History of San Diego, 1542-1908

PART SEVEN: CHAPTER 4: The Suburbs of San Diego

See how the villa lifts its face of light
Against the pallid olives. Look down this vista’s shade
Of dark square shaven slopes, where spurts
The fountain’s thin white thread and blows away!
Here will we sit and let the sleeping noon
Doze on and dream into the afternoon,
While all the mountains shake in opal light,
Forever shifting, till the sun’s last glance
Transfigures with its splendor all our world.
There, Table Mountain on the horizon piles
Its lofty crown, and gazes on the sea;
There swarthy Loma crouches in repose,
And Sierra Madre rears its purple ridge
And wears its ermine late into the spring,
When all beneath is one vast hash of flowers.


Dear Coronado! Nothing is like her;
Others may please me—her alone I love.
She is no place as other places are,
But like a mother and a mistress too—
The soul of places, unto whom I give
How gladly all my heart, and with it more,
That I might give more.


—W. W. Story.

Much of the prosperity of San Diego, during the great boom and after, was due to the developments on the Coronado Penin­sula. The original name for the strip of land lying between San Diego Bay and the ocean was the Island or Peninsula of San Diego. This was changed, early in 1886, by the Coronado Beach Company, to the euphonious and now famous one of Coronado, meaning crown. There were different claimants for this tract in early days, but it was granted to Archibald C. Peachy and Wil­liam H. Aspinwall, who derived title from Pedro C. Carrillo, on June 11, 1869, and then described as containing 4,185.46 acres.

A syndicate, consisting of Elisha S. Babcock and Jacob Gruen­dike of San Diego, Joseph Collett of Terre Haute, Indiana, and Hampton L. Story of Chicago, bought the peninsula in December, 1885, obtaining the entire property from the head of the bay to the mouth of the harbor, and including North Island. Later, General H. W. Halleck and Frederick Billings became interested. The moving spirit in the undertaking was E. S. Babcock, Junior. He was from Evansville, Indiana, and came to San Diego in 1884 in search of health. The price paid for the property was $110,000. Articles of incorporation of the Coro­nado Beach Company were filed in April, 1886, the capitalization of $1,000,000 being divided into 10,000 shares of $100 each. This was the parent company, which controlled at the beginning, as it does today, various subsidiary corporations, such as railroad and ferry companies.

Writing in May, 1886, to the Los Angeles Times, H. G. Otis says:

The entire peninsula has been surveyed, and the central and larger portion, situated directly opposite the town of San Diego, and elevated some forty feet above the sea level, has been beautifully platted and largely planted to choice trees, shrubbery, etc. The soil I found exceptionally good­—light, sandy loan, warm and easily worked. A nursery of a hundred thousand plants has been established, and many of the embryo streets and avenues bear arboreal names, such as Palm, Date, etc. A street railroad, to run across the peninsula from shore to shore, is under way and will be completed shortly. One of the cars is already on the ground. A telephone line, twenty-five miles long, running almost the entire length of the peninsula connecting with the mainland on the east, and passing through National City, affords speaking communication with the city. Several subordinate companies, acting under the main company, have been organized to push the enterprise along. There are two ferry companies, a street railroad com­pany, a hotel company, a bathhouse company, etc. A large steam ferryboat is building at San Francisco for use between the mainland and the peninsula. The hotel, it is promised, will be a grand structure, ahead of anything on the coast, and costing as much as $300,000. (!) The projectors say that they will put a million dollars, all told, into the main enterprise, if so much be necessary to its perfect development; and I am assured by confident San Diegans that they have “the stuff” to make the promise good.


I should say, looking at the spot—uninviting as it is in a state of nature—that it would require even that large sum to make the peninsula blossom as the rose and bloom with the presence of a large seaside populace. But money, work, skill, and taste will do wonders; and these, coupled with the energy and persistence of the intrepid projectors, will yet make a notable place here. The plan is to sell residence lots in the tract, and so gather about the hotel and on the beaches a con­siderable permanent population. A few buildings have already been erected. In every deed a stipulation is inserted that no spirituous liquors shall ever be sold or drunk on the premises. People who want to get drunk must do so at the hotel, which reserves a monopoly of the beer business. The prohibition is, I learn, causing a good many “kicks,” but the owners stand firm, maintaining that it would be the ruin of the spot to allow it to be covered with saloons. They say that they have re­fused numerous urgent applications for the purchase of lots for saloon purposes.


They have planted themselves solid on the rock of Prohibition—with a loophole in the hotel to get into. They believe in temperance, but are not bigoted about it.

While waiting for the new ferry boat to come, the Benicia was leased and put on. The new ferry boat, the Coronado, arrived in August and made her first trip on the 19th of that month. There are now two boats in this service, the Ramona and the Coronado, and a regular service is maintained. Ferry slips were constructed at the foot of Atlantic Street in San Diego, and to connect with the street car terminus on the Coronado side. The water is carried beneath the waters of the bay in submerged pipes; this system was completed and the water turned on Octo­ber 22, 1886. The total length of the submerged pipe is 3,300 feet.

In July, 1886, W. H. Holabird arrived and took charge of the company’s land sales department, giving his attention to adver­tising and preparing for an auction sale of lots at the new town­site. The first auction sale was held on November 13th, and proved a great success. Three hundred lots were sold at an aggregate price of over $110,000, and the private sales continued briskly for some time thereafter, often amounting to $25,000 a day, and on one day to $150,000. The grand total of these sales amounted to between $2,200,000 and $2,300,000. In January, 1887, there were thirty dwellings completed and in course of construction in Coronado, and the sales of lots averaged $10.000 per day. One excursion brought ten carloads of visitors from Los Angeles and the East.

In March, the foundations of the great hotel were laid. On December 7, 1887, a special train brought the first installment of hotel help. It consisted of two baggage cars, six sleepers, and a Pullman, and there were 324 people in the party. The hotel was formally opened on February 14, 1888, and has ever since been maintained as a winter resort.

In July, 1887, John D. Spreckels acquired the interest of W. W. Story in the Coronado Beach Company, and later he acquired Mr. Babcock’s interest also, and became the sole owner.



The town of Coronado is a pleasant across-the-bay residence district. It suffered somewhat longer than San Diego from the depression following the collapse of the boom, but is enjoying a healthful growth. “Tent City” is one of its most attractive features. On the narrow peninsula east of the hotel, several hundred tents and palmleaf-covered cottages are erected early each summer, where a large number of people go to spend a few weeks beside the ocean. Here there is boating, bathing, fishing, and all the pleasures of camp life, combined with most of the conveniences of life in the city. It is one of the coast’s most popular resorts, especially with those who seek to escape the summer heat of the warm interiors.

Included within the limits of the city’s great tract of pueblo lands are a few thriving and ambitious little towns. La Playa has been frequently mentioned in the earlier pages of this work. It is well situated on the northern shore of the bay and on the easterly slope of Point Loma. Deep water comes close to the shore and there is a secure and convenient anchorage. At the present time, the inhabitants of La Playa are chiefly fishermen, of various nationalities.

Roseville lies a short distance north of La Playa and in a sim­ilar situation. But the back-lying hills are not so steep or so near as farther south; and there is quite a little fertile land, making attractive sites for homes. Louis Rose, the founder of this town, made a considerable investment in lands bought partly from the city of San Diego and partly from private individuals, at an early day. In 1870 he built a wharf, which did good ser­vice, but the attractions were not sufficient to overcome those of Horton’s new town and draw the population away. At pres­ent the population is small, but the place is attracting attention because of its many advantages of soil, view, cheap land, and proximity to the bay and ocean. An electric street car line is promised for an early day and a small ferry boat now plies between San Diego and Roseville.

The incorporated town of Morena lies north of Old Town, on the eastern shore of False Bay. It was laid out in 1887 by James McCoy, A. H. McHatton, D. Cave, O. S. Hubbell, Charles D. Blaney, and O. J. Stough. Mr. Stough is now the owner of the tract. It includes about 1,000 acres of land of different char­acter, the greater portion of which slopes gently toward False Bay and affords attractive sites for suburban homes.

Pacific Beach is situated eight miles north of San Diego, on the northern shore of False Bay, near the ocean. The settlement was founded in the summer of 1887, and was intended to be an educational center. At an auction sale of lots in December of that year, over $200,000 worth of property was sold. A number of substantial buildings were erected and opened as the San Diego College of Letters. The educational work was inaugur­ated in September, 1888, with Dr. Samuel Sprecher as president, and a full corps of instructors. Harr Wagner was vice-president and manager in 1888, 1889, and 1890. 0. J. Stough was one of the most active supporters of the enterprise and provided a large share of the means for establishing and carrying it on. The hard times following the boom bore heavily upon the young col­lege and the work finally had to be abandoned. The principal building has been converted into a hotel, called the Hotel Bal­boa. The settlement is reached by steam motor cars and will soon have two electric lines. Some of the most attractive homes near San Diego are at this place. The town itself is growing steadily and its advantages as a place of suburban residence are certain to be more and more appreciated.


La Jolla is a unique settlement and one almost as well known to the travelling public as Coronado or San Diego itself. It lies on the ocean, fourteen miles north of San Diego. The shore line of the ocean curves sharply inward at this spot, so that the town faces the north. It is flanked on the west by the Pacific, and overlooked on the east and south by high hills. The town lies chiefly on a plateau at a considerable elevation above the beach, but campers and summer residents live in tents and cottages on the lower slopes and on the beach. One of the chief attractions is the very remarkable cliff formations of the shore. These cliffs rise in jagged masses to a height of a hundred feet or more. At the base, they are hollowed into caves and recesses by the action of the waves. To see the breakers sweeping in and dashing upon these stone bastions is a sight never to be forgotten. The most noted cavern is “the White Lady,” which furnishes the setting for Mrs. Thorpe’s sketch, The White Lady of La Jolla. In places at the foot of these cliffs there are strips of sand accessi­ble by zigzag paths from above, and there are safe bathing places adjacent to these.

It is claimed by the residents that the climate of La Jolla is warmer in winter and cooler in summer than at Coronado even. The land was purchased from the city many years ago and the title finally came down to F. T. Botsford, who laid it out as a townsite in 1887. He was soon afterward joined by G. W. Heald, and then by Charles Dearborn, each purchasing a one-fourth interest. At an auction sale held early in May, 1887, they dis­posed of lots to the total amount of $56,000, and within a year thereafter sold $96,000 worth more. Mr. Dearborn still lives in La Jolla; he says he went there to stay three months, and ended by staying nineteen years.

C.D. ROLFE. One of the builders of La Jolla whose faith in the future of the seaside community is expressed in large ownership of property.

Until about two years ago, the resident population of La Jolla was small, but the houses were always occupied during the sea­son. Of late, permanent residents have been building the place up rapidly, until now it has a permanent population of about 500. There are three churches, one of which has its own build­ing and the others soon will have; a good school, several stores, a library, restaurants, bath houses, and many other improvements.

The atmosphere of La Jolla is distinctly artistic and literary. Here live Rose Hartwick Thorpe, author of Curfew Must Not Ring Tonight, and other well known works; Anna Held, now wife of Max Heinrich, owner of the Green Dragon; and other celebrities. The place is beloved by artists, who draw and paint the many-colored cliffs with the ocean and brown hills keeping sleepless guard; by invalids, who find the sea breezes, equable temperatures, and safe sea-bathing invigorating; and by lovers of quiet, who find its peace satisfying. It has attractions for the naturalist, also, in the rare and beautiful algea and other marine growths found in the waters at the foot of the cliffs.

The biological station recently established by the University of California at La Jolla is already doing good work, and its first year (1905) was productive of important results. A new building was erected, with funds given by the citizens of La Jolla and San Diego. There are research rooms, a museum, library, etc. The boat Loma was donated by E. W. Scripps, with funds for her refitting, and the beginnings of a technical library secured. Considerable dredging was done, special studies car­ried on by the staff and by visitors, and a series of lectures by specialists given.

Although outside the city limits of San Diego, National City has peculiar claims upon the interest and affections of its people. In early Spanish days the National Rancho was considered part of the pueblo lands and was used in common by the inhabitants. The Kimball brothers purchased it in 1868 and soon made some of the most important early developments. They laid out the town of National City, built a wharf, and soon had a consider­able population. The site of the town is a beautiful one. It lies on smooth but elevated land, on the bay shore south of San Diego, extending from the city limits south to the Sweetwater River. Its avenues are lined with trees, and these, with the numerous groves and orchards, make the place shady and attract­ive. In size the town is the second in the county.


The Land and Town Company have their
offices here, also their packing houses from which citrus and other fruits are shipped in large quantities. The California Citrus Products Company began the manufacture of citric acid, oil of lemon, and a drink called “Melade” in 1898. This industry has grown until it now consumes ten tons of lemons daily. There is also an olive oil factory which turns out a superior brand of oil. The town has good schools, a public library, a bank, and five churches. Some of the surrounding country is highly developed and contains orchards and country homes which cannot be sur­passed on the Pacific Coast. The people of National City are in a happy frame of mind at present. Real estate values are ris­ing, and with their many advantages of situation, rich back country and deep water frontage, their confidence seems to be abundantly justified. Besides giving the harbor of San Diego its peculiarly shel­tered and land-locked situation, Point Loma is a spot of great interest, in itself. The old “official description” of the Point runs as follows:

“This is the southern part of the western boundary of San Diego Bay and the termination of a remarkable spur of coarse, crumbling sandstone, which rises south of Puerto Valso, or False Bay, and west of the [old] town of San Diego, to the height of three hundred feet, and after stretching south for about five and one-half miles, gradually increasing in height to four hundred and fifty-seven feet, terminates very abruptly. It is covered with coarse grass, cacti, wild sage, and low bushes.”

On its historical side, the Point is the site of the old town of La Playa, the outport of Old San Diego, with its traditions of Dana and the hide houses; of the government military reserva­tion and Fort Rosecrans; of the quarantine station, marine hos­pital, lighthouses old and new, and the projected coaling sta­tion; and of the Mormon search for coal in the 50’s. It also contains the town of Ocean Beach, where many years ago the Indians foregathered to dry fish and clams and where in later years was a favorite picnic ground for the inhabitants of Morton’s Addition; and of Roseville, now looking forward hopefully to becoming a prosperous and populous suburb of the city of San Diego. A number of farmers, dairymen, and horticulturalists till its soil, which is fertile and only requires irrigation and cultivation to produce abundantly.

But the chief interest now attaching to Point Loma, for the inhabitants of San Diego no less than for visitors, is the loca­tion there of “The Universal Brotherhood and Theosophical Society,” whose buildings form a very striking feature of the landscape. Sailing down the coast, the traveler discerns first, the bold promontory of Point Loma, reaching like a long finger into the sea. Something upon the heights, which at first resem­bles a white mist, slowly takes on form and color, and, at last, stands forth in tangible shape as a group of buildings, unique and picturesque, flashing the sunshine from glass-covered domes and minarets. There is a harmonious blending of architectural lines, partly Moorish, partly Egyptian, with something belong­ing to neither. Looking upon the heights from the other side—from the hills of San Diego or the peninsula of Coronado­—this quaint landmark looms quite as conspicuously upon the horizon, as from the sea; and, throughout the night, the lamps hung in the highest turrets gleam out over land and sea, mak­ing a luminous spot in the darkness, which is visible for miles.

KATHERINE TINGLEY. Official head of the Theosophical Society and Universal Brotherhood, under whose guidance the institutions of Point Loma have been developed with remarkable success. Mrs. Tingley vindicated the character of her work by defeating the Los Angeles Times in a notable libel suit, and by overcoming powerful opposition in securing the admission of Cuban children to the Raja Yoga schools. Her work is of world-wide scope, with Point Loma as its official center.

The cornerstone for the first of these buildings, the “School for the Revival of the Lost Mysteries of Antiquity,” was laid by Katherine Tingley, on February 23, 1897. The stone itself was brought from Killarney, in Ireland. The site of the Home­stead, consisting of several hundred acres, had been selected and purchased by Mrs. Tingley in the preceding year. It was not until February 13, 1898, however, that Mrs. Tingley took up her permanent residence at the Homestead and began to concentrate the activities of the World’s Center of Theosophy. The Universal Brotherhood and Theosophical Society’s offices, the Theo­sophical Publishing Company, the International Brotherhood League, the Aryan Theosophical Society of New York. and the Woman’s Exchange and Mart, were soon installed in their new home. The grounds were rapidly improved and building’s erected, the largest two being the Loma Homestead and the Aryan Memorial Temple. At a division of the Homestead called “Estero” are the buildings of the School for the Revival of the Lost Mysteries of Antiquity. The cornerstone of the Isis Temple of Art, Music and Drama was laid on April 29, 1900, and the dedication of the International Lotus Home and estab­lishment of the Raja Yoga School occurred on the following first of May. In February, 1901, public presentations of classical plays in the city of San Diego was begun and the daily lectures in the Aryan Memorial Temple at the Homestead were opened to the public. The building of the amphitheater for the per­formance of classical plays and also for athletic contests along the lines of the original Olympian games, was completed in November of that year. In March, 1902, Mrs. Tingley became the owner of Fisher’s Opera House, the principal theater in San Diego, the name of which was changed to the Isis. This theater is used for public meetings and dramatic performance and the building is utilized for the San Diego branches of the Home­stead work, particularly for the Aryan Press, the Raja Yoga School and the Isis Conservatory of Music.

The official name of the Homestead is “Adyar.” It is an educational center. The methods are unique, being based upon the development from within of the pupil’s own powers, rather than upon cramming from books. A large number of Cuban children and other waifs have found a home here; but, on the other hand, many people of wealth and refinement make it their home because of the superior educational advantages offered. The children of the rich and poor mingle in perfect equality and learn no class distinctions. The community’s housekeeping is carried on co-operatively and the principles of brotherhood are exemplified in every department of the life and work.

Katherine Tingley, the “Leader and Official Head,” is the sincere and able woman who has created and is developing this institution. In San Diego there are many Theosophists, and the activities of the Homestead are regarded with kindly and sym­pathetic interest by the mass of the population.

Return to Books.


Main Page
Author’s Foreword
Introduction: The Historical Pre-Eminence of San Diego

PART ONE:   Period of Discovery and Mission Rule

  1. The Spanish Explorers
  2. Beginning of the Mission Epoch
  3. The Taming of the Indian
  4. The Day of Mission Greatness
  5. The End of Franciscan Rule
    Priests of San Diego Mission

PART TWO:   When Old Town Was San Diego

  1. Life on Presidio Hill Under the Spanish Flag
    List of Spanish and Mexican commandants
  2. Beginnings of Agriculture and Commerce
    List of Ranchos in San Diego County
  3. Political Life in Mexican Days
  4. Early Homes, Visitors and Families
  5. Pleasant Memories of Social Life
  6. Prominent Spanish Families
  7. The Indians’ Relations With the Settlers
    List of Mission Indian Lands
  8. San Diego in the Mexican War
  9. Public Affairs After the War
  10. Accounts of Early Visitors and Settlers
  11. Annals of the Close of Old San Diego
  12. American Families of the Early Time
  13. The Journalism of Old San Diego
  14. Abortive Attempt to Establish New San Diego

PART THREE:   The Horton Period

  1. The Founder of the Modern City
  2. Horton’s Own Story
  3. Early Railroad Efforts, Including the Texas and Pacific
  4. San Diego’s First Boom
  5. Some Aspects of Social Life

PART FOUR:   Period of “The Great Boom”

  1. Coming of the Santa Fe
  2. Phenomena of the The Great Boom
  3. Growth of Public Utilities
  4. Water Development

PART FIVE:   The Last Two Decades

  1. Local Annals, After the Boom
  2. Political Affairs and Municipal Campaigns
  3. Later Journalism and Literature [new material in second edition]
  4. The Disaster to the Bennington
  5. The Twentieth Century Days
  6. John D. Spreckels Solves the Railroad Problem

PART SIX:   Institutions of Civic Life

  1. Churches and Religious Life
  2. Schools and Education
  3. Records of the Bench and Bar
  4. Growth of the Medical Profession
  5. The Public Library
  6. Story of the City Parks
  7. The Chamber of Commerce
  8. Banks and Banking
  9. Secret, Fraternal and Other Societies
  10. Account of the Fire Department

PART SEVEN:   Miscellaneous Topics

  1. History of the San Diego Climate
  2. San Diego Bay, Harbor and River
  3. Governmental Activities
  4. The Suburbs of San Diego

Political Roster, City of San Diego
Political Roster, San Diego County