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Old Highway 395, Part 1: Old CA 71/Linda Vista Rd, Old US 395 (1935-1947) Market Street to Fairmount Avenue in San Diego

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The first leg of our US 395 tour starts at its old terminus in San Diego, which was first signed in the middle 1930s. Its history within San Diego county is rather complicated and has multiple realignments and shifts which we will point out as we go along.

[Mission San Diego de Alcala] San Diego, California is the USA's eighth largest city with a population of 1,223,400 [2000] (estimated 1,256,951 [2006]), and California's second largest. Inhabited in antiquity by the Kumeyaay Indians (Diegueño), whose name graces Interstate 8 as the Kumeyaay Highway and who continue to live in the region and on nearby reservations, the region was originally dubbed San Miguel (Saint Michael) by Spanish explorer Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo who first explored the region for Spain in 1542. (Cabrillo gives his name to the modern Cabrillo National Monument in Point Loma, and part of old US 395 [now CA 163] is the Cabrillo Freeway.) The roots of what would become the modern city, however, are generally acknowledged as starting with the foundation of the famous Mission San Diego de Alcala in 1769 (first as the Presidio de San Diego by Gaspar de Portola; it was consecrated to the Catholic church by Fr. Junipero Serra and later moved inland), making San Diego California's oldest city and as such the seat one of California's original counties in 1850 with a population [2000] today of 3,051,280. The Franciscan mission building, once the largest in California, is a tourist attraction today and we will pass by and look at it in Part 2.

The name of the mission comes from San Diego Bay, christened in 1602 by Spanish explorer and surveyor Sebastián Vizcaíno after the Franciscan saint Didacus of Alcalá (rendered in Spanish as «San Diego de Alcalá de Henares») whose name graced Vizcaino's flagship. San Diego became the capital of Alta California y Baja California after Mexico's independence in 1821, but faded into a small village by the 1830s and lost its township in obscurity. Not until the California gold rush of 1848 would the small village revive itself, swelling by thousands and becoming large enough to merit a terminus on the transcontinental railroad in 1885. The modern city was reincorporated in 1886.

As someone who grew up in San Diego since age six, I think it fully deserves its reputation as "America's Finest City" thanks to its wonderful climate, its big city services with a small city feel, and its gentle terrain and beaches. There is also a significant Naval presence in the Bay; San Diego is home to the largest naval fleet on the planet as of this writing, including the supercarriers USS Nimitz and USS Ronald Reagan, and multiple submarines and medium-class vessels. The Navy has been a constant presence in San Diego since 1907 when the Naval Coaling Station was first established in the harbour.

The major remnants of US 395 in San Diego county today -- note that this is not an exhaustive list -- include what is now CA 163 (the old US 395 freeway); Market Street, El Cajon Blvd and Fairmount Avenue; portions of Murphy Canyon Rd, Kearny Villa Rd and Pomerado Rd; modern county highways S14, S13 and parts of CA 76; and parts of I-15, Centre City Pkwy and Old Highway 395. Most of US 395's final routing still persists and remains an important local artery, even after being cut down in favour of I-15 in 1969. Interestingly, US 395 was one of the few US highways to survive the bloodletting of the California Great Renumbering in 1964 -- I-15 was only intended to go to San Bernardino, which will be apparent on the supplemental maps when we reach that point. Even after US 395's legislative evisceration, the highway remained signed in San Diego county well into the 1970s.

[San Diego 1934-1999] US 395 had two major phases in its lifetime, which for simplicity we will refer to as pre-1950 and post-1950, although the actual dates during which alignments became truly part of the routing may vary a couple years in either direction. Because of these large shifts in routing, we will (where possible) attempt to traverse them simultaneously. Most of the pre-1950 alignment is still very easy to find with a little detective work. All of old US 395 from Temecula to San Diego is part of old Legislative Route Number 77, defined in 1931 (California's former method of road alignment tracking). Since US 395's history is tied to the LRNs, we will mention them as we come to them despite their being defunct since the Renumbering.

Each of the alignments we will travel are accompanied by map-backed evidence. Click the thumbnail at right to open a new window with a scrolling map showing San Diego in 1934, 1935, 1937, 1942, 1947, 1957, 1965, 1974, 1984 and 1999.

[CA 71 and US 395 on Linda Vista Rd, 1934-5.] CA 71: Linda Vista Rd

Before there was US 395, there was CA 71, which today has been cut down also by Interstate 15 encroaching on its turf and remains only a shadow of its former self between Corona and Pomona. At its greatest extent, however, CA 71 ran from San Diego at US 101 (in those days along Morena Blvd while the "new" Pacific Hwy alignment was being constructed), also along what was then LRN 77. The change in signage seems to have occurred in 1934, because on the Gousha comparisons to the right CA 71 is still shown in 1934 and in 1935 US 395 is on Linda Vista Road instead. Note that state highway still extends down from there, but this appears to be the old routing of US 101 (now bypassed by Pacific Highway and today Interstate 5), not any old routing of US 395. We start here on old US 101 on Morena Blvd, as we cross a reference landmark we will come back to, the San Diego River.

We will see more of former CA 71 starting when we get to Riverside county in Part 9.

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Our starting point is northbound from the Interstate 8 Morena Boulevard exit. I took this picture looking back at the interchange that has nothing to do with US 395 just to mess with the minds of the various dopes in the roadgeek community who think Caltrans couldn't make a decent sign because of their (undeniably stupid) 1970s practise of gluing reflective buttons onto their perfectly good earlier enamel signs, which then turned grimy and left a lot of ugly and dirty signs out there today. This is one of the old enamel signs that was not so defaced, and as you can see has weathered perfectly well and better than the retroflective crap that Caltrans and every other state DOT is using in their present installations. So there.

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The San Diego River is the channel responsible for many of the lakes in western San Diego county, which were formed by damming either the river itself or one of its many tributaries and watersheds (such as El Capitan Reservoir and Lake Murray). In its far western section here, it is an estuary, considerably widened by later dredging in Mission Bay; it is approximately 52 miles long from its headwaters near Santa Ysabel to the coast. It also runs through Mission Trails Regional Park, the sixth-largest municipal park in the United States (and the largest in California) at 5,800 acres, where it is dammed by the centuries-old Old Mission Dam built to provide irrigation for the Mission San Diego de Alcala.

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Separation. Old US 101 proceeds to the left with Morena Blvd; CA 71/early US 395 went to the right up Linda Vista Avenue.

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Just past the separation is this old black sign from the old California Division of Highways days and possibly even from US 101 days itself, which you may have seen on the main page.

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The letters do not have the plastic reflectors actually incorporated into them as more recent button copy does; instead, the sign is drilled out and the reflectors stuck in through the back. Earlier signs would even use real glass reflector beads, but I haven't seen one of those still extant in the wild.

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To keep the reflectors on, obviously there has to be a back panel or two, and here they are.

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Turning right onto Linda Vista Rd and this marker for the San Diego community of Linda Vista, home of the University of San Diego, which we will come to in a minute. Linda Vista means, simply, "pretty view" in Spanish.

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NB Linda Vista Rd. The University is already visible at the top of the hill.

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Most of the traffic lights now have nice new blue and white signage for street names in San Diego, but some of the old green ones persist.

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In-city signage for Linda Vista.

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First turn-off for USD.

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Snaking up the hill.

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Turnoff for the USD main entrance, and one of the newer blue street signs.

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Looking back at the guard station and part of Alcala Park, named for the mission.

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Vista over USD from Linda Vista Rd. The University of San Diego is a private Roman Catholic university established in 1949 as the San Diego College for Women, followed by the San Diego College for Men and the School of Law in 1954; the modern university was formed by merger of the schools in 1972 and has a student body today of 4,962. There is also a personal link, as the Dean of Admissions while I was in high school was the father of a friend of mine (despite the amusing fact she and he were Lutheran). The university is also affiliated with the University of San Diego High School, which I remember playing in academic bowl competitions. Although it is nominally Catholic, the university is no longer administered by the Diocese of San Diego, although the Bishop of San Diego retains a permanent seat on the administrative board.

The eye-catching blue domes in the background are part of Immaculata Parish Church, which is on the Alcalá Park grounds but not part of the University.

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The athletic field, inhabited by the university's Toreros (bullfighters).

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The County Office of Education is also on Linda Vista Rd, important to me because we played academic bowl championships there.

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Curving due north, now over the hill.

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NB Linda Vista Rd/old CA 71/old US 395.

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Francis Parker School. I really didn't know anyone from there, but it retains an excellent reputation and a commensurate price tag. It was established in 1912 and named for Colonel Francis Parker, who established an earlier model school in Chicago for his particular brand of 'progressive' educational methods; that school, also named Francis Parker School, was the model for this one. Despite its close proximity to USD, it bears no religious affiliation.

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Turning back slightly as we start paralleling the CA 163 freeway to the east. There is a reason for this, of course.

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NB Linda Vista Rd/old CA 71/old US 395.

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Genesee Avenue.

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Getting closer into southwestern Serra Mesa, named for Junipero Serra himself, and Kearny Mesa which we'll talk more about in Part 3.

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Kearny High School, named for the same Kearny, home of the Komets. This kind of frivolous and deeply confusing misspelling is plainly a symbol of all that's gone wrong with the American public school system.

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Turn-off to CA 163 and Interstate 805, which we will run into in a bit. We'll be driving the whole of CA 163, the old Cabrillo Freeway (or Cabrillo Parkway, if you prefer) in Part 3 also.

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Crossing over Interstate 805, the Jacob Dekema Freeway (a/k/a the Inland Freeway). Jacob Dekema is not a name many San Diegans know, but they certainly know his work, because as District Engineer for Caltrans District 11 he was responsible for many of the freeways built in San Diego, including US 395, as well as the one named after him.

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Linda Vista Rd no longer directly connects to old US 395 anymore (or, for that matter, CA 71) due to the reconfigurations introduced with I-805's construction. The rest of it is under later asphalt, so we will consider us to have "merged" with old US 395 at this point. We'll be coming back here presently.

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Turning around; this is also the end of Linda Vista Rd, which continues on as Convoy St and has nothing to do with old CA 71 or old US 395.

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US 395 in Downtown San Diego (1935-1969)

In 1934, the Division of Highways changed the routing of LRN 77 to start in downtown San Diego with US 80 (which is now superseded, for those unfamiliar with California road history, by Interstate 8). Initially both highways started here at what is now the corner of Park Boulevard and Market Street, but was signed then as 12th St and Market. In those days US 101 (now modern Interstate 5 south of Los Angeles) came east on Market and went south (straight ahead on this view) along 12th, so US 80 and US 395 started here and from our perspective go north behind us.

Note that the 1934 date is at odds with the 1934-5 map comparison we showed under CA 71 above. This is best explained by keeping in mind that the ACSC was doing signage in those days, not the Division of Highways, and the Inland Route along old CA 71 was well-established. Therefore, as a transitional measure, it would make sense that US 395 would have been signed there at least briefly despite not being the state-recognized routing.

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[Downtown San Diego, 1957 -- 63K] By 1943 US 101 was pulled west to the Pacific Highway routing and US 80 and US 395 went with it, to the corner of Market St and Pacific Highway as illustrated in the 1957 map inset to the right (click for a 63K enlargement). This intersection was later reconfigured and then overrun by subsequent construction such that the intersection is now represented today more or less at the corner of modern Harbor Drive and Pacific Hwy. Modern Market St starts at the traffic light in the background. US 395 would maintain its terminus here for the remainder of its lifetime in San Diego (as late as 1970 an END sign for US 395 and CA 163 was just south of this point on Harbor to the old Coronado Ferry route; this trivial extension was apparently added on around 1965). We proceed east, ignoring the turn for 'historical authenticity'.

As a parenthetical note, until the early 1940s westbound US 80 actually continued north along US 101 to Barnett Avenue, diverging there to Rosecrans St and south to Point Loma where it terminated at the Cabrillo lighthouse. The majority of this ancient alignment is part of CA 209, which is now also decommissioned, but may not have ever been actually signed as US 80 at any point.

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Fourth and Market, and the Gaslamp Quarter. The Gaslamp section of San Diego in the late 1980s and 1990s underwent a significant redevelopment project, transforming it within a few years into a popular social section. Starting with daring commercial ventures such as Horton Plaza and the famous downtown line of the San Diego Trolley, a large number of shops, bars and restaurants (even an enormous Pacific Theatres cinema) have now come to roost and compete for night life bucks.

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Park and Market, this time looking east instead of south. When Park was two-way, we would have turned left and gone north towards Balboa Park, but if we tried that stunt today we'd be likely to hit a Trolley.

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[Downtown San Diego -- 1969] Thus, we head northbound on Eleventh Avenue to continue the routing.

Between 1942 and 1948, CA 94 (San Diego's major southern east-west artery), which originally ran on Broadway, moved south to Market St and was then cosigned with both US 80 and US 395. As the CA 94 freeway was constructed in stages during the late 1950s and early 1960s, it was connected to F and G Streets as it does today, and then came down on 10th/11th to Market as shown in the 1969 map inset at right, shortly before US 395 was decommissioned in San Diego. My 1972 map shows this stretch signed as CA 163, but CA 94 was also signed, and I personally remember old-style white CA 94 shields persisting well into the 1980s.

The 1969 inset shows another interesting irregularity; CA 94 and I-5 were apparently cosigned through the downtown S-curve. This can't have persisted for very long and may have been a map error.

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G Street, along which CA 94 went east to the modern freeway. There are no shields up now. I do remember that CA 163 markers did exist on this stretch after US 395 was decommissioned here, but the signage has now been replaced with these markers instead. CA 163 south of its present terminus was relinquished in 1984.

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Broadway, the earliest routing of CA 94.

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NB towards the southern end of CA 163.

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US 395 via Park Blvd and Murphy Canyon (1935-1947)

11th and A Street. This is the southern end of CA 163, the later US 395 freeway; we'll be coming back to this in Part 3. For now, we turn right onto A Street to continue the old US 80/US 395 routing ...

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... and turn left onto Park Blvd into Balboa Park.

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Despite the tantalizing thought as we make the left turn, the gap and glue damage on this sign were not for a US 395 shield; it was for I-5, which had access from Park until later construction altered it.

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Park Blvd. Closures like this are frequent for park special events, so have alternative routes handy.

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Entering Balboa Park along old US 80 and US 395. Balboa Park is the city's primary park space at 1200+ acres, which houses many attractions in San Diego including the fascinating Reuben H. Fleet Space Theater and Science Centre and, of course, the world-renowned San Diego Zoo. First established in 1868, Balboa Park is another San Diego landmark named for an explorer; in this case, it is Vasco Nuñez de Balboa, who was the first European to see the Pacific Ocean crossing Panama in 1511. The name was applied in 1910 to what was originally called simply City Park.

Park Blvd runs along the lip of Powderhouse Canyon, pejoratively named in 1885 after the ammunition and gunpowder depots maintained by the residents of what was originally Slaughterhouse Canyon (and named for the same), and today one of the park's three major transit conduits. The boulevard shares Powder House Canyon with Florida Drive, which sits nearly at the bottom. Balboa Park's other major transit viaducts, natural canyons all, include Switzer Canyon, inhabited by modern Pershing Drive and the site of the aborted Switzer Canyon Freeway [CA 171]; and Cabrillo Canyon, which we'll see in Part 3.

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And speaking of which, here's the San Diego Zoo itself. One of the world's largest and most highly lauded zoos with over 4,000 animals representing some 800 species, it covers 100 acres within Balboa Park and is operated by the non-profit Zoological Society of San Diego (although its assets and the ownership of the animals rest with the City of San Diego). Its membership numbers over a quarter-million. The Zoological Society also operates the 1800-acre Wild Animal Park near Escondido and the Conservation and Research for Endangered Species, founded in 1975 and dedicated to endangered and rare species preservation. Notable for its progressive use of open air enclosures and cageless exhibits, it also has the largest population of Giant Pandas outside of the People's Republic of China.

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NB Park Blvd/old US 80/old US 395.

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Leaving Balboa Park.

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Entering Hillcrest. An old gentrified neighbourhood, the name has two derivations; first, from its position upon the hills bordering Mission Valley to the north, and second from George Hill, a railroad tycoon who purchased the land from developers in the 1870s. It is most known today as the centre of San Diego's gay and lesbian community, as it has been since the 1970s during its civic redevelopment. A lighted "HILLCREST" sign still stands at University and Fifth, originally erected in 1940 and later refurbished.

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At El Cajon Blvd, US 80 and US 395 proceed due east. If we turn left (actually southwest at this rather awkward intersection), we would continue as Normal St and Washington St to the CA 163 freeway. This was later part of US 80 and later still Business Route 80; we'll get to that in Part 3. We turn right and proceed east.

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El Cajon Blvd has undergone considerable civic rehabilitation, including introduction of the Historic US 80 designation, and this wonderful retro-styled sign erected in 1988.

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Leaving Hillcrest for North Park, named because it's north of the Park, silly.

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El Cajon Blvd is also part of Business Route 8. Not many of the Interstate Business shields still survive, thanks to Caltrans' deplorable habit of relinquishing business alignments to rot.

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More modern retro-signage as we cross the new CA 15 freeway, which one day will be signed as an extension of Interstate 15 to the north. Until 1969 this was all CA 103, which ran along 40th Street instead from its terminus at US 395 to the north; after Interstate 15's extension along US 395, the eastern routing down Murphy Canyon that CA 103 took over from old US 395 (we'll look at this in Part 2) was chosen for the new Interstate because the Cabrillo Freeway was not Interstate-grade and not upgradeable (thus orphaning it as state highway, becoming CA 163).

South of El Cajon Blvd, CA 103 continued along 40th Street and Wabash Boulevard to CA 94 and ultimately US 101/I-5; this was, of course, not part of US 395. The CA 15 freeway was opened in stages; Wabash Boulevard was already more or less freeway at the time of CA 103's demise, but the remainder of the freeway was not constructed until the late 1990s and opened in 2000. Despite the community opposition originally, I think the upgrades have greatly improved the neighbourhood. The portions of 40th Street that were not obliterated still survive in discontinuous sections, but were never part of US 395 either.

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El Cajon and Fairmount Avenue, our next waypoint.

Continue to Part 2

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