San Diego's City Park, 1868-1902

an Early Debate on Environment and Profit

by Gregory E Montes

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City Park's Sixth Street Canyon

A view of City Park's Sixth Street Canyon around 1900.Formal establishment of City Park, now called Balboa Park, took place in 1868 when Ephraim W. Morse and Alonzo E. Horton's resolution for establishement of a park reserve of 1400 acres was adopted by the San Diego Board of Trustees. Debate on how this vast amount of acreage should be improved and utilized would continue for years afterward. [Photo 1473-b]

Ephraim W. Morse

Ephraim W. Morse, a prime mover behind creation of City Park. Morse, a native of Amesbury, Massacusetts, first came to California in 1849 during the Gold Rush. In 1850 he settled in San Diego seeking a milder climate and took up the profession of merchant and realtor.

Jose Guadalupe Estudillo

Jose Guadalupe Estudillo served as president of the San Diego City Board of Trustees when City Park was founded.

Women's Home Association

The Women's Home Association about 1894. This photo was not included in the original Journal article but is shown here for the on-line reader's interest. [Photo 3237]

Women's Home Association burns down in 1897

The burning of the Women's Home Association in 1897. Situated on City Park land, the Home had been created to shelter poor and indigent women. Interestingly, it burned down only one month after the city had insured it for $4,000. [Photo 3238]

Photo

Kate O. Sessions contributed greatly to the improvement of City Park. In exchange for a city lease to use a portion of the park as a nursery, Miss Sessions annually furnished the city with 300 ornamental trees for park, street or school ground planting, plus an additional 100 trees to be planted on park land.

Arbor Day

Arbor Day planting in the park was encouraged by Sessions. She made certain that San Diego residents were reminded of the date's approach each year. [Photo 16019-1]

Sixth and Date Streets

The park as seen from Sixth and Date Streets.

Cabrillo Canyon

The Cabrillo Canyon "freeway" traversing the park about 1903. [Photo 1560]