The Journal of San Diego History
SAN DIEGO HISTORICAL SOCIETY QUARTERLY
Summer 1995, Volume 41, Number 3
Richard W. Crawford, Editor
Population in 1920: 74,683
Population in 1900: 147,995
Population in 1910: 203,341
By 1919, San Diegans had finally achieved their goal to obtain a direct link to the east with the completion of the “Impossible Railroad.” Ironically this occurred just as the automobile’s growing popularity made its impact on the American way of life. The rapid expansion of a coast-to-coast highway system quickly made travel by car more desirable and convenient than any other form of transportation. Now visitors to San Diego arrived in automobiles.
Throughout the 1920s, San Diegans continued to benefit from the nationwide exposure generated by the Panama-California Exposition held a few years earlier. Its overall popularity largely justified a second fair in 1935. Because of the economic setbacks of the Great Depression, San Diegans bravely went ahead to plan the California Pacific International Exposition. Like the first fair, the 1935 Exposition did much to boost the city’s image. It, too, place a strong architectural emphasis on the city’s ties to a romantic past. Although this idealized view of early life in San Diego was primarily fictional, not factual, it proved to be a great promotional device to attract newcomers. It worked internally, too, as real estate developments sprouted an endless variety of Spanish and Mediterranean homes across the city. In addition, collaborative building projects with Mexico helped to develop luxurious resorts like Agua Caliente and brought international attention to San Diego as the gateway to romance.
Despite nationwide marketing campaigns, the vision of the great commercial port city never materialized. Undaunted, San Diegans looked at the city’s population growth, which doubled in the 1920s, as a tangible sign of prosperity. San Diego was definitely a great place to live and real estate trends proved it. Promoters now billed San Diego as “the ideal home city.”
Although the Depression caused hardship here, many federally sponsored relief programs promoted the arts, helped support cultural programs, and developed parks and other recreational facilities which further enhanced the city’s image. San Diego continued to promote itself as the ideal community, one, which enjoyed a quality of life unequalled anywhere in the world.