Walk of History Tour
There are twelve pedestals along 3rd Avenue that gives a brief glimpse of the history of Chula Vista. Please click on the map below to find out more information about specific pedestals/locations.
View the Historic Photo Collection of Chula Vista
Pedestal #1: "View circa 1920s."
From 1888 to 1916 trolley tracks ran the length of Third Avenue. The tracks in this area were abandoned after the 1916 flood washed out the bridge over the Sweetwater River. The tracks were where you see the grass median. The palm trees had just recently been planted. Many of the buildings are the same as today. In the left distance is the two story Melville Building on the southeast corner of Third Avenue and F Street.
Pedestal #2: "View circa 1924."
The Chula Vista Post Office had many locations in the early years. The Post Office in this picture had just opened -- since 1913 the Post Office had been at 318 Third Avenue. There were several other locations on Third Avenue.
Pedestal #3: "View circa 1920s."
In this picture many of the buildings of the 1920s remain today. Most obvious is the two story Melville Building, often referred to as the Melville Block - (Chula Vista Dry Goods, Real Estate, and Meat Market). From 1924 until 1980, Peter's Feed Store was located behind you. At the left edge of this picture you can see one of Peter's trucks loaded with feed.
Pedestal #4: "View circa 1920s."
The two buildings in this picture from the 1920s are still there today. The corner building (Bryant Electric Co.) later was modified, but it is still the same building. The two story building on the left has been altered slightly.
Pedestal #5: "View circa 1913."
In 1888 a rail line was built south from National City. It crossed the Sweetwater River near where the Second Avenue bridge is today. It climbed the bank on the west side of today's KOA Kampground up to Second Avenue proper. The railway roadbed on the bank can still be seen today under the power lines. The passenger cars were pulled by a small steam locomotive until the line was electrified in 1907 and became a trolley line.
In 1916 there was a massive rain and while the Sweetwater Dam held, the adjoining dirt portion of the dam did not and Sweetwater Valley, including the trolley bridge, was swept clean.
After the flood, instead of rebuilding the bridge, a track that had been built along where I-5 is today was used to come south. At F Street a spur line was built east to Fourth Avenue where it went on a diagonal to Third Avenue (about where the Heritage Museum is today) and then south to San Ysidro. At its peak, the trolley made 64 trips a day.
In 1925 with the advent of the automobile, passenger service was discontinued but the tracks were maintained to serve the packing houses along the line. Remnants of the track can still be seen today on F Street west of Broadway.
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-- 250 Third Avenue Original Leader Department Store
The Leader Department Store had this building constructed and it opened in 1948. The store had a mezzanine in addition to its main sales floor. The store had oak fixtures, asphalt tile and carpet floor coverings and several fitting rooms. The construction of the store stimulated the building of many other stores in the immediate area. This was all part of the post-World War II building boom. Chula Vista was becoming a "bedroom" community.
In 1958, Leader's (as it came to be called) moved to a new and larger building at 223 Third Avenue. This building became "Ellmers" giftware shop and operated here until 1963. The building had several other occupants - Borgens Music Store, the Fashion Figure Salon and, since 1974, The Bridal Shop. The building still has the mezzanine.
-- 230 Third Avenue Zontek's Cafe
In 1940, three Zontek brothers opened a restaurant at 273 Third Avenue (Irving's Shoe Store today) and operated successfully there for twelve years. The brothers had come to Chula Vista from Minnesota. In 1953 the brothers made two changes - Stanley left to open Mel's Root Beer, a sandwich shop, at 321 Third Avenue and Blase and Walter built and opened a new Zontek's Cafe at this address. Zontek's Cafe operated successfully here from 1953 until 1968 when the brothers retired. The new owners started a restaurant called the House of Munich. Although ownership has changed several times, the House of Munich has been on Third Avenue for over 30 years.
-- 223 Third Ave. Leader Department Store
In 1958 The Leader Department Store moved to this address from 250 Third Avenue. In this new, much larger building they operated successfully until the early 1980s when, unable to compete with the more more modern malls, it went out of business. The building has been vacant for some 20 years. Unfortunately, an elderly gentleman in Coronado owned the building and took no interest in either renting nor selling it for many years. Now his heirs are trying to find a new use for the building.
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Pedestal #6: "View circa 1945."
The Vogue Theater opened on January 19, 1945, during the last year of World War II. The first feature was "Happy Land" starring Don Ameche, considered one of the ten best movies of 1943. The Vogue Theater has served the Chula Vista community for more than half a century. The film being advertised on the marquee, "Gangs All Here," starring Alice Faye and Carmen Miranda, was made in 1943. This musical is in the Camp "Hall of Fame."
All four walls are one unit and were all poured at once -- a process called a "monolithic pour." Some 400 cubic yards of cement were poured in a 14-hour period. More than 50 tons of steel were used in the walls and to support the ceiling. The building also featured a "radically new ventilation system that changes the air in the theater every 3 minutes through giant intake and exhaust channels."
Pedestal #7: "View circa 1938."
This view shows that few buildings have changed in this section of Third Avenue after more than 60 years. The Chula Vista City Hall was here on Third Avenue -- the building in the picture was built in 1923. This City Hall also served as Police Headquarters and as the Fire Station.
Chula Vista incorporated as a City in 1911.
In 1912 a small house that stood where the City Hall is in this picture was donated to the City and served as City Hall until 1923. In 1923 this more substantial City Hall was built, and served as such until 1951.
289 Third Avenue The Charles Smith Building
Built in 1930 for Mr. & Mrs. Charles E. Smith by the Dennstedt Construction Company, this building is a good example of Zig-zag Modern architecture. Mr. Smith was Chula Vista's first Fire Chief and wanted a fireproof building. He hired architect Hammond W. Whitsett to design the structure. Mr. Whitsett, a graduate of the University of Illinois and a student of classical architecture in Europe, came to San Diego from Illinois in 1927.
The building was occupied by the Sprouse Reitz Company (a "dime store") from 1935 to 1948, by Kirby Shoes from 1950 to 1970, and by Dave's Photo in 1975. The building is as constructed except the ground-level facade has been redone.
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Pedestal #8: "View circa 1940 at F Street."
The building on the near corner in this picture is the Bank of America. It was built in 1910 as the "Peoples State Bank." In 1927 it became the "Bank of Italy," and in 1931 it became the "Bank of America" -- as it is in this picture. In 1948, the Bank of America moved to a new and larger bank building at 255 Third Avenue, at the southeast corner of Davidson Street. For at least 20 years after that, this building on the corner of F Street was used by Berner-Judd Woman's Clothing. Later it was Roberto's Restaurant.
Today the building is occupied by the Christian Science Reading Room. Although the building almost looks like a 2-story building, it is actually just one story. When the Christian Science folks decided to put in a skylight, they found that they had to cut through some 12 inches of concrete in the ceiling -- the top of the old bank vault! Note that this building in the 200 block of Third Avenue is numbered "300."
On the far corner, the Clock of the Park Plaza at the Village stands where the Safeway market is in this picture. Note that the old trolley tracks on this portion of Third Avenue have long since been replaced by the median strip of grass.
-- 299 Third Avenue Carrell Pharmacy
It is unknown when this building was constructed, but it was probably in the early 1920s. In the late 1920s, and at least until 1930, it was occupied by Bryant Electric, whose main sales item was the Majestic Radio. "Bryant Electric" disappeared for a time in the early Depression and then re-appeared at another Third Avenue address in 1933.
It is known that this address has been a pharmacy since 1936. For a few years it was the Howard Carrell Pharmacy. For the next 20 years the building was occupied by Guilbert's Pharmacy. During the 1960s it was the R. J. Smith Pharmacy and since 1970 it has been known as the Chula Vista Pharmacy. The building was significantly remodeled to its present configuration in 1954 .
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Pedestal #9: "View circa 1910."
The building to the right in this picture is the original First Congregational Church. The congregation had been organized in 1880 and was the first church in Chula Vista. Its members met in the Chula Vista School next door until this sanctuary was constructed in 1894. In 1911 a "front half" was added to enlarge the church. In 1951 the entire structure was razed to make room for the construction of the present Community Congregational Church buildings.
On the left in this picture is the first school in Chula Vista. Called simply the Chula Vista School, it was built in 1889 and was used until 1914. That year a new school was built west on F Street on the site now occupied by the Civic Center Public Library. The Chula Vista School was torn down and a Carnegie Library was built on the site in 1917. The Carnegie Library was razed in 1960 to make way for the original Norman Park Senior Center.
-- 279 F Street Security Pacific Bank
The Security Trust and Savings Bank of San Diego first opened a Chula Vista office in 1929 on the southeast corner of Third Avenue and F Street, the corner office of the 2-story Melville Building behind you and towards Third Avenue. In 1953 Security Bank had this building constructed and moved here. Eventually the bank was renamed Security First National Bank and later Security Pacific Bank. In 1990 it merged into the Bank of America and this office was closed. In 1992 Rohr Federal Credit Union moved one of their branches here. In 1998, the threat of allowing Credit Unions to serve only certain groups caused this organization to apply for and to become the Pacific Trust Bank.
When the Security Bank occupied the Melville building, it installed a large outdoor clock on the corner of that building. When the bank moved here they brought that outdoor clock along and mounted it on the southeast corner of this building. As you can see, the Pacific Trust Bank is continuing that tradition.
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-- 219 F Street Reginald Walters House
This modest one-story house was built in 1908. In 1911 the house was owned by Fred Brown, a gardener, who sold it by 1914 to H. A. Redgraves. Redgraves apparently never lived in Chula Vista.
By 1920 Reginald Walters had purchased the house from the Redgrave's estate. Walters was a gardener for Sarah G. Clark who owned this property for a time in the 1920s. Reginal Walters and his wife, Nellie, lived here from, at least, 1920 to 1932. This house is classified as a Pyramidal Fold House and is one of the few remaining examples of this architecture in the city.
-- 217 F Street. Sallie Dent House
This bungalow, in Greek Revival architectural sytle, was constructed by George Kimball -- a well-known local contractor. Water was connected to the property on July 27, 1908 and the house was built in 1908 or 1909 for J. N. La Follette, a rancher.
In 1913, La Follette sold the property to Sallie Dent who owned the house until June of 1928 when she sold it to Wallace D. and Bernice Swanson. Although they sold the house, the La Follette's continued to live here.
Sallie Dent, who never married, passed away in 1930 while visiting a friend in Texas. Dr. Ivan Jagger, a plant pathologist, lived here from 1922 to 1931 while doing experimental work in Chula Vista for the federal Department of Agriculture. He is credited with greatly improving the quality of lettuce in the Imperial Valley.
202 F Street Albert Wagner House
This unaltered bungalow was constructed in 1925. Mr. Wagner purchased the property on March 25, 1924 and had water connected in May of that year. Albert Wagner was a field supervisor for the Chula Vista Citrus Association. He and his wife, Mary, still lived in this house at least until 1935.
Architecturally, this house is a good example of bungalow style with the Craftsman influence demonstrated by the exposure of structural members.
236 F Street William Briggs House
This bungalow, built about 1924, is unaltered. Mr. Briggs and his wife, Zannah, bought this property on January 24, 1924 and had the house connected to water that same year. Although Mr. Briggs retired by 1932, they still lived here at least until 1935.
Although now a business, this carefully designed bungalow retains its integrity of design and materials. The porch exhibits careful attention to detail and fine carpentry work.
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-- 240 F Street Olaf Myers House
This house was built in 1926 by Manley D. Pratt, a building contractor who lived nearby. This bungalow is unaltered except that the porch has been enclosed, cement steps and an iron railing added.
Around 1928 Olaf and Hazel Myers purchased the property. Mr. Myers was the manager of the MacMarr grocery store. In 1935 Lester Jaekels, a prominent celery grower, and his wife, Ilah, lived here. The Jaekels later built a large home on E Street. In 1936 Manley Pratt regained ownership of the house.
This house represents a good example of the compact rectangular bungalows of the 1920s.
-- 301-305 Third Ave. The Melville Building
This building has been the most continuously familiar sight on Third Avenue for generations of Chula Vistans. Edward Melville, one of the pioneer businessmen in Chula Vista, came to this community in 1901. His real estate and other businesses prospered and in 1911 he erected this building. Mr. Melville, who never allowed publication of his photograph, greatly aided the growth of Chula Vista. He served as president of the Chula Vista Building and Loan Association for many years.
The Chula Vista State Bank was located in the two addresses nearest the corner, and operated there from 1911 until about 1918. Then the Chula Vista Dry Goods Company occupied the main corner spaces for a number of years. From 1929 until 1953 the Security Trust and Savings Bank occupied these spaces. Then in 1953 it moved to 279 F Street in the building now occupied by the Pacific Trust Bank. Syd Hall Hardware occupied the building from 1955 through 1965. There is no longer a bank vault in the building.
This building is an example of Eclectic Commerical architecture although the ground floor has been completely altered and the ornamental features have been stripped from this formerly elegant business building.
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Pedestal #10: "This View in 1911."
In 1910 a Revolution began in Mexico against the 30-year reign of Porfirio Diaz. By 1911 the trouble had spread north to Tijuana. In May of that year, a "rebel" force began a march on Tijuana. As a precautionary move, in case the fighting spilled onto the American side of the border, the U. S. Army sent a contingent of troops from Fort Rosecrans to the border.
They paused on Third Avenue in Chula Vista for a break -- and for a photographer -- and thus became a part of our history. Here the American troops are taking a break in front of the Skinner Hardware store at 310 Third Avenue.
The rebels defeated the Mexican government troops and for a short time held control of Tijuana. In June government troops recaptured Tijuana and many of the rebels fled north into the United States and surrendered to American troops. The Battle of Tijuana was over. (Many of the "rebels" were American adventurers.)
-- 337 Third Avenue SDG&E Building
This building was constructed in 1926 or 1927 by San Diego Consolidated Gas and Electric Company, the predecessor to SDG&E. The lot was part of the estate of Adam D. Michener. Marion Peckham purchased the property the next year but the offices of SDG&E remained at this address until 1954. SDG&E moved into new offices just around the corner at 311 F Street in 1955.
In 1955, Western Auto leased the building, but it soon became Hathway & Quigley Auto Supply. From 1959 until 1964 California Interiors used the building. In 1964 Sea View TV and Communications took over, followed by an insurance company, a beauty salon, and others. The front of the building has recently been significantly altered for its new use as a taco shop.
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7 Pedestal #11: "View circa 1920s."
Peters' Feed Store was a fixture on Third Avenue from 1924 until 1980. William Peters' first business was a grocery store elsewhere on Third Avenue which he operated from 1913 to 1920. In 1914 he acquired Norton & Pratt, a local feed store. In 1924 he moved the feed store to 340 Third Avenue. He sold grains, seeds, hay, poultry supplies, fertilizers, insecticides and garden tools. As the demand for animal feed dwindled, Peters turned his business more and more into a nursery, and its name evolved into Peters Home & Garden Center.
Mr. Peters lived in the apartment above the feed store, and passsed away there in 1947. His son, J. D. Peters, continued to operate the store for a number of years, and then sold it. Joan Klindt, while still in high school, started working for Peters's during the 1960s and eventually took over the business. In 1980, as all the properties in this area were condemned to make way for redevelopment, she moved Peters' Home & Garden Center to 49 Third Avenue, a site now occupied by the Chula Vista Police Officers Association. She (and Peters Home & Garden Center) retired in 1993.
Pedestal #12: "View circa 1936."
The Seville Theater was the first of two movie theaters along Third Avenue, the other being The Vogue near E Street. The Seville Theater was built at 388 Third Avenue in 1927 and served the community until 1955. It continued in use as an office for awhile, but was razed in the early 1960s to make room for the modern office building you see now.
-- 416 Third Avenue El Primero Hotel
In 1930 the Dennstedt Construction Company erected the El Primero Hotel for Jon and Lilly Ratcliffe. The first modern hotel built in Chula Vista, it cost $30,000 to construct and had 22 rooms. Built with white cement tile, the hotel was fireproof and carpeted throughout. Such amenities as steam heat and hot and cold water were advertised.
The Ratcliffes were well-known in the community having lived in Chula Vista 26 years. They are said to have pioneered the first apartment house.
The El Primero Hotel is an important example of Zig-zag Moderne style architecture.
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