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The origins of West End in North Park

Posted: July 1st, 2016 | Columns, Featured, PastMatters | 2 Comments

By Katherine Hon | PastMatters

You may not know what it is called or why, but you can tell when you are in West End. This historic subdivision lies between University Avenue and Upas Street on the north and south, and between 28th and Ray streets on the west and east.

Subdivision map No. 590 for West End was filed May 17, 1873, long before cars or formal city planning for San Diego existed. The 80-foot-wide streets, 200-by-300-foot blocks, and 50-by-100-foot lots in West End gave the subdivision a different configuration from the typical 60-foot-wide streets and 25-by-125-foot lots in the surrounding subdivision of Park Villas to the west and east. But this was of no concern. Neither was the fact that two extra east-west streets in West End created multiple dog-leg intersections and dead ends.

Why the different configuration? Subdivision map No. 590 laid out in 1873 followed the precedent of Horton’s Addition of that same year. Further echoing the “downtown” theme, the east-west roadways of the West End subdivision were named First Avenue through Seventh Avenue (now Wightman/North Park Way, Gunn, Landis, Dwight, Capps, Myrtle and Upas). The original north-south street names reflected an early trend: prominent businessmen, landowners and political figures of the day.

For example, what is now 29th Street (and previously Kansas Street) was originally Gatewood Street. Col. William Jefferson Gatewood was listed as attorney at law in Horton’s Bank Block in the 1874 City Directory. According to The San Diego Herald and the San Diego Union, an article by Teri Thorpe published in the summer 1982 issue of the “Journal of San Diego History,” Gatewood came to San Diego in 1868, encouraged by pioneer Philip Crosthwaite, whose sister happened to be Gatewood’s wife.

At the time, Gatewood was publishing a newspaper called The Register in San Andreas, California, and Crosthwaite wanted San Diego to have a newspaper of its own. Gatewood was impressed with San Diego and moved, establishing The Union with the first issue printed on Oct. 10, 1868. Gatewood sold his part of The Union in early 1869 and built a successful law practice. He also participated in the acquisition of the city’s Pueblo Lands, which were divided up into “Pueblo Lots” and made available by the city trustees. And therein lies the answer to a question that the North Park Historical Society hears a lot: What is West End west of?

Many mysteries of early San Diego are revealed in the Lot Books that compile land ownership and tax payments through the years. Lot Books for 1873 through 1930 have been scanned and are available on the city of San Diego’s website at bit.ly/28JxcJx.

Lot Book 1, which compiles land ownership for the year 1873, describes West End as the west half of Pueblo Lot 1127. Pages 614 to 625 of Lot Book 1 record the owner of all blocks and lots in West End by the acre as W. Jeff Gatewood. So he named his subdivision with a very practical reference to his purchase — the west half of 160-acre Pueblo Lot 1127.

Our modern roads did not exist within these sage-covered lands at the time, but according to an early map of San Diego published by George Hensley, Pueblo Lot 1127 was located at the northeast corner of City Park (now Balboa Park), with what would become University Avenue and Upas Street as its boundaries on the north and south, and 28th and 32nd streets on the west and east. Gatewood’s 80-acre west half of this 160-acre Pueblo Lot extended from what is now 28th Street to Ray Street.

Lot Book 1 shows that in 1873, the owner of the 80 acres encompassing the east half of Pueblo Lot 1127 was Joseph Nash, an enterprising merchant and land dealer of early San Diego. Nash also owned the lands extending east of Pueblo Lot 1127 to the city of San Diego boundary (the location of appropriately named Boundary Street). In addition, Lot Book 1 lists Nash as owner of the east half of Pueblo Lot 1126 adjacent to Gatewood’s part of Pueblo Lot 1127. Nash’s lands became the discontinuous Park Villas subdivision, surrounding West End with an incompatible design that now confuses drivers, residents and historians alike.

Stark contrasts in lot and street patterns within the Park Villas and West End subdivisions are evident in this excerpt from city mapping. (Courtesy of North Park Historical Society) [Click to enlarge]

Stark contrasts in lot and street patterns within the Park Villas and West End subdivisions are evident in this excerpt from city mapping. (Courtesy of North Park Historical Society) [Click to enlarge]

2 Comments

  1. priscilla smith says:

    My maiden name was Wightman, I understand a street is named (Wightman) after my great grandfather who worked for the city of San Diego. A.J.Wightman

  2. Ken Williams says:

    Ms. Smith, the North Park Historical Society would like to speak with you about your great grandfather. Email Katherine Hon at info@northparkhistory.org if you wish to initiate contact with the historical society.
    -Ken Williams, editor

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