Tag Archives: Folsom Bros. Co.

Army and Navy Academy

Army Navy Academy

Army and Navy Academy, a private military school for seventh to twelfth grade boys in Carlsbad, traces its history back over 100 years. According to a historical timeline provided on the academy’s website, that history began when Captain Thomas A. Davis founded the San Diego Army and Navy Academy with thirteen students in 1910. The timeline also notes that Capt. Davis founded his school not in Carlsbad but in Pacific Beach, at the old Balboa Hotel. So, what historical threads tie a modern school in Carlsbad to an old hotel in Pacific Beach?

In 1910 the Hotel Balboa (not Balboa Hotel) was the latest occupant of the former campus of the San Diego College of Letters, built to be the primary attraction of the new Pacific Beach subdivision established in 1887. The cornerstone of the college had been laid with great ceremony in January 1888, just weeks after lots in Pacific Beach were first put on sale, and the college opened with 37 students in September 1888. The college building was a large wooden structure designed and built by James W. Reid, architect of the recently completed Hotel del Coronado. However, the college was unable to repay construction costs and when Reid sued, and won, it was closed and the property, including the college building, was sold at auction at the courthouse door in 1891.

Over the next decade the college campus in Pacific Beach changed hands several more times and was used for such purposes as a Y. M. C. A. camp and summer school and, in 1901, as a hotel, the College Inn. In 1904, Folsom Bros. Co. first leased then bought the college campus intending to convert it into a first-class resort. Folsom Bros. renovated the buildings, improved the landscaping and sponsored a contest to name their new property. The winner received a $100 lot in PB or $100 in gold for suggesting Hotel Balboa. However, the Hotel Balboa also did not live up to expectations and Folsom Bros. sought other uses for the property. In 1909 a portion was subleased to the Pacific Beach Country Club.

Captain Thomas Alderson Davis had served in Puerto Rico as an officer in the 6th Volunteer Infantry during the Spanish-American War of 1898. In 1907 he had established a military school in El Paso but in 1910 he visited San Diego, liked what he saw, and decided to stay. He leased the Hotel Balboa and on November 23, 1910, the San Diego Army and Navy Academy began classes there with a group of 13 cadets and with Capt. Davis as the only instructor. The academy grew rapidly; by the end of its second year it had added courses and faculty and claimed to have 73 students. Growth in attendance was accompanied by increased status; in 1914 the academy was recognized by the war department as a Class A school, which entitled it to the detail of a retired army officer to serve on the faculty at the army’s expense.

In 1921, after ten years in its rented quarters in Pacific Beach, the San Diego Army and Navy Academy announced that it was purchasing the Point Loma Golf and Country Club next to the new Navy and Marine Corps training centers on San Diego Bay. Capt. Davis explained that he expected proximity to these military training facilities would be of benefit to his cadets, particularly those interested in naval training. However, the move to Point Loma never happened; Capt. Davis was unable to obtain the terms he wanted for the Point Loma property and instead purchased the property the academy had been leasing in Pacific Beach. In 1923 Capt. Davis also purchased two blocks on the north side of the campus and in 1925 two more blocks on the west side.

Most of the cadets attending the San Diego Army and Navy Academy were residential students who lived on campus during the academic year. They had been accommodated in the original college buildings and then, as enrollment increased, in wooden cottages built elsewhere on the grounds. When enrollment continued to increase during the 1920s, passing 200 in 1924, these accommodations also became insufficient and the academy initiated a more ambitious building program. A mess hall capable of seating 300 was built in 1924, an auditorium and infirmary in 1927, and a three-story reinforced concrete dormitory in 1928. A swimming pool and four-story concrete dormitory were added in early 1930 as attendance grew to more than 400. In anticipation of continued growth, another pair of four-story dormitories were completed by the end of 1930. These rows of large concrete dormitories and the other new structures on the college campus site dwarfed the original college buildings and dominated the skyline of Pacific Beach for decades.

However, the San Diego Army and Navy Academy suffered along with the rest of the country as the Great Depression took hold in the early 1930s. Enrollment of cadets declined to under 200 and the academy found itself unable to repay the costs of its building program. In 1930 the academy received the first of a series of loans from the Security Trust & Savings Bank of San Diego, secured by a deed of trust to the college campus property, and in 1932 all the ‘furniture, furnishings and equipment of every kind and character’ belonging to the academy were mortgaged to the bank (including the knives, forks and spoons in the dining room and the band drum major’s baton). When the academy fell behind in repayment of these obligations, and was even unable to pay taxes on the property, the bank declared it in default and in 1936 announced its intention to sell the property.

In August 1936, the San Diego Union carried a special announcement from Col. Davis (he had received an honorary ‘Kentucky Colonel’ commission from the governor of Kentucky in the 1920s), founder and for 25 years president of the San Diego Army and Navy Academy, that he and his brother, Maj. John L. Davis, Jr., vice president and commandant, had resigned their positions and would no longer be associated with the academy in any way. He could be contacted care of Davis Military Academy in Carlsbad. An article in the same paper added that the Davis Military Academy had leased the Red Apple Inn in Carlsbad and that school would open in September, 1936.


The Davises were joined in Carlsbad by several other members of the administration and faculty from the Pacific Beach academy, including Charles Bain, Raymond Ede, Samuel Peterson and Maj. William Atkinson and his wife Virginia. Many of these original staff members later rose to high positions at the new school, including two future presidents, and several buildings on the campus are named in their honor.

At the San Diego Army and Navy Academy in Pacific Beach, an active-duty army officer who had been professor of military science and tactics took over as commandant. The academy retained its high rating and recognition by the war and navy departments, meaning that graduates were entitled to admission to the military academies at West Point and Annapolis. 150 students had enrolled for the academic year beginning in September 1936 and 20 of the original 30 faculty members would return.

The academy did begin classes in September 1936 but in March 1937 the property in Pacific Beach was sold to the John E. Brown College Company, which announced that it would be renamed Brown Military Academy. The change in name and ownership was apparently popular on the Pacific Beach campus; the 1937 graduating class voted unanimously to be graduated from Brown Military Academy and to have its insignia on their rings. Col. and Maj. Davis consented to the sale with the stipulation that they would be allowed to transfer the name, San Diego Army and Navy Academy, to their new school in Carlsbad.

In December 1938, a little over two years after founding the Davis Military Academy in Carlsbad and a year after it had reacquired the San Diego Army and Navy Academy brand, Col. Davis resigned and returned to his former school in Pacific Beach as assistant to the president of John Brown Schools. He was named president of Brown Military Academy in February 1940, resuming his role, after a brief interruption, as head of the first military academy he had established in San Diego. Maj. Davis took his place as president of the San Diego Army and Navy Academy in Carlsbad.

Col. Davis retired from Brown Military Academy in 1954 and in February 1958 John Brown Schools announced that the academy would relocate to Glendora to make way for commercial development of its Pacific Beach campus. Most of the 475 cadets and 90 faculty were expected to make the move, although some faculty joined former headmaster Louis Bitterlin in opening San Diego Military Academy in Solana Beach (San Diego Military Academy closed in 1977 and the site, on Academy Drive, is now Santa Fe Christian Schools).

In June 1958 Col. Davis, then 84 years old, was honorary reviewing officer at the final commencement exercise at Brown Military Academy in Pacific Beach, where he had founded San Diego Army and Navy Academy 48 years earlier. Shortly thereafter, many of the academy buildings, including the former Hotel Balboa, were demolished and replaced with a shopping center, Pacific Plaza, which opened in 1960. A plaque outside the Great Buffet restaurant in Pacific Plaza commemorates the ‘West Point of the West’ which formerly occupied the site.


The large concrete dormitories remained standing until 1965 when they too were demolished and replaced with an apartment complex, now the Plaza condominiums, in 1970. The Brown Military Academy campus in Glendora was itself was closed in 1968.

End of Browns

Today the Army and Navy Academy in Carlsbad is still located on the site where Col. Thomas A. Davis established Davis Military Academy in 1936 in the former Red Apple Inn. In 1937 it assumed the name of the academy Col. Davis had first founded in 1910 in Pacific Beach but dropped the ‘San Diego’ from its name in 1943, the same year that Maj. Atkinson, the former bandleader at the Pacific Beach academy, began a 30-year tenure as president. In 1948 Army and Navy Academy also began a building program which has never really stopped. The latest addition to the campus is a new sports center, opened in 2013, where a sign reminds passers-by that it all began over a century ago.


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.




Barney Oldfield in PB?

Barney Oldfield was the ‘King of Speed’, the most famous driver from the very first days of automobile racing. He began by racing bicycles but in 1902 he was invited to drive Henry Ford’s race car, ‘999’. Although he had never driven a car before, he won his first race against what was supposed to be the fastest car in the world. His success in this and many subsequent races sparked his own career and also contributed to Ford’s rise as America’s foremost auto maker. Oldfield not only beat other drivers in these races but also routinely set new speed records. He was the first to break the mile-a-minute mark, completing a mile course in one minute, an average speed of 60 MPH, on June 30, 1903.

On November 25, 1903, Oldfield came to San Diego to participate in the city’s first ‘automobile meeting’ on Thanksgiving Day at a track in Coronado. The Evening Tribune announced that the great Barney Oldfield, the ‘mile-a-minute-man’, had arrived with his string of ‘buzz wagons’ (although the paper noted that the name no longer did him justice since he had been ‘steadily chopping down the mile automobile record until it stands at 55 seconds flat’). Advertisements for the event promised that the famous mile-a-minute man would attempt to lower his mile record, but in the aftermath the Tribune reported ‘No Records Smashed’, although Oldfield did complete one mile lap in 58 seconds. The paper blamed the poor condition of the track on the back stretch, where the sand in one of his circuits of the mile ring came near being the chauffeur’s undoing. Nevertheless, the exhibition was a complete success, with the first automobile races in the city calling out an attendance of 1500 people. ‘Oldfield, of course, was the center of attraction, and no one was disappointed’.

The Tribune interviewed George Nolan, manager of San Diego Cycle and Arms Co., who reported that so far as he had learned everyone was pleased with the event. Asked about the possibility of a second appearance here of Oldfield, Nolan said that it wouldn’t surprise him if Oldfield would come back with one of his racing machines to beat the world’s record for a mile straightaway. Asked where the straightaway race course was he replied ‘On Pacific Beach, the finest place in the country. Four miles of wide beach there as hard as this table, convenient to get at and in all other respects desirable’. Nolan added that the mile straightaway record was 46 seconds, but was not held by Oldfield, whose record was for a circular course.

Actually, automobile racing on beaches had been introduced earlier in 1903 at Ormond Beach, the ‘birthplace of speed’, just north of Daytona Beach on Florida’s Atlantic coast, where the hard-packed sand provided the long, hard, flat and straight surface ideal for speed trials. Over the next few years speed records were repeatedly set and then broken there until in 1906 the Stanley Rocket, a steam-powered and aerodynamically designed vehicle, set a record of 127 MPH over a mile course which stood for years.

Automobiles had actually ‘raced’ on Pacific Beach in 1903 too, but at a much more leisurely pace. The San Diego Union’s Pacific Beach Notes column reported in September 1903 that F. W. Barnes and E. C. Thorpe, two of the community’s leading citizens, had raced their automobiles on the beach and made the entire length of the beach in eight minutes, which would represent a speed of about 30 MPH.

Meanwhile, Barney Oldfield continued winning and setting records on race tracks around the country. In April 1907 he was again in the San Diego area where he was the featured attraction in the opening of the Lakeside Inn Speedway, and where he again set a record for one mile on a circular track at 51 4/5 seconds, nearly 70 MPH, breaking his own record by 1 1/5 seconds. However, the San Diego Union reported that the great auto driver also had another goal in mind while he was in town and that following the race in Lakeside he would begin preparations for a try at the one mile straightaway record. In an arrangement with Folsom Bros. Co., he would attempt to lower the record on the magnificent stretch at Pacific Beach. San Diego would be given the opportunity to see the great ‘racing king’ speed his ‘flyer’ at a far faster gait than was possible on a circular track where turns had to be made.

According to the paper, he had been taken to Pacific Beach two weeks before by M. W. Folsom. He had expressed great surprise when he drove his car on the beach and immediately gave it as his opinion that he could smash some records if given the opportunity. A trip over the beach strengthened this opinion and he stated that he had not the slightest doubt that he would be able to do the mile in 40 seconds, or even less. The following Thursday was selected as the date and since afternoon would be the most propitious time of the day, as tide conditions would then be more perfect, the runs would be made between 1:30 and 3 o’clock. Accompanied by his wife he would leave for the Hotel Balboa at Pacific Beach immediately after the races in Lakeside concluded on Sunday, and his cars would follow on Monday morning so that he could become thoroughly acquainted with the beach and the conditions prevailing.

The beach at Pacific Beach was four miles in length and at low tide 600 feet wide and Oldfield was said to be enthusiastic over its possibilities as a race course. He stated that in his opinion it was far superior to Ormond Beach, where the great winter races of the Atlantic coast were held. The sand at Pacific Beach was harder and the wind far more favorable for record smashing than at the Florida resort. Ample train service would be provided by the Pacific Beach & La Jolla line, and special excursion rates would be made for the big crowd that would undoubtedly witness the great speed trials.

As it happened, the Los Angeles & San Diego Beach Railway, formerly the PB & LJ line, was in the midst of a major upgrade, realigning its right of way to enter Pacific Beach directly along the route of today’s Grand Avenue, rather than the circuitous route on today’s Mission Bay Drive and Garnet and Balboa Avenues around the defunct race track. The railroad company had a large force of men at work and was anxious to finish the construction of the cut-off at the earliest possible time. The large crowds anticipated for the proposed speed trials at Pacific Beach would have necessitated many extra trains, which would mean the loss of practically a full day’s work. Since the railroad was unwilling to give up even one day’s work, the speed trials were temporarily postponed.

Barney Oldfield never did race on Pacific Beach, but in 1910 he did put in an appearance at Daytona Beach where he finally broke the Stanley Rocket’s longstanding record by driving his Blitzen Benz at 131 MPH (although the Rocket’s record for a steam car, 127 MPH, was not broken until 2009). Oldfield was also a no-show at the first San Diego County road race held on New Year’s Day 1913, a two-lap 91.7-mile circuit which began and ended at Garnet and Cass Street in Pacific Beach and included check stations at Escondido and South Oceanside. ‘Barney Not In’ was the headline on the Union’s article announcing the official entry list and starting positions.


Barney Oldfield had set a new speed record of 131 miles per hour over a mile course at Daytona Beach in 1910. A year later ‘Wild Bob’ Burman drove the same Blitzen Benz over the same course to set a new record of 141 MPH, covering a mile in 25.5 seconds. Burman also broke Oldfield’s records for the flying mile, half-mile, quarter-mile and kilometer in exhibitions on the day before the first Indianapolis 500 race in May 1911, again using the same Benz (and finished 19th in the actual race on May 30, in a different, smaller Benz, that complied with race rules).

In 1912 Burman acquired a new 200 horsepower Benz and on Christmas Day brought it to Pacific Beach for what apparently was its first speed trial. The San Diego Union headline stated that the stage was set for ‘fast driving by Bob Burman in Big Benz’ and that his ‘whirl over beach’ was likely to make history in auto racing; ‘Today is the time, Pacific Beach the place, while Bob Burman and other noted drivers are the lure that will cause the greatest gathering of motor fans that have ever witnessed a speed contest in San Diego’.

In 1912 San Diego was a city of about 45,000 people and about 3000 cars, and according to the local papers anywhere from 15,000 to 20,000 people and 1500 cars descended on Pacific Beach to watch. The railway line ran special trains every 20 minutes from 12:30 to 4 p.m. and added flat cars with board seats to handle passengers that overflowed the regular coaches. Low tide was at 5:14 p.m., sunset at 4:43  and the events began at about 3:00 with a race between a little blue Hupmobile and a Buick. A few minutes later Burman and two of the ‘noted drivers’ raced their Benz cars over a two-mile course with Burman winning handily. Then came the big event, Burman’s attempt to shatter his world mark.

Burman’s first run over the mile course on the beach was clocked at 28 seconds, almost 130 MPH, and a record for a course on the west coast. After winning a second two-mile race against the other two Benz drivers he returned for one more speed trial saying ‘If I don’t have ill luck I’ll make it better than 26 seconds’. However, he did have ill luck; at the half-mile mark the big Benz caught fire and, with flames licking at his hands and face, Burman retreated from his seat to the pointed back of the car which he straddled, steering with his left hand and operating the emergency brake with his right foot. When the blazing car finally came to a stop he got off and was helped to push it into the ocean and put out the fire. ‘If any person wishes me a merry Christmas, I may shoot him’, he said while he fastened a rope to the damaged car so it could be towed away.

A week later Burman was the favorite to win the New Year’s Day road race that started and ended in Pacific Beach, but his replacement Benz broke down on the rough county roads and, after patching the damaged part with wire, he finished the race in last place.  ‘Wild Bob’ Burman was killed in a race at Corona in April 1916.

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.

Haskins Hospitality


James H. Haskins was a master machinist and inventor who was awarded his first patent, a screw-cutting tool for metal lathes, while still in his early 20s. He later worked for the McCormick Harvesting Machine Company in Chicago. According to the San Diego Union, he was for many years superintendent of the McCormick reaper factory there. While at McCormick he received several more patents for machines that improved the manufacture of components for the company’s harvesters. In 1902 McCormick merged with four smaller rivals to become the International Harvester Company. At about that same time Haskins, then in his early 50s, retired, and with his wife Frances, relocated to San Diego.

In June 1904 he purchased the southeast corner of Acre Lot 78 in Pacific Beach from O. J. Stough. Acre Lot 78 was between today’s Diamond, Haines, Chalcedony and Ingraham streets, and Haskins’ property extended 125 north and 250 feet west from the corner of Diamond and Ingraham. Stough owned the balance of Acre Lot 78 as well as the adjacent Acre Lot 79 ½, between Diamond, Gresham, Chalcedony and Haines, and in 1905 Stough and Haskins recorded a subdivision map which divided these acre lots back into the four residential blocks originally platted in the 1887 map of Pacific Beach. Haskins’ property became lots 21 – 30 of Block 146 according to Map 948, Subdivision of Acre Lots 78 and 79 ½ at Pacific Beach. Map 948 also restored Missouri Street and the alleys that had appeared on the original 1887 map.

In September 1905 the Evening Tribune reported that a building permit had been issued to J. H. Haskins for a residence at Pacific Beach to cost $5000. In November, the Union reported that Mr. and Mrs. Jas. H. Haskins had spent part of the week superintending the erection of their new home, and a week later announced that the magnificent home at Diamond and Broadway was fast nearing completion (actually, Broadway had been renamed Izard Street in 1900; it became Broadway once again in 1907 and was finally renamed Ingraham in 1913). Workmen were putting the finishing touches on the garage in the rear. The residence was a credit not only to Pacific Beach but to all San Diego and was constructed partly of the concrete blocks manufactured by Folsom Bros. Co. and the rest entirely of redwood.

Once in their new home the Haskins quickly established a reputation for hospitality that was often featured in the local papers. In March 1906 the San Diego Union reported that Mr. and Mrs. Haskins of Diamond Street had entertained a small company with whist and fireside tales. Bright lights streaming from the many windows assured the guests, long before reaching the home, the cheery welcome waiting there. The games seemed hardly begun when the charming hostess led all in to a delicious luncheon. Later they were shown through the cottage – a thoroughly modern and typically American suburban home – and it was with regret that they dispersed at a late hour. On another occasion, Mr. Haskins’ birthday in January 1907, his wife gave him a surprise, ‘a party with a cake and candles and all the goodies and pleasures that go to make up such an event’. The Union reported that at first a few friends ‘happened’ in to play cards, but before long quite a merry company had assembled to enjoy their host’s surprise, and Mrs. Haskin’s hospitality.

However, the most popular gatherings were when Mrs. Haskins opened her beautiful home for her annual reception to the members of the Pacific Beach Reading Club. These events apparently began at a regular meeting of the Reading Club in January 1908 at the Haskins’ home. According to the San Diego Union, after the study session and musical numbers, including a piano solo by Mrs. Cotton, Mrs. Haskins transformed the social hour into a reception for the members and their many guests, ‘ushering in the new year with good company and a good welcome’. The color scheme was green and red, an abundance of smilax, carnations and roses supplied from her own beautiful grounds and arranged with the assistance of Mr. Haskins. ‘The dining room table was radiant with its snowy napery, red ribbons and carnations and a variety of the cakes for which the hostess is famous’. Other members (members of the Reading Club were all women) assisted in receiving and presided at the tea table, the chocolate table and the punch bowl, assisted by a coterie of young ladies. After another round of musical entertainment featuring local women and girls in songs, solos, duets and chorus, ‘the appreciative audience demanded many recalls and Mrs. O. W. Cotton continued to give rare pleasure to the departing guests to the very last’.

Mrs. Haskins hosted the Reading Club again in December 1908 and, according to the Union, members and their friends responded in the number of a hundred and over, having learned in the past that no greater treat was in store for them in the season of good cheer. The hostess was assisted in receiving by Mesdames Howard, Norris, Robinson and Pease, all handsomely gowned and showing the Christmas spirit of good will to all. Mrs. Haskins opened the musical part of the program with a classical selection on the gramophone, followed by piano solos and vocal duets by some of the guests. ‘The house is finely contrived for an assembly, and seems a silent partner in the wholesouled, far-reaching hospitality of its owners . . . The viands, in unlimited quantity, were the best in variety and toothsomeness that this notable housekeeper could produce.’

The wholesouled hospitality and toothsome viands continued to be offered for many more years. In April 1915, for example, the Evening Tribune reported that the ladies’ aid society auxiliary of the Methodist Church had been invited to the Haskins’ delightful home to be entertained with instrumental and vocal music. About 50 guests were present, and after the program a delicious luncheon was served with Mr. and Mrs. Haskins’ usual well-known hospitality. Several gentlemen with carriages and autos kindly carried the ladies to and from the entertainment. The Haskins home had a garage (which workmen had been putting the finishing touches on in 1905) and Mr. Haskins owned an automobile (in 1912 a party of San Diego friends was taken in Mr. Haskins’ automobile to his beach home) so one of the gentlemen kindly carrying the ladies in an auto may have been Mr. Haskins himself.

In 1908 James Haskins was elected by the San Diego Common Council to fill a vacancy left by the resignation of the incumbent from the first ward. The San Diego Union noted that he had been a resident of Pacific Beach for the past two years and was looked upon as one of the most prominent citizens and the one best fitted to represent that section of the city. Haskins ran for a full term as city councilman in the general election of March 1909 but was defeated. He was also one of the organizers of the Pacific Beach Country Club, which held a Washington’s Birthday dance at the Hotel Balboa for its initial meeting in 1909 (the other organizers were A. F. MacFarland, G. H. Robinson and A. R. Pease).

A 1915 Union article about Pacific Beach noted that several of the county’s showplaces were within its environs, notably the homes of Fred T. Scripps, James H. Haskins and Charles C. Norris (the Scripps home was on Mission Bay, where the Catamaran Hotel is now; the Norris home is still standing on Collingwood Drive). In 1908 the Haskins had also built another house, valued at $3600, on the portion of their property to the west of their home. They also owned property in Block 145, on the other side of Ingraham Street, and in Block 162, across Diamond Street, about where the locker rooms at the PB middle school are today. They sold the property with the house next door in 1920 and both of the unimproved properties in 1925.

Mr. Haskins died in April 1930 and Mrs. Haskins died a month later. In their will they left the ‘Home Place’, together with all furniture, fixtures and fittings, to their neighbor S. A. Le Fevre (the ‘residue’ of the estate, about $10,000, went to Haskins’ brother, Robert G. Haskins, of Pontiac, MI). Le Fevre lived a block away, at the northwest corner of Diamond and Jewell (originally the home of the Cogswell family) but at the time there were no other houses between them on Diamond Street. He apparently left the Haskins home vacant until December 1937 when it was sold to Florabel and Ralph Skinner, and it has been owned by the Skinner family ever since.

Mr. Skinner was a teacher at La Jolla High School who also became a prominent citizen in Pacific Beach, at one time serving as president of the PB Chamber of Commerce. The Skinners also became prominent in the sports world; Florabel and Ralph’s son Bob went on to become a major-league baseball player and manager and Bob’s son Joel also played baseball in the major leagues. S. A. Le Fevre received notoriety of a different sort; he had lived alone as a pauper in his Diamond Street home but when he died in 1940 he was found to have $8000 in two bank accounts, and a search of his house turned up a roll of bills worth $2000 under a pile of clothing in a closet.

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.


North Shore Highlands


The Mexican Pueblo of San Diego covered the territory between National City and Del Mar west of the line of Interstate 805 (the land east of 805 had belonged to Mission San Diego). When San Diego became an American city in 1846 it assumed ownership of these pueblo lands and they were surveyed and platted into pueblo lots, typically a half-mile square and 160 acres. Some of these pueblo lots were sold to individuals; in 1867 Alonzo Horton famously bought six pueblo lots on which he established Horton’s Addition, now the heart of downtown San Diego. The city also offered pueblo lands as inducements to companies that proposed to end San Diego’s isolation by building railroads to the east. These lands were intended not only for the actual rights-of-way and for stations and shops, but also as subsidies to be used by the railroad companies as they saw fit.

The offer of thousands of acres of pueblo lands to the San Diego and Gila Southern Pacific and Atlantic in 1854 and the Texas and Pacific in 1873 did not result in any actual rail-building. In 1880 the city tried again, offering the land it was able to recover from the Texas and Pacific to the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railroad. Among the pueblo lots offered as subsidies were several in the area that would become Pacific Beach, including Pueblo Lot 1791, a half-mile square centered around today’s Gresham and Chalcedony Streets, and Pueblo Lot 1795, centered around Jewell Street and Grand Avenue. A subsidiary of the Santa Fe, the California Southern Railroad, did actually initiate construction of a railway which eventually connected to the Santa Fe and the east. When this railway met its initial construction milestones, in 1882, the property, including Pueblo Lots 1791 and 1795, was deeded to its real estate subsidiary, the San Diego Land and Town Company.

When the Pacific Beach Company was formed in 1887 it acquired Pueblo Lot 1795 from the Land and Town Company and the area within its boundaries became the central portion of the new Pacific Beach subdivision, including most of the College Campus (now Pacific Plaza). However, the Pacific Beach Company did not acquire the adjoining Pueblo Lot 1791, and it was left conspicuously blank in the first recorded subdivision map, Map 697, in 1892.

Map 697, Recorded January 1892
Map 697, Recorded January 1892

In 1893 the Pacific Beach Company did buy most of the eastern half of the pueblo lot and it was incorporated into the Pacific Beach subdivision in Map 791, recorded in 1894.

Map 791, recorded December 1894
Map 791, Recorded December 1894

The remaining portion of Pueblo Lot 1791, the west half and the north three-quarters of the north half of the north-east quarter (i.e., the west half and the north 3/16 of the east half), or about 95 of the original 160 acres, was acquired by Abel H. Frost in 1896 for $3500.

Frost arrived in San Diego in 1896 from Michigan, where he had been in the lumber business. In San Diego he joined forces with a niece and nephew and incorporated the A. H. Frost Company to manage his growing real estate empire. Frost also became a director and eventually president of the Folsom Bros. Co., which owned most of the property in Pacific Beach at the time, and when the Folsom brothers retired in 1910 he renamed it the San Diego Beach Company. While his San Diego Beach Company actively developed and promoted its properties in Pacific Beach, his A. H. Frost Company did nothing to promote the Frost tract in Pueblo Lot 1791, and it remained undeveloped for over 25 years (although about two acres at the eastern edge, that portion east of a northerly projection of Ingraham Street, was split off and included with other Frost property in the Congress Heights Addition, between Ingraham, Loring, Kendall and Beryl Streets, in 1914).

In 1923 the A. H. Frost Company sold the property in Pueblo Lot 1791 to the Southern Trust and Commerce Bank, and the portion south of Diamond Street was included in a new Congress Heights No. 2 subdivision. In 1925, the Southern Trust and Commerce Bank transferred both the original Congress Heights and Congress Heights No. 2 subdivisions (minus the few lots already sold) and the remaining undeveloped portion of the Frost tract north of Diamond to the Union Trust Company. This undeveloped portion, from Everts to Gresham between Diamond to Beryl Streets and from Everts to a northerly projection of Ingraham Street between Beryl and Loring, was subdivided in 1926 as North Shore Highlands. Actually, the boundary of Pueblo Lot 1791 lies about 75 feet west of Everts Street, so the row of lots along the west side of Everts is also within the North Shore Highlands subdivision. East of Foothill Boulevard, the western portion of Monmouth Drive and the area south of the Loring Street hill are also included in the subdivision.

When the first unit of North Shore Highlands went on sale in December 1926, the announcement in the San Diego Union highlighted the fact that A. H. Frost had held the property intact for 25 years, ‘refusing to have it spoiled by marketing it at the wrong time or cut up’, and as a result it was a ‘choice, highly improved property in the heart of fast-growing San Diego Beach, without a clutter of old homes on it’. The ‘beautiful sea-view district’ had an ‘inimitable panoramic view’, illustrated by a panoramic photo showing Pacific Beach, Crown Point and Mission Bay, apparently from the top of Loring Street hill (despite the fact that only a few lots were located in the foothills and most were on the coastal plain with little if any view). An ad offered this ‘choicest, most scenic residential property’ for only $940 to $1250, but warned that these present low opening prices would soon be a thing of the past.

The announcement of the opening sale also described a $200,000 improvement program to begin at once, consisting of paved streets, sidewalks and curbs, gas, water, electricity, sewers, ornamental lights and other features. Within a few months the Common Council of the city of San Diego passed a resolution of intention to grade and pave the streets with a Portland cement concrete pavement, and to construct cement sidewalks, curbs, culverts and sewer mains, cast iron water mains and an ornamental lighting system. The lighting system was to consist of reinforced concrete lighting posts, globes, refractors, lamps, and pot heads, along with cables and other appurtenances. The improvements were to be paid for by serial bonds, to be repaid at 7 percent interest by charges upon an improvement district which included all the property lying within North Shore Highlands.

By mid-1927 the promised improvements were well under way, according to George M. Hawley in the Evening Tribune. The Hawley organization had taken an exclusive contract for the promotion and sale of the North Shore Highlands tract and their July 23 ad in the Tribune followed a familiar script when they invited the public to a good luncheon and concert at their big tent at Diamond and Fanuel Streets, but also added a contemporary flourish; free airplane trips over the north shore district in a Ryan monoplane, ‘same type as carried Lindbergh over the Atlantic’ (Charles Lindbergh’s famous solo flight from New York to Paris in the ‘Spirit of St. Louis’, a San Diego-built Ryan monoplane, had occurred two months earlier, in May 1927).

The promoters of North Shore Highlands had envisioned a ‘new high-class residential subdivision’ with large lots and ‘race and building restrictions that would make it highly desirable’. The lots were large; the standard lot was 50 feet wide rather than the 25-foot width of most lots in Pacific Beach, and lots in the foothills area and on the strip along the west side of Everts Street were even larger. Race restrictions meant that the lot could never become the property of, or even be occupied by, ‘any person other than of the Caucasian race’ (unless they were a servant or employee of a Caucasian occupant). Among the building restrictions were requirements that the property could only be used for a single, private, residential purpose, the residence erected on the premises would be limited to one story and could not cost less than $4000, no common shingled roofs would be permitted, and no pepper, eucalyptus or cypress trees could ever be planted (black acacia could be planted, but only between the cement walk and the curb).

While the promoters proclaimed that these restrictions made North Shore Highlands highly desirable, and the introduction of the San Diego Electric Railway line to La Jolla via Mission Beach and Pacific Beach in 1924 had improved access to San Diego, potential purchasers were apparently not impressed; of the more than 300 lots in the subdivision only six had been purchased, and only three residences built, by 1930 (and the owner of one of these lots and residences was one of the promoters).

In addition to high purchase prices and the added costs of the building restrictions, purchasers of property in an improvement district like North Shore Highlands were required to pay an annual assessment to service the improvement bonds, and under the Mattoon Act of 1925 would also be responsible for a share of the assessments of any residents of the district who defaulted (two lots in North Shore Highlands were foreclosed and offered for sale by the city for non-payment of the improvement bond). The negative effect that the great depression of the 1930s had on the real estate market must have also impacted sales. Only ten residences could be counted in an aerial photo from 1935, after the tract had been on sale for more than eight years, and the 1937 San Diego city directory listed only ten addresses on its streets.

The completion of the causeway across Mission Bay to Crown Point in 1931 further reduced travel time to San Diego, the Mattoon Act was repealed in 1933 and the economy began recovering from the great depression in the mid-1930s. In 1937 a new promotional campaign by E. G. Anderson Co., developers of Crown Point, announced the ‘opening’ of North Shore Highlands, ‘prices from $500 . . . all improvements in and paid for . . . no bonds, no assessments’. The E. G. Anderson company also offered to build a ‘distinctive dwelling’ on a purchaser’s lot. Lot sales in North Shore Highlands began to respond; in the 1200 and 1300 blocks of Missouri Street the number of homes listed in the San Diego city directory increased from 1 in 1937 to 3 in 1938, 6 in 1939 and 8 in 1940.

The Consolidated Aircraft Corporation had relocated to San Diego in 1935 and in 1940, in anticipation of World War II, greatly expanded its San Diego manufacturing facilities to produce thousands of B-24 Liberator bombers. Tens of thousands of new workers migrated to San Diego to staff the factories, and all these new aircraft workers needed a place to live. The federal government responded to the acute housing shortage by building entire communities of temporary housing, including the Los Altos Terrace housing project just across Loring Street from North Shore Highlands. Commercial real estate developers followed suit by building inexpensive ‘standard built’ homes in existing housing tracts like North Shore Highlands.

Model standard-built homes in the 1300 block of Missouri today.
The original model standard built homes in the 1300 block of Missouri today.

Newspaper ads in 1941 invited the public to inspect standard built homes by Convers and Donahoe in the 1300 blocks of Missouri, Chalcedony and Law streets; ‘we have not tried to create something new but have incorporated in the floor plan the last word in conservative living. Ten homes completed or under construction’. The ad for Little Castles, Inc., reported continuous and increasing demand for well built homes in the Highlands of beautiful Pacific Beach; ‘Two-bedroom homes ranging from $3295 to $3895, turn-key job – no extras. A minimum down payment, balance like rent. Offices at 1311 Chalcedony St’.

Sales of standard built homes within North Shore Highlands exploded; the San Diego city directory showed that the number of homes in the 1200 and 1300 blocks of Missouri Street increased from 8 in 1940 to 28 in 1942. The comparable blocks on Chalcedony and Law streets each had one home in 1940 but there were 21 homes on Chalcedony and 16 on Law in 1942 (7 of these 65 homes were listed as vacant in 1942, presumably completed but not yet sold). By 1945 the number of homes on these streets had grown to 30, 24 and 22, well over half of the 40 lots on each street, and none were vacant. Similar growth occurred throughout the subdivision, at least outside of the foothills area where the steep terrain made construction of inexpensive homes impractical, and by 1950 these areas had been built out. And with zoning regulations still favoring single-family residences many of these standard built homes from the 1940s are still standing.

North Shore Highlands has a unique history and followed a separate development path from the rest of Pacific Beach, but what really sets it apart from the surrounding neighborhoods today are the ornamental street lights which still line the streets and even extend along Fanuel Street to Garnet Avenue and along Loring Street to Cass Street (at the time the lights were installed the highway between San Diego and Los Angeles ran through Pacific Beach along Garnet and Cass; Fanuel and Loring would have been the main access routes to this highway). Although the lights have been removed from Foothill Boulevard they can still be seen all the way up Loring Street hill and on Monmouth Drive. Ironically, while the ornamental street lights were installed in the 1920s to mark North Shore Highlands as a high-class residential community, they were not actually turned on until 1944, when the community had been largely settled by ordinary people in ‘standard built’ homes.


Madie Arnott Barr & Turner

Madie Arnott Barr

In the first years of the twentieth century Madie Arnott Barr held title to a substantial portion of the land in Pacific Beach as well as a good deal of other property around the San Diego area. In 1905, for example, the city Lot Book listed her as owner of 5 acre lots as well as portions of other blocks in Pacific Beach totaling over 60 acres. Mrs. Barr was also named in almost daily real estate transactions recorded by the San Diego county recorder, many of them in Pacific Beach.

Madie Arnott Atkinson had been born in New Jersey but moved to California in 1862 when she was five years old. Records show that she married a Mr. McFadden and had two sons about 1880. Then she married Edward Henry Byrons and was divorced from him in about 1897. She came to San Diego and apparently met Frank M. Barr, who had originally arrived in San Diego in irons to serve a sentence in the San Diego County Jail for sending improper letters in the U. S. Mail. In April 1898 they sailed two miles off the coast of California where they were married on the high seas by a Methodist minister with the boat’s captain and crew as witnesses. Back in San Diego, Barr entered into a real estate partnership, Turner & Barr, with Marcus C. Turner. Mr. Barr later explained that, for convenience, all the the firm’s purchases were recorded under his wife’s name.

By 1907, however, Frank Barr’s relationships with both his business partner and his wife had deteriorated. In February 1907 he embarked on a voyage to the Orient, supposedly for his health. Before leaving he executed a deed granting his wife all right, title and interest in any and all property, real or personal, which he owned or had any interest in. Turner & Barr, the partnership with M. C. Turner, had also apparently been terminated before his departure. Soon after he sailed, Turner, Madie Arnott Barr and her son Ward E. McFadden incorporated a new real estate business, the Turner-Barr Company.

When Barr returned a few months later he initiated an action in superior court demanding one-half interest in the properties held in the name of Madie Arnott Barr, contending that the property purchased by Turner & Barr was recorded in her name for convenience only and the February blanket deed to all of his property was made solely for the purpose of facilitating any transfers of property, without any consideration. In July, Barr upped the ante, commencing an action against Turner for having an undue and improper influence over his wife; wrongfuly, wilfully, wickedly, unlawfully and maliciously depriving him of her comfort, affection, fellowship, society and assistance. For all of this he asked for $50,000 in damages.

Both of these complaints were dismissed and the parties apparently agreed to a division of property, but in October Barr was back in court to complain that his wife and former partner had failed to convey the agreed-upon real property. Mr. Barr also initiated a separate action against Mrs. Barr claiming that she had ‘inveigled’ him to go through a bogus wedding ceremony on the boat two miles out to sea with the intent of evading California marriage laws, when she had not actually been divorced from her previous husband. In this action he asked that their ‘pretended’ marriage be annulled and that she be denied any interest in what she claimed to be community property.

The parties reached a settlement on the property issues in November 1907, but problems with the Barrs’ marriage continued. Frank Barr filed an amended complaint; he said that their marriage was not legal because no license had been issued and that it should be annulled. Madie Arnott Barr answered with a cross-complaint; she said that Barr represented to her that he had complied with the law in reference to marriages and if he failed to obtain a license, if such licenses were necessary, he was at fault. She also denied that she had induced or persuaded him to go to sea and be married off California. She added that the publication of the false and slanderous statements contained in his complaint caused her suffering in mind and body, her health had been impaired and her peace of mind destroyed, and her marital relations rendered intolerable. She also asked that their marriage be dissolved, but that he take nothing. This complaint was also dismissed, in January 1908.

Despite her alleged suffering, impaired health and destroyed peace of mind, Madie Arnott Barr still held title to a great deal of real estate, including substantial holdings in Pacific Beach, and she soon put it on the market. In March 1908, she was the seller in what the San Diego Union called the largest transfer of Pacific Beach property for several years, 366 lots, a portion of her holdings of Acre Lots 7, 8, 9 and 10. The deal was made by J. M. Asher of Asher & Littlefield and was understood to be for about $40,000. The buyer was the Folsom Bros. Co. These acre lots were between Agate, Gresham and Loring Streets and a line halfway between Everts and Dawes

Although Madie Arnott Barr and Frank Barr had apparently separated, their marital status remained unresolved. In 1908 she was advised that the state supreme court had ruled that even a marriage on the high seas required a license, or as the Los Angeles Herald put it, ‘made it absolutely necessary that a license should be secured before two persons can settle down to the enjoyment of matrimonial bliss or contend with the trials of wedded life’. Apparently feeling that her marriage had become more trial than bliss she left San Diego, moved in with her sons in Los Angeles to establish residence, and in September 1908 filed suit asking that her marriage be annulled, and also that her maiden name of Madie A. Atkinson be restored. The marriage was annulled in superior court on January 8, 1909, and on January 13, less than a week later, a marriage license was issued in Los Angeles for Marcus C. Turner, age 54, and Madie A. Atkinson, age 50, both residents of San Diego.

Back in San Diego Marcus C. and Madie Arnott Turner continued their real estate activities, with a particular emphasis on Pacific Beach. In July 1909 they filed a subdivision map for Turner’s Sea Shell Park, basically the block surrounded by Riviera and Moorland Drives, Haines Street and La Playa Avenue plus a couple of lots on the north side of La Playa, which they owned in the Crown Point area of Pacific Beach. In 1910 they filed a subdivision map for Hollywood Park, incorporating their property within Acre Lots 7, 8, 9 and 10, the same tract they had agreed to sell to Folsom Bros. Co. in 1908. Folsom Bros. Co. agreed to ‘release and forever quitclaim’ the property back to the Turners in 1910.

The Turners, and her sons Ward and Joseph McFadden, continued to be active in the San Diego, and Pacific Beach, real estate market for years but Mrs. Turner played a less visible role and Mr. Turner eventually shifted his interest to mining and minerals. He became known as a champion of local ‘industrial minerals’, especially Otaylite, used in refining the finest grade of oil.


Between her real estate activities and courtroom appearances Madie Arnott Barr also found time to write. When the USS Bennington blew up in San Diego Bay on July 21, 1905, with the loss of 65 lives, she commemorated the tragedy with a poem, Overtaken, ‘dedicated to the boys of the U.S.S. Bennington’, and distributed it in San Diego bookstores. A January 1907 Union ad for Turner & Barr, the ‘Sleepless and Tireless’ realty firm, was also written in verse and credited to Madie Arnott Barr. It featuring such thoughts as ‘We read of San Diego of its climate and its bay, Its sunshine and its flowers and its winter months like May. We hear the tourists speaking of its charming city homes, Where wealth and prosperity smile on banks and money loans’, and odd verses like ‘The city hall and court house where the politicians meet. Where the hands of enemies come in contact as they greet, Are records of our city as its pulse beats warm or cold. And its there that divorces separate the young and old.’

In 1908 she had offered a $10 reward, no questions asked, for the return of her white Pomeranian (Spitz) dog, ‘Rowdy’, lost or stolen. When Rowdy was run over and killed by an automobile in 1911 she wrote a tribute which was published in the Union (‘Dead Dog’s Virtues Extolled by Woman’): Rowdy was probably as near human in his intellect as any dog ever attained, he fully understood conversation, his vocabulary was unusually large, love and fidelity were synonymous with all his actions, he knew every mood of his mistress and in health or sickness showed his beautiful nature.

Madie Arnott Turner died in 1932. Marcus C. Turner died in 1934.

In May 1909 the San Franciso Call reported that a reputed wealthy San Diegan had settled in the French possession of Tahiti in order to acquire legal residence so that he could marry a Tahitian girl under French laws. Under the headline ‘Remains in Tahiti to Wed Dusky Maid’, the paper said that the man, who went under the name of A. J. Stephens, had arrived on the liner Mariposa and had scheduled a return on its next voyage, but shortly before it sailed he tried to charter it for a cruise beyond French jurisdiction and on the high seas have the captain perform the marriage ceremony. The captain refused and Stephens decided to remain, establish legal residence, and ‘have the swellest wedding that Tahiti ever saw’.

The Call followed up this story by contacting the only A. J. Stephens living in San Diego, who said he had never been in Tahiti, or even out of San Diego for years, and that he believed the man in Tahiti was Frank M. Barr, a formerly well known real estate man and at one time quite wealthy, but who had left San Diego about five months previously after becoming mixed up in a number of shady transactions. Stephens said that Barr had left a trail of worthless checks from Los Angeles to Seattle and was known to be in Tahiti.

Barr’s trail of worthless checks and shady transactions continued to grow. A June 1909 Call article reported:

Bride is Deserted on a Southern Isle

A. J. Stephens, or Frank M. Barr, Gets Money and Flees

The romance of A. J. Stephens, or Frank M. Barr, as it is thought he should be called, has terminated in a gorgeous wedding with the Tahitian belle he left California to wed, the acquisition by the groom of some $2000 on the strength of the marriage, the abandonment of the bride on one of the south sea islands, and the disappearance of the mysterious adventurer with his ill acquired wealth in the direction of Australia.

The Call explained that Stephens, or Barr, had obtained money from an aunt of his bride and various other wealthy persons, then took his bride on a little junketing trip to Raratonga, where he left her to make her way home as well as she could and shipped on a steamer for Auckland.

In September 1909, Frank Barr was finally ‘run to earth’. The San Diego Union reported that ‘with an alleged criminal record extending the length of the coast and to the South Sea islands,and involving clever manipulations with negotiable paper and bigamous marriages as its salient points, Frank M. Barr, the fugitive San Diego real estate man, has at last been run down. He is under arrest at Ashland, Oregon’.

The Union recreated his recent history: After engaging in the real estate business for years, Barr left San Diego on January 1, 1909, abandoning Mrs. Jennie Duffey-Barr, his bride of two months, whom he had married after his legal separation from the present Mrs. Turner. From San Diego, Barr went to Los Angeles and after his departure from there numerous bad checks turned up and his San Diego operations also came to light. In February he was in Seattle under the name of Joe Thomas. Then he went to Tahiti as A. J. Stephens, a San Diego capitalist on vacation, where his elegant manners gained him entrance to the best society on the islands and he entertained his new-found acquaintances with many tales of his experiences, which were for the most part the grossest fabrications. One of his new acquaintances was Edouard Droullet, a retired French planter, who possessed a considerable income and a beautiful young daughter, Mademoiselle Elina Droullet. The imposter ‘had no trouble appearing well in her eyes’ and secured her father’s consent in her marriage. They were married in Papeete and left for Auckland, New Zealand, on their wedding tour, but not before the groom had secured $1000 on two bogus drafts endorsed by members of his new family.

Barr abandoned the French girl in Raratonga, robbing her of her jewelry and leaving her penniless. He next appeared in Salinas, in July, where he passed bad checks and remarked to an acquaintance that he was headed for San Diego where he had some old scores to settle. In San Diego he was disguised; stooped and walking with a cane and with his head swathed in bandages, explaining that he had been burned in an automobile accident. He told friends he was in San Diego to kill M. C. Turner, who by then had married his former wife, and he asked his current wife, the former Mrs. Duffey, for money and threatened to kill her if she let his presence be known. He was finally identified by a local druggist who recognized his voice when he telephoned from his store.

The police were notified but he made his escape, taking the ‘Owl’ train toward Los Angeles. He got off at Oceanside, then got an automobile ride to his destination. San Diego police chief Keno Wilson eventually tracked him to a hotel there but he had ‘taken boat’ for the north. He was finally located in Ashland and arrested. Apparently the crimes he could have been tried for in San Diego involved forging Madie Arnott Barr’s name on negotiable notes and would have required her testimony in court, but since she had been his wife at the time she would not be allowed to testify if he objected. Instead he was tried on the more recent forgery in Los Angeles.

In December 1909 Frank Barr was convicted of forging Madie Arnott Barr’s signature on a check to a Los Angeles jeweller for a $525 diamond ring. In January 1910 he was sentenced to five years in San Quentin; ‘Ordered to the Rock Pile’, according to the Union. Mrs. Duffey-Barr filed for divorce.