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San Diego, California

An Intimate History of a San Diego beach town, La Jolla

In 1886, Frank T. Botsford came to La Jolla and declared it "magnificent". Two months later he bought the over 400 acres of pueblo lands already known as "La Jolla Park". No one knows where the name originated - whether it means "the jewel" from the Spanish word La Joya or from "Woholle" the Indian term for "hole in the mountains". See the Catalina History page on this site or watch the San Diego episode of the series to learn why most of California's cities were founded in 1886. Botsford and his partners, George Heald and Charles Dearborn, subdivided and auctioned $62,000 worth of lots planned for homes on April 30, 1887.

California is well known for its land booms and busts, but La Jolla continued to grow from 350 residents in 1900 to over 30,000 today. From 1900 to 1920, tourism became the economic base of La Jolla. With the end of World War I, La Jolla was caught up in the heady 20's and the population grew to 4000. During this era, the beach cottage look was replace by the elegant California Spanish style.

In 1927, a Spanish ranch-house style building, designed by Hollywood architect Robert Stacy-Judd, was erected. It was the first building in the United States to utilize the Maya/Aztec form of architecture.

The stock market crash of 1929 brought failure to the La Jolla Shores development and only a few houses were seen there until after World War II. In 1943, some 7700 people called La Jolla home, but many service people had seen the "village" and came back to live. Large subdivisions developed on the mountain slopes and the old horse trails were covered over. By 1960, there were over 17,000 people living here ... and growing.

The University of California, San Diego came in the mid-sixties adjoining Scripps Institution of Oceanography, which as a part of the University system, was begun here in 1905. In the 1980's, larger business buildings replaced the 1920's era style and the home-owned businesses became fewer. Scripps Memorial Hospital, begun here in 1916 as the La Jolla Sanitarium, left its central location in 1963 moving to the outskirts of La Jolla. In 1976, the sister Scripps Clinic also moved away to the Torrey Pines Mesa. Scripps Clinic along with high tech General Atomics triggered high tech business development on Torrey Pines Mesa.

La Jolla has changed from a sleepy little village 20 years and more ago to a cultural and business center. With designer homes of international renown and people who love living here. Ocean waves still crash up on the beach and Mount Soledad stills gives a sense of isolation. Only a few high rises silhouette the coastline. The continuous building has slowed and it seems that La Jolla has reached equilibrium for now. It is still one of the most beautiful places in the world and if you walk along the shore or down a quiet residential street, you can still feel that sense of eternity.

On a very personal note; I was born in the new Scripps Memorial Hospital, while my older brother, aunts, and uncles were born in the old hospital. I volunteered at the old Scripps Aquarium at the Institution of Oceanography as a teenager. I took care of tanks and helped in active research, and I was even awarded a grant by the Southern California Academy of Sciences to do aqua-culture research on shrimp as a 17 year old. I attended the University of California in San Diego (UCSD), where I graduated with a B.S. in Mechanical Engineering and a minor in Fine Arts. I worked for over half a decade designing second generation nuclear reactors and other cutting edge energy solutions at General Atomics. I still swim regularly in La Jolla Cove and use Mount Soledad as training for bike trips into the Sierras and the Rockies.

I would like to thank Patricia Schaelchlin, President of the La Jolla Historical Society, for her generous input to this history.

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