arrow-down arrow-left arrow-right arrow-up play-button plus tab-indicator dots close menu search facebook google-plus instagram pinterest rss twitter youtube rss-two heart Check FeaturedBadge linkedin minus apps placeholder linkedin

San Diego's Gaslamp Quarter

10 historic and fun facts

From the wild west to ghostly hauntings, San Diego's Gaslamp Quarter has an interesting and colorful past. Here are ten secrets to uncover the next time you're visiting the Quarter.

10 Fun Things to Know About the Gaslamp Quarter

Rabbitville

Prior to 1867, the area which today makes up downtown San Diego was jokingly known as "Rabbitville" due to many failed attempts by early settlers to build a city on San Diego Bay. In those early days, although they couldn't seem to get the city built, they were successful in making a great habitat for the local rabbit population - hence the nickname.

New Town

Originally the center of San Diego was located in what today is still known as Old Town. But in 1867 Alonzo Horton, known as the father of downtown, purchased several hundred acres of waterfront property and built a wharf at the end of 5th Avenue and began to develop what was called "New Town". Within a few years, the area began to thrive.

The Gaslamp Name

In contrast to the much older original Spanish settlement of "Old Town", in "New Town" the city installed about 50 Gas Lamp Street lights to light up this new modern part of the town. The name "New Town" was lost over the years as the rest of the city grew but with great insight, the city kept the Victorian feel for most of this area, including the design of the signature Gas Lamp Street lights, hence giving the area its name.

Stingaree

Along with respectable merchants, a red-light district known as the Stingaree emerged (named for the stingrays in San Diego Bay) in early New Town. Gambling halls, bars and brothels thrived in the Stingaree until 1912 when the city announced it would host the Panama-California Exposition. At that time, officers raided numerous houses of ill-repute, arresting 138 women, who were subsequently shipped out of town by train.

Wyatt Earp

San Diego in the 1880s was booming and a host of unsavory characters came to take advantage of the city's growth. One such character was Wyatt Earp, the west's most famous lawman. Having brought a sense of law and order to cattle drives in Kansas and battled outlaws at the OK Corral in Tombstone, Arizona, Earp made his way to San Diego in 1885 where he operated three gambling halls, organized gambling excursions in Mexico, and prospected copper and gold.

Canine Celebrities

Tokyo might have Hachiko, but San Diego has two canine celebrities - Bum and Greyfriars Bobby. Bum, a St. Bernard-Spaniel mix, arrived by steamboat in 1886 as a stowaway. He became a local legend for his friendly temperament and fiercely independent lifestyle. Living on the streets of downtown, he led parades, ran with the fire brigade and greeted dignitaries and commoners alike. Another local canine hero is Greyfriars Bobby, a Skye terrier from Scotland, who accompanied policeman John Gray on his daily rounds in San Diego's sister city, Edinburgh, Scotland. When Gray died suddenly, Bobby is said to have loyally slept by his grave for more than 14 years. Greyfriars Bobby was immortalized into a bronze statue, symbolizing loyalty, service and friendship. Edinburgh, Scotland presented San Diego a copy of its celebrity dog statue, and in return San Diego gave Edinburgh a duplicate of Bum that is now on display at the foot of Edinburgh castle. Bronze statues of both dogs can be visited in the pocket park behind the Gaslamp Museum at the intersection of 4th and Island Avenues.

Haunted Happenings

With Gaslamp's colorful past it's no wonder spirits have decided to take up resident here. Touted by many as "the most haunted house in the Gaslamp Quarter," the Davis-Horton House (and historical museum) has become a widely documented location for paranormal activity. It was even featured on My Ghost Story segment on the Biography Channel in 2012. But wait, there's more...Haunt World Magazine named the Haunted Hotel in the Gaslamp, one of the top 13 haunted houses in America featuring the Hotel in "American Haunts IV" on the Travel Channel. Popular tours including the Ghosts of the Gaslamp Walking Tour at the Davis-Horton House are offered year-round.

Chinatown

Most people think of Convoy Street in Kearny Mesa as being the center of Asian culture in San Diego. In fact, beginning in the 1860s, Chinese abalone fishermen, who were not allowed to live in other sections of the city, settled around an 8-block area adjacent to the Gaslamp Quarter. Known today as the Asian Pacific Thematic Historic District (APTHD), San Diego's historic Chinatown is an eight-block district overlapping with the Gaslamp Quarter Historic District. There are 22 buildings considered historically significant to this history between Market Street on the north, 2nd Ave. on the west, 6th Ave. on the east and J St. on the south. You can visit the San Diego Chinese Historical Museum to learn more and take a tour.

The Gaslamp Arched Sign

In 1980 the Gaslamp Quarter was listed on the National Registrar of Historic Places. In 1986 the idea of installing the Gaslamp Quarter Archway Sign was conceived but it would take until 1990 for it to be built and installed. The original cost of the sign was $150,000, and total weight is six tons.

Historic Buildings

There are nearly 100 historical building in the 16.5 walkable blocks that make up San Diego's Gaslamp Quarter. Standing side-by-side with modern building and skyscrapers, these classic Victorian era landmarks give the areas its unique character and charm. Today, many of the buildings have been converted into museums, hotels, bars, restaurants, galleries, shops and work spaces. A few of our favorites include: Yuma Building, Spencer Ogden Building, Old City Hall, Keating Building, Louis Bank of Commerce, St. James Hotel, and the Royal Pie Bakery Building. You can find more information about these historic building or there are also many Guided Tours of the area including walking tours, photo tours and even Segway tours.

Find a place to stay

Book online or call 1-800-350-6205 to speak with a local expert

Discover Board

What's Nearby|
What's Happening|

Little Italy

Once home to San Diego's flourishing tuna fishing industry and generations of Italian families who made their living on the sea, Little Italy is now a lively neighborhood filled with patio cafés, packed restaurants, craft brew stops, urban wineries, art galleries, sophisticated shops, boutique hotels and the beautiful Amici Park.

Discover

Barrio Logan

For years, the Barrio Logan neighborhood has been one of San Diego's best kept secrets. An epicenter of the city's Mexican-American culture, this neighborhood is quickly becoming a hotspot for cutting-edge art and authentic local culture.

Discover

Point Loma Peninsula

West of downtown San Diego, you'll find Point Loma, Harbor Island and Shelter Island, all of which offer great restaurants, activities, a variety of accommodations and stunning views of San Diego’s skyline.

Discover

Big Bay Boom!

Jul 4, 2021

The Big Bay Boom July 4th Fireworks Show is back, promising another spectacular display over San Diego Bay. Fireworks will be discharged simultaneously from barges placed strategically around the Bay off Shelter Island, Harbor Island, Embarcadero North, Seaport Village, Embarcadero South Marina Park and Coronado Ferry Landing. The impeccably choreographed display will last approximately 17 minutes.

Come down to the bay and enjoy the biggest fireworks show in San Diego!

Discover

Comic-Con@Home

Jul 23 - Jul 25, 2021

This year, everyone gets a badge! Attend star-studded panels, watch sneak previews and virtually walk the famous exhibit hall for exclusive merch during Comic-Con@Home.

Discover

Nighttime Zoo at the San Diego Zoo

Jun 11 - Sep 6, 2021

Stay after dark and help us celebrate summer during Nighttime Zoo. Come "rock and roar" every day this summer with live music and other amazing entertainment experiences. There's so much to do, see and hear at Nighttime Zoo - it's a good thing summer hours are longer!

Discover

Music At The Maritime, Father's Day Concert Treat

Jun 20, 2021

Hausmann Quartet Returns to the Maritime Museum of San Diego for Father's Day!

This 30-minute concert is free with general admission and will be performed at the Maritime Museum of San Diego aboard one of the historic fleet vessels, the 1898 Victorian era steam ferry Berkeley, a National Historic Landmark docked in downtown San Diego next to Star of India.

Purchase general admission tickets and tour the Museum before this special concert, where you can gaze upon the magnificent San Diego Bay.

Musical selections include Caroline Shaw's Valencia and Jessie Montgomery's Strum..

 

 

Discover

What's Nearby

View All

Little Italy

Discover

Barrio Logan

Discover

Point Loma Peninsula

Discover

What's Happening

View All

Big Bay Boom!

Jul 4, 2021
Discover

Comic-Con@Home

Jul 23 - Jul 25, 2021
Discover

Nighttime Zoo at the San Diego Zoo

Jun 11 - Sep 6, 2021
Discover

Music At The Maritime, Father's Day Concert Treat

Jun 20, 2021
Discover

Related Articles and Features

Deals just for you

Restaurants

TUESDAY 5 at 5

Hope 46 Restaurant
Valid: Apr 6 - ongoing

Receive $5 off house cocktails from 5pm to close.

Hostel

15% Off

HI San Diego Downtown
Valid: May 10 - ongoing

Save 15% off our Best Flexible Rates through October 31, 2021! This beautiful, art-filled hostel in the heart of the Gaslamp Quarter features private rooms with ensuite bathrooms, free Wi-Fi, and...

Restaurants

Lunch Specials

The Westgate Room - Westgate Hotel
Valid: Apr 27 - ongoing

Join us on the Veranda at the Westgate Room each week for the best lunch deal in downtown San Diego. MONDAY Cobb Salad Entree + Iced Tea $10 TUESDAY Baja Prawn Tacos & Westgate Crafted...

Events to check out

Event

Big Bay Boom!

Jul 4, 2021

The Big Bay Boom July 4th Fireworks Show is back, promising another spectacular display over San Diego Bay. Fireworks will be discharged simultaneously from barges placed strategically around the Bay...

Event

Comic-Con@Home

Jul 23 - Jul 25, 2021

This year, everyone gets a badge! Attend star-studded panels, watch sneak previews and virtually walk the famous exhibit hall for exclusive merch during Comic-Con@Home.

Event

Nighttime Zoo at the San Diego Zoo

San Diego Zoo
Jun 11 - Sep 6, 2021

Stay after dark and help us celebrate summer during Nighttime Zoo. Come "rock and roar" every day this summer with live music and other amazing entertainment experiences. There's so much to do, see...

Stay in touch

Sign up to receive the latest news, events, and updates about San Diego. Our monthly and weekly newsletters will keep you informed about the latest and greatest happenings in the destination.

Sign Up

Partners

Explore

Plan

Stay

Follow Us

Language:

English | Change Language

Select your country or region

China FlagChinaGermany FlagGermanyGreat Britain FlagGreat BritainJapan FlagJapanMexico FlagMexicoKorea FlagKoreaSwitzerland FlagSwitzerlandBrazil FlagBrazilFrance FlagFranceAustralia FlagAustraliaCanada FlagCanada USA

Or use Google Translate

Afrikaans Albanian Arabic Belarusian Bulgarian Catalan Croatian Czech Danish Deutsch Español Estonian Filipino Finnish Francais Galician Greek Haitian-Creole Hebrew Hindi Hungarian Icelandic Indonesian Irish Italian Japanese Korean Latvian Lithuanian Macedonian Malay Maltese Nederlands Norwegian Persian Polish Portuguese Romanian Russian Serbian Slovak Slovenian Swahili Swedish Telugu Thai Turkish Ukranian Vietnamese Welsh Yiddish