Another Historical Snapshot

Earlier this month I gave a talk at the Continuing Education Center of Rancho Bernardo on “The Nation’s Library,” the Library of Congress. One of the great features available from that library is a collection of photos from the Historic American Buildings Survey (HABS). One of the New Deal programs set up to relieve unemployment during the Great Depression, HABS put unemployed architects and draftsmen to work documenting historic buildings across the country.

In my lecture I pointed out how HABS helped to win  historic recognition for a privately-owned adobe house in Old Town, Casa de Machado, that eventually became part of Old Town State Historic Park.

Here, courtesy of the Library of Congress, is  another historic San Diego County property from the HABS collection, photographed in 1937, the Oak Grove Butterfield Station.

The Butterfield Overland Mail Line was a stagecoach line that carried mail and passengers between Memphis, Saint Louis and San Francisco from 1858 to 1861. Stations were maintained at roughly 30-days travel time apart along the route. This building, in Oak Grove about 13 miles northwest of Warner Hot Springs, is one of only three surviving station buildings. While it has been designated a National Historic Landmark, the adobe building is under private ownership, occupied by a store open during normal business hours.

Sources for this post included the Library of Congress, the National Park Service, and the book, Historic Stage Routes of San Diego County, by Ellen L. Sweet and Lynn Newell.


A Bridge Worth Crossing

It was a bridge for pedestrians, rather than vehicles, but it was still a crucial part of the city of San Diego’s infrastructure when it opened in 1911.

“Longest Suspended Foot Bridge on Coast is Opened to Travel,” was the headline on page 8 of The San Diego Union on November 21, 1911.

As demonstrated by the photo below,  which accompanied the Union article, it was a serious suspension bridge.

It needed to be, carrying 375 feet of wooden walkway across a 70 feet deep canyon along Spruce Street between Front and Brant Streets. Steel cables strung from its two towers were anchored in concrete piers at each end of what was then called Paloma Canyon. The bridge designer, San Diego City Engineer Edwin M. Capps, told the Union the bridge was “the longest of its kind west of the Rocky Mountains.” The bridge was built to facilitate pedestrian access to trolley lines connecting downtown and uptown San Diego. This meant, in the Union reporter’s words, that “residents in what was formerly considered an inaccessible neighborhood are now within easy walking distance of the carline and 102 lots previously isolated have sprung into desireability.”

Today, the canyon is called Sessions, and the formerly “inaccessible” community is now the bustling neighborhood of Bankers Hill. But the Spruce Street Suspension Bridge remains as a bridge worth crossing. Here’s a view taken just last week by my wife and I on a walking tour of Bankers Hill:

It’s worth a crossing today not so much as a vital transit link as much as a graceful visual link affording some beautful views from its walkway, as well as lessons in how to walk carefully across a wooden walkway suspended over a canyon.

Sources for this post included historic San Diego newspapers and the book, San Diego Architecture: From mansions to modern: a guide to the buildings, planning, people and spaces that shape the region, by Dirk Sutro.

Feeding San Diegans and the Nation

The photograph below appears in the the book, City of San Diego and San Diego County:

The Birthplace of California, by Clarence Alan McGrew, published in 1922:

McGrew was not kidding whan he referred to the Escondido Valley as both “beautiful and productive.” Below see a clip from the Escondido Times-Advocate from the same time period, September 23, 1924:

I remind my readers that the reference in the article to “carloads” refers to railroad cars full of produce. And note among the destinations that the grapes, grape juice and tomatoes were being shipped to were Pueblo, Colorado, Chicago, Illinois and Newark, New Jersey.

And it wasn’t just the Escondido area shipping its farm products across the country. I can show you similar newspaper and local government reports of communities throughout the county shipping all manor of crops. Over one hundred years ago, San Diego was feeding itself and the nation. You can find out more by attending my lecture, “Eating Local in the Roaring Twenties,” this Friday at 10 a.m. at Oasis in Grossmont Center.  To find out more including how to register, visit .

Sometimes A Name is Lost, But the Town Goes On

Mount Fairview, a community on the San Luis Rey River between Oceanside and Pala, was enough of a settlement that it was the location of a polling place for an 1894 election, as shown in the notice below from the Escondido Times issue of August 2, 1894:

An article in the San Diego Sun of September 19, 1883 noted that “The approach to Mount Fairview is very pretty and as a farming country will have a great future. Farm houses although few and far between are met surrounded by orchards and vineyards, all giving proof that the industry of the community is well rewarded.”

The community had a busy post office and schoolhouse, but by the end of the nineteenth century the post office and the school’s names had been changed, at local residents’ request, to the name of a respected local nursery owner and retired Methodist minister, James Bonsall.

Mount Fairview is one of the places I’ll be covering when I next speak on “The Lost Towns of San Diego County.” on February 1 at 10 a.m. at the Santee City Hall Complex.


This past Saturday my wife Peggy and I sought some time away from work and the world at a favorite spot of ours—the Self-Realization Fellowship Hermitage, Retreat and Meditation Gardens in Encinitas. Strolling along the bluffside paths among ponds and gardens, stopping to sit here and there and gaze out at the ocean, all served as the ultimate refresh. Here are some visual examples of what that spot offers:


The SRF Encinitas Ashram Center was founded in 1937 by Paramahansa Yogananda. From 1938 to 1942 the grounds also included a structure called the Golden Lotus Temple, which attracted visitors and worshippers until erosion of the bluff on which it stood caused the building to slip off its foundation and slide almost two-thirds of the way down to the sea before it was dismantled in the summer of 1942. The rest of the campus remained intact, and continued to attract visitors and worshippers. Through the founding of various ashrams and the authorship of books like The Autobiography of a Yogi, Yogananda had by the time of his death in 1952,  earned worldwide recognition as an advocate of the principles of yoga and meditation. In the words of an informational brochure published by the center, he “dedicated his life to uniting East and West in the lasting ties of spiritual understanding, and to helping others toward realization of the limitless resources fof love and peace that exist within every human being.” Food for thought as well as nourishment for the rest of your senses. SRF is open to visitors Tuesdays through Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and on Sundays from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., closed Mondays. For further info 760-753-1811 or visit their website,