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.