The Place Where California Began
While it’s a given that not all neighborhoods are created equal,
how about the simple fact that some are actually pretty unique.
For example Point Loma my favorite neighborhood in San Diego. On a map, it can be seen geographically as a hilly peninsula bordered on the west by the Pacific Ocean and south by the Pacific Ocean & San Diego bay.
What does “Point Loma” actually mean?
The words “Point Loma” are often used to describe the neighborhood and the peninsula.
And a lot of people call Point Loma home; an estimated 47,981 (including Sunset Cliffs), according to the 2010 US Census take up residence here. While there are many homes and neighborhoods, a large part of the community is consumed by The Peninsula Planning Area, which includes most of Point Loma, at around 4,400 acres.
As for its history,
Point Loma has quite a rich one compared to many cities. It is considered the landing place of the first European expedition to come ashore in present-day California. In fact, the peninsula is often referred to as the place “where California began.” These days, Point Loma has two major military bases, a national cemetery, a national monument, and a university, as well as numerous residential and commercial areas.
But getting back to its unique name, Loma is the Spanish word meaning hill. And what’s interesting is that the original name of the peninsula was once referred to as La Punta de la Loma de San Diego. This translates to Hill Point of San Diego, but over the years, the name has changed simply to Point Loma.
So who lived here back in the day?
History says there were no permanent indigenous settlements on Point Loma mostly because fresh water was hard to find. However, records indicate that early settlers like the Kumeyaay people made their way toward Ocean Beach where they gathered mussels, clams, abalone and even lobsters.
Point Loma is said to be discovered by Europeans on Sept. 28, 1542, when Portuguese navigator Juan Rodríguez Cabrillo (João Rodrigues Cabrilho in Portuguese) departed from Mexico and led an expedition for the Spanish crown to explore the West Coast now known as the United States. Cabrillo described San Diego Bay as “a very good enclosed port.” Many experts and historians feel he docked his flagship on Point Loma’s east shore, perhaps even at Ballast Point.
As time moved forward it would not be until 200 years later before a permanent European settlement was established in San Diego in 1769. Mission San Diego itself was in the San Diego River Valley, but its port was a bayside beach in Point Loma called La Playa (Spanish for beach).
And don’t forget the historic La Playa Trail, considered to be the oldest European trail on the West Coast that led from the Mission and Presidio to La Playa, where ships moored, anchored and unloaded vast cargoes via smaller boats. An interesting side note, part of the route became present-day Rosecrans Street.
In the book “Two Years Before the Mast,” written by Richard Henry Dana, Jr., often described as the man whom Dana Point, CA is named, he describes how sailors in the 1830s set up house on La Playa beach, gathering cattle hides to export, and hunted for wood and jackrabbits in the hills of Point Loma.
For years, the beach at La Playa served as San Diego’s port until the New Town or today’s downtown replaced it in the 1870s.
If you’re curious about how Ballast Point got its name, it actually was derived from ships that practiced discarding their ballast on arriving in San Diego Bay and taking on ballast as they departed for the open sea. Also, the massive Fort Guijarros was constructed at Ballast Point in 1797 and Ballast Point and La Playa can still be found on the grounds of Naval Base Point Loma.
Speaking of naval bases, the longtime marriage of San Diego with the U.S. military started in Point Loma. The southern portion of the Point Loma peninsula was set aside for military needs dating as early as 1852. Over the next several decades, the Army created a series of coastal artillery batteries and named the area Fort Rosecrans.
Beginning in 1901, a large U.S. Navy presence found its way in San Diego with the formation of the Navy Coaling Station in Point Loma. The Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego was commissioned in 1921 and the San Diego Naval Training Center in 1923, also in Point Loma; the Naval Training Center was closed in 1997.
During World War II, the entire southern portion of the peninsula was closed off to civilians and only used for military needs including a coast artillery. After the war ended, the area retained multiple Navy commands, including a submarine base and a Naval Electronics Laboratory; eventually consolidating into Naval Base Point Loma. Other portions of Fort Rosecrans morphed into Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery and Cabrillo National Monument.
After the death in 1891 of Helena Blavatsky its founder, Katherine Tingley relocated the headquarters of the Theosophical to “Lomaland,” a hilltop campus in Point Loma overlooking the Pacific. The location offers such a unique architecture and unusual lifestyle; it became a source of music and culture for residents of San Diego between 1900 and 1920.
Known for producing most of its own food, the Society also experimented with planting trees and crops including eucalyptus and avocado. Today, The Lomaland site serves as a campus of Point Loma Nazarene University.
During the 1920s there was a dirt airstrip known as Dutch Flats now the Midway neighborhood of Point Loma. And this is where Charles Lindbergh first tested and flew his airplane, The Spirit of St. Louis, actually built in San Diego by the Ryan Aeronautical Co. But alas, a U.S. Post Office is now situated on the site offering visitors a number of historic plaques commemorating Dutch Flats and Lindbergh to gaze on while mailing letters.
In its early days thanks to its lovely sea-breezes and long north-south ridge, Point Loma was a well-known gliding site during 1929-1935 for para-gliding.
Another claim to fame for Point Loma was when William Hawley Bowlus the Superintendent of Construction on the Spirit of St. Louis and resident of Point Loma built the first American sailplane the Bowlus SP-1. In fact, he flew the aircraft along the west side of Point Loma to establish new American endurance records. Bowlus later refined designs to soar for more than 9 hours near the Cabrillo National Monument. He had a successful student by the name of Jack C. Barstow who took his own chance and also soared over Point Loma for more than 15 hours in 1930 to establish an unofficial world record for soaring endurance.
While its early days are long gone, Point Loma continues to be a place where residents, visitors and tourists converge because of its beauty and remarkable place in California history.
If you are interested in Point Loma and want to learn more feel free to reach out to us!
We would love to discuss your real estate options and the current Point Loma real estate market. We’re also here to give you great restaurant tips or ideas on fun things to do in Point Loma. You can reach me, Mike Mora, directly at 619-417-9247.
If you would like to search for available properties, click here to search all Point Loma homes for sale.