Timeline of San Diego History
Local events are in black ~ World and national events are in gray
January 5, 1931
Lemon Grove Grammar School principal Jerome Green, acting under instructions from school trustees, turns away Mexican children at the schoolhouse door. The landmark lawsuit resulting from the "Lemon Grove Incident" becomes the first successful school desegregation court decision in the history of the United States.
San Diego's State Teachers' College moves into the seven mission-style buildings of the present SDSU campus. In 1935, the Legislature removes the word "Teachers" from the name of the institution and, in 1960, the College becomes part of the newly created California State College system. It is renamed San Diego State University in 1971.
Reuben H. Fleet moves Consolidated Aircraft (which becomes Convair) from Buffalo, New York. Fleet had organized the first U.S. Air Mail Service in 1918.
Consolidated Aircraft opens first plant along Pacific Highway to build 50 P-30 pursuit planes for Army. First PBY-1 is launched on test flight on San Diego bay in 1936 - Consair employment rises from 900 in 1935 to 3700.
May 28, 1935
California-Pacific International Exposition opens in Balboa Park. Chief architect Richard Requa has put Palisades buildings up in just a few months and completely remodeled the House of Hospitality.
The Old Globe Theatre opens in Balboa Park (note the open air center).
Bill Lane brings his Hollywood Stars baseball team to play in San Diego as the Pacific Coast League Padres. Lane field, at the corner of Broadway and Harbor Drive, is the home of the Padres from 1936-1957. Read stories told by PCL Padres in our Jornal of San Diego History. ~ Photo of Lane Field and San Diego harbor 1937. Hoover High School's Ted Williams plays ball with the Pacific Coast League Padres at Lane Field in 1936-37 before going on to win six American League batting titles for the Boston Red Sox.
Construction of the Del Mar Fairgrounds begins as a Work Progress Authority project. Photo of Del Mar Fairgrounds.
June 24, 1937
Richard Archbold makes first transcontinental flight from San Diego to New York City in a seaplane built by Consair. The following year the Archbold expedition sets off from San Diego on a global survey of potential oceanic and continental air routes (pilots Steve Barinka, Russell Rogers). It arrives back in San Diego on July 6, 1939 as the first around-the-world seaplane flight at the equator.
San Diego Civic Center (now the County Administration Center) opens, designed by architect Samuel Wood Hamill. Sculptor Donal Hord's monumental stone statue "Guardian of Water" still stands on the Harbor Drive side of the building. Read about Donal Hord and see his wonderful works of wood and stone.
March 12, 1938
Hitler occupies Austria.
Sept 1, 1939
Germany invades Poland and war breaks out in Europe.
Naval Air Station, Miramar develops on the site of Camp Kearny. In 1939 the Navy took ownership of 423 acres of Camp Kearny and the field was commissioned Naval Auxiliary Air Station, Camp Kearny Feb. 20, 1943. By the end of the war, the base covered 1101 acres and all facilities were combined and commissioned as the Marine Corps Air Station, Miramar May 1, 1946. Expansion begins in 1951 to develop the base for jet aircraft and it is commissioned as United States Naval Air Station, Miramar on April 1, 1952. It becomes the Fighter Command for the Pacific Fleet in 1973, adding the "Top Gun" Flight School, and becomes the Airborne Early Warning Wing Command. In 1998, the Naval Air Station closes and it again becomes a Marine Corps Air Station. [courtesy of Prof. Steve Schoenherr]
City of San Diego population is 203,341. San Diego County population is 289,348. Population table
December 7, 1941
Japanese planes bomb Pearl Harbor. San Diego Union headlines ~ Hear about local troop movements from our SDHS Oral History Archives. ~ Journal of San Diego History articles on San Diego and WWII, military, housing, Japanese relocation, Cavalry at Camp Lockett.
Robert Oscar Peterson opens his first drive-in restaurant called Oscar's. (He later founds Jack In The Box in 1951.) Photo of photographer Charles Schneider setting up Oscar's ad photo.
Construction begins on Linda Vista defense housing project. The biggest construction job in SD's history - McNeil and Zoss contract to build 3000 units in 300 days for $9,070,000. Photo of construction at Linda Vista defense housing project.
San Diego Naval Air Station begins training pilots for U.S. Air Force (a total of 31,400 during World War II). Read Journal of San Diego History article "Women in Wartime".
Navy acquires Rancho Santa Margarita for Camp Pendleton Marine base on 126,000 acres north of Oceanside. Photo of Marine maneuvers on beach at Camp Pendleton.
Consolidated Aircraft merges with Vultee to become Convair. Photo of camouflaged plant, August 1945. ~ Photo of overhead camouflage netting being installed.
October 3, 1943
Hauser Creek fire in the Cleveland National Forest, leaves at least 9 firefighters dead (including 7 marines), 72 injuries and 10,000 acres burned.
Navy begins emergency construction of aqueduct to bring Colorado River water to San Diego. San Diego County Water Authority is formed.
June 6, 1944
Allied invasion of Nazi-occupied western Europe begins in Normandy, France.
Senate ratifies a treaty giving a portion of Colorado River water to Mexico.
World War II ends. Photo of V-J Day downtown. San Diego soon experiences recession.
San Diego voters approve 2 million dollar bond issue to begin development of Mission Bay. SDHS image of plans for Mission Bay.
San Diego assumes responsibility to finance completion of San Diego Aqueduct. Voters approve $2 million water bonds and annexation of County Water Authority to Metropolitan Water District.
George White Marston dies at age of 95.
San Diego Aqueduct opens, bringing first Colorado River water to San Diego. Photo of Fire Hill Tunnel under construction, 1946.
Palomar Observatory opens in June. Construction on the 200-inch mirror had begun in 1934. Read SDHS history on the Palomar Observatory.
Sit-in at U.S. Grant Hotel to protest racial discrimination. SDHS Oral History on Grant sit-in by Dr. Jack Kimbrough.
San Diego's last electric streetcar completes its run from Union Depot. "Fiesta Bahia" celebrates opening of Mission Bay Park.
City of San Diego population is 333,865. San Diego County population is 556,808. Population table
Passenger service on San Diego & Arizona Railway is discontinued.
Jack in the Box gets its start. Robert O. Peterson opens first drive-through restaurant at 63rd Street and El Cajon Boulevard. Peterson had previously operated Oscars.
California Western University is founded at site of Tingley's Theosophical Society on Point Loma.
San Diego's new Public Library opens. Photo of library.
University of San Diego is founded in Linda Vista. SDHS aerial photo of USD under construction.
General Dynamics takes over Convair. Campus in San Diego's La Jolla area proposed for a University of California site.
El Cortez Hotel adds the world's first outside glass hydraulic elevator, designed by C.J. Paderewski.
June 11, 1957
First test of USAF Atlas A missile is launched, built in San Diego by Convair. First successful test firing occurs on Dec 17, 1957 (on the 54th anniversary of the Wright brothers' first flight), the missile landing in the target area after a flight of some 500 miles. The first operational missile, the Atlas D, will serve for launching Mercury manned spacecraft into orbit. Atlas becomes the workhorse of the space program, launching John Glenn in Mercury 7 for the nation's first manned orbital flight in 1962.
Minor League Padres begin playing at Westgate Park in Mission Valley. SDHS aerial photo of Westgate Park taken January, 1958.
Theodore Seuss Geisel, long-time La Jolla resident writing as Dr. Seuss, publishes "The Cat in the Hat", changing the way American children learn to read. He had been given a 225-word list, with a challenge to develop a book which would improve children's literacy. Winner of the Pulitzer Prize in 1984 and two Academy Awards, Seuss was author and illustrator of 44 children's books.
Interstate Highway 8 opens in February, following ancient Indian trails through Mission Valley.
Construction begins on San Diego's second aqueduct.
Billy Wilder's feature film Some Like it Hot is filmed at the Hotel Del Coronado, starring Jack Lemmon, Marilyn Monroe, and Tony Curtis.
Architect Lloyd Ruocco founds what will become Citizens Coordinate for Century 3 environmental group.
City of San Diego population is 573,224. San Diego County population is 1,033,011. Population table.
State approves proposition to deliver water from northern California as far south as San Diego.
American Football League Chargers open first season at Balboa Stadium. Photo of Chargers playing in Balboa Stadium.
Mission Valley Shopping Center opens. SDHS aerial photo of Mission Valley Shopping Center.
Jonas Salk establishes the Jonas Salk Institute for Biological Studies in La Jolla. The 26-acre campus, designed by architect Louis I. Kahn, overlooks the Pacific Ocean on Torrey Pines Mesa. SDHS aerial photo of Salk Institute.
University of California at San Diego opens 1,000-acre La Jolla campus to first class of undergraduate students. SDHS photo of UCSD library designed by William L. Pereira Associates, 1970. Roger Revelle is main force in founding UCSD and the first of its colleges is named in his honor.
City Administration Building opens downtown at Community Concourse.
Sea World opens in Mission Bay Park. SDHS aerial photo of Sea World, March 1964.
Archeological digs begin at Presidio Park above Old Town, eventually revealing foundations and artifacts from the earliest Spanish inhabitation of the 1700s.
August 28, 1965
Beatles perform before 18,000 adoring fans at Balboa Stadium. Photo of Beatles press conference in San Diego.
Mexico authorizes maquiladora factories, Mexican assembly or manufacturing operations that can be wholly or partially owned and managed by non-Mexican companies.
Bob Breitbard completes Sports Arena in Midway area.
$27 million San Diego Stadium opens in Mission Valley as home to the San Diego Chargers and the San Diego State University Aztecs football team. Stadium is renamed for San Diego Union sports editor Jack Murphy in 1981; Qualcomm in 1997). SDHS aerial photo of San Diego Stadium under construction.
The minor-league San Diego Padres become a Major League Baseball team and play their first game in the new San Diego Stadium.
Committee of 100 leads successful bond drive for first historic reconstruction in Balboa Park (Casa del Prado completed 1971). Photo of Bea Evenson in front of Casa del Prado.
San Diego–Coronado Bay Bridge opens, replacing ferry service across San Diego Bay. Photo of Coronado Bridge under construction.
National League Padres begin playing at San Diego Stadium.
Save Our Heritage Organisation (SOHO) launches preservation drive for old Victorian buildings.
San Diego hosts year-long festival to celebrate the 200th anniversary of the founding of California on Presidio Hill. Old Town becomes a state park. Hear State Senator Mills tell about the creation of Old Town State Park. from our Oral History Archives.
San Diego becomes California's second-largest city, with a population of 696,474. San Diego County population is 1,357,854. Population table
San Diego City Council dedicates 6,000 acre La Jolla Underwater Park. Photo of La Jolla Cove circa 1871.
City of San Diego population is 696,769. San Diego County population is 1,357,854. Population table.
Mayor and council members indicted in Yellow Cab scandal.
Mexican-American community campaigns for creation of Chicano Park beneath San Diego-Coronado Bay Bridge. Read Journal of San Diego History article about creation of Chicano Park.
San Diego is chosen as the site of Republican National Convention; in a last-minute about-face, Republicans announce plans to move convention site to Miami Beach. See Dick run. The loss of the convention prompted Mayor Pete Wilson to declare San Diego "America's Finest City".
Reuben H. Fleet Space Theater opens to the public in Balboa Park. Fleet dies in 1975 at the age of 88.
Point Loma College is established on the Point Loma site of the former Theosophical Society. The site had been home to Balboa University from 1950-1952, became California Western University, then United States International University.
The first swim, bike and run triathlon is held at Mission Bay in 1974, run by the San Diego Track Club.
San Diego City Council designates "swim-suit optional" zone at Black's Beach (rescinded in 1977). Photo of Black's Beach.
Mayor Pete Wilson launches plans for a dramatic redevelopment of downtown San Diego, creating Centre City Development Corporation.
Vietnamese refugees temporarily housed at Camp Pendleton.
The fully restored Star of India puts to sea for the first time in fifty years, under the command of Captain Carl Bowman.
The city's redevelopment arm, the Centre City Development Corporation, is established.
University Towne Centre shopping mall opens near UCSD.
February 22, 1978
Electric Building (1915 Exposition's Commerce and Industries Building, now Casa de Balboa) burns down, destroyed by arson fire. Read SDHS history of the Casa de Balboa. ~ Photo of firefighters putting out the fire.
September 25, 1978
One of the worst air crashes in U.S. history occurs in San Diego in 1978 when a Pacific Southwest Airlines commercial jet approaching San Diego airport is struck in mid-air by a small Cessna, killing 144 people, including seven on the ground. Twenty-two dwellings are damaged or destroyed.
March 8, 1978
World-famed Old Globe Theatre in Balboa Park burns to ground in arson fire. Photo of Old Globe fire.
City of San Diego population reaches 875,538. San Diego Region population is 1,861,846. Population table.
The San Diego Trolley, first line in the city's new light-rail transit system, is dedicated. 1981 - San Diego Trolley begins service to border; 1985, East Line; 1990 Bayside Line; 1992, North Line; 1998, Mission Valley Line.
Dennis Conner brings sailing's America's Cup to the West Coast, winning the cup in 1980, 1987 and 1988.
Mayor Pete Wilson presides over Centre City Development Corporation ground-breaking for the Horton Plaza retail redevelopment project.
After a massive fund-raising drive to rebuild it, a new, three-theater Old Globe complex opens in Balboa Park. Pete Wilson elected to U.S. Senate, first U.S. senator from San Diego.
Britain's Queen Elizabeth II unveils a bust of Shakespeare at the rebuilt Old Globe Theatre in Balboa Park.
Roger Hedgecock elected mayor (resigns in 1985 over campaign fund-raising scandal).
Plaza Bonita shopping center opens in National City.
Padres win National League Pennant; World Series games first played in San Diego.
The Tall Ship Californian, a full-scale re-creation of the revenue brig C.W. Lawrence, is launched in May after construction at Spanish Landing. The Californian is the state ship of California and serves as a sailing classroom.
Gunman opens fire in a San Ysidro McDonald’s restaurant, killing 21 people.
Horton Plaza shopping center opens as $140 million cornerstone of downtown redevelopment. Photo of Horton Plaza on opening night.
67 homes are destroyed in Normal Heights fire.
Restored U.S. Grant Hotel opens downtown; San Diego Symphony moves into Symphony Hall (former Fox Theatre).
Maureen O'Connor is elected as San Diego's first woman mayor; North County Fair shopping center opens in Escondido.
The San Diego Supercomputer Center opens at the University of California, San Diego, providing the national research community with access to the highest-performance computers available.
Father Joe Carroll opens St. Vincent de Paul Village downtown, with services for the homeless.
Skipper Dennis Conner, at the helm of "Stars and Stripes", wins the America's Cup for the San Diego Yacht Club, defeating Australia's "Kookaburra". He wins again in 1988.
Jan 26, 1988
San Diego hosts its first Super Bowl, in San Diego Jack Murphy Stadium. Washington Redskins beat Denver Broncos 42-10.
America's Cup yacht race is held in San Diego; again in 1992 and 1995.
San Diego Convention Center opens.
First San Diego River Improvement Project completed on reclaimed Mission Valley river banks.
City of San Diego population reaches 1,110,549. San Diego County population is 2,498,016. Population table.
California State University, San Marcos, opens.
Former San Diego Mayor Pete Wilson is elected Governor of California, the state's first governor from San Diego.
General Dynamics-Convair begins closing local operations.
U.S. Navy announces Naval Training Center to be closed under terms of the Base Closure and Realignment Act of 1990.
California Center for the Arts, Escondido, opens.
ARCO Olympic Training Center opens in Chula Vista.
January 29, 1995
San Diego Chargers lose by a score of 49-26 to the San Francisco 49ers at Super Bowl XXIX in Miami.
Reconstructed House of Charm opens in Balboa Park. Read history of the House of Charm.
Mayor Susan Golding announces plans for the expansion of San Diego Jack Murphy Stadium.
Fire destroys 54 homes in Carlsbad's Harmony Grove.
May 31, 1996
San Diego Symphony officially goes bankrupt (reopens 1998).
August 12-15, 1996
San Diego hosts Republican National Convention, first national political convention in San Diego history. Photo of woman's shoes designed for the convention.
March 26, 1997
In a Rancho Santa Fe home, 39 members of Heaven's Gate cult are discovered dead and covered in purple shrouds after largest mass suicide on U.S. soil. They apparently believed they were shedding their earthly "containers" to catch a ride on a spaceship trailing the Hale-Bopp Comet.
April 30, 1997
Naval Training Center on Point Loma closes to all active military use.
Reconstructed House of Hospitality opens in Balboa Park. Read history of the House of Hospitality.
Padres win National League Pennant; lose World Series to New York Yankees.
Super Bowl held in (renamed) Qualcomm Stadium; Coors Amphitheatre opens in Chula Vista
Voters approve convention center expansion, downtown Padres ballpark, $1.5 billion city school bonds.
Legoland California opens in Carlsbad.
San Diego Presidio ruins are covered up once again to preserve them for posterity and future archaeological digs.
City of San Diego population reaches 1,223,400. San Diego County population is 2,813,833. Population table.