Administrative History
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When the National Park Service was established on August 25, 1916 as a federal bureau within the Department of the Interior, thirty-five national monuments had already been named. Twenty-one of these came under the jurisdiction of the newly formed service while the rest remained under the departments of Agriculture and War. [1] While some attempts had been made to define the role of the monuments within the new system, their geographical and thematic diversity made the task a difficult one. Since a great deal of energy and most of the budget of the new bureau was spent on the national parks, the monuments were often left to fend for themselves, depending on volunteer custodians to protect and maintain them as best they could. The budget allotted to the monuments was miniscule. In 1917, the monuments under the Interior Department received only $3,500 to be divided among all the sites. [2] Those monuments under the Department of War fared even more poorly since the department did not consider itself in the the tourist business and in general let the sites suffer from a kind of benign neglect. [3]

Cabrillo National Monument and, the Native Sons of the Golden West

With the demise of the Order of Panama after the 1915 Exposition, plans for the proposed monument on Point Loma appeared to die with it. In 1925, however, a flurry of interest was again generated in San Diego to honor Cabrillo with the erection of a statue. The monument was to be built this time by the Native Sons of the Golden West, a state-wide organization which had a chapter in San Diego. Among the members of the newly formed planning committee was Carl Heilbron, the former "El General" of the Order of Panama. The Native Sons had planned, according to Albert V. Mayrhofer, a member of the committee, "to place at the top of a shaft a life-size statue of Cabrillo, with a replica of his ship on one side." [4] However, the government would not agree to a shaft as high as the one planned—presumably deeming it inappropriate for a site on an Army base. As a result, an alternate suggestion for the statue to be placed in front of the lighthouse was proposed. In order for the plans to advance, the Native Sons had to secure a transfer of authority from the now defunct Order of Panama to their organization. This was done in the form of another presidential proclamation, this one issued by Calvin Coolidge on May 12, 1926. The proclamation stated that:

...Whereas, it appears that the said Order of Panamas has never exercised the privilege granted to it as aforesaid and is a defunct organization and has been so for a number of years; And whereas, an organization known as the Native Sons of the Golden West, a patriotic organization of the State of California, interested and engaged in identifying and marking with tablets and monuments those places situated within the State of historic interest to the State and Nation, has applied for permission to erect a suitable monument upon the site in question;

Now, therefore, I Calvin Coolidge, President of the United States of America, do hereby authorize the said Native Sons of the Golden West to erect at Point Loma upon the site above described a suitable monument in commemoration of the discovery of California by Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo... [5]

On the day that the proclamation was issued, the Grand Parlor of the Native Sons met in Santa Rosa and agreed to appropriate $10,000 for the building of the monument providing that $50,000 was raised by the San Diego parlor. The total cost of the project was estimated to be $150,000 the bulk of which was to come, its supporters hoped, from the government. [6] The money was never raised and the great plan, like that of the Order of Panama, died quietly. Edgar Hastings, leader of the Native Sons, later blamed the failure of the project on the nationwide business slump of the times. [7]

While community interest in the monument came and went, the War Department dealt with its stewardship of the property by generally ignoring it. Paul A. Ewing, a travel writer from Oakland, wrote to the National Park Service in 1926 requesting information about "the National Monument near San Diego in honor of the Spanish explorer Cabrillo":

On several occasions when in San Diego I have sought direction to Cabrillo Monument, but never succeeded in finding it. I want to make reference to it in a travel article I have in hand and will appreciate receipt of a description, printed or otherwise, which will enable me to identify the monument with some assurance. [8]

Another traveler, F.H. Tuthill, had the same problem in 1928. Having received no satisfaction from the Army after attempting to find the monument on three separate occasions, he wrote an irate letter to the Director of the National Park Service:

I regret to say that my efforts to find the Cabrillo National Monument were fruitless. I went to the officer in charge of Ft. Rosecrans who knew nothing about the monument. He referred me to the lighthouse keeper who also knew nothing about it but said that the spot where Cabrillo landed must be so and so.... [9]

He went on to suggest that perhaps the Park Service could call the monument to the attention of the War Department in the hope that "they will take sufficient interest in it to locate the spot and make a record of that it may be at least pointed out to visitors who desire to see it." [10]

In his reply to Tuthill, A. E. Demaray, Acting Director of the Park Service, conveyed his regrets and said that Cabrillo was " of a number of military monuments administered by the War Department and over which we have no control." According to information obtained from the War Department, Demaray said that, "...the monument contains no marker of any kind to designate its location." Nor were there any plans to erect any type of monument in the near future. [11]

The army kept few, if any records, of Cabrillo National Monument during its jurisdiction. The location of the place as a separate entity seemed to be unknown to the regional command and ignored by the local one as well. The non-status of the monument is exemplified by a memo sent by the Office of the Ninth Corps Area Quartermaster to his Commanding General. The memo, dated July 24, 1930, concerned an inspection done of the area at that time:

Considerable difficulty was found in locating this National Monument and only by recourse to the San Diego Chamber of Commerce did I ascertain that this is a monument in project only and that the area encompassed by the circular roadway around the Old Spanish Lighthouse on the point of Ft. Rosecrans had been designated for this purpose. I found the information at Ft. Rosecrans relative to this subject most meager. [12]

Saving the Lighthouse

Although Cabrillo National Monument was unmarked and virtually unknown under the War Department, the Point Loma site on which it was supposed to be located had been a popular attraction to tourists and local citizens for years. A visitor to the area in 1869 touted with great enthusiasm the view from the "airy lighthouse on Point Loma." [13] In a similar vein, travel writer George Wharton James in his 1914 book, California Romantic and Beautiful, said:

...the scene at the end of the Point is universally conceded to be one of the noted views of the world. Behind one, and to the right, seep away in endless expanse the perfect blue of the ocean. At one's feet are the varying colours of of the Bay, leading the eye over the Coronado peninsula, with its curving sandy beach, and at the head of which are the two "islands," one of them crowned with the striking pile of Hotel del Coronado. [14]

The lighthouse had been built in 1854 and abandoned in 1891 when replaced by another constructed at a lower elevation. [15] The location continued to be visited, however, as tourists climbed the decrepit structure for a better view and used its basement as an impromptu latrine. [16] When the proposed plans of the Order of Panama to demolish the lighthouse went awry, the Army was once again left with responsibility for it. In 1915, the Army spent $360 repairing the building and promised that further improvements were being contemplated. [17] In an attempt to discourage vandalism, the Army permitted soldiers and their families to live in the structure. Mrs. H. E. Cook, the wife of an army sergeant was caretaker from 1921 until 1935 and though apparently not paid a wage, she was allowed to sell postcards, refreshments and curios to visitors. [18] Photographs of the lighthouse from that period show the words "postcards, candies, soda, cigars" painted on the building's side.

The caretaker arrangement did little to arrest the structural deterioration of the building, however, and in 1930 Captain Fenton Jacobs, acting commanding officer at Ft. Rosecrans, notified the Chamber of Commerce that without financial support from the community, the structure was in danger of being razed. Though the military felt an obligation to maintain the structure, he said, "the war department [received] no appropriations for the maintenance of such relics." [19] On August 13, 1930, a group consisting of Philip Gilred, a local business man, Betty Bronson,"Savoy theatre star," and D.W. Campbell of the Chamber of Commerce visited that site. Pledging the financial support of "a few interested citizens," Gilred spoke of the value of the lighthouse to the people of San Diego:

The old lighthouse is something we San Diegans must preserve not only for its historic value but also because it affords the finest view of our city and environs. Thousands of visitors are coming to San Diego every month, or every week and the most impressive picture of San Diego that we can show them is from the old Spanish lighthouse lookout. It is a view unsurpassed anywhere in the world, a thing in which San Diego may justly take great pride. [20]

The idea of selling the view to tourists was looked upon with much the same enthusiasm as promoting Point Loma's Spanish heritage had in 1913. Raising the necessary funds, however, proved to be as elusive as in previous attempts.

On June 7, 1930, the Ninth Corps headquarters at the Presidio in San Francisco was given jurisdiction over both Cabrillo and Big Hole Battlefield in Montana by the War Department. This transfer of authority from Washington D.C. had been made because: "...the corps area commanders are in closer touch with local sentiments [therefore] it is believed that these activities can be administered in a more uniform and efficient manner if placed under [their] control." [21]

An officer from headquarters who inspected the monument at the time of the changeover made no mention of the lighthouse in his report. However, he did inform the secretary of the Chamber of Commerce that:

the scenic road on the heights of Rosecrans and called the "Topside Road" [the road around the lighthouse] had no military value at present; was only used by the civilian populace and tourists and the limited funds available to this headquarters did not warrant keeping this road in a condition which he seemed to think military authorities should maintain. [22]

For reasons not explained by available records, a statement was issued in April 1931 by Brig. Gen. Robert McCleave, the commanding officer of Ft. Rosecrans, that funds for the repair of the lighthouse had been made available by Ninth Corps Headquarters:

The light is being completely renovated, painted and repaired and the previous dilapidated appearance of this historic landmark is being transformed by the army's efforts to make it most attractive to visitors. The light and the ground on which it stands were set aside by President Wilson as a national monument and although not a part of the military reservation, they are kept clean and in repair by the army. Naturally the army takes pride in the appearance of this historic stricture, and it is a matter of much satisfaction to the local authorities that at last funds are available for the much needed work. [23]

Though the records do not indicate why the Army had a sudden change of heart regarding the upkeep of the area at that time, it should be noted that pressure was being applied from both within and outside the national park Service to transfer to the Service those National Monuments under the jurisdiction of other departments.

Cabrillo Under the National Park Service — Planning a Transfer

From the inception of the National Park Service, there had been strong sentiment within that bureau for the nation's parks and monuments to be consolidated under it. Though the primary focus was the acquisition of those properties under the Department of Agriculture, administrators within the Park Service generally agreed that national battlefields and military parks could also be more efficiently managed under their central leadership. [24] On the state level, pressure was being applied for those monuments such as Cabrillo, which were receiving little attention and funding under the War Department, to be transferred to the more sympathetic Park Service. Newton B. Drury, the head of the State of California division of Parks, (who would serve as director of the National Park Service from 1940 to 1951) wrote to then director Horace M. Albright in 1932:

...I last week visited Pt. Loma and reached the conclusion that in view of the fact that Cabrillo National Monument is already located there and that the property is in that respect of national interest, and also has federal interest because of the presence of the military cemetery where the victims of the Bennington disaster [are buried], it would seem most appropriate for this property to be transferred to the National Park Service. [25]

In December of that year, Roger W. Toll was sent to investigate the possible transfer of Cabrillo National Monument to the Park Service. In his lengthy report and accompanying letter, Toll made an excellent case for the Park Service to reject the idea of acquiring the monument. According to his reasoning, since Cabrillo probably had landed on Ballast Point rather than the present site it would seem logical that "...a monument to Cabrillo should be constructed at the point where he first set foot on California soil rather than on higher ground a mile or so distant." [26] In addition, he said that the area occupied by the military had a high property value and many improvements, therefore it would be unlikely that the Army and Navy would be willing to relinquish enough land to create a viable park. Finally, he concluded that "so far as the erection of a monument to Cabrillo is concerned, it is believed that the marking of the site should be handled by some state organization rather than by the Federal Government." [27]

The report itself contained a section of several pages outlining Toll's philosophy about administering historic sites and battlefields. According to Toll, a program to mark sites: "...could be carried out by the Federal Government, or by the several states, or by various organizations within states." [28] Of these, he favored the marking and maintenance of historic sites by the states and their local organizations. Among his reasons for this he cited the fact that each state could most readily determine which were the most important sites within a state and that since all that was required by most historic sites was a marker, the maintenance of such a marker could be handled at a lower cost by local administration. His final reason is perhaps most telling. In advising that the marking and maintenance of Cabrillo National Monument would best be left to the state or a state organization he wrote: "It is the type of national monument that could be deferred until other more urgent projects have been provided for." [29]

Toll's statements reflected not only his personal philosophy but indicated the general thinking which characterized the Park Service from its inception until 1933. In theory, Park Service leaders were strongly in favor of the centralized administration of all national parks and monuments. However, they realized how impractical such an idea was in fact, given the limitations of budget and manpower. In the early years, emphasis was placed on establishing the main parks such as Yellowstone and Sequoia and in formulating their administration. Most of the attention of the Service was centered on the scenic national parks and scenic and archaeological monuments. Because of the lack of funding and personnel, properties not in these categories were often looked upon as poor stepchildren that were expected to wait their turn until more important matters had been attended to. With the reorganization and expansion of the service in 1933, however, it was necessary for the first time to direct attention to both historic and recreational concerns and to begin to cooperate more extensively with the states and local governments. [30]

By the time Toll's report reached the director's office in May 1933, the acquisition of Cabrillo was almost a moot point. On June 10, 1933, President Franklin D. Roosevelt would issue an order for reorganization saying: "All functions of administration of public buildings, reservations, national parks, national monuments and national cemeteries are consolidated in an Office of National Parks, Buildings and Reservations [a name which was later changed back to the National Park Service] in the Department of the Interior." [31] In anticipation of this order, Conrad L. Wirth of the planning branch advised Director Albright in early May 1933 that although Toll had issued an adverse report on Cabrillo, "it is recommended that this be held in abeyance until a final decision had been made regarding the transfer of military parks from the War Department to the jurisdiction of the Department of the Interior." [32] When this transfer was finally made on August 10, 1933, Cabrillo National Monument would begin a new era under the authority of the National Park Service.

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Last Updated: 02-Mar-2005