American Auto Trails > El Camino Real in California

ECR — La Jolla to Del Mar

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Parsa:
The actual route of El Camino Real as defined by the El Camino Real Association in the first decade of the 20th century is a bit hard to pin down. Mrs. Harrie Forbes (creator of the ECR bells) in her book California Missions and Landmarks: El Camino Real says that the ECR went through Rose Canyon, not around through Pacific Beach and La Jolla. However, all auto club route books and strip maps show this coast route path as the main traveled road. This thread examines the maps and possible route of the ECR and the early coast route, circa 1900-1920.

Parsa:
This first map is a circa 1898 official San Diego County map. The La Jolla area was part of the former San Diego mission lands (San Diego Pueblo), and was called Ex Mission. Click for larger image.



NOTES: The railroads seem to be shown with black and white striping. I believe the double line paths are the roads. Rail lines exist to La Jolla and up Rose Canyon. The La Jolla line was the San Diego, Pacific Beach & La Jolla Railway. The main tracks going north through Rose Canyon are the Santa Fe railroad. No continuous road seems to pass through La Jolla. The Rose Canyon road parallels the Santa Fe, and has several branches heading east. The big loop has a short cut road that is likely ECR. There is a major junction at Sorrento Siding, where a road heads northeast through Los Peñasquitos Rancho lands. A road that is evidently ECR continues northwest along the tracks, then heads north along the township line about 1.25 miles east of Del Mar. This road continues north to "San Dieguito" site off the map to the north.

Parsa:
The next map is from the 1909 Automobile Club of Southern California (ACSC) Tour Book (p. 245). As far as I'm aware, this is one of the earliest, if not the first, tour book produced by the auto club. There isn't a lot of detail here, but what it does show is a main road going from La Jolla directly to Del Mar. Click for larger image.



NOTES: There is no detail for the La Jolla or Torrey Pines grades. A bridge is shown for the Los Peñasquitos Creek crossing. There are several railroad crossings before and after Del Mar.

Parsa:
The next three maps are from 1911 and 1912 auto club tour books. The cartography at the two auto clubs had not reached their later exceptional level. The roads are too wide, and very little other detail is shown to provide reference points. The first map is from the ACSC 1911 Tour Book (p. 455). It shows the road from Del Mar south to La Jolla. (South is up.) Click for larger image.



NOTES: Here, for the first time we see the two steep grades. The La Jolla or Biological Grade is shown as a 8–10% grade near La Jolla. This grade is today at the Scripps Institute of Oceanography. The other grade, lower on the map, is the Torrey Pines Grade. This still exists for the most part, and is the road to Torrey Pines State Park. Once again, we see a bridge symbol at Los Peñasquitos Creek, and the two railroad crossings before reaching Del Mar at the bottom of the map. A road is shown heading south (up) between the two grades. This is evidently what was later called La Jolla Junction. That road would later become the main route of the Coast Highway and US 101 (Gilman Drive). Another road is shown heading south between the bridge and the rail line. It is marked "TO SAN DIEGO VIA ROSE CANYON." This route is shown below. Click for larger image.



NOTES: This route is what I believe was considered El Camino Real by Mrs. Forbes. I think the actual, practical inland route, still known as El Camino Real today, branched off before reaching Del Mar, and was shown on the 1898 era map. The 1903 topographic map confirms the existence of the 1898 road. I will show it on the 1930 topo map below.
After passing through Old Town (across the tracks from North San Diego), the road heads north (down) past Mission Bay (False Bay) to a crossing approximately at Glendora Street in the Pacific Beach area. The road near Mission Bay that says "TO LA JOLLA" is Garnet Avenue. The road continues north (down) through Rose Canyon approximately where I-5 is located today. The road then departs from the rail line and climbs up a canyon that is today Gilman Drive. The road meets the road to La Jolla at La Jolla Junct.ion mentioned above (32.874610, -117.237810). Then the road heads back down another canyon to Sorrento (32.901075, -117.223525). The eastern section of this road is the path of I-5 today, but part of this old road still exists today in an isolated canyon (32.885397, -117.234351).The road then crossed the rail line twice before meeting the Coast Highway route near Los Peñasquitos Creek, probably near Carmel Valley Road (approximately: 32.932074, -117.251010). Part of the old road still exists, and is now used as a recreation path. The first rail crossing was here: 32.919398, -117.239479, and the second was about here: 32.930706, -117.245522.

The third map is from the 1912 California State Automobile Association Tour Book. I'm presenting for completeness, because as can be seen, it is essentially identical to the 1911 ACSC map. Click for larger image.


Parsa:
The next three map clips are all from 1912.
The first map clip is from the 1912 American Automobile Association (AAA) strip map No. 65. These were produced by famous auto trail pathfinder Anton Westgard. He was also head of transcontinental mapping. The map is at a 1:250000 scale, and the cartographer's initials are G.W.A. Click for larger image.



NOTES: This map seems to be the first one where the cartography and scale are fairly precise. The hotel in La Jolla is likely either the La Jolla Park Hotel (1893) or the Hotel Cabrillo (1908), which became part of the historic La Valencia Hotel. The cave store was built between 1902–1912 by Prof. Gustav Schultz. La Jolla Junction is shown at mile 17.7 with the road to Sorrento shown heading northeast. Before this point, the La Jolla (or Biological) grade is shown. There appears to be a difference in the Torrey Pines Grade from earlier maps, and the 1903 topographic map. The road that descends the grade now appears to head west toward the beach rather than east to connect with the Rose Canyon road (Sorrento Valley Road). The road goes almost straight west, then bends 90° north and crosses a bridge, and almost immediately afterward passes under the rail line. Photos of the bridge, the undercrossing, and a discussion of this road can be found on the Del Mar Sandpiper website: "Once there was a wooden bridge." The website says this bridge was built in 1915, but I think this 1912 map shows the same bridge. According to the article, it was good roads activist Ed Fletcher and E.W. Scripps who built the bridge and the Torrey Pines grade. At mile 22.9 the road climbs up Del Mar terrace. There seems to be a sharp right turn inland on top of the terrace. The historic Stratford Inn (now L'Auberge Del mar) is shown. This hotel had a large tudor hotel building on the northwest corner of 15th Street and Grand Avenue, now the south section of Camino del Mar. Camino del Mar did not continue north of 15th. Instead, after passing the hotel, Grand Avenue curved sharply east then west is two switchbacks. After meeting the rail line, it continued northward. A section of old Grand Avenue still exists near the tracks today. However, the coast highway jogged west on 15th, and crossed the rail line on Coast Blvd at a grade crossing that still exists.

The next map is a clip from an unnumbered ACSC strip map entitled "El Camino Real and Popular Automobile Routes to and from Famous Missions South of Los Angeles, Cal." This map, and two others for the northern and central sections of El Camino Real, appeared in the June 1912 ACSC Touring Topics article "Among the Missions on the King's Highway." I consider the maps from this article, and the 1915 "Famous Missions" strip maps, to be the standard for what the Automobile Club considered to be El Camino Real. How close it adheres to the route researched by the El Camino Real Association's route committee is uncertain. Click for larger image.



NOTES: This map shows both the Coast Route and the Inland Route (going up the older Poway Grade, today on M.C.A.S. Miramar property). There's not much detail here, but the road is obviously using the la Jolla and Torrey Pines grades. A road connects the Coast and Inland routes where the rail line goes through a deep bend. Today, this route is Eastgate Mall and Miramar Road. The point where this road crossed the rail line was called "Lindavista." Today it is called Miramar siding (32.875796, -117.174833).

The last map is an early ACSC strip map, No. 78, entitled "Automobile Routes between Los Angeles and San Diego and Connecting Roads." It's pretty large scale, since it shows the whole L.A to San Diego route on one card. The Coast and Inland routes are shown with a bold line. This map is nearly identical in detail to the map above. The road name seen in quotation marks is 'San Diego "Coast Route".' Click for larger image.

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