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

Dine Diego

Sep 15 - Oct 15, 2020

San Diego’s favorite foodie event, San Diego Restaurant Week will take a break this September.  Instead, Dine Diego (presented by San Diego Restaurant Week), will run September 15 through October 15, 2020.  Dine Diego will feature San Diego’s top eateries showcasing all the current offerings for outdoor dining, to-go options and unique in-house promotions.

Discover

Flagship Patriot Jet Boat Tour

Jan 23 - ongoing

Climb aboard the Patriot for one of the most thrilling rides in San Diego! Zip and zoom around the bay on an entertaining tour of the waterfront's most scenic spots - past military ships, along the downtown skyline, and under the iconic Coronado Bridge. The 70-foot Patriot comfortably seats 139 and offers fantastic views in every direction. With rock music pumping, your highly skilled captain will narrate and navigate while executing 360-degree turns and reaching speeds upwards of 50 mph. Propelled by two 1,400 horsepower jet engines, it's the adrenaline adventure of a lifetime!

Feel the wind, the motion and the refreshing spray, and experience the beauty of San Diego from a whole new perspective. There's nothing like it!

Discover

Chauffeured Distillery Tour

Nov 4, 2019 - ongoing

Explore small-batch distillers and taste San Diego's finest spirits with this complete grains-to-glass experience!

NO NEED TO DRIVE! On this deluxe tour we pick you up from your hotel/residence* and take you on a relaxing ride to San Diego's best distilleries for ample pours of local spirits!

Chauffeured Distillery Tour Includes:**

• Approx. 5 hour*** VIP guided adventure to local small-batch distilleries.
• Ample tastings at three (3) custom-appointed craft distilleries (about 12 different pours!).
• Wine or beer available with lunch (in lieu of spirits).
• Door-to-door transportation (from most San Diego, La Jolla, and Coronado locations).
• Delicious Distillery lunch.
• Entertaining commentary on local history and culture.
• Behind the scenes craft distillery tour of the spirits making process.
• Spirits tasting appreciation presentation.
• Complete coordination by San Diego Beer, Wine & Spirits Tours.

 

Discover

Space: Our Greatest Adventure

Oct 15, 2019 - ongoing

NOW OPEN: SPACE: Our Greatest Adventure, a new educational, interactive, one-of-a-kind – and most important of all FUN! --special exhibition exploring mankind’s quest for the stars and how space exploration impacts our daily lives.

 

Discover

What's Nearby

View All

Little Italy

Discover

Barrio Logan

Discover

Point Loma Peninsula

Discover

What's Happening

View All

Dine Diego

Sep 15 - Oct 15, 2020
Discover

Flagship Patriot Jet Boat Tour

Jan 23 - ongoing
Discover

Chauffeured Distillery Tour

Nov 4, 2019 - ongoing
Discover

Space: Our Greatest Adventure

Oct 15, 2019 - ongoing
Discover

Related Articles and Features

Deals just for you

Accommodation

California Residents Rate

Hotel Solamar
Valid: Jun 3 - ongoing

California Residents get 10% off BAR and complimentary parking, flexible cancellation when booking direct. 

Venues

Yoga & Mimosas

AquaVie Spa & Wellness Club - The Westgate Hotel
Valid: Jan 7 - ongoing

Join us each Saturday at 9 AM for a beautiful morning of bubbly and Namaste. We will begin with a 60-minute Vinyasa class on our rooftop pool deck. Next, we will celebrate our accomplishments with a...

Venues

2 Weeks Unlimited Studio Access | $50

Saffron & Sage
Valid: Mar 2 - ongoing

With this special membership you will be able to enjoy unlimied studio classes for two weeks.  Saffron & Sages studio classes range from Yin Yoga, Hatha Yoga, Cleansing Mediation,...

Events to check out

Event

Dine Diego

California Restaurant Association San Diego County
Sep 15 - Oct 15, 2020

San Diego’s favorite foodie event, San Diego Restaurant Week will take a break this September.  Instead, Dine Diego (presented by San Diego Restaurant Week), will run September 15 through...

Event

San Diego Wine Country Chauffeured Tour

San Diego Beer, Wine & Spirits Tours
Nov 4, 2019 - ongoing

Explore the vineyards of San Diego Wine Country! NO NEED TO DRIVE!  On this deluxe tour we pick you up from your hotel/residence* and take you on a relaxing ride to San Diego's best...

Event

Sea Life Ocean Adventure Cruise

Hornblower Cruises & Events
Sep 9 - Oct 4, 2020

Experience the picturesque San Diego Bay as you head out to the open ocean in comfort on a large, fast, comfortable and stable Hornblower boat. Enjoy the scenic views and Sea Life including Sea Lions,...

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

Visitor planning guide

For the ultimate guide to planning your San Diego vacation, view and download the San Diego Visitor Planning Guide, packed with useful information that will help you plan the perfect San Diego getaway.

Read More

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