About Point Loma
Point Loma - San Diego's Seaside Paradise
From Point Loma's historic past to its bright future, Point Loma is a truly unique neighborhood in San Diego. And Point Loma still carries on the tradition of the sea.
From sun-drenched San Diego beaches to top-notch attractions and events in San Diego, for first-time visitors San Diego is an experience to remember. But what most visitors don't expect to find is an area rich with history and tradition. Perhaps more than any other local San Diego neighborhood community, Point Loma exemplifies the legend and lore of this seaside paradise, San Diego.
Point Loma, meaning "hill point" in Spanish, is a seven-mile strip of land that serves as gateway and guardian to San Diego Bay, the largest land-locked harbor in the world. A lush peninsula, Point Loma is also home to the Naval Training Center and the community has a very strong tradition of the sea. Point Loma's tree-lined streets, well-manicured homes, marinas and yacht clubs offer natural beauty and a host of activities and San Diego for tourists and locals living in San Diego CA.
But many years ago, the Point was just as much a desert as the rest of San Diego.
Echoes of the Past – Places of Today
"A ridge 400 feet high and 5½ miles long… bare of trees, sparsely covered with grass, sagebrush and cactus."- an early description of Point Loma.
The peninsula was originally known as La Punta de California (the Point of California) until the first land expedition renamed it "La Loma de San Diego" in 1769. In 1782, "La Punta de la Loma" was recorded on a map, and eventually the lengthy name was shortened to the English/Spanish version, "Point Loma."
Point Loma's earliest echoes coincide with those of California. On Sept. 28, 1542, Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo landed at Ballast Point. The Yuman Indians, a tribe who once roamed all of San Diego County, greeted Cabrillo and his expedition from Spain. Cabrillo named the area San Miguel as he recorded the discovery in his charts, and spent the next five days repairing his ships, the San Salvador and the Victoria. Shortly after, Cabrillo died from injuries sustained while trying to aid a member of his crew.
In 1913, a half-acre was set aside to commemorate the great explorer, and in 1949 a statue was erected in his memory. Today the 144-acre Point Loma San Diego park known as Cabrillo National Monument is the third most visited San Diego attraction, as well as one of the most visited national monuments in the U.S. Over 1.5 million people tour the historic Cabrillo National Monument Point Loma annually. Looking down from Cabrillo National Monument to Point Loma beaches and shoreline below, visitors can see Ballast Point where Cabrillo first set foot upon San Diego California soil.
When the Mexican/American War ended and new territories were annexed, the United States Army realized a military reservation was needed in Point Loma. A Point Loma fortress was built and it was called Fort Rosecrans, named after a Civil War general by the name of William S. Rosecrans. Today the military still occupies a majority of Point Loma. The Naval Training Center, Naval Ocean Systems, Naval Electronics Laboratory Center, an atomic submarine base, an undersea research and development center, and naval and coast guard rescue facilities all make for a large military presence in Point Loma. In addition, thousands of military personnel make up a large portion of the Point Loma population exceeding 20,000 residents living in Point Loma San Diego.
Located at Point Loma southern end is the 71-acre Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery, with row after row of simple white crosses commemorating deceased war veterans. Since 1846 through the Vietnam era, deceased military men and their families have been buried in Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery in Point Loma. With the backdrop of San Diego Bay to the east and the Pacific Ocean to the west, Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery remains one of the most beautiful cemeteries in the country. Visitors in route to Cabrillo National Monument often find themselves in awe of the majestic view at Point Loma's Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery.
Point Loma Lighthouse is another point of interest widely considered to be among the best attractions in San Diego. Point Loma Lighthouse shares space with the Cabrillo National Monument where in addition to tide pooling Point Loma and whale watching, visitors can tour the old Point Loma Lighthouse and learn about its rich history. The original Point Loma Lighthouse was built in 1854 and the Point Loma Lighthouse stood for 36 years as a coastal beacon of light. At 500 feet above sea level, the Point Loma Lighthouse seemed to posses an ideal location, but its lofty perch soon became its downfall. Fog often enshrouded the light, so in 1891 another lighthouse was built at the bottom of the hill. Today, visitors can tour the light keeper's quarters and learn what it was like to be the guardian of the bay within the Point Loma Lighthouse.
Newcomers Plant Cultural Roots
An important chapter in Point Loma's history was the arrival of Madame Katherine Tingley and her Theosophical Society in 1897. Tingley and the society were the main sources of the lush, green flora evident in Point Loma today, as well as one of the first culturally, artistically and environmentally aware groups in Point Loma San Diego.
Based on theosophical views, the community had three goals: to establish an international center for the understanding and spreading of theosophy (a religious system proposing to establish direct, mystical contact with the Divine Spirit), to provide a well-rounded education for its children, and to experiment with communal living. This "peculiar" society, as it was considered by most San Diegans, transformed the desolate land into a most unusual community. Ornate buildings were erected, some with glass domes topped with heart-shaped ornaments. (Today, 10 of the original Moorish/Egyptian-inspired buildings of the institute, including the A.B. Spalding residence and the Greek Theater, are still standing on the grounds of Point Loma Nazarene University, a liberal arts college sponsored by the Church of the Nazarene).
San Diegans watched with curiosity as hundreds of theosophists changed the face of the "Hill." They planted eucalyptus groves, pepper and olive trees, and varieties of pines and acacias on the barren landscape. Theosophists from all over the world sent gifts of foreign seeds. The hillside was alive with blooming flowers and shrubs, and peach, persimmon, avocado and fig trees which prospered in the balmy climate.
During its 35 year existence, many poets, musicians, novelists and historians called the "Hill" their home. After the theosophic community closed in 1942, many of its members settled in San Diego. Maurice Braun was an artist who went on to help organize the Art Guild, which eventually became the San Diego Fine Arts Society and Gallery. The husband and wife team of John and Winifred Davidson were charter members of the San Diego Historical Society, an important cultural institution in San Diego then, and now.
The Making of Neighborhoods
Although the military and the Theosophical Society occupied a majority of Point Loma, a few neighborhoods managed to squeeze in between the borders. Today these Point Loma neighborhoods remain vital community facets.
The oldest neighborhood in Point Loma is La Playa. Located on the eastern side of the peninsula, just north of Ballast Point, La Playa was once the hub of the whaling industry in Southern California, a trade center, and a frequent stopping point for ships en-route to northern California during the Gold Rush. La Playa was also the site of the Mormon Battalion's search for coal in the late 1850s.
The fishing industry in Point Loma began to thrive soon after with the arrival of Chinese fishermen. The first Portuguese fishermen arrived in 1876 and in the early 1900s the Portuguese built the great San Diego tuna fleet. Portuguese surnames still abound in La Playa, as well as Fleetridge and Roseville. (Louis Rose migrated to the area from Texas in the 1860s to purchase some land and to transform the area north of La Playa into the "real" San Diego. His dream was never quite realized but he did manage to be the namesake of the neighborhood.) The Portuguese Historical Society is the largest ethnic organization in Point Loma, reflective of the large Portuguese heritage.
Loma Portal expanded in the late 1800s. Vintage homes built between 1900 and 1910 still stand among the more contemporary architectural styles. More recently, Loma Portal has been known for its location directly beneath Lindbergh Field's flight path.
A Modern Community
"Quite a bit of property on the Point, much of which is located on hillsides, with gorgeous views, is still unimproved, but it should not be long before every part is being developed." – From a paper published by the Union Title Insurance and Trust Company, circa 1947.
Regardless of its many well-traveled roads to the past, Point Loma is looking toward the future. Today Point Loma proudly supports its tourist industry. The picturesque Point Loma harbor is home to many fine Point Loma restaurants, not to mention the exclusive San Diego Yacht Club and other Point Loma yachting clubs sprinkled throughout the community. Point Loma residents and visitors alike spend relaxing hours at Point Loma beaches and shores; skin diving, sailing, surfing, tide pooling and beachcombing are popular activities in Point Loma, and the Point Loma Lighthouse and Cabrillo Monument in Point Loma San Diego are time-honored attractions as well. Spacious and eclectic Point Loma homes are sprinkled throughout this quiet and conservative San Diego community and many homes in Point Loma either share ocean views or views of San Diego Harbor.
Point Loma has grown into an exclusive neighborhood, limited by size but certainly not attributes. The epitome of a seaside beach community, Point Loma has a rich heritage and enjoys its reputation as one of the most visited spots in San Diego California.