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This Month in La Jolla History: Motion pictures arrive, train depot blows over, more

The Granada Theater, pictured in 1929, opened in La Jolla in March 1925.
The Granada Theater, pictured in 1929, opened in La Jolla in March 1925.
(Courtesy of La Jolla Historical Society)

This Month in History is a recurring feature in the La Jolla Light highlighting local happenings from yesteryear. If you are aware of historical events from any year in La Jolla history that deserve recognition, email efrausto@lajollalight.com.

On Jan. 22, 1912, the first motion pictures in La Jolla were shown at the La Jolla Cove bathhouse auditorium, according to “This Day in San Diego History” by Linda Pequegnat. The bathhouse theater closed two months later because it was a fire hazard, and movies were then played at an outdoor theater at Silverado Street and Drury Lane.

The Orient Theater, which seated 500 people, opened in January 1913 at Girard Avenue and Wall Street (it later changed its name to the Garden Theater). The rival La Jolla Theater opened in 1914 across the street on Girard Avenue but closed a short while later, Pequegnat wrote.

The W.C. Sheppard Building, which housed the Garden Theater, was taken down in 1924 and replaced in March 1925 by the Granada Theater, which seated 712 people and closed in 1952.

In March 1948, the Playhouse Theater opened at 7730 Girard Ave. and was purchased by the owners of Granada four months later. The owners changed the name to Cove Theater it “continued to serve La Jolla’s movie needs for nearly 55 years” before closing in January 2003, Pequegnat wrote.

Currently, The Lot at 7611 Fay Ave. is The Village’s only movie theater, though it’s temporarily closed due to pandemic-related restrictions.

Other January events

Jan. 10, 1899: The La Jolla train depot on Prospect Street near Fay Avenue blew down in a windstorm and was immediately rebuilt, Pequegnat wrote. The depot had been built five years earlier as part of a 1,400-foot railroad track extension from the previous end of the tracks at the current site of the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego on Prospect Street.

Jan. 19, 1905: The name of the post office in La Jolla was changed from the originally recorded misspelling of Lajollie to its current, and correct, name, according to Pequegnat. The mistake stemmed from a misreading of the community’s 1894 application to establish a post office.

La Jolla’s first post office was in the La Jolla Park Hotel, which burned down in 1896, and changed locations six times until landing at its current spot on Wall Street at Ivanhoe Avenue in 1935.

Jan. 2, 1910: Work was completed on the addition of an electric power line in La Jolla. “The electric company had trouble getting the 100 customers required before they could bring in the electric line because most of the residents liked the nice white light that gas lamps provided,” as opposed to the more yellow light of electricity, Pequegnat wrote.

Howard Randolph wrote in his 1955 book “La Jolla Year by Year” that residents also “didn’t want poles on the streets.”

A large group of La Jolla residents “signed a petition to try to prevent the company from running the electric line to La Jolla,” Pequegnat wrote, “and when the construction crews arrived, a group of angry citizens met them and tried to scare them away.”

According to Randolph, four customers were connected on Jan. 20, with more connected two months later.

Jan. 18, 1913: The first issue of the La Jolla Journal appeared. “Unfortunately, a complete file of this newspaper has not been preserved,” Randolph wrote, with the earliest issues on file from 1919.

The Journal stopped publishing in 1964.

Jan. 29, 1927: The cornerstone was laid for construction of the La Jolla Beach & Yacht Club, Pequegnat wrote.

The club, located in The Shores and organized by local residents, opened in July 1927, but the adjacent yacht harbor, which Randolph wrote that residents aimed to construct one mile south of the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, became too expensive and impractical to complete.

The clubhouse and surrounding property were sold in 1935 to Frederick William Kellogg and his wife, Florence Scripps Kellogg, Pequegnat wrote. The Kelloggs began to build what would become the La Jolla Beach & Tennis Club, which still stands.

Jan. 14, 1930: A Navy plane flying over La Jolla sprayed bullets over Girard Avenue around 3 p.m., according to Pequegnat, leaving holes in a couple of buildings and the pavement. No injuries were reported. No information is given about a reason for the shooting.

The main entrance to Camp Callan, an Army camp that opened in 1941 on what is now part of UC San Diego.
(Courtesy of La Jolla Historical Society)

Jan. 15, 1941: Camp Callan, an Army camp, opened. Part of it was on what is now a portion of UC San Diego, Pequegnat wrote. To accommodate the soldiers who began arriving in La Jolla, a recreational center opened at St. James by-the-Sea Episcopal Church in June 1941, followed by the establishment of an official United Service Organizations club at 1015 Prospect St. in July. ◆