April 2011 home page

  Olde Del Mar Revisited – Part II 
Larry Brooks, Past President of Del Mar Historical Society (plagiarized from Nancy Hanks Ewing’s Del Mar Looking Back )


Del Mar Hotel opening 1909. Courtesy DMVA History Committee


Last month the story of the beginnings of old Del Mar left you with a flourishing village, a 30-room resort hotel, Casa Del Mar at the foot of 10th Street, a saltwater natatorium, a dance pavilion, a train station, and many small homes, including one at 144 10th Street and sold to Don Diego Alvarado. The August 25, 1886, San Diego Union wrote, “Few San Diegans know what a lively and thriving place is Del Mar, the first station of importance north of us on the railroad. Like all Southern California towns it is growing rapidly and now claims between 200 and 300 inhabitants. The owners of the land will not sell to speculators, but require that all who buy build a neat cottage or make improvements which will aid the town [the original Del Mar way?]. No liquor is sold except at hotels and then only to persons eating meals. The village is very pretty…..”

This pacific scene was to last but a few short years. At 3:00 a.m. on January 18, 1890, Casa Del Mar burned to the ground. Fortunately all of the hotel residents, including Jacob Taylor, scrambled to safety. The $50,000 loss was covered by insurance, and Taylor said he would rebuild. After rebuilding the foundations, for some unknown reason he decided to pack up and return to his native Texas. The loss of the hotel’s tourism, coupled with torrential winter rains, contributed to the rapid demise of Olde Del Mar. Residents began dismantling their homes. Taking all useable lumber, doors and windows, they moved inland to farmland. Within a few years, Taylor’s manicured streets were deeply rutted by the rains and overgrown with weeds, and the population plummeted.

Village revitalization would come in the form of developers from Los Angeles. In 1906, the South Coast Land Company bought the land north of 9th Street to the San Dieguito River (they also purchased the land from Solana Beach to Oceanside). The company had several purposes, one of which was the extension of Huntington’s Red Car system from Santa Ana to San Diego. The company hired Ed Fletcher to develop the Del Mar area. The area was mapped with its center being the intersection of 15th Street and Grand Avenue (now Camino del Mar). A three-story hotel, The Stratford Inn, was built on the northwest corner, with a saltwater plunge, a power house and a garage for the new popular automobile. The present train station was built, and the tracks were moved from Railroad Avenue to their present location on the bluffs.

Don Diego Alvarado’s house at 144 10th Street somehow survived all this turmoil. Over the next 100 years it had many owners, including Bill Arballo, longtime Del Mar resident and mayor. In 1985 the new owners wanted to demolish the house and build a larger one. After some discussion those owners deeded the house to the Del Mar Historical Society and paid to have it moved to the City Hall parking lot. There it sat for several years awaiting a new site. Finally the 22nd Ag District agreed to having it placed in the garden section of the fairgrounds on the condition that it be open to fair goers. Every summer volunteer docents sit in Alvarado House for the three weeks of the Fair. In addition to telling the history of Alvarado House, they hear many a tale from fair visitors who remember old Del Mar.

The Del Mar Historical Society recently became the History Committee of the Del Mar Village Association, but still holds title to Alvarado House with the on-going plans to BRING OUR HOUSE HOME. Del Mar is the only city in San Diego County without a home for its historical artifacts. Several potential sites have been investigated, and the quest continues today.


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