Photos of National City’s Heritage Square and Brick Row.

Brick Row at National City's Heritage Square, built by Frank Kimball in 1887.
Brick Row at National City’s Heritage Square.  The long brick two-story structure was built by Frank Kimball in 1887.

To those traveling through gritty National City, Heritage Square can be a surprising discovery. Venture into the picturesque block, just south of the intersection of East 9th Street and A Avenue, and you feel like you’ve stepped back 150 years.

National City has a fascinating history. Originally used by the Spanish to graze horses, the land in the early 1800s, after Mexican independence, was called Rancho de la Nación. In 1868, a San Francisco builder named Frank Kimball bought the rancho with an ambitious dream. He intended to turn National City into the western terminus of the Santa Fe Railway.

You might remember my photographic tour of the National City depot, built in 1882 by the Santa Fe Railroad. It became the first terminus of transcontinental rail travel in the San Diego area. You can see that fascinating blog post here.

To accomodate executives of the Santa Fe Railroad and booming times caused by the arrival of rail, in 1887 Frank Kimball built Brick Row, a structure in the style of Philadelphia row house. It was designed by San Diego architect R. C. Ball. Over 240,000 bricks were used for the ten units.

Kimball’s full ambitions weren’t realized, however, when the Santa Fe Railroad soon turned their sights on Los Angeles, making that city their major center of operations in Southern California.

An early resident of the “Kimball Block” was legendary marshall Wyatt Earp, who came to Southern California after being indicted in Arizona for shooting the men who’d killed his brother. He is best known locally for opening three gambling halls in San Diego. In 1889, Wyatt Earp stayed in Brick Row when he traveled down to Tijuana, Mexico. There he famously refereed a prize fight during a fiesta that also featured cockfights, bullfights and a lassoing contest.

In the early 1970s, National City’s planning directer, Malcolm C. Greschler, interested in preserving the deteriorating Brick Row, came up with the idea of creating Heritage Square, which would be a historical tourist attraction similar to San Diego’s Old Town. In 1973 Frank Kimball’s house was moved to Heritage Square.

The 1869 Kimball House has its own unique history. It was the first house built in National City. Not only did it have a bathtub, but it had hot running water, which made it the first modern house in the entire county. President Benjamin Harrison visited it in 1891 during his tour of the western United States. At the time, it was the longest journey ever made by a President while in office. President Harrison’s 9,232 mile trip by railroad took one month and three days!

In 1976 two more historical houses were moved to Heritage Square: the 1887 Stick-style Rice-Proctor House and the 1879 Steele-Blossom House, which is depicted on National City’s official logo.

A plaque that reads Heritage Square - Marked in honor of the National City Centennial by San Miguel Chapter NSDAR, 1987.
A plaque that reads Heritage Square – Marked in honor of the National City Centennial by San Miguel Chapter NSDAR, 1987.
Heritage Square in National City contains several historic structures from the mid to late 19th century.
Heritage Square in National City contains several historic structures from the mid to late 19th century.
The Steele-Blossom House, built in 1879, is used by the city of National City in its official logo. Elizur Steele was real estate agent for the Frank Kimball and his enterprising brothers.
The Steele-Blossom House, built in 1879, is used by the city of National City in its official logo. Elizur Steele was real estate agent for Frank Kimball and his enterprising brothers.
The 1869 Kimball house was moved to Heritage Square in 1975. It is now the Kimball Museum operated by the National City Historical Society.
The 1869 Kimball house was moved to Heritage Square in 1975. It is now the Kimball Museum operated by the National City Historical Society.
The 1887 Stick-style Rice-Proctor House in National City's Heritage Square.
The 1887 Stick-style Rice-Proctor House in National City’s Heritage Square.
The two-story Brick Row is composed of ten units with common walls.
The two-story Brick Row is composed of ten units with common walls.
Sign reads National City Historic Site - Kimball Block - Also known as Brick Row, this block of Eastern-style flats was completed in 1887 at the then considerable cost of 22,000.
Sign reads National City Historic Site – Kimball Block – Also known as Brick Row, this block of Eastern-style flats was completed in 1887 at the then considerable cost of $22,000.
Photo of section of the handsome Brick Row in National City. The building now houses several specialty shops and the National City Historical Archive Room.
Photo of a section of the handsome Brick Row. The building now houses several specialty shops and the National City Historical Archive Room.
Walking through the historic block of Heritage Square in National City is like a voyage back in time.
Walking through the historic block of Heritage Square in National City is like a wonderful voyage back in time.

This blog now features thousands of photos around San Diego! Are you curious? There’s lots of cool stuff to check out!

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Published by

Richard Schulte

Downtown San Diego has been my home for many years. My online activities reflect my love for writing, blogging, walking and photography.

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