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Downtown San Diego, ca. 1890

A 19th-century bird's-eye photograph showing part of downtown San Diego, looking (roughly) southwest from the roof of the court house, which was bounded by Union, Broadway and C Street. Coronado can be seen in the distance. The streets in the foreground are unpaved, with a few horse-drawn carriages and no automobiles. Several structures can be identified: Whittier, Fuller & Co, as well as the prominent wharf jetting into San Diego Bay from either D or G Street.  This may be Spreckels's wharf. Homes and other structures on Coronado can be discerned in the view, most prominently the Hotel del Coronado, which was built in 1888.

John Ervin Slocum (1851-1916) was one of San Diego's pioneer landscape view photographers. In 1896 Slocum stated in a legal document that he had already been in the photography business some 28 years, "all over the West and California." He was active in San Diego throughout the 1890s.

John D. Spreckels and San Diego Transportation Development

This photographs reflects the influence of John D. Spreckels on San Diego, who first arrived to the town in 1887. A prominent businessman and entrepreneur, Spreckels was a key figure in San Diego during the late 19th century. Beyond the eponymous Spreckels Wharf, he played a transformative role in the city's development, particularly through investments in transportation, real estate, and utilities. He acquired control of the Coronado Beach Company, the Hotel del Coronado and Coronado Tent City. His influence and endeavors, which include the establishment of the San Diego Electric Railway and numerous other infrastructural projects, were pivotal in shaping San Diego's urban landscape and transportation network.


This photograph is rare. While OCLC locates several San Diego views in library collections, the present view is not listed.

Condition Description
Original albumen photograph print, mounted on card. Boudoir cabinet card format. Uniform sunning or fading to the image. Small repaired tear to left side, no loss to image. Otherwise very good.