Early San Diego Transportation in and around Hillcrest
One of Uptown’s great architectural monuments once sat between Normal and Washington streets at Park Boulevard (B on 1955 aerial photo below). San Diego State Normal School, the birthplace of SDSU, was a fine expression of Beaux Arts classicism. While the old school has been demolished to make room for a parking lot, the teacher training building and several other auxiliary buildings remain.
Tree-lined Fifth Avenue at Brookes Street is home to an architectural masterpiece designed by architect Lloyd Ruocco. Born in Maine in 1907, Ruocco moved to San Diego in the early 1920s. A graduate of the University of California at Berkeley, Ruocco is widely credited with pioneering the post-war modern architectural movement in San Diego.
Just one block west of Spruce Street’s swinging bridge is a grand home designed by Frank Mead and Richard Requa (famed local architects) and once treasured by the A. H. Sweet family. Elaine Sweet, daughter of Adelbert “Del” and Amy Sweet bequeathed her 1914 family home (at 435 W. Spruce) to the San Diego Historical Society in 1985. Ms. Sweet, whose father had been a San Diego County District Attorney, placed several stipulations on its use. The estate would also provide a quarter million dollar endowment fund for future house maintenance.
An obscure Hillcrest structure has gained historic integrity after it was recently discovered to be an early work of Irving Gill. Because of the sign that lingers many think of 3680 Sixth Avenue as the burned out Cafe W, although old-timers may recall other eateries, antique stores and religious meeting rooms. But with history dating back to the turn of the century, this may be the oldest surviving commercial building in the area.
The Brass Rail has gone through many changes throughout the years since patrons had to “put all hands on top of the bar” when vice police would come through with flashlights looking for hanky panky. The bar was originally located downtown at the corner of Sixth and B in the Orpheum Theatre building. It was a restaurant for many years, with a window that looked into part of the kitchen. Old timers will tell you about watching meats roasting on the rotisserie as they lined up for a movie.
The Hillcrest sign was first erected in 1940 as a gift to the community from an active association of female shopkeepers wanting to promote the neighborhood business area.
- 240 feet of pink neon tubing
- Weight: 800 pounds
- Length: 21 feet
- Height: 3.5 feet
Tung Ling Wong, better known as “Jimmy” and his wife Annie Up Wong, immigrated to the United Sates in the late 1940s and created a new life for themselves on University Avenue near Fourth.
Soon after their immigration Jimmy gained employment as a waiter at the Chinese Village restaurant in downtown San Diego. Within a few years, the Wong’s invested their savings of $3,000 in a Hillcrest restaurant. It was the right move for the Wongs.
Editor’s Note: Mrs. Henrich, burned twice by society marriages, departs the world in melodramatic fashion, leaving her estate to a local contractor. Was it love? What “work” did she want carried on? At which “fashionable,” “brilliantly lighted,” “palatial” Park Boulevard apartment house did she reside? Do you know? The home of banker H.E. Anthony still survives in the 3300 block of Front Street.
Editor’s Note: An early civil suit in San Diego courts affirmed the rights of the transgendered. Sarah McLean, who openly admitted to wearing men’s clothes, sued Martha McKenzie, her former employer, for slander. While the press was too polite to print details of the slander, it appears from the reported testimony that Ms. McLean’s gender and sexuality were challenged and/or derided. Surprisingly, Miss McLean won vindication in the 1897 court, but she apparently never obtained any of the awarded money.