When the world traveler Alonzo Horton first visited San Diego in 1867, he declared it “the prettiest place for a city I ever saw.” With its excellent, natural harbor and breathtaking beauty, it’s no surprise that San Diegcaptured his imagination. Mr. Horton’s subsequent real estate deals helped begin the development of the San Diego we know today.
Indigenous people lived here for centuries before Spanish explorer Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo “discovered” the area in 1542. Cabrillo named it “San Miguel,” and claimed it for Spain. Sebastian Vizcaino followed in 1602, and renamed the area San Diego de Alcala, in honor of a Spanish saint. Vizcaino mapped the coastline north, to what is now Oregon, and provided place names that are still in use. A member of his expedition is believed to have conducted San Diego’s first Christian service on Nov. 12, 1602, the feast day of St. San Diego.
The area wasn’t colonized until 1769 when Spain sent Gaspar de Portola and Father Junipero Serra to open missions and pueblos. Serra called the area “beautiful to behold,” and opened the first Spanish mission on Presidio Hill. By 1797, it was California’s largest settlement with 1,405 native residents.
San Diego became part of the United States when the Spanish-American War ended in 1847. In 1850, California was admitted to the Union, and San Diego became the state’s first county.
When Alonzo Horton arrived 17 years later, he bought 960 acres south of the old presidio, and began developing his dream city. Although development suffered several setbacks — the arrival of military installations, tourists and pioneer aviators fueled strong growth in the early 20th century. Charles Lindbergh built his Spirit of St. Louis here, and later lent his name to the city’s international airport.
Military installations boomed during World War II, and, after the war ended, many GIs remained — often finding work in the city’s growing aerospace industry.
Today, San Diego is California’s second largest city. The military remains one of the city’s largest employers, and tourism continues to thrive. High-tech fields, such as biotechnology and communications, further invigorate San Diego’s vibrant economy and ensure an exciting future
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