San Diego street names: Part six of the series
As discussed in earlier PastMatters columns, many streets in North Park between University Avenue and Upas Street originally had the names of 1870s pioneers but were renamed in 1899 and 1900. This column examines original street names in the Park Villas tract from present-day Arizona Street to Pershing Avenue.
In the street name change ordinances of 1899 and 1900, Choate Avenue became Arizona Street, Arnold Avenue remained the same, Hamilton Avenue became Walker Street (now Villa Terrace), and Driscoll Avenue became Oregon Street (now Pershing Avenue). Daniel Choate, Cyrus Arnold, Charles Hamilton and William Driscoll were well known to Park Villas tract founder Joseph Nash, who operated a large general store but also dealt extensively and creatively in early San Diego real estate. More about him in a later column.
Daniel Choate (1827-1899) was born into a large farming family in Kennebec County, Maine. In February 1849, he joined the many gold-seekers who came to California. He tried panning for gold at Yuba, but by 1851 he was operating a mercantile business in Ophirville, a bustling gold mining town in Placer County northeast of Sacramento. He served as U.S. Postmaster for Ophirville from 1858 until the office was discontinued in 1866. In 1868, he opened a clothing store at 415 Kearny Street in San Francisco with his brother, Nehemiah. A year later, Daniel Choate visited San Diego and did not return to San Francisco, writing to his brother to sell the business and come south.
In San Diego, Daniel Choate specialized in land instead of merchandise and actively promoted the city. He served on the first Chamber of Commerce initiated in 1870, helping to write the constitution and bylaws. The first president of the Chamber of Commerce was Aaron Pauly, and the first secretary was Joseph Nash. Appropriately, Choate Avenue marked the boundary between the tracts Pauly and Nash founded. Choate served as U.S. Postmaster in San Diego from 1876 through 1880.
Choate’s real estate holdings were extensive, and his involvement was significant. He was a major stockholder in the College Hill Land Association, which formed University Heights in 1888. He assisted with subdividing 1,000 acres of land owned by Samuel Steiner, Abraham Klauber and Frederick Castle in 1887 to form the Steiner, Klauber, Choate & Castle’s Addition, which became the separate city of East San Diego in 1912 and was annexed into San Diego in 1923. The area is now known as City Heights. Choate formed several other tracts, including Arnold and Choate’s Addition. He initially partnered with Cyrus Arnold and then with his sons Franklin and Rufus when Arnold left San Diego for San Francisco.
The San Diego Union’s April 22, 1899 issue announced Daniel Choate’s death under the headline, “Passing of One of San Diego’s Prominent Citizens,” noting, “He was one of the most public-spirited citizens of the city, and labored incessantly for the upbuilding of this community.” He is buried at Mount Hope Cemetery.
Cyrus Mills Arnold (1842-1913) was the middle of five sons in a farming family in Stark County, Illinois. He was living in San Diego by 1869, and he married Alice Mary Dougherty that year. The 1870 federal census for San Diego listed him as a lawyer with real estate worth $5,000 — nearly $100,000 in today’s dollars.
Arnold and Choate partnered in real estate during the early 1870s. The Daily Union’s April 15, 1871 issue presented a large ad for “Arnold & Choate, Real Estate Dealers, Office 5th St. between I & J.” Their offerings included “1000 Lots in Arnold & Choate’s Addition at $25.00 a lot.”
Arnold moved from San Diego to San Francisco around 1876. He was listed in the 1877 San Francisco City Directory as operating “Arnold Bros (C.M. and G.C.) real estate and money brokers” at 423 Kearny Street, just a few doors down from where Choate had operated his clothing store in 1868. Cyrus Arnold’s youngest brother, Gilbert Conger Arnold, was his partner in the business.
Cyrus stayed in San Francisco until moving to Contra Costa in 1905. Gilbert moved to San Diego in 1881 and continued to deal in real estate. Gilbert joined their father, Philander, who had come to San Diego in 1873. Both Gilbert and Philander Arnold are buried at Mount Hope Cemetery.
Charles Standart Hamilton (1847-1933) was born in Milan, Erie County, Ohio. He came to California in 1869 on the recently completed Union Pacific railway. He could not get a clerk position in San Francisco, but there he met Joseph Nash, who had opened a general merchandise store in San Diego. The two men traveled by steamer to San Diego, and Hamilton worked in Nash’s store.
In 1870, Hamilton met George Marston, a new arrival from Wisconsin who briefly clerked at the Horton Hotel, worked in Aaron Pauly’s store for two years, and then joined Hamilton at Nash’s store. The young clerks bought out Nash in 1873, partnered for five years, and split amicably in 1878 to form their own highly successful enterprises: Hamilton’s Fine Foods and Marston’s Department Store. They were brothers-in-law as well as business partners and friends. Hamilton married Elizabeth Gunn in 1876, and Marston married Anna Lee Gunn — Elizabeth’s sister — in 1878.
Hamilton was elected to the City Board of Trustees in May 1886 and served as president until leaving the Board in April 1887. He had launched his grocery business at Fifth Avenue and G Street and later moved to Sixth Avenue and C Street. His final store at Seventh Avenue and C Street opened in 1928. This elegant building still exists, although the Hamilton business closed around 1953.
Charles Hamilton died on March 17, 1933. A tribute to him on the editorial page of the San Diego Union’s March 21, 1933 issue called him “A fine man, a brave one, and a pioneer who typified the best in that great parade of pioneers to the Golden State.” He is buried at Mount Hope Cemetery.
Present-day Hamilton Street in University Heights was named California Street on the original 1888 subdivision map, but the name was changed in 1899 because there were at least four California Streets in San Diego at that time. The name Hamilton was likely chosen in an attempt to achieve some continuity with the street that was still named Hamilton south of University Avenue. City Engineer Louis Davids changed the southern portion to Walker Street in 1900, perhaps because he decided the physical offset between the two segments was too great. Walker Street was changed to Villa Terrace in 1908.
William Driscoll (1845-1907) was born in Indiana to Irish parents. He first registered in San Diego on February 24, 1869 as a clerk. He was named with many others — including Joseph Nash — in the Daily Union’s September 11, 1873 issue as being involved in lands designated for the Texas and Pacific Railway Company. Driscoll continued to be listed in the San Diego register through 1879 but then vanished from city records. Ancestry.com family trees indicate he died January 15, 1907.
The next PastMatters column will examine the original names of more North Park streets from 28th Street eastward.
— Katherine Hon is the secretary of the North Park Historical Society. Reach her at email@example.com or 619-294-8990.