History of Oceanside

Oceanside is situated on the Pacific Coast named quite literally because of its location.   Its history begins in the agriculture-rich San Luis Rey Valley, which was first explored by the Spanish Explorer Portola in 1769, followed by the founding of the Mission San Luis Rey de Francia in 1798.

The Mission, with its vast fruit orchards and cattle raising activities included a large population of Native Americans. The Indians who were gathered at the Mission were called "San Luisenos" by the Franciscans, later shortened to "Luisenos."  Indians were instrumental in building the Mission compound as they provided the labor.  Mission San Luis Rey was the largest building in California when completed and was the most prosperous of the missions, earning the name “King of the Missions.”

In 1834, formal secularization took place.  All the Mission properties were confiscated by Pio Pico, governor of California, and sold for $2,437.50.  During this period, the Mission buildings fell into disrepair and was in ruins.  In 1893, Father Joseph Jeremiah O'Keefe arrived to restore the Mission.  By 1912, when he retired, restoration in great part was complete, but, still continues today.

A township known as San Luis Rey, which was west of the Mission, was established in the early 1870's and was largely inhabited by a group of English settlers.  By 1884, San Luis Rey Township had a post office, stores, a hotel and a weekly newspaper, The San Luis Rey Star, which later moved to Oceanside.

In 1881 the United States Government conducted a survey of the Southern Pacific slope and in 1882 a railroad was laid from Los Angeles to San Diego through Colton, Temecula, Fallbrook and down the coast.
Andrew Jackson Myers applied for a Homestead Grant on the Oceanside mesa and he was allotted 160 acres in 1883.  Cave J. Couts, Jr. surveyed the townsite and J. Chauncey Hayes sold the town lots.  Myers is known as the founder of Oceanside as he owned the first land and was said to have built the first house.

J. Chauncey Hayes was not only the real estate agent but the Justice of Peace and the editor of his own newspaper, The South Oceanside Diamond.  When he drew the petition for the first post office, the name "Ocean Side" was used, but later changed to "Oceanside."

By 1887, the Bank of Oceanside was built on the corner of Second (Mission Avenue) and Hill Streets and also a grand hotel, the South Pacific, located on Third and Pacific Streets, near the present pier. 

A wharf company was formed and soundings were made at the location of what is now known as Wisconsin street.  The wharf was made entirely of wooden pilings, the first pile being driven May 12, 1888.  On July 3, 1888, Oceanside was incorporated with a vote of 74 to 53.  The founder of the city, A. J. Myers, was the first to vote.  The population was about 1000.

In the winter of 1890-91, the wharf was destroyed by a storm and Melchoir Pieper, the proprietor of the South Pacific Hotel, salvaged most of the lumber.  He took the pilings to his hotel on Third Street where he kept it until the city appropriated funds for a new pier in 1893.  Not only donating the lumber, through his efforts, Pieper was responsible for the pier being located at Third Street, including the present day pier.

In the 1890's Oceanside had three hotels, two drug-stores, two livery stables, two blacksmiths, six churches, a hardware store, a bakery, a harness shop, a lumber yard, a barber shop, a newspaper, a school and the Oceanside Bank along with many other businesses. 

Like many towns, Oceanside's prosperity relied much on real-estate booms and busts.   The railroads played an important role in the continuing development of our city.  During the boom years the trains brought thousands of prospective buyers.  This continued until a highway was paved between San Diego and Los Angeles through Oceanside before 1920.  In the 1920's the city prospered.  Tent City was established, street lights were installed, a new golf course was laid out and a grand new theater, "The Palomar", was built.  Our slogan for the time was, "Oceanside, California's Pride."  Many noteworthy visitors enjoyed our shore, including Mary Pickford and Douglas Fairbanks.  A number of movies were filmed here during this decade. 

A dramatic change to Oceanside occurred with the purchase of the Santa Margarita y Los Flores by the U. S. Government for a military base.  The building of Camp Joseph H. Pendleton created a boom to end all booms in our sleepy little town.  In no time workers flocked to downtown for food and lodging.  It was common to see thirty or forty people waiting outside restaurants to eat.  The community geared up for war in a big way by supporting the workers and troops.  We continued to urbanize into the 1950's bringing us to a population of 20,000 in 1953. 

The 1960's saw the opening of Tri-City Hospital, the building of Oceanside Harbor and by the end of the decade the population was just under 40,000 people.

The city has experienced dramatic growth since 1970, when its population was 45,000. Much of the city's area was developed into single-family home tracts during the 1970s and 1980s.

A new transit center was built in 1983.  In September, 1987 the city dedicated its sixth pier, just in time for Oceanside's Centennial Celebration in 1988.  Also in 1988, Oceanside's visitor center was designated one of eight California Welcome Centers and welcomes thousands of tourists to Oceanside and surrounding area every year.  

In 1990 the new Civic Center was opened and became the cornerstone for downtown redevelopment, followed by construction of the Regal Cinema Plaza and the Wyndham Resort on Pacific Street.

 In 1999 a master-planned business park was established and with the opening of the beautiful new Ocean Ranch Corporate Center, Oceanside has welcomed national and world-wide corporations. Since the 1990s, increased commercial and industrial development have diversified Oceanside's economic base.

Other recent success stories are the opening of a new Fire Station, Senior Center as well as the Sprinter line, taking passengers from Oceanside to Escondido and back.

History of the Oceanside Chamber