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City's Early Streetcars to be Restored!

By Jaye MacAskill

Bringing back historic Class 1 streetcars to San Diego makes good sense. The city's early streetcars were originally donated for the 1915 Exposition by San Francisco sugar magnate J.D. Spreckels. Developed and designed exclusively for use in San Diego, twenty-four state-of-the-art, beautifully decorated Arts & Crafts Style Class 1's arrived here completed in 1912. The exteriors were painted a sunny yellow with green trim, red pin striping and gold-leafed oak leaf accents. The interiors featured hand-polished cherry wood with bronze hardware. The cars remained in operation until 1939, serving both the 1915 and 1935 Expositions while playing a major role in the development of the outlying neighborhoods with the extension of Spreckel's San Diego Electric Railway. Before the gasoline engine bus became the predominant form of modern public transportation, streetcars ran extensively throughout urban San Diego and at one point even down to the Mexican border. They were gradually replaced by the Presidents Conference Committee (PCC) Car and taken out of service in 1939. The PCC's are now enjoying a renaissance with their first car restored and running on the MTS line now. The Class 1's were sold off to the public to be converted into homes; the ones that remained unsold were destroyed.

The goal of the San Diego Historic Streetcars is to bring the original San Diego streetcars which were commissioned by John D. Spreckels for the Panama California Exposition of 1915, back onto their original tracks and routes they traveled from 1915 through the 1930s.


In 1996, the three last known remaining Class 1 streetcars were purchased by Christian Chaffee. They had been converted into a home more than fifty years earlier. Chris pursued designation with the assistance of historian Alex Bevil and the Class 1's were listed as #339 on the City of San Diego Register of Historical Resources. Now, if the Historic Streetcar Project succeeds in convincing officials to recreate the Gold Line and reintroduce the cars back into regular operation, the system will become eligible for listing on the National Register of Historic Places and be able to take advantage of Federal funding opportunities.

Historic streetcars provide an important role in a community; they are not only fun, practical and a green mode of transportation for visitors and locals alike, but they significantly give a city back some of its lost depth of character and with that, historic gravitas that set cities apart. They have made successful comebacks in many forward thinking American cities such as San Francisco, Portland, Galveston and others. If San Diego is lucky enough to get its historic Class 1's back into operation, the Gold Line will add to the city's unique sense of place and would become a cultural tourism attraction that would continue to sustain and benefit the local economy well into the future. SOHO fully supports this project.

For more information, please visit www.sandiegohistoricstreetcars.org.

Volume 42 - 2011

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The Hawaiian Connection


San Diego's First Chinese Community


Temple Beth Israel


Archaeological Myth Busting


Chicano Park & its Wondrous Murals


Sleeping Porches & Suffragist Banners


Most Endangered List of Historic Resources


Windemere Cottage


People In Preservation Winners


In Memoriam


Preservation Community


Recent Acquisitions


Save Balboa Park


Lost San Diego


Strength in Numbers


Donations 2010-2011


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