Archive for June, 2011
When the Brooklyn bridge was built it was pronounced the “eighth wonder of the world,” and now California has another “wonder” to add to the list. This “wonder” is the biggest dam in America, and so far as I have been able to learn from mining and civil engineers, it is the largest in the world. –Harper’s Weekly, January 8, 1898.
The wonder dam that quickly became a dam fiasco: Building Morena Dam.
Shivering like a nudist in a rumble seat and leaving a trail of bayfront water behind him, C. Leon De Aryan, editor of The Broom, appeared at the police station today charging that five longshoremen had thrown him into the bay off the Municipal pier. –San Diego Sun, Nov. 24, 1936
Public hostility rarely bothered C. Leon de Aryan. The owner and publisher of the San Diego newspaper called The Broom craved attention of any kind and often received it from his provocative editorials denouncing organized labor, international bankers, Communists, Jews, and President Franklin D. Roosevelt.
The story of a racist newspaper publisher, San Diego’s Crack Pot.
Otay commenced yesterday the work of making time . . . machinery and tools for the Otay Watch Factory were completed on Wednesday, and yesterday the wheels went round, the operators were in place, and watch making began in earnest, it is hoped for many years to come. —San Diego Union, February 7, 1890.
Watch making is seldom regarded as an “American” industry but more than a century ago U.S. innovation in manufacturing was producing quality pocket watches that competed well against the handmade products of the English and Swiss. In towns like Elgin and Rockford, Illinois, watch making became a profitable industry. In the 1880s, investors from the Midwest and San Diego decided to bring the “Elgin experience” to the new town of Otay, where they hoped a successful watch making plant would engineer growth in the South Bay community.
The story of the Otay Watch Company.
We are daily growing more and more in need of street lights. We should like very much to see San Diego lighted by electricity, and we believe that the public are quite willing to pay any reasonable expense of that system. But, light of some kind we must have, and very soon . . . –San Diego Union, July 1, 1885.
The solution, San Diegans decided, was the “Arc Lamp,” clusters of arcing electricity in lamps arranged atop 125-foot steel towers that cast a “twilight glow” over downtown streets.
The story of Lighting the City.
It was plain that they were in fact buying comfort, immunity from snow and slush, from piercing winds and sleet-clad streets, from sultry days and sleepless nights, from thunderstorms, cyclones, malaria, mosquitoes and bedbugs. All of which, in plain language, means that they were buying climate . . . Theodore Van Dyke, in Millionaires of a Day (1890).
“Bay’n climate,” some people called it. The irresistible twin lure of a beautiful harbor and an equitable climate drew tens of thousands to San Diego between 1885 and 1887—a period of furious growth called the “boom of the eighties.” Within an eighteen month period, San Diego’s population exploded from about 5,000 to an estimated 40,000 people.
The story of The Great Boom of the Eighties.
Mr. Kitterman has taken the precaution to construct a sewer from his restaurant to the bay. Patrons of the establishment declare that it is one of the nicest places in town since the completion of the improvement, and say that the immunity from flies is remarkable. –San Diego Union, Sept. 1, 1872.
With no municipal oversight, privately built sewers, privies, and cesspools multiplied in San Diego of the 1870s—some emptying their odiferous loads on the beaches of San Diego Bay, others simply spilling into city streets. In the mid-1880s, the City Board of Trustees decided it was time for a needed civic improvement.
The story of Sewering the City.
There was a time in America when the standard for personal cleanliness was a weekly bath. The “great unwashed” often found that Saturday night soak in commercial bathhouses. During San Diego’s population “boom of the eighties,” nearly a dozen bathhouses dotted the city’s waterfront. A decade later the baths had become elaborate plunges and included an architectural wonder: Los Banos at Broadway and Kettner Blvd.
The story of the San Diego Baths.
Believe it or not, there was a time when the San Diego Public Library was open twelve hours a day, Monday through Saturday, plus Sunday afternoon. The librarians took only three holidays: Thankgiving Day, Christmas, and July 4th. One of my favorite library photographs is shown here below. Those were the days . . .