Archive for the ‘history’ Category

Has it really been 25 years since the San Ysidro Massacre?

In the summer of 1984, I had just turned 18. I remember July 18th very well. I’d been spending the day with my friend Stacy by her pool in Bonita, recovering from a party we’d been to the night before. The party had been way out in the sticks in Bonsall and the drive home had been late and long.

At that party I had carefully avoided Tasha, a friend with whom I’d had a falling out. I remembered hearing that she’d left the party early because she had to work at her job the next day.

The sun finally getting to us, Stacy and I headed inside for a cold drink. Stacy’s mom was glued to the television. “Girls, you’re not going to believe what’s happening at the McDonald’s in San Ysidro.”

My heart went cold as I looked at Stacy and said, “That’s where Tasha works.”


Supporting San Diego History

photo courtesy of

photo courtesy of

When Peg mentioned last week that the San Diego Historical Society will no longer be maintaining two of San Diego’s most beautiful historic properties due to overhead in this painful economy, it really bummed me out.   I have such respect for local vintage architecture, both well-known and hidden gems.  From the many tiny post-war bungalows in our coastal communities to the semi-famous Cabrillo Bridge over 163 (which caught fire in 1951 and again in 2004), the architecture of this city deserves to be respected, preserved and protected.

Of course, we can’t blame the SDHS, they are doing everything they can in a city that has many valuable sites.  This economy is hard on everyone and spare clams are hard to come by, but even just a little support of the San Diego Historical Society could help.

You can become a member from $35/year and and if you aren’t into that, you could always visit the Museum and exhibits they offer.  The Museum of San Diego History is one of my favorite museums in the city– it holds so much wonderful information.  It’s only $6 to get in and every 2nd Tuesday of the month, it’s totally free.  Who doesn’t love free?

Got a wedding in your future?  If you’re planning an event, the San Diego Historical Society has several incredible locations to choose from, so that is another way to benefit the preservation of our local history.

If you’re an About San Diego junkie like myself or you just love old buildings, please “spare a square” and support the San Diego Historical Society and Museum of San Diego History soon… before they’re forced to give up other incredible sites.

San Diego Historical Society cutting loose Marston House, Villa Montezuma

Villa Montezuma - photo courtesy of San Diego Historical Society

Villa Montezuma - photo courtesy of San Diego Historical Society

The San Diego Historical Society recently announced it can no longer maintain two historic properties, the Marston House and Villa Montezuma.

The Marston House, built in 1906 by city father George Marston, was closed to the public last Sunday, February 15. It’s especially ironic that the SDHS will no longer be maintaining it, as Marston helped found the society 81 years ago. The property is located at the edge of Balboa Park on Seventh Avenue.

Villa Montezuma, a Queen Anne gem built in 1887, has been closed for repairs since 2006. It’s located on K Street in Sherman Heights.

Both properties will be handed back to the city of San Diego. Given our city’s current financial state, it’s probable that another entity would be needed to raise funds, maintain the properties and reopen them to the public.


History Right Under Your Nose

Most San Diegans think of the Gaslamp Quarter as the destination for nightlife and dining. While that is true, my favorite reason to head to the Gaslamp is to learn history about San Diego and to take photos of architecture.

Historic buildings are marked with a plaque such as this one for the Old City Hall building.

You can easily walk around and find these plaques and read about the building’s history. There is a great book that you can use for reference: San Diego Architecture: From Mission to Modern by Dirk Sutro. (I have seen it at SDMA’s bookstore but it is also available on Amazon.)

I’m long overdue for another walking adventure in the Gaslamp. If any like-minded arhictecture-history-photography enthusiasts want to join me, feel free to comment and we’ll organize an outing.

Natural History Museum Excavating Fossils Downtown, How Cool is That?

San Diego Natural History Museum staff have been carefully moving a 500,000 year old mammoth fossil found at downtown at the construction site of the new Tomas Jefferson School of Law campus on Park & Island since its discovery on 5 FEB 2009.

I skated by the site last weekend after a tweet from @SDNHM let everyone know that spectators could watch the excavation process from the Park Blvd side.  I checked again on my way to work this morning, and there still appears to be some work left for them to do.  If you’re in the area, take a peep, it’s not every day you get to see paleontologists at work in an urban setting.  While you’re at it, give @SDNHM a follow and learn some interesting facts about the ancient history of San Diego.  It is #followfriday after all.


Image used under Creative Commons license, via flickr - please click to check out the rest of Steeljams photostreem

I wonder if our new fossil will look this cool when they finish digging it up? Image used under Creative Commons license, via flickr - please click to check out the rest of Steeljam's photostreem

Racquel Welch’s San Diego Connection

Movie actress Raquel Welch was once a beauty pagent title holder as Miss San Diego and as Miss Fairest of the Fair at the San Diego County Fair.  She was a weather forecaster at KFMB, a local San Diego television station and she attended SDSU (then San Diego State College).

After moving to Los Angeles and being cast in bit parts she landed a leading role in the sci-fi movie Fantastic Voyage. Welch went on to star in the remake of One Million Years B.C. (see the image of her above in a prehistoric animal-skin bikini). Over the years she has appeared in some less than memorable roles, but had a good showing in a 1997 episode of Seinfeld where she played a highly temperamental version of herself.

Ghosts of San Diego

Some guests just do not know when to check out...

Some guests just do not know when to check out...

When people think of San Diego, they usually think of beaches and surfers. But did you know our town has more than its share of ghosts? That, in fact, one historic building here is called “the most haunted house in America”? It’s true. For creepiness, I’d stack San Diego against Salem, Mass any day.

Here are the 3 places you’ll most likely feel the chills:

  • Hotel Del Coronado room #3327
    In 1892, a beautiful young woman checked in to this room, then shot herself on the beach a few days later. She was found to have checked in under a pseudonym, and had been a grifter abandoned by her equally shady husband. Sad, but not ghostly…until she started “visiting” occupants of the room, and even the hotel’s gift shop! Witnesses describe seeing a woman in a black lace high-necked dress. Perhaps this is a story invented to keep this room booked. If so, it works – the room is very difficult to reserve for all the ghosthunters. For more on this ghost, read Beautiful Stranger: The Ghost of Kate Morgan and the Hotel del Coronado by Chris Donovan.
  • The Whaley House
    Constructed in 1856, the Whaley House is one of the oldest houses still standing in San Diego, and at various times was a courthouse, general store, granary and a family home in what is now called Old Town San Diego. In its courthouse days, it was the site of several hangings, and when the Whaleys lived here, it witnessed the suicide of their daughter Violet, who was despondent over a humiliating divorce. Witnesses have since reported seeing the ghost of Yankee Jim Robinson (a criminal hung on the property), Thomas Whaley, Violet Whaley, and even a fox terrier once owned by the family. Now a museum, the house is maintained by the Save Our Heritage Organization and is mentioned on several ghost-seeking TV shows as “the most haunted house in America.” For more on the Whaley House, visit its website.
  • Villa Montezuma
    This place creeped me out. I have never seen a ghost, and didn’t see one here. However, I visited this house on two separate occasions 20 years apart, and felt the immediate need to GET OUT both times. Built in 1887, the house is a marvel of Victorian architecture, and was built for a celebrated author, spiritualist and musician of the time named Jesse Shepard. The interior is lavishly decorated with with carved wood paneling, stained glass windows and period furnishings. Jesse was said to have held seances here where he communed with the dead. My guess is he did this in an upstairs room, because that’s where I felt the overwhelming need to split. For more info on Villa Montezuma, visit its page the San Diego Historical Society’s website.

Do you know of other hauntings here in San Diego? Tell us about it!

Blast from the Past

You can view the San Diego History Timeline for yourself to see that things have been happening around here for quite a few years. We don’t need to go that far back but I thought it would be fun to highlight a few of the memorable moments from the 80s in San Diego. You may remember the 80s from watching movies like Indiana Jones, Ghostbusters, The Empire Strikes Back, The Breakfast Club and Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.

San Diego in the 80s
1980, 1987 and 1988 – Dennis Conner brings sailing’s America’s Cup to the West Coast.
1984 – Padres win National League Pennant; World Series games first played in San Diego.
1985 – Horton Plaza shopping center opens as $140 million cornerstone of downtown redevelopment.
1986 – The San Diego Supercomputer Center opens at the University of California, San Diego,
1988 – San Diego hosts its first Super Bowl, in San Diego Jack Murphy Stadium. Washington Redskins beat Denver Broncos 42-10.
1989 – San Diego Convention Center opens.

That’s all for now because I need to go drink some beer and eat some noms and listen to the music of some 80s bands like the Cars, Talking Heads, Billy, Idol, Cyndi Lauper and Journey.

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