Tag Archives: College of Letters

Pacific Beach Hotel

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

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

In 1887 a ‘syndicate of millionaires’ acquired most of the property in the undeveloped area north of Mission Bay (then called False Bay), christened their new tract Pacific Beach, and incorporated themselves as the Pacific Beach Company. These developers also built a railroad line that ran from downtown to the ocean front in Pacific Beach over what are now Garnet, Balboa and Grand avenues. At about where Second (now Bayard) Street intersects Grand the railroad line curved south to a passenger depot and maintenance facility at the end of the line. In 1888 the Pacific Beach Company built a hotel, the Hotel del Pacific, on Block A along this curve, the site of the present-day Starbucks on the southeast corner of Grand and Mission (2022 note; Starbucks has been replaced by Presotea).

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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




The Honeycutts in PB

Sterling Honeycutt was born in Tennessee in 1832. His family later moved to Indiana and in 1856 he married Nancy Huntington, an Indiana native. The couple moved to Rock Island County, Illinois, where in 1869 they reportedly erected the first residence in the village of Reynolds. They were also involved in building the first Methodist church in that area. In the 1880 census, Sterling Honeycutt, not yet 50 years old, described himself as a ‘retired farmer’, presumably having profited by selling his farm.

In the early 1890s the Honeycutts moved to San Diego and in 1893 they purchased Blocks 215, 216, 237 and 238 of Pacific Beach, four adjacent blocks between Grand and Garnet avenues and Jewell and Lamont streets (then Grand and College avenues and 9th and 11th streets, and just across College from the campus where the San Diego College of Letters had operated from 1888 to 1891). Although shown on the map as city blocks divided into lots and separated by public streets, there were no actual improvements or graded streets in 1893 and the Honeycutts developed this property as a lemon ranch. In 1894 they also acquired the northwestern portion of Block 214, on the other side of Lamont, and although they were still living downtown at the time they occasionally spent a few days at their cottage there, at the southeast corner of Lamont and Garnet, ‘looking after the interests of their fine lemon ranch’.

At the end of 1896, Honeycutt also purchased the north half of block 239, the south side of Hornblend Street (then California Avenue) between Lamont and Morrell (12th) streets, in a deal that required him to move the hotel and the dance pavilion that the Pacific Beach Company had built near the beach at the foot of Grand Avenue to this new location within six months. The hotel ended up at the western end of the block, the southeast corner of Hornblend and Lamont. The dance pavilion was moved to the east end of the block, the southwest corner of Hornblend and Morrell. In this new location the pavilion was also adjacent to the railway to San Diego, which ran along the north side of Balboa Avenue at the time, and it was converted into a facility for curing, packing and shipping lemons.

In 1900 a nephew of Mrs. Honeycutt became the first member of the Honeycutts’ extended family to join them in Pacific Beach when the west 5 acres of Acre Lot 51, between Diamond and Chalcedony streets east of an extension of Morrell Street, was granted to Mrs. Lizzie Huntington. The Huntingtons soon left, however, granting the property to Sterling Honeycutt. In 1904 Honeycutt also acquired the east 3.3 acres of Acre Lot 51, between Diamond and Chalcedony and west of Noyes Street.

In November 1903 the Braymer Comet of Caldwell County, Missouri, reported that W. P. Parmenter and wife, Frank McCrary, Jr., and wife and Moses Town and wife and daughter were expected to leave for California and that all except Mr. Town and family expected to make their future homes there. The paper explained that Parmenter, a local Justice of the Peace, had sold his fine farm for $65 an acre and was moving with his wife to San Diego, where he had bought a home, on account of Mrs. Parmenter’s health, which had been bad for many years.

Mrs. Parmenter was the former Sallie Honeycutt, Sterling Honeycutt’s younger sister. The Parmenters had purchased Blocks 249 and 272, two adjacent blocks between Grand and Reed avenues and Lamont and Kendall streets, just across Grand Avenue from Sterling Honeycutt’s lemon ranch. Once established in Pacific Beach, Parmenter also bought the north half of Block 213, the property on the south side of Garnet between Morrell and Noyes, and the southwest quarter of Block 214, the northeast corner of Lamont and Hornblend.

Frank McCrary’s wife Wilda was the Parmenters’ daughter and Honeycutt’s niece. The McCrarys also bought property in Pacific Beach, acquiring E. Y. Barnes’ former lemon ranch on the west half of Acre Lot 64, which was located between Emerald, Jewell, Diamond and Lamont streets. This property came with the home that the Barnes had built at the northeast corner of Jewell and Emerald. The Parmenters and McCrarys also jointly purchased Acre Lot 20, the 9.7 acre tract east of Lamont between Beryl Street and the city land that became Kate Sessions Park, and a few months later sold it to John W. Warren, yet another resident of Caldwell County (Warren later sold it to Sterling Honeycutt). And even though the Comet had suggested that the Town family didn’t expect to make their future home in California, Moses Town also purchased property in Pacific Beach, the south half of block 217, the lots on the north side of Hornblend between Ingraham and Jewell, which included a house at the northwest corner of Hornblend and Jewell. Their daughter, Ella, worked as the ‘janitress’ at the Pacific Beach schoolhouse, on Garnet Avenue across the alley from their home.

Frank McCrary’s brother Charles had also married one of the Parmenters’ daughters, and Honeycutt’s niece, Winnie. The Charles McCrarys moved to Pacific Beach from Missouri in 1903 and purchased the south half of block 213, the property on the north side of Hornblend between Morrell and Noyes streets. In 1904 they also bought the northeast corner of block 214, which included a house at the southwest corner of Garnet and Morrell. Another Honeycutt nephew, the Parmenters’ son Frank, his wife Ida and their son Guy also moved from Missouri to Pacific Beach in 1904. Guy Parmenter went on to become one of the original thirteen cadets in the inaugural class of the San Diego Army and Navy Academy in 1910.

Two of Sterling Honeycutt’s own brothers and their families also joined the migration from Missouri to Pacific Beach. Daniel Honeycutt, his daughter Orpha and her husband, Mark McLain, came from Caldwell County while John Honeycutt, his wife Edwina and their son Harry came from Jasper County.

Sterling Honeycutt’s siblings and nieces and nephews had joined a growing concentration of residents in what had become the heart of the Pacific Beach community at the beginning of the twentieth century. This central core, a few blocks on either side of Lamont Street north of Grand Avenue, also included the former college buildings, which became the Hotel Balboa in 1904 and the Army and Navy Academy in 1910. The community’s two churches and the school house were located within a block of the college campus. The railroad between La Jolla and San Diego ran along Grand Avenue and stopped at the Pacific Beach station just west of Lamont Street. Also at Grand and Lamont, on the northwest corner, was the E. Y. Barnes store and post office.

The area south of Grand, however, remained undeveloped until 1904 when the McCrary brothers and Frank Parmenter began building a second store on the southwest corner of Lamont and Grand, the northeast corner of Block 249. A building permit was issued in November 1904 and in January 1905 the new store ‘threw open its doors’. The San Diego Union described the new emporium as the largest in the suburb, and noted that the proprietors were recent arrivals from Missouri. In 1906 the Pacific Beach post office was moved across Grand Avenue to the McCrary & Parmenter store and W. P. Parmenter became postmaster.

While his relatives and their neighbors had been migrating from Missouri and buying property in Pacific Beach, Honeycutt himself had been selling off portions of his lemon ranch as he transitioned from lemon ranching into the real estate business. In 1901 he sold block 216 to Thomas McConnell, William Pike bought block 238 in 1903 and block 237 in 1904, and most of block 215 had been sold by 1905. By 1907 Honeycutt no longer owned any of the property of his former lemon ranch. In exchange, he had purchased property on the east side of Block 206 and the west side of Block 207, both sides of Noyes Street between Garnet and Felspar, and in 1904 he built a house on the southeast corner of Block 206, the northwest corner of Garnet and Noyes. In 1906 the Honeycutts and Charles McCrarys bought the east half of Acre Lot 48, except for the southeastern corner quarter where the ranch house originally built for the Gridleys stood. They later divided this property, the Honeycutts keeping the north half and the McCrarys the south half.

The Honeycutts were founding members of a Methodist congregation in Pacific Beach in 1901. Initially the Methodists had met in the Presbyterian church at the corner of Garnet and Jewell, and later at the school house next door, but the arrival of the Parmenters and McCrarys apparently increased the size of the congregation enough to justify acquiring a church of their own. In February 1904 the Honeycutts purchased the northwest quarter of Block 180, the southeast corner of Lamont and Emerald, and transferred it to the church. An existing structure on this property was converted to a church building. Honeycutt later acquired the remainder of Block 180, between Lamont, Emerald, Morrell and Felspar streets.

Growth of the Methodist congregation continued, however, and in 1906, faced with expanding the existing church building, the Honeycutts donated the former dance pavilion and lemon packing house at Hornblend and Morrell to the church. When Nancy Honeycutt died in May 1909, her obituary in the San Diego Union noted that the Honeycutts had been prominent in the religious, social and commercial development of the community, Methodism at Pacific Beach largely owed its existence to them, and the present edifice, dedicated as a Methodist church two years earlier, was a monument to the family. Nearly the entire population of Pacific Beach turned out to her funeral services there, ‘filling the place as never before’.

Sterling Honeycutt had been a successful lemon rancher but was also one of the first to recognize that property in Pacific Beach held even greater value for residential development. His former lemon ranch was one of the first areas to be developed, with graded streets, concrete curbs and sidewalks, and a number of new homes. He became a real estate operator and continued to invest in Pacific Beach real estate. In 1909 he acquired a five-acre tract in the northeast corner of Pueblo lot 1800 and subdivided it as Sterling Park, between Lamont, Chico and Kendall streets and Pacific Beach Drive.

Property owned by the Honeycutts, their relatives and former neighbors from Caldwell County, Missouri during the first decade of the twentieth century.
Property owned by the Honeycutts, their relatives and other former residents of Caldwell County, Missouri during the first decade of the twentieth century.

By the end of the decade the extended Honeycutt family and their fellow migrants were a sizable presence in Pacific Beach, with seven households counted in the 1910 census. Sterling Honeycutt himself, by then a widower, lived in a house full of relatives, including his niece Pearl and three children of Nancy’s niece Agnes Rogers. His sister Sallie Parmenter, with husband William shared a household with their daughter Wilda McCrary, her husband Frank and their children (Charles McCrary and his family had moved back to Missouri in 1908, but returned and settled in San Diego in 1911). The Parmenters’ son Frank, with wife Ida and their son Guy lived on Lamont Street. Honeycutt’s brothers Daniel, with daughter Orpha McLain and her husband Mark, and John, with wife Edwina and their son Harry, his wife and child were also Pacific Beach residents. Moses and Ella Town, not relatives but neighbors of the Parmenters and McCrarys in Missouri, also still lived on Hornblend.

Sterling Honeycutt died in 1911, followed within a few years by the elder Parmenters and the Towns. Other family members moved away, some to downtown San Diego and some back to Missouri. By 1920 only the families of Daniel Honeycutt and Frank Parmenter remained in Pacific Beach, and Frank and Ida Parmenter still lived at the corner of Lamont and Thomas streets into the 1950s.

When Venice Park was created from Acre Lots 72 and 73 of Pacific Beach in 1906, a new street in the subdivision was named Honeycutt Street, presumably in honor of the then-prominent Pacific Beach residents (although Honeycutt was not a participant in the subdivision). The name of this street, between Morrell and Lamont streets from Pacific Beach Drive to Crown Point Drive, is the only sign of the Honeycutt family remaining in Pacific Beach.

Honeycutt and Fortuna

PB Methodist Churches

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wee Kirk by the Sea

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

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

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

San Diego Beach

Pacific Beach. What could be a more fitting name for a district of San Diego with a wide sandy beach along the Pacific Ocean? That is apparently what the original promoters of Pacific Beach thought in 1887 when they christened their new subdivision and incorporated themselves as the Pacific Beach Company. And that is what this community of San Diego is still called today. But in the 1920s a new developer, declaring that the past had not done justice to San Diego’s finest residential area, decided that it needed a fresh start, beginning with a new name: San Diego Beach.

It was true that Pacific Beach had been a disappointment to the succession of real estate operators who had come before. The Pacific Beach Company had donated a four-block campus near the center of their tract (where Pacific Plaza is today) and had expected a college built on the site, the San Diego College of Letters, to attract purchasers for their town lots. However, the college failed within a few years and the hoped-for college town reverted to a semi-rural community dependent on lemon ranching. In 1903 Folsom Bros. Co. acquired much of this property as well as property in the Crown Point area that became the Fortuna Park additions. Folsom Bros.’ plan was to stimulate growth through a program of improvements, which included grading streets, laying curbs and sidewalks, and renovating and reopening the former college buildings as the Hotel Balboa. However, these improvements also failed to attract a sufficient number of new residents and in 1910 the Folsom brothers withdrew from their company, which was then taken over by A. H. Frost and renamed the San Diego Beach Company.

By the early 1920s there were about 150 residences and 500 residents in Pacific Beach. Most community activity was still centered within a few blocks of the former college campus, which had been reborn once again in 1910 as the San Diego Army and Navy Academy (later Brown Military Academy). One of the two churches was across the street from the academy, at the corner of Jewell and Garnet. The Pacific Beach schoolhouse was next door to the church on Garnet, although it was replaced in 1923 by a new school a block further west at Emerald and Ingraham, now the site of the PB middle school (the old wooden schoolhouse was moved onto the academy grounds to serve as its junior school). The Women’s Club building was a block south of the academy, on Hornblend between Jewell and Kendall streets. The office of the San Diego Beach Company and the other church (before it was sold in 1922) were also on Hornblend, between Lamont and Morrell streets (these buildings had originally been a hotel and a dance pavilion on the beach at the foot of Grand Avenue and were moved to this more central location in 1897). The post office and a store were at the corner of Lamont and Grand, another block south.

However, the steam railroad between San Diego and La Jolla, which had run along Grand Avenue in Pacific Beach and stopped at a station at Lamont and Grand, had been abandoned in 1917. The electric rapid transit line from San Diego to La Jolla which replaced it in 1924 followed a different route, over a bridge at the entrance to Mission Bay and along Mission Boulevard through Mission Beach and Pacific Beach. The more developed central portion of Pacific Beach had become more isolated and the undeveloped beach-front areas more accessible.

The main coast highway connecting San Diego to Los Angeles and the north, paved in 1919, then ran through Pacific Beach along Garnet to Cass, north on Cass to Turquoise Street and west on Turquoise to Bird Rock and La Jolla. An alternative route between San Diego and Pacific Beach via Mission Beach also joined the coast highway at Garnet and Cass. In 1923 Earl Taylor, a real estate operator recently relocated from Long Beach, noted that over 6000 autos daily, including about 70 auto stages, representing over 25,000 people, passed this intersection of the main artery to the beach and the coast highway each day. In October 1923 Taylor acquired more than 100 lots west of Cass Street, most of them facing Garnet Avenue, and in March 1924 he announced construction of the new business center of Pacific Beach, or New Pacific Beach, which he styled ‘the coming Long Beach of San Diego’ (apparently a positive image in that era). Improvements in New Pacific Beach included the Dunaway Pharmacy building, completed in 1926, which is still standing at the corner of Garnet and Cass.

Taylor also invited successful developers from beach-front communities around Los Angeles to invest in New Pacific Beach, and in 1925 Ernest Pickering, who had developed the pleasure piers in Santa Monica and Venice, announced plans for a million-dollar pleasure pier in Pacific Beach (a pleasure pier was basically an amusement park built out over the beach; although definite amusements were not announced, the Evening Tribune speculated that they would likely include Ginger Snaps, Great Slides, Over-the-Tops, Treat-em-Roughs, and other devices dear to the pleasure-loving world at Southern California beaches). Taylor expected the pier to increase prosperity for Pacific Beach, noting that lots in Venice were valued at up to $1000 a front foot following construction of their pier. In fact, the Union reported, Venice had been built and sustained by the amusement pier industry.

Although Pickering was the ‘Pleasure Pier King’ and the project was initially referred to as the Pickering Pier, he soon backed out and turned over development of the pier to Neil Nettleship, a prominent Santa Monica realtor. Nettleship was also put in charge of the development of over 500 acres of Pacific Beach property that the pier syndicate had acquired from the San Diego Beach Company. It was Nettleship, said to be moving with his family to Pacific Beach for permanent residence, who decided that Pacific Beach needed an entirely new identity.

Declaring that the good people of the section formerly known as Pacific Beach had expressed themselves overwhelmingly in favor of a change of name to San Diego Beach, and a charter had been secured from the Secretary of State for the San Diego Beach Chamber of Commerce, Nettleship ‘took the liberty’ of dedicating a full-page ad in the October 4, 1925, San Diego Union to ‘enumeration of the reasons for the aforesaid change of names’. First, he said, Pacific Beach might describe anywhere on the Pacific coast, and he claimed there was, in fact, a Pacific Beach near Los Angeles (there actually is another Pacific Beach in Washington). San Diego Beach could only be in one place. Second, San Diego Beach definitely identified San Diego as being on the sea, a fact which he claimed most Americans were not aware of, and naming a beach after it would advertise this fact to the world. Third, ‘new occasions teach new duties’, so the new Pacific Beach would benefit immeasurably by a fresh name and a fresh start in life. The past had not done justice to its purple, panoramic hills, its inimitable mountain-marine views, its graceful, unobstructable slopes, its tall, commanding palisades and its gentle, sea-level sites. ‘A new name, O Pacific Beach! A new fame, O San Diego Beach!’

An accompanying article in the Union declared that the future of newly named San Diego Beach, formerly Pacific, was assured. The greatest factor in the rapid rise of San Diego Beach was said to be the new fast San Diego Electric car service; San Diego Beach realty experts declared that without this service former Pacific Beach languished, with it San Diego Beach should increase at least 1000 per cent in population within the next 12 months or two years at the outside. Nettleship was quoted as saying that the new name had superior advertising value, both to San Diego and to the former Pacific Beach and that ‘All in all, the change should be highly beneficial to all concerned, the small loss in sentiment being many times compensated for in the greater clarity, vigor and import of the new name’.

To capitalize on the superior advertising value of the new name, the first official act of the new San Diego Beach Chamber of Commerce was the creation of an 80-foot streamer to be stretched across the intersection of Garnet Avenue and Cass Street, the new ‘business center’ of the ‘new beach’. The Union initially reported that the streamer would read ‘San Diego Beach combines the features of all beaches – beauty, climate, bathing, soil, accessibility’. However, the Nettleship Company (‘acting in the general good of the new San Diego Beach, nee Pacific Beach’) changed course and announced that the slogan would be selected in a word-‘less’ contest (‘in which you would be rewarded for the number of words you leave out – the shorter the slogan, the more paid’). In creating a slogan it would help to bear in mind that San Diego Beach combined the features of all beaches – ‘five-point’ perfection; the climate of Long Beach, the beauty of Santa Monica, the soil of Santa Barbara, the swimming of Palm Beach and the accessibility of Venice; ‘It has what other beaches want’. Presumably bearing this in mind, Mr. S. A. Smith of La Jolla received $20, $2.50 a word, for the winning slogan: ‘San Diego Beach has what other beaches want’.

Despite the greater clarity, vigor and import, and the superior advertising value of San Diego Beach, the community had been called Pacific Beach for nearly 40 years and transitioning to a new name was bound to be awkward. Some followed the Nettleship Company in treating Pacific Beach like a maiden name; a December 1925 ad for Beach Property contained a listing for a good, substantial 5-room plastered house on Grand Avenue in New San Diego Beach (Nee Pacific Beach). Other writers inserted ‘Pacific’ parenthetically into the new name, as in a June 1926 full-page ad in the Union by the Greater San Diego Beach Association inviting potential investors to ‘Live – Play and Profit at San Diego (Pacific) Beach’. A May 1926 story in the Evening Tribune about an upcoming grunion run on San Diego beaches included an invitation to ‘smelters’ from Neil Nettleship, prominent developer of San Diego (Pacific) Beach, to make use of the free and public beach oven (fire ring?), fire-wood pile, picnic tables and other conveniences provided on the beach adjoining the site of the new pier.

On other occasions, the two names, or even combinations of the two names, were mixed. Nettleship himself announced in April 1926 that an estimated 10,000 people attended the formal christening of the new pier in Pacific Beach as ‘Crystal Pier’ (despite threatening weather and actual showers). He then went on to say that the future of San Diego’s Pacific Beach was assured, and that he regarded San Diego Beach, in fact, as the perfect beach, possessing all five of the requirements which make it so (this time he went on to note which requirements the competition lacked; Long Beach lacked panoramic beauty, Santa Barbara lacked accessibility to a large population, Santa Monica lacked perfect swimming, Venice lacked fertile soil and Palm Beach lacked the perfect climate). Newspaper reports also mixed the two names, sometimes in the same article. In May 1926 the Union reported that a plan by ‘resort boosters’ to put the road up Mt. Soledad in shape for automobiles and eventually pave the ‘short-cut from Pacific Beach to La Jolla’ was put forward by the chambers of commerce of Mission Beach, San Diego Beach and La Jolla

In at least one instance, local governments implicitly endorsed the name change. In December 1925 the Common Council of the City of San Diego and the Board of Supervisors of the County of San Diego signed off on Kendrick’s Addition to San Diego Beach, a subdivision of Acre Lot 47 Pacific Beach. This term remains part of the legal description of property on Chalcedony and Missouri streets between Ingraham and Jewell to this day.

The annual roundup of regional attraction on New Year’s Day, 1929, included a story about long stretches of clean white sand that were playgrounds for thousands annually. Pacific Beach was said to be on high, sloping land overlooking the ocean and affording a marvelous panorama to the south. ‘Marking a new era of development Pacific Beach has recently been rechristened San Diego Beach, and much activity has centered during the past year there, and in its immediate vicinity’ (despite PB’s rechristening, the article then moved on to La Jolla, ‘just north of Pacific Beach’).

Despite the promotional campaign by local realtors and occasional mention in the papers, the name San Diego Beach did not catch on and was rarely used outside of real estate ads. In city directories of the late 1920s, for example, even the entry for the Nettleship-Tye Company, ‘Developers of San Diego Beach’, listed its branch office at the Crystal Pier Bldg, Pacific Beach. The new name also failed to produce the population growth that Nettleship had predicted and the real estate market in Pacific Beach, or San Diego Beach, continued to languish. The branch office in Pacific Beach was closed by 1930, the Nettleship-Tye Company itself had disappeared by 1931 and in 1932 Neil Nettleship was managing a life insurance office downtown. Neil Nettleship’s idea that the real estate market would somehow benefit from a fresh name and a fresh start was no more successful than those of his predecessors and as he withdrew from Pacific Beach and eventually from the real estate business San Diego Beach went with him.

Folsom Bros. Co.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hotel Balboa

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


A Distinguished Address


The quaint cottage at 2104 Diamond Street, overlooking the corner of Diamond and Noyes, is one of the first houses ever built in the Pacific Beach subdivision and may be the oldest one still standing. It is also associated with some of PB’s most distinguished early-day residents.

In 1887, at the height of San Diego’s great boom, a ‘syndicate of millionaires’ bought up the property we now know as Pacific Beach, incorporated as the Pacific Beach Company and, in October 1887, filed a map for the Pacific Beach subdivision. In December 1887 they held an opening sale which the San Diego Union called the most successful in the history of San Diego real estate transactions, with over $200,000 worth of lots ‘disposed of’. Not only that but the paper reported that the buyers were all legitimate investors, many of them intended to improve their lots and five handsome residences were to be erected immediately.

For some reason, perhaps because the lots were sold on an installment basis, the first deeds were not actually recorded until April 1888, but one of the first deeds that was recorded, on May 18, 1888, was for lots 39 and 40 of Block 140, the property under what is now 2104 Diamond Street (on the 1887 map it was Alabama Avenue, at the corner of Thirteenth Street). The grantee was Madge Morris Wagner and the consideration was $250 gold coin of the United States of America.

Madge Morris Wagner was the wife of Harr Wagner, editor of the Golden Era, a literary magazine established in San Francisco in 1852. Wagner had purchased the Golden Era in 1882 and in 1887 he moved it to San Diego, explaining to his subscribers that San Diego was destined to become a great city and the Golden Era was determined to contribute to and benefit from the city’s growth. In a May 1887 editorial he explained the benefits to a city of an institution of higher learning and suggested that San Diego was large enough to support one. To implement this vision, Wagner convinced the Pacific Beach Company to include a college in the plans for their new community. The October 1887 subdivision map did set aside a four-block College Campus in the center of town, where Pacific Plaza is now, and the Pacific Beach company deeded it to the college company founded by Wagner and his partners, C. S. Sprecher and F. P. Davidson. The cornerstone for the San Diego College of Letters was laid in January 1888 and the original college building was completed and opened for 37 students in September 1888.

San Diego College of Letters and student body, Pacific Beach, 1888.
San Diego College of Letters with student body, faculty and staff, Pacific Beach, 1888 (San Diego History Center #9800).

As a founder and professor at the college Harr Wagner would have been one of the first residents of Pacific Beach, and the house built on the Wagners’ property at the corner of Alabama and Thirteenth, a short walk from the college, may have been one of the handsome residences expected to be erected immediately, possibly as early as 1888. Although they had lived at 2229 E Street downtown when the 1887-88 San Diego City Directory was printed, their residence was listed as Pacific Beach in the 1889-90 directory.

From 1888 to 1892 John D. Hoff’s Asbestos Company was located near the present-day intersection of Garnet Avenue and Soledad Mountain Road in Pacific Beach. Hoff’s asbestos works manufactured paints, boiler coatings and other products incorporating asbestos. A March 1889 ad in the San Diego Union listed some well-known persons having Hoff’s asbestos goods in use and one of these well-known persons was Harr Wagner. Although the ad doesn’t specify what goods were in use or where they were being used, several of the other references on this list were located in Pacific Beach, including the College of Letters and the Presbyterian Church. It may be that Harr Wagner had used Hoff’s asbestos paint to protect and fire-proof his house, just a few blocks down the street from Hoff’s factory, sometime before March 1889.

There was certainly something there by the end of 1889. A U. S. Coast and Geodetic Survey map of the Pacific Coast from False Bay to La Jolla, dated 1889, covered Pacific Beach and included cultural features such as buildings and roads. One of the buildings that showed up on this map was at Alabama and Thirteenth, presumably the Wagners’ home. The map also shows two buildings labeled ‘University Buildings’ a few blocks to the west. The original college building had been built in 1888 but a second building, Stough Hall, was begun in September 1889 and completed in January 1890. On the map, the western-most of the two university buildings is in the appropriate location for Stough Hall, but in the wrong orientation, aligned with the original college building. Stough Hall was actually aligned with College (now Garnet) Avenue and at an angle to the original building. Apparently the cultural features on the map, which included the house at Alabama and Thirteenth, had been field-checked in late 1889 when the location of Stough Hall was apparent but its final footprint was not.


Madge Morris Wagner was a successful writer in her own right who had long contributed articles and poems to the Golden Era. In 1889 she began work on a novel, A Titled Plebian, which was completed in July 1890 and published in the December 1890 issue of the Golden Era. An ad for Hoff’s asbestos company in the same issue of the Golden Era said that the author had written the narrative at her Villa Home, Pacific Beach – made attractive and beautiful – both interior and exterior – by Hoff’s Glossy Asbestos Paints. ‘The Mirror Walls 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 house at 2104 Diamond, on a bank above the street, still has a view of the shores of Mission Bay that would have included the site of the asbestos works, alive with busy men in 1889 and 1890.

The development of Pacific Beach and the establishment there of the San Diego College of Letters had anticipated that the population growth seen during San Diego’s great boom would continue indefinitely. Unfortunately for the developers, and for the college, the boom suddenly ended in 1888, a few months after the Pacific Beach Company’s opening sale and before the college had even opened. In addition to the grant of the College Campus itself, the company’s endowment to the college had included hundreds of lots to be sold by the college to fund future operations. The end of the boom, however, caused a collapse in the San Diego real estate market, including Pacific Beach lots, drying up this expected source of funding. The college managed to stay open for two years but in the summer of 1890 Harr Wagner and his fellow founders, Sprecher and Davidson, transferred their interest in the college company to ‘eastern parties’, presumably with deeper pockets. Wagner and Sprecher resigned their positions on the faculty to devote their time to the Golden Era, where Wagner was Editor and Sprecher became Associate Editor. Davidson remained at the college to represent the new owners.

In November 1890 Harr Wagner was elected County Superintendent of Schools and Madge Morris Wagner took over as editor of Golden Era. Wagner’s tenure as superintendent was notable for his progressive educational policies, but he was defeated for reelection in 1894 and eventually decided to take the Golden Era back to San Francisco.

In October 1891 the San Diego Union reported that Harr Wagner had moved his household goods from his home in Pacific Beach to the corner of Walnut and Albatross, and that Mr. Havice had moved into the house vacated by Mr. Wagner (George Havice was married to Harr Wagner’s sister Jennie). The Havices also owned an entire block, Block 213, a few blocks to the south, between what are now Garnet Avenue and Noyes, Hornblend and Morrell Streets. In 1892 the San Diego Union reported that Havice had set out lemon trees on his property, introducing the lemon industry that was to revive the economy of Pacific Beach and sustain it over the next decade.

Although the Wagners had moved to the Bankers Hill area, they still owned the property in Pacific Beach where in 1893 city records listed improvements assessed at $240, presumably the value of the house at the corner of Alabama and Thirteenth. In 1894 the Wagners sold the property to Elizabeth Dunn of Columbus, Ohio, and from 1895 to 1904 city records listed it under her name, with improvements continuing to be assessed in the range of $175 to $200. Miss Dunn, however, remained in Ohio and the property, and the house, has always been associated more with her sister, Dr. Martha Dunn Corey, a Pacific Beach pioneer who was also the region’s first resident physician.

In 1892 the Pacific Beach Company had begun selling ‘acre lots’ in the outlying areas of the community, tracts of about 10 acres intended for agricultural development. One of the first acre lots to be sold, in February 1892, was Acre Lot 19, granted to Lucien Burpee in trust for Martha Dunn Corey and her children (Acre Lot 19 is now C. M. Doty’s Addition, south of Kate Sessions Park and surrounded by Kendall, Beryl and Lamont streets). Dr. Corey and her husband, Col. George H. Corey, followed George Havice’s example and developed Acre Lot 19 into one of the first lemon ranches in Pacific Beach. In 1895 the city leased George Corey an additional 20 acres of the city land adjoining their property (that became Kate Sessions Park) on the condition that he clear it. While operating their lemon ranch the Coreys presumably lived in the ranch house on the property, while the cottage on Block 140 was rented out (the Evening Tribune reported in 1898 that Mr. and Mrs. Conover had leased Dr. Corey’s house on Alabama Street).

In 1900 the Coreys moved to Marion, Ohio, where Dr. Corey practiced medicine, but in 1906, by then a widow, she returned from Ohio and established a medical practice in La Jolla, with a home and office at 7816 Girard Street. She also formally acquired the property and the home at the corner of what had become Diamond and Noyes streets from her sister. City records show Martha Dunn Corey as the owner beginning in 1905; the deed transferring the property was recorded in 1908.

Dr. Corey lived and worked for nearly twenty more years in La Jolla, which she was said to have considered her only true home, but she also retained the house on Diamond and apparently even occupied it intermittently. The San Diego city directory for 1913 listed her address as Diamond ne cor Noyes, Pacific Beach (other directories from 1908 to 1924 listed her La Jolla address) and the San Diego Union reported that for Christmas 1913 Dr. Corey and her three sons motored to their home in Pacific Beach and prepared dinner for Mrs. S. C. Dempsey and her family (Sally Dempsey had a real estate office at 7818 Girard, next door to Dr. Corey and presumably her tenant).

Dr. Corey occasionally took time off to be with her sons, and some of that time was spent in Pacific Beach. In 1914 the Evening Tribune reported that Dr. Corey would accompany her sons Gardner and Fred Corey to university at Berkeley and would probably remain with them until Christmas. Her La Jolla residence would be leased and Dr. F. H. Parker had come to La Jolla to practice in Dr. Corey’s place. In December, 1914, the news was that she had returned from Berkeley to occupy her cottage in Pacific Beach where her sons Fred and Gardner were expected to spend the holidays. She would resume her practice in both La Jolla and Pacific Beach. In February, the report was that Dr. Corey ‘who now resides in Pacific Beach’ had opened a new office at the corner of Girard and Prospect. In May, her sons were expected to return to La Jolla and Pacific Beach to pass their vacation with their mother.

In 1917, after war was declared again Germany, she accompanied her son Dunleigh, also a physician, to Honolulu, where he was surgeon aboard the USS Schurtz (the Schurtz was a former German cruiser interned since 1914 and seized by the navy in 1917). They were said to have a pleasant apartment in town, with Lt. Corey commuting to his ship each day. Back in La Jolla, in 1923, her son Fred Corey married Miss Ruth Richert, who had grown up in the house that still stands at the other end of Block 140, at the corner of Diamond and Olney. Gardner Corey was also married in 1923, to Miss Mary Scripps, daughter of Fred and Emma Scripps who lived in Braemar Manor on Mission Bay where the Catamaran Resort Hotel now stands.

When Dr. Martha Dunn Corey retired in 1925 she moved back to Pacific Beach, not to Diamond Street but to the house on Grand Avenue at Bayard that is now the Needlecraft Cottage. Her former home in La Jolla is also still standing, although no longer at its original location on Girard Street, in the ‘downtown’ La Jolla business district. It was moved, first to Draper Street and then to The Heritage Place property at the corner of La Jolla Boulevard and Arenas Street.

Dr. Martha Dunn Corey's cottage, now at The Heritage Place in La Jolla.
Dr. Martha Dunn Corey’s cottage, now at The Heritage Place in La Jolla.

In 1922 Dr. Corey had sold the house at 2104 Diamond to Ed Ritchie, a construction supervisor for the San Diego and Arizona Railway who went on to supervise construction of the San Diego Electric Railway line through Mission Beach and Pacific Beach to La Jolla in 1924. From 1928 to 1930 his wife Josephine served as president of the Pacific Beach Women’s Club (formerly the PB Reading Club), following in the footsteps of its other illustrious leaders like founder Rose Hartwick Thorpe and Mary Stoddard Snyder. In 1926 the Ritchies added a garage and in 1928 the house was re-roofed.

When Ed Ritchie died in 1937 the house was already nearly 50 years old. At that time there were still only three other homes on the same block of Diamond Street (one of which was the Richerts’), and only 40 on all of Diamond Street. Mrs. Ritchie moved in with a daughter, also at a Diamond Street address two blocks away, and her former home was rented out, mostly to aircraft workers working at Consolidated Aircraft or Rohr during World War II. Many more aircraft workers were housed in the hastily constructed federal housing projects surrounding Block 140 on the north and east, and many of these workers remained in Pacific Beach after the war, contributing to the housing boom that has never really stopped. Today there are hundreds of homes, condominiums, town houses and apartments on Diamond Street, but the cottage at the corner of Diamond and Noyes may have been the first.

The MacFarland Legacy

The MacFarlands Pacific Beach Home
The MacFarlands’ Pacific Beach home today

Andrew F. and Ella C. MacFarland only occupied it for two years but they left Pacific Beach with a grand edifice that has looked over the community for more than a century.  Behind the doors, however, their lives were a comedy of errors that eventually played out in courtrooms and newspapers across the state.

A. F. MacFarland had been an insurance agent in San Francisco and then vice-president and manager of an insurance company in Spokane. In September 1907 the MacFarlands paid a visit to Pacific Beach, staying at the Hotel Balboa, the building originally built for the San Diego College of Letters. They apparently liked what they saw; within weeks Ella had purchased 4 lots at the northeast corner of Lamont and Beryl Streets. In October the San Diego Union reported that they planned to build a $4000 house there and they moved into their new home in February 1908.

While living in their handsome house on the hill Mr. MacFarland became active in San Diego city affairs. He served on the executive board of a committee of 100 prominent citizens campaigning for amendments to the city charter. Closer to home, he filed petitions with the city clerk to have streets graded in Pacific Beach. In February 1909 he was one of the organizers of the Pacific Beach Country Club, which sub-leased space in the Hotel Balboa.

In August 1909 the Union reported that Mr. and Mrs. A. F. MacFarland had traveled to Los Angeles for Elks week. They had made the trip overland in their Maxwell runabout, making the distance between Los Angeles and Pacific Beach in only eight hours. A month later MacFarland was in the news again; this time burglars had ‘jimmied’ a window in his home with an axe and stolen a quantity of wearing apparel, seven suits of clothing worth $700 (although police did not expect to learn the exact amount of the ‘depredations’ until MacFarland returned from the north, the estimate of $700 would be a substantial proportion of the value of his home).

The MacFarlands’ residence in Pacific Beach turned out to be brief; by the end of 1909 they had moved out and returned to San Francisco, where he organized the San Francisco Life Insurance Company. It was also there where he became notorious as the ‘Bluebeard Mate’ and ‘Hymeneal Champ’, known for his ‘unparalleled demonstration of frenzied matrimony’ and ‘spectacular matrimonial tangles’.

According to the San Francisco Call, the history of his ‘hymeneal ventures’ began with his marriage to Leona Mayval more than 25 years before, at his old home in Genoa, Ohio. A year or two later he had moved to Kansas where, in 1896, he married Minnie Gerard, his previous wife forgotten although never divorced. After a few months he found that Minnie had another husband living so he left her and, in 1898, married Ella Clem in Oklahoma.

In early 1911 Ella found out about his marriage to Minnie and at his suggestion sought an annulment, ostensibly to leave him free to have the Kansas marriage annulled. Ella apparently understood that after this ‘tangle’ was straightened out they would then be remarried. Her annulment was granted on January 14, 1911 and the annulment of his previous marriage on January 28. However, Ella had her annulment vacated on March 17, alleging fraud and conspiracy. She claimed to be the victim of a plot by MacFarland and one ‘Jane Doe’ to deprive her of her share of community property worth $30,000.

On January 31, 1911, while temporarily free of his two most recent wives, Andrew MacFarland entered into a fourth marriage, this time with his former stenographer, Ethyl Groom, who herself had lately secured an annulment from her husband because he had another wife living in the east. When the annulment of his marriage to Ella was set aside, making MacFarland again a bigamist, Ethyl had her marriage to him annulled, on March 23, again with the understanding that he would divorce Ella and then remarry her. However, according to the Call, he then ‘seems suddenly to have recalled his first love in Ohio’ and returned there before dropping out of sight.

The San Francisco Call estimated Andrew MacFarland’s private fortune to be in the six figures, and all in cash. Miss Groom, although no longer married to MacFarland, claimed some of that cash as her own, saying that he had given her $10,000 in banknotes as a wedding gift and then stolen it. She had him charged with grand larceny and he was tracked down and arrested in Colorado Springs, where, according to the Call, he was on the point of leaving for Puerto Rico in the company of Ella.

At his trial in San Francisco, Ethyl made a ‘picturesque witness’ but the wealthy insurance promoter denied he ever gave her money and claimed she was merely seeking notoriety with a view to going on the stage. That jury could not reach a verdict, but he was acquitted in a second trial, on September 24, 1912.

By this time Andrew F. MacFarland was living in San Diego again, at the corner of B and Edgemont streets, and by 1914 the city directory indicated that Ella C. MacFarland also resided at that address. They later moved to 29th Street near Beech in South Park. Andrew was again involved in city politics and was mentioned as a candidate for appointment as City Manager. Ella was remembered as a popular South Park hostess.

However, their marital relationship apparently never recovered, and in August 1918 Andrew MacFarland again returned to the courts. His complaint for divorce from Ella stated that his employment made it necessary for him to be in Los Angeles during the week and when he returned to his wife and home in San Diego for weekends she acted in a cold and unaffectionate manner and visited upon him a continuous tirade of abuse, denouncing him as untrue to her and spending his money in riotous living during his absence from home. He begged her to cease but her actions remained the same; she pursued a studied and continuous course of nagging, vilifications, and denunciation. He added that all of her accusations were untrue.

Ella MacFarland’s cross-complaint denied these allegations and instead claimed that he had deserted and abandoned her and continued to live separate and apart from her against her will and without her consent. She prayed for judgment of the court that the bonds of matrimony between them be dissolved and that he take nothing under his complaint and be required to pay a reasonable sum for court costs and counsel fees. Judge Marsh ruled in September 1918 that all the allegations in the cross-complaint were true and granted Ella a divorce and $300 for court costs and attorney’s fees.

A week after his divorce from Ella, 51-year-old Andrew F. MacFarland married a 25-year-old stenographer and they apparently went on to lead an uncharacteristically quiet life in Los Angeles. Ella MacFarland also moved to Los Angeles, occasionally returning to visit friends in San Diego.

A Professor and a Botanist

Professor Edward Snyder

Edward Snyder was born in Sokal, Austrian Poland (now part of Ukraine) in 1835 and educated at Lemberg (now Lviv) and later at the University of Vienna. He became an officer in the Austrian army, taught languages and history at a cadet school and took part in Austria’s campaign in Italy in 1859. In 1862 he emigrated to the United States, enlisted in a New York regiment and served during the American Civil War. After the war he taught high school in the St. Louis area before becoming one of the first professors at the new University of Illinois in 1869, where he taught German and military science and was commissioned colonel in the Illinois national guard, commanding the University battalion.

Professor Snyder remained at the University of Illinois for 28 years, finally retiring as Dean of the College of Literature in 1896. In addition to his years of service, he donated $12,000 to the University to be used for student aid, loaned to students to enable them to complete their studies. Today Snyder Hall, a student residence at the University, is named in his honor.

In 1869 Edward Snyder had married Mary Stoddard Patchen, also a teacher in the St. Louis area. Mrs. Snyder was an amateur botanist and avid collector of botanical specimens, particularly marine algae, and it may have been her avocation that brought the Snyders to La Jolla, in 1895, where she spent the summer collecting on the beaches of La Jolla, Pacific Beach and False (Mission) Bay. They apparently liked the area and before returning to Illinois purchased a lot in La Jolla and property in Block 214 of Pacific Beach, the block now surrounded by Morrell, Hornblend and Lamont Streets and Garnet Avenue, about a block east of the former San Diego College of Letters buildings, which were west of Lamont and north of Garnet.

The Snyders originally purchased 12 lots in the eastern portion of Block 214 (from E. C. and Rose Hartwick Thorpe, for $500) but within a year the addition of four more lots gave them ownership of the entire east end of the block. The San Diego Union reported that Professor Snyder had arranged for improvements and expected ‘eventually to make his home in this charming locality’. A few weeks later, after their return home, he wrote that the weather in the east was so hot and sultry that he and his wife were ‘sighing for a breath of our cool ocean breezes’, according to the paper.

Professor Snyder did retire in 1896 and the Snyders wasted no time executing their retirement plan. ‘Hotel Arrivals’ in the June 18, 1896 Union listed Edward Snyder and wife from Champaign, Ill. at the Hotel Brewster; ‘Pacific Beach Notes’ for July 11 mentioned that Prof. Snyder and wife were in their cottage; on September 1 Messrs. Ash and Boughton had begun to build an eight-room cottage for Professor Snyder and on September 18 it was reported to soon be ready for occupancy. By 1897 the paper reported that he was adding another room to his home for a library. This home, at the northwest corner of Hornblend and Morrell, is still standing today.

Snyder home, Hornblend and Morrell
Snyder home, Hornblend and Morrell

The Snyders soon became active in the social life of their new community. Mary Snyder joined the Pacific Beach Reading Club and often hosted meetings at her home. When its founder, the world-famous poet Rose Hartwick Thorpe, requested to be relieved of the presidency Mrs. Snyder was elected to take her place. She also was a member and eventually president of the Shakespeare Club.

Of course, Mary Snyder also continued collecting botanical specimens, particularly the sea weed and other marine plants that she found on the shore at Pacific Beach and La Jolla. In 1899 the San Diego Union noted that Prof. and Mrs. Snyder spent several days in La Jolla gathering sea weeds ‘of which Mrs. Snyder, who is an expert botanist, has a large and valuable collection’. In 1900 they built a cottage on their La Jolla lot, on Prospect overlooking Seal Rock, where they could stay while Mrs. Snyder explored the shoreline during low tides.

Professor Snyder died in September 1903 and within a few months his widow moved to La Jolla, acquiring another house on Prospect Street and selling the property in Pacific Beach. The papers reported that she spent her time naming and classifying a collection of her specimens to be La Jolla’s representative exhibit at the St. Louis World’s Fair, the Louisiana Purchase Exposition of 1904, for which she reportedly won a gold medal. The following year, 1905, her exhibit of mounted sea mosses won a gold medal at the Lewis and Clark Centennial Exposition in Portland, Oregon.

Mary Snyder lived the rest of her life in La Jolla, where she again became active in civic organizations, serving as president of the Woman’s Club from 1906 to 1908. In 1910 she moved to a home on Fay Avenue named Amphiroa Cottage (after a genus of thalloid alga, a sea weed), which was remodeled to include a herbarium for her collection of sea weeds and for arranging and mounting new specimens.

Through her knowledge and expertise in collecting, identifying and presenting these specimens Mary Snyder became recognized as the preeminent authority on marine algae in Southern California in the first decades of the twentieth century. When she died in 1926 at the age of 87 her collection was donated to the Scripps Institution of Oceanography and is now in the Herbarium at the San Diego Museum of Natural History in Balboa Park. The museum notes that her beautifully preserved seaweeds resemble art prints that would be suitable for framing.

Snyders grave at Mt. Hope Cemetery
The Snyders’ grave at Mt. Hope Cemetery in San Diego

Celebrity PB Pioneer


Curfew Must Not Ring Tonight - Rose Hartwick Thorpe, 1883
Curfew Must Not Ring Tonight – Rose Hartwick Thorpe, 1883

Rose Hartwick Thorpe was famous long before she moved to Pacific Beach. In 1867 Rose Hartwick was a 16-year-old schoolgirl in Litchfield, Michigan who from an early age had shown an aptitude for writing poetry. One night, inspired by the story ‘Love and Loyalty’ in Peterson’s Magazine, she had written the narrative poem ‘Bessie and the Curfew’. In the poem, set in England during the English civil war of 1600s, Bessie risked everything by climbing the slimy ladder to the church tower and clinging to the tongue of the bell as it swung to and fro over the city far below to prevent it from sounding curfew, the time set for the execution of her lover Basil Underwood on suspicion of spying for the royalist Cavaliers:

She had listened while the judges read, without a tear or sigh,
‘At the ringing of the curfew, Basil Underwood must die.’
And her breath came fast and faster, and her eyes grew large and bright;
One low murmur, faintly spoken. “Curfew must not ring tonight!’.

When Oliver Cromwell, the Puritan leader, road into town, Bessie knelt at his feet and told her story, showing him her bruised and torn hands, and touched his heart with sudden pity, saving Basil’s life:

“Go! your lover lives,” said Cromwell. “Curfew shall not ring tonight!”.

Rose Hartwick’s poetry had appeared in local newspapers before but when this poem, renamed ‘Curfew Must Not Ring Tonight’, was printed in 1870 it became a sensation and was reprinted by newspapers all over the country and even in published collections. It became one of the most popular poems of the nineteenth century, familiar to almost everyone.

In 1871 Rose Hartwick married Edward Carson (E. C.) Thorpe, a carriage maker, and they soon had a daughter, Lulo. In the early 1880s the Thorpes moved from Michigan to San Antonio, Texas, where they hoped the warmer climate would improve Mr. Thorpe’s health.

Meanwhile, in San Diego, a transcontinental rail line had arrived in 1885 and the city experienced a huge influx of settlers known as the ‘great boom’. The boom also attracted visionaries who saw the potential for San Diego to become a great city and hoped to participate in shaping its future. Harr Wagner was publisher of the Golden Era, a literary journal based in San Francisco. In 1887 Wagner moved the paper to San Diego, where he began a campaign for civic improvements which included the establishment of an institution of higher learning. He founded a college and arranged with the Pacific Beach Company to integrate it into the community they were planning to develop.

Wagner also reached out to Mrs. Thorpe, an occasional contributor to the Golden Era: ‘He wrote me that they wanted me here, that they were starting the college of letters at Pacific Beach’. So the Thorpes moved to San Diego; in September San Diego Union reported that ‘E. C. Thorpe and Rose Hartwick Thorpe, the author of the “Curfew Must Not Ring”, arrived yesterday and will relocate in this city’. Mr. Thorpe joined Wagner as a director and shareholder of the Golden Era Company and Mrs. Thorpe edited a children’s section called ‘Our Homes’ and contributed poetry to the publication.

The Pacific Beach Company began selling lots in December 1887 with the college as one of the subdivision’s primary attractions. A four-block parcel in the center of the community was set aside and in January 1888 the cornerstone of the San Diego College of Letters was laid. When the college opened in September Mrs. Thorpe recalled that both she and her daughter Lulo attended classes. Both also appeared at other college activities; a reception for the college president in October featured a new poem, ‘Margaret’, by Rose Hartwick Thorpe, author of ‘Curfew Must Not Ring Tonight’, read by that gifted lady. At the college’s first commencement the following summer, Miss Lulo Thorpe, daughter of Rose Hartwick Thorpe, the gifted authoress of ‘Curfew Must Not Ring Tonight’, read an able and interesting history of the school year.

E. C. Thorpe joined the real estate boom by becoming a dealer in ‘portable houses’, small wooden structures held together by pins rather than nails or screws. Apparently the Thorpes lived in one themselves; reliving the ‘old days’ for PB’s fiftieth anniversary celebration in 1937 Mrs. Thorpe recalled that ‘We moved our portable cottage to Pacific Beach, and we thus became the very first settlers there’.

However, the great boom came to an end in early 1888. E. C. Thorpe later wrote that the depression that followed in the wake of the boom necessitated the closing of the college in 1890 and many moved away so that by the following year only three or four families remained in the college settlement. One of those that remained was the Barnes family, whose sons Edward and Theodore had also been students at the college. The Thorpes and the Barnes were soon to discover a new source of prosperity in Pacific Beach, lemon cultivation. They also became neighbors, their lemon ranches on opposite sides of Lamont Street, between Diamond and Emerald, the Barnes to the west and the Thorpes to the east. In 1895 Edward Barnes and Lulo Thorpe were married and the couple moved to their own lemon ranch next to his father’s, on Jewell Street.

Rose Hartwick Thorpe was a world-renowned celebrity and always in demand at cultural and artistic events but her husband also became popular as a performer, adopting the character of ‘Hans’ and performing recitations in the broken English of a Dutchman. A favorite was ‘Dot Bacific Peach Flea’ (‘Vot schumps und viggles und bites . . . Und keepen me avake effry nights’). The Thorpes frequently combined their talents for public recitations. In 1890 the ‘popular gifted litterateurs Edward Carson Thorpe and Rose Hartwick Thorpe charmed the hearts of their hearers from first to last. ‘Hans’, as usual, convulsed his audience with laughter. The famed authoress of ‘Curfew Must Not Ring Tonight’ won her audience, as she always does, by rendering her own compositions’.

Rose Hartwick Thorpe also did her part to improve the cultural environment of the community. In 1895 the ladies of Pacific Beach met at her home and formed a reading club, with Mrs. Thorpe as president. For years the club met at members homes (the members were all women) but in 1911 they built their own clubhouse, now the Pacific Beach Womans Club, at 1721 Hornblend Street.

Lemon ranching dominated Pacific Beach for more than a decade after the college collapsed but when residential growth resumed in the late 1890s E. C. Thorpe also became a building contractor. Much of his business was in La Jolla and in 1901 the Thorpes moved into a cottage he had built there, selling the orchard and home in Pacific Beach to their daughter and son-in-law. In 1906 both families moved downtown, the Thorpes to 3rd Avenue in Hillcrest and then to locations in Mission Hills overlooking San Diego Bay and the Barnes to 4th Avenue, across Upas Street from his parents, who had also sold their Pacific Beach ranch and moved to the city. After E. C. Thorpe died in 1916 Mrs. Thorpe moved back to Hillcrest and later joined the Barnes colony at 4th and Upas. Rose Hartwick Thorpe died in 1939 at the age of 89.

After the Thorpes and the Barnes left Pacific Beach their former home at Lamont and Emerald became the parsonage for the Methodist Church and later the home of ‘Mother’ Davis, whose son, Capt. Thomas A. Davis, was the founder and long-time president of San Diego Army and Navy Academy. In 1957 the old house burned to the ground in a spectacular blaze witnessed by many in Pacific Beach (myself included).

Few people today have heard of Rose Hartwick Thorpe or ‘Curfew Must Not Ring Tonight’ but one of her poems may actually have changed the map of San Diego. The shallow lagoon south of Pacific Beach had originally been called False Bay to distinguish it from San Diego Bay, the ‘true’ natural harbor further to the south. Mrs. Thorpe is said to have suggested that ‘Mission Bay’ would be a more fitting name and her poem ‘Mission Bay’ (‘now blue, now gray’) in the August 1888 Golden Era initiated the campaign to rename it. Although the bay was known by both names for years her choice became increasingly popular and False Bay was officially renamed Mission Bay in 1915.

RHT - Autograph

The House Next Door


Gridley Ranch House, Diamond Street, 1968
Gridley/McConnell Ranch House, 1790 Diamond Street, 1968

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here’s a Money Maker

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

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

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

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

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

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


Gridley/McConnell House