Photos of Gaslamp history on Fifth Avenue.

Should you walk down Fifth Avenue through the Gaslamp Quarter, you might notice electrical boxes on street corners that feature photos from San Diego history. I believe these graphics debuted a few months ago.

The San Diego History Center and Gaslamp Quarter Historical Foundation have furnished old photos and bits of fascinating information for curious people passing down the sidewalk.

In 1885 Wyatt Earp came to San Diego, where he operated three gambling halls, organized gambling excursions in Mexico, and prospected copper and gold.
In 1885 Wyatt Earp came to San Diego, where he operated three gambling halls, organized gambling excursions in Mexico, and prospected copper and gold.

The Louis Bank of Commerce building was the location of Madam Cora's infamous Golden Poppy Hotel. It was also San Diego's first downtown ice cream shop.
The Louis Bank of Commerce building was the location of Madam Cora’s infamous Golden Poppy Hotel. It was also San Diego’s first downtown ice cream shop.

The Old City Hall building housed police headquarters. The Gaslamp during much of its early history was a red-light district known as the Stingaree.
The Old City Hall building housed police headquarters. The Gaslamp during much of its early history was a red-light district known as the Stingaree.

The Yuma Building was one of downtown San Diego's first brick structures. The bottom floor contains the only original interior from the 1880s in the Gaslamp Quarter.
The Yuma Building was one of downtown San Diego’s first brick structures. The bottom floor contains the only original interior from the 1880’s in the Gaslamp Quarter.

In the 1970s a redevelopment and preservation program began aimed at establishing the historic Gaslamp Quarter.
In the 1970’s a redevelopment and preservation program began aimed at establishing the historic Gaslamp Quarter.

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Stingaree: an exciting novel set in early San Diego!

Historical photo of the First and Last Chance Saloon, inside San Diego's rowdy Stingaree District.
Historical photo of the First and Last Chance Saloon, inside San Diego’s rowdy Stingaree District.

Murder! Gambling halls and brothels! Wyatt Earp! Corrupt police! Scheming businessmen! Secretive gangs! Pirates! A rip-roaring story dripping with suspense and excitement!

Would you like to read the first few chapters of a thrilling novel set in late 19th century San Diego? Jack Tyler, a talented author of adventure and steampunk fiction, is now writing an action-packed novel titled Stingaree, which takes place in San Diego’s old red-light district–an area of town that today is part of the Gaslamp Quarter. He has made many great chapters available to the public–for free! Click here to visit his website, then find the link to Stingaree.

In the late 1800s, the Stingaree was where sailors, ranch hands, and the working class sought their thrills in a depressed and rather desolate city. It was home to dozens of gambling parlors, whorehouses and saloons. Law-abiding citizens stayed away for their own safety. To be seen in the Stingaree might destroy one’s reputation. At night all hell would break loose. Those who prospered running tawdry businesses in the Stingaree had to pay the police bribes and watch their own backs.

In the novel Stingaree, the reader will recognize a variety of historical persons and locations. From the construction of the Hotel del Coronado, to George Marston’s department store, to the Horton House Hotel–the story is an exciting journey back in time. Jack Tyler successfully presents a city full of danger, uncertainty and great promise. From his imagination emerges an assortment of wonderfully inventive characters.

I must say I really enjoyed reading the completed chapters. This is the sort of smart, well-constructed story that would make for a really entertaining movie or television series. Cliffhangers and plot twists abound. Enjoy a fun read by clicking here and look for the link to Stingaree!

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.

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Cowboys have gunfight on a San Diego street!

Cowboys have a gun battle in San Diego's Old Town.
Cowboys have a gun battle in San Diego’s Old Town.

Look at these larger-than-life cowboys! They’re shooting it out in Old Town!

This whimsical art can be found on San Diego Avenue, in a courtyard among shops and restaurants catering largely to tourists. I’m not sure whether it represents the Gunfight at the O.K. Corral or just an Old West scene from a typical Western movie.

Is one of the cowboys Wyatt Earp? After his famous gunfight, Wyatt moved to San Diego to participate in a land boom, running saloons, gambling halls and a brothel!

cowboys have gunfight on san diego street

Like the plant beside him, this guy might soon get planted.
Like the plant beside him, this guy might soon get planted.
Wyatt Earp was here.
Wyatt Earp was here.
Stern lawman patrols San Diego Avenue.
Stern lawman patrols San Diego Avenue.

Ornate facade of haunted Horton Grand Hotel.

ornate facade of horton grand hotel

A registered National Historic Place, the Horton Grand Hotel in downtown San Diego’s Gaslamp Quarter is a true architectural treasure. It’s ornate Italianate Victorian facade is based on the famous Innsbruck Inn in Vienna, Austria.

Today’s boutique hotel is a modern restoration of two historic buildings, the Grand Horton, built in 1887, and the Brooklyn Kahle Saddlery. The latter was the residence of Wyatt Earp during the years he lived in San Diego.

The Horton Grand has another interesting distinction. Room 309 is said to be haunted by the ghost of Roger Whitaker, a gambler who was shot dead by a man he cheated in a game of poker. Many guests who’ve stayed in this room have reported objects changing position when they are asleep!

Is that strange, glaring, long-bearded figure in the corner of this photo a vengeful ghost? I hope he didn’t follow me home!

Entrance to elegant Horton Grand hotel in the Gaslamp.
Entrance to elegant Horton Grand hotel in the Gaslamp.
Another wing of the historic hotel.
Another wing of the historic hotel.
The inside courtyard used to be outside!
The inside courtyard used to be outside!
A closer examination of architectural detail.
A closer examination of architectural detail.
The Horton Grand Hotel stands in downtown San Diego's Gaslamp Quarter.
The Horton Grand Hotel stands in downtown San Diego’s Gaslamp Quarter.