La Jolla then and now: Avenue Girard and the village, 1920s versus 2020s

As the world emerges from the COVID-19 pandemic and ventures into the decade of the 20s of this century, La Jolla Light looks back at what the 20s looked like last time around in La Jolla and what they look like now. .

When it comes to using downtown La Jolla, a lot has happened over the past hundred years, but some things haven’t changed much. Avenue Girard – once known as Grand Avenue – has always been the center of the city, a hub for sophisticated socializing.

If at one point Girard was lined with houses, by the 1920s many of them gave way to commercial enterprises. Today, Girard is still known for its shops, restaurants and cultural offerings.

“Girard started out as a residential street and the first businesses were located at the“ The Dip ”end, where it joined Prospect [Street]Said Carol Olten, historian of the Historical Society of La Jolla. “There was a restaurant at this intersection called the White Rabbit Roof Garden and there was a store called Chase and Ludington which was a general store that sold all kinds of merchandise.”

As more and more people visited La Jolla, hotels started to appear. For example, Hotel La Valencia was first opened as an apartment hotel in December 1926, designed to incorporate “the finest elements of various styles from the Spanish School of Architecture”.

“In the 1920s, there was an extreme amount of wealth that came from various sources,” Olten said. “For example, the Colorado miners came to town. La Jolla was becoming an upscale resort. There were hotels, housing estates, we had a beach and a yacht club (now the La Jolla Beach & Tennis Club), and electric cart operations brought an era of growth in residential construction.

So what started out largely as a beach cottage community where tourists stayed for a few months evolved into a place where people could both live and visit for a day.

Sprinkle with cultural institutions such as the Athenaeum Music & Arts Library and La Jolla Woman’s Club, and La Jolla created a bustling village core.

According to the Athenaeum, in 1894 a small group of women from La Jolla formed the La Jolla Reading Club. “In 1898, Florence Sawyer, a regular at La Jolla, had a reading room built at the corner of Girard Avenue and Wall Street. website States. “In 1899 the group was incorporated as the Association of Libraries of La Jolla, still our legal name today, and took over the functions of the reading room, fulfilling the responsibilities of a membership library. At this moment, [La Jolla philanthropist] Ellen Browning Scripps was elected the first chair of the library board.

A few decades later, the Athenaeum had grown too large and a new library building was designed by William Templeton Johnson and opened to the public in 1921.

The Athenaeum Music & Arts library building opened in 1921.

(Elisabeth Frausto)

“La Jolla was becoming a fancy type of place,” said Olten. “The first institutions [like the Athenaeum] came because a new group of people came. A better-off class of people began to see the benefits of the climate and the region and thought it reminded them of the French Riviera. Before that, people were more bohemian and rural.

Over the decades, more and more upscale restaurants and shopping opportunities have come to Girard, including I. Magnin and Saks Fifth Avenue.

“La Jolla was a great shopping or lunch destination. It was a full day event, ”said Olten. “But then the style of the buildings changed. We started getting the skyscrapers and the taller buildings, and then we got the tall office buildings that took up entire blocks. “

Which brings us to today.

Avenida Girard is still “the main retail and visitor-oriented commercial area in the heart of La Jolla”, according to the La Jolla planned neighborhood ordinance, or development plan. “The standards for this area are designed to maintain (…) pedestrian scale and continuity and to preserve and improve the business development model of department stores and small (…) stores and restaurants,” says t -he.

One of the notable mainstays of these retail stores is the Warwick Bookstore, which is in its current location at 7812.
Girard since 1952. Next to him have been clothing stores, furniture stores, restaurants, gymnasiums, banks, florists, galleries, offices and more.

Warwick's Bookstore has been located at its current location on Girard Avenue since 1952.

Warwick’s Bookstore has been located at its current location on Girard Avenue since 1952.

(Elisabeth Frausto)

But the more is better model has its pitfalls.

In recent years, Girard has seen several vacancies. In 2018, Blocks 7300 to 7600 alone had nine vacant storefronts, ranging from two large car showrooms across from each other on Pearl Street to smaller tall bricks and mortars. down the street.

At the time, real estate agent Mike Slattery told the La Jolla Light that there are various reasons why a retail business can succeed or fail, and he pointed out that overall the retail landscape has changed due to e-commerce and social media and the decrease in the number of tenants who are developing as before.

The closures “are not a function of La Jolla; it has always been a desirable location, ”Slattery said. “But the type of retailers looking for locations here is changing. E-commerce has changed the way people shop now. When people go to a department store, they have their smartphones when they walk around and can do comparative shopping online. … And then you have landlords and potential tenants who aren’t realistic or flexible in their expectations, ”tenants wanting shorter leases and landlords wanting longer leases.

“The other vacancy issue is functionality,” he added. “The stores are getting smaller and the Girard stores were built in the 1970s for a different generation. Most of these buildings are considered functionally obsolete.

So what is done to change the face of the downtown atmosphere of Girard and The Village – to make a holiday of the action?

In recent years, more mixed-use facilities have been requested or built.

The building that once housed Burns Drugs at 7824 Girard, built in 1931, closed in May 2014. The renovated building opened in 2019 and includes commercial tenants on the ground floor and two residential units on the second floor .

At the end of 2020, the development of the Lofts on Avenue Girard was approved locally. The project includes three interconnecting two-story buildings at 7606 Girard, currently vacant land between Vons and the Tempur-Pedic mattress store. The plans include 1,960 square feet of retail on the ground floor, 17 loft-style apartments over parking, and ancillary accommodation on a pedestrian path at ground level. The apartments would vary from 350 to 755 square feet.

Additionally, a group known as Vision La Jolla meets regularly to find ways to update the regulations that apply to the development of the Village and ways to improve it. The group, formed in December, works with the La Jolla Planned District Ordinance Committee, Enhance La Jolla and La Jolla Village Merchants Association and is made up of La Jolla Community Planning Association president Diane Kane, architects Andy Fotsch, Brian Will and Trace Wilson, Realtors Patrick Ahern and John Shannon and engineer and historian Matt Mangano.

“We realized we had to tie these ideas together so that everyone was talking together and walking in the same direction,” Kane said when the group was formed. “We want to get more energy in The Village.” ◆

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About Margaret L. Portillo

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