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Historic Otay City Threatened with Destruction

History to be lost, forgotten and erased from the map

By Bruce Coons

San Diego Historical Society Collection

From The Golden Era magazine, September 1887 issue

The last vestiges of this once proud western boomtown, which boasted the most modern watch factory in the West, the Otay Watch Works, the famous Daneri winery, Wells Fargo Office, a terminal on the National City and Otay Railroad and a street of western false front buildings surrounded by Victorian homes and farmsteads, is being threatened by a scheme to create a false sense of history in nearby Chula Vista.

Chula Vista has been famous for the demolition of historic sites without following CEQA. And since destroying so much of their own history apparently wasn't enough, now some want to move on and obliterate the heritage of a neighboring town.

Two citizens of Chula Vista have been promoting and are asking the City of Chula Vista to move the buildings to Memorial Park to serve as a site for the Chula Vista Heritage Museum. The city is studying the proposal within the "broadest possible context" to see if it will fit in their arts program as a performance facility or museum. What the 1916 flood and insensitive development did not destroy, people who are supposed to be interested in preserving history and an unrelated new development may finish off.

All that remains to remind us of this important San Diego community are four Victorian houses, the brick Wells Fargo/Post Office and the two Churches that they want to move to Chula Vista. Two of the four homes are currently threatened with demolition for a new industrial development. The most visible landmarks that remind us that there once was a place called Otay City are the two churches. The largest and most prominent is on its original site with its original bell tower. The other church was moved from directly across the street and now stands next to the larger church. The congregation has maintained these buildings in good condition and continue to use them.

If these two projects are allowed to proceed we would lose all sense of place and the knowledge of this important part of San Diego County's history will fade from memory and be lost forever. An entire town will be gone, extinct.

The National Register of Historic Places rarely allows buildings that have been moved from their original setting to be designated historic because the historic value of such a structure is directly related to where and why a structure was built. The very fact that it is a landmark means that it marks the land and serves as a physical link with a particular location's history and recognition. Also important is the related archeological deposits, hardscapes, foundations and other artifacts at the site. These projects would create an unmitigable environmental impact and cannot even be attempted without a full Environmental Impact Report completed in advance. Obviously if there is a museum to be housed in these two structures it should be in its historic location. This is where history actually occurred and the only place it can be experienced. False history is not history at all; it's Hollywood.

My Lady Love and Otay
Published in The Golden Era magazine
September 1887

I have a beauteous lady love,
Accomplished, wise and witty;
But how I wish she ne'er had seen
This San Diego City!

She loves me not as once she did,
When first our views we plighted;
For Otay lots now fill her mind,
And my poor claims are slighted.

No longer when I call on her
She hastens out to meet me
with radiant face and beaming eyes
And tender words to greet me.

I find her poring over maps
And abstruse calculations
Of what she's going to make next week
In her speculations.

I try to speak to her of love
And to declare my passion;
She looks me blankly in the face,
Responding in this fashion:

"In Otay I've just bought a lot
To-day, and, Jeremiah,
I'm positive that in a week
Its value will be higher."

She shows me all the plans and maps
Of every new addition,
Until fierce longings seize me to
Consign them to perdition.

No tender glaces thrill me through
Nor words as sweet as honey;
She tells me that Otay's the place
Where I should put my money.

O, Fates! Regard with pitying eye
A poor, distracted lover,
And point a place for which I'd search
All lands and countries over-

Where real estate's a thing unknown,
Blocks, lots, new towns, additions-
Land agents with alluring tongues,
Big prices and commissions.

I'll take my love and hasten there,
Nor linger here a minute;
I'll leave the town without a pang,
And everything that's in it,

Or else I'll board the motor train,
The city's ties I'll sever;
Allured by her and Otay's fame,
We'll speculate forever.

2005 - Volume 36, Issue 2


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