As discussed in earlier PastMatters columns, the original names of more than 250 streets in San Diego were changed by Ordinance No. 755 adopted May 21, 1900. Changes to approximately 90 street names had already been implemented by Ordinance No. 599, which was adopted on February 6, 1899. These ordinances eliminated duplication and achieved some continuity where street names changed from tract to tract.
The replacement names in Ordinance No. 755 came from Louis Jackson Davids, the new city engineer. He brought alphabetical authors to Roseville and Loma Portal, historians to Ocean Beach, gems and statesmen to Pacific Beach, naval heroes to La Playa, and scientists/engineers to La Jolla, among many other changes.
However, Davids made relatively few changes to original street names in the tracts between present-day Highway 163 and I-805 from Upas Street to just north of Adams Avenue. This is partly because he gave precedence to street names in this more central and earlier mapped part of the city, and partly because Ordinance No. 599 — which was adopted before Davids became the city engineer — had already addressed most street name problems in this area.
The largest historic tract in this part of San Diego is University Heights, which was mapped in 1888. The tract extends from the current path of Highway 163 eastward to Boundary Street and from current University Avenue to north of Adams Avenue.
The 1888 University Heights map named north-south streets for states and most east-west streets for presidents. Theories about the pattern of state names abound, but the arrangement is likely geographic. It follows a meandering roadtrip starting down the East coast, across the south and back east through the Midwest.
Beginning on the northwest side of the 1888 University Heights map and the northeast side of the U.S., the original tract street names follow a drive through Maine, Vermont, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, New York, Delaware and Maryland — skipping over Cleveland and Campus avenues on the University Heights map — North, Carolina, Georgia, Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, Texas, Arizona and California. The drive then heads north and back east from Oregon through Idaho and Utah, skips Colorado, goes through Kansas and Nebraska, skims over to Ohio, then misses Indiana and circles back to Illinois, Iowa and Missouri.
Changes since 1888 include Maine changing names to Caminito Fuente, Carolina to Park, California to Hamilton, Nebraska to 30th, and Missouri to 32nd.
Streets named for U.S. presidents are in a loose chronological order of their terms in office, but that pattern was not very cohesive on the west side of University Heights and has been disrupted by various changes. For example, in 1899, Fillmore Avenue was changed to Garfield, and in 1900, City Engineer Davids changed Garfield/Fillmore Avenue to University Avenue. Both changes eliminated the honor to Millard Fillmore, the 13th president. Davids also changed Jackson Street to Meade Street for George Meade (1815-1872), a civil engineer and U.S. Army general who defeated Confederate General Robert E. Lee at the Battle of Gettysburg in the Civil War.
President William Henry Harrison lost his University Heights street name in 1899, when Harrison Avenue was changed to Howard Avenue, possibly for Oliver Otis Howard (1830-1909), a Civil War Union general who helped to establish Howard University and served as its president from 1867 to 1873. President Zachary Taylor lost out to President Abraham Lincoln when Taylor Street was renamed in 1899 to continue Lincoln Avenue from the west side of the tract.
University Boulevard on the 1888 map was changed to El Cajon Avenue in 1899 and later to El Cajon Boulevard. The original wide street was meant to lead to the planned campus of a branch of the University of Southern California (USC), but this grand plan was disrupted by San Diego’s real estate bust during the late 1880s.
The northeast trending portion of University Boulevard on the 1888 map is now Normal Street, named for the teacher-training college that later occupied the planned USC branch campus site. The world’s first normal school — the École Normale — was founded in 1685 in France with a goal to train teachers and reinforce particular norms within students. The Normal School in University Heights evolved into what is now San Diego State University. The University Heights Historical Society tells this fascinating story in a free self-guided online walking tour at arcg.is/0izSbX0.
Relatively smaller historic tracts lie south of present-day University Avenue between Park Boulevard and I-805. One of the first areas to be mapped extended from present-day Alabama to Boundary streets between University Avenue and Upas Street. In the early 1870s, three San Diego pioneers — Aaron Pauly, Joseph Nash and William Jefferson Gatewood — created three tracts within this area: Pauly’s Addition, Park Villas and West End.
Original street names in these tracts provide a window into the history of early San Diego in the days of Alonzo Horton’s New Town. Most of the street names were picked by the tract founders to acknowledge themselves, their friends and their fellow investors. But only a few names have remained the same since those pioneer days.
In 1899, Ordinance No. 599 extended University Heights state names southward from current University Avenue to Upas Street. The state street names of Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, Texas, Arizona, Oregon (later Pershing), Idaho (later 28th), Utah, Kansas (later 29th), Nebraska (later 30th) and Missouri (later 32nd) all replaced the names of people known to the tract founders. This gave some continuity to the street names, although the physical match-up is less than perfect.
In the 1899 ordinance, all three tract founders lost their street name honors. Pauly Street became Texas, Nash Avenue became Missouri, and Gatewood Street became Kansas.
In 1900, City Engineer Davids fixed several duplications, changing Hamilton Street to Walker (now Villa Terrace), Johnson Street to Sherman (now Granada), and Robinson Street to Ray.
In 1914, more original street names were changed. Hart Street became 31st, Washington became Bancroft, Webster became 33rd, and Franklin became Felton. The only north-south streets in this area that have kept their original 1870s names are Arnold, Grim and Herman. These names were unique, and the streets did not line up with a street in University Heights.
Future PastMatters columns will explore the people behind the original street names in this part of North Park.
— Katherine Hon is the secretary of the North Park Historical Society. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org or 619-294-8990.