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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Port of San Diego Big Bay Boom!

Jul 4, 2024

The Port of San Diego 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, Marina District and Coronado Ferry Landing. The impeccably choreographed display will last approximately 18 minutes.

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

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Wonderfront Music & Arts Festival

May 10 - May 12, 2024

A highly-anticipated 7+ stage, 80+ bands, 3-day music, culinary and arts festival will descend upon the stunning waterfront of downtown San Diego all along the Embarcadero. The festival offers diverse attractions including yacht parties, water sports, art installations, after-parties, a craft beer village and plenty of local flavors. Wonderfront festival’s re-entry policy encourages festival-goers to customize their weekend experience and truly integrates the city into the fabric of the festival.

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La Jolla Half Marathon & Shores 5K

May 18, 2024

The La Jolla Half Marathon is one of America's most picturesque and beautiful point-to-point races. Starting at the Del Mar Fairgrounds, the course follows a scenic coastal route before reaching the challenging climb to the summit of Torrey Pines State Park. The course then rolls atop Torrey Pines mesa, continues down through residential La Jolla Shores, and finishes at La Jolla Cove.

For those interested in a shorter option, the La Jolla Shores 5K offers a mostly downhill course and features some of the most scenic views of the last 3.1 miles of the half marathon course.

 
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Annual Over The Line Tournament

Jul 13 - Jul 21, 2024

The Old Mission Beach Athletic Club (OMBAC) is calling all players, beach-goers, and sports enthusiasts to the biggest summer event in San Diego!

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What's Nearby

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Little Italy

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Barrio Logan

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Point Loma Peninsula

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What's Happening

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Port of San Diego Big Bay Boom!

Jul 4, 2024
Discover

Wonderfront Music & Arts Festival

May 10 - May 12, 2024
Discover

La Jolla Half Marathon & Shores 5K

May 18, 2024
Discover

Annual Over The Line Tournament

Jul 13 - Jul 21, 2024
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