By John C. Brownlee
em>Copley Books Award, San Diego History Center
1984 Institute of History
Taut, strung between two canyon walls, the new bridge awaited approval. High above crisp summer blossoms on tired vines, a slight breeze strummed the tuned suspension cables. San Diego City Engineer Edwin Capps boarded the wooden footplanks and “twanged” a braided upright for proper tension. Nodding at the tone, he moved across the long catwalk in brisk, confident strides, glancing for flaws. Mid-span, Capps inspected the flanges for integrity and placement. Content with their symmetry, he bounced his six-foot frame1 to torque the overspan; it snapped back in memory, a prompt and perfect reply. Satisfied with his sound design, the engineer turned and left the footbridge,2 crossed Spruce Street and returned to City Hall. Other matters, steeped in controversy, waited: municipal improvements and political responsibilities. They would demand his every moment. Despite a rigid City Council, economic restraints, and personal fatigue, and because of his undaunted persistence and versatility, Edwin Capps would overcome adversity and leave to San Diego the legacy of an improved harbor, a municipal jail, and the unique Spruce Street Suspension Bridge.
In that summer of 1912, while newspapers echoed complaints of a troubled world — revolution in Mexico, rebellion in China, and the Titanic rusting in watery repose — San Diego built for the future. A footbridge now linked Spruce Street residents with Banker’s Hill3 offices and the downtown trolley line. A new City Jail offered bed and board to the drunk and wayward, and piers and warehouses would soon overlook dredges that deepened harbor channels. San Diego had been a severe taskmaster for Engineer Capps in that endless year, and at fifty-one years old he craved rest.4
Born on December 23, 1860, in Knoxville, Tennessee, Edwin Morris Capps matured under the steady hand of his father, Thomas J. Capps, a professor of mathematics at the University of Eastern Tennessee. After the Civil War the family moved to Shelbyville, Illinois, where Edwin completed public school. His father, also an accomplished civil engineer, taught him skills of the engineering profession that would promise a honed expertise and rise in reputation over the years to come.5
By 1878 the family had moved to Golden City, Colorado, and later to Denver, where in 1884 novice Capps began work as a civil engineer. After practical experience in civil works, he acquired additional knowledge as a mining engineer, and in 1886, with opportunities created by westward expansion, moved to San Diego. Young Capps became Chief Engineer for the Lower California Mining Company and supervised explorations for three years. He developed a good name for himself and served in several capacities throughout San Diego County. Capps acted as Chief Engineer for the San Miguel Land and Water Company, and later, after it merged into the Jamacha Irrigation District, kept his leadership position over water projects and construction. These diverse tasks prepared him for future design challenges with San Diego as City Engineer.6 Before Capps left the Irrigation District in July, 1893, he married Elfa C. Walsh in February, 1887.7
While employed as a chief engineer for the various water companies that plumbed the San Diego hinterlands of the early 1890s, and later as a city engineer for San Diego between 1893 and 1899, Capps gained recognition as a clear-headed, hard-minded figure.8 Outspoken and often impetuous, he welcomed progress but winced against an image of a scarred landscape sometimes left in its wake.9 “While others were talking about railroads, factories, and other industries, Capps said the thing to do for the economy was bring in tourists. They came, did not disturb the geraniums and when they departed no smokestacks were left behind, only money.”10
Preservation and tourism became central to Capps’ outlook toward the future growth of San Diego. Determined to insure the unscathed panorama, and with a penchant for involvement, the vocal engineer ran for office of mayor of San Diego in May, 1899.11 Once elected, he launched a platform crafted to shape the City as a tourist resort; trees would border boulevards, parks would be planted lush, and the perennial vernal climate would lure tourists “. . . of refinement and means, spending their money freely.”12
Underway, the San Diego Mayorship required full attention and steady hands. Although there seemed to be few spare moments, Capps found time to invent a rapid-fire gun under a British patent. This innovation involved movable instead of stationary barrels. Two men would fire the gun, one to spin the trigger-crank and another to feed a cartridge belt into the breech. The formidable machine would devour assorted calibers from a 3″ cannon down to a .32 caliber rifle.13 The Mayor’s interests, it seemed, could be triggered by curiosities more persuasive than mere political rhetoric.14 Such versatility would become an effective ally in the difficult years ahead.
When his two-year term as Mayor expired in 1901, Capps moved to Los Angeles and established an extensive clientele desirous of his proven skills as an engineer. In 1902, as Chief Engineer of the Tujunga Land and Water Company, he superintended construction work until his health failed.15 A move to Seattle, Washington, to alleviate the ailment brought more experience and success as a private practitioner. In May, 1909 with vigor restored, Capps returned to San Diego and encored as City Engineer.16
Twenty-five years experienced, confident, and powered by an incisive, brisk mind, Capps grasped his duties with a no-nonsense fervor.17 As a result, he often sparred with his superiors, the City Council, when they meddled in his official affairs. In 1911, embroiled in a drawn-out battle over the merits of concrete sewer pipe versus those of clay sewer pipe, Capps challenged a Council decision to install concrete sewer lines after test results suggested the superiority of clay pipe. The engineer contended that clay vitrification, a glazing process that produced durable, inexpensive pipe, would outlast traditional concrete pipe. As sewer lines had to be laid every year to keep pace with urban expansion, a vitrification plant could be built and local mineral deposits used, all to lessen taxpayer expense. Riled by his audacity to question their decision, the Councilmen summoned the irreverent engineer for a tongue-lashing. Furious with the unqualified interference of bureaucrats in technical matters beyond their ken, the enraged Capps threatened with clenched fists, “It will take me just two minutes to write my resignation if you don’t like my work!”18
Sobered by the threat, the Council slumped into submission. The brazen City Engineer could not be sacrificed in the swirl of ambitious and complicated improvement plans. Disaster would result. Despite Capps’ stormy provocations, the Council embraced his solid talents and tried to overlook his combative posture.19 Their patience, however, would be tested — often.
The summer and fall of 1911 taxed the tough engineer with a hectic workload. While he fought the City Council over sewer pipe and drafted the Spruce Street Suspension Bridge plans, an awesome project loomed on the horizon: the Harbor Improvement Plan. Later known as the “Capps’ Plan,”20 it would demand his full attention. Simple in concept, complex in design, the project required one million dollars to dredge the harbor, backfill the shoreline, sink a seawall, erect piers and wharves, construct warehouses, and lay a belt-line railway,21 all to service an increase of oceanic commerce anticipated by the Panama Canal completion in 1914.22 San Diego and the capable engineer had a major task before them.
In 1911, one million dollars stunned the imagination and would be hard to raise. To ease the difficulty, Capps spent weeks to persuade voters to pass a proposed Harbor Bond necessary to underwrite the improvements.23 Several nights a week, despite exhaustion and health lapses, he labored to answer voter concerns and explain the staggering project.24 Above all else, Capps insisted that the City not lose the opportunity to participate as a logical center of ocean trade:
The key to the situation is the municipal ownership of a sufficient portion of the waterfront of San Diego Bay to insure cheap wharf charges, convenient and economical methods of handling merchandise, free sites for all legitimate business houses, cheap water and cheap fuel.25
Always mindful of taxpayer dollars, Capps molded the Harbor Plan around efficient engineering:
… the construction of the seawall can be accomplished by the city and the reclaimed area will be worth many times the expense incurred. The wall can be built in sections from year to year as the demands will warrant. In this way it would not require a very heavy burden upon the taxpayers and would secure to them and posterity a heritage of priceless value.26
The seawall would be sunk in the Bay and channel dredgings deposited behind the wall as back-fill to reclaim valuable tideland. The land reclaimed could be used for wharves and warehouses, and any residual acreage beautified as parkland.27 Although practical and persuasive, tight-dollared and precise, the “Capps’ Plan” faced some serious opposition.
Another improvement plan, promoted by an ad hoc civic association, arose to endanger the City Engineer’s design. Though shallow and shortsighted under scrutiny, the competitor required swift and keen attention. This plan proposed that two piers be built at the foot of Seventh Street. Also, the plan failed to reclaim a substantial tract of land necessary for efficient engineering — a serious flaw. Capps bristled with contempt and exposed the interloper:
Well, these plans were drawn by amateurs and I am credibly informed that a youthful lawyer and a landscape gardener from Japan committed the crime — for it would be a crime to attempt to construct such a wharf at that point … In the first place . . . the wharves must be built at right angles from the bulkhead so that ships can pull in and back out . . . Secondly, there is room for only one pier at that point designated, for there is no use to try to even think of putting two wharves in such a small area . . . The plan is not feasible … It is ridiculous, absolutely ridiculous effrontery on the part of the two young men with no technical knowledge and no civic obligations to present such a scheme to an intelligent public . . . The plan is simply twaddle . . . simply a puff of smoke to befog the voters.28
The engineer retired to his corner with the pretender soundly trounced, only to find another foe in the arena: the ballot measure.
The “Capps’ Plan,” slated for November, 1911 ballot, would include the female vote.29 Suffrage efforts would not culminate in law until the 1920 ratification of the Nineteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.30 Prudent, Capps prepared to thwart a legal parry bent on nullification of the measure should the women’s vote be contested in court. His contingency required that ballots cast by women be marked for later identification at a poll count by election officials.31 After a tally, the votes cast by males could be separated:
In this manner, should two-thirds of all votes cast be in favor of the bonds and two-thirds of the male vote also be in favor, then there would be no question but that the bond issue had carried. Should two-thirds of all the votes cast be in favor and less than two-thirds of either the male or female votes separately be cast, then that fact should be noted in order to defend any action that might be possibly taken if any citizen still protests the action of the electorate.32
On November 15, 1911, the Harbor Bond passed with a strong majority: 7196 votes cast in favor of the Bond and 183 votes cast in opposition. The City Engineer’s painful efforts had not been in vain — San Diego would have an improved harbor.33
Capps had a colorful personality and voiced unswerving opinions when promoting City improvement plans. As a result, newspapers considered him “good copy.”34 Despite the rapt attention given to the flurry of Harbor Plan arguments prior to the November passage, the media spotlight pinpointed the persistent engineer when he jousted with the Health Department over the use of the sole city automobile, which had to be shared among departments. The Health Department Director had petitioned the City Council for an automobile and received a resounding “No!” in answer.
Gleeful and encouraged over the rejection to the Health Department, “. . . Capps sat at his desk . . . chortled and smiled and patted himself like the cat after it had eaten the canary.”35 The overworked engineer, harnessed to a strict schedule of improvements, needed a car — he would have one! Capps marched into the Council Chambers and asked for an auto in spite of the refusal to the Health Department. The Council deliberated. Outraged over his insolence, the Health Department seethed with retaliation and “. . . engaged the only city auto for a week in advance and whenever anyone else wanted it, it was found . . . out on inspections of dairies and slaughterhouses.”36 Capps had to walk — but not for long. An investigation soon revealed that a Finance Department clerk used a city motorcycle for lunch trips only. Given the revelation, his tight schedules, and mindful of previous tangles with the badger-like engineer, the Council capitulated. Capps again had prevailed.37
Although strong and resilient, Capps was not impervious to the toll of long hours and stress brought on by his career. In December, three weeks after voters approved the Harbor Bond, bent with fatigue and relentless schedules, the tired engineer packed up his office. With a few pencils, a small triangle, and a well-thumbed book of dry logarithms, the city mastermind trudged down the steps of City Hall and went home.38 He had quit. The sewer pipe battle, which had stormed through the fall, had subsided with Capps defeated.39 The Harbor Project had quickened in tempo while City officials continued to nip at him with more and more dogged demands. Endurance-drained and his future bleak, his mind filled with rustic thoughts of a small country ranch and “raising fruit trees . . . and the best whitewash in which to dip chicken legs so as to lengthen their days and sweeten their meat.”40
The Councilmen panicked. They could not lose him and would make amends, whatever the price. They ranted, wrung their hands, and worried into the night. Long overlooked because of an ability to surmount almost any task or obstacle without complaint, Capps had to be enticed to stay. He would be relieved of City Engineer duties and promoted to a position especially created for him — Harbor Engineer.741 The new assignment would raise his annual salary from three thousand to four thousand dollars.42 Unfettered by previous demands and promised adequate resources, Capps accepted the new job in January, 1912. Although assured of a free hand, he would find the Council long on promise and short in delivery in the years to come.
Despite the frustrations of his duties, not every City project he drafted sparked the resistance or warfare. The City Jail proved to be a source of pride and joy. Drawn in 1911, the plans attracted praiseworthy recognition from State Correction Board officials. When the engineer’s blueprints returned approved from the State Board, a pleasant surprise unfolded:
You can imagine my surprise when the plans were returned approved and with the re quest from the board for a duplicate set of plans . . . the board had decided to make the San Diego jail a model for all jails to be built in California. Well, 1 just swelled up until I burst all the buttons off my vest . . . Betchu, I’m proud of it.43 . .
Capps had good reason to be proud; he had not designed a jail before. He had not seen the inside of one until asked to draw the plans. After preliminary study over requirements, Capps inspected the County Jail and . the Los Angeles City Jail. Then he began to think:
A jail is much like a safe fence — it must be bull strong, horse high and hog tight — so I just jotted down all I could learn about jails, and then I drew the plans … to make it safe, sound and sane. In fact, I planned a jail like I would want to be confined in if I had to go … and the Lord knows I don’t.44
Once completed, the jail, unique in design to San Diego, displayed a Classical Greek Tetra-style Temple facade.45 Four columns divided the building into three bays, with the main entrance flanked by columns in support of the lintel.46 An overhead frieze47 offered large-scale dentils48 below the cornice line.49 Ample windows and skylights supplied sufficient natural light. The jail served San Diego for years and would later become headquarters for the U.S. Navy Shore Patrol. Even later, despite preservation efforts, the structure would fall in the swath of urban redevelopment.50
An autumn completion of the City Jail and the bulldog tenacity of the Harbor Project swept Capps through the year of 1912 into late 1913.51 In the midst of winter the disciplined engineer labored over a new phase of harbor development: plans for an Immigration Station and Harbor Administration Building. The Immigration Station would stand on the end of the new municipal pier to accommodate fresh arrivals and expected arrivals precipitated by the Panama Canal completion in the next year. Municipal coffers did not provide for a major construction project at that time, but the deft Harbor Engineer had a solution. Always keen on economy and efficiency, Capps suggested that an existing steel building on the outboard end of the pier be altered with the addition of partitions and a second floor. The modifications could be made cheaply as inexpensive lumber could be used. The Harbor Administration Building called for either Mission or Classical architecture and would be erected on the eastern end of the pier. The building would quarter various administration offices necessary to oversee harbor operations. A tentative design revealed a pretentious structure of reinforced concrete finished in “white Medusa cement and terra cotta trimmings …” with “. . . allegorical figures, typical of the sea and ocean commerce, along the front.”52 The roof would be Spanish-tiled with the dome gilded or painted white.53 The practical yet prosaic styling of bridges, sewers, jails and harbors, it seemed, had not stunted Capps’ imagination for pageantry, as evidenced by the grand and ornate plans.
Sturdy as his creations, Capps plunged into another brawl with the City Council in 1914 over a change in harbor construction plans. Stalwart when opposed, he did not always agree with the Councilmen and would rush to defend his position if challenged. Council members had ideas of their own on harbor improvements and they conflicted with plans Capps had already implemented. When ordered to follow their whim, the engineer refused and protested that it would require a dismantling of some completed work:
The Council then adopted a resolution ordering him to obey, and sent their Sergeant-at-Arms to deliver the order. Upon his return, they asked, ‘What’d Capps say? How’d he take it? Was he sore? He get busy making the change we ordered?’ ‘He said for you to go to Hell,’ the Sergeant-at-Arms reported pleasingly.54
The Council exploded into a frenzy and fired the disrespectful Harbor Engineer with the next resolution.55
His competitive spirit jolted by the Council tantrum, Capps slapped back at the first opportunity. He ran for Mayor a second time and won with a landslide majority in April, 1915.56 Now an elected official with a public mandate, he would have greater leverage in City decisions. Under the City Charter of 1915 the Mayor presided over the City Council as president.57 He had no vote but did have executive powers, and Capps would use them at every opportunity.
The recalcitrant Mayor could be subtle and clever to engineer his way when under fire. In November, 1915 a Councilman — Henry N. Manney — had died and left the other four Councilmen — Herbert R. Fay, Percy J. Benbough, O.M. Schmidt, and Walter P. Moore — and Capps to elect a replacement.58 As the Mayor could not vote but only preside, the four Councilmen deadlocked into a tied vote:
The balloting went on and on, over and over, always two and two. Then Benbough was called to the phone. While his attention was on it, but he was within hearing of what was going on, the Councilmen took another ballot, and the results came out two for C.W. Fox59 and only one for the other nominee. Capps pronounced Fox elected. Ben-bough dropped the phone, stormed. The others just grinned at him. The matter was referred to the legal department and they concluded that Benbough, ‘remaining silent when the ballot was taken, had voted with the majority, thus giving Fox a count of 3 to l.’60
Another battle in the on-going war between Capps and the Council involved Police Chief Keno Wilson.61 At that time the position of Police Chief was a fixed two-year office and could not be extended under City Charter provisions.62 A technical vacancy had occurred when Wilson’s term expired and the Mayor had to appoint a replacement. Capps wanted to keep Wilson — the Council did not. As the Council had power to veto mayoral appointments, another deadlock arose, “a frozen situation in which Mayor and Council exchanged only the most frigid greetings.”63 Fearful the Council would not approve his choice in renaming Wilson, Capps took a crafty course of no action. As a result, Wilson remained in office for lack of an authorized successor. Stalemated and outmaneuvered, the Council sought refuge in the legal department once again, seeking a lever to dislodge the fixed Mayor. A court decision compelled Capps to make an appointment. An upright man, he would abide by the order, but not without one last jab at the wary Council members. Capps renamed Wilson as Chief in subtle defiance. The Councilmen, reeling with astonishment but. now convinced of the Mayor’s determination, withdrew their opposition and confirmed the appointment. Wilson remained Chief — Capps remained in charge.64
Capps would serve as Mayor until 1917 and continue to pursue City improvements and become involved in other controversies until his retirement. In 1923 he retired from civic and business life and moved to Los Angeles, where he died in January, 1938 at the age of seventy-seven years.65 His wife, Elfa, and two sons, Edgar and Robert, survived him.66
The contributions of Edwin Capps have all outlived him as a legacy to the City of San Diego. The harbor, because of his practical design and relentless attention, is now a major seaport and site of a U.S. Naval Base. The City Jail, although razed fur urban modernization, stood for over seventy years due to his sound and versatile architecture. Tourism is a substantial industry and the landscape has not been despoiled with belching smokestacks that dim the view. And, on crisp autumn mornings amidst an ambered-swirl of wind-borne leaves, Spruce Street children still test the bridge, strung between two canyon walls, on their way to school.
1. The Great Register of Voters for the City of San Diego — 1908 to 1909, describes Capps as six-feet and one-half inches tall. Compared to other registered voters of the early 1900s, he towered above them by four or five inches.
2. The Spruce Street Suspension Bridge remains the only suspension foot-bridge in San Diego. The San Diego Union, July 29, 1911, reported contractors Knight and Hyde began work on that date. Built by the City from plans prepared by Capps, the structure is made of iron and rests on concrete pier blocks secured on both sides of the Hillcrest canyon adjacent to Spruce Street. Suspension cables supporting the bridge are imbedded in massive concrete slabs hidden beneath the soil. The walkway stretches 375 feet, seventy feet above the canyon floor. Joan J. Easly, in an unpublished report, Spruce Street Suspension Bridge, November, 1976, lauds the bridge as “attractive, esthetically pleasing, and most importantly, it unifies a viable residential area close to downtown.” Built to link Banker’s Hill on the west to transportation and schools on the east, the bridge still provides the function originally intended. Designated as Historical Site #116 by the San Diego Historical Site Board in January, 1977, the footbridge is used daily by area residents. The San Diego Union, May 26, 1967 reported a maintenance procedure for repairing worn cables: “Because of fill and construction work, several feet of the cables have been for many years covered with earth. Workmen uncovered them recently and found rust and fraying cable ends.” Splints of new cable were laid alongside the damaged sections and clamped into place. The article reported original plans for the bridge had been dated September, 1912, which conflicts with the original article of July 29, 1911. A City of San Diego “Memorandum,” December 14, 1976, from Street Maintenance Supervisor Fred Conger to Assistant Planning Director Paul Fox-worthy, revealed the bridge “. . . is inspected every three months and most repairs (99%) are for broken flanges that connect hand rail cables to the bridge deck. People rock the bridge and the flanges break. This is not critical to the bridge and should not be interpreted as anything other than people having fun.” Donald H. Day’s report, Bridges of San Diego, produced by the Engineering Alliance Corporation of San Diego, mentioned the bridge will support 164 tons, or 2186 150 Ib. people.
3. Banker’s Hill has also been called “Pill Hill” for the numerous doctors’ offices there, and “Gill Hill” for the architectural influence of Irving Gill. Footbridges to Fortune, Save Our Heritage Organization, October 22, 1983.
4. Many accounts of Capps refer to his chronic fatigue and a non-specific recurring health problem. Research failed to uncover the nature of the ailment. Based on most sources, Capps possessed an abundance of vitality despite the limitation and pursued his craft with disciplined force. Apparently, the malady was not critical as he lived to be seventy-seven years old. San Diego Union, October 7 through December 9, 1911. Samuel T. Black, History of San Diego County, Vol. 2, (Chicago: S.J. Clarke Publishing Company, 1913), pp. 403-404.
5. Black, History, pp. 403-404.
7. The San Diego Union, February 18, 1887, reported Capps’ marriage to Walsh by the Reverend H.B. Restarick.
8. Ibid., September 22, 1966.
11. The San Diego Union. April 5, 1899, reported that Capps defeated incumbent Mayor D.C. Reed by a 1714 to 1493 vote victory. Capps took office on May 1, 1899. A Union article, May 2, 1899 related “Mayor Capps simply went in and tried the desk chair, peeked in the pigeon holes and went out again, his installation having been satisfactory in every respect.”
12. Ibid., January 16 through May 2, 1900.
13. Ibid., February 2, 1900.
14. Speculation over the British patent could bring the reader to examine British foreign policy during the early twentieth century. Perhaps England required the addition of sophisticated weaponry to their arsenal to protect colonial interests. The Boxer Rebellion, for example, would occur on June 17, 1900, in Peking, China, and tried to purge foreign influence from the increasingly xenophobic country. Why Capps’ gun did not acquire a U.S. patent is unknown.
15. Black, History, 403-404.
17. San Diego Union, June 7 through November 7, 1911, September 22, 1966. Shelley J. Higgins and Richard Mansfield, This Fantastic City — San Diego (San Diego: City of San Diego, 1956), pp. 308-309.
18. San Diego Union, June 7 through December 30, 1911. The quote is taken from the June 7, 1911, article.
19. The San Diego Union. June 8, 1911, reported that Capps was considered to serve the City Park Commission as an engineer in the improvements of Balboa Park. Despite disputes with the City Council, Capps apparently was regarded with esteem as he could argue his convictions and still be considered for other City projects.
20. In June, 1911, the City Council took steps to control harbor growth by introducing an ordinance that empowered Capps to “make surveys along the waterfront in the Harbor of San Diego and to report to the Common Council a system for the improvement . . .” of the harbor. His report of June 29 recommended the construction of a seawall, warehouses and a railway to service ships that would provide shipping receipts as revenue. Capps went to San Francisco, Oakland, and Berkeley to examine their harbors. By early July, Capps had employed three engineering crews to make soundings and borings to determine the nature of the harbor bottom. From the soundings a topographical map was drawn and lines were charted as a guide for seawall construction. The Plan became known as the “Capps’ Plan” “chiefly on account of the fact that an improvement of so great a magnitude can more successfully be planned by a man who has lived in San Diego for years and who has his little ‘all’ invested here.” By the middle of September the Council had approved his plan and prepared to set it before voters for a November ballot election. San Diego Union. June 27 through November 15, 1911.
21. Materials researched failed to explain the nature of a belt-line railway. It would probably have been a closed-circuit, small railway adjacent to docks, that would shuttle cargo to and from ships.
22. The Panama Canal, which links Atlantic shipping lanes with those of the Pacific, was completed on August 15, 1914.
23. After Council approval, the “Capps’ Plan” needed voter approval in the passage of a one million dollar Harbor Bond. Capps spent much time to educate the citizens on the future worth of an improved harbor. His top consideration centered on monetary practicality: “The 60 acres to be reclaimed will more than doubly pay for the $1 millon bonds . . . The City will eventually reclaim 1100 acres of the tidelands if the harbor control is accepted.” He thought the land was worth $2500 per lot, or more than $31,000 an acre. San Diego Union, October 6, 1911.
24. The San Diego Union, October 7, 1911, reported “Capps’ health is such that he must conserve it at all hazards as he finds that a night or two a week at work unfits him for labor for several days.”
25. Capps had long foreseen the potential of harbor development and the impact on future commerce. As early as January, 1910, in a report to the City Council, he advised of the flood of oceanic trade open to San Diego upon the Panama Canal completion. San Diego had to be in a position to offer merchants and manufacturers “the most seductive inducements to locate upon the bay.” San Diego Union, October 15, 1911.
29. The San Diego Union, October 23, through November 15, 1911, reported the Harbor Initiative represented the first female vote in California.
30. The Nineteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, adopted in 1920, prevents the states’ and federal government from depriving any citizen of the right to vote because of gender. Many women in a number of states did vote prior to the adoption, but the Amendment surfaced as a final step in constitutional provision for suffrage. James M. Burns and Jack W. Peltason, Government by the People: The Dynamics of American National Government, Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice Hall Inc., 1963, pp. 73, 258.
31. Capps believed the vote would be nearly unanimous in favor of the measure and suggested the contingency as a precaution should anyone protest vote legality because of gender. As the bond dealers demanded clean titles, he recognized that every effort should be made to avoid any suspicion cast on the election process that might blight the dealers’ interests. San Diego Union, October 23, 1911.
33. The San Diego Union, November 15, 1911, reported the Harbor Bond passage as Capps had predicted — nearly a unanimous vote.
34. Ibid., September 22, 1966.
35. Ibid., October 7 through October 19, 1911.
37. The Health Department had requested a $1200 automobile and the Mayor — James E. Wadham, who served as Mayor from 1912 to 1914 — vetoed the plea. Capps had asked for a $700 vehicle and it was reported “Capps and the Mayor were exceedingly chummy” just then. Ibid., October 19, 1911.
38. Ibid., December 9, 1911. The press language used in the coverage of the incident was especially poignant and deserves mention:
A tired worn figure came silently down the dimly lighted stairs of the musty old city hall. A little bundle was under one arm. A second figure followed the first as silent and as shadowy. The two left the place together and with the bang of the street door, the one turned to the other and said: “Jack, my work’s done.” … He had worked faithfully and hard … for years to make San Diego great. He saw his home place a village. He was active in its development when the buds of the springtime began to burst and blossom. He was there patiently toiling over the dead wood of his dusty desk after those blossoms had grown into rich, ripe fruit with cheer and health and plenty for the people who had forgotten the hardships of the early days when the soil was rocky and barren. But he labored on with his pencil, his book of dry logarithms, the little rule and compass to measure lines which foreshadowed the wealth and splendor of the future. His duties grew in mass and volume. The burdens of his fellow toilers were divided in small and still smaller pieces. He helped them carry their staggering loads and assisted their faltering steps. His own back bent more and more under his load until he could go no farther. The hard lines on his pinched face became mutely eloquent in telling the tale of self-sacrifice and . . . heroism. And when he could go not another step, this unheralded empire builder picked the tools off his bench and went home. He had quit his job.
39. Ibid.. December 30, 1911.
40. Ibid., December 8, 1911.
41. Ibid., December 9, 1911.
42. Ibid., December 14, 1911.
43. Ibid., October 22, 1911.
44. Ibid., October 22, 1911. The City Jail cost $28,000. A cost analysis revealed the building contract amounted to $15,250. Plumbing and heating, $3683, wiring, $267, door, $275, cells, $5233. An additional $1500 to $2000 furnished the jail with cooking fixtures, bedding supplies, and other necessities.
45. John D. Henderson, “Historical/Architectural Report on the Shore Patrol Headquarters Located at 726 Second Avenue, San Diego, Ca.,” dated May 18, 1981, printed by the architectural firm of Macy, Henderson and Cole, AIA, San Diego, Ca. The firm, and Dr. Raymond Brandes of the University of San Diego, conducted a survey of the structure attempting to preserve it for historic purposes. Unfortunately, the effort failed and the building was destroyed by the City of San Diego Redevelopment Agency in preparation for proposed improvement of the Horton Plaza area.
46. A “lintel” is a horizontal supporting member above an opening such as a door or window.
47. A “frieze” is a part of an entabulature between the architrave — a band of moldings — and cornice, usually ornamented with sculpture.
48. A “dentil” is one of a series of small rectangular blocks arranged like a row of teeth.
49. A “cornice” is a horizontal, molded projection that crowns a wall.
50. Henderson “Historical/Architectural,” pp. 10, 11.
51. San Diego Union, October 22, 1911.
52. The Municipal-Broadway-pier, completed in February, 1914, at a cost of $200,000, was constructed by contractors Mesmer and Rice. Workers sank 540 concrete columns into the bay floor by means of mechanical pile-drivers. Two motorized dredges, the Silver Gate and E.M. Capps — named after the engineer — worked constantly to complete the project on schedule. At that time aliens flocked to the west coast, and adequate facilities to process and quarantine the immigrants were required. Capps, always aware of taxpayer expense, planned and built his projects practically. He suggested, as the immigration flow increased, that funds necessary for the Immigration Station be withdrawn from the 1914 tax levy. That would insure a swift completion. The City would spend little to add another story to the existing structure, and when the “influx of immigrants . . . reached a stage where the proposed station would be found to be inadequate, then a station commensurate with the city’s growing needs could be erected.” The Station would have sleeping quarters, examining rooms, a restaurant, and other facilities to assure sanitary and comfortable living conditions. San Diego Union, December 1 through December 29, 1913.
53. Capps believed that a Harbor Administration Building was imperative for the control of harbor affairs, and called for a bond issue to finance construction. Apparently, the building was never constructed. Conversations with the City of San Diego Port Authority and the Maritime Museum, a search of San Diego City Directories, 1914 through 1918, and a site tour of the harbor area all revealed no evidence of such a structure. As the building would have been unique and durable — made of reinforced concrete and seventy feet high — it would have survived destruction often brought on by urban development. Two similar edifices in the adjacent area to the proposed site have survived: the San Diego Gas and Electric Plant — circa 1911 — and the Santa Fe Railway Station. San Diego Union, December 29, 1913.
54. Higgins and Mansfield, Fantastic City, p. 309.
56. San Diego Union. May 3, 1915, through January 17, 1938. Also Higgins and Mansfield, pp. 308-309.
57. A city charter is the constitution or basic law under which a city is organized and operated. Charter of the City of San Diego -1915. For a summary of city government evolution in San Diego, see John Brownlee, “Evolution of City Government in San Diego,” San Diego: City Clerk’s Office, 1983.
58. Henry N. Manney served as a Councilman from 1913 to 1915 and died while in office. Herbert R. Fay was a Councilman from 1911 to 1915. Percy J. Benbough held a Council seat from 1913 to 1917, served as Mayor from 1935 to 1942, and for a brief time as Police Chief in 1931. O.M. Schmidt was elected to the Council in 1913. Watler P. Moore was elected to the Council in 1914. Records are unclear when their offices expired. See the election files of the Office of City Clerk, City of San Diego.
59. C.W. Fox was appointed to the Council to replace Manney. Records do not indicate when his term ended. See election files.
60. Higgins and Mansfield, Fantastic City, pp. 308-309. Co-author Higgins was San Diego City Attorney and knew Capps for years. Accordingly, he had many anecdotes to relate.
62. City Charter of San Diego -1915.
63. Higgins and Mansfield, Fantastic City. pp. 308-309.
65. San Diego Union, January 17 and 18, 1938.
THE PHOTOGRAPHS are from the San Diego History Center’s Title Insurance and Trust Collection.