Saturday, September 6, 2014

Historic Highway 101-Oceanside and a beginning

As we drive along our concrete superhighways , wouldn't it be nice to imagine a kinder, gentler era when the road was an adventure and your car was a part of you.   For many that highway is 101, and in San Diego, 101 goes along the Pacific Ocean and passes through the beach communities between Oceanside and La Jolla.  Along the highway, there are still Victorian homes, 1950's gas stations, local cafes, coffee houses and lots of sandy beaches.  Father Serra built the missions in the late 1700's and needed a wagon road to connect them and so he constructed the first California highway.  This highway was called El Camino Real, which translates to King's Highway or The Royal Road.  For about 200 years this was the principal north-south route in California.  When Interstate 5 was constructed in the 1960's, 101 was bypassed.  Highway 101 provides a look at California in the early days.  In 1998, all 935 miles of 101 was given historic designation by the State of California.

The origins of Highway 101, or at least the portion that runs through San Diego County, date back to the early years of the 20th century, according to published accounts.  In 1902, California voters gave the legislature the power to establish a state highway system, using existing roads or building new ones.   In 1908, the San Diego County Road Commission was formed, with instructions to build 1250 miles of county roads.  Members included prominent city fathers as J.D. Spreckels, E.W. Scripps and A.C. Spaulding.  Petitions circulated around the county about road priorities and Oceanside with a population of less than 600, requested a highway be developed along the coast from San Diego to Orange County.  In January 1909, the commission finalized its report on road construction throughout the county.  Among the most ambitious projects were two highways and one ran from San Diego along the coast to Orange County.

Coming south from Orange County on Interstate 5, you can access 101 by getting off at Coast Highway.

There is also an El Camino Real bell erected along 101 to signal to travelers that a California Mission was nearby.  These bells were erected in 1906.  Mission San Luis Rey is located in Oceanside and is 3 miles east of the highway. See one of my other blogs called for information about the mission.   Another place to see, near the Mission, is the church at Prince of Peace Abbey, which was dedicated with the title of "Our Lady of Einsiedeln" on October 21, 1987.  Fr. Gabriel Chavez de la Mora, O.S.B., a monk of Tepeyac Abbey outside Mexico City was its architect and provided the designs and inspirations for nearly all its furnishing and artwork.  This gives the church at Prince of Peace Abbey a great harmony of design.  He also painted the "Prince of Peace King of the Universe icon in the church.

After seeing the Mission and the Prince of Peace Abbey, there is much more to see along South Coast Highway.  Starting down South Coast Highway, this wall art is on the side of a liquor store.  I happen to love wall art!

Next notable building on the way south is The Star Theatre.  The Star Theater still has live theater performances and is a good example of "Googie" Architecture that was popular in the 1950's.

 Googie architecture is a form of modern architecture, a subdivision of futuristic architecture influenced by car culture, jets, the Space Age and the Atomic Age.  Googie architecture originated in Southern California during the late 1940's and continued into the 1960's.  Features of Googie architecture include upswept roofs, curvaceous, geometric shapes and bold use of glass, steel and neon.  This architecture was also known as part of Mid-Century Modern.  The origin of the name "Googie" dates back to 1949, when architect John Lautner designed the West Hollywood coffee shop "Googies"  The name "Googie" had been a family nickname of Lillian K. Burton, who was the wife of the original owner. The building was destroyed in 1989.

The Star Theater was designed by architect William Glenn Balch and opened in 1956. It was one of 17 theaters Balch designed in California and the only one that is still in existence.  When the Star Theater was built, the marquee was the largest in San Diego County.  The marquee was famous for its size and and its animation.  The marquee is 65 feet wide and 6 feet high and is one of the few remaining examples.  Originally the marquee had neon flashing twinkling stars and a 48 foot cascading electric light waterfall, that no longer functions as its designer originally intended.

The next place is The California Surf Museum, which is not on Coast Highway, but is a notable place in Oceanside.  The California Surf Museum pays homage to the surf culture of Southern California with antique surfboards, historic photos and exhibits on early pioneer surfers.

The Oceanside Pier is down the street from the Surf Museum and is the longest over-water wooden pier on the West Coast. This is the 6th pier and was built in 1987.  The first pier was built in 1888 in a different location.  In 1894, the pier was rebuilt at its current location.  Other piers replace the 1894 pier in 1903, 1927 and 1947.  The concrete approach, ramp and stairs were built in 1927.

The Oceanside bandshell was built in 1950.  The first bandshell was built in 1919.  This bandshell was used in the 2000 movie "Bring It On" with Kirsten Dunst.

Recognize this next house?  The house was built in 1887 and officially is the Henry Graves house, but in 1986, this house was put into a movie with Tom Cruise, called "Top Gun" and this house is now referred to as the "Top Gun house".

Across the street from the "Top Gun" house are the Rorick houses.  The Rorick homes were built in 1906 and 1913 and are of the Craftsman style.  The homes were designed by David Rorick, Sr., who was former city attorney who came to Oceanside from Lawrence, Kansas.  The father of David Rorick, Sr. lived in one house and David Rorick, Sr. lived in the other.  David Rorick, Jr. was born in the family home in 1913.  David Rorick, Jr, was owner of Rorick Buick and a civic leader.

The George P. McKay building is down the street from the Surf Museum and was completed in 1908.  The first floor of the building was a general merchandise store and Mr. and Mrs. McKay lived upstairs.

Theodore C. Bunker purchased this property in 1885 from J. Chauncey Hayes and erected this 2-story brick structure that is down the street from the McKay building.  This building was constructed in 1886.  It was known as the Bunker House and was a family residence, as well as a boarding house.  When Mr. Bunker died, the family moved to Los Angeles.  Years later it was renamed the Traveler's Hotel.  The building is said to have a colorful history, from the stabbing death of  one of its owners to the years of use by prostitutes.  It is the oldest remaining brick commercial/residential structure in Oceanside.

More wall art:

Corner of Mission and Coast Highway:

This building was The first National Bank of Oceanside and was built in 1925.  This building replaced an earlier bank building built in 1887 that housed the library, city hall and private offices.  The building remained a bank until the depression and later housed a five and dime store and a men's wear store.

The J.E. Jones Hardware store was completed in 1913.  Jones was a farmer in the San Luis Rey valley and sold farm implements, hardware and household items.  It was later Howe's Hardware and eventually became Huckabay's Department Store for many years.  The Silver Slipper ballroom, a popular spent in the 1940's was located upstairs.

The Odd Fellows building was built in 1924.  The meetings were held upstairs, while the City Hall was downstairs.  In 1929, JC Penny Company leaded the downstairs for 40 years.

The Keisker Hotel was built in 1927.  The hotel advertised that steam heat and hot and cold running water to every room.  It was AAA recommended.  The hotel catered to travelers on their way from Los Angeles to Del Mar, San Diego and Tijuana.  It was renamed the Dewitt Hotel by the 1940's and now operates as the Dolphin Hotel.

The First Christian Church was built in 1928 and the congregation is the oldest in North County forming in 1875.  The beautiful stain glass windows are dedicated to the early charter members who lived in the San Luis Rey Valley.

The 101 Cafe started life as a small 20-seat diner in 1928 by the Ekegren family.  It was just the small dining room where the counters are now.  The restaurant was noted for the breakfast , which was and is still served all day.  The Cafe was named for Highway 101, which it fronted.  The Greyhound bus stopped in front until the 1940's when the bus station was located downtown.  The traffic for the restaurant came from Highway 101, which was the main access from Los Angeles to San Diego until 1953, when the main flow of car traffic relocated to Interstate 5.

Lucky Lackey, a local businessman, added an overhang around the building as it now exists.  Mr. Lackey found a successful restaurateur, John Graham, to operate the latest in eateries, a drive in called "Grahams" and the drive-in was run successfully until the early 1970's.  Graham also ran two other drive-ins in Oceanside.  Grahams' reputation as a hot spot for local teenagers spread widely, until places like McDonald's began to rise to prominence and drive-ins no longer prospered.  Graham adapted to the change by selling to-go items and changed the format to a coffee shop.  Through all this, the 101 Cafe has been a favorite of locals and tourists looking for friendly service and good food.  About 10 years later, a new owner changed the name to Randy's Coffee Shop.  The current owners  have changed the name back to  101 Cafe.  The 101 Cafe is the oldest continuously operating restaurant on the 101 in California.

This is one of the oldest buildings in Oceanside.  The Congregational Church was built in 1886 and the Methodists purchased the building in 1898 and called it home for decades.

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