Originally Pacific Beach

Pacific Beach, now a lively suburb of San Diego, began as a quiet college town (today’s popular watering-hole was then proud to have no saloons). The community also once hosted one of San Diego’s most important industrial sites and its premier sports venue, and all of this was tied together and connected to downtown by the latest in public transit. Hundreds of acres of prime agricultural land produced carloads of fruit, and later flowers, and then much of it was expropriated to house thousands of wartime defense workers. Along the way, generations of ‘manly boys’ were introduced to military drill and discipline while ‘pretty and popular girls’ enjoyed elegant garden parties at a beachfront mansion (and they sometimes met, and even married). Virtually nothing from this earlier era remains to be seen in Pacific Beach today; even the most monumental landmarks have disappeared. But records and accounts buried in the archives for a century or more have now been brought to light, and these long-gone days brought to life, in Originally Pacific Beach: Looking Back at the Heritage of a Unique Community (a few landmarks have survived too, if you know where to look).

15 thoughts on “Originally Pacific Beach”

  1. My daughter forwarded this to me because we stll grow great citrus in PB. I’m a PB native, vintage 1946. My wife and I live in the Barnes-Robinson house on Kendall Street. It was built about 1912 by the grandfather of Laura Curry, who visited us in the fall of 2014, while she was in PB for her 75th reunion at La Jolla High School. The Barnes family lived in the beach, but ran cattle in what is now Sorrento Valley. Paul Robinson married into the family in 1940, and sold us our house in 1992.
    Paul farmed the land between Olney and Rose Creek (beans and corn) until the government bought it in 1940 or 41 to build Bayview Terrace. I lived on the northeast corner of Reed and Olney from 1950-55, when the “project” was torn down.

  2. It sounds like you live in the house that was built for J. M. Asher Jr.’s family in 1913. You may be interested in what I found out about them. It must have been interesting talking with Laura Curry.

  3. We are at 1860 Law, aka Lot 34 or “Ondawa Grove.”
    Just found your story, excellent work. Would be great to talk.

  4. Thank you, and it would be great. I’ve also seen “Ondewa” and “Oradawa”, which supposedly means “rushing waters”, and it was changed in 1903 to “Los Flores”. Have you been there long?

  5. I was wondering if might the author or anyone here have ANY information, or especially ANY PICTURES of (or in or around of) the TRAILER PARK which was located on the FIRST 1/2 BLOCK of GARNET STREET. It reached south to HORNBLEND STREET, with the alley on one side and OCEAN BLVD. ,which is now a WALKWAY, along the beach. I know of ONE picture but it’s not a very descriptive shot. That picture says TRAIL’S END TRAILER COURT. Large condos are there now. At the end of that alley on HORNBLEND STREET STILL stands a house – built a century or so ago, and it has the same color today (2017), as it did in then-in the early 1950’s– YELLOW! I believe it to be VERY MUCH of an HISTRICAL LANDMARK and another question I have is whether or not anybody here has been AWARE of this fact? I shrudder to think of anything else being there . Also there was OSCAR’S carhop restaurant on MISSION & GARNET and so was the FOOD BASKET supermarket; — that building today is a re-model with several business’ contained.. LOTS of memories remain and I was hoping for a response from somebody. THANK YOU.

  6. The San Diego History Center research library in Balboa Park has lots of photos of the Trail’s End Auto Camp, and probably of Oscars and Food Basket too, although I don’t remember. I would recommend checking that out. Their online photo gallery has photos of PB too, under Communities – P. The house at the end of the alley sounds like 722 Hornblend, which was first listed in the 1933 city directory. There were no improvements on that lot before then, but there were on the other two lots on Hornblend between the alley and Mission Blvd. The one at the corner where Wienerschnitzel was had a house as early as 1907 and was owned by F. T. Scripps. The house in the middle, next door to the yellow one, is over a century old. It was built in 1913 and was featured in a 1918 photo spread of PB, described as ‘Cottage at Ocean Front – Pacific Beach – Showing sample of cottage for rent’.

  7. Does anyone have information and especially photos of the Army & Navy Academy that was located there?
    My father attended school there in around the mid 1920’s.
    Charles R Paulson

  8. Yes there is a fair amount of information about the academy. Both John Fry’s and my own book about Pacific Beach history have chapters about it (you can also read my book, Originally Pacific Beach, on this site, under the Bookshelf menu). There is also a post on this site about the academy. There are some photos in these sources. The San Diego History Center photo collection has some photos, but mostly before and after the 1920s. I found a newspaper article (with pictures) from June 1927 about the academy graduation; one of the graduates was Charles Paulson. I’ll email it to you.

  9. Thank you for all your research and posts! It’s fascinating learning about the history of PB.

    I was wondering if you know why some houses don’t have sidewalks in front of them and also why there are still dirt alleys?

    I’ve come across these and have just been curious. Some examples of no sidewalk are Tourmaline and Dawes and also Oliver and Dawes.


  10. I think the answer is that the city council has to pass a resolution to build a sidewalk or pave an alley and that is not always done, perhaps because no-one has petitioned for it or because someone is opposed to it. I don’t know about these particular locations, but I’ll see what I can find out. In general, PB streets are 80 feet wide, which includes about 40 feet between the curbs and about 20 feet on each side between the curb and the private lot, all of which is public property. Most blocks have a 20-foot alley, which is also public property. At one time adjoining property owners had to pay for sidewalks, which would be one reason to oppose them. Perhaps that’s still true.

  11. Thanks for your excellent work on Japanese Americans in Pacific Beach! I am the retired archivist for the Japanese American Historical Society of SD, and wanted to offer some additional information. In 1943, the government allowed Japanese Americans to relocate out of the camps, but then had to sign a “Loyalty Questionaire.” Questions 27 and 28 of that document were problematic, and those who answered No to each were viewed as disloyal, with many ending up in the Segregation portion of Tule Lake (this center started out as a standard internment camp, and the prison part was added later.) Colloquially those giving negative responses were known as “No No Boys”, a somewhat derogative term. It took me a long time to get some local San Diegans to share that they, or family members, were No Nos.

  12. Thank you for this information. I hadn’t heard about the ‘No No Boys’. Does the JAHS have any more details about the PB truck farmers?

  13. I loved the entry about the Encinitas Copper Mines! I live right near those and I’ve hiked through the area and read about some of the history. I would love to learn more about the surrounding area and how settlements developed. Where might I find more info?

  14. The San Dieguito Heritage Museum on Quail Gardens Drive has exhibits and staff who know a lot about the local history. They also have books. Colony Olivenhain by Richard Bumann is a good source of information about the area and has a photo and description of the copper mines.

  15. Thank you for the detailed history of Brown Military Academy! My dad went there 1956-57, right before they tore it down to make way for a shopping center.

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Looking back at what used to be . . . mostly in San Diego and especially Pacific Beach.