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Lost San Diego - Sunset Cliffs Park

Historic photo. Courtesy Coons collection


Sunset Cliffs Park was originally landscaped in 1915 by sporting goods magnate Albert Goodwill Spaulding at the cost of two million dollars. It was to be given to the City of San Diego with the provision that they maintain it. This bequest consisted of landscaped walkways along the cliffs with rustic railings, pebbled steps and stairways, palm thatched shelters with benches, Japanese-style rustic arched bridges, caves with stairway access, even a 15 x 50 foot saltwater swimming pool carved into the natural rock that cleaned itself with every high tide. This was a major tourist attraction of which there are many postcards from the time around today that attest to its popularity. The city did nothing to maintain the park and the land reverted to the new property owner, developer John P Mills. In 1924 Mills refurbished the Park and gave it back to the city, again with the provision that they maintain it. In 1928 Mills requested that the city return it if they were not going to keep it up as agreed. The city's reply was that the deed was vague and ambiguous, and continued to do nothing to maintain it. Quite the opposite, they allowed it to deteriorate and then claimed as an excuse for not maintaining the park that it was eroded and unsafe and then removed most of it. As you can see by present day photographs all of the footings for the bridge and handrails are still in place. Don't always believe what you're told, this historic site still exist. Instead of eroding away here, the reality is, that tons of fill dirt was dumped by the city on top of the site. This park is a San Diego treasure that could have been private yards as in La Jolla if not for the foresight of the Spaulding and Mills Families.

Cobblestone anchor for historic bridge. Photo by Bruce Coons


Currently there is a new plan to develop the park and some of the historic elements should be incorporated into this plan. It is the right thing to do after all these years it is time for the city to honor its agreements.

2005 - Volume 36, Issue 3

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Lost San Diego


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DOWNLOAD full magazine as pdf (4.1mb)

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