A Brief History
San Diego is the birthplace of California. Portuguese explorer Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo claimed the area for Spain in 1542. He named the area San Miguel and continued on his expedition to locate a passage that would provide access to the Atlantic coast. Sixty-two years later a second expedition was launched, again under the Spanish flag, this time lead by Sebastian Vizcaino. Vizcaino named the area San Diego but again little was done to colonize the region.
It was not until 1759, 17 years before the Declaration of Independence, when a third expedition brought Padre Junipero Serra to the Pacific Coast, that San Diego officially became a settlement, however sparsely populated. Padre Junipero Serra established the first link of his 21-mission chain at Mission San Diego Alcala. The city grew up under Spanish and Mexican rule – until 1846. Two international expositions in 1915 and 1936 stimulated the development of the city’s 1,400-acre Balboa Park.
In 1850 Alonzo Horton, a wealthy trader and landowner, arrived from San Francisco and forever changed the future of San Diego. A real estate entrepreneur, Horton fell in love with the beauty and potential of the area and vowed to build a city that would celebrate this great region. He immediately embarked upon an extensive campaign of property investment and development. Horton’s drive and ambition resulted in the city’s slow and steady growth. Then in 1917 the War Department chose San Diego as the location for the southwest army division and San Diego began an expansion that continues to this day. At the war’s end thousands of servicemen made San Diego their home and the community sprang to life. As more and more people became attracted to the beauty and the opportunities inherent in the area, San Diego continued to blossom until it reached its current population of over 300,000, making it the second largest city in California and the eighth largest city in the United States.
For many years, San Diego has been an important naval center. The military (Army Corps of Engineers) was instrumental in such city projects as the dredging of Mission Bay for development into an aquatic park and the building of two man-made peninsulas in San Diego Bay to house resort hotels and restaurants.