| SOME CARDIFF HISTORY
A small portion of the business district looking east from the ocean.
The Santa Fe Train Depot is in the foreground
The square building in the center of the photo is the Cardiff Mercantile Co.
Which is the North East corner of San Elijo Ave & Chesterfield
Pioneers made Cardiff a farming, kelp haven..
:n.,1. a group of people who reside in a specific locality, share government and often have a common
cultural and historic heritage. See our community blog for more history.
Cardiff-by-the-Sea historical research reveals that the Mackinnon family headed west in
1875. Hector, Sarah and their three children boarded a train from Cleveland, Ohio to San Francisco,
took a steamer to San Diego and lastly a horse and buggy to their destination three-fourths of a mile
from the San Elijo Lagoon mouth. At that point in time Indians still occupied the upper lagoon.
Hector, a farmer with 500 valley and 100 mesa acres, was not to be put off by naysayers and
soon proved that farming was possible so near the coast. He was able to raise barley and corn, plus
have an orchard. Sarah's cows and chickens produced milk, butter and eggs to help with the
expenses, and it is noted that her jellies were second to none.
A room in the Mackinnon barn became a school and in l881 the first teacher, Mrs. Steven
(Huffer) Wood, arrived to start her six-month teaching contract. When snow fell "from the
mountains to the sea" in the great snowstorm of January 1882, students were moved into the kitchen
of the dwelling house since there was no heat in the barn.
In 1910, 35 years after Mackinnon's arrival, a Boston painter named J. Frank Cullen
relocated in San Diego. In 1911-12, setting aside his brushes to become a developer, he visualized
a coastal community playground on the land Hector had settled. He subsequently purchased said
land, plotted the townsite, prepared a map and began selling lots. Inside lots sold for $30 each and
corner lots were $45.
History has it that Cullen chose a Spanish name for his playground because of its proximity
to Mexico but Mrs. Cullen, a native of Cardiff, Wales, persuaded him to name it Cardiff and give
the streets English names. Today, only San Elijo Avenue and Orinda Drive remind us of what might
have been. Victor Kremer, a German musician developing the composer district north of
Birmingham, may have added the "by-the-Sea" from the song "By The Beautiful Sea."
Water for Cullen's development was pumped through a 2-inch main north from Cottonwood
Creek storage tank on the hill overlooking Cardiff. Cardiff Market owner Ira Connor reported the
gasoline engine-operated pumping system was extremely troublesome and said "We were always
running out of water..."
Cardiff's only industry, a kelp works, was built by Clarence Cole in 1912. Seaweed was
processed there for its food and industrial content. The plant's foundation is still visible along the
San Elijo Lagoon's muddy north bluff.
Cardiff Elementary School District was formed in 1913, the school being built on property
Cullen donated. The San Diego County Library system opened the first Cardiff Library in 1914 and
the 1920s brought a train station, post office and the formation of the San Dieguito Irrigation
Trying to imagine what it must have been like here for these pioneers, I'm certain both
Mackinnon and Frank Cullen would be pleased with the fruits of their labors. If Cullen could see
his coastal playground today, surely he would be proud of Cardiff-by-the-Sea with its beautiful
recreation areas: Glen Park, on property he so generously donated, Cardiff Sports Park and soon to
be renovated George Berkich Park. The San Elijo State Beach Campground and Carpentier
Parkway borders our businesses. Restaurant Row provides a dining atmosphere with sunsets that
are postcard perfect.
The Cardiff Towne Centre with yet another Cardiff Market, a school system that rates among
the highest in the nation, plus you can go from kindergarten through junior college in
Cardiff-by-the-Sea. The Cardiff Library, which began in S.M. Holbrook's grocery store-Cullen's
playground hotel-will celebrate its 81st birthday on March 18.
Beautiful homes adorn the hill-sides; the Cardiff business community does us proud.
Cardiff, sometimes called laid back, works continuously to preserve, protect and beautify the vision
that Cullen had and the friendly spirit of the people, like Mrs. Mackinnon's jellies, is second to
none. A well known destination point, Cardiff-by-the-Sea has a great number of visitors each year,
many of them from Cardiff, Wales. Over the years a Twin Towne relationship has developed with
our namesake, and we thank Mrs. Cullen for such a beguiling name.
... a COM.MU.NI.TY within the city of Encinitas.
Written by: Irene Kratzer
Feb. 16, 1995