- Journal of SD History
Chapter Nine: San Francisco Shows How Politics Should Be Played
Though construction work on the Panama Canal was being delayed by cave-ins and dirt slides, and by the long effort of draining swamps and eradicating disease, two rival cities rushed ahead with their plans to celebrate its completion and to capture the anticipated trade.
San Diego was rallying support for its exposition from other Southern California counties and in Washington the House of Representatives passed the resolution asking President Taft to invite the participation of Latin American countries. It was a moment of triumph for D.C. Collier, the exposition's temporary president, who had remained in Washington to lobby for its passage.
As had been agreed upon, President Taft issued the invitation to all countries of the world to participate in the San Francisco fair, while the resolution for participation in San Diego's exposition moved to the Senate on its own way to the White House. A local attorney, Sam F. Smith, returned from Washington and reported on Collier's successes.
In a newspaper interview he told San Diegans:
Collier is a power in Washington and those who knock him and sneer at him in San Diego should be ashamed of themselves. Official Washington is especially interested in the reclamation of arid lands and irrigation, and accordingly takes much interest in this feature of the San Diego fair.
The very next day came word that a United States Senate committee had ruled unfavorably on the resolution. As San Francisco was to hold a fair in the same year to which the nations of the world already had been invited to participate, the committee felt that an invitation to another exposition would be inadvisable. Collier was stunned. The blame was placed with San Francisco and politics. It was charged that President Taft had been induced to discourage Senate approval by the promise of San Francisco to deliver to him the support of California in the struggle between the Old Guard and the Bull Moose Party movement with which Theodore Roosevelt was seeking to break the Republican Party and return himself to the White House. In a telegram to THE SAN DIEGO UNION Collier stated:
The war is on. San Diego accepts the challenge of San Francisco ... for many months I have seen that the limitations of the agreement with San Francisco, which we considered binding on us, seriously jeopardized the success of our exposition. The shackles are now stricken off and our hands are free; and we will build an exposition of which the whole United States will be proud.
In San Diego, Joseph W. Sefton, the acting director-general, spoke for the exposition's officers and directors:
San Francisco has shown by her latest action what she has proven by practically all of her past acts--the right to the proud title of Judas Iscariot...It was San Diego which first started the exposition idea; it was San Diego who first advertised California as the exposition state; it was San Diego, who realizing that she was not large enough to build the greatest world's fair this country has ever seen, for the honor of the State of California, gave precedence to San Francisco. And for this we get a knife in the back.
There was no intention of surrendering so easily and California Sen. John D. Works, who once had been a resident of San Diego, promised to carry on the fight for official recognition. The word "international" was returned to exposition advertising and the capitalization was increased from $2,000,000 to $3,000,000 as the result of an over-subscription of stock.
Stimulation of the economy was apparent on every hand. In the harbor, in preparation for the line of commercial ships expected to soon rise above the horizon, dredges were pumping silt from the bay bottom and depositing it behind a long bulkhead, from D Street, or Broadway, to Date Street, and two blocks wide, to create sixty acres of new land west of the railroad depot. The new pier over which there had been such controversy was being readied to handle the cargoes of the world. It was obvious, however, that it could not be finished before the opening of the exposition. The Marston Company opened a new store in April at Fifth and C Streets. Street car lines were being extended and the Consolidated Gas & Electric Company was spending a million dollars to meet demands for its services. Though Spreckels privately was in desperate need of money, he went ahead with two new six-story structures on Broadway, the Hotel San Diego and the Spreckels Building with a theater with ornate boxes and two balconies.
The Southern Pacific Railroad brought suit against John D. and A. B. Spreckels to compel them to purchase all of its interest in the San Diego & Arizona Railway and to recover $2,800,000 it had expended on construction. The suit confirmed what financiers knew and most of the public had suspected. The San Diego & Arizona was a creature of the Southern Pacific and there had been no intention on its part, regardless of the hopes of Spreckels, of extending its line beyond El Centro to the Colorado River and thus competing with its own main line into Los Angeles. The Southern Pacific previously had withdrawn all support for the proposed electric railway from Los Angeles to San Diego and to the coastal subdivisions which Fletcher had laid out for the Huntington interests.
Spreckels proposed to sell to the city for $2,500,000 more of the water system that he had been building for years, the Barrett intake dam and reservoir site, the Dulzura conduit, the Otay lakes and the Chollas reservoir system, and to lease the Morena reservoir with an option for purchase any time within ten years. Clayton, Spreckels' representative, wrote in an article in THE SAN DIEGO UNION:
...there are several people in San Diego, some who own considerable property, who came here with the knowledge and understanding that Mr. Spreckels was building the Arizona road, and now that the road has been dragging along for several years, they find in reality that the Southern Pacific was building it, and have very little confidence in its completion, and are consequently inclined to be peeved...No matter what may happen, long after he has paid the debt of Nature, there will be people in San Diego who will have a very kindly feeling toward the memory of the man who did so much towards its upbuilding.
In August of 1912 the voters approved bonds for the purchase of the water facilities which it was said would provide the city with a municipally-owned system from "mountain to meter."
The opening of the Spreckels Theater on August 23, under the management of J.M. Dodge and H.C. Hayward, was a social and cultural event unmatched since the boom days of the 1880's. That evening street curbs were lined for blocks with autos and carriages, as gaily gowned parties arrived to enter a foyer which news reports described as "luxuriously fitted with rare Persian rugs and hangings, palms, ferns and the stately Egyptian lotus," and took their seats in a theater of "a gleaming harmony in old ivory and gold." After the Star Spangled Banner had been rendered, the audience began a spontaneous ovation for John D. Spreckels and he reluctantly left his box to make his way to the stage. The audience arose in greeting and he was presented with a large basket of red roses. He expressed his appreciation in only a few words. It was not a night to recall all that had been said against him. In building the theater he said he had endeavored to give San Diego something which would be a testimonial of the high esteem in which he held the city and its people. The citizens of San Diego had so often expressed confidence in him and appreciation of his enterprises that he wished to reciprocate and had been able to think of no better way to do so than to build the playhouse.
Though Los Angeles had been joined by San Francisco in seeking to thwart the ambitions of San Diego, the town had no intention of being isolated from the main current of the times. It decided to put itself back on the national highway map by proving that the Yuma-San Diego route was the most practical way to reach the Pacific Coast from Phoenix. Transcontinental highways as well as railroad terminals were vital for a port with ambitions to become a center of Pacific Ocean trade. A committee composed of Ed Fletcher, F.B. Naylor and Fred W. Jackson raised $3000 as prize money and challenged Los Angeles to a race. The autos from Los Angeles would go by the way of San Bernardino, Indio and the Salton Sea; the cars from San Diego by way of Mountain Springs and El Centro. Phoenix citizens also contributed $1000.
For reasons not at first very clear, sanction for the race was slow in coming from the American Automobile Association, so in the meantime, the LOS ANGELES EXAMINER issued a challenge for a preliminary pathfinder race and it was accepted by the SAN DIEGO EVENING TRIBUNE. Also interested was C.H. Akers, publisher of the PHOENIX GAZETTE, who was carrying on a campaign to have San Diego and Imperial counties annexed to Arizona. The San Diego entry became the TRIBUNE-GAZETTE auto and was driven by Ed Fletcher. The LOS ANGELES EXAMINER driver was given the privilege of selecting any route that he wished, and decided to race for Phoenix by way of the Blythe crossing on the Colorado River, which was eighty miles above the Yuma crossing. It was a longer route. From San Diego to Phoenix by way of El Centro was about 360 miles; from Los Angeles to Phoenix by way of Blythe, about 425 miles.
After negotiating sections of the new road to the desert and crossing the bridges over the wide barrancas cut by the Colorado River flood, Fletcher drove his four-cylinder, air-cooled Franklin through El Centro and toward the distant sand hills which more cautious motorists always avoided. He let some air out of the tires and plunged ahead. He had taken no chances and had stationed six horses in the sand hills, and when his auto bogged down, a horse team pulled it through four and a half miles of sand. At Yuma he crossed the Southern Pacific Railroad bridge at night, kept driving through a cloudburst, forded streams swollen by rain, and finally arrived in Phoenix nineteen and a half hours out of San Diego. The Los Angeles entry was nowhere to be seen. It had broken down in the desert and never reached Phoenix.
When AAA sanction for the race to Phoenix finally had been received, arrangements for the competition were completed. However, when the autos were about ready to start it was learned that a subsequent AAA ruling required that the cars be held up at Yuma for a checkout for the last lap to Phoenix. This meant that the San Diego autos would have to wait at Yuma for the ones from Los Angeles to arrive before continuing the race, and thus it might be difficult to present dramatic proof of the superiority of the more southerly route.
Twenty-two cars started from Fifth Street between D and C Streets, and went by way of Fifth and University, thence east through La Mesa, Descanso, Mountain Springs, Coyote Wells, El Centro and Holtville. Only twelve of the twenty-two finished the race. A San Diego auto, a Stevens-Duryea, driven by D.W. Campbell, an auto dealer, was the first to reach Phoenix, two hours ahead of the first Los Angeles auto. However, though the route from Los Angeles was sixty-five miles longer, in actual running time from the starting city to destination, the Los Angeles auto beat Campbell's time by fourteen minutes.
As usual, San Diegans suspected that the influence of the LOS ANGELES TIMES somehow had been exerted against the community. There was no doubt that San Diego was lacking in political influence and it was time to do something about it. The Republican Party was badly split, in San Diego as elsewhere in California, between the Progressives and the Standpatters, and when Sylvester C. Smith, of Bakersfield, who had represented the Eleventh District in Congress, decided to retire, a Democrat, William Kettner, was asked to make the race. He was a director of the Chamber of Commerce and in the insurance business, and in his younger days had mined gold and driven a horse car.
When a candidate from Riverside defeated Lewis R. Kirby of San Diego for the Republican nomination, GOP leaders swung the support of San Diego behind Kettner and he was elected in November of 1912. He would represent six other counties as well: Imperial, Riverside, Orange, San Bernardino, Inyo and Mono.
There was some measure of satisfaction to the promoters of the exposition when President Taft failed of re-election. Theodore Roosevelt split the Republican Party with his Progressive movement in which Gov. Hiram Johnson of California was his vice presidential candidate. In California, the Progressives who dominated the machinery of the Republican Party entered the same electors on both the Progressive and Republican tickets in the presidential primary and virtually eliminated Taft supporters. San Francisco had not been able to deliver the state to Taft as supposedly promised in return for support for its world's fair, and his name did not even appear on California ballots. The nationwide political divisions resulted in the election of a Democrat, Woodrow Wilson, as president. California gave a majority of several hundred votes to Roosevelt, while San Diego County's majority for Wilson was about 1600.
One of Kettner's first acts was to obtain full Congressional recognition of San Diego and United States participation in the Panama-California Exposition. It was too late, however, to expect any general participation from Latin America. Only Brazil had shown any real interest. The Panama Canal promised no blessings for the west coast of South America. Its opening would cut the ties of Chile and Peru with California that had existed since the days of the greatness of Spain. Their ports had been important points on the long route from Spain and around Cape Horn to San Diego and Monterey, and they had benefited for a century from the growth of American shipping.
Even the weather seemed to conspire against the town and on January 6 and 7, 1913, a severe freeze damaged citrus crops. The temperature fell to 25 degrees and was lower than 32 degrees for twelve hours. The water in Wilde's fountain in the Plaza froze over and San Diegans came from long distances to see it.
In the following Spring of 1913 hopes rose with the weather and the new Mountain Springs road was dedicated in a ceremony that attracted 800 excursionists. In commending San Diegans for private contributions for work within Imperial County, J.J. Carr, chairman of its Board of Supervisors, said:
Imperial County is growing by leaps and bounds. This stretch of road is just what it needs. I fail to find words to express the gratification of Imperial Valley residents. Products of the valley will be hauled to San Diego for market. Your coffers will in a few years team with the valley wealth.
Frederick J. Lea, representing the San Diego Chamber of Commerce, said that "today is just like commencement day at college. We have just begun the good roads movement." Fletcher said San Diego certainly would realize its dream of being the western terminus of the ocean to ocean highway.
The ambitions for economic importance and for size and population, which had brought about the exposition, the campaign for highway connections, the reclaiming of tidelands and building of a commercial pier at the city's front door, dominated the debate in the city election of 1913. The issue of what kind of a city San Diego was to become, and whether it could have both beauty and industry, came to a head after years of discussion and argument.
A group of citizens, including E.S. Babcock, who originally had built Hotel del Coronado as a resort, Wangenheim, M.A. and Edgar Luce, Sefton, Fletcher, Lyman Gage and Spalding, most of whom, if not all, had been backers of the Nolen Plan, induced Marston to be a candidate for mayor, or signed his petition. Those who favored more commerce and industry at the expense of tourists and resorts entered Charles F. O'Neall, a real estate agent.
The campaign supporters for O'Neall stated that he was for payrolls first and civic beauty next and represented the backbone of the city instead of merely the "aristocracy," that he belonged to the element which in recent years had come to the city and with new energy and new inspiration had largely helped to develop it and made possible the fancy prices the old timers were now getting for their property.
Marston was forced to defend past actions. One of them was in regard to the original Santa Fe line into San Diego, which for a time was expected to become the western end of its main transcontinental route. Floods had washed out the section through Temecula Canyon in the 1880's and Los Angeles became the terminal, with a branch down the coast to San Diego. Marston and other merchants agreed, though reluctantly, to the change. Marston also had been traveling in Europe when the exposition was formulated and acknowledged that at first he had some reservations about it.
In speeches in his own behalf, Marston promised that he would accelerate the building of the railroad to Arizona and said he supported the harbor improvements and the exposition. To him the city could be both beautiful and prosperous, but beauty could be its greatest asset:
I have been criticized for advocating the "city beautiful" idea, and I hereby plead guilty to the indictment, if indictment it be. I am for the city beautiful. I'm for it because it pays in dollars and cents. I believe in a city beautiful because we want more than selling real estate; we want comfort for our citizens.
Women entered the campaign in large numbers and a former suffragist leader, Mrs. Earl Garrettson, told a gathering of 300:
The women of San Diego realize the importance of preparing for the great influx of immigration which the opening of the Panama Canal will bring...there are more than 350,000 people in southern Italy and Russia booked for passage to San Diego. These people will have to be housed properly...they will have to be given employment. George W. Marston is the man to solve these and many other problems and to make San Diego, which heretofore has been a good little city, become a good big city.
Louis Wilde, the banker, who had come to San Diego from Los Angeles, came out against Marston:
O'Neall is progressive, not narrow, conservative...Mr. Marston...means well, but he has not got it in him to do broad things for anybody...somehow or other every time a big vital movement has been started for the advancement of the city, Marston has been quietly against it...Marston, for instance, has been talking the "city beautiful" ever since I have been here, and he has not even managed to keep the streets clean...We don't want San Diego to be the "amen corner" of the United States.
Seven other bankers, however, immediately came out in support of Marston. Spreckels remained aloof and gave equal news space to both sides. Scripps and his SAN DIEGO SUN supported Marston who continued to answer his critics. In a letter to Fletcher he wrote:
Despite the fact that I have been accused of favoring the aesthetic rather than the practical, and that I am a dreamer of dreams in which neatly kept lawns and attractive posy beds play a prominent part, I beg to assure you that the speedy completion of our wonderful harbor resources has been often in my thoughts. I have for a long time favored the construction of a great dry-dock in San Diego, for I believe it will do much to bring to San Diego that recognition as a seaport of prominence which it deserves.
The establishment of a dry-dock would also be one of the most effective arguments possible for the establishment of a naval coaling station in San Diego bay. Eventually San Diego is destined to become a great naval station, with a training school on North Island, and the harbor as a haven wherein our fighting craft can repair and replenish.
The primary produced several surprises. O'Neall led with a vote of 6840. Marston had 4738. The Socialists were back in political strength and produced 3015 votes for their candidate, Jacob Beckel. In the general election, O'Neall was elected mayor by a majority of 668 votes. The Socialists, with no candidate for mayor in the final election, concentrated successfully on defeating their old friend, Councilman Sehon, to punish him, as the news stories reported it, "for suppressing the lawless Industrial Workers of the World a year ago, and quenching the flaming tongues of Kasper Bauer, Harry McKee and other advocates of government without courts."
The approach of the exposition and a revelation of the difficulties of the Spreckels companies soon took the people's minds off the central issue, but it would be fought out again. Marston's interest in San Diego was not diminished by political defeat. His partners in the ownership of the site of the old Presidio had withdrawn and he acquired sole possession. In 1913 the Order of Panama, with his permission, erected a cross to Fr. Junípero Serra. It was built with tiles taken from the ruins. President Wilson designated the old lighthouse on Point Loma as the Cabrillo National Monument in honor of Juan Rodríguez Cabrillo, the discoverer of California.
In Congress, Kettner engineered his appointment to the House Rivers and Harbors Committee and was successful in obtaining from Adm. George Dewey, the commander of the Navy and president of its General Board, a letter which, though it reaffirmed the board's view that it would not be wise to establish a second naval station on the coast below San Francisco, said it was certain that naval use of the port of San Diego would increase with the years and it would be desirable to deepen the inner harbor where there was room for at least sixteen capital ships. The Senate Commerce Committee thereby consented to adding an appropriation of $259,000 for San Diego. Within a short time he also had obtained appropriations to complete the Naval Coaling Station on Point Loma, for the proposed new Naval Radio Station at San Diego, to strengthen coastal defenses at Fort Rosecrans and to map the offshore kelp beds. When he returned to California to visit his district, his train was met at Oceanside by a civic band.
Construction work on the San Diego & Arizona was continuing despite the legal maneuvering as to who really owned it, and Spreckels again found himself in financial difficulties and made a second appeal to the citizens of San Diego.
The holdings left to John D. and Adolph Spreckels by their father, Claus, in California sugar interests, shipping, and various Hawaiian and Philippine plantations, had been valued at $25,000,000. But they were not producing money fast enough to satisfy John D. Spreckels' ambitions to exceed the enterprise of his father. Adolph had never been in good health and it was the elder brother who dominated the firm of J.D. & A.B. Spreckels. He had little interest in the sugar industry, as such, and before his father's death he had begun building the great fleet of the Oceanic Steamship Lines, and then spent ten years as publisher of the SAN FRANCISCO CALL. It was San Diego, however, and the opportunity to build a city, which drew most of his attention and which demanded more and more money from the other family enterprises.
On May 3, 1914, Clayton put all of the cards on the table and wrote a long newspaper account of the railroad's problems and how they had come about, and it made interesting reading for a town that had taken John D. Spreckels at his word:
The San Diego & Arizona Railway was projected by the Southern Pacific Company under policies adopted by the late E. H. Harriman. For reasons which I am unable to explain...Mr. Spreckels came out and announced he would build the San Diego & Arizona Railway...He was to direct all its affairs, but the money was to be found by the Southern Pacific, while the title remained ostensibly in the hands of J.D. Spreckels.
There was a time after the death of Harriman when the Southern Pacific asked Spreckels to slow down but he said he could not do so. The Southern Pacific then withdrew its support. Spreckels entered into an agreement with the Southern Pacific whereby he acquired an option to purchase the San Diego & Arizona within twelve months. He turned to the Rock Island Railroad, which had built toward Arizona and which at one time had begged for the opportunity of participating in the San Diego & Arizona in the hope of reaching tidewater on the Pacific. But the Southern Pacific had entered into secret agreement with the Rock Island to forestall this possibility. Clayton continued:
At the end of twelve months, Mr. Spreckels told the Southern Pacific he would not exercise his option. The Southern Pacific said, "You bought this railroad." But Mr. Spreckels replied, "No, I did not. I signed nothing but an option." So the Southern Pacific sued him and said he had bought it.
So, Clayton said, Spreckels found himself up against it. He used the $2,500,000 obtained from the sale of his water system to the City of San Diego as collateral to borrow money to keep the work going. So far the railroad had cost him $5,000,000.
Requirements by the State of California for the issuance of stock and bonds would require heavy further investments by Spreckels. It was suggested that the citizens of San Diego be asked to subscribe money but it was pointed out they already were heavily committed by the exposition. An appeal was made for the city to take up the option to buy Morena reservoir for $1,500,000, and Spreckels pledged that the money would be used for construction of the railroad and that he would continue his efforts to find additional means of financing. The bonds for the purchase of Morena passed by a vote of six to one on May 5, 1914. Spreckels was deeply moved by the margin of approval and said:
The result of this election demonstrates that in one portion of this great country is a community which is not hostile to capital and will assist in a legitimate public enterprise. Capital will be inspired by such a result and will be attracted to a community so eminently fair and liberal minded.
The San Diego & Arizona still faced the most difficult and costly section of its road, the descent to the desert through the Carrizo Gorge, and it was feared the cost of the line between San Diego and El Centro would rise to $15,000,000. An extension to Yuma would cost another $10,000,000. These costs were far above the original estimates for the entire line of less than $5,000,000. Spreckels hoped to sell bonds to meet these heavy costs and he promised San Diego that somehow he would find a way to complete the line to El Centro by the time of the exposition opening. Sixty-five miles of track had been laid from both ends and seventy miles more remained to be built. The work went on while Spreckels and the Southern Pacific engaged in further legal maneuvers.
A reputation as a center of aviation was being won. In 1912 the Navy had established a base on North Island, with three airplanes, three tents, and three fliers, Lieuts. John H. Towers, Victor Herbster and T. G. Ellyson; Howard Morin, a Navy electrician, installed the first radio set in an airplane; on Thanksgiving Day the Army Signal Corps established an aviation school on North Island and named it Rockwell Field; Lieut. H.A. Erickson took the first aerial photograph. In 1913, Lincoln Beachey, a civilian flier trained by Curtiss, made the first loop-the-loop; Army Lieut. T.C. Macaulay made the first night flight; and the first aerial bomb was dropped by Riley Scott, a former Army officer with the North Island unit, and Army Lieut. L.E. Goodier. A Curtiss airplane established an altitude record of 16,798 feet over San Diego.
After several years of struggle, the Little Landers Colony in the Tia Juana River Valley and adjoining hillsides had grown to more than 400 persons and Smythe, its founder, was carrying the message of communal life to other towns and cities of California. To him, San Ysidro was the "mother colony." Clayton, after visiting the colony in the company of Spreckels, said he was amazed at its progress and that it would be a good thing if San Diego County had 500,000 Little Landers. It had been found, though, that some persons worked harder than others, that some persons more radical than their fellow colonists agitated continually for a more communal life than merely the cooperative marketing of products raised on small privately-owned plots, and that success of such a venture depended on the nearness to cities, the larger the better. They could not exist in a world of their own.
Through all these years Ed Fletcher had quietly proceeded with establishing rights to the water of the San Diego River which came through state filings. The river passed directly through San Diego and had wasted its flood waters into the sea. The city had pumps in Mission Valley and also once had relied on the privately-owned wooden flume which brought water from Cuyamaca Lake on a tributary of the San Diego River. When the flume company went bankrupt Fletcher and J.A. Murray, a millionaire owner of water systems in Montana and Idaho, acquired it for $150,000 and later offered it to the city. But Spreckels had his own water system to sell and city officials looked the other way. Fletcher and Murray began serving the La Mesa, Lemon Grove and Spring Valley Irrigation District and went ahead with plans to build dams and reservoirs on the San Diego River and to supply the newly organized town of East San Diego. This set the stage for a future struggle over the paramount rights to the water which the city would finally claim by rights coming down from the King of Spain and the Royal Presidio of San Diego. Warner's Ranch was purchased by William G. Henshaw and Fletcher induced him to acquire sites for dams and reservoirs on the San Dieguito River system by which frost-free coastal areas, which Fletcher had begun developing for the former Huntington interests, could be served with water.
Of much more momentary interest was liquor and not water, and whether the "wet" zone, or the area in which liquor could be sold, should be widened. The liberals were out in force again, and Austin Adams emerged as their leader for an "open" town. He declared:
We must decide at once whether San Diego is to be a Middle West village controlled by the narrow minded and bigoted provincialism of a small minority, or by those broad and sane views of modern civilized life which obtain in the really great cities of the world...what may be all very well for a backwoods Kansas tank town will not do for a cosmopolitan city at the very moment that we are inviting the whole civilized world to come here and spend a year (and all the spare cash possible) in our midst.
The City Council passed an ordinance widening the zone of sale but a referendum petition was filed under leadership of the Anti-Saloon League which caused it to be held in abeyance until a future election.
The assassination of President Madero had released once again the forces of revolution in Mexico and that unhappy land was torn by intensive warfare and humiliated by United States intervention. Mexican bandits raided the border town of Tecate in March and killed the town's postmaster, Frank Johnson, and set fire to buildings. By late 1914, Col. Esteban Cantu, in the name of one of the revolutionary armies, seized control of Tijuana without firing a shot. United States Cavalry units again patrolled the border as they had done during the Magón insurrection.
In Europe Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife were assassinated in Sarajevo, on June 28,1914. On July 28, Austria declared war on Serbia. On August 1, Germany declared war on Russia. On August 3, Germany declared war on France, and on August 4, England declared war on Germany.
The outbreak of war at first had a severe impact on business and much of the building activity in San Diego, with the exception of that in the exposition, came to a halt. There was no general feeling at the time that the United States would become involved and on the Pacific Coast there was great rejoicing when the steamship ANCONA passed through the Culebra Cut and became the first ocean-going vessel to navigate the Panama Canal. On September 6 the pleasure yacht LASATA arrived at San Diego, after having passed through the canal, and its owner, Morgan Adams, of Los Angeles, said that other vessels would soon be following the LASATA to San Diego.
G. Aubrey Davidson was elected president of the exposition, with Collier returning to his post as director-general, and the first high-ranking government official to visit the grounds was the Assistant Secretary of the Navy, Franklin D. Roosevelt. His car was the first to pass over the new bridge spanning Cabrillo Canyon. A fever of excitement brought a boom in land speculation and development. An encouraged Spreckels undertook the development of Mission Beach, then a strip of sand dunes covered with scrub brush, by connecting it to Ocean Beach with a wooden bridge, and creating, at least on paper, a Venetian city that would have done credit to the imagination and enthusiasm of a John Nolen or a Bertram Goodhue. An open air pavilion in Balboa Park also was being completed to house the great outdoor organ which Spreckels was presenting to the city. The Santa Fe Railroad and the San Diego & Arizona Railway combined resources to construct a new depot in a style compatible with the architecture of the exposition. A stadium for nearly 30,000 persons was being built in a canyon, a natural amphitheater where the hillsides served as walls, with money from a $150,000 bond issue.
The opening of the exposition was set for midnight of January 1, 1915. That would be several weeks ahead of San Francisco. At last everything was ready and a pearl gray city with towers and domes of brightly colored tile rose out of history.
Search Pourade's 7-book series on San Diego History: