By Katherine Hon
During October, the city of San Diego’s Office of the City Clerk celebrated their third annual Archives Month with the theme of “Hidden Treasures.” Indeed, the basement of the City Administration Building at 202 C St. holds a treasure trove of city records from as early as 1817.
The City Clerk’s website notes that the Archives Program was begun in 1987 “to serve as a central source of information and materials regarding the history and development of the City of San Diego.”
The functions of the city’s Archives Center include identifying, preserving and storing records that capture the city’s history. City staff and volunteers have been diligently digitizing the vast collection for years, amassing the results on the City Clerk’s Digital Archives website at sandiego.gov/digitalarchives. You can view land record documents related to taxes, purchases, sales, and assessments; City Directories from 1926 through 1954; and historical official documents such as minutes, ordinances, and resolutions from 1817 to 1966 online from the comfort of your own home computer.
Not everything has been digitized, however. A volunteer examining materials in the City Clerk archives recently contacted the North Park Historical Society to share some photographs and old plans related to North Park. Three images are highlighted in this article.
A 1912 preliminary plan to widen University Avenue east of Park Boulevard includes a sketch instantly recognizable as the venerable concrete arch Georgia Street Bridge. A cut under Georgia Street had been excavated in 1907 to accommodate a single track of the #7 streetcar line out to Fairmont Avenue. A redwood bridge had been built above University Avenue along Georgia Street to keep early residents connected to the south.
Within just a few years, growth created the need to double track the streetcar line. A letter dated Nov. 20, 1912 from W.M. Rumsey, city engineer, to the city’s Common Council transmitted the preliminary plan for widening and paving the existing 30-foot-wide roadway to 52 feet. The plan included the pictured “Preliminary Sketch.” Rumsey’s letter proposed “a reinforced concrete arch bridge in place of the present wooden bridge which will have to be torn down, if the cut is widened. This widening will require a vertical retaining wall on either side…” The estimated project cost was $25,000 — about $660,000 in today’s dollars.
The North Park Theatre on University Avenue has been a popular subject for photographers since its construction in 1929. The timeframe of undated photographs can usually be estimated from the movies being advertised on the marquee. The year of this photograph of the North Park Theatre is 1945, based on the movies showing: “Captain Eddie” with Fred MacMurray and “Lady on a Train” with Deanna Durbin. Also, the marquee exhortation to “Finish the Job — Buy Victory Bonds,” refers to World War II.
A photo from the mid-1940s labeled “Looking east on University Avenue opposite Ray Street,” shows a rarely seen view of the original J.C. Penney store constructed in 1942. This building was replaced in 1954 with an expanded J.C. Penney department store, which is the building that now houses Target Express. The top of the tower of the original Fire Station #14 on University Avenue can be seen above the roof of the J.C. Penney building. The fire station was damaged during construction of the original department store in the winter of 1941-42. A new fire station was built at its current location of Lincoln Avenue and 32nd Street in 1943, although the tower remained until the department store’s expansion in 1954.
A streetcar is in the middle of the street. Electric streetcars ran on University Avenue from 1907 to 1949. On the left is the building at 3050 University Ave. currently housing Fatboys Cornerstore and Deli, and Seven Grand Whiskey Bar. This much-altered building was originally constructed in 1926 in a Spanish Colonial Revival style for offices of the Dixie Lumber Company and other professionals such as doctors and dentists.
Any fan of history will agree with the city clerk that, “By preserving the past, the Archives will enhance the present and enrich the future history of San Diego.” To make an appointment to conduct research in the Archives Center or obtain additional information, contact the Office of the City Clerk at 619-236-6143.
— Katherine Hon is the secretary of the North Park Historical Society. Reach her at email@example.com or 619-294-8990.