What’s In A Name? The Produce Salesman and The Theater Producer

Current San Diego County residents might not be familiar with the name Villa Caro, but it was the name of a ranch of 600 acres or so between the city of San Diego and the El Cajon Valley in the early 1900s. The San Diego Union reported in its real estate column on April 15, 1909 that a then-prominent attorney, James Wadham, had purchased a ranch house and five acres of ground on the ranch.

The Union article noted that the property was considered “one of the beauty spots of the back country, commanding as it does an unobstructed view of the El Cajon valley and surrounding country and mountains to the east and north.”

The article went on to say that “the land purchased by Mr. Wadham is only a small portion of the Villa Caro ranch. The remaining portion of the original property is to be divided into small tracts and made one of the choicest districts for suburban homes in the county. This is to be done by Messrs. Fletcher and Gross.”

Ed Fletcher and William Gross first met as tourists on a visit to Yosemite National Park in 1901. At that point in time Fletcher, 29, was a transplanted New Englander who’d settled in San Diego where he got involved in the produce business and was doing well enough that he was getting interested in buying and developing property. Bill Gross, in his early 40s, was a Philadelphian who’d become a successful theatrical producer back east and had come west for a little rest. As they enjoyed the scenery Gross expressed an interest in moving west. Fletcher talked up San Diego.

Gross subsequently moved to San Diego where he and Fletcher became good friends and business partners, investing in real estate in places like the Villa Caro ranch. By October of 1910, Fletcher filed a plan with the county for a new subdivision within the ranch property, which the partners chose to name Grossmont Park.

The rest, as they say, is history. Not to mention realty.

Sources for this post included historic San Diego city and county newspapes and The Journal of San Diego History.

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