|San Diego's Mission Beach just after the boardwalk was built in 1915|
MISSION BEACH—Enterprising California land developers were quick to piggy-back (and hopefully piggy bank) on the San Diego’s big investment in the 1915 Panama-Pacific Exposition by offering subdivided 20-by-50-foot lots along Mission Beach.
Earlier, megabuck investors like J.M. Asher, Jr., and John D. Spreckels envisioned transforming the raw dunes, south of La Jolla, into a new resort area similar to the area around the famed Hotel Del Coronado prior to 1900. But first they had to get tourists/buyers to the then not-so-famous 2.5-mile-long strand now called Mission Beach.
By 1915, the Bayshore Railway Co. had a bridge built connecting Ocean Beach and Mission Beach. The bridge, with its two-laned road and trolley tracks, brought people to Mission Beach to check the property, to drive their autos and motorcycles on the beach and to stroll along the newly completed wooden boardwalk (pictured just after completion in 1915). As a result, Mission Beach after 1915 was the easiest beach area to reach via mass transit.
Developers called the newly created streets “places” for California Missions (such as San Luis Rey Place and Santa Rita Place) while the pedestrian only “courts” were named alphabetically for famous resort areas (from Aspin Court to Zanzibar Court). Because the majority of the 13 wider “places” were named for missions, Mission Beach stuck as a name for the area.
Driving legally on the sand ended by World War I. In the 60’s more skimpy clad beachgoers replaced the men and women of the early 20th century who lolled on the beach fully dressed in straw hats and suits. If you think that was conservative, nowadays, it has become tough to pop a cool beer on the beach without being cited by the gendarmes.
And, if you’re wondering what happened to the cool bridge joining the People’s Republic of Ocean Beach with Mission Beach, in 1951 it was demolished by “progress”—although being termite ridden and unable to accommodate yachts sailing under it probably also had something to do with the bridge’s demise.
The text and image first appeared in San Diego Home/Garden Lifestyles magazine.
Writer: Tom Shess
Image: Courtesy of San Diego Home/Garden Lifestyles via the San Diego History Center.