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Joyce Beers

Joyce Beers

Her name appears on our community center in the Uptown District, but who was Joyce Beers? She was an active and community-minded woman who was instrumental in shaping the early organizational elements of the Hillcrest. And she was a proponent of many projects that changed the face of our neighborhood.

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Kate the Great

One of her favorite sayings: “A 50¢ tree should be planted in a $5 hole.”

Katherine Olivia Sessions (1857-1940) was known to many as “Kate.” During her long career in San Diego (which began as a teacher) she became a world-recognized horticulturist, florist, nurserywomen and landscape designer, Kate imported, introduced, propagated and popularized hundreds of trees, palms, vines, shrubs and succulents. These include many of our most beloved plants: poinsettia, bird of paradise, Italian cypress, twisted juniper, queen palm, yellow oleander, Carolina yellow jasmine, banyan, New Zealand Christmas tree, Aleppo pine, Brazilian pepper tree, blue cypress, bougainvillea and star jasmine.

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The Father of Hillcrest

Amid a scattering of homes and handful of businesses to the east, our community started being called “Hillcrest” in 1907 thanks to a 40-year-old entrepreneur. Real estate speculators had identified the scrubland for future urbanization and laid out subdivisions as early as the 1870s, but most of the vicinity still remained a jackrabbit hunting ground when the Sisters of Mercy built a sanitarium on the north side of University at Seventh in 1891.

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Gwladys and her Group

The 1920 census shows Hillcrest resident and doctor Gwladys Morgan, 39, living at 3768 Eighth Street (now called avenue) with her older sister Mabel Elliott, also a physician, Mabel’s teenage son David and the girls’ younger sister Janette. Their large home still stands near the Robinson Street onramp to Highway 163 south. Gwladys was also a poet who in her spare time created children’s literature about Wales. Two years later she led one of San Diego’s most prestigious organizations gaining national “who’s who” status for the group and their officers.

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San Diego’s First Female Architect

Hazel Wood Waterman (1865-1948) may never have received a license to hang on the wall, but she gets credit for several neighborhood landmarks including the Wednesday Club (Ivy Lane at Sixth). Hazel Wood met Waldo Sprague Waterman (1860-1903) at Berkeley while he was earning a degree in mining. His father Robert was the owner of the Stonewall Mine and wanted W.S. to run it. (Papa moved on to be California governor.)
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Mother Mary Michael Cummings

It was a long road from St. Louis to this frontier town, but founding a hospital in San Diego became a mission for this woman of God who first received a white veil and holy habit from the Order of Mercy in 1871. At the call of Denver’s Bishop J.P. Machesion in 1882, Sister M. Michael left Missouri to build schools and hospitals for local mining towns near Durango. After seven years, Bishop Francis Mora of Monterey summoned her to California and confirmed her appointment as Mother Superior. At the request of Father Ubach she and Sister M. Alphonsus came to San Diego in 1889 and founded St. Joseph’s Dispensary the following year.

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A Hillcrest Craftsman Since 1953

At the age of 74 Hillcrest’s oldest businessman has a contagious smile, nine grandchildren and a remarkable set of bushy eyebrows…yet after 54 years he still repairs luggage in the back of his store. Amazingly, the namesake for John’s Fifth Avenue Luggage also finds time to garden and play the links at Singing Hills Golf Course. John Balistreri is a Hillcrest icon with a strong work ethic and a loyalty to customers and employees that has contributed to his great success.

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Bridging Communities — Aida Mancillas

I began working as an artist in the late 1980’s having received my education in the visual arts at Humboldt State University (BA, 1985) and UC San Diego (MFA, 1988) In 1991 I received an individual artist fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts for my “works on paper” which constituted one of a kind artists’ books and paintings done on paper. This fellowship allowed me the opportunity to work for a year on my own work, developing themes and a working process that I have carried through today. This process involves layering and mixed media.

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