the community that has also grown just like the Folsom brothers said it would.

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The House Next Door

 

Gridley Ranch House, Diamond Street, 1968

Gridley/McConnell Ranch House, 1790 Diamond Street, 1968

An old 2-story frame house with white siding, green trim, a shingle roof and a brick chimney stood next door to our home on Diamond Street during the 1950s and 60s. Widening and paving the street had cut into the front yard leaving a badly eroded bank down to the sidewalk. An unpaved driveway cut through this bank on the east side and led to a garage at the back of the lot. There was a patio with a large brick outdoor fireplace or incinerator in the yard and a fish pond with large goldfish by the side of the house.

Our lot and the lot that this old house sat on were separated by a cement-block wall with bricks on top. The unpaved alley that ran behind both of our lots all the way between Jewell and Lamont Street was also blocked by a wooden fence along this same line, and by another fence further west, so this portion of the alley was blocked off from either end. We always wondered why.

It turns out that the cement-block wall and the fence in the alley marked the boundary between two historical Pacific Beach ‘acre lots’, and the blocked section of alley was a consequence of the different ways these two acre lots had been developed. When the Pacific Beach Company first sold lots to the public in December 1887 their map of Pacific Beach was a grid of north-south streets and east-west avenues which divided the entire area into residential blocks of 40 lots each. However, the Pacific Beach Company found that most people preferred to buy lots in a central corridor centered around Grand Avenue, which was also the route of the railroad to San Diego. To encourage sales in the outlying areas to potential farmers and ranchers, the company filed an amended subdivision map in 1892 in which most of the area south of Reed Avenue and north of Diamond Street (then Alabama Avenue) was consolidated into ‘acre lots’ of about 10 acres each, eliminating many of the original streets and avenues. In our area, Missouri Avenue and Jewell and Kendall Streets (then Ninth and Tenth Streets) were removed and Acre Lot 48 formed from the land between Diamond and Chalcedony (then Idaho) and what had been Jewell and the east side of Kendall on the original map. Acre Lot 49 was the land east of Kendall between Chalcedony, Diamond and Lamont (Eleventh) Street.

The acre lots went on sale in 1892 for $100 an acre and both of these lots were quickly sold. Mary E. Rowe purchased Acre Lot 49 and developed a lemon ranch on the property. Her 2-story ranch house stood near the center of the lot, where the apartments at 1828-1840½ Missouri Street are now (the large palm tree in front of these apartments once stood in front of the Rowe ranch house). Mrs. Rowe had moved to Pacific Beach in 1889 and her daughters Evangeline and Mabel had been students at the San Diego College of Letters. Her lemon ranching venture began successfully and by 1897 the San Diego Union singled her out  in reporting that ‘the ladies of Pacific Beach were justly proud of their ranches’; hers was then valued at $9000.

Mrs. Rowe moved to Los Angeles in 1900 and left the lemon ranch in the hands of her son Percy. However, by then the lemon business had seen its day and the new century brought another ‘boom’ in residential development. In 1903 Acre Lot 49 was sold to John and Julia Hauser and the Hausers re-subdivided the property into residential lots. The map for Hauser’s Addition reinstated Missouri Street and re-established the original two blocks of 40 25 X 125 foot lots which had preceded the acre lot. Like the originals, and most other blocks in Pacific Beach, these blocks included a 20-foot wide alley. Julia Hauser died in 1937, John Hauser remarried in 1939, and in 1950 my parents bought lots 39 and 40 of Block 2, Hausers Addition, from Martha Hauser, his widow. Block 2 was between Diamond and Missouri Streets and lots 39 and 40 were at the southwest corner, on Diamond Street adjoining Acre Lot 48.

By contrast, Acre Lot 48 has never been re-subdivided and was broken up piecemeal over the years into the irregularly-sized lots that exist today. In 1892 Hannah Cogswell had acquired the western half and Milton Trumbauer the eastern half; Trumbauer’s deed specified that his property had a frontage of 290 feet on ‘Alhambra’ (Alabama) Avenue, a depth of 680 feet and contained 4.65 acres. Today this would be from the cement-block wall half way down the block toward Jewell Street, and from Diamond Street to Chalcedony. Trumbauer did not hold on to his half of the lot for long; by 1894 county records show that the E 1/2 of Acre Lot 48 was owned by Fannie B. Gridley.

The old house on the property was built for Mrs. Gridley in 1896 by E. C. Thorpe, the contractor (and lemon rancher) who was also the husband of the famous poet Rose Hartwick Thorpe. Mrs. Thorpe’s 1896 diary mentions that he secured the contract to build the house on January 6, commenced work on January 13 and that it was finished by March 11, 1896, despite occasional delays due to rain. The status of the Gridleys’ house was also reported in the Pacific Beach Notes column of the San Diego Union and Evening Tribune; on February 24, 1896 the note was that Mrs. Gridley’s house was nearing completion and would soon be ready for occupancy and on March 15 Mrs. Gridley was said to be moving into her new home. These reports are confirmed by county records; beginning in 1897 the ‘value of improvements’ on the E 1/2 of Acre Lot 48 ($250) corresponded to about what other houses in Pacific Beach were assessed at in those days.

The Gridleys remained in the house for six years and were noted in other Pacific Beach Notes; in 1899 Mr. Gridley was thrown from his carriage and badly injured in a runaway accident and in 1900 Miss Kate Gridley left for Stanford University on Sunday’s steamer. In 1902 they sold their half of the acre lot to Francis Kinney and in 1903 Kinney sold to J. W. Stump. The Stumps were prominent in organizing the Pacific Beach Methodist Church, which was then located at the corner of Lamont and Emerald, just a block away. When Mrs. Stump’s health compelled them to move in 1906  a procession of about forty people from the church marched over for a surprise party bearing food and gifts.

The Stumps also initiated the haphazard re-subdivision of Acre Lot 48 by splitting off the southeast quarter of their eastern half, where their house stood, and selling the remainder to Sterling Honeycutt. Honeycutt was a prominent real estate developer in Pacific Beach at the time and he proceeded to carve up his portion of the property into residential lots, while also setting aside land for the westward extension of Missouri Street and the alleys laid out in Hausers Addition to the east.

The southeastern corner of Acre Lot 48 was put on the market by real estate agents Asher & Littlefield who placed the following ad in the February 11, 1907, Union:

Here’s a Money Maker

At Pacific Beach, a beautiful southeast corner, 125X270, with a nice 8-room house, bath, hot and cold water, fireplace, etc.: barn, chicken house, 30 lemon trees in full bearing, 5 peach trees, 11 guava bushes, 2 fig trees, flowers, shrubs, etc. This is on Diamond avenue, and only one block from Hotel Balboa. Would be a good buy at $5000. Our price is only $4000.

(Hotel Balboa was the most recent occupant of the defunct San Diego College of Letters buildings; they were taken over by the San Diego Army and Navy Academy in 1910 and demolished to make room for Pacific Plaza in 1958.)

This 125 X 270 parcel, a strip 125 feet wide on the east line of the lot between Diamond Street and Missouri, including the house, barn, chicken house and fruit trees, was sold in 1906 to Ralph Houck. In 1912 it was sold again, to Kate McConnell. The McConnell family, Thomas and Elizabeth and their 9 children, had immigrated from Ireland to Iowa in 1881. In 1897, one of the sons, also named Thomas, had moved to Pacific Beach and began buying agricultural properties. In 1900 he had been joined by his father, sister Kate and brother John, and the McConnell family became well-established in Pacific Beach.

Although Miss McConnell granted easements to Pacific Telephone and Telegraph Company and San Diego Consolidated Gas & Electric Company for a telephone line and natural gas pipeline above and under her property in what would later become the alley, the parcel between Diamond and Missouri remained intact for decades until she sold to Arthur and Marion Hansen in 1946. Within a year the Hansens had divided the property into three parcels and sold them off. The east 65 feet of the south 125 feet, between Diamond Street and the future alley, including the old house, was sold to Roy and Catherine Pridemore in 1947. The west 60 feet of the south 125 feet was also sold in 1947, to Florence Dreher. The Pridemores acquired Ms. Dreher’s  lot in 1948 and in 1950 sold off the west 50 feet of their combined property while retaining the east 75 feet. These two properties thus came to resemble normal Pacific Beach residential parcels made up of 25 X 125-foot lots.

The remaining parcel, the north 145 feet of the east 125 feet, between these properties and Missouri Street, was much larger and was initially advertised as suitable for a motel. While other lots carved out of larger tracts in Acre Lot 48 had set aside land for public alleys and even for Missouri Street, there was no such exception for this parcel. The south 20 feet stood in the way of the 20-foot-wide alleys on either side and fences were built to block access from the alleys. Raymond and Clara Butchart purchased it from the Hansens in 1947 and in 1965 they finally granted the city an easement over that 20-foot strip. The fences were then removed and the alley opened and paved from Jewell to Lamont Streets.

The house itself, one of the last remaining ranch houses from Pacific Beach’s acre lots, stood for a few years after that. In 1968 the property was sold and the old buildings demolished and replaced by a 12-unit apartment complex, the Tiffany, which now practically fills the 75 X 125 foot lot. Our former home, remodeled with the addition of a second story, has also been sold. The two properties are still divided by a cement-block wall.

 

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Gridley/McConnell House