Del Mar History

I knew Nancy Hanks-Ewing and she was a delightful woman, a former newspaper reporter and serious journalist. Much of her knowledge of Del Mar passed on when she did, but her memory - and the results of her knowledge, research and experience are captured in Del Mar - Looking Back

To get this excellent, comprehensive history of Del Mar by Nancy Hanks-Ewing, you could order it from Amazon or Barnes and Noble, but there is a better (and cheaper) way to get it. Check out the link below for more details:

Del Mar : Looking Back
Author: Nancy Hanks Ewing
Format: Hardcover
Publish Date: November 1988
ISBN: 0962035807
List Price: 35.00
Click here for the lowest price

Del Mar's history is fairly colorful and a bit ironic, as you'll read.

The area known as Del Mar was populated by Indian inhabitants possibly dating back 50,000 years. The San Dieguito Indians were the most ancient inhabitants, believed to have come from southern Oregon by way of the Mojave Desert and Imperial County.

At some point, the La Jolla Indians arrived, joining and then replacing the San Dieguitans about 7,500 years ago. And, finally within the last 1,500 years, the Diegueno Indians arrived from the desert lands to the east. The Dieguenos were the inhabitants Christianized by the Franciscan Fathers, and, as a result, they moved from the Del Mar area to the San Diego Mission area when it was founded in 1769.

Following the Mission era, the main part of Del Mar was granted to Don Juan Maria Osuna in 1840-1841 as part of the San Dieguito Ranch.

In 1882 a New Yorker named Theodore Loop came to southern California to build a railroad connecting Los Angeles and San Diego. The original train tracks were laid down in the middle of Township 14, today known as Del Mar.

After the completion of the railroads, several pioneer farming families were drawn to the area. William Weed was one of them, purchasing a large area of what is now Del Mar, and the area was named Weed in his honor until 1885, when it became known as Del Mar.

Mr. Loop liked the area so much he told people that he had "found the most attractive place on the entire coast".

In the same year Loop met a very successful rancher from New Mexico, Mr. Jacob Shell Taylor. Taylor and Loop were both captivated by the beauty of the area and recognized a development opportunity. In the summer of 1885, Taylor purchased 338.11 acres and began building the new resort town.

Del Mar was named by Loop's wife, Ella, who took it from a popular poem of the time titled "The Fight of Paseo Del Mar."

Taylor was a savvy businessman and a visionary. He knew that if he could lure visitors to Del Mar they would likely be loyal customers or new residents. 

Jacob Taylor initially built as many as 40 small houses, a two story Victorian schoolhouse, an observation tower, a train depot and a water system. Additionally, in 1886 Taylor opened "Casa Del Mar", the area's first resort. To entertain visitors Taylor built a dance pavilion on the beach and a large swimming pool that went out into the ocean called a Natatorium. Del Mar became a popular vacation destination.

For five years the town bustled with development. Sadly in 1889 Jacob Taylor woke up in the early morning to the smell of smoke in his hotel room. He woke all of the hotel guests, guaranteeing their safety, but within two hours the entire hotel burned to the ground.

Taylor insisted he would rebuild the hotel but, unfortunately, he never finished it. Taylor moved to Texas; leaving behind the town he founded, never to return.

In 1905, the formation of the South Coast Land Company, revived the town. The center of town moved from 9th and Stratford to Coast Highway and 15th. The South Coast Land Company built a new hotel, Tudor style at that location, which set off a new land boom. The South Coast Land Company also relocated the railroad and railway station and, with the help of, and in spite of, a colorful cast of characters, they planned to extend the Pacific Electric Railway to San Diego from Los Angeles through Del Mar. That plan fell through when Henry Huntington, one of the partners in South Coast Land Company, was thwarted by E. W. Harriman, head of Southern Pacific, when Harriman acquired 51% of Pacific Electric stock. Nevertheless, the small community continued to grow

A Colorful History

From the Del Mar Times, July 22, 2005
By Don Terwilliger

There are three well-known commercial establishments on Coast Boulevard in Del Mar, the history of which few people are aware: Poseidon Restaurant, Jake’s and the Del Mar Motel.

The Poseidon building was first opened in 1956 as The Knight’s Room, a restaurant not to be confused with a bar of the same name at the old Hotel Del Mar located on the present site of L’Auberge.

Two years later it became one of several upscale southern California Stuft Shirt restaurants that were headquartered in Pasadena. I enjoyed some fine meals at them, especially remembering their divine green goddess salad dressing.

Third in line, in 1962, new owners turned the building into The Fire Pit with an open fireplace still seen at Poseidon. This was Del Mar’s most popular restaurant, both with locals and out-of-towners, including Hollywood celebrities who were down here for the races.

The building changed hands again in 1968 to become the Poseidon, which recently underwent an extensive remodeling and continues to be a favorite spot to dine right on the beach.

The site of Jake’s Restaurant, next door, has a history dating back to around 1910 when it was occupied by the Stratford Inn Garage that served guests at the hotel up the hill, which later became the Hotel Del Mar.

When the garage eventually had to be torn down, the heavy wood roof trusses were saved and incorporated into the building that is now Jake’s. Look over your head next time you dine there.

In 1927 the old garage was replaced by a new service station for the hotel on the northwest corner of Camino del Mar and 13th Street. The structure is now an office building. Meanwhile, the old garage on Coast Boulevard had a succession of occupants, including a silk stocking factory, which I remember.

Jake’s occupies a new building, built in the 1980’s and first opened as the Stratford Restaurant.

Going back a few years, Sanford Adler bought the Hotel Del Mar in 1946 and decided to quietly turn the garage on the beach into a gambling casino. Adler was a Las Vegas hotel owner at the time of the infamous Bugsy Siegel. His secret worked, except on opening night the Feds raided the joint and confiscated the slot machines and gambling tables.

Adler had to be satisfied with the slot machines that lined one of the suites at the hotel, which I saw when visiting my aunt who was a resident there.

He did benefit the community by building an addition to the hotel—the Natalie Room, named after his daughter—in which top-named entertainment was presented for a $2.50 cover charge. I saw Nat King Cole, Liberace, Martin and Lewis, Carmen Miranda, and Penny Singleton in the years before the hotel was closed and eventually demolished in 1969.

In 1946 Sanford Adler also bought the land on which the Del Mar Motel stands. The original plans were for a motel three-times the size, in a U-shape with the middle section facing the beach. Only the south wing was completed on the site formally occupied by the Batchelder and Gardener General Merchandise Store and Post Office.

During World War II there were kennels at the back of the store to house the coastal watchdogs that patrolled the beach day and night.

After the store closed and before the building was removed, my dance teacher, LaVielle Lamont, used it as a studio for a few months. As a student at the LaVielle Studio de Dance, I remember taking classes there and, on one fateful evening, being part of a Christmas dance recital during a torrential rainstorm.

The roof leaked, the audience huddled under umbrellas. And in what was billed as a Mexican Hat Dance, my cousin Carole and I sloshed in puddles on the floor in what looked more like a scene from “Singing in the Rain.”