By Katherine Hon
Park Villas tract founder Joseph Nash could win the prize for traveling the farthest to settle in New Town San Diego. He was born in England in 1838. He sailed from Liverpool to Melbourne, Australia in 1863 aboard the clipper ship Champion of the Seas — a trip that took 81 days. He made his way to the U.S. in 1867 and arrived in San Diego in 1868. He became a naturalized U.S. citizen in San Diego in 1872. He named several streets in his tract after immigrants such as himself, including Hart Avenue (now 31st Street), Herman Avenue and Nash Avenue (now 32nd Street).
Nash may have named Hart Avenue for Richard Hart, who was born in Belgium about 1827 and became a naturalized U.S. citizen in 1852 in Sierra County, California. Hart was listed in the 1860 federal census as a miner in Mount Pleasant, Plumas County, California. Like many prospectors who failed to strike it rich in gold, he turned to merchandising. In 1866, an IRS tax assessment listed him as a retail dealer in liquors at a mining town called Smith Bar along the Feather River. The California voter registration for 1867 placed him at Rich Bar, an active mining town that had been the site of the largest gold discovery along the Feather River in 1850. These and several other mining camps shared the name “Bar” to illustrate where gold was deposited by the river’s flow.
By 1870, Hart had come to San Diego. He was listed in the 1870 federal census as a saloon keeper, but provided his occupation as “miner” for the San Diego County voter registration lists from 1872 through 1879. He bought a few individual lots of Pueblo Lands from the City Trustees in 1871, but apparently did not own this property by 1873. The San Diego Union’s February 24, 1870 issue reported that R. Hart contributed to the Fort Yuma wagon road company in which Joseph Nash and other early San Diego businessmen also had invested.
Hart disappeared from available San Diego records after the 1879 voter registration list. Ordinance No. 5417 approved by Mayor Charles O’Neall on January 13, 1914 changed Hart Avenue “in Park Villas, McFadden and Buxton’s North Park, and Hartley’s North Park” to 31st Street.
Herman Avenue — one of the few streets retaining an original name bestowed by Joseph Nash — likely recognizes Alexander Herman (1854-1926). He was born on May 26, 1854 in Gleusdorf, Bavaria, now in southeastern Germany. He sailed to New York from Hamburg on the steamship Silesia in 1869 at age 15, listing his occupation as a clerk. Into the 1880s, he associated with Sigmund Iglauer, who was born in Nuremberg in 1852 and came to the U.S. at age 17 on the same steamship, listing his occupation as a merchant. They arrived in New York on October 12, 1869 and soon traveled west.
The San Diego Daily Union’s June 1, 1871 issue reported, “New Store — Messrs. Iglauer & Herman will commence opening next Monday at the new store, on Fifth near the Express office, an immense stock of groceries and provisions, and general merchandise. The assortment is as full as has ever been brought to this city.” The Daily Union’s June 10, 1871 issue called attention to Iglauer & Herman’s advertisement for their new store, noting, “They are enterprising and obliging young men and deserve success.” Their ad announced “Calicos! Calicos!” at “9 and 10 yards for a dollar” and a “large assortment of hats and caps of latest styles.”
The paper’s September 23, 1871 issue documented that Iglauer & Herman joined a group of prominent San Diego pioneers — including A.E. Horton, Aaron Pauly and David Briant — who authorized Joseph Nash to “charter a sailing vessel on joint account for the purpose of bringing down a cargo of merchandise from San Francisco to this port.”
In the same month, the two young men expanded their operations. The Daily Union’s September 22, 1871 issue announced, “The firm of Iglauer & Herman have established a branch house at San Rafael, Lower California, to which they make a considerable shipment of general merchandise today. The members of this firm are young, but they have sufficient enterprise to make up for lack of years.” At the time, potential gold and silver discoveries in this Baja California area inland from Ensenada were generating much excitement.
Iglauer & Herman closed their store in 1873. Iglauer became a naturalized U.S. citizen in San Diego on December 8, 1874. Herman apparently followed the lure of merchandising to miners. He became a naturalized citizen in Silver City, Idaho, on June 21, 1875. Now a ghost town on the National Register of Historic Places, this gold and silver mining town southwest of Boise was founded in 1864 and peaked during the 1880s with a population of 2,500 and approximately 75 businesses.
In 1876, Iglauer moved to San Francisco, and Herman joined him there in 1879. In 1880, they were both listed in the San Francisco city directory as working for Martin Herman, a broker in mining stocks. Martin was Alexander’s older brother and had come to the U.S. in 1857. Iglauer eventually returned to Nuremberg and died there in 1898. By 1896, Alexander had joined the Scholle Brothers stock brokerage firm based in New York, where his brother was already working. With fortunate timing, Alexander moved to New York in 1905, one year before the massive 1906 earthquake devastated San Francisco.
In 1910 and 1920, the federal census listed Alexander Herman as single, working as a broker, and living in Manhattan. He applied for a passport in January 1923 so he could vacation in Europe. His application described him as 5 feet 4 ½ inches tall, with blue eyes, fair complexion, Roman nose and square chin.
He remained with the Scholle Brothers firm until his death on December 14, 1926 in Manhattan. The Brooklyn Daily Eagle’s December 16, 1926 issue noted, “Scholle Bros announces that it will be closed for the day…owing to the death of Alexander Herman, special partner of the firm.”
Tracing the full arc of Alexander Herman’s career, it is no surprise that he came to San Diego. His brother had known early San Diegan David Felsenheld since 1857. Felsenheld — also born in Bavaria — had a store on F and Sixth streets in New Town in 1870. Along with Joseph Nash and several other businessmen, Felsenheld helped write the constitution and bylaws for the first Chamber of Commerce. Felsenheld’s sister Getta was married to Jacob Scholle — one of the founders of Scholle Brothers — indicating another connection to San Diego for both Herman brothers.
— Katherine Hon is the secretary of the North Park Historical Society. Reach her at email@example.com or 619-294-8990.