San Diego street names: Part 10 of the series
By Katherine Hon
Joseph Nash formed his two-part Park Villas tract in 1870, three years before William Jefferson Gatewood and Aaron Pauly filed their maps for West End and Pauly’s Addition. Perhaps Nash was the first of his fellow tract founders to name north-south streets after people he knew, including himself.
The Park Villas tract east of present-day Ray Street encompasses the north-south streets Nash originally named Grim Avenue, Hart Avenue (now 31st Street), Herman Avenue, Nash Avenue (now 32nd Street), Washington Avenue (now Bancroft Street), Webster Avenue (now 33rd Street), and Franklin Avenue (now Felton Street).
Grim Avenue has held its name for more than 150 years in spite of an effort in 1934 to change the name to Royal Avenue. The San Diego Union’s March 31, 1934 issue reported that “Petitioners had asked the change on the ground that many persons called it Grime st.” But other property owners declared “it would be an outrage to slap a name like Royal ave. on a democratic street.” The San Diego Union’s June 26, 1934 issue announced the name change effort had failed under the headline “Royalists Lose in Grim Battle,” noting that city councilmen said “it was hard to know what the people wanted as they appeared to be signing both for and against the name change.”
Those in favor of keeping the name in 1934 theorized the street might have been originally named for the brothers Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm, authors of Grimm’s Fairy Tales, with the final letter being lost over the years. But the true source of the Grim street name is likely a merchant or land dealer known to Joseph Nash, as the street name was never recorded as “Grimm” on maps.
No Grims appear to be living in San Diego during the early 1870s. However, the 1870 federal census recorded a family in San Francisco headed by Abraham Grim, and his history indicates he had much in common with Nash, whose ties to San Francisco ran deep.
Abraham Keefer Grim (1830-1910) was born in Canton, Ohio. His father was a merchant, and young Grim left school at age 16 to become a clerk in Wayne County. In 1849, he made the long trek across the plains to Sacramento in response to the news of gold in California. Volume 2 of “A History of the New California Its Resources and People” — edited by Leigh H. Irvine and published by The Lewis Publishing Co. in 1905 — summarizes Grim’s personal history, including the following about his adult years:
“His long and tedious journey across plains and over mountains terminated at Sacramento, October 6, 1849. The following spring, he mined at ‘Hangtown,’ now Placerville. Mining, however, did not then claim his attention long. He turned to merchandising, banking and the real estate business, and thus he was variously occupied, in Sacramento, until 1863. Also, in 1852, he was one of the business managers of the Sacramento Union, one of the first daily newspapers in California. In 1863 Mr. Grim went to Virginia City, Nevada, and established a bank, which he operated until 1867. His next move was to San Francisco, where he was interested in stocks and mining. In 1892 he moved across the bay to Berkeley, and from that year to 1896 was manager of the Consolidated Street Railway Company of Oakland. Throughout the whole of his busy business career Mr. Grim has had the happy faculty of making friends, and his growing popularity manifested itself when, in 1898, he was elected county recorder of Alameda county, and again, in 1902, when he was honored by re-election to the office, as an independent candidate.”
City directories provide more career details for Grim. The 1864 Virginia City, Nevada directory listed A.K. Grim as being “of B.F. Hastings & Co.,” which was included under “Bankers” in the business listings for this silver mining town that boomed after discovery of the Comstock Lode in 1859.
Grim first appeared in the San Francisco city directory in 1868, when his occupation was president of the Pacific Union Express Co. This company was organized in late 1867 by promoters of the Central Pacific Railroad, including Leland Stanford. Stockholders A. K. Grim and Lawrence W. Coe were appointed as managers for the express on the West Coast. Its service was advertised as including transport of materials and letters by every steamer via Panama and similar service to Hawaii, China and Japan. The company was set up to compete with Wells Fargo, who bought out the company in October 1869.
In the 1870 federal census, Grim’s occupation was “real estate agent.” He was a “stockbroker” in the 1872 San Francisco city directory. His occupation was listed as ““expressman,” “capitalist” or “mining” in the following years through the 1880s.
In 1892, Grim moved his family to Berkeley, where he became superintendent of the Oakland Consolidated Street Railroad Company. The Oakland Tribune’s October 8, 1905 issue announced his 50th wedding anniversary, noting his paternal ancestors had come from Holland before the American Revolution and settled in Pennsylvania before the “City of Brotherly Love” was founded by William Penn. The article stated Grim had been elected County Recorder of Alameda County in 1898 and 1902 “by handsome majorities.”
Abraham Grim died on January 6, 1910 at age 79. He was buried at Mountain View Cemetery in Oakland. The Oakland Tribune’s February 6, 1910 issue published a resolution passed by employees in the Recorder’s Office in honor of his memory. The clauses included, “Whereas, We the undersigned, have known him personally as a true and loyal friend, a just and considerate employer and an exemplar of honest and honorable manhood, and Whereas, He was an ideal officer, a devoted husband and father and an upright and highly esteemed citizen. He was a man of high ideals, of integrity of purpose and his death is a great loss to this community.” The resolution was signed by 52 employees of the Recorder’s Office.
Although historical records are not definitive, it is plausible Nash and Grim knew each other. Nash visited San Francisco frequently during the late 1860s after he set up shop in New Town San Diego, and he moved to San Francisco around 1876. In the early 1880s, San Francisco city directories indicate Nash and Grim were working in the mining industry in offices at 328 and 331 Montgomery Street, respectively — across the street from each other in the business district. Perhaps they met in 1868, when Grim had newly arrived in San Francisco, and Nash posed at the Hector W. Vaughan photographic gallery for a photograph labeled as “Vaughan’s Enameled Cards, 18 Third Street (Late 511 Montgomery St.) San Francisco.”
As a land dealer and merchant with a large general store in 1868 who also advertised himself as a “Commission Agent,” Nash certainly would have appreciated Grim’s fine character and connections to banking, express, mining and real estate businesses.
— Katherine Hon is the secretary of the North Park Historical Society. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org or 619-294-8990.