History of Ocean Beach Street Names (ho-hmmm?)

by on July 4, 2009 · 25 comments

in Environment, History, OB Time Machine, Ocean Beach, San Diego

Sunset Cliffs Blvd. was once called DeFoe Street

Sunset Cliffs Blvd was once DeFoe Street.

Originally posted on January 12, 2008

Always intrigued about the origin of words and idioms, I found interesting the history of Ocean Beach street names. I’d been on the Ocean Beach Planning Board for several years, and was its chair for one year. Since the seventies I had been active in land use issues, anti-gentrification efforts here in OB, and generally in the local movement to make urban planning more democratic here – with even renters (egads!), single-family home owners and other ordinary citizens actually involved in the decision-making. (In fact the OB Planning Board was the first democratically-elected urban planning committee in not only the history of the City of San Diego, but also of the State of California.)

It is axiomatic in our world that whoever plans out and develops a community gets to name the streets! And the rest of us then get to live with those street titles. Now, of course, who does plan out and develop a community from scratch? Who was responsible for putting together the sub-divisions that make up what is the present community of Ocean Beach? Who were those guys?

Of course, in our class-based, capitalist system, a small elite, part of the ruling power structure, the land-developers get to name the streets. Ah, the developers – they’re the ones who hire engineers, surveyors, and draftsmen to actually do the labor; they’re the ones who have the money, resources, the capital to make purchases of large tracts of soon-to-be urban land. And they’re the ones who have the connections to ensure those very purchases actually occur.

Somewhere in the planning process, the names of the streets are decided. Usually way before any asphalt, packed dirt, or concrete is laid down, while streets are simply lines on paper, with their names penciled in. Where do these names come from? Where do the power elite find the designations for their venue destinations?

For Ocean Beach, my questions were answered by an article in The Journal of San Diego History, entitled, “Mystery Man of Ocean Beach,” by Roda Kruse, which put to rest part of my query, at least. (Fall 1977, Vol.23, no.4.) Using old sub-division maps and early county records, Ms. Kruse described her quest for OB’s first land entrepreneur.

As it turns out, the very first OB land developer was J.M. DePuy – the “mystery man” because so little is known of him. It is DePuy who drew and filed the first sub-division for any portion of Ocean Beach. The “DePuy Sub-Division” covered what is now north-east Ocean Beach in 1885. Ms. Kruse asked:

Do the names he assigned to the streets of his subdivision give any clues to his past? They are: Aliso (now Valeta), Castelar, Alvarado (now Greene), Sea Side, Etiwanda, and Soto Strects. Aliso is part of the name of a land grant in Orange County,’ and also means “alder tree.” What significance could either meaning have? Etiwanda is the name of a place, founded in 1882, located in San Bernardino County. It is not a common name-had DePuy been there, or did he just like the sound of it? Castelar and Soto are towns in Argentina, and there are several places, in both Mexico and California, named Alvarado. What might these tell us of his life and travels? If any one of the names he chose is that of his home town, the likeliest candidate is Sea Side, for there are two on the Eastern Seaboard, as well as later ones in Oregon and California. If his Sea Side Street was named after New Jersey’s Seaside Park, it presages the pattern Carlson and Higgins chose, whether it is DePuy’s home town or not. [citations deleted.]

The “Carlson and Higgins” Ms. Kruse refers to are William H. Carlson and Frank J. Higgins, the next major Ocean Beach developers, who filed their sub-division in 1887 – before the 1880s big land-boom of Southern California went bust and collapsed. (Young Billy Carlson later became Mayor of San Diego, then ended up in prison from fraud.) The partners called their large sub-division “Ocean Beach” and despite the economic collapse soon after, their street names by in large have held over time. Indicating Carlson and Higgins’ hopes, Ms. Kruse finds that they named almost all of their streets after resorts. For generally, east-west streets, Ms. Kruse found that they chose the following:

Brighton Avenue? probably from the seaside resort in Sussex, England, on the English Channel

Cape May Avenue – probably from the resort county in New Jersey, between the Atlantic Ocean and Delaware Bay.

Saratoga Avenue – probably from Saratoga Springs, New York, near Saratoga Lake; noted for horse racing as well as resorts.

Santa Monica Avenue – probably from the resort city in Los Angeles County, California, on the Pacific Ocean.

Newport Avenue - probably from the Rhode Island resort city bordered by the Atlantic Ocean and Narragansett Bay.

Niagara Avenue - probably from Niagara Falls, N.Y., a center of tourism, located on the Niagara River.

Narragansett Avenue – probably from the Rhode Island town on Narragansett Bay, an inlet of the Atlantic Ocean. Tourism is one of its industries.

Del Monte Avenue – probably from the resort on the Monterey Peninsula, in Monterey County, California.

Santa Cruz Avenue – probably from the California coastal county and resort clty.

Pacific Avenue – probably named after the ocean on which the subdivision fronted. This name was changed to Coronado Avenue in 1914. However, the new name fits the old pattern of resorts, preferably on oceans, since it probably derives from Coronado, California, in San Diego County.

Del Mar Avenue – probably from the coastal city in San Diego County, California.

La Jolla Avenue – probably from the coastal community located in the northern area of the city of San Diego, California. This was changed to Orchard Street in 1900 and to Orchard Avenue in 1914. The latter names may stem from a bathing resort in the New York City metropolitan area.

Pescadero Avenue – possibly from the village in San Mateo County. Since this is not a noted resort, an alternate derivation might be from the Spanish, “pesca,” which means “fishing;” the word “pescadero” itself means “fishmonger.”

Bermuda Avenue – probably from the British Crown Colony in the western Atlantic Ocean, mainly active as a tourist resort.

Point Loma Avenue - probably from the peninsula within the City of San Diego on which Ocean Beach itself is located.

(For some unknown reason, Ms. Kruse omitted Long Branch Avenue, which probably was named after Long Branch, New Jersey, which has been an Atlantic seacoast resort since the 1770s, and was once known as the “Hollywood of the East”.)

For generally north-south streets, Carlson and Higgins named them after numbers, beginning with 1st Street on the west and running up the hill to 7th Street. Because San Diego already had numbered streets, these were eventually changed in 1900, as Ms. Kruse reccounts. 1st Avenue was changed to Abbott Street, 2nd to Bacon, 3rd to Cable, 4th to DeFoe — which in turn, of course, was changed to Sunset Cliffs Boulevard in 1927–, 5th to Ebers, 6th to Frounde, and 7th to Guizot.

The new names for the north-south streets were taken from literature, as had already been established on the bay side of Point Loma, as in Voltaire Street for the great French writer de Voltaire, pen name of Francois-Marie Arouet (1694-1778). Ms. Kruse assembled the following:

Abbott Street – probably from Jacob Abbott (1803-1879), most noted for the “Rollo” stories and other books for children, or from John Stevens Cabot Abbott (1805-1877), a biographer and historian.

Bacon Street - probably from Sir Francis Bacon (1561-1626), most famous for his essays, or from Roger Bacon (1214?1294), a noted philosopher.

Cable Street – probably from George Washington Cable (1844-1925), noted for his use of “local color” in books he based on Creole history.

Now, here we must differ with Ms. Kruse. Cable Street was named after the cable car line that ran down it for decades. [Editor: NEW:]  Cable Street may also have been named for the cables that ran down it – telephone, electrical cables – back in the early years of the 1900s.

The old cable car or trolley ran down Bacon Street, it turned off of Santa Cruz onto Bacon. You can still see where the cable cars used to run in the concrete and asphalt down the middle of the streets that carried them. The cable line actually went over a bridge over the mouth of the River and entryway into Mission Bay – before the waterways were dredged and developed. She continued:

DeFoe Street - probably from Daniel Defoe (1660?-1731), author of Robinson Crusoe, noted for his satire and his pioneering efforts in journalism and picaresque fiction.The Board of Delegates chose to establish it as being spelled with a capital F. (Defoe himself was not consistent.) However, the point became academic when DeFoe Street was changed in 1927 to Sunset Cliffs Boulevards.

Ebers Street - probably from Georg Moritz Ebers (1837-1898), a German novelist and Egyptologist.

Froude Street – probably from James Anthony Froude (1818-1894), a historian and essayist, noted more for his style than his accuracy.

Guizot Street - probably from Francois Pierre Guillaume Guizot (1787-1874), French historian and statesman.

Bong Ranch AvenueUnderstanding the history of where street names came from is part of understanding who gets to name them. If it to was up to me, I’d re-name Long Branch Avenue.

{ 24 comments… read them below or add one }

avatar OB Joe January 19, 2008 at 12:00 pm

Richard Louv quote (he no longer works for the U-T):
Author Richard Louv, a Union-Tribune columnist and former resident of Ocean Beach during the rock-and-roll ’70s, maintains it is no accident that O.B. has such a strong sense of community. Its physical design, based on a pattern of residential streets surrounding the business core and set on a human-oriented scale, is what make Ocean Beach so interesting and fosters character, Louv thinks.

“O.B. is laid out just right, with an old-fashioned main street and a grid pattern, in a way that encourages people to get to know each other. It’s exactly what we ought to be doing in the suburbs but haven’t,” says Louv. “There’s an actual physical component to forming a close-knit community. People don’t realize that. A place like Pacific Beach was built for cars. But Ocean Beach was built for pedestrians.”
– San Diego Magazine, Aug. 1997, “Ocean Beach: Lifestyle Frozen in Tine.”

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avatar Marc April 21, 2008 at 10:56 am

The design difference is the one thing that keeps OB from turning into a total PB-clone. Just compare the major intersections near the beaches – Newport & Bacon vs. Grand & Mission Blvd.

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avatar Night Monkey April 21, 2008 at 11:19 am

You missed a few:

LOTUS ST – After the flower sacred to the Indians and Chinese

MUIR AVE – Named after John Muir (1838 – 1914), preservationist and activist responsible for helping to save Yosemite Valley and other natural areas, and a big time pot smoker.

BONG RANCH AVE – From bong: a glass water pipe used for smoking, and ranch; an area used for farming or raising livestock. The avenue was renamed for it’s inhabitants who have so many bongs that the street is akin to a ranch of bongs. (It was renamed from Long Branch – referring to the long branches of the marijuana plant, not Long Branch NJ as previously suggested.)

When you hear the word ranch you picture a herd of cattle… imagine each one of those cows was a bong – thats what Bong Ranch would look like if it’s residents walked out of their houses at 4:20 on any given day.

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avatar Bong Street May 14, 2008 at 7:51 am

Is Bong Street clothing on Bong Ranch?

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avatar Frank Gormlie May 14, 2008 at 9:49 am

Bong Ranch is a funny name given to Long Branch Avenue by locals. Not sure what it means, but there is no Bong Street clothing on Long Branch.

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avatar Larry O'Brien May 22, 2008 at 3:09 pm

Some folks say that Lotus Street was also named for a seaside resort…one made famous by a travel writer named Odysseus. Our Lotus Street is not a thoroughfare. It’s broken up in a few sections. Once upon a time Lotus Street was the only way to reach Chamberlain Court. It was a tiny dead-end street that headed north from the 5000 of Lotus Street. My buddy Dan Moriarty lived on Chamberlain Court in the mid sixties. It was a quiet little dead end street where the cottages were outnumbered by the torrey pines. People not only knew eachother, they also cared about eachother. Sadly the quiet little court, the people and trees were replaced with a large apartment development in about 1971. An apartment that openly discriminated against renters with children.

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avatar frank gormlie May 22, 2008 at 3:17 pm

Larry – thanks so much for your comment – I did not know that, or if I did at one time, I totally forgot about it. I do recall a developer taking down tall pine trees visible from ‘voltaire back in say 73, 74, and a bunch of us gathered at the site to protest and observe. We had a group called the OB Tree – where someone at the top of the “tree” would make an emergency phone call to, say, 2 others, and then they would “branch” out and make more calls. Soon, everyone on the tree would have been called. Trees are precious living companions on the spaceship earth, they don’t get much respect, and we need to protect them as we have a symbiotic relationship.

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avatar Day Monkey June 3, 2008 at 2:00 pm

CHAMBERLAIN COURT – Named after Neville Chamberlain – former Prime Minister and Chancellor of the Exchequer in Britain. Known for his “appeasement policy” in dealing with Adolf Hitler before WW2. Chamberlain wanted peace and sent a bunch of herb to Germany to try and chill them out. What he didn’t know was that Hitler was a tweaker and he didn’t distribute it. Plus I think Chamberlain smoked dirt weed so he probably sent schwag… but anyway the point is it didn’t work and there was war.

The British people didn’t think a pothead could take on a tweaker so they elected a drunk. Churchill came in and fought Hitler until he got totally spun and shot himself. The question history asks is; could a pothead have beaten the tweaker without the drunk’s help? It’s like Newport Ave on Saturday at 2AM except on a larger scale.

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avatar watchdog June 4, 2008 at 11:00 pm

I see a community being slowly gentrified. On every block there is a new condo or large-scaled house, and slowly over time, all the older cottages and buildings will be replaced.
I’m watching them.
For you.

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avatar angel rhonda o'hern thompson December 5, 2008 at 5:28 pm

i remember when i first moved to Minnesota from Ocean Beach i was so homesick! i looked up a San Diego travel book at the local library and was stunned to see them describe OB as “a degenerate area, to be avoided”
it was then that i knew that someday i would go home again. I wish Id kept that book.

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avatar Pat July 6, 2009 at 7:38 pm

Frank

Thanks for posting the cool OB history stuff on the blog.
I’ve read the article before.
The journal of San Diego History is a great resource for learning about SD History, published on SD Historical societies website.
Rhoda who wrote the article sometimes attends OB Historical Societies
meetings.
She was for a time a librarian at OB library.
I’am pretty sure the only trolly that ran through OB was down bacon st not
cable.You can clearly see where it turned up Santa Cruz.
I have seen pictures of Bacon St. when the trolley should have been there but had a hard time distinguishing the tracks in old photos.
Although I believe it’s spelt out fairly clearly in Beach Town Early Days In Ocean Beach by Ruth Varney Held (currently out of print) but available at the OB Library.
This is a must read for any one interested the community of Ocean Beach.

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avatar Frank Gormlie July 6, 2009 at 9:11 pm

Pat – okay, I’ll have to call in the blog research team to get to the bottom of this!

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avatar kathy myking September 19, 2010 at 4:40 am

ruth varney held was my moms english teacher at point loma high in the 40’s. we have 5 generations in ocean beach, its sad to see it fade away…the trolly ran bacon and santa cruz where just after catalina it turned around you can still see markings there. I can remember always trying to figure the reason why it didn’t run cable. go figure.. i know there was a slaughter house at the end of newport, maybe there was a smell of bacon being cured or something! i grew up in the 60’s, what a place and time to grow up!

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avatar Pat July 7, 2009 at 7:54 am

Frank

It will be interesting to see what you find out.
I was told that Poma’s was a trolley stop but so far I haven’t found any pictures.
Ned Titlow one of OB Historical Society’s board members is a great source for information. He’s always willing to help answer questions.
He started at OB Elementary in 1929.

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avatar Frank Gormlie July 7, 2009 at 8:37 am

Pat – one of our bloggers Wireless Mike is working on a post right now about the trolley’s ancient route. I am about to be proved wrong on this issue, but I have to go down to Cable Street and see if I can find the old tracks with my own eyes.

Of course I know Ned from the Seventies. He helped start the OB Town Council. Several friends had crushes on his pinko daughter.

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avatar Frank Gormlie July 7, 2009 at 8:20 pm

I have to report that Pat James is correct, that the old cable car or trolley did run down Santa Cruz and then turned on Bacon Street – not Cable Street as I had thought – . Impressions in the asphalt and concrete can be seen where the cable car tracks once laid. I have made a correction to the original post. Thanks Pat for catching me on this.

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avatar Mark Robertson March 15, 2014 at 4:08 pm

Here’s a dropbox link to a map of the streetcar line from 1925. It used to go uphill past our place on Santa Cruz and then took a curving right turn south onto Froude St then curved left onto Orchard and over to Catalina. Santa Cruz between Sunset Cliffs and Ebers had a more gradual grade then and the walkway was above the tracks on the low end of the block.

https://www.dropbox.com/s/js0acwrb4yjuvrc/Streetcar%20line%20Map_1925.JPG

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avatar Mark Robertson March 15, 2014 at 10:16 pm

Excuse me, left my brain in my other body…

Going east up Santa Cruz the trolley turned right (south) on Guizot, not Froude – then down to Orchard and left to continue east – though some older people said it curved through what is now the residential block there.

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avatar Sunshine July 15, 2009 at 9:00 am

So, what’s up with the mystery of the unknown origin of Long Branch? That street does seem to possess some sort of portal or unusual vibration. Anyone else notice it?

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avatar Frank Gormlie July 16, 2009 at 7:53 am

Long Branch definitely has a special feel to it – the lower block was the site of numerous youth vs cop skirmishes in the late sixties, apartments in construction were burnt down, certain blocks have many trees, certain blocks have great views. As you said it has an “unusual vibration.”

Sunshine,as most of the other streets were named after resorts, this does apply: “…Long Branch Avenue, which probably was named after Long Branch, New Jersey, which has been an Atlantic seacoast resort since the 1770s, and was once known as the “Hollywood of the East””

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avatar Lynda Barow May 11, 2010 at 11:03 am

Were there any dance studios in Ocean Beach in the time period from 1916-1920? My mother lived on Guizot St. from age 12 to 15. She was an accomplished dancer by the time she was 16 and I am trying to determine where she might have taken lessons. I am currently writing an account of her life and would appreciate anything that might shed light on this. Thanks. Lynda

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avatar John Hayes January 6, 2011 at 5:11 pm

It also appears Narragansett Ave may have been Arlington Ave. as this is what is stamped in the curb at the corner of Narragansett Ave and La Cresta

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avatar Mark October 24, 2011 at 11:50 pm

Warrington Street becomes La Cresta Drive when it crosses Narragansett Avenue…I’m guessing the “W” is no longer visible, and the “r” might look like an ‘l”–making it look like “Arlington”. I’ll follow up the next time I go up the hill…

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avatar Fish March 10, 2012 at 8:38 pm

It is stamped “Arlington” on the sidewalk that parrallels Narragansett on all four corners. Most readable on the North West corner. No damage or missing letters.

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