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San Diego History

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San Diego has one of the best natural harbors on the West Coast. The city is even named for a Spanish ship, the San Diego, which sailed into the harbor on Saint Diego's name day, sixty years after the Spanish had claimed the area.

Slowly, San Diego grew into a developed port and a village sprang up around the primary industry, fishing. In the mid nineteenth century, the Mexican War drove the citizens from the town and the port was commandeered by the navy. Still today, the port primarily serves the U. S. Navy, as home to the 3rd Fleet.

After the war, a developer, by the name of Horton, decided that the land near the abandoned adobes had possibility. He bought several acres of land for twenty - five cents an acre and sold them to adventure - seeking males looking for a piece of California. Within two years, the modern city of San Diego, founded three miles from original site, went from 0 population to 2000.

Today, San Diego has grown to encompass both the original site and the one founded by Horton. The old section survives as Old Town, the navy is in port, and fishing boats fill the bay, reminders of both where the city has been, and where it is going.


Significant Dates in San Diego's History

1542 - Juan Rodríguez Cabrillo sails into San Diego Bay on September 28; names his discovery San Miguel.

1602 - Sebastián Vizcaíno, on an expedition exploring California, arrives in San Miguel and renames it San Diego de Alcalá.

1769 - Gaspar de Portolá and Fray Junípero Serra arrive in San Diego; on July 16, Serra blesses Presidio Hill as the site of Mission San Diego de Alcalá, California's first Spanish mission.

1797 - San Diego mission becomes most populous in California, with 1,405 Indians.

1821 - Mexico wins independence from Spain.

1822 - California swears allegiance to Mexico. Presidio families begin home - building process that establishes Old Town San Diego.

1835 - San Diego becomes a pueblo; the presidio is all but abandoned.

1846 - Captain Samuel F. Du Pont orders U.S. flag raised in San Diego on July 29.

1849 - U.S. Boundary Commission arrives in San Diego.

1850 - California admitted to Union on September 9; San Diego incorporated with population of 650, becoming California's first county. William Heath Davis starts building a new San Diego - a failure that will become known as "Davis' Folly" - on the waterfront.

1867 - Alonzo Erastus Horton arrives on April 15 and purchases 960 waterfront acres that will ultimately establish New San Diego.

1871 - County seat moves to Horton's new town.

1880 - San Diego's population reaches 2,637.

1884 - First transcontinental railroad reaches San Diego.

1886 - Construction begins on Hotel del Coronado.

1890 - From peak of 40,000 in 1887, San Diego's population drops to 16,159.

1892 - Sugar magnate John D. Spreckels arrives on scene and buys city transit system.

1900 - Spreckels opens Tent City in Coronado.

1906 - Spreckels and local businessmen form corporation to build San Diego & Arizona Railroad.

1911 - Glenn Curtiss starts flying school on North Island.

1915 - Panama - California International Exposition begins. Balboa Stadium opens.

1917 - Camp Kearny established; U.S. Marine Base and Naval Hospital approved; Rockwell Field and Naval Air Station open on North Island.

1919 - San Diego & Arizona Railroad finally completed.

1920 - San Diego's population reaches 74,683.

1927 - Charles Lindbergh completes his flight from New York to Paris in Spirit of St. Louis, built by Claude Ryan in San Diego.

1928 - Lindbergh Field, San Diego's municipal airport, is dedicated.

1932 - Chamber of Commerce lures Consolidated Aircraft from Buffalo, New York, to San Diego.

1935 - San Diego's second international exposition, the California - Pacific International Exposition, opens on May 28 in Balboa Park, site of the first expo.

1941 - San Diego Naval Air Station begins training pilots for U.S. Air Force (a total of 31,400 during World War II).

1942 - Consolidated Aircraft merges with Vultee to become Convair. Camp Pendleton near Oceanside purchased by Navy for Marine base.

1950 - San Diego's population reaches 334,387.

1956 - General Dynamics takes over Convair. Campus in San Diego's La Jolla area proposed for a University of California site.

1957 - First Atlas missile built in San Diego successfully test - fired.

1960 - San Diego County population tops 1 million; city population hits 573,224.

1962 - Salk Institute opens in La Jolla.

1964 - University of California at San Diego opens 1,000 - acre La Jolla campus to first class of undergraduate students.

1967 - A new, $27 million San Diego Stadium opens in Mission Valley as home to the AFL San Diego Chargers and the San Diego State University Aztecs football team.

1968 - The minor - league San Diego Padres become a Major League Baseball team and play their first game in the new San Diego Stadium.

1969 - San Diego - Coronado Bay Bridge opens, replacing ferry service across San Diego Bay.

1970 - San Diego becomes California's second - largest city, with population of 697,471.

1972 - San Diego is chosen site of Republican National Convention; in a last - minute about - face, Republicans announce plans to move convention site to Miami Beach.

1975 - Mayor Pete Wilson launches plans for a dramatic redevelopment of downtown San Diego.

1976 - The city's redevelopment arm, the Centre City Development Corporation, is established.

1978 - World - famed Old Globe Theatre in Balboa Park burns to ground in arson fire.

1980 - The San Diego Trolley, first line in the city's new light - rail transit system, is dedicated. San Diego population reaches 875,000.

1981 - Mayor Pete Wilson presides at Centre City Development Corporation ground - breaking for the Horton Plaza retail redevelopment project.

1982 - After a massive fund - raising drive to rebuild it, a new, three - theater Old Globe complex opens in Balboa Park. Pete Wilson elected to U.S. Senate, first U.S. senator from San Diego.

1984 - Padres win National League Pennant; World Series games first played in San Diego.

1984 - San Diego Trolley opens with first light - rail line to Mexico border.

1985 - Horton Plaza retail center opens as $140 million cornerstone of downtown redevelopment.

1988 - San Diego hosts its first Super Bowl.

1989 - San Diego Convention Center opens.

1990 - Pete Wilson elected governor of California, the state's first governor from San Diego. San Diego population tops 1.1 million.

1994 - Mayor Susan Golding and a civic delegation launch a successful bid to host the 1996 Republican National Convention; the city and the Port District reach agreement on a major expansion plan for the San Diego Convention Center.

1995 - Mayor Golding announces plans for the expansion of San Diego Jack Murphy Stadium.

1996 - San Diego hosts Republican National Convention, first national political convention in city's history.