Do You Know How Mission Valley Started?

15 05 2010

Playa Grill is at the heart of Mission Valley, minutes away from Qualcom, SDSU, two amazing malls and right across the parking lot from Ikea. Today Mission Valley is a hub of commercial activity and residential complexes, but it wasn’t always that way. Whether you live here, work here, or just shop and eat here, Mission Valley is a key part of the San Diego experience. Let’s take a step back in time for a moment and see where Mission Valley got its start…

Mission Valley surrounds the San Diego River which originates in the Cuyamaca Mountains and empties into Dog Beach. It is named after the Mission San Diego de Alcala, the first mission to be built in San Diego, founded on July 16, 1769 by Father Junipero Serra. The mission was home to 1400 Kumeyaay Indians and was on 50,000 acres of land where they grew wheat, corn, barley, beans, grapes and other vegetables. There the Indians were taught about Christianity and new skills like soap making, sewing and cooking.

After Mexico won its independence from Spain in 1810, the new country could not afford to keep the mission system running. With no money funding Mission San Diego de Alcala, it began to decline by the late 1820s. In 1846, it was sold to a private Mexican citizen and was used by the military from 1846-1862. After this period, the mission was given back to the church, but it was in ruins. Only 22 of the 50,000 acres were returned. It wasn’t until 1931 that the mission was rebuilt and renovated to mirror what it looked like in 1813. It became an attraction for those interested in learning about California history.

Twenty years later, in the early 1950s, city planners wanted Mission Valley developed as a recreational area providing a variety of shops and services that would appeal to both residents and tourists. Planners, developers and citizens all had their opinions on the direction this prized piece of real estate should take. In 1953, construction began on a grouping of hotels that was later named “Hotel Circle.” Now this exit off the 8 freeway is a popular place to stay in San Diego. In 1955, Westgate Park opened, which would be the new home for the San Diego Padres baseball team.

Mission Valley was still the subject of controversy over the years as developers tried to figure out what they wanted to do with the land. Earlier generations had argued over whether San Diego should be a garden city or bustling commercial port. In the end, commercial investors won the battle to build a retail complex. In 1960, plans were completed by the May Co., a large department store chain, to build a mall in the valley. This later became Fashion Valley, one of San Diego’s premier shopping districts. Within a few years, restaurants, hotels, shops, businesses and residential complexes popped up all over the valley, transforming it into an important entertainment center for San Diego.

Today Mission Valley remains a fun destination for shopping at both Fashion and Mission Valley malls and dining at delicious restaurants like Playa Grill.

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