PB History

Pacific Beach will turn 137 years old in 2023!

If you’d like to learn about the beginnings and evolution of Pacific Beach, Another Side of History is a website worth visiting and this page is a good place to start. The site is authored by a gentleman who was born and raised in PB, and he’s currently updating it with more PB information on a regular basis. The PB Historical Society is also a great source of information, especially historical photographs.

Below are some milestones and tidbits as noted by Eve Anderson in the Beach and Bay Press:

1887 – Golden Era magazine touted the glories of our all-but-vacant land just north of False Bay, extolling PB’s “magnificent beach, unsurpassed in California and the bay for yachting, fishing and duck-shooting.” The Pacific Beach Company offered its first 25′ x 125′ lots on December 12, 1887. The land boom extended to neighborhoods throughout the San Diego area. Others who celebrate 1887 as their founding year include Ocean Beach, La Jolla and Coronado.

January 1888 – The San Diego College of Letters laid its cornerstone in formal ceremonies (the site of Pacific Plaza II today).

March 1888 – The Pacific Beach Weekly Newspaper was first published. It survived one year. The PB Community Church (now PB Presbyterian Church) rose on the corner of Garnet and Jewell.

April 1888 – The San Diego and Old Town Railway was extended to PB. Round trip fare from downtown to the beach was 25 cents and took just 30 minutes.

May 1888 – The American Driving Park (racetrack) opened, complete with a grandstand, stables and clubhouse. Wyatt Earp raced his horses there.

In the summer of ’88, world-famous poet Rose Hartwick Thorpe arrived to lend prestige to the “college town.” She wrote a poem about our bay — then know as “False Bay,” renaming it forever Mission Bay. Meanwhile, buyers continued to invest in vacant lots.

PB’s boom was short-lived, however. The Depression of the 1890s saw the collapse of The San Diego College of Letters. Land sales quickly halted as people lost their properties and moved away.

Instead, a “sea of lemon trees” sprouted, as the remaining families turned to farming. Alas, at the turn of the century, lemons from Sicily began to arrive on the East Coast, ending our brief fame as the “Lemon Capital of the World.”

Meanwhile, O.W. Cotton of Folsom Brothers Realty was still hawking land. In 1904, the realtors turned the former college into the Hotel Balboa, using it to woo prospective clients.

And instead of lemon trees, gingerbread houses began to sprout here and there across two square miles. PB would continue to retain its semi-rural, seaside flavor until the beginning of World War II.

Just $25 a lot! During PB’s Centennial Celebration in 1987, interviews with older residents included Lenore Carroll. Recalled Lenore, who came to PB in 1904, “Grandma wanted a home, so for $25 a lot, she bought two lots on Shasta Street from Folsom Brothers Real Estate firm. We lived in a tent then: no water, no electricity — no nothing!”

Braemar, the large estate on Sail Bay’s northwest corner belonging to the Scripps family, often hosted local meetings. Its dining room welcomed the PB Woman’s Club before its clubhouse, Hornblend Hall, was built in 1912. That dining room later became the Catamaran Hotel‘s Wedding Chapel when Braemar was torn down to make way for the hotel in 1959. In October 1987, the chapel was moved to Garnet Avenue at the foot of Soledad Mountain Road. Renamed “Rose Creek Cottage,” it was preserved and restored by PB Town Council members and volunteers.

Earl Taylor, a Kansas native, arrived in PB in 1923. He purchased and developed many parcels of land in the business district. Dunaway’s Drugstore was one of the first.

March 1948 – Crown Point Junior Music Academy opens.

June 1953 – Martha Farnum Elementary opens (closes in 1983).

September 1953 – Mission Bay High School opens door to first students!