San Diego – Gaslamp District – May 2019

The Gaslamp District is a 16 1/2 block historical neighbourhood in downtown San Diego, from Broadway to Harbour Drive and from 4th to 6th Avenue. It was originally known as New Town as opposed to the original settlement of Old Town near the Presidio.

In 1867, developer Alonzo Horton bought 80 acres for $265 in hopes of creating a new city center closer to the bay. 5th Avenue was to be the main street. It did develop, but not necessarily in a good way Between the 1880s and 1900s, it was known as Stingaree and was full of dance halls, gambling halls and bordellos.

Between the 1950s and 1970s, the area fell into decay and became known as the Sailor’s Entertainment District, with its large number of pornographic theatres, bookshops and massage parlours.

In 1970, there was renewed public interest in preserving the historical buildings in the area and in 1976, the Gaslamp Quarter Urban Design and Development Manual was adopted by the City. In 1982, the Gaslamp Quarters became a major development focus for the City of San Diego.

It turns out that gas lamps were not even the main source of lighting for this area in the day. Arc lamps were mostly used, but the name was chosen as the symbol for this heritage area, which includes 94 historic buildings, mostly from the Victorian era. 4 new gas lamps have been installed at the intersection of Market and 5th.

You may wonder at the use of Gaslamp “Quarters” or Gaslamp “District”. Turns out that is how San Diegans can tell if you are a tourist or a local. The locals use District.


While it seemed a beautiful safe place to walk, the staff on a local hat shop assured us that we would not have been safe in the area back n the 1970s and 80s. One of the buildings houses a Ghirardelli chocolate store, where we popped in for free samples.

The Feather Bar in a local hat shop

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