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.
A recurring news story in recent years has been yet another bluff collapse where the railroad line passes above the beach in Del Mar. At the end of February 2021 it was a section of bluff just south of 4th Street that gave way. No-one was injured in this incident but as a precautionary measure trains have been required to pass through the area at reduced speeds. In November 2019 heavy rains and stormwater runoff caused a bluff collapse south of Seagrove Park that came within a few feet of the tracks. Trains continued to run under restricted speed limits then too but for months the line was shut down on weekends to allow construction crews to shore up the bluff with steel plates and a reinforced concrete wall. Before that, between August 2018 and February 2019, six bluff collapses had occurred in a two-mile section of the Del Mar bluffs causing short-term interruptions of passenger service on the railroad. After each of these incidents it was noted that the bluffs are eroding at an average rate of 6 inches annually and that San Diego’s only active railway connection to the outside will eventually have to be moved inland, away from the top of the bluffs, a move that will cost an estimated three billion dollars and require decades to complete. The potential alternative routes will all require tunnels or a deep trench under Del Mar and after the latest incident the San Diego Union-Tribune reported that a drilling rig was on the streets taking soil samples from 200 feet below.
Ironically, this section of the railroad line has already been moved once before – from a safe inland route over the streets of Del Mar to the now precarious location on the ocean bluffs. In 1881 the California Southern Railroad began laying tracks north from a terminus on San Diego Bay to connect with the Atlantic and Pacific Railroad, a transcontinental railroad then being built across northern Arizona. The California Southern line ran north through Rose Canyon and over the Miramar divide to Sorrento Valley, where it crossed the eastern edge of Los Penasquitos Lagoon on a causeway then climbed the ridge north of the lagoon toward Del Mar (portions of this right of way can still be seen south of Ocean View Avenue). It passed through Del Mar on Railroad Avenue, today’s Stratford Court, where a depot was located at about 9th Street. From the north end of Railroad Avenue the line descended towards a crossing of the San Dieguito River and continued along the coast to Oceanside.
Beyond Oceanside the route originally went inland along the Santa Margarita River to Temecula and Colton, then through Cajon Pass to Barstow and a connection with the A & P. That line was abandoned after several washouts in the Santa Margarita valley and rail traffic from San Diego was switched to the ‘surf line’, the route between Oceanside and Los Angeles still in use today. The surf line was later incorporated into the Santa Fe Railroad and since 1992 the portion in San Diego County has been owned by the North County Transit District, which operates Coaster commuter trains between San Diego and Oceanside.
The California Southern was still running over the streets of Del Mar in 1905 when the South Coast Land Company acquired much of the property in the community and in other coastal communities as far north as Oceanside and embarked on an ambitious program to develop the area. This company was headed by four wealthy businessmen from Los Angeles, Henry Huntington, William Kerckhoff, Henry Keller and Charles Canfield, and also Ed Fletcher, a San Diego real estate promoter. Huntington had consolidated regional rail lines in and around Los Angeles into the Pacific Electric interurban rail system in 1901 and since then had been expanding it into cities and towns surrounding Los Angeles. Huntington and Kerckhoff jointly owned of the Pacific Light and Power Company, which provided electric power in the Los Angeles area, including to the Pacific Electric. Keller and Canfield were financiers, having made fortunes in land (Keller had sold the Malibu ranch in 1892) and oil (Canfield and Edward Doheny drilled LA’s first ‘gusher’ in 1892). Fletcher was a land agent with extensive knowledge of San Diego’s rural back country.
The development plan was modeled on previous ventures in which many of the same businessmen had bought up tracts of land in undeveloped areas, extended the electric railroad and utilities they controlled into these areas and profited by selling building lots and water and power to the thousands of new residents they attracted. In San Diego County water and power were to be provided by a huge new power station on the San Luis Rey River for which Fletcher would arrange the purchase of dam sites and water rights. Fletcher also mapped out the building lots in new subdivisions, beginning with Del Mar. For rail service, the plan was to build an electric line between Del Mar and San Diego that would eventually connect with Huntington’s Pacific Electric in Santa Ana.
In January 1907 Keller and Kerckhoff obtained a franchise to build and operate a railroad within the city of San Diego. San Diego’s city limits extend north as far as the Del Mar bluffs and the Keller-Kerckhoff railroad was intended to follow a route across the western side of Los Penasquitos lagoon toward these bluffs. In Del Mar the route would continue along the bluffs to where they end at about 15th Street, where a new station would be built close to the hotel the land company intended to build. Construction began at the San Diego end in mid-December 1907 and by May 1908 grading of a roadbed was underway north of the San Diego River. Fletcher proceeded to map and acquire property for the remainder of the right of way to Del Mar, which was initially expected to include a tunnel under Mount Soledad.
However, while an expansion of the Pacific Electric to San Diego may have appealed to Henry Huntington and the South Coast Land Company the prospect of new competition was not welcomed by the existing steam railroads and although Huntington was a founder and president he did not own a controlling interest in Pacific Electric. E. H. Harriman, president of the Southern Pacific railroad, also held a large position in Pacific Electric and made it known that he would oppose extending it to San Diego. With its future link to Pacific Electric effectively blocked by Harriman, interest in the Keller-Kerckhoff railroad to Del Mar faded and construction work was discontinued. It was never completed, and the power station on the San Luis Rey River was also never built, but the land company did succeed in developing Del Mar into a resort community. The company’s principals were among the first to acquire building lots and many built summer homes there.
The Keller-Kerckhoff railroad never arrived but its right of way in and around Del Mar offered lower elevations, more favorable grades and fewer curves than the original California Southern route followed by the Santa Fe. In 1909 the right of way was acquired by the Santa Fe and two steam shovels and a force of about 300 men were employed to grade a roadbed and lay tracks. The new route along the blufftop and on an embankment that sloped up from the lagoon to the southern end of the bluffs replaced the old route’s steep climb into Del Mar. When the first train passed over the completed line in August 1910 the Union reported that hundreds of citizens lined the tracks along the bluff for nearly two miles waving enthusiastically. The Santa Fe had built 8 ¼ miles of railroad, reducing the grade from 2.2 to 1.4 percent but adding only 87 feet to the actual distance. Three of the worst grade crossings on the line had also been eliminated.
Del Mar historian Nancy Hanks Ewing also credits the South Coast Land Company for the building that served as the Del Mar station from 1910 to 1995. She wrote that W. G. Kerckhoff disliked the ornate two-story frame structures then in use by railroads and when designing a new depot on the proposed route of the new electric railroad he patterned it after Pacific Electric stations in the Los Angeles area – long, low, and of red brick. The Santa Fe completed the red brick station building to serve Del Mar after their new blufftop line opened and the original route and station on Stratford Court were abandoned. It is still standing at the side of the tracks near the beach at Del Mar but trains no longer stop there, stopping instead at the transit center in Solana Beach a few miles up the line.
The challenges to the blufftop route around Del Mar were apparent from the very beginning. In 1910 the San Diego Union wrote that construction of the new cut-off was ‘apparently an impossible engineering feat’. A particularly difficult area was nicknamed Devil’s Canyon because of its ‘habit of spitting an immense volume of water out at the new work at the wrong time’. The engineers addressed that difficulty by building a retaining wall 80 feet in length and 16 feet high with a drainage culvert at its base and an earthen embankment above the wall where the rails were laid. However, heavy rains in December 1940 softened the roadbed on the embankment and a northbound freight train ran off the rails. The engine and a number of empty boxcars slid down the slope toward the beach, the engineer and fireman in the engine’s cab were scalded to death by the steam, and a brakeman was crushed to death between two cars. The Union noted that a northbound passenger train bearing holiday crowds had passed the spot safely twenty minutes earlier. There have been no more actual train wrecks on the Del Mar bluffs but the constant erosion and increasingly frequent collapses of the bluffs affirm that the blufftop railroad ultimately is an impossible engineering feat and the railroad through Del Mar will be moved once again.
He came to build a college, a scientific and literary light-house which would guide people into the golden harbor of wealth, culture, character and happiness, but his own passage into this harbor was thrown off course by turbulence in his domestic life. The tabloids of the day spread the rumor that his wife had rediscovered her first love and ‘on by-streets and in moon-lit cover’ had enjoyed ‘enchanting trysts’. She left town, a divorce suit followed, and then came news that she had died. He also organized the local church and became its first minister, and finding himself single again he married the Sunday school pianist, a 16-year-old girl who had once been his own sons’ playmate. After only a few months the yellow press struck again with a story that she had fallen for a youthful instructor at the college and flown the coop. She denied the rumor about the instructor but defended her decision to split, adding that the marriage was through the influence of others, not of her own free will. Another divorce suit followed. This was Pacific Beach in 1889.
Cecil Spencer (C. S.) Sprecher was born in 1846 in Chambersburg, Pennsylvania, where his father Samuel Sprecher was pastor of the Lutheran Church. In 1849 his father became president of Wittenberg College in Springfield, Ohio, serving as president until 1874 and remaining there as a professor until 1884. C. S. Sprecher attended Wittenberg where he received a BA degree in 1868 and a DD degree in 1871. He was ordained a Lutheran minister in 1871 and in 1872, while pastor-elect of the Lutheran Church of Tiffin, Ohio, was married to Irene (Rena) Robinson, of nearby Bucyrus. He later served as pastor in Lutheran churches in Findlay and Ashland in Ohio. In October 1883 The Mail of Stockton, California, reported that Rev. C. S. Sprecher of Ashland had been engaged to occupy the pulpit of the First Presbyterian Church in that city and would preach there next Sunday. He had not only moved most of the way across the country but had switched denominations (his older brother Samuel had preceded him to become a prominent Presbyterian minister in Oakland and San Francisco).
C. S. and Irene Sprecher brought four children with them to Stockton; Samuel (born 1873), James (1875), Katherine (1879) and Blanche (1881). In September 1885 ‘Jimmie’ Sprecher was a guest at a 13th birthday party there for Miss Eunice Stacey. Misses Lillie Logan, Maude Gilbert and Myrtle Visher were also among the guests. The next month James and Samuel Sprecher and Misses Logan and Stacey were guests at a surprise party given for Miss Visher. However, the Sprechers’ stay in Stockton was relatively brief; The Mail reported in December 1886 that the Rev. C. S. Sprecher had left town on the steamer Mary Garratt and after spending a few days in San Francisco he would go to Los Angeles to take charge of a church in that city. That church was the Second Presbyterian Church at the corner of Daly and Downey (now North Broadway) in East LA.
The Sprechers’ time in Los Angeles was even shorter. In July 1887 the San Diego Union reported that Rev. C. S. Sprecher, the prominent preacher and educator, had arrived in San Diego and that Professor Davidson, of Springfield, Ohio, would arrive in a few days; ‘these gentlemen are associated with Harr Wagner in locating a high grade college in the vicinity of San Diego’. A month later the San Francisco Examiner reported from Los Angeles that Rev. C. S. Sprecher, pastor of the Second Presbyterian Church, had resigned to take charge of a new Presbyterian college to be established at San Diego, endowed by a syndicate of capitalists who were building a city on False Bay, north of San Diego. The regents would be C. S. Sprecher, F. P. Davidson and Harr Wagner.
Harr Wagner was editor of the San Diego literary magazine Golden Era which had been promoting a college in San Diego. F. P. Davidson was Sprecher’s brother-in-law, married to his sister Ella. Both Wagner and Davidson were also Wittenberg graduates. The ‘syndicate of capitalists’ mentioned by the Examiner was the Pacific Beach Company and their city on False Bay was to be christened Pacific Beach (False Bay was also to be christened Mission Bay). A prime four-block location in the center of the tract (now Pacific Plaza) was reserved for the college campus. The San Diego College Company was incorporated in August 1887 with Wagner, Sprecher and Davidson as the principal stockholders and directors. In October 1887 college company president Sprecher formally accepted the college campus property from the Pacific Beach Company. Back in Stockton a surprise party was given to Miss Maude Gilbert and the time was pleasantly spent in games and refreshments. Among the young folks present was Miss Eunice Stacey, who would have been 15.
The cornerstone for San Diego College of Letters was laid with great ceremony on January 28, 1888. The San Diego Union reported that college president C. S. Sprecher delivered the keynote address on ‘The Influence of the College in opening up the Higher Avenues of Wealth and Happiness’, concluding with the promise that San Diego College would become a ‘scientific and literary light-house, guiding the people of the city and the world into the golden harbor of wealth, culture, character and happiness’. The cornerstone was then loaded with copies of the Union and other local papers, the addresses given on the occasion and a Bible, and lowered into place while Rev. Sprecher declared that ‘we lay the corner-stone of San Diego College – unsectarian but not un-Christian – her faith the faith of Christendom – her hope the hope of the civilized Christian world’. The City Guard Band played the national anthem and the ceremonies were concluded with a benediction (when the college building was razed in 1958 workers reportedly found a tin baking soda can containing old newspapers).
As work on the college continued through the summer of 1888, Rev. Sprecher took the opportunity to spread the influence of the Presbyterian church around the San Diego area. The San Diego Union reported in March that Rev. Sprecher, Rev. Seward and Rev. Noble had organized a Presbyterian church in the school-house at Coronado Beach with twenty-four parishioners and in July the Union reported that Rev. C. S. Sprecher, D.D., of Pacific Beach College, would preach for the Presbyterians at that old school building ‘across the bay’. However, out-of-town papers found more sensational news about Rev. Sprecher to report from San Diego. A July 1888 San Francisco Examiner headline read ‘Not Dimmed by Time’; ‘The affection a minister’s wife retains for her first love’, and ‘Meetings by moonlight’. According to the Examiner, ‘social circles of San Diego’ and the ‘Presbyterian stratum in particular’, were startled by an announcement that Rev. C. S. Sprecher had applied for a divorce. A little inquiry elicited the fact that the couple were not occupying their home and the estrangement was long standing and permanent.
The Mail from Rev. Sprecher’s recent home of Stockton summarized the news; ‘When the Rev. Mr. Sprecher and his pretty wife left Stockton some time ago and went to San Diego, Mrs. Sprecher was delighted to find a former lover there. The pastor and his wife have now separated, although the matrimonial knot has not as yet been untied by the courts’. The Alameda Daily Argus was more succinct; ‘Rev. Sprecher seeks a divorce. Mrs. S. admires a jeweler’. However, in the Bucyrus Evening Telegraph, the Ohio town where Rev. Sprecher had preached and Irene Robinson had lived, and where they were married in 1872, there was skepticism about the Examiner’s account of the affair in its ‘usual sensational style’. Noting that both Mr. and Mrs. Sprecher were well known there, the Telegraph dismissed the contention that prior to her marriage she had known and loved one J. K. Boyse, ‘which all here know is false’. The Telegraph concluded that the article was ‘probably exceedingly overdrawn’, and the Examiner had ‘drawn upon its imagination in the absence of facts, and at the expense of justice’.
While newspapers across the country were discussing the Sprechers’ marital situation, nothing could be found in the San Diego Union. Instead, an article in September 1888 reported that Rev. Sprecher, again with Revs. Seward and Noble, held a meeting in the reception room of the college at Pacific Beach to organize a Presbyterian church. The Pacific Beach Presbyterian Church, now at the corner of Garnet Avenue and Jewell Street, traces its origins to that meeting, September 9, 1888, and notes that eight members were enrolled that day. These original members included Eunice Stacey and her parents, James and Esther. The first minister was C. S. Sprecher. According to the Union a Sunday school had already been flourishing there with an attendance of 36 on a recent Sunday and among the ‘officers’ listed for the school was Miss Eunice Stacey, pianist.
The San Diego College of Letters opened with 37 students on September 20, 1888 and a month later, October 18, C. S. Sprecher’s father Samuel Sprecher, the long-time president of Wittenberg College, arrived to assume the presidency of the college and was welcomed with an elaborate ceremony. The first term ended before the Christmas holiday. On December 27, 1888, an item in the Brief Mentions column of the San Diego Union mentioned that a marriage license had been granted to Cecil S. Sprecher and Eunice A. Stacey, both of San Diego. The actual marriage license and certificate notes that Eunice A. Stacey was 16 years of age and that James Stacey, her father, described as a resident of Pacific Beach, was present as a witness. On January 3, 1889, The Mail of Stockton reprinted an article from the local Pacific Beach weekly under the headline ‘Married Again; Rev. C. S. Sprecher Takes a Stockton Girl Unto Himself’. According to the Pacific Beach, the wedding occurred at 3 o’clock on December 26 with groom’s father, Dr. Samuel Sprecher, officiating. The happy couple took the 4:20 train for the north at Morena and would spend a week at Elsinore. Their many friends, including the Pacific Beach, wished them a long and happy life. ‘It only remains to add’, wrote The Mail, ‘that the bride formerly resided in Stockton and was of the flock presided over by the reverend gentleman while pastor of the local Presbyterian church’. ‘The former Mrs. Sprecher, it will be remembered, found her previous lover when the couple moved to San Diego from Stockton. Divorce followed, and she married the lover’.
The college opened for its second term on January 3, 1889, and the Union reported on January 6 that Rev. C. S. Sprecher and bride had returned. However, the long and happy life, or at least marriage, that their many friends had wished them did not last for long. On May 4, 1889, the San Francisco Examiner reported from San Diego that ‘The Bird Has Flown; Rev. Dr. Sprecher’s Young Wife Flits From Her Cage’ and ‘Natty Major Birdsall. An Exciting Race and a Stormy Scene – A Divorce Suit Expected’. The Examiner’sbombshell explained that Eunice Stacey Sprecher, wife of the President of the College of Letters at Pacific Beach, took the train for the north accompanied by Major Birdsall, an instructor of military tactics at the college. The affair was thought to have been an elopement until Birdsall returned alone. The young wife, only a few months a bride, was now at home with her parents at Stockton. ‘She has left her reverend spouse, with the determination never to live with him again. What her relations have been with the youthful Major is the subject of much conjecture’.
The story continued that Rev. Dr. Sprecher was nearly fifty years of age and was divorced last summer from his former wife, who uttered all sorts of dreadful complaints against him. She made no defense to his suit for divorce on the ground of desertion, and went away East to her former home, where she died one day last November. On the day following, society was astounded by the announcement that Dr. Sprecher had married Miss Stacey, a beautiful girl of sixteen. It was said that her parents, who are poor people, persuaded her into the unequal match. The couple had resided at the college but the husband was said to have been insanely jealous; the wife permitted too much attention from ‘big boy scholars’, Major Birdsall being of the number and especially favored by her. They would stroll and take rides together.
The Examiner went on to say that Dr. Sprecher moved from his Pacific Beach house to his house downtown but his duties at the college kept him away from home considerably and matters became worse. He tried to break up the growing intimacy with Birdsall but the couple met surreptitiously and took long buggy rides. The account reached a climax when ‘one day last week Mrs. Sprecher drove to a prominent drugstore and the Major stepped out and took a seat in the buggy with her’. The husband was watching and rushed up to interfere, but the couple drove off excitedly with Dr. Sprecher in hot pursuit. He gave up after a chase of nearly a mile through the city and ‘a hot and stormy scene followed at the town residence that night’. In conclusion, it was understood that Dr. Sprecher would seek a divorce and friends of Mrs. Sprecher said that he could have it ‘and welcome’. For his part, ‘young Birdsall denies that he had anything to do with Mrs. Sprecher’s going away’.
Two days after the Examiner story The Mail published a letter to the editor from Mrs. Sprecher herself:
To the Editor of the Mail – Sir: To my great surprise I read in your paper several false statements in the report about my leaving San Diego, so I write this for the public to read as the truth.
I married Mr. Sprecher a few months ago, not of my own free will, but through the influence of others; and being young, I believed that I could be contented, but since then I have not seen a happy day.
I did my best to please him and stood a great deal of misery, because I had married him and thought it my duty. But when things kept growing worse, and he did not seem disposed to change his ways, I decided the best thing would be to separate.
I left San Diego alone, and as for Major Birdsall, there was never anything between us, and as far as I know Major Birdsall had no idea of my leaving San Diego. I am sorry to hear that any one would lower himself enough to start such reports. I wish to say that I was never in a buggy with Major Birdsall, nor had I any such intention, nor did I take any such walks as are reported. Mr. Sprecher never accused me of so doing, as he had no occasion, and I cannot understand how he would allow such a report to be circulated, without correcting it.
Major Birdsall was never seen in a buggy with me, and as for the hot and stormy scene that followed, as the paper states, there was no such a scene.
Examiner please copy.
Eunice Stacey Sprecher
Stockton, May 6th.
The San Diego Union weighed in on May 7 with its own account of Mrs. Sprecher’s departure; ‘Major Birdsall. Denies Emphatically the Charges Made Against Him. He Will Sue the Examiner. The Story of Elopement Said to Be Entirely Without Foundation – True Facts in the Case’. According to the Union, she had left San Diego on a visit to her parents at Stockton. Mrs. Sprecher was somewhat younger than her husband and this, allied with the fact that she was very popular, had given rise to a scandal appearing in the Examiner which tied Mrs. Sprecher’s departure to ‘undue familiarity with the youths of the college, singling out particularly the name of Major Birdsall as her especial favorite, and charging him with accompanying her a certain distance on her journey home’. The Union ‘detailed one of its representatives to inquire into the matter’, and the result was such as to ‘contradict entirely this version of a very ordinary circumstance’. The officials and others connected with the college had been seen, and all agreed in denouncing the allegations as totally without foundation, and expressing sympathy for the parties so unjustly wronged. The day Mrs. Sprecher left San Diego Major Birdsall was in town all day and was seen in company with many of his numerous friends. The Major belongs to one of the most respectable families in San Diego and has always enjoyed an enviable reputation. He holds his title by virtue of a commission from Governor Waterman, and was for some time Drill Instructor at the Pacific Beach College. Proceedings would be immediately instituted against the Examiner for libel. Much sympathy was expressed in the community on behalf of Professor and Mrs. Sprecher, who have been so unjustly dragged into such unpleasant notoriety.
While the Examiner’s sensational account of Mrs. Sprecher’s departure from San Diego may have been exaggerated, particularly with respect to Major Birdsall, the Union’s contention that it was a very ordinary circumstance, a visit to her parents, and that the San Francisco paper’s allegations were totally without foundation, turned out to be incorrect. Mrs. Sprecher herself wrote the editor of The Mail that she had been persuaded to marry Mr. Sprecher through the influence of others and that it was her decision to separate after a great deal of misery. The false statements she objected to were about the alleged drama over Major Birdsall and the ‘hot and stormy scene’.
I take the liberty to write you a few lines, asking what you are going to do in regard to a divorce, you must certainly know by this time that I will never live with you again. I am able and capable of taking care of my self and I certainly will not live with you.
And it is as little as any man can do when a woman cannot and will not live with him to release her. Now if you will apply no matter what grounds you take I will not say a word but I suppose of course you would have closed doors in court and have no causes published. I am sure that is the way I should do, and if you do not apply I certainly shall and further more it need not be any trouble to you if you will apply I will settle all bills and I am sure that is reasonable.
It will save me a great deal of trouble as I never was in court but I shall certainly go if you do not.
Hoping to hear your answer soon I will close.
Eunice A. Sprecher
257 Washington St.
Mr. Sprecher did file for divorce and this letter was introduced as Exhibit A in testimony taken in October 1890. In other testimony, Rev. Sprecher said that he did not know why his wife had left him other than she claimed she was not happy. They had not quarreled about anything except that he wanted her to stay and she would not. When he remonstrated with her on the proposition of her going away she would not entertain his remonstrance and became a little irritated about that. He denied that he treated her ill in any way and affirmed that he had provided for her, that she had plenty of food and clothing, and that he had ‘exercised such an affection as a man ought to for his wife’. He said that he had written to her shortly after she had gone away and she had replied that she would come back to him if he would move from San Diego. He did make arrangements, business arrangements, to change his location, ‘selling out and everything of that sort’, but when he went to Stockton to have her come with him and live elsewhere she had changed her mind. A few months later she wrote that she would apply for a divorce if he would ‘make no appearance against her’ but he replied that he would most certainly resist it; she had no grounds for divorce and he could not afford to have her apply on false grounds and not appear to vindicate himself.
A number of Mr. Sprecher’s colleagues at the college added testimony that supported the view that Mrs. Sprecher had been treated well and had no reason to leave. Harr Wagner testified that the Sprechers lived at the college and he saw them every day when he went there to teach (he was professor of literature). His observation of the treatment that the defendant received from the plaintiff was that it was very considerate and kindly; he never heard any harsh words or of any ill treatment of any kind. His brother E. R. Wagner, a German professor, testified that he also lived at the College of Letters, in sleeping room 22, and that the Sprechers resided in the suite just adjoining to the south in the same building and on the same floor. He always went to breakfast with them and his observation of Mr. Sprecher’s conduct toward his wife was that it was always gentlemanly and Christian. He endeavored to be very kind, possibly to overstep the boundary by being too kind. They had the best furnished suite and rooms of any one in the college. None of these middle-aged men had anything to say about Major Birdsall or the fact that she was a teenage girl and that he was nearly three times her age with children of her age, or about the suggestion that she had been married against her will. Mrs. Sprecher did not make an appearance and on December 1, 1890, the marriage between C. S. Sprecher and Eunice Sprecher was dissolved and the parties freed and released from the bonds of matrimony.
By then Eunice Stacey Sprecher had apparently resumed a normal life in Stockton. The Mail had reported in March 1890 that the Turn Verein masquerade ball proved to be a very pleasing affair, many of the costumes being quite handsome. Among the maskers was Mrs. Eunice Sprecher, whose costume was a ‘fancy dress’. In April the San Francisco Call reported that Mrs. Eunice Sprecher was home at Stockton from a brief visit to San Francisco. And in July 1891, a little more than half a year after her divorce, The Mail reported that a marriage license had been issued to Frank D. Higginbotham, aged 27 years, of San Francisco, and Eunice A. Stacey, aged 18, of Stockton. He remarried in 1897 but she seems to have disappeared from the printed record.
During the summer of 1890 Harr Wagner, C. S. Sprecher and F. P. Davidson, who owned 99.5% of the stock in the college ‘transferred their interests to eastern parties’. Wagner ‘vacated his chair’ at the college and returned to his position as editor of the Golden Era and Sprecher also resigned and joined him there as associate editor (Davidson also left, to become principal of the Russ high school, later San Diego High). In 1892 Sprecher moved to Los Angeles where he first worked as an agent for the Golden Era and then as an independent publisher and printer. In 1897 he also resigned, or ‘demitted’, from the ministry. After the departure of its founders, the college opened for one more term in the fall of 1890 but then closed for good in 1891.
Major Birdsall also became a printer, for Cosmopolitan magazine and the New York Herald, but before leaving San Diego in about 1893 he was often seen in parades on downtown streets in the uniform of the California National Guard. A roster of guard officers listed Alfred W. Birdsall; Major and Military Instructor Pacific Beach Military College, Jan. 15, 1888; term expired May 26, 1889; appointed 1st Lieut. and Signal Officer 9th Infantry, June 20, 1890. Nearly 30 years later, in 1919, the Union reported that Major Fred W. Birdsall, a native San Diegan who had recently returned from overseas service, was in town for a short visit after an absence of 26 years. According to the Union, Major Birdsall had the distinction of being the first white child born in San Diego, in 1870. He had received his first military training in this city where he was military instructor at Pacific Beach. He had enlisted in the army at the outbreak of the European war and went to France with the first American troops. The Union noted that among his assignments in France was command of an army prison in Finistere. The Union did not mention that he was court martialed there for striking, cursing and abusing prisoners, and was ‘reduced to the foot of the list of majors’ and fined $600. The Union also did not have anything to say about his term as military instructor at Pacific Beach, or why the term ‘expired’ in May of 1889.
Pacific Beach was first subdivided and lots offered for sale in 1887. The first residents were attracted to what was expected to be a college community surrounding the San Diego College of Letters, located where Pacific Plaza is now. However, the college closed in 1891 and the community was soon transformed into a center of lemon cultivation. Some of the lemon ranchers came from Southern states and brought their entire households, and even their servants, with them.
In 1899 Mrs. Carrie Belser Linck bought a lemon ranch on acre lot 33, at the northwest corner of Lamont and Chalcedony streets. She came from Tennessee along with her mother, three sisters and brother Charles. When Charles Belser arrived in January 1900 to assume management of his sister’s ranch, the San Diego Evening Tribune noted that ‘Mr. Belser of Nashville Tenn. and his colored man servant had arrived’. In June 1900 the San Diego Union reported that in Pacific Beach Belser & Co., lemon packers, were shipping cars east at the rate of two a week, but residents were complaining that they had seen nothing of the ‘census man’ and hoped he would not forget them. The census man did come around on June 22 and enumerated the Linck household, including 18-year old John Miller, servant, for the 1900 United States census. The census form had a column for ‘color or race’ and John Miller was listed as ‘B’, while Mrs. Linck, the Belsers and the other 200+ residents of Pacific Beach at the time were listed as ‘W’. John Miller may well have been the first Black resident in Pacific Beach.
Mrs. Linck sold the ranch in May 1901 and moved to San Francisco with her sisters, the ‘Misses Belser’, but there was no further news of Charles Belser or John Miller. In 1903 the Tribune reported that Mr. and Mrs. Roberts from Arkansas had moved into the upper Baker ranch; ‘They bring with them a carload of household goods, a colored family for servants besides horses and dogs’ (the upper Baker ranch was on acre lot 30, the northwest corner of Chalcedony and Olney streets). Lettie Lee Roberts died in 1905, Preston Roberts moved downtown in 1907, and there was no additional information about the ‘colored family’ who had accompanied them to Pacific Beach and would presumably have been its first Black family.
In 1900 Fred T. Scripps, brother of newspaper tycoon E. W. Scripps, bought several acres of land along the shore of Mission Bay at the southwest corner of Pacific Beach and by 1901 had completed an imposing bayfront home, Braemar Manor. His wife Sarah, better known as Emma, was an avid gardener who developed the elaborate landscaping on the grounds surrounding their home. An estate like this required domestic help, and the 1905 San Diego City Directory listed ‘Corushia’ Tate as domestic and Frank Tate as coachman for F. T. Scripps. In the 1906 directory Frank Tate was a gardener and Crozier Tate a cook living in Pacific Beach, and the 1908 directory listed Frank as cook for F T Scripps and also James Tate as a gardener in Pacific Beach.
The 1910 United States census attempted to account for everyone in a ‘dwelling’ and to list, among other things, their name, relation, age, ‘color or race’, marital status and number of years married, place of birth and occupation. At the Scripps dwelling, in addition to Frederick T., head, and Sarah E., wife, and their two sons and two daughters, the census also listed James, Josephine, Frank and ‘Crosha’ Tate, servants (as well as Frederick Hagan, chauffeur). James, 49, and Josephine, 50, were from Alabama and had been married 35 years. His occupation was gardener and hers was ‘house’, presumably a maid. Frank was 31 and also from Alabama, and Crozier, 26, was from Missouri. They had been married for 7 years. He was a gardener and she was a cook. Although the data on the census form doesn’t connect all the dots, in fact James and Josephine Tate were Frank Tate’s parents and Crozier was his wife. In the ‘color or race’ column, James, Josephine and Frank Tate were listed as ‘B’ and Crozier was ‘Mu’, presumably meaning Mulatto or a person of mixed White and Black ancestry. Of the 420 other Pacific Beach residents enumerated in the 1910 census, one other entry was listed as ‘B’, 19-year-old Abbey Benjamin, who was from South Carolina. She was a servant in the household of Alfred Pease, an executive of the Folsom Bros. Co., which owned much of Pacific Beach at the time. Everyone else was listed as ‘W’, although 22 had the additional notation on the form that they were ‘Mexican’.
In 1903 F. T. Scripps purchased acre lots 43 and 44 of Pacific Beach, the property between Diamond, Cass and Chalcedony streets and what is now Mission Boulevard, and subdivided it as Ocean Front. Although many lots were sold in the four blocks of the Ocean Front subdivision there were no improvements until Scripps had a house built in 1906 on lots 17 and 18 of block 4, a home that is still standing at 867 Missouri Street. Although Scripps presumably built it as a rental he sold the property to Frank Tate in November 1908 and for more than 20 years it was home to members of the extended Tate family. The 1913 city directory, for example, reported that James Tate and Homer Tate, Frank’s father and brother, lived on ‘Missouri s w cor Bayard’. Homer was a nurseryman, although not for the Scripps but with Cash’s nursery in Pacific Beach.
Frank Tate himself did not live in his house for long. Although city directories from 1908 to 1911 had listed him as cook for F. T. Scripps and living in Pacific Beach, a ‘situation wanted’ ad in the Union in 1912 sought a position in a private family as cook; ‘Good worker, a very fine cook, young colored man. Apply at Scripps bldg. Frank Tate’. In 1914 the city directory listed Tate Frank (Crozier), janitor Scripps Bldg, home 525 C. 525 C Street is the address of the Scripps Building, built by F. T. Scripps in 1907-1908 and still standing at the southwest corner of 6th Avenue downtown. Apparently the janitor position came with living quarters and Frank and Crozier Tate made their home there.
While living downtown, Frank Tate was one of ‘long list of signers’ of a petition to the city council protesting a sign on the front of the Plaza Theatre reading ‘The patronage of white people only solicited’. The petition called the sign ‘out of harmony with the spirit of the best and highest citizenship of this state’, and added that it ‘breeds contempt and prejudice’. As ‘citizens and taxpayers contributing to the upbuilding of the city’ the signers felt ‘unjustly humiliated before the eyes of all classes of citizens’ (there is no indication that the council responded to the petition). Frank Tate was also a baseball player, a member of the San Diego Hornets, which the Evening Tribune noted was a ‘colored outfit’. The sports page of the Union in 1914 included a note that the San Diego Hornets would like a game with any ‘fast’ team at a suburb or in town, ‘notify Frank Tate, Scripps building’. The Hornets were good, defeating the ‘Cycle & Arms nine’ 12 to 5 in August 1914 and claiming the championship of the county. However, the Tribune reported that the ‘darktown heroes’ managed only five hits and made five errors as they were ‘taken down a peg’ in June 1915 by Carmen, 6-3, at Athletic Park.
Frank Tate’s brother Homer died at the age of 29 in 1915 and Frank himself died in 1916, aged 37. His widow, Crozier, made news in 1918 in a Union article about C. Chrisman, a ‘negro fighter’ who was with the ‘Buffaloes’ over in France during World War I. The story included an extract of a letter he had just written to his sister, Mrs. Crozier Tate, of Coronado. Crozier later married Clarence E. Brown and in 1923 C. E. and Crozier Brown sold the property on Missouri Street in Ocean Front to Josephine Tate, Frank’s mother.
In 1911 James Tate’s sister Georgia Pickens had also gone to work for the Scripps as a domestic. The 1912 city directory listed William Edwards, janitor, as residing in Ocean Front, Pacific Beach, presumably meaning the Ocean Front subdivision and presumably in the home owned by Frank Tate, the only home in the subdivision at the time. By 1914 they had married and Mrs. Georgia Edwards was listed as a cook for F. T. Scripps. In the 1918 city directory William Edwards, gardener, Georgia Edwards, laundress, James Tate, gardener, Josephine Tate, cook, Ellen Pickens (James and Georgia’s mother) and Elliott Tate (Ellen’s grandson, James and Georgia’s nephew), were all said to be residing at the ‘south end of Bayard’. This is the same location or address listed in the city directory for F. T. Scripps himself, so the extended family may have been living at Braemar Manor, either under the same roof as the Scripps or in separate buildings on the grounds. The 1920 U. S. Census listed Georgia Edwards, 41, Ellen Pickens, 83, and Elliott Tate, 28, as living in a dwelling on Bayard Street, which could describe the Frank Tate house at the corner of Bayard and Missouri or the Scripps’ property at the foot of Bayard. James and Josephine Tate, both 63, were listed in the same dwelling as the Scripps family. The ‘color or race’ of all five of the Tate relatives was listed in the census as ‘Mu’ (surprisingly, only 57 of the 100 names on the twopages containing their names were ‘W’; 38 others were ‘Jp’ – Japanese).
In 1915 a second house had been built in the Ocean Front subdivision, on lots 31 and 32 of block 3, 936 Diamond Street, and in 1920 it was purchased by Elliott Tate, then working for the city street department. Also in 1921 James and Josephine Tate moved in to the Missouri Street house, joining his mother Ellen Pickens. His sister Georgia Edwards and her husband moved to La Jolla, to Cuvier Street adjacent to the Bishops School.
In 1924 Henry Campbell purchased another property in Ocean Front, lots 35 and 36 of block 4, 812 Diamond, and built a home where he lived with his wife Cath and two children. This property was near the corner of Diamond and Allison streets, a block from the beach (Allison has since been renamed Mission Boulevard). Allison was also the route of the San Diego Electric Railway No. 16 fast streetcar line between downtown and La Jolla, opened in 1924, which stopped at Diamond. The Campbell family was also Black, and like Elliott Tate, Henry Campbell was employed by the city street department. In 1925 he received a building permit for a ‘shed’ on his property and in 1926 he petitioned the city council for a license to operate a dance hall on the site. The petition was protested by the Pacific Beach Chamber of Commerce, which asserted that Diamond Street and vicinity was a strictly residential neighborhood and ‘not adapted to jazz band concerts and Charleston contests’. The license was granted anyway and dances ‘for colored people only’ were held at Campbell’s Pavilion or Campbell’s Beach for several years.
Campbell may have held dances on his property even before the pavilion was licensed; on June 20, 1924, the Evening Tribune reported that police led by the local ‘dry’ agent interfered with plans for a ‘negro dance’ near the ocean front at Pacific Beach. Nine ‘negroes’ were arrested and charged with illegal possession of 16 pints of intoxicating liquor. The dance was to have been a celebration of the emancipation of colored residents of Texas on June 19, 1865 – Juneteenth. They were each fined $50 in police court.
The Campbells left Pacific Beach and moved back downtown in 1929. The 1930 census listed nearly 1500 names in Pacific Beach and of these only 9 were identified as ‘Neg’ in the color or race column (there were also 70 ‘Mex’, 50 of whom were located at the brick yard in Rose Canyon, 35 ‘Jp’ and 2 ‘Fil’, Filipinos, the new servants at Braemar Manor). The 9 Black residents included the Elliott Tate family at 936 Diamond, Josephine Tate and Ellen Pickens, then 98 years old, at 867 Missouri, and Jessie Coleman, a 44-year-old female servant working at a home on Los Altos Road. Also included were James and Ella Bass, who lived at 4811 Pendleton Street, then a remote spot at the northeast corner of Pacific Beach overlooking the canyon where Soledad Mountain Road now runs but at the time undeveloped land. The Basses had purchased the property in 1922 and built a board house valued at $600 there in 1925. He had been a janitor at the Spreckels Building downtown but by 1930 was a caretaker for the city play and recreation department. They also raised rabbits on the property.
In 1934 James Bass suffered a leg injury which developed into blood poisoning and required the amputation of the leg. The Pacific Beach chamber of commerce offered to sponsor a series of benefit plays on the school stage in hopes of buying him an artificial leg (the Union reported that Pacific Beach residents were ‘showing a fine and friendly spirit toward James Bass, Negro, who recently had the misfortune to lose a leg’). The benefit plays came up short but friends and fellow playground employees made up the difference and Bass did receive an artificial leg; a photo of the ‘well known colored man’ and his artificial leg appeared in the Union. Ella Bass died in 1937, and James Bass moved away soon after.
James Tate had died in 1927 and Josephine Tate remained in the house at 867 Missouri in Ocean Front until her death in 1931. A White family lived in it for most of the rest of the 1930s but by 1940 it was again occupied by a Black family, Theodore and Elsie Mills and their 3 children. Theodore remarried and moved to the Skyline district about 1965 but Elsie remained at the Missouri Street home into the 1970s.
Elliott Tate and his family also remained in Ocean Front for decades. Ramón Eduardo Ruiz Urueta, later a history professor at UCSD, was born and raised in Pacific Beach during the 1920s and 30s and he devoted a chapter in his 2003 book Memories of a Hyphenated Man to his ‘home town’. He remembered that ‘on almost any day, Mr. Tate, who swept the streets for the city of San Diego, could be seen pushing his two-wheel cart’. The Tates’ daughter Edna was in his grade and ‘took no guff from any of the boys in school’; their son Frank, one of his sister’s classmates, was ‘always courteous’. Mr. Tate and his family were the ‘sole blacks in town’ but as far as he knew no one ‘bothered’ them. ‘Yet by choice or design,’ Dr. Ruiz wrote, ‘the Tates lived on the west end of Diamond Street, far from any neighbors’.
While the Ocean Front subdivision was near its western extremity, Pacific Beach was sparsely settled at the time and the Tate home was actually no farther from its neighbors than many others in the community. The Tate family’s situation had more to do with their association with the Scripps family at Braemar Manor, another home at the west end of the community. F. T. Scripps had originally owned Ocean Front and offered the first house built there, 867 Missouri, to Elliott’s cousin Frank in 1908. In 1920 Elliott Tate bought the second house there, 936 Diamond, half a block away, remaining there until his death in 1966. By then there were few if any vacant lots anywhere in Pacific Beach and he was surrounded by neighbors (including his daughter Edna and her husband Joseph Fields, who lived next door at 944 Diamond into the 1980s). In 1968 the Tate home at 936 Diamond was replaced by an 8-unit Ray Huffman apartment building, appropriately named Tate Manor. The Tate name still identifies the site over a half-century later, although it is now mostly hidden behind a tree.
The April 2020 Pacific Beach Historical Society newsletter featured a letter describing the migration of the ‘Higbee clan’ from Hillsdale, Michigan, to Pacific Beach in 1906. George Higbee, Carrol Higbee and Lillian Higbee Ward and their families loaded all their worldly goods into a boxcar and embarked on a four-day train trip to San Diego, where they changed trains for the one-hour trip to Pacific Beach. The boxcar arrived in Pacific Beach the next day and the families went on to build homes on Thomas Avenue, some of which are still standing today. Anna Pittman, the author of the letter, was the daughter of Lillian and Edson Ward and would have been about six years old when she made the trip. Her letter noted that two other Higbees had preceded them to Pacific Beach; Herbert Higbee, a carpenter who had arrived about two years earlier and Elbert Rollin Higbee, who she said came to Pacific Beach around 1900. Anna and the ‘clan’ moved on after a few years, to El Cajon and Santee, but Herbert and E. R. Higbee remained residents of the southwestern corner of Pacific Beach for the rest of their lives.
Herbert Higbee was George’s son. In 1901 he had married Ruby May White in Hillsdale and the couple moved to Pacific Beach in 1905. In 1906 Herbert Higbee and Edson Ward, Anna’s father, bought lots in Block 263, the 900 block of Thomas Avenue, and built homes there. A couple of years later, in 1908, George Higbee also built next door to Herbert. Although Ward and George Higbee soon moved away, their houses are still standing, at 935-937 and 961-963 Thomas Avenue, as is a house Ward built and briefly lived in the year before, at 864 Thomas. Ironically, it is Herbert and Ruby Higbee’s house that is no longer there. Ruby’s 1957 obituary noted that she was the widow of Herbert Higbee, who built many of the early-day homes in the beach area but who had died in 1940; she had died in her home at 969 Thomas, where she had resided for more than half a century. Today 969 Thomas is the address of an apartment building.
E. R. Higbee had been the first of the Higbees in Pacific Beach, acquiring a pair of lots on the shore of False (Mission) Bay in 1896. This property, lots 33 and 34 of Block 387, is now on the grounds of the Catamaran Resort Hotel. It had once been owned by James Poiser, an Englishman who had spent time in Canada and Australia before arriving in the San Diego area. Poiser had purchased a plot of 40 acres in the north end of Pueblo Lot 1803 from Alonzo Horton in 1885 (Pueblo Lot 1803 included everything south and west of what would become the intersection of Pacific Beach Drive and Cass Street, including the peninsula that became Mission Beach). Pacific Beach rancher Wilbur Conover wrote in 1901 that Mr. Poiser owned and pastured this land to thousands of sheep and that his ranch house was down on the bay where there were then some very fine springs.
Conover added that Poiser, the sheep man, had then sold his holdings to the Pacific Beach Company for $50,000. This sale took place in September 1887, a month before the company drew up its subdivision map for Pacific Beach and three months before its opening sale of lots in the new subdivision. The deed described the parcel as 40 acres in the north end of Pueblo Lot 1803 excepting therefrom one acre ‘around the house now occupied by me to be taken off the end of any block that may be laid out to cover said ground’. The house, referenced in this deed months before lots were first offered for sale, was probably the first house ever built in what became Pacific Beach. The acre of land surrounding it was known thereafter as Poiser’s 1 Acre and it went on to pass through the hands of George Sikes and Susie Blackmer in 1894 and A. G. Strandberg in 1897 before being acquired by F. T. Scripps in 1899. Poiser’s 1 Acre was the first of many acres acquired by Scripps for his Braemar Manor estate and for the subdivisions that Scripps eventually developed in this corner of Pacific Beach.
The Pacific Beach Company’s subdivision map of October 1887 laid out a grid of city blocks divided by streets and avenues in the land it had acquired from Poiser and others. Block 387 was north of Hensley Avenue and east of Second Street, and adjacent to Poiser’s 1 Acre, which was ‘off the end’ of Block 391, south and west of Hensley and Second (Hensley Avenue was later closed by the city and absorbed into Scripps’ property; Second Street was renamed Bayard Street in 1900). In 1889 the Pacific Beach Company sold lots 33 and 34 of Block 387, the southwest corner of the block and closest to Poiser’s 1 Acre, to Poiser’s son Richard. In 1894 Richard Poiser sold these lots to George Sikes and it was Sikes who sold them to E. R. Higbee (or Higby) in 1896.
Elbert Rollin Higbee had been born in 1844, three years before his brother George. They lived in Chagrin Falls, Ohio, on the outskirts of Cleveland, where their father was a Free Will Baptist clergyman. According to the 1850 United States census they were neighbors of the Goodman family and their two daughters, Hattie and Celia. After serving in the civil war in the 125th Ohio Volunteer Infantry regiment he worked as a photographer in Chagrin Falls and in 1887 he and Hattie Goodman were married. They later moved to California and in March 1896 purchased the lots in Block 387 of Pacific Beach, where the San Diego Union reported he was building a three-room cottage. In 1896 their only neighbors would have been a row of three residences built for railway workers in Block 262, on Reed Avenue west of Bayard Street, adjacent to what was then the railway depot (one of these residences is also still standing).
The 1900 United States census listed Elbert and Hattie Higbee as living in Pacific Beach in the same home as her sister Celia Goodman and a lodger, John Rockwood. Elbert Higbee was described as a painter and paper hanger and Rockwood as a miner. The 1900 census also listed a new neighbor, Lida Clarkson, who the Evening Tribune had described as one of the most celebrated women in the country, known far and wide as art editor of The Ladies’ Home Journal and with a world reputation as an artist. She had purchased one of the railway workers’ homes at the corner of Reed and Bayard in February 1900 and was having it remodeled. In July 1900 Lida Clarkson and John Rockwood were married and he moved out of the Higbees’ house and into her remodeled home.
In 1904 the Rockwoods built an apartment building, Rockwood Flats, next to their home on Bayard Street. The Rockwood Flats was the first apartment building in Pacific Beach and was noted for its dining room. The San Diego Union reported in May 1909 that the Monday Night 500 Club was royally entertained by the Braemar 500 Club at the Rockwood Flats on the Ocean Front and that the large dining room was beautifully decorated for the occasion. Among the hosts from the Braemar club were Mr. and Mrs. F. T. Scripps, Mr. and Mrs. J. M. Rockwood, Mrs. H. L. Higbee, Mrs. E. R. Higbee and Miss Celia Goodman.
Celia was still living with the Higbees in 1910, according to that year’s census, and the Rockwoods were still living at Bayard and Reed. The Higbees’ other neighbors in 1910 were the Scripps family, with four children, four servants and a chauffeur, at Braemar Manor directly across Bayard Street. Beginning with the purchase of Poiser’s 1 Acre at the end of 1899, Scripps had accumulated property in that corner of Pacific Beach north to Reed Avenue and east to Dawes (except for the two lots in Block 387 owned by the Higbees) and subdivided it as the Braemar subdivision in 1907. Also in 1907, Scripps, J. M. Rockwood and E. R. Higbee petitioned the city council for grading, sidewalking and curbing Bayard Street from Grand Avenue to Braemar Lane, the work to be done by these property owners under private contract. The curbs and sidewalks that still line Bayard date from this time.
E. R. Higbee died in 1914 and Hattie sold the property, lots 33 and 34 of Block 387, to his nephew Herbert Higbee in 1921. In 1925 Herbert sold it to F. T. Scripps, and with the area between Bayard and Dawes streets then completely under Scripps’ control it was re-subdivided as Braemar Extension in 1926. What had once been Block 387 became Block B of Braemar Extension, bayfront property intended as home sites for the Scripps’ children. To make room for a house for the oldest son, Thomas, the Higbees’ former home was moved to 953 Reed Avenue, where it still exists today (under a more recent second story). The Scripps estate on Mission Bay was itself replaced by the Catamaran resort in 1959 and its Building 700 now occupies the site where the Thomas Scripps and E. R. Higbee families once lived.
On September 16, 1889, two sisters appeared before a notary in Kansas City, Missouri, to sign applications for marriage licenses. Application No. 2511 was filled out for May E. Goff, who solemnly swore that she was of the age of 24 years, single and unmarried, and could lawfully contract and be joined in marriage to Frank J. Marshall, who was also 24, single and unmarried. Application No. 2512 was for Carrie Goff, who swore she was 22, single and unmarried, and could lawfully marry Victor A. Hinkle, who was 32 years of age. The brides were stenographers or ‘typewriters’, living in Kansas City with their widowed mother. The grooms were both salesmen for the Mosler Safe Company, where Frank’s older brother Thomas B. Marshall was manager.
In March 1894 the San Diego Union reported that Frank J. Marshall of Kansas City had bought two ten-acre blocks in Pacific Beach and had them plowed, piped and planted to trees; 1400 lemon trees and also prune, orange, peach, pear and apricot trees. A hedge of Monterey cypress would also be set out all around his land. Mr. Marshall would be returning to Kansas City in April but would return to Pacific Beach early next fall. He would bring his brother with him and each would build a handsome residence. The Union explained that Mr. Marshall had come from Kansas City to Los Angeles and wrote to a San Diego resident for information regarding climate, land, etc. He was advised to come and see for himself and was fully satisfied with what he saw in Pacific Beach.
The ‘ten-acre blocks’ that Frank Marshall purchased in February 1894 were laid out in the amended Pacific Beach subdivision map of 1892, on which the area north of the College Campus (now Pacific Plaza) and Alabama Avenue (now Diamond Street) had been divided into ‘acre lots’ of about 10 acres each, intended for agriculture. Mr. Marshall had paid $2150, or $125 an acre, for acre lots 30 and 53 (which were actually 8.6 acres each). On the map these lots were between 14th (now Olney) and the northern projection of 15th (Pendleton) streets and were separated by Idaho Avenue (Chalcedony Street), with lot 30 extending north to Georgia Avenue (Beryl Street) and lot 53 south to Alabama (Diamond; although the area is now part of the Admiral Hartman Community, where this street no longer exists).
In 1895 the San Diego Directory contained only 37 listings in Pacific Beach, half of whom were described as farmers or ranchers, many of them growing lemons on ranches developed on the acre lots. Lemon ranching was the principal economic activity in Pacific Beach and the Union’s weekly column of news from Pacific Beach regularly reported on developments affecting the lemon business. In February 1895 the column announced that the Marshalls, who owned twenty acres of fine lemon ranch at this place, were preparing to come to California and build on their ranch and make their homes there. In May the news was that the Marshalls expected to have their arrangements completed for removal to this place shortly. Their 20-acre ranch was looking well. They arrived in Pacific Beach in June and the Union reported that they had rented the Wilson house until they could build on their lemon ranch; ‘They come fully equipped for business and pleasure, having brought with them no less than four vehicles, and an abundance of home-making necessities’.
The Wilson house was the lemon ranch house on Acre Lot 33, a few blocks west of the Marshalls’ property, but the Marshalls didn’t occupy it for long. In September 1895 the Union reported that Mr. Marshall’s new house made a fine showing against the hills (and that Gen. Stearns, an ex-United States senator, had purchased the Wilson place). A few weeks later the paper reported that the Marshalls were moving into their new house and added that Mr. Marshall’s brother and brother-in-law were making arrangements to come to California and would locate at this place. The two families expected to reach Pacific Beach before winter.
Mr. Marshall’s brother arrived in January 1896; according to the San Diego Union T. B. Marshall and family of Kansas City had arrived from the east and were at the Horton House hotel downtown. The February 1, 1896, Union announced that T. B. Marshall was building on his ten-acre tract. Construction must have been rapid because by February 24 the paper noted that several artistic cottages had been built at this place during the year but the architecture of T. B. Marshall’s new house was a decided change. In April the report was that T. B. Marshall had moved his family into his new residence and a month later that Mr. T. B. Marshall’s new home was ‘the finest in our colony’. Photos of house, located at the corner of Olney and Diamond streets, do indicate that the architecture was a decided change from the plain frame houses on other lemon ranches at the time, such as the one built in 1892 on acre lot 34 and still standing at 1860 Law Street. The T. B. Marshall home included Queen Anne-style design features like bay windows and a square tower topped with a decorative widow’s walk.
Frank Marshall’s brother-in-law, Victor Hinkle, with his wife Carrie, May Marshall’s sister, were the other family that had made arrangements to locate at ‘this place’ and expected to arrive before winter. In December 1895 the Union reported that Mr. and Mrs. Hinkle had moved into the Will Wagner cottage (on Diamond Street a half block west of where the T. B. Marshall house would be built). In February 1896 the Hinkles purchased acre lot 36, 10.2 acres lying between what today are Chalcedony, Ingraham, Beryl and Jewell streets, paying Alzora Haight $2000 or nearly $200 an acre for a developed lemon ranch. Acre lot 36 had originally been purchased by George Tutton in January 1892 but had been owned by Mr. and Mrs. Haight since September 1892. The Haights apparently never built a home on their property; a news item from 1894 reported that Mr. Haight and family had been ‘camping’ on their ten-acre ranch. In May 1896 the news was that Mr. Hinkle, who had bought the Tutton ten acres set to lemons, was building a fine residence there. Early photos show that the architecture of the Hinkles’ new residence was also in the Queen Anne style of the T. B. Marshall home, including a square tower with a decorative widow’s walk.
Frank and Thomas Marshall were joined in Pacific Beach by another brother later in 1896 when Clifford Marshall and his wife took up residence in Martha Dunn Corey’s cottage, also on Diamond Street in the block west of the new T. B. Marshall home. Like most Pacific Beach residents, the extended Marshall family and the Hinkles joined the Presbyterian Church and participated in church and community activities. When Miss Marian Thresher, the soprano in the church choir, departed for Jamul for a year in November 1896 Mrs. Clifford Marshall gave her a farewell party and her place in the choir was taken by Mrs. Hinkle (Miss Thresher was a former student at the San Diego College of Letters in Pacific Beach). Choir practice was held every Saturday afternoon at Mrs. Clifford Marshall’s residence.
Frank Marshall had purchased two Pacific Beach acre lots and had them plowed, piped and planted to trees while he returned to Kansas City, leaving the ranch in charge of Ed Barnes, another local lemon rancher (and another former College of Letters student). It was more than a year later that Frank and his brother Thomas moved from Kansas City with their families and built impressive homes on the ranch, and still much of their time was spent away from Pacific Beach, leaving day-to-day operations of the lemon ranch to others. In April 1897 the local news was that T. B. Marshall and family had returned to their beautiful home and young lemon grove after a prolonged stay in Los Angeles. They had also come down from Los Angeles to spend the holidays at their Manjessa ranch (presumably named for their two daughters, Maude, or Mandy, and Jessie). In July 1897 the news was that T. B. Marshall and family were to leave for Los Angeles for a year and in January 1898 Mr. Dorst and wife moved into T. B. Marshall’s elegantly furnished house. In April and again in July 1899 T. B. Marshall spent a few days in Pacific Beach looking after his interests before returning to Los Angeles, where he was listed in the 1900 census as general agent for Mosler Safe Co.
The lemon business depended on growing and harvesting lemons but also on curing, packing and shipping them to distant markets, mostly in the Midwest. In December 1896 Sterling Honeycutt, also a lemon rancher, made a deal with the Pacific Beach Company in which he acquired the north half of block 239, south of Hornblend between Lamont and Morrell streets, and also the company’s hotel and dance pavilion on the ocean front near the foot of Grand Avenue. The agreement required Honeycutt to move the hotel and pavilion from the beach to block 239, where the hotel ended up at the corner of Hornblend and Lamont and the pavilion at the corner of Hornblend and Morrell, adjacent to the tracks of the San Diego, Pacific Beach and La Jolla railway, which then ran along what is now Balboa Avenue. Honeycutt refurbished and reopened the hotel, but the dance pavilion was converted to a facility for curing and packing lemons and loading them onto railroad cars at the adjacent siding. In November 1897 Honeycutt sold the northeastern quarter of block 239, including the packing plant, to F. J. Marshall and F. W. Barnes, who each acquired an undivided half-interest in the property (F. W. Barnes was Ed Barnes’ father and was also a lemon rancher).
Although Frank Marshall owned a lemon ranch and a half-interest in the community lemon packing plant, he also remained connected to the safe company in Kansas City and at the end of 1897 he returned to resume his former position there (the 1899 Kansas City directory listed Frank and Thomas Marshall, both working for Mosler Safe Co. and living at the same address). Clifford Marshall moved from Dr. Corey’s house into Frank Marshall’s house in January 1898. The Union reported that Mrs. Marshall and daughter Verna would spend the winter in San Diego and would remain until spring, then would return to Pacific Beach to make their future home. In October 1898 Frank Marshall returned from Kansas City to ‘make quite a visit’ and in April 1899 he returned once again ‘with the intention of making his home in San Diego’ (the 1900 federal census listed Frank Marshall, rancher, living with wife May and daughter Birdie at 1460 3rd Street in San Diego). In the absence of the Marshall brothers Mr. Lewis Martin had been in charge of the ranches in 1899 and Mr. Jacobson took over their care in 1900.
In December 1900 Frank and May Marshall sold acre lot 30 as well as their undivided half-interest in the packing plant in block 239 to Robert M. Baker and in 1901 Mr. Baker also bought the adjoining acre lot 30. The Frank Marshalls moved to Los Angeles and later to Riverside. The Thomas Marshalls remained in Los Angeles, although in September 1904 the Evening Tribune reported that T. B. Marshall of the Mosler Safe and Lock Co. was in San Diego to oversee the work of hanging the four big doors upon the vaults of the National Bank of Commerce building. And when T. B. Marshall’s automobile won a prize in the floral parade at the Los Angeles Fiesta in 1906, Mrs. Hinkle of Pacific Beach was a passenger.
Unlike the Marshalls, the Hinkles had adapted to the semi-rural lifestyle of late nineteenth-century Pacific Beach and continued living in their ‘commodious and elegant’ home on acre lot 36 well into the twentieth century. A Horticultural Notes column in the Union in 1899 noted that V. A. Hinkle of Pacific Beach was one of the ranchers who ‘lives on the ranch’ and the result was deep cultivation, fine fruit and clean trees. When lemon ranching became uneconomical after the turn of the century Mr. Hinkle transitioned into general farming but also specialized in beekeeping. In 1911 the city council amended the city bee ordinance to allow hives to be kept to within 100 feet of highways after V. A. Hinkle appeared before it and declared that bees did not use their stingers on people except to protect against interference. It was necessary to bother them at their hive before one could experience the ‘stinging rebuke’ which made them so feared. He placed ads in the Evening Tribune offering to sell ‘strong and healthy’ bees, in addition to ads offering a Jersey cow cheap, a large ranch horse – bargain, and two fine young milk cows.
Mrs. Hinkle became a member and later an officer of the Pacific Beach Reading Club, and often hosted meetings at the Hinkle home. In 1914 the reading club opened the library in its club house to the public and made its collection of books available for circulation. Mrs. Hinkle was appointed to oversee the library and is considered the community’s first librarian. The Hinkles had two daughters, Lucille and Mildred, who went to the Pacific Beach school and, like their parents, were active in community affairs. Lucille, born in 1896, entertained Reading Club meetings with mandolin and guitar selections and later attended Stanford University. Mildred, born in 1899, played the violin and sang and went on to Northwestern College in Chicago.
A January 1921 ad in the San Diego Union listed a house of 8 rooms, bath and sleeping porch for sale – $3000, easy terms, Mrs. V. A. Hinkle, telephone Pacific Beach 264. The home faced south, had a good garage, gas, electricity, fireplace and a fine view. The home did not sell in 1921 but Mr. Hinkle died in January 1922 and in September 1922 Mrs. Hinkle sold acre lot 36, with the Hinkle home, to Lawrence Adams. Mrs. Hinkle moved to New York City where in 1927 Mrs. F. T. Scripps, embarking for England on the Leviathan, spent a few days with friends, among them Mrs. Carrie Hinkle, an oldtime resident of Pacific Beach.
In January 1924 Mr. Adams also bought lots 21-24 of block 87 of Pacific Beach, the northwest corner of Ingraham and Law streets, and in 1926 he had the Hinkle house moved there, where it is still standing today, one of the oldest and best preserved historic homes in Pacific Beach. Adams sold both properties in 1928. In 1947 the portion of acre lot 36 now facing Law Street was subdivided as Chalcedony Terrace and the portion facing Beryl Street became Chalcedony Terrace Addition. The southerly 125 feet, the portion facing Chalcedony Street, has not been subdivided and is still described as acre lot 36, although the lemon trees and bees have long since been replaced by houses and apartments.
The Marshall ranches in acre lots 30 and 53 were among the properties in the eastern portion of Pacific Beach that were taken by the federal government and incorporated into the Bayview Terrace federal housing project for defense workers in 1941. They are now within the Admiral Hartman Community for military families, and although the Frank Marshall family’s house on acre lot 30 is no longer standing the site is still marked by a huge Moreton Bay fig tree that once stood over it. The T. G. Marshall house on acre lot 53, once considered the ‘finest in our colony’, is also no longer standing. It burned to the ground after being struck by lightning on Christmas Eve in 1940.
In February 1892 R. C. Wilson and G. M. D. Bowers, brothers-in-law and business partners from Henning, Tennessee, purchased Acre Lots 34 and 50 of Pacific Beach and in March 1892 added Acre Lot 33, lots that met at the corner of what are now Chalcedony and Lamont streets. The price was $100 an acre; $1850 for lots 34 and 50 and $990 for lot 33. These acre lots originated in an amended subdivision map recorded by the Pacific Beach Company in January 1892 that partitioned Pacific Beach north of Diamond Street (and south of Reed Avenue) into ‘acreage lots’ of approximately 10 acres, intended for agricultural use. By the end of March 1892 a six-inch water main had been laid up Lamont as far as Chalcedony and the San Diego Union reported that Wilson and Bowers were having 4,000 feet of water pipe laid over their 30-acre tract. The Union added that the property was to be put in lemons during the next few weeks. Other purchasers also acquired acre lots in the vicinity and Pacific Beach soon became a thriving center of lemon cultivation. On Acre Lot 34, west of Lamont between Chalcedony and Beryl streets, the Bowers built the first lemon ranch house in Pacific Beach in 1892, a house which is still standing at 1860 Law Street. The Wilsons built in 1893 on Acre Lot 33, on the other side of Lamont. Their ranch house was razed in the 1940s but a large Moreton Bay fig tree that once stood over it still marks its location.
In 1895, having developed their properties into a profitable lemon ranch, the partners sold them and returned to Tennessee. Lot 33, including the Wilsons’ home, was sold for $5500, lot 34, with the Bowers’ home, also sold for $5500 and lot 50, with no improvements at the time, went for $3000. The purchasers of Acre Lot 50, east of Lamont Street between Chalcedony and Diamond streets, were Lewis and Elizabeth Coffeen, recent arrivals from Michigan. They built a ‘fine cottage’ on their new possession which the city assessed at $100 and in December 1895 the Union reported that they had moved into their new house. This house is also still standing, at 1932 Diamond Street. However, the Coffeens did not live in the fine new cottage for long; he was compelled to return east for business reasons and the ranch was sold in March 1897 to Major William D. and Henrietta Hall.
According to the Union, Maj. Hall, a new arrival who spent three years in Phoenix, Ariz. seeking restoration to health, was induced to visit Pacific Beach to examine a ten-acre improved tract by an advertisement in the Union. Three days after first sight, Maj. Hall was the proud possessor of a four-year-old lemon grove, beautiful for situation, commanding a view of Mission Bay, the breakers at Ocean Beach, Point Loma, San Diego city and Coronado. He had already erected a curing house and had a hundred boxes of lemons packed therein. Maj. Hall was reportedly delighted in the soil, location, climate and environment and especially the price of water, for which he said he paid as much for his ten acres as he would have paid for an acre and a half in Phoenix. At the end of 1897 the Union reported that Maj. Hall had received $200 from the abandoned orchard that he took charge of ten months earlier and in June 1899 it reported that he netted $100 from a picking of four acres of lemons. Presumably he used the proceeds for the ‘quite important additions and improvements’ made to his house in December.
On New Year’s Day the San Diego Union regularly featured articles celebrating each of the outlying communities and on January 1, 1900, the article from Pacific Beach was written by Wm. D. Hall. According to Maj. Hall, Moses’ view of the promised land from Mount Pisgah could not be compared with the view of Pacific Beach from Point Loma, and nearly in the center of this beautiful spot were clustered about three hundred acres of lemon groves from three to seven years old and from 2 ½ to 10 acres, dotted here and there with fine residences with well kept yards, beautiful with every variety of flowers and in bloom all year round. He noted that the Pacific Beach lemon groves were not only attractive but productive; during the past year thirty carloads of lemons (and two of oranges) had been raised and shipped. However, like Wilson and Bowers, Maj. Hall apparently decided that there was more profit to be made selling the groves than the lemons and in 1899 the Halls sold about half of Acre Lot 50, the northern 298 feet, with 12 rows of trees running east and west, to A. F. and Margaret Roxburgh. In 1901 the Halls sold the other half, the southern 322 feet including their home, to R. M. Baker.
The Roxburghs were from Scotland and had come to Pacific Beach to join her brother William Kyle who had established a poultry ranch in Pacific Beach, specializing in ducks. Kyle was also an elder and Sunday School superintendent at the Pacific Beach church; the Union reported that the Santa Claus who entered through a church window and distributed gifts to the children on Christmas Eve in 1896 had a broad Scotch accent. His sister and her husband arrived in February 1899 and in June of that year Mr. Kyle’s and Mrs. Roxburgh’s mother also arrived from Scotland. Kyle, his mother and the Roxburghs initially rented rooms at the College Inn, originally the home of the San Diego College of Letters but used as a rooming house after the demise of the college in 1891. Once they had acquired their ranch in the north half of Acre Lot 50 the Roxburghs moved out of the inn and for several years lived in houses on neighboring lemon ranches including Mary Rowe’s on Acre Lot 49 in 1900, R. P. Dammond’s in Block 180 in 1902 and Harold Scott’s on Acre Lot 35 in 1903. In 1904 they built a house on their own ranch which the Evening Tribune described as both substantial and artistic looking, being built largely of stone. This house is also still standing, at 4775 Lamont, although it is set back from the street and nearly hidden by surrounding structures.
The Roxburghs did not live in their new home for long either; in 1906 they sold their portion of Acre Lot 50 to M. F. Chesnut, a real estate investor, who sold it the following year to Folsom Bros. Co. At the time Folsom Bros. owned most of the property in Pacific Beach and was engaged in improvement projects, particularly grading streets and pouring concrete sidewalks, which they hoped would attract purchasers and increase the value of their holdings. In 1912 the property was purchased by Alfred Hatch Brown, who also extended his ranch with a strip of land 125 by 250 feet just across Chalcedony Street in Acre Lot 33. Mr. Brown and his wife St. Claire Brown lived in the stone ranch house until they moved downtown in 1918, after which they rented out the house and land. The lemon boom had faded years earlier but this irrigated ranch land was ideal for vegetables and the tenants were mostly truck farmers, some of them Japanese immigrants. Arthur Yamaguchi occupied the house in 1920 and Yatoro Yamaguchi and his family lived there between 1929 to 1931, paying $40 a month rent. The Y. Yamaguchis and their American-born children were still living in Pacific Beach in 1942 and were among those sent to the Poston relocation center for ‘enemy aliens’ in Arizona during World War II.
The south half of Acre Lot 50 had been sold in 1901 to R. M. Baker, who had also acquired two other lemon ranches and a half-interest in the main lemon packing plant on the Pacific Beach and La Jolla railway line at the corner of Hornblend and Morrell streets. However, he also didn’t hold that property for long and in July 1902 sold it to Peter and Mary Vessels. In May 1908 the San Diego Union reported that Mrs. Vessels attended a city council meeting and spent half an hour asserting her rights over the removal of a hedge fence which stood in the way of the grading of Lamont Street being carried out by Folsom Bros. Co. According to the San Diego Union she told the councilmen that she would position herself on the fence and the only way they could get her off would be to push her off and plow her under. After a ‘spicy encounter’ between the fence owner and the vice-president of Folsom Bros. and a ‘long and tiresome debate with Mrs. Vessels in the lead’, the council passed a resolution directing the city engineer to enforce the grading of Lamont Street to the full width thereof including the sidewalks (and presumably any hedge fences that encroached on it). Lamont Street was graded, apparently without injury to Mrs. Vessels, and in October 1909 cement sidewalks were laid along Lamont, including a section in front of the Vessels property between Diamond and Missouri streets that still exists today .
In 1911 the Vessels began selling off portions of their property in the south half of Acre Lot 50, first the southeastern quarter and then the northeastern corner. Unlike most other acre lots in Pacific Beach, Acre Lot 50 was not re-subdivided into blocks and lots and these transfers were described as the easterly 275 feet of the southerly 135 feet and the easterly 100 feet of the northerly 135 feet of the southerly 270 feet of Acre Lot 50 (most property within Acre Lot 50 is still described in this manner). In 1916 the Vessels granted the city a strip of land 52 feet wide at the northern edge of their property, intended as a continuation of Missouri Street. The city did not receive a corresponding grant from the owner of the north half of the lot and as a result the continuation of Missouri Street today is not aligned with the street to the west and is much narrower (also, unlike most Pacific Beach blocks, there is no alley in the south half of Acre Lot 50). In 1917 the Vessels sold the southwestern 200 feet along Diamond Street and the northwestern 455 feet along Missouri Street, about three-quarters of their property, to Jesse and Lena Pritchard, leaving the Vessels with a 105-foot lot on Diamond which went to their daughter Blanche Vessels Lane. The house originally built for the Coffeens was included in the southwestern 200 feet of the lot but the Pritchards did not live in it. Instead it was rented, including, in 1919, to Yataro Yamaguchi, the Japanese truck farmer who later moved into the Roxburgh house.
In 1920 the southwest corner of the acre lot, including the Coffeen ranch house, was sold to George and Mary Churchman, who took up residence there and remained for over fifty years. George Churchman was a San Diego police officer who began with the bicycle detail and advanced to be head of substations in Ocean Beach and La Jolla and for a time during the prohibition era was in charge of the police vice squad. In one sensational 1921 incident (‘Bluecoat shoots 2 in dark store’), Patrolman Churchman shot a pair of burglars, killing one, after being struck in the head by a tire iron and threatened by a shotgun, which fortunately wasn’t loaded. While trying to ‘dry up’ the Sunset Supper Club while in charge of the Ocean Beach substation in 1925 Sergeant Churchman found a 23-year-old woman sitting on a bottle of gin and a 26-year-old woman with a bottle of gin ‘parked’ between her feet. A 26-year-old man approached, showed him a roll of bills, and offered him $50 to ‘forget about it’. All three were placed under arrest.
In April 1929 Churchman was elevated from sergeant to lieutenant and put in charge of the vice detail. A few months later, in August, the ‘dry squad’ led by Lt. Churchman raided a storeroom downtown and seized 4500 quarts of whisky, gin and other liquors worth $27,000. The illicit beverages had apparently been brought in for an American Legion state convention and there was a widespread belief that the Legion’s ‘irrigation committee’ thought that the police had been ‘fixed’. At the trial a witness testified that ‘someone got sore at the Legion’ and gave a tip to Churchman; if the tip had gone to the mayor or the chief of police the raid would never have happened. Churchman also led a raid that uncovered an illicit 200-gallon still and two 800-gallon mash vats in a house in Loma Portal.
However, in 1931 the vice squad came under attack by the bar association after a woman was arrested and held in jail over the weekend without being permitted to post bail. The San Diego Union reported that Lt. George Churchman, head of the vice squad, had determined that she was a ‘woman of a disreputable character’ and deemed it wise to hold her without bail until he could check up on her story (she was eventually charged with vagrancy but the charge was dismissed). The bar association threatened damage suits against the vice squad members, including Churchman, involved in what it called illegal arrests. Two members of the city council joined in denouncing the police department and demanded a general vice cleanup. The police chief resigned, claiming that his job had been made impossible by political interference, and Churchman was reassigned to head the La Jolla substation. After he also resigned from the police department he continued to be involved in security work, including the security of Camp Callan, on Torrey Pines Mesa, during the war years. He also continued to live in Acre Lot 50 until the early 1970s when he moved a block down the street to the new Plaza apartments.
By the mid-1930s the south half of Acre Lot 50 had been divided into a number of separate parcels and there were 5 residences existing along Diamond, Lamont and Missouri streets. However, the northern half had remained intact with the Roxburgh ranch house as the only residence. In 1937 the northern 125 feet, including the house, was sold to a construction company, but no additional homes were built until the 1940s. In 1940 Consolidated Aircraft began production of its B-24 Liberator bomber and hired tens of thousands of workers for its factories around the San Diego airport, creating a demand for housing in nearby areas like Pacific Beach. In 1941 the federal government built over 1000 temporary homes in the Bayview housing project just a few blocks east of Acre Lot 50 and commercial developers also began building affordable homes in the area for the new workers. There were still only 9 homes in Acre Lot 50 in 1941, 4 on Diamond, 2 on Lamont and 3 on Missouri but 6 more were built by 1945. By 1950 there were 20 homes, 9 on Diamond, 5 on Lamont and 6 on Missouri, but still none on the south side of Chalcedony Street. In 1950 Pacific Beach contractor Stanley Picard acquired this property, the northern 125 feet of Acre Lot 50 except for the 75-by-130 foot space around the Roxburgh ranch house, and in 1950 this parcel was subdivided as Picard Terrace. By 1955 eight homes had been built along Chalcedony Street in Picard Terrace and more than 20 addresses were listed in the 1900 block of Missouri. Like most of the rest of Pacific Beach, Acre Lot 50 was fully built out before 1960 and since then many of the first generation of single-family residences have been converted to multi-unit apartments and condos, but Acre Lot 50 has the distinction of having preserved not one but two of its original lemon ranch houses, even if they are well hidden.
Looking back at what used to be . . . mostly in San Diego and especially Pacific Beach.