Escondido: A Little of Our History
Mehel-om-pom-pavo was the first known name of what we now call Escondido. Settled initially some four thousand years ago by the Luseño and later by the Kumeyaay, the tribes’ campsites and villages were scattered along the San Dieguito River running through the area.
As was true throughout California, Spain controlled the land in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. Driven by their interest in the religious conversion of the indigenous populations, the Spaniards usurped the property, built a series of missions across the state, and pressed the Native Americans living on the land into mission service. When the Act of Secularization was passed in 1832 it “freed” the Native Americans from their mission servitude and, in 1834, after Mexico had gained its independence from Spain, the holdings of the missions were broken up into land grants.
Thirty ranchos, as land grants were called, were distributed in San Diego County. One of these was Rincon del Diablo, granted in 1843 to Juan Bautista Alvarado. During the land boom of the 1880’s the first settlement on Rincon del Diablo was made near the present site of Jesmond Dene Park on the McDougall ranch where a post office called Apex was opened. The name of the post office was changed to Escondido in 1884, the same year the land grant was deeded to the newly-formed Escondido Land & Town Company.
In 1886, the Land & Town Company drilled several wells to provide irrigation water for citrus groves that had been planted. The following year the Escondido Irrigation District was formed to build a reservoir which became the present day Lake Wohlford. In 1887, a branch line of the Santa Fe Railway was extended to Escondido and was a great boon to Escondido because of its transportation of passengers and freight. On October 8, 1888, Escondido was incorporated as a city.
The main shopping street established in the 1880’s was named Grand Avenue. The city founders wanted it to be wide so Grand Avenue was graded 100 feet wide with board sidewalks. By 1913 the street was paved and the sidewalk cemented. The palm trees were planted in 1914 as part of a city beautification project.
Old Escondido, the city’s oldest neighborhood and now a designated historic district, boasted Victorians sitting side by side with bungalows. Adjacent to downtown and full of period charm, the neighborhood was and is a very desirable place to live.
To celebrate the grape harvest every September, an event called Grape Day began on September 9, 1908. A parade on Grand Avenue ended at the site of the elementary school grounds, later named Grape Day Park. Grape Day continued to be a very popular celebration (second in the state to the Rose Parade) until 1950, when lack of grapes in the valley caused its demise. Grape Day was revived in 1996. Grapes were a great crop early on because they could be grown with little or no water. When water became available, citrus and avocados replaced the vineyards, bringing more money per acre at harvest.
Post World War II defense contracts were a boon to San Diego County, creating an influx of population and a corresponding housing shortage. The 1950 Highway 395 link between Escondido and San Diego responded to that shortage, providing shorter commutes for workers and establishing Escondido as a perfect “bedroom” community. Consequently, many of the vineyards on the east end of town, as well as citrus groves, became home sites during that building boom.
The 1960’s saw a continued decline in agricultural production and the decades since have shown a rise in the importance of industry and retail sales, examples of which are Palomar Medical Center, Escondido Auto Park, Westfield Shopping Town North County, and the California Center for the Arts. In addition, Downtown Escondido continues a revival that is resulting in a treasure of specialty shops, art galleries, restaurants, craft brewers, etc., as well as community-focused activities like street fairs, farmer’s markets, vintage car shows, and any number of other family-oriented events.
Settled in a long valley in the coastal mountains of Southern California, Escondido, which means “hidden” in Spanish, lies about 18 miles inland, 100 miles south of Los Angeles and 30 miles northeast of San Diego. Surrounded by avocado and citrus groves, vineyards and scenic valleys, Escondido is a diverse, vibrant community with just the right mix of small town friendliness and contemporary character.
As the heart of North San Diego County, Escondido is one of the few remaining communities where people of all income levels can enjoy the Southern California lifestyle. We offer attractive homes in a wide range of prices, two lakes, more than twenty parks and recreation facilities, a sports center, golf courses, restaurants, wineries, craft beer brewers,
shopping centers, comprehensive healthcare and the nearby San Diego Zoo Safari Park. In addition, the California Center for the Arts, Escondido brings world class entertainment to the area along with Queen Califia’s Magical Circle, a sculpture garden in Kit Carson Park donated by the late internationally renowned artist Niki De Saint Phalle.
Established in 1888, the city’s rich past brings charm and stability to the community. You can see it in the historic homes of the Old Escondido Neighborhood, or experience it in the thriving downtown area. Yet integrated with Escondido’s treasured heritage is a progressive future, bright and brimming with promise. New jobs, new cultural amenities, new entertainment venues, new choices for residential living and new vision for the future make Escondido a city to Experience, Explore and Enjoy!