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Early Aerial Photographs of San Diego. Including a Rare, Early Photograph of Mission Bay Before its Redevelopment and a Nascent Lindbergh Field.

Impressive set of sixteen photographs of greater San Diego, spanning from downtown east to El Cajon and north to La Jolla.

This archive is impressive for both what it shows (Ocean Beach Bridge, the early configuration of Lindbergh Field, farming in Hidden Valley) and what hasn't yet appeared (there is no development in much of the city, including University City, and a lack of the Coronado Bridge).

The photographs span at least a decade of development, in some cases capturing the same area at different times. We have been able to identify photos 15 and 16 (see list below) as 1929-1947 and 1940-1942, respectively.

Photograph 15, which shows the south end of Mission Beach, captures the Spreckels-backed Ocean Beach Bridge, which connected the two neighborhoods and was destroyed in 1947 to make way for a new entrance channel into the bay. Numerous other anomalies appear throughout the image, with Santa Clara and El Carmel Points not yet being built and Marina's Point having a bay-shaped configuration. While we date the photo as post-1929 due to the absence of certain buildings along the boardwalk, it still seems to be from the early or mid-1930s based on the extent of development. The lack of aerial photos of Mission Beach from this period makes the image harder to date.

Photograph 16 shows Lindbergh Field prior to its mid-1940s redevelopment. The Field is characterized by two short and thin runways, with early development in what is now the Coast Guard outpost shown. The growth of the Consolidated Aircraft Corp factories dates the image to between 1940 and 1942, with Plant 1 being near-fully built but Plant 2 remaining under construction. We see this progression in these dated photographs from the Air and Space Museum, which is confirmed by this photo from the city archives.

List of Photos

From upper left to lower right in the arranged photograph, the views show:

  1. Clairemont. Tecolote Canyon diverges at the base of the photo, with Bay Park to the left. Clairemont shopping mall has not filled in the undeveloped oval. La Jolla Shores appears on the coast, with Scripps Pier.
  2. Del Cerro and La Mesa. The San Diego Mission appears in the lower left. Lake Murray is in the upper right. El Cajon is in the distance.
  3. Mount Soledad, with the Cross. San Clemente Canyon, undeveloped, is in the background. 
  4. San Diego Mission.
  5. Close-up on El Cajon. Lake Murray is in the lower left. La Mesa is just south of the freeway in the center.
  6. San Diego Bay. Lindbergh Field to the left. North Island to the right. Point Loma in the foreground. Closer to downtown, Balboa Park is visible to the left.
  7. Close-up on Del Cerro, with Lake Murray in the background.
  8. San Diego Bay, from above Mission Bay. Ocean Beach is just visible. Coronado Island is visible almost in full.
  9. Mission Bay from above Clairemont/Mount Soledad. Crown Point to the center-right of the map, Mission Beach to the far right. Bay Park and Morena Boulevard to the left of the map.
  10. Duplicate of 7.
  11. Duplicate of 2.
  12. Linda Vista and Bay Park. University Heights and the edge of Hillcrest visible across Fashion Valley.
  13. Ocean Beach, with Mission Beach to the left. Parts of Mission Bay, San Diego Bay, Downtown, Balboa Park, Hill Crest, and North Park visible.
  14. Mission Beach, between about Sunset Court and Santa Barbara Place.
  15. Mission Beach, with Spreckels Bridge in the foreground.
  16. Lindbergh Field, with the Consolidated Aircraft Corporation buildings and the Midway District.
Condition Description
Set of sixteen vintage silver gelatine photographs (with two duplicates).