by William Sullivan
What was San Diego like in 1885? In commemoration of its Centennial, Great American First Savings Bank commissioned William Sullivan to study the period and record his impressions of life in San Diego during the year of the company’s founding (under its original name, San Diego Building & Loan Association). Here is his report.
Dust from the government stables on G Street was whipped across downtown by the prevailing winds. Immersionist religious sects conducted baptisms in San Diego Bay. Little boys played with their sailboats in the plaza fountain when the manager of the Horton House hotel across Broadway didn’t chase them away.
This was San Diego in 1885 when San Diego Building & Loan Association1 was founded.
San Diego had been a sometime Spanish colonial outpost since its founding in 1769, but the Spanish and Mexicans were all but forgotten. With the 1850 development of New Town and the 1870 Horton purchase, the place was now a Yankee town where the fashionable ate oysters or dishes with French names and tossed off an occasional French phrase.
It didn’t take much vision to see the potential of the place as a city if enough people could be persuaded to live there. Men like Alonzo E. Horton, William H. Davies, and Capt. Matthew Sherman2 figured one day the people would come. All had made significant investments in San Diego property.
The town had a reputation as a place with a wonderful climate. Its healthfulness was the justification given by people for leaving ties behind and moving to San Diego. Among them were Ephraim W. Morse3, Moses A. Luce4, Elisha S. Babcock, Jr.5, and Hampton L. Story.6
As the year 1885 dawned, the city population was less than 5,000, but potential new residents appeared with the dockings, on alternating weeks, of the steamships Orizaba and Santa Rosa.7 On January 30, the Sun newspaper quietly proclaimed:
“The boom has begun.”
The boom had been waiting on the railroad, and the railroad was finally about to start sending trains. For years, even before California had become a state in 18508, people had talked about the need for a transcontinental railroad.
W.H. Emory of the Army Corps of Engineers recommended it in 1846. In 1854, surveys sponsored by the U.S. Government were in favor, but the project was scuttled when the Civil War broke out. General John C. Fremont and General Thomas S. Sedgwick (not to be confused with Major General John Sedgwick, the Civil War commander who was killed at Spotsylvania) became involved after the war, but their project ran out of steam in 1870 when money could not be raised.
Colonel Thomas A. Scott, president of the Pennsylvania Railroad, entered the picture in 1871 and left in 1877 after disagreements as to the route and financial difficulties. Determination on the part of San Diegans, among them Alonzo Horton and attorney Moses Luce, led to the founding of the California Southern Railroad in 1881 with the objective of connecting San Diego to the Santa Fe Railroad.9
San Diego’s future was assured, almost, with the formation of the California Southern. All that was left was laying railroad track across desert and mountains, through canyons and along an often stormy seacoast.
The task proved to be difficult, but San Diego rose to the occasion. Ah Quin, the town’s leading Chinese entrepreneur, sent carloads of laborers to “the front,” as the newspapers called whatever place the railroad work was going on. The San Diego firm of Klauber & Levi10, wholesale and retail grocers, dispatched provisions in support of the effort.
For some San Diegans, 1885 began with the New Year’s Eve party sponsored by the City Guard at the Armory. Admission for men was $1. Ladies were admitted free.
The well-to-do matrons held New year’s open houses. Mrs. Abraham Blochman greeted friends with her daughter Mina while the Misses Marston entertained with Mrs. Bryant Howard.11 A society of single women known as the M.G.’s received friends with Mrs. A.E. Horton.
The Delmonico Restaurant opened in the Backesto Block at Fifth and H Streets. With Continental flair, it advertised Sunday dinner at 50 cents with one entree froid (Fowl Mayonnaise) and two entrees chauds (Cotelettes d’agepes a la Maintenon and Salad of Duck aux Olives).
The town was besieged with dust, then rain, then mud; then potholes in the streets when the mud dried. Telephones were scarce, but there had been a telephone report, noted in the newspaper, that “Mexican rebels” were roaming somewhere to the east in the vicinity of Dulzura, Potrero and Campo. Troops were dispatched in case lives and property had to be protected.
Mrs. H. Hughes, calling herself an electrician, advertised “a galvanic battery which can be used to treat rheumatism, neuralgia, St. Vitus dance, hysteria, insomnia, ladies’ disorders, etc.”
Douglas Gunn, editor of the San Diego Union, campaigned for such civic improvements as better streets, a railroad station, and electric street lighting (while his opposite number on the Sun wavered between electric and gas lights). City Trustees J.H. Snyder and Matthew Sherman12 made an official visit to Los Angeles to inspect the streetlights there and returned with a report in favor of electricity.
Opposite a Union editorial on the need to flush San Diego’s sewers was an ad that read: “Many a lady is beautiful, all but her skin; and nobody had ever told her how easy it is to put beauty on the skin. Beauty on the skin is Magnolia Balm.”
One afternoon earlier in the year, a mother wheeled her twin children in a baby carriage across Fifth Street at C. As she entered the intersection, a vaquero galloped by on his horse in pursuit of a runaway cow. Luckily, mother and children were not hurt, but the incident prompted the ever-watchful Union to complain: “Are our streets to be used as a cattle range and trotting park or are they for the convenience of our citizens generally?”
In the evenings, citizens amused themselves by going to Leach’s Opera House on D Street.13 The Sun carried an ad on the arrival of a troupe which included Mlle. La Selle, “the wonderful water queen who eats, drinks, sews and sleeps under water in a large glass tank.”
Kate Castleton, said to travel with a $1000 dog, appeared at the opera house in “Crazy Patch,” which was billed as “replete with music and lunacy.” She wowed her audience with songs like “For Goodness Sake Don’t Say I Told You,” and “She Don’t Know Chicken From Turkey.”
When H.A. and Julia Kendell came to the opera house to do “Faust,” they inadvertently pointed up a communications problem. The theater, in response to audience enthusiasm, wanted to hold them and their eighteen member cast for another four days. They would have stayed, but were unable to communicate with their advance man to have them released from their next job in Santa Ana.
H.L. Story, who sold pianos and organs (as he had in Chicago), became the proud owner of a new steam launch early in 1885. On January 29, Story dressed himself up as George Washington and his wife Della put on a flower girl’s costume when they attended the grand ball at Horton Hall described by the Sun as “one of the most pleasant social events of the season.”
The Storys gave a lavish party with a certain amount of French flavor in their home at First and A Streets. The Sun described it as “chacun a son gout”, or something for everyone.
A grand march was followed by card playing, including San Diego’s introduction to the game of progressive euchre. A midnight supper was followed by dancing until dawn. Mrs. Story wore a garnet velvet gown trimmed with lace, and a diamond pin.
Later in the year, Story and Elisha S. Babcock, Jr., bought the San Diego Peninsula and conceived their plans for the city of Coronado. As part of the plan, the fine avenue that stretches toward San Diego Bay was named Adella Avenue, while the splendid street that reaches up along the ocean side of Coronado was named Isabella Avenue. One assumes this was a grandiose gesture by which the gentlemen honored their wives, Della Story and Isabel Babcock.
Both Babcock and Story acquired yachts in 1885, and the Babcocks built a fine home on Seventh Street between A and Ash, just above the one at Seventh and A that Postmaster George Copeland bought. A.E. Horton built one of the finest homes that San Diego or any other town had ever seen on First Street, two blocks west of W.W. Bowers’s Florence Hotel.
The year 1885 was pivotal in the career of Katherine Olivia Sessions, a winsome and attractive twenty-seven year old San Francisco native who had come to San Diego in 1883 as the first principal of Russ School.14 Alas, the relationship did not prove to be happy (among other insults, she was demoted in favor of a man) and when the 1885-86 school year began, she took a job in San Gabriel.
But San Diego friends such as the Solon G. Blaisdells and Rosa Smith15 wanted her back. The Blaisdells were well aware of her love of horticulture and when beer garden owner Peter Mayrhofer put the San Diego Nursery up for sale late in the year, the proverbial wheels began to turn. By the year’s end, the firm belonged to the Blaisdells and Kate O. Sessions.
The nursery’s original owner had been Josephus M. Asher16, who had come to San Diego in 1869. Although greeted with ridicule in the prevailing cow culture, Asher saw more to the San Diego countryside than a place for raising livestock. Asher saw the area’s potential for agriculture, and he began farming in Paradise Valley about two miles east of the heart of town.
Asher’s Flower Depot, as he called his nursery at 1134 Fifth Street, provided flowers and trees for beautifying early San Diego gardens. Among his business transactions was the sale of eucalyptus trees to the U.S. Army for the barracks at Atlantic Avenue and H Street.
By 1885, Asher had moved to El Cajon where he had become a major grower of fruit trees and raisin grapes. His neighbors included Major Levi Chase, George A. Cowles17, and Matthew Sherman, who placed an ad in the Union offering 50,000 Zinfandel grape cuttings for sale.
Wheat, wool and honey, the county’s principal products, had taken the lead from a declining stockraising industry. The first County Fair at Armory Hall in October brought 1,569 entries from 535 exhibitors. On display were such locally grown fruits as apples, pears, peaches, quinces, figs, dates, Japan persimmons, bananas, guavas, pomegranates, oranges, lemons, limes, citrons, bergamots, shaddocks, pumalos and grapes, as well as raisins.
Other products which offered county residents a living included dried fish, abalone shells, hides, whale oil, sand, rags, cocoa mats, turtles, sea otter skins, and gold from the mines near Julian. Gold was also mined in Baja California, although the gold rush there was over.
On lower Fifth Street, Tillman A. Burnes, the entrepreneur, individualist and sometime owner of the stage coach line to National City, maintained a menagerie that was the delight of the public. It especially attracted small boys like Herbert Hensley whose father, George Hensley, had an office a few blocks north. There, he advertised himself as “George B. Hensley, searcher of records, insurance, general agent and notary public.”18
The Union kept an eye on the Burnes menagerie which included a wildcat, guinea pigs, rabbits, noisy monkeys, an anteater, and a bear that might either lick the face or take a bite out of a passerby. The Union reports at least two occasions on which the bear escaped and had to be returned with force.
Further up Fifth Street, Martines Chick maintained a shooting gallery which offered customers a chance to take shots at assorted mechanical targets.
North of that, beside George Marston’s ever-expanding dry goods, carpet, White sewing machine, and men’s furnishing business on the northeast corner of Fifth and F Streets, was the office of real estate agents Morse, Noell, and Whaley. In July, a desk was set aside for the business of San Diego Building & Loan. The address was 809 Fifth Street.19
George Hensley, the young firm’s secretary and only paid employee ($20 per month), had his office across the street.
The San Diego Building & Loan Association was founded as California entered into a settling out period in its business history, the association meeting a growing need in the boom times of the Eighties. When plans for its formation were announced, the newspapers were enthusiastic. The Union said:
“The associations, when well managed, are of great benefit to a town as they greatly encourage building by enabling industrious and frugal persons to obtain homes by monthly payments but little if any in excess of the amounts usually paid for rents. “20
Historian Hubert Howe Bancroft, who grew olives and raisin grapes in Spring Valley, describes the tentativeness of California business development in the period 1848-1888.21
The major Americanization took place because of the Gold Rush in 1849. Growth was lightning quick. The need arose for every kind of business and service from banks to mercantile companies to dentists to railroads. At the height of the Gold Rush, Bancroft points out, the miners’ money “was too valuable to be tied up in real estate.” The plans of the miners were “too ephemeral.”
In the post-Gold Rush era, the miners turned to agriculture. New problems came about as the marketplace was suddenly overcrowded with wheat. There was no regulation of production or sales.
In the hastily built new cities and towns that popped up, highly combustible wooden houses were constructed with few or no fire departments. It is no wonder there were difficulties in finding fire insurance and mortgage money.
Indeed, the unscrupulous actually made money by setting fire to their own buildings which were insured by firms too remote to make inspections or question claims. People were expected to be honorable and truthful. When they weren’t, tragedies ensued. Insurance companies went out of business. Banks sometimes closed.
Responsibility and conservatism took over and with this came better communications, more caution on the part of business, and an interest in in-creased government regulation.
It was time for the Wild West to stop being so wild, not only in matters of business, but in its behavior in general. Douglas Gunn in the Union was one member of the media who unabashedly looked askance at drunks, derelicts, and any kind of major or minor renegade.
The Sun went into detail on the value of mutual building and loan associations which it said had been established throughout the United States and Europe with great success. One example of savings and loan logic went as follows:
“Take a loan for $3,000, for which a premium of ten percent is paid, interest at ten per cent per annum, and we have the following figures: Interest on $3,000, $25 per month, add monthly dues, $15, making monthly payments $40 for ten years or 120 months, $4800, add $300 premium paid, and we have $5100 paid by the borrower. Now the rent of a $3,000 house is about $35 per month, which in 120 months amounts to $4,200; deduct this sum from $5,100, and we find that the borrower has only paid $900 to obtain a $3,000 house.”22
The San Diego Building & Loan Association offered opportunities to investors. As the Sun explained it:
“The Capital Stock, say $500,000, is divided into 2500 shares of$200. Said shares are paid and the Association is dissolved when the assets of the Corporation are sufficient to divide $200 to each share. The members subscribe for any number of shares not exceeding fifty, upon which they pay one dollar per share monthly. To obtain the par value ($200) of one share, without interest, would require 200 monthly payments, that is, sixteen years and eight months; but as the income of the Association, which consists of monthly dues, interest, premiums on loans, and fines, is loaned out each month, the interest compounded monthly, the capital, $500,000, may accrue in from eight to ten years. It follows, therefore, that if the $500,000 be realized in eight years, the holder of one share will have paid in monthly installments $96, and will receive $200. If in nine years, which is more probable, he will realize $200 for $108 paid in, and if the result be attained in ten years, he will receive $200 for every $120 paid in.”23
The first organizational meetings of San Diego Building and Loan were held in July at the offices of Morse, Noell and Whaley. In its report, the Union noted: “Properly managed, and the names of its directors is a substantial guarantee that it will be, the association will be of . . . lasting benefit to San Diego.”24
All the stockholders, who included the directors, appear to have been individuals who occupied leadership roles in the community.
In fact, the stockholders’ meeting for August at Hensley’s office had to be adjourned until the following evening to allow stockholders to attend a meeting at Armory Hall to arrange the town’s memorial services for General (and former President) Ulysses S. Grant who had died that week.
San Diego Building & Loan’s first directors were Abraham Blochman, Martin D. Hamilton, Bryant Howard, Simon Levi, George W. Marston, Ephraim W. Morse, Allen Overbaugh, Capt. Matthew Sherman, and John Snyder. Moses A. Luce was counsel.
An item in the Union suggested that Abraham Blochman was the impetus behind the founding of the association. Blochman was born in the province of Alsace in France in 1834. In 1851, he suffered through a tortuous journey across the Isthmus of Panama and up the west coast of California on his way to the gold fields.
He moved his family to San Diego in 1881 after having made a name for himself as a businessman and rancher, although he was dead broke due to a series of financial reverses. The Blochmans quickly became some of San Diego’s leading citizens.25
Martin D. Hamilton lost an arm while fighting in the Civil War and was active in the Grand Army of the Republic’s Heintzelmann Post No. 33. He had been elected City Assessor on the Republican ticket. His home was in Sherman’s Addition. He owned a ranch near Jamacha.
Bryant Howard, born in Buffalo in 1835, settled in San Diego in 1867. In 1885, he was City Treasurer and president of the Consolidated Bank. He was also a director and founder of the Savings Bank of Southern California in Los Angeles where he had business interests, due, perhaps, to the fact that his wife was from that city. In the 1870s, Howard moved to England for several years where he worked to promote trade between that nation and southern California.
He served as treasurer to several San Diego organizations, including Engine Co. No. 1 to which he gave a fire bell in 1885. It immediately sparked controversy. The bell didn’t ring loud enough to suit most citizens.26
Simon Levi began his southern California business career in the then important stage coach stop of Temecula early in 1873. He moved to San Diego in 1876, entering the grocery and general merchandise business as a partner with Samuel Steiner, who was his uncle, and Abraham Klauber. Levi developed a sales force that covered most of southern California, the territories of Arizona and New Mexico, and Baja California. The leadership he showed in business was carried over into the community. He served on the Board of Trustees of the city, and in executive positions with the San Diego Telephone Company and San Diego Gas and Electric Light.
George White Marston was born in Wisconsin in 1850 and moved to San Diego with his parents in 1870. After a brief stint as clerk at the Horton House, he entered the mercantile field. He was a bookkeeper in the general merchandise firm of A. Pauly, who was a founder of the San Diego Chamber of Commerce. His wife’s father was the brother of Union editor Douglas Gunn.
Ephraim Weed Morse was born in Amesbury, Mass., in 1823 and came in 1849 to California where he was stricken with a fever while mining. He moved to San Diego for his health and became a businessman, a City Trustee, a lawyer, an organizer of the Bank of San Diego, and a road and railway builder. He is one of a few San Diego leaders mentioned in the same breath with Alonzo Erastus Horton by those who knew them both.27
Allan Overbaugh was born in Charlestown, N.Y., in 1821. He was a successful real estate investor in Wisconsin and San Jose before moving to San Diego in 1873, where he lived a prosperous if low-key life.
John H. Snyder, president of the Board of Trustees in 1885, came to California from Kansas, arriving by steamer with his wife Jennie in 1875. He invested in Horton’s Addition, his holdings including the northwest corner of Fifth and D Streets.28
Capt. Matthew Sherman, the first resident of New San Diego (also known as Davis’ Folly or Graytown), served in both the Navy and the Army in the Mexican and Civil Wars. His wife, the former Augusta Jane Barrett, had come from San Francisco in 1866 as San Diego’s only schoolteacher.
Ancestors of Moses Augustine Luce included Normans who fought with William the Conqueror in England and a grandfather who fought on the U.S. side in the War of 1812. Luce himself fought in the Civil War. He was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor for rescuing a wounded comrade under fire. As vice president and counsel of the California Southern Railroad, he fought an important battle with Leland Stanford when he won the right to have the train routed to San Diego through Barstow and San Bernardino, instead of the long way through Los Angeles.29
Original stockholders, in addition to the directors, included Marie Blochman, the firm’s first woman shareholder and one of three to own fifty shares. Pioneer Hiram Mabury of San Jose, who had real estate interests in San Diego, and Bryant Howard were the other holders of the maximum number of fifty shares each.
San Diego in 1885 was a town with growing to do.
Bad-tasting water came from wells drilled on the property of well-to-do citizens downtown. The wells were marked by windmills until public demand caused water to be piped in from the San Diego River.
A boardwalk had been built north along Third Street from downtown to the Florence Hotel at Fir Street so that pedestrians could stay out of the dust and mud.
Sailing ships and steam vessels arrived at and departed from the wharf at the foot of Fifth Street. Churches graced Fourth Street and D Street.
Russ School, built three years before by the owner of the Russ Lumber Company, overlooked downtown from the high ground on Twelfth Street. The Russ Lumber Company brought redwood for San Diego homes from the Humboldt River area and pine from Tacoma and Astoria.
Pubs and saloons were everywhere. The Last Chance Saloon on Fifth Street opposite the wharf offered arriving passengers their first chance to grab a drink on coming ashore, and departing passengers their last chance to drink up before sailing.
Further up the street, Till Burnes’s Acme Saloon boasted in its advertising of an “elegant” bar, reception rooms, a billiard parlor, a reading room, and “magnificent oil paintings/’ along with newspapers from the Eastern states. There was a cigar store adjacent.
The Mush and Milk Society held its meetings in the Rectory of the Episcopal Church. Ladies of the Unitarian Society gave a Bon-Ton party at Horton Hall in the Spring. About 300 people attended the May Day Sunday School picnic at Rose Canyon, paying fifty cents apiece for the round trip by train. Those who attended participated in “croquet and other games, swinging, football, and other amusements.”
One afternoon in June, Virgil Earp, of the notorious Earp clan of Arizona, sashayed into town. His arrival made the news column of Douglas Gunn’s ever-watchful Union along with such items as picnics in La Jolla, an eclipse of the sun, and a lecture by Rosa Smith on the hammerhead shark to members of the Natural History Society at their Sixth Street headquarters.
The Sun, among other things, noted that Mrs. Vader, the lady barber, was holding forth in a “tonsorial apartment.”
Hunters were shooting rabbits and quail in the 1,400 brush-covered acres of City Park.
Two men named Cline and Mumford operated a grocery store at the corner of Fifth and D Streets. Mumford was also the fire chief. Dr. Agnes C. Burr, a homeopathist and electrician, resided and had her office over the Palace Crockery Store on Fifth Street between E and F. T.I. McGee, M.D., a physician, surgeon and electrician, was said to have the most complete electrical apparatus on the Coast for medical purposes.
On November 18, the town celebrated the pending arrival on November 21 of the first transcontinental train with a parade, followed by “literary exercises” at Leach’s Opera House. Bryant Howard would have delivered the address of welcome, but had to bow out because of a cold. The directors and stockholders of the San Diego Building & Loan Association were to be found among the celebrants, scattered among such entities as Heintzelmann Post No. 33 of the Grand Army of the Republic, the City Board of Trustees, the officers of the Chamber of Commerce, and the executives of the California Southern Railroad.
It was one of San Diego’s finest days. With the railroad in place, the town would be a town no more.
SENIOR OFFICERS OF GREAT AMERICAN SINCE 1885 . . .
Senior officers over the years appear below, opposite the year in which each was elected to the indicated office. The executives who served as managing officer of the company are indicated by an asterisk following the title.
|1885||Captain Matthew Sherman, President
George B. Hensley, Secretary*
|1886||S. Levi, President|
|1887||Theodore Fintzelberg, Secretary*|
|1888||George B. Hensley, President|
|1889||A. Blochman, President|
|1912||W.R. Rogers, President
J.R. Beardsley, Secretary*
|1921||Amasa P. Johnson, President|
|1923||R.E. Hegg, Secretary*|
|1930||E.E. Hubbell, President
R.E. Hegg, Executive Vice President and Treasurer*
|1931||S.I. Fox, President|
|1939||R.E. Hegg, President*|
|1952||R.E. Hegg, President and Chairman of The Board*|
|1953||R.E. Hegg, Chairman of the Board
George E. Leonard, President*
|1954||J.D. Thompson, Jr., President*|
|1958||J. Dale Dresser, Executive Vice President and Secretary|
|1969||Gordon C. Luce, President*
James C. Schmidt, Executive Vice President
|1979||Gordon C. Luce, Chairman of the Board and Chief Executive Officer
James C. Schmidt, President and Managing Officer*
1. The San Diego Building & Loan Association was founded in July, 1885. The firm became San Diego Federal Savings & Loan Association in 1937. The name was changed to Great American First Savings Bank in 1984.
2. Sherman was president of the San Diego Building & Loan in its first year, 1885-86.
3. The initial meetings for the founding of San Diego Building & Loan were held in the real estate office of founder Morse at 809 Fifth Street.
4. Moses Augustine Luce was counsel to San Diego Building & Loan from 1885 until 1922. He is the grandfather of Gordon C. Luce, the present chairman of the board.
5. Babcock was the entrepreneur who built the Hotel del Coronado.
6. Story was Babcock’s partner in the original Coronado enterprises.
7. In 1885, until the transcontinental railroad was built, most people came to San Diego by ship. In fact, this means of transportation was popular for several years after train service began.
8. California was admitted to the Union on September 9, 1850.
9. See “The California Southern Railroad: A Rail Drama of the Southwest,” by Richard V. Dodge with R.P. Middlebrook assisting, Reprinted from Bulletin No. 80, the Railway and Locomotive Historical Society.
10. Simon Levi was a founder of San Diego Building & Loan. For the Levi family story, see “The Levi Saga: Temecula, Julian, San Diego,” by Henry Schwartz, Western States Jewish Historical Quarterly, Vol. 6, No. 3, April, 1974.
11. Marie Sarassin Blochman was the independently wealthy wife of Abraham Blochman, a founder of San Diego Building & Loan. See “The Blochman Saga in San Diego,” by Trudie Casper, The Journal of San Diego History, Vol. 23, No. 1, Winter, 1977.
George White Marston was a founder of San Diego Building & Loan. For the Marston family story, see “George White Marston: A Family Chronicle,” compiled by Mary Gilman Marston.
Bryant Howard was City Treasurer in 1885 and a founder of San Diego Building & Loan. He and Moses A. Luce helped create the Boys and Girls Aid Society in accordance with the will of James M. Pierce.
12. John H. Snyder, like Sherman, was a founder of San Diego Building & Loan. He became president of the City Board of Trustees in 1886.
13. Leach’s Opera House also doubled as an ice rink when theater troupes weren’t there. D Street is known today as Broadway; H Street has become Market Street.
14. See Kate Sessions: Pioneer Horticulturalist, by Elizabeth MacPhail (San Diego History Center, 1976).
15. Rosa Smith was a schoolteacher in Oakland who persuaded Kate Sessions to apply for the job at Russ School. Sessions lived for a while at the home of Smith’s parents, the C.K. Smiths, at 1045 Eighth St. Rosa Smith was the first woman writer for the San Diego Union. After marrying Dr. Carl H. Eigenman in 1887, she became world famous as an ichthyologist. She died in 1947 at the age of 88.
16. See Golden Era Magazine, Vol. 38, No. 9, September 1889, p. 370. Asher attended the first organizational meeting of the San Diego Building & Loan Association and bought five shares of stock.
17. See “History of San Diego County, California” (1883) pp. 115 and 116. Chase bought the first lot from Babock and Story’s Coronado Land Co. in 1886. Cowles gave his name to Cowles Mountain in East San Diego.
18. See “Early San Diego: Reminiscences of Early Days and People,” by Herbert C. Hensley (1876-1957). It consists of 646 typewritten pages in three volumes.
19. The entire building eventually was taken over by Marston’s store. It is an historical landmark.
20. See San Diego Union June 23, 1885.
21. “History of California” by Hubert Howe Bancroft, Vol. VII.
22. San Diego Sun July 28, 1885.
24. San Diego Union, June 23, 1885.
25. See Ibid. and “The Blochman Saga in San Diego,” by Trudie Casper.
26. The bell today stands in front of the Central Fire Station on B Street between Front and First Streets.
27. Schwartz, “The Levi Saga.”
28. D Street is known today as Broadway. H Street is Market Street.
29. See Union Title and Trust Topics, Vol. 3, November-December, 1949, p. 10.
Great American Directors Linked to Early San Diego
Several of the current Great American directors have ties to pioneering families in San Diego’s history, some of which were connected with the company during its early days.
Chairman and chief executive officer Gordon C. Luce is the grandson of Moses A. Luce, the counsel to San Diego Building & Loan at the time of its founding. The former became president of San Diego Federal Savings and Loan in December of 1969, following service in Sacramento as a member of then-Governor Ronald Reagan’s cabinet. He now serves as chairman of the board and chief executive officer.
Director emeritus Theodore “Thid” Fintzelberg, who became a director of San Diego Federal in 1953, is the son of the company’s second secretary and managing officer, also named Theodore Fintzelberg. The latter served as secretary for twenty-five years, beginning in 1887. He was a founder of Fintzelberg and Steinmetz, an insurance and real estate firm that has continued to the present day under the management of his son.
Another entrepreneur who got his start in San Diego in 1886 was Michael Hall, father of Edward C. Hall, who became a San Diego Federal director in 1953. Young Ed Hall joined his father’s real estate investment firm, M. Hall Company, after graduating from San Diego High School in 1916.
Also elected in 1953 is director Robert J. Sullivan, whose family founded Sullivan Hardwood in San Diego during 1912, after moving here from Michigan. The founders were his grandfather and father, both named Jerry Sullivan, along with an uncle, Herbert L. Sullivan.
Bruce R. Hazard, a director since 1968, carried on the highway contracting business started by his father, Roscoe E. Hazard, in 1915. The latter earlier had been in the hardware business, an enterprise begun in 1907, after he had worked for another hardware firm in San Diego.
Two other longtime directors of Great American are L. Bruce Stallard and Evan V. Jones, elected in 1964 and 1968, respectively. As the former came to San Diego from Virginia in the mid-forties, he has no family connections with early San Diego; however, he quickly established a reputation of his own as a widely respected realtor and appraiser.
Evan Jones is another of the Great American directors who are native San Diegans. While assisting his father, Albert Jones, during summer vacation from college, young Evans was involved in the move of San Diego Federal from a corner of the U.S. Grant Hotel to its office at 1027 Sixth Avenue in 1938. Little did he realize at the time that he would become a director of the company three decades later. A civic leader who has been involved in many facets of the San Diego community, Evan Jones is a nationally recognized authority on parking management.