Category Archives: Places

Legendary Collingwood Estate

In 1974 San Diego Union columnist Frank Rhoades wrote about a businesswoman who had bought a four-story, 14-room Pacific Beach house on a huge lot at 1650 Collingwood Drive in Congress Heights. Rhoades wrote that the famed house had been built early in the century by a state senator named Collingwood and was known as the Senator Collingwood Estate. The new owner, Patrice Dorough, had spent $30,000 restoring it to the mansion it was when built in 1914. An ad in the Union a few years later (‘View View View’) offered the ‘prestigious Collingwood estate’ for lease, a 4 BR, 2 ½ ba home w/turn-of-the century charm. Rhoades soon reported that the historic 17-room house, built in 1910, the main structure on the Collingwood estate and perhaps the first house in Pacific Beach, had been leased.

Patrice Dorough did live at 1650 Collingwood in the 1970s and perhaps she did have her residence restored to what it had been in 1914, but what it had been then was not the estate of a mythical state senator, much less the first house in Pacific Beach, but instead the home built for a young Pacific Beach real estate salesman named Charles Norris. In August 1913 the San Diego Union listed a building permit for a nine-room frame residence at Wilbur near Jewell in Pacific Beach, valued at $6500. A month later the Union followed up with a story that included a ‘perspective design’ of the residence and provided what amounted to a guided tour:

The house is entered through a porch having a cement floor and steps leading thereto. The reception hall is of white enamel trim, with birch doors and window sash stained with a mahogany finish, the stairs are of the old colonial type, having a spiral newel post composed of a spindle balustrade carried around a central post and on up the stairs. The spindrels, risers and strings are to be painted white, while the hand rail and treads will be of birch with a mahogany finish. The dining room, which is large and has light from two sides with French doors leading onto a side porch, is finished the same as the hall. The living room is finished in a natural white cedar. In this room is a large tile mantel of unique design, and bookcases. The kitchen and pantry are in white enamel and have all the built-in features.

On the second floor there are four bedrooms, a sewing room and two baths with tile floor and base. This floor is to be finished entirely in white enamel.

In the basement there is a large furnace room, storage room and a cistern with pump to furnish the house with rain water. A solar heater on the roof will supply hot water. The entire exterior is to be plastered over metal lath.

The structure was designed and is being erected by the Pacific Building Company.

The Evening Tribune reported in November 1913 that the beautiful new home of Charles Norris, under construction on the hills, was nearing completion; ‘It is the first residence being built on the new tract just opened, owned by A. H. Frost. The grounds are being improved and a number of sites are being located for other new homes. Mr. Norris and family expect to be settled in their new home for the Christmas holidays.’

Like most property in Pacific Beach at the time, the site had belonged to the San Diego Beach Company, the former Folsom Bros. Co. renamed in 1911 when the Folsom brothers retired and A. H. Frost became president. In 1913 the company had transferred about four blocks north of Beryl Street and between Ingraham and Kendall streets to Frost, and in early 1914 Frost incorporated these blocks into a new subdivision to be called the Congress Heights Addition. The map of Congress Heights replaced Wilbur Street with Collingwood Drive and added Malden Street, Monmouth Drive and Colina Street (the original map included a short extension of Jewell Street that was further extended in 1926 when Colina Street was renamed Jewell). The recently completed house, the only residence in the new subdivision, stood on lots 119 and 120, at the corner of Collingwood, Colina and Malden in the center of Congress Heights. The assessed value of the improvement in the city’s tax books was $750 (compared to an average assessment of $150-$250 for other houses in Pacific Beach).

In April 1915 Pacific Beach was the subject of the San Diego Union’s series of ‘Little Journeys to the Suburbs’ which reported that PB was one of the most desirable of the local communities, a locality of homes composed largely of people who had retired from active business. Several of the county’s show places were within its environs, notably the homes of F. T. Scripps, James H. Haskins and Charles C. Norris (the Scripps home, also assessed at $750, once stood where the Catamaran is now and the Haskins home, assessed at $450, is still standing on Diamond Street across from the middle school).

Charles Norris was not one of those Pacific Beach residents who had retired from active business. When he moved in to his new home around the Christmas holidays in 1913 he was not yet thirty years old and was an active real estate salesman. In the 1900 census he had been living on Julian Street in the Ocean View area of San Diego with his mother Sarah and his older sister Alice. Charles, age 15, was ‘at school’ at that time and a ‘student’ in the 1903 city directory, by which time the family had moved to 1534 Fifth Street. In April 1903 the family apparently visited La Jolla; a list of arrivals at the Seaside Inn included Mrs. S. R. Norris, Alice G. Norris and Chas. Norris (A. H. Frost was also on the list and they may have first met there). By 1904, when the family lived at 1644 Tenth Street, near the corner of Tenth and Date, Charles was a clerk at E. J. Swayne, a local real estate office. Charles Norris was listed as a salesman at E. J. Swayne in the 1905 city directory.

The Norris family made news in September 1906 when their home at Tenth and Date streets was burglarized while the family were out calling on some friends on Golden Hill. According to the Evening Tribune, when Mrs. Norris and son Charles Norris of the E. J. Swayne real estate company returned home about 9:20 o’clock they were surprised to find the doors open and to hear someone moving about the house, but the thief had seen their approach and darted out the rear door when they entered. Within the house everything was turned upside down, drawers being opened on the floor and the whole house in general disorder. The Tribune noted that the thieves were experts of the highest order; they took only the solid silver, discarding the plate, and only the best of Mrs. Norris’ and her daughter’s jewelry. Charles Norris, immediately after phoning to police headquarters, set out after the thieves, tracking them from footprints under the window. The plunder taken consisted of many valuable pieces of silver and jewelry many of which were heirlooms of the family, the total value being about $500. The police were watching all trains and had notified the jewelry stores and pawnshops.

About a week later the thief was caught by police officers at the San Diego Savings Bank when he attempted to change a pocketful of small change. The Tribune explained that at one of his recent heists he had gotten away with the contents of a child’s savings bank containing about $20, mostly in small silver and nickels. The police surmised that the thief would attempt to change this ‘chicken feed’ into money of larger denomination, and had requested all banks, saloons, cigar stores and business houses to be on the watch and report anything suspicious. After prolonged ‘sweating’ following his arrest, H. F. Hammond broke down and confessed to robbing five residences and was jailed in lieu of $2,000 bond. He had been living at the Willard Hotel and on searching the room the stolen jewelry was found hidden between the sides of the upper drawer of his bureau and its outside casing. From Mrs. Norris’ residence he had taken two watches, one of which was a lady’s silver watch; two solid gold necklaces, one diamond ring worth over $75, two gold rings, one pair of diamond ear rings, two gold chain watch fobs, one costly razor, one silver neck chain and one diamond pin.

In 1907 the Norris family moved to Pacific Beach where they lived in a home owned by A. H. Frost at the northwest corner of Olney Street and Garnet Avenue. Charles Norris still worked for E. J. Swayne but was also involved in real estate transactions on his own account, including a lot with a nine-room house on Fifth Street between Maple and Nutmeg ‘amidst the best in the Florence Heights residence section’ which he bought for $6000 as an investment in 1908. In 1909 Norris sold a lot on Tenth between I and J streets to D. C. Reed for $5000. C. C. Norris also owned unimproved property in Pacific Beach, including several lots on Diamond Street across Ingraham from the Haskins home. Mrs. Norris was active in social circles in Pacific Beach; she was one of the ‘handsomely gowned’ ladies who assisted Mrs. Haskins in receiving at the annual reception for the Pacific Beach Reading Club in December 1908 and was also among the guests present at the club rooms of the Pacific Beach Country Club on the occasion of the 12th wedding anniversary of Mr. and Mrs. Alfred Pease in 1909 (Mr. Pease was secretary of the San Diego Beach Company). The 1910 census found the family still living on Garnet Avenue, Charles reporting his occupation as real estate salesman and Sarah as ‘own income’.

In the years after 1910 Charles Norris apparently left E. J. Swayne and worked independently out of an office in the Granger building on Fifth Street downtown while continuing to live with his mother and sister in Pacific Beach. After moving into the house in Congress Heights in 1914 his listing in the San Diego city directory no longer referred to a downtown office, simply listing his occupation as ‘real estate’ and his residence (and his mother’s and sister’s) as ‘nr Lamont North Pacific Beach’.

The 1916 city directory listing for Charles Norris, real estate, added that he worked at 4437 Lamont Street, the address of A. H. Frost’s San Diego Beach Company office, formerly the office of Folsom Bros. Co. and before that the Pacific Beach Hotel (the building had been moved to the corner of Lamont and Hornblend streets from the beach area by Sterling Honeycutt in 1897). Although he lived at the home on Collingwood Drive until 1918 that property (and all other property in Congress Heights) was also actually owned by A. H. Frost.

In July 1918 Charles Norris married Miss Ethel Thomas in Toledo, Ohio, and after an extended wedding trip the couple returned to Pacific Beach in August. Miss Thomas had lived on Collingwood Avenue in Toledo and there is speculation that she had a hand in naming the street in Congress Heights (even though the street was named years before her marriage and relocation to Pacific Beach). The couple did not remain on Collingwood for long, however; they were not listed in the 1919 San Diego city directory and the 1920 census showed Charles and Ethel Norris living in Monroe, Michigan, near Toledo, where he was a salesman for Delco Light. They did return to California after a few years, first to Riverside and, fifteen years later, Pasadena, and finally to Orange County.

A. H. Frost sold lots 119 and 120 of Congress Heights to William Young in November 1918 and in April 1919 it was sold again, to Carolyne Percy. In 1932 Mrs. Percy sold the property to Charles Benton, a paint manufacturer and roofing contractor. When the Bentons moved in it was still the only address on Collingwood Drive but with the population explosion in Pacific Beach during and after the second world war the Bentons had 14 neighbors on Collingwood by 1954. In 1960 the home was owned by retired rear admiral John Andrew and made news when a 21-month-old baby who had wandered away from a nearby birthday party fell into the pool. The baby was pulled out within minutes and resuscitated by a neighbor using mouth-to-mouth respiration.

The Norris home had originally occupied two lots and was surrounded on three sides by streets; Collingwood Drive, Malden Street and Colina (later Jewell) Street. In 1961 Admiral Andrew sold the eastern-most 50 feet of lot 120, facing Jewell Street, and the new owners built a home there, at 4960 Jewell, completing the buildout of homes on the block. What was once the first residence in a new tract, and a notable show place, is now one of the row of elegant homes lining Collingwood Drive, but the one with a legacy (and a legend).

Pacific Beach Historical Society Photo

Springtime in PB

Vacant lots and other undeveloped spots around Pacific Beach have turned a brilliant shade of green after a series of winter storms blew ashore in January. In 2019 these undeveloped spots are few and far between and the greenery is only apparent in isolated islands between streets, sidewalks and houses.  It makes you wonder what it would have looked like before all the development occurred.

Actually, news reports from those early days did comment on the natural beauty of Pacific Beach after winter and spring rains. In January 1888 the only development in Pacific Beach was a hastily-constructed railway line built along what became Balboa Avenue. The line had been completed as far as Lamont Street in time to deliver more than 2500 people from San Diego to a hillside a couple of blocks north for the laying of the corner-stone of the San Diego College of Letters, the first substantial building in the month-old community. No one could have wished for a better January day, according to the San Diego Union; clouds were threatening rain in the morning but before the second train-load of excursionists reached Pacific Beach the sun had broken through the clouds and the green grass contributed to a sublime scene at the college campus. The San Diego Daily Bee added that the new campus was a lovely spot on a verdant slope. One of the speakers at the corner-stone ceremony also described the spring-like verdure, with the whole scene bathed in perennial sunshine. The college opened in September of 1888 but was not a success and closed in early 1891. The buildings remained, however, and were reopened in 1905 as the Hotel Balboa. A color (or colorized) post card from that time still shows a sublime scene of spring-like verdure bathed in sunshine (in 2019 the site is a parking lot at Pacific Plaza II).

When the college closed most of the academic community moved away but some remained and found the verdant slope surrounding the campus to be ideal for lemon cultivation. Several hundred acres were planted and in March 1895 a report in the Union stated that the lemon trees never looked finer nor made better growth. In other parts of Pacific Beach the fertile soil and winter rains combined to produce crops of grain and hay; the report in May 1895 was that hundreds of acres of grain were being harvested and the yield was good. The hillsides above the fields and orchards also benefited from the rain; the Union reported in February 1897 that ‘the hills and valleys hereabouts are clad in the most attractive emerald’.

Not every year was so ideal. In November 1897 men and teams and plows were said to be at work from daylight until dark getting ready to put in the seed for next year’s hay crop but in March 1898 the news was that although these grain-fields still looked green the need of rain was becoming very urgent. By August less than an inch of additional rain had fallen and the Union reported that the water situation was becoming serious. The ranches nearest the hillside were the greatest sufferers; the lemon ranches were irrigated but there was not enough water to supply the ranches at higher elevations. The Union’s Pacific Beach correspondent added that it was hoped that the experience of August 1873 would be repeated, when 1.95 inches of rain fell. However no rain did fall that August and only another quarter of an inch fell over the next three months.

1899 seemed destined to perpetuate the drought conditions in Pacific Beach. In March the news was that the seriousness of the water situation overshadowed every other topic. The service had been very insufficient for several days and the higher levels were feeling the situation very keenly. However in early May a delightful shower freshened the grass and trees wonderfully and a connection with a well in Rose Canyon had improved the water service. Showers in October were very welcome; the air was clear and beautiful and everyone seemed happy, not because a sufficient amount had fallen but because of the promise of more. By November 1899 the fields and hillsides were taking on the bountiful green so dear to all lovers of nature and O. J. Stough had nearly finished seeding 1200 acres to hay around the Beach.

Winter rains greeted the arrival of the twentieth century; the report from Pacific Beach in January 1900 was that the grain fields were beautiful and farmers said the prospects were never better. By March the grain was looking well since the rain and Pacific Beach ranches were a very pretty sight, the rich dark green of the orange trees mingled with the shades of the fruit from lightest green to deep yellow, contrasted with the pink and white of the peach blossoms. In April the ranches were busy picking lemons and the mowing machines were busy cutting O. J. Stough’s hay.

Although the young grain was looking well and pasture was good early in March 1901 another rain was ‘about due’. Apparently it did arrive on or around March 21, the date of the spring equinox. The report from Pacific Beach was that the ‘equinoctial’ rain was much needed and brought the grain along in fine shape (the correspondent added that arrangements should be made to have an equinox twice a month the whole year). The weather continued to be uncooperative, however. Most of the hay on the beach had been cut by mid-April 1901 but the Evening Tribune reported in late April that after holding off when it could have done the most good, a storm came ‘just in time to catch the new hay in the cocks so the farmers will have to fork it all over’ (ideally farmers ‘make hay while the sun shines’). The hay balers were back at work by the end of May and a quantity of hay was baled and shipped out.

The beneficial effects of winter rains became a common theme in the news from Pacific Beach in the new century. In January 1902 the Tribune reported that all the rain had soaked into the ground, which showed how very dry the earth must have been, but the hills had begun to show green and the lemon trees were looking well and were bearing heavily, with the promise of good price in the near future. A year later, in April 1903, the Union reported that recent rains had made fishing in False Bay (Mission Bay) very good, which kept the anglers busy when not employed in the orchards. The hay was all cut and most of it cured and the orchards were laden with bloom, not only with orange and lemon blossoms but with peach, pear and plum. Although 1903 and 1904 were relatively dry years, 1905 had the second highest annual rainfall ever recorded to that time in San Diego, over 16 inches. In June the Union reported that never had old Soledad been more lovely, with his mantle of variegated green and yellow, the tones of which vary with every hour of the day. The low-lying mesas between La Jolla and San Diego took on a more brilliant coat of red as many varieties of ice plant neared maturity and mingled with the long blooming sunshine flower.

O. J. Stough sold his holdings of over half the territory of Pacific Beach to Folsom Bros. Co. in November 1903. While Stough had plowed and seeded hundreds of acres of his land in the fall to harvest grain and cut hay in the spring, Folsom Bros. Co. was a real estate company that hoped to convert this undeveloped acreage into residential lots. By 1907 they were grading streets and pouring concrete sidewalks, and a subsidiary, Pacific Building Company, was incorporated to build homes for new lot owners. Lemon ranching had also gone into decline as eastern markets were increasingly supplied with lemons from across the Atlantic, particularly from Sicily, and some former lemon ranchers re-subdivided their land into residential lots. As more streets and sidewalks were paved and more houses built, fewer sublime scenes of variegated green were to be seen after winter rains (although the Union reported in 1908 that the people of Pacific Beach had been given a treat from Mother Nature in the fields of wild flowers that cover the hills back of the residence section).

The springtime displays continued to be noted for a few more years in the San Diego Union’s annual New Year’s day report of suburban communities. The Union wrote in 1918 that after the rainy season, which occurred in the winter months, the hills and every available spot in Pacific Beach were ablaze with wild flowers and all vegetation sprang into marvelous growth. No one could do justice to the advantages of living in this particular spot of Southern California. In 1922 the report was that the town occupied a site that might have been chosen by the gods. The setting was that of a beautiful picture in which no form of natural beauty had been omitted. To the north and east were green hills. ‘In such environs abide health and beauty. Hebe herself must have made this her dwelling place.’ (Hebe was the goddess of youth, and cupbearer for the gods and goddesses, serving their nectar and ambrosia).

Population growth and a new surge of residential development and street improvement following the war years of the 1940s eliminated most of the remaining open ground in central Pacific Beach, but for a while there were still green hills to the north and east in the springtime. When Kate Sessions Elementary School was opened at that corner of the community in 1956 this former student can remember a field of yellow mustard extending up the slope to a saddleback on the ridge. The development of Pacifica and Wesley Palms in 1960 replaced the green hills to the east, and the natural look of the hills to the north also disappeared as development continued up the slope of Mount Soledad. But even today, verdure can appear in undeveloped spots following winter rains; the San Diego Union-Tribune commented that the grass along local freeways had turned ‘greener than an Irish meadow’ after heavy rains in February 2019.

1704 Grand – Then and Now

The gambrel roofed American colonial revival cottage at the northeast corner of Grand Avenue and Jewell Street in Pacific Beach has stood for 113 years but it looks like it may not be around for many more. The house has been neglected for years, the shingle roof is disintegrating and the windows have been boarded up. In January 2019 the city declared it to be a vacant and unsecured structure, a serious threat to the public’s health and safety and a public nuisance. An official notice of abatement is posted on a gate.

It wasn’t always this way. In January 1906 the San Diego Union’s Local Brevities column announced that C. L. Boesch was clearing the ground for his new house in the Pike block at Pacific Beach. W. A. Pike was the contractor and the house was to be ‘one of the finest at the Beach’. Charles L. Boesch was a baker by trade but he was also a successful real estate speculator who had made news a year earlier when he bought the Victoria Hotel property on D Street (now Broadway) between Second and Third streets for $13,000. A few months later he sold it to Madie Arnott Barr for $16,000. Perhaps it was the profit on this deal that encouraged him to purchase the western quarter (lots 1-5 and 36-40) of Block 237 in the Pacific Beach subdivision, the block surrounded by Grand Avenue and Jewell, Hornblend and Kendall streets, from W. A. Pike in 1905 (Mr. Pike had acquired the block from Sterling Honeycutt the year before). Mr. Pike built the house at the southwest corner of the block and the Boesch family took up residence in April 1906.

The Boesch’s new home was in the heart of the Pacific Beach community, then numbering about 125 families. The railway from San Diego passed down the center of Grand Avenue and the Pacific Beach station was located about two blocks from their front door, at Lamont Street (the railway continued along Grand to the ocean front, where there was another station, then continued north to La Jolla). The corner of Grand and Lamont was also the site of the two stores, one of which housed the post office. The Presbyterian Church was two blocks north, at Garnet Avenue and Jewell Street, where a successor built in 1941 now stands. The Boesch family were Methodists, however, and their church was at first located at Emerald and Lamont before the congregation moved into the former lemon packing plant (and before that a dance pavilion, relocated from the beach) at Hornblend and Morrell streets, about three blocks from their home, in 1907. The Pacific Beach school house was on Garnet next door to the Presbyterian Church.

On the north side of Garnet, between Jewell and Lamont, the buildings of the San Diego College of Letters, opened in 1888 but closed in 1891, had been converted by Folsom Bros. Co. into a ‘first-class resort’ and opened in 1905 as the Hotel Balboa. The former Pacific Beach Hotel, at Hornblend and Lamont streets (also relocated from the beach) was repurposed as the Folsom Bros. Co. office. Folsom Bros. had purchased most of the property in Pacific Beach in 1903 and had embarked on a program of improvement and development intended to stimulate the sale of residential lots, beginning with the property between Grand, Garnet, Jewell and Lamont, then considered the ‘center of the suburb’. A few lots had been sold along Hornblend Street in this area and six houses were built there between 1904 and 1906, some of which are still standing. By 1908 most streets in the area had been graded and concrete sidewalks and curbs had been laid.

Mrs. Mary Boesch joined the Pacific Beach Reading Club and Miss Ruth Boesch, 13 years old in 1906, played the piano and sang in musical programs, many held at the nearby Hotel Balboa. Mr. Boesch was elected treasurer of a community improvement club founded in 1908 and was ballot clerk at the polling station at Pratt’s store at Lamont and Grand. In August 1910 the Evening Tribune cited a report by ‘weed commissioner’ C. L. Boesch that ‘gentlemen of leisure’ around the post office had volunteered to clear the weeds on Grand Avenue between Lamont and Broadway (Ingraham Street, wider than other north-south streets in Pacific Beach, had been named Broadway before 1900 and again between 1907 and 1913).

C. L. Boesch had purchased the western end of Block 237 from W. A. Pike in 1905 and in 1911 the block was still split between these two owners. Mrs. Boesch and Mrs. Pike were both members of the Pacific Beach Reading Club, which was then seeking a site to build a clubhouse. In May 1911 the Boesch and Pike families offered the club the lots where their properties met on Hornblend Street (lots 5 and 6), and with Mesdames Boesch and Pike on the building committee the Reading Club, now the Pacific Beach Woman’s Club, built the clubhouse that is still in use at 1721 Hornblend.

In August 1911 the Evening Tribune reported that Miss Ruth Boesch had left for Los Angeles where she expected to perfect herself in kindergarten work. She was an accomplished musician, vocal as well as instrumental, and her parents would also move to the Angel City and remain until Miss Ruth completed her course. In 1914 the Tribune noted that Mr. Boesch, then residing at Redondo Beach, had returned to Pacific Beach for a visit. In 1920 the federal census showed Charles, Mary and Ruth Boesch living on North Griffith Avenue in Los Angeles. Ruth was a teacher and Mr. Boesch again listed his occupation as baker.

Meanwhile, back in Pacific Beach the efforts of Folsom Bros. Co. to promote residential growth in the community had stalled. The Hotel Balboa had not been a success and in 1910 the property was leased to the San Diego Army and Navy Academy. The Boesch family sold the lots at the corner of Grand and Jewell in 1911 and their former home passed through a number of owners before being acquired by C. F. Crane, proprietor of a hat shop on Sixth Street downtown. Charles and Joanna Crane moved into the house with two of their daughters in August 1916 and lived there until 1931. The railway line outside their front door was abandoned and the tracks removed from Grand Avenue in 1919.

In September 1928 the house was listed in the Union under Beach Property; a 7-room 2-story house for $2750, $1000 cash, Chas. F. Crane, 1704 Grand Avenue. Also in 1928, the Cranes built a second house on the eastern side of their property, still standing today at 1718 Grand. In 1931 the Cranes sold the property at the corner of Grand and Jewell to Moss Todd, a mail carrier, and in 1936 Mr. Todd sold the property to William and Erna Handley, who moved in with daughters Florence and Erna and son Walter (Miss Erna Handley was named Miss San Diego in 1946 and went on to take second place in the Miss California contest that year).

The house at 1704 Grand is still owned by the Handley family. In 1993 a survey of Pacific Beach ‘heritage resources’ noted that it had been extremely well maintained. That description no longer applies and the question today is how much longer this historic home will continue to stand at the corner of Grand and Jewell.

1704 Grand Avenue in better days. (Pacific Beach Historical Society photo)


The Handleys sold the house in 2020 and it has been restored by the new owners, reportedly to become a short-term vacation rental.

1704 Grand Avenue in 2021

San Diego’s Pueblo Farm

When San Diego became an American city in the middle of the nineteenth century it assumed ownership of the lands that had formerly belonged to the Mexican pueblo of San Diego. These pueblo lands originally extended from National City to Sorrento Valley, and from the ocean to a line close to the present route of Interstate 805, but as the city grew most of this city property south of the San Diego River was sold to private buyers. By the first years of the twentieth century ‘pueblo lands’ had come to refer to the portion of the city lying north of the river. Only about 7000 acres remained under city ownership, most of it along the coast between La Jolla and Del Mar, and the city was still selling it off. In 1907 Pueblo Lot 1298, 160 acres, was sold to the Marine Biological Association for the establishment of a biological station, to be funded by Ellen Browning Scripps (the biological station eventually became the Scripps Institution of Oceanography). In 1908 Miss Scripps also purchased Pueblo Lot 1338, 130 acres in the Torrey pine groves near the northern edge of the pueblo lands (which eventually were included in Torrey Pines Park).

In 1908 San Diego voters passed an amendment to the city charter stating that all pueblo lands owned by the city lying north of the San Diego River were reserved from sale until the year 1930. The charter amendment also added a tax of 2 cents on each $100 of valuation of property for the purpose of improving these pueblo lands. One idea for improving these lands was to plant trees, and in November 1910 a pueblo forester was appointed and a site selected for a headquarters on the mesa about three miles north of La Jolla. The site was in Pueblo Lot 1311 and the council authorized construction of a one-story frame dwelling and a frame barn there for the forester’s use. A building permit for the dwelling, valued at $1600, was issued in December 1910. Other building permits for sheds and garages on Pueblo Lot 1311 followed in 1911 and 1912. An irrigation system was also installed.

The pueblo forester was Max Watson, and he explained to the San Diego Union that for years the pueblo lands had been idle, bringing no revenue to the city and its barren hills being anything but beautiful to the eye. He planned to plant a portion of the land with eucalyptus trees which would bring in revenue as well as being another step in the direction of making San Diego a city beautiful. He claimed that the eucalyptus was the one tree that could be grown successfully on this land and would produce hardwood of commercial value in a short time frame. It could also be grown in poor soil and on slopes too steep for plowing.

By the spring of 1911 Watson had set out about 40,000 trees and had also cleared a small acreage for growing hay for use on the farm. Later in the summer of 1911 a nursery was built for propagating trees for future plantings and work begun on building roads and clearing additional land. He reported that without any water other than rainfall the eucalyptus trees had grown to about eight feet after a year and to fourteen feet after eighteen months. About 200 more acres of trees were set out in 1912, many on hillsides and land not adapted for general agricultural purposes.

The land under Watson’s control became known as the pueblo farm, and in addition to its potential for generating revenue and improving the scenery it turned out that it could also serve as a temporary home and provide work for the homeless and unemployed. In the winter of 1911 – 1912 the Union reported that ‘derelicts of the highways’ who formed a pitiable broken line along Rose Canyon Road coming from Los Angeles, where work had failed them, climbed the hill to the pueblo farm house to plead for jobs. ‘These poor fellows catch gophers and make ‘mulligans’ of them, they are so hungry’, Max Watson told the Union. ‘We are feeding as many of them as we can out here but they come beyond our capacity’ (the Union explained that a mulligan is a stew of any kind of meat with any kind of vegetables). The council voted to provide a ‘field outfit’ for 100 men to be set up at the pueblo farm. The winter of 1911 – 1912 was also when the International Workers of the World staged a series of violent demonstrations in San Diego. City and county authorities responded by arresting scores of demonstrators and in March 1912 they visited the pueblo farm to select a location for a ‘stockade’ in which to confine the additional hordes which agitators of the IWW had promised to bring to San Diego.

The decision to house the homeless and feed the hungry at the pueblo farm was not universally popular; the police chief in particular was opposed to this ‘philanthropy’. The reputation of its workers was reflected in a Union editorial which criticized an article in the rival San Diego Sun as ‘written by persons who would be better employed on the pueblo farm’. However, conditions had improved enough by the summer of 1912 that the camp for unemployed workingmen was closed. Watson reported that four hundred men in all were employed over the winter for ten days each at 50 cents a day but they had all since got better jobs as businesses opened with the close of the winter season. The workers had cleared 140 acres thickly covered with brush, planted 200 acres with 150,000 trees and turned several hundred acres into fertile fields. In July 1913 San Diego’s mayor and members of the city council made an automobile trip to the pueblo farm to inspect development of the city’s ‘wild property’ north of the river. They were treated to a lunch of fried chicken, mashed potatoes, green beans, frijoles, pickled beets and cold slaw, all raised on the farm. Although no-one had anticipated the humanitarian mission of the pueblo farm, Watson wrote in 1913 that it had been his greatest challenge and became his greatest satisfaction.

Although the pueblo forester had been tasked with creating a forest on the barren or brush-covered pueblo lands, an area in the northern section of these lands was already forested with Torrey pine trees, a rare species that only grew at this location and on Santa Rosa Island. In 1914 Max Watson transplanted about 1000 young Torrey pines grown from seed at the pueblo farm nursery among the older trees with the idea of preserving the Torrey pine groves as a national monument. The Torrey pines had long been a popular tourist destination and a road to the pine groves from La Jolla had been established across the mesa. With the increase in the popularity of automobiles in the early twentieth century the road had been widened and the steep grades at either end of the mesa, the biological grade above the biological station (now La Jolla Shores Drive) and the Torrey pines grade above the Penasquitos lagoon, had also been improved. This road linked the route from San Diego through Pacific Beach to La Jolla and the state highway from the Los Angeles area which ended at Del Mar into a continuous ‘coast highway’ from San Diego to the north. Other roads led south from the mesa to La Jolla via ‘Pueblo Farm Canyon’ and to San Diego via Rose Canyon, north to Sorrento Valley and east to the Scripps’ Ranch at Miramar. Since the roads across the mesa crossed city pueblo land and the city was responsible for their construction and maintenance, much of the labor was provided by workers from the pueblo farm, including city prisoners and the unemployed. In the days before most roads were paved they were sprinkled regularly with water during the dry season to control dust, and in 1915 a reservoir with a capacity of 100,000 gallons was excavated by pueblo farm laborers (the reservoir is now the site of the National University campus).

By the end of 1915 the city council had concluded that road construction was a better use of money raised from the 2-cent property assessment for improving pueblo lands and decided to do away with the operation of the pueblo farm. Cultivation at the farm would be discontinued except for the harvest of the hay crop, which was used to feed the city’s teams. The buildings would be used as a camp for laborers building the Torrey Pines boulevard and other road projects on the pueblo lands, which all radiated from the pueblo farm. At the beginning of 1916 the pueblo farm, along with the departments of water, sewer, streets, harbor, city engineer and public buildings was consolidated into a single operating department presided over by a city manager. The positions of the former heads of its constituent departments, including the city forester, were eliminated. Max Watson continued to head the pueblo farm as a general foreman, but soon resigned and took a job out of town. His position as caretaker of the pueblo farm was taken over by Frank Sessions, brother of the well-known horticulturist Kate Sessions, who began his duties in January 1916. One of his first tasks was repairing damage to the roads leading down from the mesa to La Jolla which were washed out in the storms of January 1916 that had eroded roads and destroyed dams and bridges all over San Diego County (the ‘Hatfield flood’).

Events in the wider world were also destined to play a part in the future of the pueblo farm and San Diego’s pueblo lands. A war among European powers begun in 1914 had grown to involve much of the world and although the United States remained neutral until 1917 steps were taken to build up the military. As part of the military build-up the U.S. government petitioned San Diego’s city council in 1917 for a lease on a large tract of the pueblo lands to be used as a maneuver field for the thousands of marines to be stationed in and around San Diego. According to the Evening Tribune, the marines’ request was for 25 pueblo lots, practically all city lands north of Rose Canyon, extending from Rose Canyon to Torrey Pines Park and from the ocean to Sorrento Valley.  The marines’ maneuver field would be contiguous with the army’s Camp Kearny to the east and would be linked to it by the Miramar Road. The city had several pueblo lots for pasturage and four pueblo lots under cultivation and some buildings, and these properties were not to be used by the marines. The marines also agreed to not close any of the permanent highways through the lands and not to chop or damage any Torrey pines or other trees in the park. The marines did receive the lease and established a rifle range east of the pueblo farm buildings and south of the Miramar Road.

Road construction through the pueblo farm continued during 1918. In February the city manager announced that a new route for a paved highway from the Torrey Pines grade to the biological station had been decided on. From the biological grade it would follow the existing Camp Kearny road to the pueblo farm, then turn north to a new section of the Torrey Pines road, which would be paved. In December 1918 the news was that by January 1 perhaps automobile owners could travel into La Jolla from the north over a fine paved highway, as the city’s part of the work connecting the state highway at Torrey Pines with the paved biological grade was to be completed by then. In January 1919 the Southern California Highway Conditions column by a representative of the Automobile Club of Southern California described the Los Angeles Coast Route from San Diego:

go either by way of Ocean Beach or Old Town to the junction of Pacific Beach over good dirt road, thence follow through to La Jolla city, which is paved within its limits; thence a short stretch of dirt road to the foot of the Biological grade; thence pavement to the top of the grade. A short stretch through the Pueblo farm house for one-quarter of a mile will bring you to the new pavement on the mesa. From the mesa to Los Angeles the road is paved.

(The ‘junction of Pacific Beach’ was the intersection of Garnet Avenue and Cass Street, where the branches of the coast highway that ran east (via Old Town) and west (via Ocean Beach) of Mission Bay met before continuing north on Cass and Turquoise streets to La Jolla Boulevard)

Also in January 1919, the city council decided that since Superintendent Frank Sessions was doing the caretaker work and handling a lot of prisoners that the police supplied him with the pueblo farm should be placed under the control of the police department. Jail prisoners would be used as formerly and Superintendent Sessions would continue as caretaker temporarily. However, in April the council decided to take it back from the police and to authorize the city manager to resume charge of the city pueblo farm. The New Year’s 1920 review of the city in the San Diego Union reported that the pueblo farm, recently transferred to the operating department, had completed fall plowing of about 700 acres which was then being planted to wheat, oats and barley. These lands were soon to be made more valuable by irrigation from a water line from Del Mar to La Jolla. Since the city could not sell this land until 1930 it was planned to lease tracts for farming purposes.

In 1919 the city council had designated the pueblo farm as a site for a hog ranch to dispose of city garbage and in April 1920 the news was that its sows had presented the city with litters aggregating 60 baby pigs. The Union reported that there were about 100 young pigs at the farm and when they were grown to a weight of about 200 pounds the manager of operations would order them sold. As the hog ranch on the pueblo farm became established the canyon south of the farm came to be known as Hog Canyon. When work on widening and straightening the biological grade was undertaken in 1925 the first step was the preparation of a detour between La Jolla and the Torrey Pines mesa by widening and grading the road through Hog Canyon. In 1927 the city council agreed that Hog Canyon should be given the more respectable name of La Jolla Canyon; the Union reported that the councilmen took the view that the La Jolla Women’s club was right in demanding the change, as ‘hog’ was in no way adapted to La Jolla’s scenic beauty and aesthetic atmosphere. The new La Jolla Canyon highway proved to be popular with motorists who wanted to avoid the biological grade and it was also paved in 1928. In 1930 the La Jolla Canyon road, formerly the Hog Canyon road, was officially renamed Torrey Pines Road.

The highway across the Torrey Pines mesa and the Torrey Pines grade continued to be widened and improved as traffic increased on the coast highway and in 1930 arrangements were made to quarter the highway workers at the city pueblo farm to save the long trip back and forth to the city. The highway through Rose Canyon was paved in 1930 and state highway officials joined local dignitaries in December for opening ceremonies at the junction of the Rose Canyon highway with the Torrey Pines highway at the city pueblo farm. In 1931 a new route for the Torrey Pines grade was completed and the combined highway became known as the ‘million-dollar gateway to the north’. In 1935 it was officially renamed Pacific Highway.

Max Watson had resigned as pueblo forester in 1916 but in 1934 he visited the site of the pueblo farm where the Union reported that the eucalyptus trees that were mere sprigs when he superintended their planting then towered 20 to 30 feet high in groves and along the highway on the mesa from Torrey Pines Park to the biological station on the old La Jolla grade. ‘In those days, the mesa south of Torrey Pines was barren of trees. We planted more than 100 acres of them, not counting those planted along the highway’, he said.

The pueblo farm was seldom in the news after the 1930s. In December 1945 a truck loaded with ammunition from a navy ship in San Diego Bay to a weapons storage site near Fallbrook caught fire and exploded on US 101 about 400 feet south of the La Jolla Junction, where US 101, La Jolla Shores Drive, Torrey Pines Road and Miramar Road came together. The explosion was massive, heard as far away as Palomar Mountain, and caused widespread damage in the vicinity. Fortunately, the driver had escaped the truck before the fire reached the ammunition and had alerted nearby residents. No-one was killed but a number of people were injured by flying glass from shattered windows, including a resident of the city farm. A final news item appeared in 1951, when the city published a notice requesting sealed bids for houses for sale to be moved by purchaser. One of the houses was the Keeper’s House at Pueblo Farms on Pueblo Lot 1311.

The site of the pueblo farm has undergone tremendous changes in the intervening decades. In 1956 a majority of San Diego voters approved a proposition authorizing the city to sell 40 or 50 acres of pueblo land in Pueblo Lot 1311 southwest of La Jolla Junction for use by the University of California should the school expand its campus at Scripps Institution of Oceanography. In 1958 the university administration began negotiations for the acquisition of a 65-acre site in Pueblo Lot 1311, west of US 101 and southwest of Miramar Road, for an Institute of Technology and Engineering. City voters also approved transfer of other pueblo lands if requested by the university regents and in 1960 the regents voted to acquire 482 acres of Torrey Pines mesa for development into a general university campus. The first land transfer would be 58 acres in Pueblo Lot 1311, between US 101 and La Jolla Shores Drive, south of Miramar Junction. The marine rifle range on leased pueblo land east of the pueblo farm had been acquired by the government in 1937 and named Camp Matthews in 1942, but by the 1960s activities there had become incompatible with the growing population in the vicinity and in 1964 it was closed and its property also transferred to what became the University of California, San Diego or UCSD.

Pueblo Lot 1311 in the 21st century, now part of the University of California, San Diego.

In 1959 Max Watson cited the University of California’s decision to build a campus near La Jolla as justification for his efforts to create a forest on the pueblo lands 50 years before. By transforming the barren hills around La Jolla into a scenic shaded area, the trees had greatly raised the value and attractiveness of the area. ‘I don’t think the university would have agreed to locate a branch campus there if it hadn’t been for that. We’re cashing in on what we did 50 years ago. Everybody thought it was a flop then, but it hasn’t turned out that way at all.’ Although the former pueblo farm has been transformed into a modern university campus, with laboratories, classrooms, dormitories, and a spectacular library, the area is still dominated by its eucalyptus trees, many of them growing in the neat rows planted by the prisoners and other unfortunates that Watson welcomed over a century ago.

PB’s Hotel Balboa

In July 1904 the San Diego Evening Tribune reported that after five days’ careful consideration of over 1,200 names submitted for their new hotel at Pacific Beach, Folsom Bros. Co. wished to announce that the name finally selected was Hotel Balboa. Ten different contestants had suggested the name and Folsom Bros. awarded the prize, choice of a $100 lot in Pacific Beach or $100 in gold, to the first; the other nine would be eligible for a $20 discount on any lot they may select from the company’s holdings. Folsom Bros. Co. had received letters from all over the United States and even from Canada and considered the name a happy choice as the discoverer of the mighty western sea would always be associated with the Pacific Coast. That a splendid hostelry, where the weary traveler may find rest and recuperation, should be built upon the shores of the sea which he discovered and should bear his name seemed both timely and appropriate.

San Diego College of Letters, Pacific Beach, 1888. (SDHC #9800)

The splendid hostelry to be named after the discoverer of the Pacific Ocean was not actually new. The original building had been built in 1888 for the San Diego College of Letters on its campus north of what is now Garnet Avenue and west of Lamont Street. It was the first substantial structure in Pacific Beach, designed and built by James W. Reid, architect of the Hotel del Coronado. A second college building was added in January 1890, just west of the original building and across Garnet from Kendall Street. That building was funded by O. J. Stough, owner of most of Pacific Beach at the time, and became known as Stough Hall. The college failed in 1891 and the college campus property was the subject of several foreclosure auctions at the courthouse door before being acquired by William Johnston, minister of the Pacific Beach Presbyterian Church, with the intention of reestablishing a college at the site. However, the college project never materialized and instead Rev. Johnston and his family moved into the main building and also rented rooms to boarders and visitors, especially easterners visiting during the winter season. By 1901 it was listed in the San Diego city directory as the College Inn, with Rev. Johnston as secretary and manager. Stough Hall became the venue for dances and other community activities for Pacific Beach residents.

Folsom Bros. Co. was a real estate company that controlled the Fortuna Park additions south of Pacific Beach and in 1903 purchased O. J. Stough’s holdings, giving it control of the majority of the property in Pacific Beach as well. To stimulate lot sales Folsom Bros. began a program of improvement and development, grading streets and adding curbs and sidewalks in what was then the center of the community, the area around Hornblend and Kendall streets south of the college campus. In April 1904 the company also leased the campus itself, the four blocks surrounded by Garnet Avenue and Jewell, Emerald and Lamont streets which included the College Inn and Stough Hall. In addition to $50 per month rent Folsom Bros. would be required to spend a like amount in improving and repairing the grounds and buildings – painting the inn was particularly mentioned. The terms included an option to continue the lease for a second year at $100 per month or to purchase the property for $15,000. Folsom Bros. announced that the property would be developed into a first class resort.

After deciding on the appropriate name in July, Folsom Bros. began the conversion of the former college into the promised first class resort. The company announced in September 1904 that a subsidiary, the Pacific Beach Construction Company, would be incorporated to undertake the development and complete the Hotel Balboa. The work was still underway in April 1905 when Folsom Bros. Co. exercised its option to purchase the college campus from Rev. Johnston. In August 1905, the San Diego Union announced that the new Hotel Balboa would be thrown open to the traveler and tourist, although the regular formal opening would take place later, at the beginning of the winter season. Travelers and tourists responded; the weekly Pacific Beach news column listed guests from Michigan, Minnesota, New York, Ohio, Arizona and Texas during October and November. In mid-November, artistically printed folders and cards distributed throughout the city announced that the new Hotel Balboa was offering the general and traveling public a low special rate for a few weeks until the formal winter opening, affording an unusual opportunity to enjoy a period of sea and bay side life at this favorite Southern California resort at greatly reduced rates.

The Union’s annual New Year’s Day review of San Diego’s communities in 1906 proclaimed the opening of the magnificent Hotel Balboa in the very heart of Pacific Beach to be of first importance among the large number of improvements that had taken place in that suburb during the year 1905. In point of architectural beauty, location and appointment it stood second to none in San Diego. The grounds were in process of being adorned and beautified by flower gardens, stately walks and drives and it had been furnished throughout in admirable style and was capable of accommodating over 100 guests. It was situated on an eminence over 100 feet above sea level giving a magnificent view of every aspect of scenery that this favored spot afforded. A feature that the guests found especially interesting was the observatory erected over the building which contained the dining room and ballroom, which brought the whole country in the environs plainly into view (the dining room and ballroom were in Stough Hall; the ‘observatory’ was the tower Rev. Johnston had built over Stough Hall in 1898). To the south lay Mission Bay, one of the finest bodies of still water in California, four miles long and two miles wide with exceptional opportunity for indulgence in still water sports. The bathing and boating was ideal and during duck season its surface was covered with all sorts of birds. The hotel’s cuisine was un-excelled and its rates reasonable, ranging from two dollars a day upward. Every room had an outside exposure and was provided with city water, electric lights and telephones. The new and elegant furnishings and excellent service made it a delightful spot in which to rest or recreate.

However, the hotel’s first season was a short one. In April 1906 the last two guests, Alexander and Mary McGillivray, returned to North Dakota and the hotel closed for the summer to allow improvements that would greatly add to its list of attractions (the McGillivrays were winter visitors who owned a 20-acre ranch four blocks south of the hotel that never had a ranch house of its own). Larger palms in the ballroom and ping-pong room and several exterior cozy corners were among the latest features. Additional work on the ballroom floor made it so tempting that impromptu dances had been held nearly every night since its completion. Although the hotel itself was closed, many people, both residents and tourists, spent a day or more at Pacific Beach and the Hotel Balboa. Most of them came out of curiosity, having heard what an excellent place it is for a day’s rest or outing. Garnet Avenue had been graded and surfaced with oil and driving over the fine oiled boulevard delighted many of the visitors. Young people found great enjoyment swimming, boating and playing on the hotel tennis courts. It not being in the nature of young people to sit still, the evenings usually ended on that slippery floor in dancing.

That ballroom was the scene of a ‘floral contest’ in June 1906, a ‘fairyland of color and costume’. The San Diego Union reported that the ballroom never looked more beautiful and there had never been a larger or more delighted concourse of people assembled there. Almost the entire population of Pacific Beach turned out, along with visitors from La Jolla, San Diego and Los Angeles. The ping-pong room, converted into a reception hall, was canopied with huge pepper boughs. In the large bay-window alcove of the ballroom cypress branches were used and their pungent fragrance filled the entire building. The ballroom itself was one great bower of palms. Miss Lena Campbell won the prize for the most artistic floral costume, a white princess gown covered with asparagus fern and white carnations. One woman appeared in the unique but somewhat startling costume of Mother Eve, modernized by a black dress under the fig leaves. There were many in white with ropes, wreaths and solid banks of roses, lilies, honeysuckle and other flowers.

Hotel Balboa had been conceived as a year-round resort, and in June 1906 Folsom Bros. Co. published a letter in the Union addressed ‘to the pleasure seeker’; with the approaching of summer the one thought which comes to all is ‘Where shall we spend our vacation?’. The letter suggested that in forming a decision the main points to be taken into consideration should be the opportunities for a complete rest and change, the number of pastimes and pleasures to be enjoyed and lastly the expense. The Hotel Balboa was the most delightful year round resort hotel on the coast; the beautiful parlors, wide verandas, large airy comfortably furnished sleeping apartments, cozy, light dining rooms and the very best cuisine, a large ballroom with splendid floor for dancing, and out of door sports, such as tennis on new double tennis courts, croquet, boating and bathing on Mission Bay, pleasures on the beautiful beach, driving, shooting and rambling in the foothills were but a few of the delightful amusements. There were special weekly and monthly rates for the summer season. The hotel’s amenities and amusements were also described in a beautifully illustrated brochure.

Pacific Beach celebrated the Fourth of July in 1906 with picnic lunches at the beach, games and sports, songs, addresses, a concert by the city guard band and fireworks. Although these activities would take place at the beach, the day would begin and end at the Hotel Balboa. All carriages, automobiles, bicycles, etc., would assemble at the hotel at 8:30 a. m. to march to the water front and after the fireworks display in the evening from the cliff at Diamond Street would return for dancing at Hotel Balboa. The Evening Tribune reported that the program was carried out smoothly from the beginning of the parade until the last dance at midnight.

Activities at the Hotel Balboa increased as the summer season advanced in 1906 but the San Diego Union noted that formal affairs did not find as much favor as impromptu musicales, card parties and dances. Outdoor activities were also popular; from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. all who could be coaxed off the veranda and shaded lawns spent that time in and on the bay, and many enthusiastic fishermen sought the surf every evening. Everyone drives, as the afternoon cools, or else plays tennis or croquet. The young people of Pacific Beach had begun practicing tennis and hoped before long to announce a tournament. After dinner, cards and games were brought out and at the hotel few evenings pass without a visit to the ballroom by the devotees of the dance. For the card games in the parlors of the Hotel Balboa, dignified games like whist were put aside for more frolicsome games of hearts or black-jack. Parties from the hotel also went boating at night to see the ‘phosphorus’, the glassy surface of Mission Bay lighting up wonderfully with the movement of the boat and touch of the oars.

Improvements continued in 1907; Folsom Bros. ads for Pacific Beach real estate noted that the grounds of the Hotel Balboa were being laid out and developed at great expense by the eminent landscape architect responsible for the beautiful Westlake, Eastlake, Elysian, Echo and Hollenbeck parks in Los Angeles. In February a building permit was issued for a pergola connecting the two buildings of the Hotel Balboa, valued at $1000. The Union reported in July that for six months men and teams had been digging, cutting, filling and leveling on the grounds of the Hotel Balboa. The grounds had been laid out on the front and rear and on the west side of the hotel in curb drives and walks, spaces for grass plots and squares for cottages. No planting had been done as yet and would not be until winter rains came but looking at the grounds from the tower over the ballroom of the hotel one could see the lines and curves and could not but realize that the hand of an artist had been at work.

The 1907 makeover of the hotel also involved a change in management and a different approach to the visitor experience. Folsom Bros. had marketed the hotel as a first-class resort, a place for out-of-town visitors to spend a vacation, but in the summer of 1907 ads described Hotel Balboa as a most home-like family hotel, a delightful and restful place in which to spend the ‘week end’. Although the new decorations, furnishings and alterations that had been in progress for several months were not entirely completed, the new management decided to throw open the hotel for its first ’week end’ in July and as a result the house was filled to overflowing with a very select party of San Diego business and professional men and their wives and families. Some came Saturday morning but most arrived on the 3:30 train, prepared to stay until Sunday evening. An eight-course dinner was served at 6 o’clock in the new dining room and then the new ballroom was thrown open and a well-known orchestra called young and old to the dance, which lasted until midnight.

By August 1907 the Union was reporting that the ‘week ends’ recently inaugurated by the new management of Hotel Balboa were proving a great success and seemed to fill a want long felt by those of San Diego’s business and professional men who, with their families, liked to get away from home and business surroundings for a quiet Sunday of rest and recreation. Ever since the recent remodeling and refitting of the hotel the idea of spending weekends at Hotel Balboa had been growing in favor, and now every Saturday afternoon the train dropped an increasing number of people at Pacific Beach to enjoy the outing so that the number of ‘week enders’ together with the regular guests of the hotel filled the house to overflowing. Interestingly, many of the arrivals listed in reports of the hotel ‘week ends’ were Pacific Beach residents and their wives who were unlikely to have arrived on the Saturday afternoon train. Mr. and Mrs. James H. Haskins, whose home was at the corner of Diamond and Ingraham streets, and A. S. Lane, whose home on Hornblend near Kendall (now the Baldwin Academy) was within shouting distance of the hotel, probably walked. Not all the guests were local either; hotel arrivals in September included Mr. and Mrs. A. F. MacFarland, who apparently liked what they saw in the vicinity and bought lots at the corner of Beryl and Lamont where they built the neo-classical home that is still standing there.

San Diegans were again well represented at the Hotel Balboa ‘week ends’ in September, filling the popular hotel to overflowing. The vaudeville entertainment given in the ballroom proved to be the best ever, creating screams of laughter from all sides of the room. The performers (who were dressed up as crows, even to beak and claws) were called back again and again. In addition to the 50 hotel guests, 100 Pacific Beach and La Jolla residents were present. Following the performance light refreshments were served and dancing indulged in until the midnight hour. The hotel arrivals column listed the 50 guests, most of whom were residents of San Diego and again included many Pacific Beach residents including the Haskins and also V. J. Hinkle and family (who lived in the house now at Law and Ingraham streets) and Mr. and Mrs. F. T. Scripps (of the former Braemar mansion at the foot of Bayard). Mrs. Scripps’ sisters, Misses Violet and Fannie Jessop from Coronado, were also hotel guests. Out-of-town visitors in September 1907 included a group of nine ‘Hawaiian beauties’ who visited Pacific Beach, where they were met with carriages and taken by Folsom Bros. on a drive. The tour included a stop at the Hotel Balboa where they had about an hour and a half to themselves; they played pool, danced and sang many of their native songs, then were guests at a delightful tea given by Folsom Bros.

The hotel ‘week ends’ for business and professional people from San Diego came to an end in 1907 and by early 1908 the news was of the entertainment and social activities held at the hotel; old-fashioned dances and songs in the ballroom and whist in the card rooms. Manager C. B. Combe gave a sailing party on Mission Bay and members of the Pacific Beach theatrical club were rehearsing for their entertainment, to be given in the hotel theater. There would be a minstrel part, followed by vaudeville, then refreshments and dancing. In March 1908 a ‘baby party’ was one of the most enjoyable events ever given at the popular house. Every room was full and many guests had to be turned away. A number of gentlemen chose the Buster Brown costume, some appeared as Little Lord Fauntleroy and others were simply Mamma’s Pets in loose jumpers and big sashes. The ladies were so charming that it was a pity they could not dress in the sweet simple costume of a child at all times. The new tennis courts were finished, and although hotel arrivals included some parties from New Jersey, Pittsburgh, and even Nome, Alaska, most arrivals were from the local area, perhaps responding to ads emphasizing a homelike atmosphere and the lowest rates in the city; family rates were said to be lower than housekeeping.

In February 1908 W. W. Whitson, president of the Hillcrest Company, purchased an interest in Folsom Bros. Co. and was installed as its first vice-president and treasurer. In May, Mr. and Mrs. Whitson held a ball and card party at the Hotel Balboa that the society page of the Union called one of the most pretentious society events of the season. Between four and five hundred guests from San Diego took the La Jolla line train from Fourth and C streets downtown, special rates having been secured for their accommodation. On arrival at the pretty village of Pacific Beach a broad boulevard lighted by hundreds of swaying Japanese lanterns led to the brilliantly illuminated hotel, where elaborate decorations of palms, greenery and geraniums were arranged throughout the picturesque rambling structure. A list of the hundreds of guests, a virtual who’s who of San Diego society at the time, was continued on a second page (Mr. Whitson’s association with Folsom Bros. Co., and the hotel, ended in November 1908 when the Folsom brothers bought out his interest).

While the ballroom and other amenities were popular for dances and other community activities and the hotel rooms could be filled on weekends by local residents attracted by the lowest rates in town, the Hotel Balboa never became the commercial success that Folsom Bros. Co. had anticipated and by 1909 it was apparently closed; no ads had appeared since mid-1908, it was no longer listed in the ‘hotel arrivals’ columns and guests were no longer mentioned in the news reports from Pacific Beach. When a group of leading Pacific Beach citizens, including Mr. MacFarland and Mr. Haskins, formed the Pacific Beach Country Club in February 1909 a portion of the Hotel Balboa was sub-leased for their club rooms. When the country club hosted a delightful dance in May 1909 the ‘north wing of the big hostelry’ was turned over to the guests of the club, about fifty of whom were taken out from San Diego on a new gasoline motor car, which made a special round trip for the occasion (one of the new McKeen rail cars, or ‘Red Devils’, introduced to the La Jolla line in 1908).

The hotel buildings and grounds were ready for other opportunities and in November 1910 Captain Thomas A. Davis, a veteran of the Puerto Rican campaign of the Spanish American War, leased the property and opened the San Diego Army and Navy Academy on the site. Although there were only thirteen cadets in the first class and he was the only instructor, the academy thrived under Capt. Davis’ leadership and soon outgrew the original hotel buildings. After considering a move to a larger facility in the Loma Portal area Davis instead purchased the college campus property in 1921 and in 1923 added on by acquiring the two blocks on the north side of the campus and two more blocks on the west side in 1925.

The hotel buildings continued to be used for teaching and administration but the growing battalion of cadets was housed first in rows of wooden cottages and then in enormous reinforced concrete barracks built between 1928 and 1930. The cost of this building program combined with the economic downturn of the Great Depression led to the academy’s bankruptcy in 1936 but it was taken over in 1937 by the John E. Brown College Corp. and operated until 1958 as Brown Military Academy. The property was then developed into a shopping center and the old buildings, once the Hotel Balboa and originally the San Diego College of Letters, were demolished. Workers razing the buildings found a tin baking soda can containing newspapers, maps and other articles placed in the cornerstone at its dedication in 1888.

Today the only reminder of these earlier times is a small monument dedicated to Brown Military Academy outside a Chinese restaurant in the shopping center. The monument includes an aerial photo of the academy that shows the buildings that had once been the Hotel Balboa – and are now a parking lot.

Kate Sessions in PB

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pacific Pines

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

Map 697, Recorded January 1892

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

PB Asbestos Works

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Selling the Palisades

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cocktail Springs

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The McKellars’ grave at Mt. Hope Cemetery

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

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

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

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

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

One Paseo under construction at Cocktail Springs site, 2018