by Kathleen Crawford
San Diego History Center 1985 Institute of History
AT the turn of the twentieth century, a renewed interest in the arts created an intellectual and artistic groundswell that resulted in the formation of loose-knit organizations devoted to aesthetic pursuits in various pockets of Europe and America. Artists banded together to enhance their lives and provide a mutually supportive work environment. Centers of activity sprang up in London, Paris, San Francisco, Carmel and, on a much smaller scale, in Grossmont, California, a place that appeared to have little in common with its cosmopolitan and sophisticated predecessors.1
Grossmont: six hundred arid, rocky acres, bounded today by Interstate Highway 8, Fuerte Drive, Helix Drive, Pine Street and Bancroft Street, overlooks the pleasant valley of El Cajon and the gentle hills of La Mesa, twelve miles east of downtown San Diego. The small peak of Grossmont, nestled beside its larger sister summit, Mount Helix, had long been used as an observation point by the citizens of San Diego.2 The first permanent settlement of the area took place during the mid-nineteenth century.
Granted the land in 1845, Dona Maria Antonia Estudillo, first in a long succession of owners and a member of one of the oldest families in San Diego, built a modest home at the base of the foothills.3 Another pioneer resident, Enoch Birdseye, followed her example and constructed his house at the foot of the knoll. The early death of Mr. Birdseye after one year ended his Grossmont residency.4
Serious development of the land commenced with the purchase of six hundred acres by Harvey C. Parke of the Parke-Davis Medical Company in Detroit, Michigan. Named the Villa Caro Ranch, it soon became a show-place with its acres of lush citrus trees, fragrant with the aroma of scented blossoms. A spacious wooden Victorian home, various barns and corrals, a lily pond, and masses of deep green camellia bushes graced the property. Cork oak, mulberry, and wild persimmon trees blanketed the grounds in direct contrast to the chapparal covered slopes above.5
Serendipity directed the future of this small plot of land. While on a brief visit to Yellowstone National Park in 1901, Edward Fletcher,6 a transplanted Easterner newly settled in San Diego with his young family, struck up an acquaintance with another visitor to the park, William B. Gross.7 A ride in a six horse tallyho, a horse drawn buggy, cemented their friendship. They made plans to continue this bond back in San Diego and this led in time to the formation of the “Grossmont Art Colony.”
Pennsylvania-born William Gross, a theatrical agent and sometime actor, brought his talents to San Diego in response to a request from Fletcher to visit the family home. Gross, a man of medium height and stocky build, with hypnotic eyes and a red beard trimmed to a Mephistophelean point, emphasized his resemblance to King Edward VII of England.8 While in San Diego, the bachelor impresarios mentioned his desire for profitable investments and a peaceful retirement home to Fletcher.9
Ed Fletcher, six feet tall, with a classic profile and high broad forehead capped by dark wavy hair, and patriarch of a large, handsome family, began his lucrative real estate career with the purchase of the Villa Caro Ranch in partnership with William Gross in 190210Charmed by the rustic beauty of the ranch, the men made an offer of $11,500 in cash. The deal included forty acres of citrus trees and $85;000 worth of furniture. Included in this remarkable bargain were the Victorian home and all the outbuildings on the property. Two hundred acres of “useless” land thrown in for good measure laid the cornerstone for the artistic colony.11
Fletcher and Gross, two self-made men with foresight and sound entreprenurial flair, proposed a dynamic idea for the acreage. Prompted by the success of other artistic groups, Fletcher and Gross envisioned a colony populated by literary and musical personalities. However, their plan to enrich the cultural life of the city of San Diego through the establishment of an artists’ colony ranked on an equal basis with the desire for financial reward.
Even though Fletcher and Gross labeled their vision an art colony, it never became a true artistic colony in the European style. The various celebrities who resided in the area never appeared to form a close-knit organization with scheduled meetings or close, constant interaction among the participants. There was some involvement at various times among the members, of course, but with busy performing schedules and various demands on their personal lives, the residents had little time for regular contact.
Although motivated in part by altruism, Fletcher and Gross, businessmen first and last, hoped to realize a significant return on their investment.12 They knew that a core of famous residents would serve as a substantial draw and outstanding selling point to other prospective buyers. The term “art colony” has remained to describe the area until the present day but it is in reality a misnomer. The area never became a true artistic endeavor although it did develop into prime real estate and laid the foundation for Fletcher’s further ventures in this field.
The two partners divided the responsibilities for the promotion of their dream into separate areas. Gross, as a prominent theatrical agent very popular with the famous artists of the day, had the important contacts so vital to the success of the colony.13 Fletcher handled all the business aspects of the land promotion and soon moved his growing family onto the ranch, the better to guide and direct the development of the land.14
Fletcher plunged into the creation of the colony with his characteristic energy and enthusiasm. First he filed a subdivision map, on October 26, 1910, naming the area Grossmont Park. One year later, Fletcher filed an additional map, this time for Villa Caro, a smaller section of sixty acres.15 Bess Fletcher, the sister of Edward, and a favorite of Gross, suggested the name Grossmont to honor her admirer and family friend and so the San Diego version of Bohemia began.16
Each weekend Fletcher brought one hundred trees of different varieties from downtown San Diego on the train and transformed the barren, wind-swept slopes into forested niches thick with foliage. In addition, he laid electrical lines and installed a water system to provide water for all the proposed homes.17
With his ranch foreman, Mike Dooley, Fletcher laid out fourteen miles of roads with rags tied to the bushes to mark the path. Nicknamed “Freaky Fletcher’s Fancy Flight” by the La Mesa Scout, the picturesque, crooked thoroughfares, some a mere twenty feet wide, had a definite purpose. Always thinking of the potential customer, Fletcher planned them this way in order to give the buyers the best possible views. He completed the initial road to the summit, El Granito Avenue, in 1913.18 Lillian Russell, the statuesque beauty and star of light opera and vaudeville fame, opened the road and drove the first car to the top.19
With the completion of the road, the land became ready for sale. Lots sold for $2,500 and up per acre, with a continual rise until the Great Depression in 1929, when they plummeted to $250-500 per acre.20 While Fletcher continued with the subdivision plans and sales, Gross contacted his theatrical friends and soon had an impressive lineup of future residents.21
Madame Ernestine Schumann-Heink, the famous operatic contralto, became the first artist to live in the colony;22 followed by Carrie Jacobs Bond, poetess and composer of the popular ballad, “I Love You Truly”;23 Havrah Hubbard, editor and music critic in Chicago and San Diego;24 Owen Wister, the novelist and creator of the cowboy genre in literature via his book – The Virginian;25 Johanna Gadski, a German contralto;26 Teresa Carreno, a Venezuelan pianist and composer;27 Charles Wakefield Cadman, a devotee of American Indian music and composer of the “Land of Sky Blue Waters”28 John Vance Cheney, a poet;29 Charles W. Clark, a baritone singer;30 Edmund Schneider;31 and Elizabeth Robinson.32 This international roster of celebrities and their friends constituted the circle of artists that called Grossmont home.
Each of these people saw Grossmont primarily as a refuge and a place of respite from the heavy demands of their professions. In this era, before television dominated the lives of millions, entertainers had to travel and make public appearances to keep their careers viable. Long concert tours claimed much of their time and energy and they returned to their peaceful country homes to rest and plan for their next creative endeavor.
Attracted by the unique ambiance so carefully created by Fletcher, one artist after another voiced extravagant tribute to the charms of their special haven from the excessive demands of their very public careers.34 Madame Schumann-Heink described her joy and anticipation in a letter to Ed Fletcher on March 3, 1912, “I read so much about ‘Paradise’ well, I think I found my dreams realized when I saw Grossmont in our blessed ‘California’ and I am happy as a child in thoughts of my wonderful future home – Casa Ernestina.”35 The other artists echoed similar sentiments.
Fletcher and Gross gave the grand diva the first home site on the conditions that she build a home there. This estate, built in 1913 and designed by architect Del Harris to complement her residence on Coronado, became the keystone to the little community.36 Soon the other artists caught the spirit of the dream and laid out plans for their own homes.
The design of each home supplemented the bucolic charm of the landscape and offered a variety of either entertainment facilities or workspace as the artists demanded certain amenities in order to nurture and expand their creative genius. The large granite boulders and trees presented design problems but each architect managed to work them into the final plans and a collection of unique homes emerged as a result of their labors.37
One structure that capitalized on the ruggedness of the terrain, the Grossmont Inn, began as a commercial venture. Built in 1913 by Fletcher at 9680 Evans Place, it later served as the family home for several years. White-gloved servants greeted the guests after their stage coach ride up the hill from the train depot in El Cajon.38 A French chef, brought from New York, produced the fine cuisine served at breakfast, lunch, dinner and tea-time. Wide porches overlooked the verdant countryside below the Inn and provided a spectacular view for the pleasure of the city-bound diners.39 The seclusion and serenity drew the famous and not so famous to the area, which delighted the ever-present businessman in Ed Fletcher.
The first residence in the colony belonged to William Gross. Built in 1910 and designed by Gross himself, the home at 9633 El Granito Avenue featured the Craftsman influence in the asymmetrical wooden bungalow.40 Later bought by Madame Schumann-Heink for her son, Henry, one of her seven children by three different marriages, it became the second home she owned in the colony. She also owned other properties, one in Coronado and one in Mission Hills.41 Her home at 9951 El Granito Avenue rests on a bed of granite boulders and commands a magnificent view of San Diego.
Madame Schumann-Heink enjoyed her home and loved to putter around in it, bake cookies for her numerous grandchildren, and relax after a concert tour. A woman of complex personality, both grand diva and “hausfrau,” her comfortable old world style home reflected this mix.42 When home, she embarked on a whirlwind of improvements. Fences, rooms, bars to keep out inquisitive coyotes and other modifications, both inside and out, have been added to the original design.43
Activity abounded at the Schumann-Heink home. Dogs and grandchildren romped through the halls. A murder44 and accusations of anti-American activities in 191645 kept the pace brisk. Despite these intrusions, she took on as a special cause all the young soldiers, “her boys” far away from home. Tall, rawboned, with snow white hair that framed a strong but gentle face, called “Mother” by the armed forces, she even deeded her home to disabled soldiers. Beloved by all who came in contact with her, she gave numerous concerts for soldiers, and her rendition of “Silent Night” every Christmas Eve became an annual tradition for radio audiences. In addition to her wide variety of community activities, she sold more War Bonds than any other individual.46
Joined in her civic endeavors by Carrie Jacobs Bond, her neighbor at 9623 Summit Circle, they campaigned for a music and art center in San Diego. They hoped to form a festival similar to the one held in Bayreuth, Germany where Madame Schumann-Heink had performed many times. Although the festival never became a reality, through their efforts, they influenced music circles in San Diego to a large extent.47
“Nest O’ Rest,” the home of Carrie Jacobs Bond, built in 1916 by Oscar Brannan, contained a large recital room that overlooked the valleys and hills of San Diego.48 As a popular American song-writer, she used this room a great deal for soirees and entertainment of noted guests, such as Amelita Galli-Curci, the famous Italian coloratura soprano.49
Mrs. Bond, a widow, seemed frail compared to her more robust neighbor, Madame Schumann-Heink. Wire glasses hid her blue eyes and a tidy bun captured the stray wisps of pure white hair. Similar in looks to Eleanor Roosevelt, her face displayed the same kind of strength. One can see the courage in her eyes that forced her to continue after the death of her husband. 111, and with a young son to support, she turned to her music for sustenance.50 After a life of struggle, one can imagine the peace she found on Grossmont. She dedicated a poem to Ed Fletcher in which she describes her thoughts on her pleasurable home. Just a few lines give a clear picture of her joy:
“… And weary though my soul may be,
My spirit there is blessed
The wild birds chant their caroles,
The wild flowers bloom galore.
Out in God’s lovely garden-
How could I ask for more?51
A similar desire to live in Grossmont prompted both Johanna Gadski and Teresa Carreno to acquire land in the area. Each owned a site but did not live long enough to build homes in the community. Gadski, a German soprano, died in an accident in 1932.52 Teresa Carreno, the fiery Venezuelan pianist and composer, passed away on June 12, 1917 from myasthenia gravis, a degenerative nerve disease.53
Another resident with a musical background, Charles Wakefield Cadman, contributed a great deal to local musical circles. Cadman first saw the area on a visit to the home of Fred Hansen, a local La Mesa land developer.54 He exclaimed, “This is the one place in the world that makes you forget Hollywood”, and continued with the remark that “my mother is as enthusiastic as I over coming to La Mesa.”55
Cadman’s deep interest in American Indian music came after a year of study with the Omaha tribe and continued to be a major interest after his arrival in Grossmont. Several of his compositions that were produced after his contact with the Omaha tribe, such as “At Dawning” and “Western World”, appeared in the programs of local organizations-Grossmont High School and the Central Congregational Church.56
This cadre of artists, even though many times busy with European and American concert tours, radio shows, benefits, and even movies, activities designed to further their careers, gave to the community beyond measure. Always ready to help a cause with a personal appearance, money or their work, they took an active role in the life of San Diego.
Poems and songs written about San Diego enriched the lives of the local people and helped publicize the beauty of San Diego. One such poet, John Vance Cheney, built his 1400 square foot home at 9410 Sierra Vista in 1913 on a one acre lot. Designed to take advantage of the view, the house contains several porches. Two chimneys of cut stone masonry add to the comfort and charm of the residence.57 Here Cheney retired after a life filled with a variety of pursuits. His path took him from a law practice in New York City to library positions in Chicago and San Francisco. His various volumes of poetry gained him acceptance into the National Institute of Arts and Letters. He died in 1922 and the property changed owners soon after.58
William Havrah Hubbard, also a literary figure, added to the list of gifts given by the artistic colony to San Diego. He served as music critic and editor for the San Diego Union, and had held the same position in Chicago for the Tribune. Due to his background in piano and voice, he qualified on all counts to cover major musical events. Little Theatre groups in San Diego occupied his spare time. He shared his bachelor home at 9725 Sunset Drive with his eighty-three year old aunt, Julia A. Reed, and his constant companion, “Cheewah,” a dog from the city pound, described as a cross between “a collie and a rat”59.
Horses, not dogs, captured the attention of the literary giant, Owen Wister. Responsible for the establishment of the cowboy and the Wild West as a unique literary form, Wister never lived on Grossmont.60 The premature death of his wife in 1913 caused him to abandon his dream and the home at 9499 El Granito remained a place for brief visits only.61 A business associate of Ed Fletcher in real estate investments in San Diego county, Wister named several of the streets-Molly Woods Avenue for the quintessential Western “school-marm” in his classic novel, The Virginian, Wister Drive and Virginian Lane.62
The honest but tough cowboy, ready with a gun if necessary to settle a dispute dominates the work produced by Wister. A handsome man with dark hair parted in the middle and waved neatly to the temples, with a strong nose and full lips brushed by a large bushy mustache, Wister resembled the heroes in his novels.63 His visits to the West after an unidentified illness and graduation from Harvard, shaped his life and brought him in contact with other Western aficionados, such as Frederic Remington, the painter, and Theodore Roosevelt, his former Harvard classmate.64 A lifelong interest in the West enriched the life of Wister and in turn, he passed along his love for the wide open spaces and all they contained to future generations of Americans.
Each of these international personalities made a unique contribution to the lives of San Diego and the world. They felt privileged to call San Diego their home and strove to give back to the people of the community, each in his own way, something precious. Although never a formally organized artistic group, nonetheless their presence added a special touch to the area. Only five of the eleven celebrities associated with Grossmont ever spent any great deal of time there. Even these people did not live there full-time due to the demands of their professions and other commitments. The rest visited only infrequently or their brief contact was severed by illness or death.
Thanks to the foresight, imagination and diligence of Edward Fletcher and William Gross, a barren piece of land became the basis for a very successful business venture. This success allowed Fletcher to escape the produce business and become a large scale real estate developer. The skills he learned in the Grossmont area changed the face of San Diego County as he applied them to other projects over the years. Even though the artists are long gone, and their homes have passed into other hands, the aura of gentility and creativity remains to charm a new group of home owners.
1. The cultural center of Paris, described by Henri Murger in his series of sketches Scenes de la vie de Boheme (1847-49), appeared to be a place of joy and artistic expression for all types of artists, “a veritable never-never land of happy artists and models.” The word bohemian, first used in the fifteenth century for vagabonds and gypsies, characterized the artists of France after the revolution. Used by the poor artisans to romanticize their plight, it seemed to represent all the freedom and creativity the common man lacked. Despite the romantic association, bohemians fell victim to ill repute and lost their appeal. Unconventional, careless of debts, immoral, and unwashed came to be synonymous with artists. This attitude changed with time and the arts came back into vogue. At different periods, small areas became home to artistic groups who hoped the ambiance of the locale would help in their work, as well as the support of like-minded individuals. See “Bohemia”, Americana Encyclopedia, Volume 4, Americana Corporation, New York, 1972, p. 142.
2. Mount Helix, whose height is 1,373 feet provided a better vantage point but no doubt, Grossmont, even though shorter, functioned in this capacity as well. The bay, Point Loma, Mexico, the Coronado Islands, Cowles Mountain, El Capitan Mountain and various peaks and valleys of San Diego County are all visible from the flanks or summits of these two points. Condensed History of the San Diego Park System 1944, for Supervisor Walter Bellon, San Diego Historical Society Research Archives. See also, San Diego Tribune, July 3, 1936.
3. The Estudillo family, natives of Monterey, built one of the first homes in Old Town, complete with private chapel. Jose Antonio Estudillo and his wife, Maria Victoria Dominguez, parents of eleven children, lived in the twelve room home, later to gain pseudo-fame as the legendary “Ramona’s Marriage Place”. Dona Maria Antonia ran cattle on the rancho property in the East county. California’s Cornerstone by Iris Engstrand, Tulsa, Continental Press, 1981, p. 27. See also San Diego Union, March 30, 1975.
4. Enoch Birdseye, and his wife, arrived in San Diego from Norwalk, Ohio in 1875 to seek relief from tuberculosis. After his death in 1876, his widow married Amaziah L. Knox, owner of the Knox House, a hotel in El Cajon. La Mesa, A Brief History by Rita Larkin Wolkin, La Mesa Historical Society, 1976.
5. The Villa Caro Ranch contained the solitary lily pond in the entire county. Many years later Fletcher lent the land around it for a theater group to perform in. An outdoor stage built to accommodate the actors became a novelty in the county. Prior to his owner-ship, oranges grown on the property gained a countrywide reputation as they went on display at the Chicago World’s Fair in 1890. The beauty of the ranch, as well as the development possibilities, captivated Gross and plans to purchase it proceeded at a rapid pace. Wolkin, La Mesa . . ., p. 3. See also The Memoirs of Edward Fletcher, privately printed, no dale, for further details as to the purchase of the ranch. Also La Mesa Scout, July 5, 1929, p. 1 gives more background on the Lotus Theater, the natural amphitheater at the lily pond and the programs presented there. The first production, a musical pageant, “Amarilla”, served to open the theater.
6. Colonel Edward Fletcher, born on December 31, 1872 in Little town, Massachusetts, came to San Diego from the arms of a large and affectionate family. He arrived in San Diego on September 3, 1888 and soon secured a job with the firm of Johnson and Patter-son, plumbers. Fired six days later, his next job materialized at the produce firm of Nason and Smith. He sold apples from a horse and wagon with a rooster perched on his shoulder, trained to crow when Fletcher pulled his tail. Fletcher longed to leave the pro-duce business. “I had made considerable money with the growing business but was never satisfied. My love of the back country, its possibilities of development, both land and water, had a strong appeal to me.” Over the years, as Senator Fletcher, he influenced many of the key projects that developed San Diego county. Friends in high places, such as John D. Spreckels, W.G. Kirckhoff, George Marston, Harvey Chandler, and many others, the “movers and shakers” of the era, all joined him in a variety of worthwhile goals. He championed many causes-railroads, highways, dams-and donated much of his personal property lo bring about the necessary changes. He donated the land for Grossmont Hospital and Grossmont High School, just to name two. He also owned part of the movie studio business that started in La Mesa across the highway from the art colony. l had nothing to do with the art colony itself but does show that Fletcher had an inlerest in a variety of art forms. For more information on the movies in San Diego, see “Can You Read My Lips?” by Susan Carrico, et al., unpublished manuscript, San Diego History Center Research Archives. See also The Memoirs of Edward Fletcher, by Edward Fletcher, no date, pp. 1-750.
7. William B. Gross, author of Conquest of California, a history of San Diego, actor and popular talent agent, met Fletcher and soon they became fast friends. Ed Fletcher, Junior, recalls Gross: “Gross was a likeable fellow. He always loved to cook and after my wife and I were married we used to visit him in his apartment in San Diego and I remember he’d cook pot roast. He always joined our family for Thanksgiving and Christmas and was really just considered part of the family.” San Diego Union, January 30, 1936.
8. Newspapers of the day, if no picture of King Edward happened to be available, ran a photograph of “Brother Bill” Gross instead and the readers never knew the difference. San Diego Tribune, July 3, 1936.
9. Gross had saved a great deal of money and confided to Fletcher his plans for it. Fletcher then took him on a three day buggy tour of the back country to inspect the property. Gross fell in love with San Diego and decided to make it his place of retirement. Fletcher, Memoirs, p. 187.
10. Fletcher, either alone or with partners developed land in all parts of the county. Soon he acquired Mount Helix and developed that into an exclusive residential community. Fletcher Hills, the San Dieguito Ranch and many others followed in later years. Fine home sites came about as a result of his imagination and business acumen. Fletcher, Memoirs, pp. 187-321. Also, San Diego Union, January 30, 1972.
11. As Fletcher wrote in his memoirs to his children “Your mother and I bought Grossmont in 1902. It was a gamble but our dream was there and it was ‘bread and butter’ to us during the hard days.” The property had seen better days at one time for a mortgage had been held on it for $125,000 by the First National Bank of Chicago. Fletcher, Memoirs, p. 183.
12. W.B. Gross made $30-$40,000 in dividends on the acreage, more than any other single investment he owned. He declined though, when offered part of the Mount Helix development. He felt age had taken its toll and Fletcher bought out the rest of his share of Grossmont as a personal favor and mark of their long friendship. Fletcher, p. 193. Fletcher made an inestimable amount in the long run for he used it to finance his next string of in-vestments. Used as a stepping-stone to bigger things, it proved to be a very wise decision.
13. Gross managed some of the top artists of the day, such as the Shakespearean actor, Robert Mantell, James A. Hearne starred in “Shore Acres” and “Sag Harbor” as a result of Gross. Rose Caughlan appeared in the play “Hearts of Oak,” managed by Gross at the time he and Fletcher met. San Diego Tribune, July 3, 1936. Also, Fletcher, Memoirs, p. 187.
14. Ed Fletcher Junior recalled those days, “We moved to Villa Caro Ranch in 1902 where we lived most of the time from 1903-05 and part of the time from 1905-08. I remember how my sister Catherine and I used to go down to the railroad from the ranch and get the mail. The train came out from San Diego to El Cajon and when it went past Grossmont a man would throw off our mail if he saw us. We’d walk over the hill and sit on the bank until they came by . . .” San Diego Union, January 30,1972. For more detailed information on the ten children in the family, see the genealogical chart on page 750 of the Memoirs of Ed Fletcher.
15. Wolkin, La Mesa, p. 18.
16. William Gross “loved Grossmont – its marvelous view, its closeness to the city, similar to Hollywood and Beverly Hills, no city taxes and splendid soil, particularly on the north and west slopes, especially adapted to avocados, oranges and lemons and nearly frostless.” Fletcher, Memoirs, pp. 190-91.
17. Fletcher planted one hundred redwood trees, fifteen hundred Torrey Pines and eucalyptus trees, plus many more varieties. He constructed a lake between Grossmont and Helix and installed water and electrical lines to further improve the sale ability of the land. La Mesa Scout, December 5, 1924, p. 1. Today the slopes contain an incredible variety of trees. Subsequent residents have added additional shrubbery, hedges, fruit trees and shade and ornamental trees. The park like area became an oasis of greenery in the cityscape. The lots remain large and current owners have strived to maintain the aura and beauty started so long ago by Fletcher and Gross. Personal observation by the author, a twelve year resident of the area.
18. Ridiculed by the people of La Mesa, Fletcher went on to prove the feasibility of his un-orthodox plan. Many of the roads designed for the width of a horse and buggy remain unchanged today. These roads provide a challenge filled with thrills for the local driver. As a sidelight to the road construction, Fletcher relates a story about the huge rattlesnakes that inhabited the area. Fletcher stepped over a snake on the trail while at work on the road and angry because he failed to see it, he “tried to kill it with a stone but missed.” The snake slithered into a crack and Fletcher grabbed it by the tail and threw it on the ground and killed it. A brave but foolhardy action, typical of the type of thing Fletcher would do. Fletcher, p. 191.
19. Lillian Russell, buxom and flamboyant, made headlines wherever she went. The favored companion of “Diamond Jim” Brady for forty years, she had a succession of stormy marriages and lived a life of luxury. A favorite of audiences, she stayed with the roles she did best, light opera. Her career spanned several decades and in later years she turned her talents to a variety of journalistic and promotional activities. San Diego Tribune, July 3, 1936.
20. The Depression caused land values to drop everywhere, not just Grossmont. Just a temporary setback for Fletcher, who went on to recoup his losses at a later time. San Diego Union, March 30, 1972.
21. Due to space and time restrictions no artist can be described in great detail in the text or notes. The author attempted to provide information that pertains to the art colony or San Diego activities. A biographical appendix provides more information on the artists and their careers. In most cases, the persons had achieved greatness long before their arrival in San Diego.
22. Born June 15, 1861 near Prague, to an aristocratic Army officer and an Italian opera singer, Madame Schumann-Heink proceeded with an operatic career against the express wish of her father. Forced to overcome almost insurmountable obstacles, she rose to become one of the great contraltos of the world. She attended a convent school and acquired local fame by appearances in the choir. She traces her desire to succeed back to an interview with the director of the Vienna Opera who had heard her sing in the choir. His advice to her went as follows: “With no personality at all, how can you ever expect to succeed? You’d better give up the idea of singing. Buy a sewing machine and go to work. You’ll never be a singer,” This rejection provided the impetus to prove him dead wrong. Madame Schumann-Heink achieved a career most opera singers would envy, despite three failed marriages and seven children. She claimed that after the birth of each child her voice improved. Her career carried her from the great opera halls of the world capitals to concert tours worldwide. It brought her fame and fortune and allowed her to give in a lavish way to the causes she espoused. A warm, generous woman with an unlimited capacity to give, she earned the love and admiration of millions. Charmed by her ready wit, natural manner and deep empathy for her fellow man, people gravitated to her. Madame Schumann-Heink had a unique operatic style, strong and forceful but still “angelically sweet.” It prompted a comment by the composer-conductor, Richard Strauss while at the Vienna Opera House. He bellowed to the orchestra, “Louder, I can still hear der Heink.” The upper balconies trembled when she sang. When in San Diego, she involved herself in a wide variety of concerns which ranged from a performance at the ceremonies to close the 1915 and 1935 Exposition sin Balboa Park, to benefit performances to a number of causes to help the war effort. A rare and courageous woman, Ernestine Schumann-Heink occupied a unique place in the hearts of San Diegans. For a partial list of sources see: Schumann-Heink, Last of the Titans by Mary Lawton, 1977; When I Was A Girl by Helen Ferris, 1931; World Book Encyclopedia, Volume 15, 1956; Notable American Women, Volume 3, p. 240; Great Women Singers of My Time by Herman Klein, 1931. The New York Times and San Diego Union carry many articles on a wide range of activities. The La Mesa Scout reports on many smaller details of her life, such as improvements to her home and family concerns. Her obituary appeared in the San Diego Union, November 13, 1936.
23. Carrie Jacobs Bond, lyricist, poetess, artist, author and businesswoman, came to Grossmont after a life of travail. A woman made stronger by adversity, she came from a musical background. Her first marriage failed but produced one son. Her second marriage ended with the accidental death of her husband, Dr. Frank L. Bond. She turned to a variety of activities to support herself. A talent for music compelled her to publish her songs and many became very popular. She formed her own company to publish her music and did all the work involved to promote and sell them. A prolific composer, she achieved her greatest success with “I Love You Truly” and “Just A-Wearyin’ for You.” Mrs. Bond never failed to thank God for her life on Grossmont. She also owned a home in Hollywood and divided her time between the two when she came back from promotional tours. See her autobiography, The Roads to Melody, Notable American Women,” Volume 1, 1971, pp. 194-196, Popular American Composers, by David Even, 1962, pp. 33-34.
24. William Havrah Hubbard came to the Grossmont area in 1910 and exhibited a wide variety of interests and abilities. As a child he studied voice and piano, then studied in Europe to further his musical education. He used his journalistic skills as special correspondent for the Chicago Tribune in Vienna in 1899. He coached vocal students for years. In his capacity as music critic for the San Diego Union, he covered all the important musical events. Hubbard remained a bachelor and, as he put it, “he never committed the indiscretion.” As an honorary member of the La Mesa Rotary Club and other organizations, he lectured for local clubs and gave of his services whenever possible. See La Mesa Scout, August 7, 1931, p. 1. Also, San Diego union, January 30, 1972 and San Diego Union, March 30, 1975. Additional listings: Hubbard, H. San Diego Union for small details about his life.
25. Owen Wister, grandson of the English actress Fanny Kemble, had been raised in a strict, upper class household. Other relatives, all Shakespearean actors, added to the formality of the home. In the hall hung two framed letters from George Washington to Pierce Butler, Sr., signer of the Constitution and great-grandfather to Wister. A man of many varied talents, Wister suffered a breakdown of undefined nature. It is suggested by Edward C. White, in his book, The Eastern Establishment and the Western Experience; the West of Frederic Remington, Theodore Roosevelt and Owen Wister, that his illness, brought on in part by the rigid expectations of his early life, caused him to escape to the wilds of the West. He feels this crisis, similar to those experienced by Remington and Roosevelt, close friends of Wister, came at the same point in life to all three men and shaped the direction of their lives ever after. Each man fled to the West, came away changed and forever enamored of the wide open spaces and the personal freedom it represented. Wister turned these experiences into the classic novel, The Virginian which established the cowboy as a bonafide folk hero and symbol of the West. Many of his other books followed this same theme. Wister wrote in the preface to Members of the Family “Wyoming burst upon the tenderfoot resplendent, like all the story-books, like Cooper and Irving and Parkman come true again; here actually going on, was that something which the boy runs away from school to find, that land safe and far from Monday morning, nine o’clock, and the spelling-book, here was Saturday eternal, where you slept out of doors, hunted big animals, rode a horse, roped steers, and wore deadly weapons. Make no mistake: fire arms were at times practical and imperative, but this was not the whole reason for sporting them on your hip; you had escaped from civilization’s schoolroom, an air never breathed before filled your lungs, and you were become one large shout of joy. College-boy, farm-boy, street boy, this West melted you all down to the same first principles. Were you seeking fortune? Perhaps, incidentally, but money was not the point. You had escaped from school.” This viewpoint permeated and directed his books and may prove the theory of White correct. See Owen Wister Out West, His journals and Letters by Fanny, 1958, Members of the Family by Wister. Most encyclopedias have articles about Wister and his life.
26. Johanna Emilia Agnes Gadski, a German soprano, never lived on Grossmont. Her premature death from an accident in 1932 prevented construction of a home. Born on June 15, 1872 in Auclam, Pomerania, she enjoyed a varied career with a heavy schedule of concerts in Europe and America as a member of the Metropolitan Opera in New York City. Her repertoire included roles in German, English and Italian. Webster’s Biographical Dictionary, 1972, p. 569; Who Was Who in America, Volume 1, 1943, p. 434; New Century Cyclopedia of Names, Volume 2, 1954, p. 1669.
27. Teresa Carreno, born in Caracas, Venezuela on December 22, 1853, into a musical and aristocratic family, demonstrated her extraordinary talent as a child prodigy on the piano. Her family moved to New York and later Paris to further her musical career. A stormy personal life, four marriages and several children who died in infancy, added to the depth of her dramatic interpretation. A strong, flashy, virtuoso performer, she delighted audiences with her flair and tempestuous style of performance. She enjoyed the company of the elite of the European musical world. Franz List and numerous other artists accompanied her concerts and gave added impetus to her career. Her death in 1917 of myasthenia gravis put an end to her plans of retirement in Grossmont, as well as a brilliant career. New Century Cyclopedia of Names, Volume 1, p. 832; Notable American Women, Volume V, 1971. pp. 288-89.
28. Charles Wakefield Cadman, born in Johnstown, Pennsylvania on December 24, 1881, became a composer of great reknown. His first jobs included stints as a church organist, conductor of a small, all male choir and music editor for the Pittsburgh Dispatch. After a visit to the Omaha Reservation in 1909, where he recorded tribal music, his musical interests focused on American Indian music and his operas centered around Indian themes. In 1923, he gave lecture-recitals with Tsianing Redfeather, an Indian singer. In 1924, Cadman received a doctorate from the University of Southern California. He moved from his Hollywood home to Grossmont and became very active in local musical circles. La Mesa Scout, February 15, 1929, p. 1; New Century Cyclopedia of Names, pp. 751-52; Our Contemporary Composers, John Trasker Howard, 1946, pp. 47-51; Our American Music, 1946, pp. 407-11.
29. John Vance Cheney, born in Groveland, New York, on December 29, 1841, was an American poet who started his literary career as a librarian; he published several volumes of poetry. A lawyer for one year in New York City, he moved on to the West after his first marriage failed. His second marriage proved more successful. Little is known of his activities in San Diego. His obituary in the San Diego Union, May 1, 1922 recaps his literary activities. New Century Cyclopedia of Names, Volume 1, 1954, p. 924.
30. Charles William Clark, a baritone singer, born in Van Wert, Ohio on October 15, 1856, studied music in Chicago and London. Tours of Europe and America brought him great acclaim. As the head of the vocal department of the Bush Conservatory in Chicago, he influenced and guided a number of students. Research disclosed little information on Clark or his activities in San Diego. His address on Grossmont has not been unearthed yet but a closer perusal of the records will no doubt reveal it. One small fact came to light in the course of research. Madame Schumann-Heink had a picture of Clark hung in her home. She felt he had contributed an enormous amount to American music. His picture hung next to one of John D. Spreckels, the sugar magnate, one of her favorite people. See Who Was Who in America, p. 1008; also San Diego Tribune, July 3, 1936.
31. A search for data on Edmund Schneider proved fruitless. His name appeared late in the period allotted for research and little time remained to dig deeper for information. His name, mentioned in the San Diego Tribune, July 3, 1936, is the only record available at this time.
32. Elizabeth Robinson also received mention in the San Diego Tribune article of July 3,1936 but extensive research failed to uncover any piece of information about her or if she lived on Grossmont. She and Schneider, even though biographies, encyclopedias, dictionaries and the vast files of the San Diego Historical Research Archives provided no clues in either case, must have some connection with Grossmont. The Tribune article appeared to be correct in all the other facts stated so a decision was made to include them even though nothing has turned up so far.
33. The local papers of the area speak often of the various tours the artists conducted. Madame Schumann-Heink went to Hollywood to appear in her first and last movie “Here’s to Romance.” The travels of Carrie Jacobs Bond and the other colony members filled the columns of the La Mesa Scout. Space restrictions preclude a complete list but a few samples are listed. Most often there would be a few lines in a social column about their arrivals and departures. La Mesa Scout 1913-1932; La Mesa Scout, February 15, 1919, p. 5.
34. John Vance Cheney and Owen Wister both expressed their sentiments to Fletcher. Cheney dedicated a poem to Grossmont:
Against this Grossmont boulder grey, but now
I dreamed the shape of Keats leaned at my side
Blue-eyed, pallor of dreamland on his brow,
He spoke “My Homer Sonnet went awide
Were I to rime again, a chief would stare
At yonder hills, not at the sea; the bright
Dashed from his eyes, with a smit eagle’s glare
Scanning yon yellow lions of the light
He passed; a bird sang in the chapparal,
To boulder glory burned one lion’s mane.
Yea, god-born boy, I sigh, thy song might tell
Of those prone sun cubs of the southern plain,
None has the utterance now. The silences alone
Dare touch them, or some breath from off
their slumber blown.
Wister wrote a simpler tribute to Fletcher in his letter as follows:
“That the view from Grossmont of the ocean, valley and mountains equals any and surpasses most views in our country, is my opinion. I can think of no other spot. . . with an almost perfect climate, so much color, beauty and variety – and I have traveled repeatedly and extensively in every state of the Union except Oklahoma.” See Fletcher, Memoirs, pp. 198-200.
35. An exuberant, energetic woman, Madame Schumann-Heink made her home on Grossmont a showplace. She loved her estate and enjoyed California a great deal. Fletcher, Memoirs, p. 194.
36. The Romanesque first floor has an exterior of older granite masonry and arches. A stone chimney, double hung windows and wide eaves helped create the asymmetrical appearance of the home. Fruit trees of various kinds formed part of the exterior landscape. Historic Resources Inventory, La Mcsa, Volume 7, June 1984, pp. 255-56.5
37. The home of Madame Schumann-Heink included a pantry for a butler, wine cellar, servants quarters and a secret room. Inside the walls, interspersed among the boulders, orange, olive, eucalyptus, banana and palm trees grew in profusion. Carrie Jacobs Bond gave recitals in a forty by forty foot room, panelled in redwood with a large rock fireplace. Her home contained a library and a breakfast room. Each home, surrounded by huge old trees and thick shrubbery, stands as a tribute to the craftsmen of an earlier time. The beveled or stained glass windows, beamed ceilings, redwood panels, field stone or brick fireplace, board and batten siding and extensive use of wide, comfortable porches to capitalize on the view, all speak of a quieter, more simple and restful era. These homes exhibit a tranquility and charm not seen today in new construction. For further architectural details of individual homes, see the Historic Resources inventory. La Mesa, pp. 253-289. Also the San Diego Union, January 30, 1972, La Mesa Courier, July 16, 1975, p. 5A.
38. The Grossmont Inn, built of redwood, contained a large porte-cochere for the comfort of its guests. Inside the polished wood floors, buffed to a high gloss, complemented the beamed ceiling and large fireplace. Guarded by huge eucalyptus trees planted by Fletcher, it offered travelers a pleasant experience after the long train ride from the city. In addition, guest cottages constructed by J.B. Davis and designed by architect Emmor Weaver, added to the amenities offered by the Grossmont Inn complex. The Craftsman influence is seen in the low pitched, gabled roofs and combination of fieldstone and dark stained board and batten siding. For further detail on the architecture see the Daily Transcript, May 11, 1983, p. 1B; Historic Resources inventory, La Mesa, pp. 257-58.
39. Grace Godwin-Sperry, from Greenwich Village in New York, ran the Inn for Fletcher. She had owned and operated Grace’s Garrett in New York. A temperamental chef created insurmountable difficulties and the Inn proved to be too much of a headache for Fletcher. He converted it to the family home. La Mesa Scout, January 18, 1924.
40. Gross designed this house for use as a weekend retreat and a place to entertain friends, putter around the garden and relax. It featured a wide variety of window styles, “double hung windows with six over six panes; large windows with multiple panes; single pane windows in sets of-four”. An asymmetrical one storey bungalow, it has gabled roofs, ex-posed rafter ends and wide eaves. Historic Resources Inventory, La Mesa, pp. 253-54.
41. This information, gleaned in a personal interview with Dr. Ray Brandes, University of San Diego, will be used as a point of departure for further research. The conversation took place on November 10, 1984.
42. The descendants of Madame Schumann-Heink, Dr. Charles and Marie Fox, have re-gained the family home after many years and live there today. La Mesa Courier, July 16, 1981. p. 5A.
43. The La Mesa Scout often reported on the improvements to the property. Over the years, she changed many things in the home to make it more suitable for her needs and those of her large family. The La Mesa Scout of November 22, 1919 and February 14, 1920 comments on just two of the new changes, a fence and cement work.
44. A love triangle between the German gardener, Mexican maid and Corean [sic] cook ended in the death of the gardener. Shot by the cook with his own gun and buried in the back yard, the gardener vanished from sight. The maid, sent out to hang up the clothes in the yard, noticed the dog hard at work in the dirt. The earth flew fast and furious as the dog dug deeper to expose the elusive smell that so intrigued him. The truth will out and it soon became apparent that the cook had disappeared with money stolen from the dead gardener, never to be apprehended. An open and shut case, it shocked the local residents. La Mesa Scout, August 3, 1918.
45. Madame Schumann-Heink had been suspected of anti-American activities, due to her German birth. Thinking her to be a spy in 1915, the government posted troops around property to keep her under surveillance. A ridiculous notion; she had several sons in the armed forces, albeit one enlisted in the German army. Her sentiments always championed her homeland. When she heard the news of the guard around her home while in Chicago on tour, she hired guards to line the inside walls of the estate. So the two armed troops stared at each other across the property fence, a total impasse. The United States government soon realized how impossible and foolish the whole thing had become and called off their watchdogs, much to the relief of everyone. Her numerous activities to entertain American troups, “her boys” as she called them with great affection, and her ardent enthusiasm for her new country should have outweighed the matter of her ancestry. This type of hysteria against particular ethnic groups rose up again in the 1940’s. For further details, see La Mesa Courier, July 16,1981, p. 5A; Last of the Titans, p. 265; California’s Cornerstone, p. 115.
46. As a final tribute, a poem shows the devotion felt for Madame Schumann-Heink. It appeared in the San Diego Union, November 19, 1936, a few days after her death.
By a Mother
Passes by in the night
Gone to sing
To her boys gone before
Waiting there. Who goes there?
Give the word.
“It is I, Schumann-Heink,
Come to rest,”
“Welcome Home, Mother Dear,
Sing for aye,
To our boys who have died,
Boys you loved,
Sing to them as you sang
To your own
Sons of ours
To that home where you are
Her work now is done,
Rest in Peace.
47. Some of the many honors bestowed upon the art colony members occasioned comment by the La Mesa Scout. It quite often reported the activities of the various members of the little community. A certain pride in their famous residents is evidenced by the coverage each artist received in the press. One honor accorded Carrie Jacobs Bond came when the La Mesa Women’s Club voted to make her song “Homeland” their official song. Both Mrs. Bond and Madame Schumann-Heink had honorary dinners given for them by the Cuyamaca Club, just to name a few of the awards they received from their grateful community of La Mesa, as well as San Diego and other areas. See issue of the La Mesa Scout for greater detail and other events, La Mesa Scout, March 7, 1924.
48. “Nest O’ Rest” began as a mountain cabin covered with wooden shingles. It boasts large picture windows and spacious decks to capture the view. Subsequent owners have altered the home a great deal. Historic Resources Inventory, La Mesa, pp. 561-62.
49. Amelita Galli-Curci and her husband, Homer Samuels, also a singer, visited Carrie Jacobs Bond for tea. They decided to stay overnight and at midnight they drove to the peak of Grossmont to see the view in the moonlight. Galli-Curci exclaimed that “her estimate was conservative when she called the view the most beautiful in the world.” At one point her career included a tour with the Metropolitan Opera Company in New York for ten years, from 1920-1930. She enjoyed the beauty of Southern California and retired from the stage to live in La Jolla. La Mesa Scout, April 6, 1934, p. 5; Webster’s Biographical Dictionary, Volume II, 1972, p. 1677; Collier’s Encyclopedia, Volume 10, p. 550.
50. Carrie Jacobs Bond did a variety of odd jobs to survive and upgrade her almost penniless condition. She painted china, rented rooms and took in sewing. Her first songs for children, “Is My Dolly Dead?” and “Mother’s Cradle Song” pointed the way to a career with more promise. She performed her songs herself in concert but claimed to have little music ability. She recited her songs, rather than sang them. A resourceful woman, she gained worldwide acceptance for her romantic songs. Popular American Composers, John Trasker Howard, 1962, pp. 33-34; Notable American Women, Volume, 1971, pp. 194-95.
51. The first verse of the poem dedicated to Ed Fletcher goes as follows:
There’s a cottage in God’s garden
Upon a mountain high,
Away from strife and turmoil
And all life’s din and cry.
Away from care and sorrow,
From all life’s tears and woe,
A cottage in God’s garden
Where I am free to go.
The complete poem appears on page 202 of The Memoirs of Edward Fletcher.
52. Johanna Gadski passed away before anything solid could be accomplished on the property. Who Was Who in America, p. 434; Fletcher, p. 196.
53. In April 1914, Teresa Carreno wrote to Ed Fletcher to tell him of her thoughts about Grossmont. The letter starts:
“If there is a spot on the face of the earth in which all that nature contains of beauty can be found it is that most beautiful place, near San Diego in California, called Grossmont. The beautiful invigorating pure air, the restfulness of this earthly paradise one can only realize when on Grossmont. The dream of my life is to be able to live there.”
Her dream never came true due to her unfortunate illness. Fletcher, p. 197.
54. Hansen lived on Mount Helix in a beautiful home. Mount Helix became the next area after Grossmont that Fletcher developed. Hansen graded many of the properties Fletcher owned. La Mesa Scout, February 15, 1929, p. 1.
55. Cadman first glimpsed Grossmont at the home of Fred Hansen called Chateau Belle Terre. Cadman and his mother, Caroline Cadman, attended a party with other Hollywood luminaries and his musical associate Edward Lynn. For more details, see La Mcsa Scout, February 15, 129, p. 1.
56. Cadman performed as guest artist at a concert given by the Grossmont High School band. He played the overture from “Western World” and “Festal March in C”, both his own compositions. La Mesa Scout, February 3, 1933, p. 1. On September 4, 1933, he helped with the service at the Congregational Church. A skillful pianist, Cadman performed “Service,” “Andante Moderato” and “Festal March in C”. La Mesa Scout, September 8, 1933. The La Mesa Scout also noted his inclusion in the National Institute of Arts and Letters of New York and called the organization “tantamount” to the French Academy. He joined the company of such literary figures as Edna Ferber, Eugene O’Neill and Edna Saint Vincent Millay. La Mesa Scout, December 2, 1933, p. 1.
57. Here again the Craftsman style prevailed. Little alteration of the structure has kept the architectural details of the gable roof, casement windows and shingle wood siding intact. Historic Resources Inventory, La Mesa, pp. 553-54; also San Diego Union, January 30, 1972.
58. Cheney married his first wife, Abbey Perkins in 1876. That marriage ended in divorce and he married Sara Barker on July 11, 1903. For more details on his life, see Who Was Who in America, p. 215; New Century Cyclopedia of Names, p. 924.
59. In reality, “Cheewah”, a long haired chihuahua, no doubt did resemble this colorful description. La Mesa Scout, August 7, 1931, p. 1.
60. Wister had many talents and interests besides the ability to write Western novels. He too composed for voice and the piano and possessed a good voice with a clear ring to it. Wister wrote a burlesque of Don Giovanni, the opera, for the Tavern Club of Boston, one of his favorite places. A lifelong interest in animals led him to acquire many unusual pets over the years. Raccoons, mocking birds, canaries, finches, dogs, horses and a black and white Japanese “waltzing mouse” made up just part of the family menagerie. A devoted family man, Wister often took his six children back to Jackson Hole, Wyoming, Montana, Utah and Idaho to acquaint them with the scenes of his youth. These raw lands, first encountered in 1885, shaped his ideas and gave him the impetus to write his novels and capture forever the scenes that made the West unique. The life of Wister is discussed in much more detail in Owen Wister Out West, His Journals and Letters, by Fanny Kemble Wister, 1958, pp. xi-26.
61. This home, built in 1910, by the architectural firm of Mead and Requa, a prominent local firm, features horizontal hoods over some windows, a porch with carved balusters and a gable roof with dark painted wood walls. Safety ladders attached to the house provided quick exit in case of fire. Wister did not write The Virginian here as some accounts have stated. See Historical Resources Inventory, La Mesa, p. 260.
62. These names from the Virginian serve to commemorate the classic novel, written in 1902. An instant success, and reprinted fifteen times in the first eight months, it failed to please Sarah B. Wister, his mother. It seemed superfluous to her highbrow literary lastes, but the book must have pleased someone, for translations in German, Spanish, Czech, French and Arabic appeared over the years. See Owen Wister Out West, pp. 16-19.
63. A photograph in Members of the Family by Wister reveals him in his middle years as a prosperous and satisfied individual. The eyes show great intelligence, as well as a sense of humor in the set of the mouth. He appears to be a thoughtful, sensitive man and his biography tends to bear this out.
64. Frederic Remington and Theodore Roosevelt had a long friendship with Wister. They shared many similarities in background but their mutual love of the West drew them together and formed an unshakeable bond. These three men with their work and attitudes influenced American thought about the West and brought it into existence as a unique and special entity. The book, The Eastern Establishment and the Western Experience, discusses in great detail the three men, their friendship and the forces that brought them together and made them kindred souls. It proposes a number of theories that provoke a great deal of thought about these men. The book should be read by anyone with an interest in the West or Wister for it gives a clearer picture of the man behind the typewriter.
THE PHOTOGRAPHS are from the San Diego History Center’s Title Insurance and Trust Collection.