By Katherine Hon
As discussed in the previous PastMatters column, the original names of more than 250 streets in San Diego were changed by Ordinance No. 755 adopted May 21, 1900. This ordinance brought authors to Point Loma and gems to Pacific Beach, among many other changes implemented to eliminate duplication and achieve some continuity where street names changed from tract to tract.
The source of names in alphabetical order in Ordinance No. 755 was Louis Jackson Davids, the relatively new city engineer. He noted in his transmittal memorandum to the Board of Public Works that his suggestions for new street names were “taken from natural objects (trees, flowers etc.) or from men celebrated in Science, Literature, Statesmanship, War etc.; care being taken to maintain alphabetical order.”
Who were some of the celebrated gentlemen honored by street names that we still see today?
Authors in Point Loma and Ocean Beach
Ordinance No. 755 gave Point Loma neighborhoods their alphabetical authors from Addison to Zouch (later changed to Zola). Joseph Addison (1672-1719) was an English essayist and poet, and Thomas Zouch (1737-1815) was an English clergyman and writer. These names and the authors in between replaced First through Twenty-sixth streets in Roseville. The alphabet started over with Alcott through Dumas for Twenty-seventh through Thirtieth streets in Roseville and continued with Elliott through Meredith for Thirty-first through Thirty-ninth streets in what was identified in Ordinance No. 755 as Mannasse & Schiller’s Addition and is now Loma Portal.
Meredith Street is no longer, but might have honored George Meredith (1828-1909), an English novelist and poet. Elliott Street remains, perhaps for Ebenezer Elliott (1781-1849), an English poet who became a passionate advocate for the poor, inspired by his own experience of being homeless, facing starvation and contemplating suicide.
For more about some of these alphabetical authors, visit the website http://readingbetweenthelampposts.com/Site/Welcome.html which describes the 2013 book, “Reading Between the Lampposts: The Literary Giants of Loma Portal” edited by Elaine Fotinos Burrell and Karla Lapic. The book contains essays that highlight the lives of 26 authors memorialized by street names in Loma Portal. The essays were written by 26 neighborhood families based on their research of the author name of their street. The website notes that each biographical essay contains a photo or drawing of the author, list of works, excerpts of writings, and references for further reading.
Seventeen other tracts — including Ocean Beach, Pacific Beach, Morena, La Playa and West End — also had their numbered street names replaced with different names courtesy of City Engineer Davids in 1900.
Ocean Beach’s First through Seventh streets became the alphabetical Abbott, Bacon, Cable, Defoe, Ebers, Froude and Guizot streets. These can be tied to historians and writers from various countries. John Stevens Cabot Abbott (1805-1877) was an American historian whose popular books included works about Napoleon, the Civil War and Frederick the Great. Francis Bacon (1561-1626), an English philosopher, statesman and patron of libraries, was considered the father of empiricism. A possibility for Cable Street is George Washington Cable (1844-1925), who was considered to be the first modern southern writer. Daniel Defoe (1659-1731) was an English journalist who wrote the widely popular novel “Robinson Crusoe.” This street later became Sunset Cliffs Boulevard.
Georg Ebers (1837-1898) was a German Egyptologist and novelist of historical fiction. He became known for purchasing a papyrus scroll dating from about 1500 BC from another collector in Luxor (Thebes) in 1872. The Ebers Papyrus is one of the oldest preserved medical documents in the world and extensively details the Egyptian understanding of physical and mental disorders and remedies of the time.
James Anthony Froude (1818-1894) was an English historian who wrote a controversial and partly autobiographical novel entitled “Nemesis of Faith.” Perhaps civil engineer Davids also wanted to honor James Froude’s brother, William Froude (1810-1879), an engineer who established a formula now known as the Froude number to predict the hydrodynamic behavior of full-size ship hulls from small-scale tests.
Francois Guizot (1787-1874) was a French historian and statesman who served many roles in the French government — including as the Prime Minister from 1847-1848 — and wrote popular histories of France and England.
The Mystery of Missouri Among Gems in Pacific Beach
Ordinance No. 755 gave Pacific Beach its gem street names in alphabetical order from Agate to Horneblend [sic] to replace the names of states also claimed in University Heights. Agate was Illinois, Beryl was Georgia, Chalcedony was Idaho, Diamond was Alabama, Emerald was Vermont, Felspar [sic] was Massachusetts, Garnet was College, and Horneblend was California. Wait, you might be thinking — there is no California Street in University Heights. That is because California Street in University Heights was changed to Hamilton Street in 1899. Only California Street in Middletown was allowed to keep its name.
The complicated but fascinating story of other state street names in Pacific Beach — including Florida (now Law Street), Nevada (now Wilbur Avenue), Kansas (now Loring Street), and still present Missouri Street — is told in the blog “Another Side of History” from March 17, 2015 at bit.ly/2Aab21o.
Apparently, those streets were shown on the development’s original 1887 tract map. But a different map with less dense development and some streets missing was actually filed with the County Recorder in 1892. Intervening streets that are now inconsistent with the 1900 A through H gem pattern were not on the 1892 Pacific Beach map that City Engineer Davids would have had on hand for his name change recommendations.
Streets missing in 1900 include present-day Missouri Street, which was allowed to be named Missouri Avenue in Pacific Beach on maps of F.T. Scripps’ Ocean Front subdivision in 1903 and Hauser’s Subdivision in 1904 even though there had been a Missouri Street in University Heights since 1888. The duplication was fixed with Ordinance No. 5417 in 1914, when Missouri Street in University Heights and North Park was renamed 32nd Street, and Missouri Avenue in Pacific Beach was renamed Missouri Street.
The street name of “College” for what is now Garnet may seem like an outlier. But that name referred to the San Diego College of Letters, which was built at the head of Kendall Street (originally Tenth Street) in 1888. The college failed, and the main building became a rooming house called the College Inn. The inn was refurbished by Wilbur and Murtrie Folsom to become Hotel Balboa in the early 1900s. In 1910, Thomas Davis established the San Diego Army and Navy Academy on the college grounds and greatly expanded the facilities. In 1936, that academy moved to Carlsbad; the following year Brown Military Academy began operations on the site. Pacific Plaza Shopping Center opened on the former academy grounds in 1961. Read all about this fascinating history in “Images of America: Pacific Beach” by John Fry, published by Arcadia Publishing Company in 2002.
The next PastMatters column will discuss streets named by City Engineer Davids for military heroes in La Playa and for scientists in La Jolla and Clairemont/Bay Park.
— Katherine Hon is the secretary of the North Park Historical Society. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org or 619-294-8990.