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Old Highway 395, Part 10: US 395/CA 71 via Old Town Temecula, Murrieta, Wildomar and Lake Elsinore (1934-1953)

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[Southern Riverside County in 1933, ACSC map, 111K.] Until the opening of the completed eastern routing of US 395 in 1953 (as we will see in Part 12, now traversed by modern Interstate 215), US 395 had a longer and significantly more prosaic routing in southern Riverside county as shown in the ACSC map at left (click for a 111K enlargement). This routing went up through what is now Old Town Temecula, then Murrieta (with a set of two 90-degree turns), Wildomar and Lake Elsinore before turning east towards Perris. Resembling the similar "dogleg" routing through Fallbrook to the south that we saw in Part 6, its analogously indirect nature would lead to its own eastern shift later which, again, we will talk about when we discuss the modern Interstates in Part 12.

US 395's routing here, naturally, follows that of its ancestors. Prior to US 395's designation, this was of course part of CA 71 and LRN 77, and prior to that was a major local route as part of the Butterfield Trail, born of the 1857 Post Office Appropriations Bill that established an official overland route for mail traffic instead of the sporadic monthly steamboat service (which could take as long as eight months to get a letter from New York to Los Angeles at its, er, "peak"). The Butterfield in Butterfield Trail was John W. Butterfield, founder of the American Express Company and personal friend of President James Buchanan, who received the contract and the designated route from Postmaster General Aaron V. Brown.

Brown's route was somewhat meandering, probably affected by the prevailing politics of the day, but importantly despite its hundreds of miles of padded and seemingly superfluous length was not affected by snow. With two eastern termini in St. Louis and Memphis (Memphis being Brown's home town), the routes converged in Fort Smith, AR, then went to Colbert's Ferry, TX and Franklin, TX, and finally through southern New Mexico along approximately what was later US 80 to Tucson, AZ and then Fort Yuma on the Colorado River. (There is still an exit on Interstate 8 for the Butterfield Trail in Gila Bend, AZ, where old US 80 is the business route.) The Trail then dipped slightly into Mexico, emerging near the New River in Imperial county, up to Vallecito and then Warner's Ranch (modern Warner Springs), and then to Temecula, Chino and Los Angeles. North of Los Angeles, it proceeded roughly along the route of later US 99 through the San Fernando Pass and Tejon Pass to Fresno, then west over the Pacheco Pass along modern CA 152 to Gilroy and along modern US 101 to San Jose and San Francisco. Butterfield drew on his considerable knowledge of the communications industry to construct rail links into Missouri and a complex stagecoach system from there to San Francisco linked by 139 individual stations using specialized wagons and specific animals on difficult sections. On 16 September 1858 the first piece of westbound mail left on the new route, marked "Per Overland Mail," from Saint Louis with two other bags of mail and a New York Herald correspondent. It completed its trip to San Francisco in 23 days, 23 hours and 30 minutes, over a day faster than Butterfield's contract of 25 days required.

Despite its great success, the Butterfield Overland Mail was decommissioned less than three years later by act of Congress on 2 March 1861. Part of the impetus came from the complaints of the North, who suffered under the considerably slower northern route maintained by George Chorpenning and wanted Butterfield's contract cancelled to move resources closer to them, but the secession of seven states in 1860-1 on the eve of the American Civil War was what ultimately convinced the legislature that a southern mail route would be all but crushed under a hostile states' alliance. Mail route #12578 was moved to the central United States and the Butterfield Trail was decommissioned as a mail route in the Union, but not as a trade road: since it was now well known as a carefully researched and passable artery throughout the state, the Butterfield Trail lived on to accommodate homesteaders and traders to finally become a component of the modern highway system during the rise of the automobile, including, for a time, US 395. (It is interesting to note, however, that the eastern remnant of the Butterfield Overland Mail continued to operate in the Confederacy for some months later, even using Butterfield employees, until 1862.)

[Treaty of Temecula plaque, 1951.] We will start this Part in Old Town Temecula, the southern gateway of Riverside county from San Diego county and one of the exploding population centres of South County. The name of the modern City of Temecula comes from a corruption of the Luiseño Indian name 'temecunga' ('place of the sun') which was long inhabited by that local band; the valley was first visited by modern settlers in 1797 when Franciscan padre Juan Norberto de Santiago explored the region and settled near what is present-day Lake Elsinore to be followed by Spanish and later Mexican settlers, culminating in a bloody war in 1847 when the local Temecula tribe was massacred by neighbouring bands aligned with the Mexicans anxious to settle previous tribal scores. (Their mass grave can still be seen as a towering mound from CA 79 today.) Handed over as part of the treaty in the aftermath of the Mexican-American wars, Native American hostilities ceased by treaty in 1852, commemorated by the plaque at right, and the small sleepy valley town persisted despite a scuttled attempt to join the railway system (ruined by flooding in the 1880s) to be immortalized in Helen Hunt Jackson's contemporary novel Ramona. By 1904, the town was largely simply a shipping point for cattle when rancher Walter L. Vail started acquiring large tracts in the region. Vail Ranch sold out to Kaiser Development Company in 1964 (a distant relative, thank you), causing wide commercial development during the 1970s in what was then called Rancho California; when the city was incorporated in 1989, however, the citizens voted to name it Temecula as it historically had been. The city continues to have a Luiseno presence to this day in the form of the Pechanga Band, who operate a large casino along Pechanga Parkway (Part 9) and maintain their local reservation lands. Although a healthy 57,716 in 2000, the population today is estimated to be nearly double that amount as part of the economic boom in the Inland Empire during the early 2000s.


Old Town Front Street

[Temecula US 395 and CA 71, 1957.] [Routes 71, 74, 740 and 79 in the Inland Empire, 1934.] Crossing under Interstate 15 from the junction at the end of Part 9, we come to Old Town Front Street and the end of this leg of CA 79. US 395 continued north from here.

We mentioned at the end of the last Part that this was not always CA 79, although when the California Division of Highways first designated Sign Routes in 1934 it was indeed CA 79 then (as seen in the 1934 inset at near right). In those days CA 79 intersected CA 71, this part being the future US 395, and terminated (t)here; its routing started at US 80, roughly where it ends today on Interstate 8, and turned northwards and eventually west towards Temecula via Aguanga.

US 395 then took over CA 71 south of Lake Elsinore when it was designated in the state, but in 1938 CA 71 was swung east along the old CA 79 routing (the southern portion of LRN 78, 1933; the northern segment we'll get to at the end of this Part) to Aguanga and then on a new routing through Anza to intersect CA 74 (on an unclear LRN then, but later defined as LRN 277, 1959). CA 79 for its part was given the old CA 83 routing at the same time, which was defined in 1935 (not an original state sign route) and left CA 79 at Radec, passed north through Sage, Hemet and Gilman Hot Springs, and finally connected to US 60 (CA 60) via what is now Gilman Springs Road (LRN 194, 1935, and later split into LRN 186, 1959); it seems the CA 83 designation lapsed until 1963 when it was moved to its modern Upland routing.

After US 395 moved east to the modern I-215 corridor, the situation was as shown in the 1957 inset at far right: CA 71 took back its old routing to Elsinore, but continued to run east to CA 74 via Aguanga and Anza, and CA 79 still ran on the east leg via Radec and Sage. This persisted until 1974, when I-15 was officially defined over CA 71 (why? see Part 12). At that time, CA 71 was truncated to CA 91, where it ends today; I-15 took over the portion from CA 91 south to CA 71's diversion east; and CA 79 got back its old routing from I-15 (this point) east down to I-8. A new CA 79 was designated over Winchester Rd through Winchester into Homeland and then into Hemet via CA 74, picking up its former routing along the way in Hemet and San Jacinto, and the old CA 79 from Radec through Sage became RivCo R3 and ceased to be state highway. (Gilman Springs Rd is also not CA 79 anymore, but that's a whole other story and partially involves Scientologists.) As for the connecting stub from Aguanga through Anza to CA 74, that became new highway CA 371, it and CA 330 being the only state routes in California numbered as "children" off a putative parent (and now with the loss of CA 30, both of those parents no longer intersect their child routes anymore). We turn right.

Notice the tantalizingly named Western Bypass on the sign, but all it seems to be doing is letting you get to the Wienerschnizel faster by bypassing the Shell station.

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Drive carefully.

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Approaching old town Temecula.

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This charming gate and overhead welcomes you into the Old Town section.

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[Old US 395 in Temecula, 1951, 26K.] It's hard to say that this was what Temecula looked like when US 395 went through it; in fact, as the thumbnail at right illustrates (click for a 26K enlargement), this was not really old Temecula at all. Instead, US 395 went through what was basically a sleepy country town, bypassed in 1949 by the later alignment under the lanes of Interstate 15 (Part 12). The picture at right was taken in 1951, only two years after the bypass was opened.

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Despite that, the attempt at period architecture is still a valiant effort and modern "Old Town" Temecula flourishes with a collection of eclectic shops and local dining which do a brisk business even if the trappings are patently hooey.

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Of course, there are some glaring anachronisms.

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Junction Sixth St.

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Leaving the northern end of Old Town Temecula.

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Junction Rancho California Road, which as mentioned, was the old name for the region.

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Jefferson Avenue

At Rancho Calif Rd, the name changes from Old Town Front St to Jefferson Avenue. We continue north.

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The original bypass of Temecula seemed to end roughly around here where Jefferson Avenue starts hugging the freeway. This portion appears to have been built as frontage road as part of the I-15 project, with the original US 395 asphalt buried under the Interstate, but we will continue to follow Jefferson for continuity.

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Curving around through the hospitality district.

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Overland Drive through north Temecula.

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Winchester Rd. This is the western stub after CA 79 has already joined I-15 south to Temecula Parkway. Here Jefferson starts to move back to the west and starts taking over the old US 395 roadbed again.

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Leaving Temecula.

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City limits of Murrieta. Murrieta is named for Don Juan Murrieta, a Spanish settler who brought his sheepherding into the region in 1863 when his older brother, who had originally bought the 52,000-acre holding, thought better of it and went back home to Spain. (The name does not hail from Joaquin Murrieta a/k/a "the Robin Hood of El Dorado" who caused great ruckus in Gold Country with his Five Joaquin band; see Wikipedia.) Like Temecula, it remained a small town through the 20th century especially with the loss of its own local railroad in 1935. When Rancho California development took off in the 1970s and 1980s, Murrieta's population similarly increased; like Temecula, while Murrieta's 2000 population was a decent 44,282, its present population (as of this writing) is estimated to be over double, as shown on the sign. It is not spelled "Murrietta," so don't. The modern city was incorporated in 1991.

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Pear St, part of the later commercial buildup on the southern side. This is not historic Murrieta; that comes in a moment.

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For many years this used to be open land, but that's all disappearing.

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Murrieta Hot Springs Rd. The Murrieta Hot Springs were very well known to early residents, including Don Murrieta himself, who not only took repose in them himself but also bathed his sheep in them (presumably in that order, or else, yuck). It boasted its own resort, unimaginatively titled the (you guessed it) Murrieta Hot Springs Resort, and this resort is being restored by the local Bible college on whose grounds it remains today.

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At Ivy Street, US 395 took a curious jog southwest (see the 1933 map). Jefferson Avenue continued a little ways north in those days, terminating past Kalmia St; modern Jefferson Avenue gets considerably further, up as far as Clinton Keith Rd, but has nothing to do with the old highway.

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We turn left (separate shot since you can't see the overhead signs well from the left turn lane).

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Ivy Street

Turning onto Ivy St, we notice an abrupt change in character from the cookie cutter paralysis of the newer subdivisions to this more organic rural style characterizing the earlier homes and properties.

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Nearly immediately at the next block we come to Washington Avenue, where we complete the double 90 degree turn of old US 395.

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Again, the continuation of Ivy St then as now was a block or two towards the mountains. We turn right onto Washington Ave to enter historic downtown Murrieta.

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Washington Avenue

In 2005 when I made my first survey of the area, they were just starting to put these in. Unlike Temecula's cheerfully faux facades, this really is not unlike how Murrieta was during its sleepier days, fashionable shops notwithstanding.

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Looking north along Washington Ave in old Murrieta.

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Juniper St.

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Notice that many of the store fronts are much smaller, humbler buildings, with a very different and charmingly homey character.

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One brave attempt at grandeur that didn't quite make it. But I salute their effort.

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Leaving old town Murrieta.

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Kalmia St on the north side of town.

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The local high school. Guess when I took this picture?

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As we leave Murrieta, the housing developments are still coming in fast and furious.

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The city of Wildomar; Washington Ave changes to Palomar Street here. Wildomar's population in 2000 numbered 14,064, although it is growing at nearly the same rate too -- the sign here says 25,533! The name comes from a portmanteau of the founders': William Collier, Donald Graham and Margaret Collier Graham. One of the newest cities in the Inland Empire, Wildomar voted in February 2008 to incorporate and the current city was incorporated on July 1st. Another one of these new south county cities is Menifee (Part 12).

Some of the sharper tools in the audience will wonder why an otherwise presently undesignated route would sign city limits so well. The answer is, of course, because this was a designated route after US 395, first as CA 71 after US 395 moved east, and then TEMP I-15 after 1974.

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Palomar Street

Palomar St takes a rather wild shoofly-like turn into Wildomar which was US 395's original routing, and seems to originally have had something to do with the railroad alignment to the southwest.

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Clinton Keith Rd.

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Palomar St signage at Clinton Keith.

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Wildomar is a moderately sleepy, spread-out community. There are a number of housing developments in progress to accomodate the spread north from Temecula and Murrieta, but by and large it retains its largely sparse feel even today.

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Central Avenue, about as close to a downtown as Wildomar gets.

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NB Palomar St/old US 395/old CA 71.

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As we reach the north side of Wildomar towards Lake Elsinore, Palomar St takes an abrupt swing nearly due north.

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Here, Palomar St turns left, but US 395 continues with us on the mainline, which now changes names to Mission Trail. However, it seems that the original name stuck for some time until the later developments to the south.

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Palomar St and Mission Trl signage at the junction.

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Mission Trail (Old Palomar Street)

Bundy Canyon Rd as we leave Wildomar.

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Vine St towards Lake Elsinore.

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Malaga Rd and the City of Lake Elsinore. The Elsinore in Lake Elsinore isn't named for a person, but rather for the Danish city made famous in Shakespeare's Hamlet. Although the city was incorporated in 1888, it was well-settled before then -- in particular the lake, a naturally formed feature, which was frequently used by Spanish and Mexican ranchers, and later American trappers and settlers, as a watering hole and supply point. Popular as a, um, hamlet for Hollywood stars escaping Los Angeles in the early parts of the 20th century, it has also benefited considerably from the local population boom although it has not grown nearly as quickly; its 2000 Census population was 28,928, and the modern count is estimated to "only" be around 50,000 as of this writing.

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[Riverside Co US 395, 1947 -- 39K] Intersection of present-day Diamond Drive, Mission Trail and modern E Lakeshore Drive, and finally in map territory, shown above as Elsinore Jct on the 1947 map (this photo was taken facing west on Diamond Drive for clarity); compare this with the 1933 map above and you can see that very little changed from US 395's first to near last day in the region Railroad Avenue is modern-day E Lakeshore Drive and continues to the right as BR 15, which then heads east on Diamond Drive to intersect the freeway. Mission Tr, where we just arrived from, is to the left. We follow E Lakeshore Drive/BR 15 northwest.

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Business Loop 15/East Lakeshore Drive (Old Railroad Avenue)

Continuing along old Railroad Ave/modern Lakeshore Drive/old US 395/old CA 71/modern Business Route 15.

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Curving around towards the Lake.

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Lakeshore Drive splits off towards the Lake, with BL 15 and US 395/CA 71 following Main Street into downtown Lake Elsinore. Just as a side trip, since we're so close, let's go look at the lake.

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Detour: Lake Elsinore State Recreation Park

Parking area for the park and beach.

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State park boundary marker on one of the wooden posts.

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A beautiful day on the lake.

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End Detour: Business Loop 15/Main Street

Continuing on Main St into downtown Lake Elsinore.

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City Hall, continuing the theme of city government buildings fronting the old highway.

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Graham Avenue, the historic junction of three routes, namely US 395, CA 71 and CA 74. Originally this was Graham Street but sometime in the 1940s got changed to the Imperial Highway (not to be confused with modern CA 90 in Orange county) as seen in the 1947 map above, to be changed back to Graham Avenue probably after the designation of Interstate 15. Here we intersected old CA 74 coming in along Graham, and old CA 71 left with CA 74 on Graham along the continuation of LRN 77 towards Corona. We continue along the northern portion of LRN 78 (1931) as old US 395 and old CA 74 into Perris, which we will reach in the next Part.

Continue to Part 11

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