An unsolved mystery—what a tantalizing phenomenon! Such a mystery still surrounds the first man to file a subdivision map in Ocean Beach. Where did he come from? Why did he come? What did he do? How long was he here, and what happened to him? I can only guess at the answers, for he left little trace of himself in public records.
Perhaps he was, like William Heath Davis, a visionary ahead of his time. Certainly he had faith as well as vision, for San Diego’s railroad to the populous East had been washed out by floods the previous winter, and had not yet been fully reconstructed.1 But just as Alonzo E. Horton overshadowed William Heath Davis, so William H. Carlson overshadowed J. M. DePuy.
I discovered Mr. DePuy’s pioneering effort almost by chance, as I worked with old subdivision maps at the County Recorder’s Office. I was sure that I had identified one or more patterns in the names of Ocean Beach streets, but I knew there had been a number of street-name-changing ordinances enacted over the years of San Diego’s history. Were any of the patterns not original patterns? Using the County Recorder’s Subdivision Map Index, I located all the maps for which the subdivision names started with “Ocean Beach.”2 Since, in most of them, adjacent subdivisions were named, I listed them, and inspected those maps, too. One such was “DePuy’s Subdivision,” and the map number in the index was a very low one; Number 30, to be exact. I reasoned that if Carlson and Higgins’ map of Ocean Beach was filed May 28, 1887, and was Number 279, then perhaps the “DePuy’s Subdivision” map was even earlier. A look at the map proved my surmise correct. Map Number 30, “DePuy’s Subdivision,” was drawn January 16, 1885, and filed on April 22 of the same year.3
I tried to find out more about DePuy, but was frustrated at almost every turn. He was not listed in the County Recorder’s Deed Index, Patent Index, or Miscellaneous Documents Index. His name did not appear in the Great Register of Voters, 1880-1887, or in the San Diego city directories for 1886-1887 and 1887-1888 (the oldest ones known at this time). He was apparently in San Diego as early as 1884, for the San Diego Union of September 30, 1884, in the “Local Brevities” column, stated that “Julien J. Lassaletti has sold to Charles B. Van Every and J. M. DuPuy [sic] about fifteen blocks of land in the northern extension of Horton’s Addition, for $14,000.”4
Do the names he assigned to the streets of his subdivision give any clues to his past? They are: Aliso (now Valeta),5 Castelar, Alvarado (now Greene),6 Sea Side, Etiwanda, and Soto Strects.7 Aliso is part of the name of a land grant in Orange County,’ and also means “alder tree.” What significance could either meaning have? Etiwanda is the name of a place, founded in 1882, located in San Bernardino County.10 It is not a common name-had DePuy been there, or did he just like the sound of it? Castelar11 and Soto12 are towns in Argentina, and there are several places, in both Mexico and California, named Alvarado.13 What might these tell us of his life and travels? If any one of the names he chose is that of his home town, the likeliest candidate is Sea Side, for there are two on the Eastern Seaboard, as well as later ones in Oregon and California.14 If his Sea Side Street was named after New Jersey’s Seaside Park, it presages the pattern Carlson and Higgins chose, whether it is DePuy’s home town or not.
Whoever and whatever DePuy was, he was not the only visionary in San Diego in the mid-1880’s. He merely preceded some of them. The California Southern Railroad to San Diego had existed in fact, instead of just on paper, before the flooding rains of early 1884 washed out many sections.15 The damage wreaked by floods of water was being repaired; floods of people might still come to San Diego. “Through service” did come to San Diego on November 21, 1885,16 and Ocean Beach “boomed,” as did many other areas, but, as Ruth Held writes in Beach Town, “before anyone really got started building houses, the boom collapsed.”17 So, apparently, did the dreams and plans of J. M. DePuy.
Before the collapse of the “boom,” one more subdivision map was filed for the Ocean Beach area: the Carlson and Higgins map of May 28, 1887.18 William H. Carlson and Frank J. Higgins were partners in promoting this subdivision. They promised many things, including a street car line from Old Town to Ocean Beach, and a hotel.19 John Brennan20 and Ruth Held21 have written of the varied activities, such as mussel roasts and band concerts, which were part of the promotional schemes. I shall not attempt to duplicate their accounts. A lasting testimony to Carlson and Higgins’ efforts lies in the fact that most of the names they chose for their streets still exist on today’s maps.
The pattern these names follow seems to be an indication of the hopes the two men cherished for their land. Almost all the names they assigned to the streets running northwest to southeast are those of resorts. Part of my working hypothesis was that all the resorts would be located on oceans, since the two men had called their subdivision Ocean Beach. That pattern did not hold at all points, as can be seen from the following: Brighton Avenue—probably from the seaside resort in Sussex, England, on the English Channel.22
Cape May Avenue – probably from the resort county in New Jersey, between the Atlantic Ocean and Delaware Bay.23
Saratoga Avenue – probably from Saratoga Springs, New York, near Saratoga Lake; noted for horse racing as well as resorts24
Santa Monica Avenue – probably from the resort city in Los Angeles County, California, on the Pacific Ocean.25
Newport Avenue – probably from the Rhode Island resort city bordered by the Atlantic Ocean and Narragansett Bay.26
Niagara Avenue – probably from Niagara Falls, N.Y., a center of tourism, located on the Niagara River.27
Narragansett Avenue – probably from the Rhode Island town on Narragansett Bay, an inlet of the Atlantic Ocean. Tourism is one of its industries.28
Del Monte Avenue – probably from the resort on the Monterey Peninsula, in Monterey County, California.29
Santa Cruz Avenue – probably from the California coastal county and resort clty.30 Pacific Avenue – probably named after the ocean on which the subdivision fronted. This name was changed to Coronado Avenue in 1914.31 However, the new name fits the old pattern of resorts, preferably on oceans, since it probably derives from Coronado, California, in San Diego County.32
Del Mar Avenue – probably from the coastal city in San Diego County, Calfornia.33
La Jolla Avenue – probably from the coastal community located in the northern area of the city of San Diego, California. This was changed to Orchard Street in 190034 and to Orchard Avenue in 1914.35 The latter names may stem from a bathing resort in the New York City metropolitan area.36 Pescadero Avenue – possibly from the village in San Mateo County.37 Since this is not a noted resort, an alternate derivation might be from the Spanish, “pesca,” which means “fishing;”38 the word “pescadero” itself means “fishmonger.”39
Bermuda Avenue – probably from the British Crown Colony in the western Atlantic Ocean, mainly active as a tourist resort.40
Point Loma Avenue – probably from the peninsula within the City of San Diego on which Ocean Beach itself is located.
Carlson and Higgins named the streets running northeast to southwest 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th, and 7th.41 Since other subdividers had also numbered the streets in their subdivisions, it was eventually necessary to make mass changes, to avoid the confusing duplication. An ordinance adopted by the Board of Delegates on May 21, 1900, changed 1st Avenue in Ocean Beach to Abbott Street, 2nd to Bacon, 3rd to Cable, 4th to DeFoe, 5th to Ebers, 6th to Fronde, and 7th to Guizot.42 Another pattern was thus established, using the world of literature as its inspiration, as follows:
Abbott Street – probably from Jacob Abbott (1803-1879), most noted for the “Rollo” stories and other books for children,43 or from John Stevens Cabot Abbott (1805-1877), a biographer and historian.44
Bacon Street – probably from Sir Francis Bacon (1561-1626), most famous for his essays,45 or from Roger Bacon (1214?1294), a noted philosopher.46
Cable Street – probably fromGeorge Washington Cable (1844-1925), noted for his use of “local color” in books he based on Creole history.47
DeFoe Street – probably from Daniel Defoe (1660?-1731), author of Robinson Crusoe, noted for his satire and his pioneering efforts in journalism and picaresque fiction.48The Board of Delegates chose to establish it as being spelled with a capital F.49 (Defoe himself was not consistent.50) However, the point became academic when DeFoe Street was changed in 1927 to Sunset Cliffs Boulevards.51
Ebers Street – probably from Georg Moritz Ebers (1837-1898), a German novelist and Egyptologist.52
Froude Street – probably from James Anthony Froude (1818-1894), a historian and essayist, noted more for his style than his accuracy.53
Guizot Street – probably from François Pierre Guillaume Guizot (1787-1874), French historian and statesman.54
In 1893, the Point Loma Land, Loan and Town Company filed a map for a subdivision called “Loma Heights.” The map, #770,55 appears to have been no more than a “paper map,” with streets projected in many cases without reference to the existing terrain. There is no record in the San Diego City Clerk’s Street and street change index56 of some of the streets in this subdivision. Other streets appear to have been extensions of those in the Carlson and Higgins map. Those of which there is no record seem to have been replaced in later subdivision maps by streets which conform to the physical geography of the area.
I could find no trace of further activity until after the turn of the century. In 1907, at least seven subdivision maps for Ocean Beach areas were filed; in 1909, three, and in 1911, one57 Attempting to describe all of them would result in a somewhat massive manuscript, so I have chosen to confine this paper to pre-1900 subdivisions.
Winifred Davidson, in the manuscript for her newspaper series, Ocean Beach of Olden Days, has a chapter called, “The Turn of the Century.” Her description adds substance to the impressions conveyed by the subdivision maps, and presages the Ocean Beach of today. Here is an abbreviated version of what she wrote in 1934:
“Boom days were over and much of the bitterness engendered by burst bubbles, lost fortunes, hopes deferred, dreams unrealized, had been forgotten by the close of the Nineteenth Century. Ocean Beach was a name fixed upon California history, maps, and subdivision plats. Streets that had been indicated existed scarcely more than within the imagination of the few who still believed that someday, somehow, a citified community would spread itself upon this wide-turned gentle slope.
“During the rainy season Ocean Beach presented a forlorn and depressing scene, more forlorn than depressing because of the very fact that a few scattered shacks and remains of buildings, the debris left by a generation which had tried and failed to make a go of town building were scattered about here and there.
“What was then the ‘center’ of activity is today the principal intersection of Ocean Beach. This in itself is an interesting fact: that haphazardly, or with carefully planned decision, the center of Ocean Beach in 1900 remains its center today in 1934.
“Frank McElwee’s statement about this center is as follows:
“‘. . . When I came here in 1905 there was a group of four houses at the corner of what is now Bacon and Newport Streets, the beginning of the business center of Ocean Beach.’
” . . . During the first decade of this century life went on here much as it had during the last five years of the 19th century, and yet, though no one seemed aware of the fact, the great change had set in. The gathering of families had begun. The beginning of permanent settlement had been made. A certain distinctive Ocean Beach environment had begun to be recognized, and liked by an increasing number of the discerning.”58
Mrs. Davidson’s last sentence could almost have been written yesterday, instead of over forty years ago. Ocean Beach may not be what DePuy, Carlson and Higgins envisioned in the 1880’s, but the “distinctive Ocean Beach environment” of the 1970’s is not completely duplicated anywhere else, and is still “recognized, and liked.”
1. Smythe, William E. History of San Diego. 1542-1908. San Diego: The History Company, 1908. v. 2, p. 405-406.
2. San Diego (County) Recorder. Subdivision map index. (San Diego, The author, n.d.) Ocean Beach, etc.
3. Map showing the subdivisions of the W. 112 of NW 114 of Lot 206, being a part of the Pueblo Lands of the of the City of San Diego, San Diego County Cal., made at the request of J. M. DePuy Esq.. . . In: San Diego (County) Recorder. Subdivision map books, v. 1 -. (San Diego, The author, n.d.) Book 1, Map #30.
4. San Diego Union. September 30, 1884. p.3, col.l.
5. Ordinance N12833. May 12, 1930. San Diego City Clerk’s Office.
6. Ordinance #755, May 21, 1900. San Diego City Clerk’s Office.
7. Map showing the subdivisions of the W. 112… loc. cit.
8. Gudde, Erwin G. California place names. .. 3d rev. ed. Berkeley, University of California Press, 1969. Aliso.
9. Cassell’s Spanish dictionary; Spanish-English, English-Spanish. New York, Funk & Wagnalls, 6968. Aliso.
10. Gudde. op. cit. Etiwanda.
11. Columbia-Lippincott gazetteer oj’ the world; ed. by Leon E. Seltzer. Columbia University Press and Lippincott, c1962, 6952. Castelar.
12. Columbia-Lippincott. . . op. cit. Soto. Each street and avenue name was checked under its own alphabetical entry, in this gazetteer.
13. Gudde. op. cit. Alvarado.
14. Columbia-Lippincott.. . op. cit. Seaside.
15. Smythe. loc. cit.
17. Held, Ruth Varney. Beach Town, early days in Ocean Beach (to 1930) San Diego, The author, 0975. p.4.subdivision of Pueblo Lots 195, 202, and 203, in the city of San Diego, California … In: San Diego (County) Recorder. Subdivision map books… Book 5, Map #279.
19. San Diego Union. April 28, 1887. p,5, eol.2.
20. Brennan, John Edward. History of Ocean Beach, 1542-1900. San Diego, The author, 1960. Typed. p. 12-20. In California Room, San Diego Public Library.
21. Held. op. cit. p. 11-15.
22. Columbia-Lippincott.. . op. cit. Brighton.
23. Ibid. Cape May.
24. Ibid. Saratoga.
25. Ibid. Santa Monica.
26. Ibid. Newport.
27. Ibid. Niagara.
28. Ibid. Narragansett.
29. Ibid. Del Monte.
30. Ibid. Santa Cruz.
31. Ordinance #5417, January 12, 1914. San Diego City Clerk’s Office.
32. Columbia-Lippincott.. . op. cit. Coronado.
33. Ibid. Del Mar.
34. Ordinance #755… loc. cit.
35. Ordinance #5417… loc. cit.
36. Columbia-Lippincott. . . op. cit. Orchard Beach.
37. Ibid. Pescadero.
38. Cassell’s Spanish dictionary… op. cit. Pesca. 39. Ibid. Pescadero.
40. Columbia-Lippincott… op. cit. Bermuda.
41. Map of Ocean Beach… loc. cit.
42. Ordinance #755… loc. cit.
43. Kunitz, Stanley J. and Haycraft, Howard. American authors, 1600-1900. . . New York, Wilson, 1938. Abbott, Jacob.
44. Ibid. Abbott, John Stevens Cabot.
45. Kunitz, Stanley J. and Haycraft, Howard. British authors before 1800… New York, Wilson, 1952. Bacon, Sir Francis.
46. Ibid. Bacon. Roger
47. Kunitz… and Haycraft… American authors… Cable, George Washington.
48. Kunitz… and Haycraft… British authors before 1800… Defoe, Daniel.
49. Ordinance #755… loc. cit.
50. Kunitz.. . and Haycraft.. .British authors before 1800… loc. cit.
51. Ordinance #11355, October 17, 1927. San Diego City Clerk’s Office.
52. Encyclopedia Americana. New York, Encyclopedia Americana, 1974. v.9. Ebers, George Moritz.
53. Kunitz, Stanley. British authors of the 19th century… New York, Wilson, 1936. Froude, James Anthony.
54. Encyclopaedia Britannica.. . 11th ed. New York, The Encyclopaedia Britannica Company,1910.v.12. Guizot. Francois Pierre Guillaume.
55. Map of Loma Heights, being the subdivision of Pueblo Lots 196 and 201 according to official survey made by the City Engineer of San Diego. In: San Diego (County) Recorder. Subdivision map books… Book 5, Map #770.
56. San Diego City Clerk’s Office. Street and street change index. This card index was checked for Bermuda Street, Brighton Street, Canon Street, Narragansett Street, Ocean View Street, Point Loma Avenue, Roseville Street, Santa Cruz Street, Santa Monica Street, and Valley Street, which appear on Map #770.
57. Maps1058, 1065. 1078, 1079, 1080, 1082, 1106, 1167, 1189. 1217, 1378, In: San Diego (County) Recorder. Subdivision map books… Books 22, 23, 25, 26, 29.
58. Davidson, Winifred. Ocean Beach of other days. (San Diego, The author, 1934) Typed. p.106-108. In San Diego History Center Library and Manuscripts Collection.
Rhoda E. Kruse received her Master of Library of Science degree from Pratt Institute, Brooklyn, New York. She is now Senior Librarian for the San Diego Public Library’s California, Newspaper and Genealogy Room. The article published here was an award winning paper at the 1976 San Diego Historical Society Institute of History.