Administrative History
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Forming an Administration For the Monument

In 1913, when the dignitaries departed from the dedication festivities, Cabrillo National Monument virtually ceased to exist for another twenty years. By contrast, the 1935 ceremony was a true beginning—that year over 170,000 people would come to visit the tiny facility. [1] Anticipating the increased popularity of the monument once the restoration was completed, Superintendent White began planning for its administration.

Although the reorganization of 1933 had added many more monuments to the charge of the National Park Service, policies to deal with the diverse properties had still to be developed. Historically the monuments, unlike their more spectacular counterparts the National Parks, had received little attention and even less funding to provide for their needs. Faced with lack of personnel and no money, they often turned to local communities for support. Even those monuments located in remote areas used the services of volunteer custodians and concessioners to maintain facilities as best they could. The departments of War and Agriculture, which had previously been in charge of some national monuments, had not dealt with the problem any better. In some places the Department of War had even leased the sites to local historical societies who gave tours and ran concessions for their own benefit. [2] The precedent thus had been set that the monuments were somehow supposed to be self supporting, and this was the situation with which White had to deal. His first attempt to solve the problem was to contact Leroy Wright of the San Diego Historical Society. Knowing the difficulty of obtaining any permanent personnel he wrote to Wright:

"I feel that the time has not come, if it ever comes, when the National Park Service will be justified in keeping a paid ranger to supervise the small monument. It seems to me that it would be better if we could secure the cooperation of the Army, together with perhaps the services of a concessioner." [3] He then asked for help in finding a local man, preferably one with a wife, who would be willing to take on the position.

The problem was solved rather easily because, at the same time, Wright was approached by Clifton Rock, a newspaper reporter and publicist, asking for his help in finding a job with the Park Service. Rock, well educated and articulate, had for reasons of health given up his job at a local newspaper. With his local contacts in the media and his experience as a publicist, he believed that his "resultant knowledge of public psychology [would be] of value in making interesting such a project as the 'Old Spanish Lighthouse.'" [4] He had no illusions about what the position would entail having already been informed that part of the responsibility of being custodian would mean "making Cabrillo Monument as nearly self-supporting as possible." [5]

Rock's plan for accomplishing this included creating a small maritime museum to be located in one of the downstairs rooms and a larger museum in the basement to display artifacts taken from the lighthouse during reconstruction—both would be free to the public. The entire facility, he said, could be financed by a tea room which would serve snacks and light lunches and a gift shop selling souvenirs. In addition, he suggested charging admission to the tower of the lighthouse. "To my mind," he said, "there is an additional advantage in that an admission charge would tend to prevent vandalism, as it will make necessary a closer supervision of visitors." [6]

His responsibilities, as he saw them, would include: policing the grounds and outbuildings, maintaining the landscaping, and offering lectures and information to visitors regarding the lighthouse. All of this at no cost to the Park Service. White, of course, immediately saw the advantage of this arrangement and wrote to the Director asking if there were any precedents for leaving a monument such as Cabrillo in the hands of a caretaker or concessioner. [7] Should this be impossible, he suggested as an alternate proposal that a ranger and his wife, "people trained in national park service customs and ideals," [8] be assigned to Cabrillo. A third possibility involved combining a ranger with his wife as concessioner and White inquired whether such an arrangement was permissible under the law.

Precedents in this case were few, and some time went by as the Park Service attempted to arrive at a workable solution. Director Cammerer immediately eliminated the ranger idea:

We won't have any money for the custodianship nor do I think that the job is justified there. I would say that he would be given a year to year permit for the concession (White to indicate what may be sold and possibly what should not be sold) then as consideration or part consideration have Rock designated acting Custodian with proper police powers. [9]

Inter-office memos circulated inquiring if a person could be both a paid employee of the Park Service and still serve as concessioner, and conversely, if a concessioner could perform Park Service functions without being an actual employee. A consensus was finally reached that it was not permissible under the law to appoint Mr. Rock as official paid caretaker and at the same time authorize him to operate a concession at the the monument nor could admission be charged to the tower. [10] Therefore, Rock was given permission to operate a shop and tea room at the lighthouse in exchange for acting as unofficial caretaker without pay.

In October, Rock signed a miscellaneous service permit for which he paid $5.00 that authorized him to sell postcards, souvenirs and curios, and to serve snacks, drinks and sandwiches. [11] In exchange, he was to maintain and operate the old lighthouse building and all the fixtures. Some of the provisions of the permit were to cause problems, not the least of which was the section which stated that the concessioner was responsible for "providing paper and towels for the comfort station and for the water and electricity used therein." [12] Mr. Rock was not greatly encouraged with his ability for making a living when faced with the possibility of providing toilet tissue and towels for an estimated 200,000 people. Quick to point out the unreasonableness of the Park Service arrangement, he wrote:

My main work here — custodian, caretaker and official "greeter" — necessitates me regarding myself as an "employee" of the National Park Service, except that instead of the Park Service paying me a monthly salary I am expected, and have agreed to "scratch" for my livelihood. However, should a park man be put on this job, the Park Service would not only have to pay his salary but would also have to pay all incidental expenses and the full maintenance costs.... I might mention that my total gross income from the shop yesterday was 87 cents. Such an income as this points toward a Park Service subsidy in years to come unless the Service wishes to assume the full salary and maintenance costs. [13]

White immediately came to his defense with Washington pointing out that if "we can make a sufficiently liberal arrangement with Mr. Rock, I think the government may be saved the expense of maintaining a permanent ranger at Cabrillo." [14] Perhaps knowing a good thing when they had it, Washington agreed to assume responsibility for these services and authorized disbursements accordingly. [15] The Park Service received quite a bargain. In exchange for the full time services of Rock and his wife at Cabrillo, the Park Service paid only $266 in total expenses for the year 1936. [16]

With some of the more troublesome financial details out of the way, Rock settled down to actually running the monument. His duties were varied and time consuming including at least two hours of janitorial work every morning and window washing in the tower on Saturdays. In addition, he functioned as official greeter to the monument's visitors and dispensed information on the voyages of Cabrillo, the story of the lighthouse and its restoration, and the significance of Ballast Point. [17] The connection between the San Diego Historical Society and the monument continued, with Rock often attending meetings to discuss joint activities that included, among other things, plans for a yearly Cabrillo celebration. [18]

His former association with the newspapers of San Diego was helpful in keeping articles on the monument frequently in the news. When Rock realized that only a small number of the monument's visitors were local residents, he encouraged a campaign by the Chamber of Commerce to educate the public on the "attractions that bring tourists from every part of the country," an effort aided by various articles in the local press. [19]

Community support took other forms besides help with publicity. When Rock complained of the lack of plantings for the grounds, the Superintendent of Balboa Park sent out 235 specimens of native plants in gallon cans. Lack of funds short-circuited this effort, however, and Rock reported that: "I am wondering what to do with these plants. Unfortunately the rabbits, of which we have a plague here,...have eaten [many of] them down to the bare stalk...also there is the problem of watering 235 plants." [20]

All administrative duties were handled by Rock which included a monthly written report to Superintendent White. The reports began as lengthy, informal letters containing everything from weather reports to his nomination for the prize question posed by a tourist: "On hearing a fog horn for the first time, a mid-Western woman asked, 'Is that really a whale bellowing?'" [21] After a request was made by Washington that his monthly report follow a standard form, the documents became more formal and much less informative. Rock's flair for a colorful story was not easily squelched, however. In his monthly report for September 1937, under Section 400 (flora and fauna), he made this observation:

Heading 400 seems rather heavy for this item: Sequoia has its bear feeding as a public attraction and Cabrillo feeds its rabbits and birds. Mickey and Minnie, two California robins and Faith, Hope and Charity, three half-grown cotton tails are regular boarders. They are fed each afternoon at 4 p.m. at the steps of the lighthouse, nor are they bashful in the presence of visitors. Until we taught them better manners, the birds would fly into the lighthouse and menace Mexican glassware on the shelves of the gift shop. [22]

Aside from his "unofficial" role as Park Service representative, he had to devote time to making a living. That part of his association with the monument was the least satisfactory:

I will confess that the earnings of the first few months have not met with my anticipation. Frankly, it is vital for earnings to increase materially to make it profitable for me to stay. Also frankly, I am anxious to remain as the work is pleasant, the associations equally pleasant, and the living conditions ideal; and I am hopeful that if earnings don't increase that something adequate can be worked out, possibly in the way of a janitor work subsidy. [23]

With Rock's monthly income often amounting to less than a hundred dollars, [24] Superintendent White was aware that he stood a good chance of losing the services of the concessioner. In spite of White's frequent requests to Washington for some financial reimbursement for Rock, the reply was always the same: there was nothing that could be done for Mr. Rock in the way of compensation while he held a concession at the Cabrillo National Monument. However, if he divested himself of the concession, there were no funds to pay him as a full time caretaker. [25] The situation was eased somewhat when provisions for a janitor were included in the 1937 budget. With Rock relieved of part of his duties, his income began to rise and by 1938, his profits reached $2,163 for the year. [26] The janitor, like Rock, took on varied duties including clerical work. When Rock went on buying trips for the gift shop, Washington received the monthly superintendent's reports from "Mr. Podvin, Janitor." [27]

Devising a Plan for Interpretation

Along with concerns for the natural environment, one of the primary missions of the Park Service after 1933 became history. With the addition of so many historically oriented properties in that year, it was the goal of the Park Service to design specific interpretation programs for each site. Attempts began immediately to professionalize the informal talks and presentations that had been the norm at most of the monuments. In the words of Herbert Kahler, a historian for the Park Service, "Retelling facts without interpreting them, means nothing." [28] In spite of the Park Service's desire to provide consistency and accuracy in their educational programs, the old nemesis of lack of funds continued to make their best intentions difficult. Since the staff was insufficient to provide comprehensive interpretive programs for each park and monument, the Park Service once again had to look to local agencies to provide basic interpretive planning and services.

In the case of Cabrillo, the Park Service called upon the San Diego Historical Society. In 1935, at the request of Ansel F. Hall, Chief of the Field Division of Education, a committee was "appointed for the purpose of assisting Mr. Hall in the interpretation of the old lighthouse and its environs...." [29] The purpose of the committee was to develop a historical background for the story to be told at the monument and to develop a method to interpret this story to the general public. The committee was also requested to consider whether a museum should be developed for the lighthouse and, if so, what should be exhibited.

Leaving a national monument in the hands of a local historical society and a concessioner was not a desirable state of affairs in Washington's view, and staff members were sent periodically to check on the situation. On one such visit, Acting Chief of the Western Division Branch of Historic Sites and Buildings, Olaf Hagen, was appalled at what he saw at Cabrillo. Not only was most of the available space in the lighthouse taken up by a tearoom and curio shop but the merchandise offered was largely Mexican in design and origin and "they—as the sale of anything—detract from the atmosphere we wish to create or preserve in our historic sites." [30] Hagen recommended that the situation be remedied immediately, that a permanent custodian and assistant historian be appointed and that the necessary income for financing the monument be raised by charging admission to the tower. If this could not be accomplished then, he said, "I do not think that Cabrillo should be dignified with the name and classification of a National Monument." [31]

Superintendent White answered with some mild outrage of his own. Never very patient with the meddling of bureaucrats, he pointed out that the Park Service had repeatedly denied his requests for permanent personnel and that the present concessioner arrangement was the best answer to a bad situation. He also suggested that in the future: "the Acting Chief of the Western Branch of Historic Sites and Buildings route all reports through my office at Sequoia as I am in charge of the monument." [32]

White's successor, E.T. Scoyen, had to deal with the same criticism from Washington visitors sent on inspection tours. When Ronald F. Lee, Supervisor of Historic Sites, criticized some proposed exhibits planned by the historical society and called for a detailed interpretive plan for the monument, Scoyen replied:

The problem at the present time is entirely one of personnel, as our present allotments make it impossible to carry on any interpretive work in that area. Until this particular part of the problem is solved, I can see no way of working out a program different from that which exists at the present time.... In other words, it appears to me to be a question of appropriations. About which there can be very little hope at present. [33]

In spite of Washington's desire for improvement of the monument, the twin problems of lack of space and especially lack of money would not go away.

The Coming of World War II

While administrators of the monument continued in their efforts to deal with their problems, a situation of a much larger magnitude loomed. Although the monument had always been located on land surrounded by a military installation, the situation was often more to its advantage than detriment. Having the Army control access to its main road made security less of a problem and aided in the control of traffic. In addition military personnel could be called upon to help with minor problems and the guards even kept count of the number of visitors.

In the 1930's, Fort Rosecrans, though technically still a military base, had been virtually abandoned. A reporter visiting the site in 1935 found a commissioned officer, eighteen enlisted men and a dog named Bozo all that remained of the forces supposedly manning the coastal defenses. [34] The situation changed rapidly in 1940 when a massive construction project began on a cantonment for the Coast Artillery forces which were due to arrive in January, 1941. The six million dollar project called for barracks for 3,000 enlisted men and the installation of new long-range guns to replace the obsolete weapons still at the fort. [35]

An awareness of the move for military preparedness came to the monument as early as 1936. At that time, Rock reported that Army Intelligence had tightened up inspections at the upper gate to Cabrillo as a result of an incident in which a carload of Japanese tourists were unaccounted for and presumably wandering about the reservation. [36] The Army was especially sensitive to the situation, since two years before a Japanese citizen had been arrested in San Diego with maps and descriptions of the city's Army, Navy and Marine installations. [37] In 1940, Rock reported that: "A large increase in personnel in the military units with the Ft Rosecrans reservation has given the area in the proximity of Cabrillo National Monument a warlike aspect." [38] Tourists, who were "impressed by the preparedness program," were often given more of a show than they bargained for. According to Rock:

Of great interest to visitors the last of January has been the anti-aircraft practice held by the Marine Corps near Cabrillo National Monument. Apparently, the old lighthouse has been a bomb target as "enemy" airplanes have been flying over us continuously for days. Each of these "enemy" craft tows a target at which the defending battery blazes away with tracer shells. Incidentally, it is amazing how frequently they score a hit. [39]

Rock looked upon his position of interpreter at the monument as an "excellent opportunity for public education of the nation's objective in defense" and with the permission of the Army, he began tying in these objectives with his own educational program. In the words of Rock: "I consider this an important adjunct to national defense: a readying of the public for what may come and a knowledge that their draftee sons are well cared for and in good hands." [40]

The coexistence of a military base gearing up for war and a heavily visited tourist attraction, could not continue, of course. Following a visit to the commanding officer of Ft Rosecrans in November of 1940, Superintendent Scoyen expressed concern that the work of the War Department would seriously restrict the freedom of the public to use the monument. In a memo to the Regional Director, he wrote:

I am strongly in favor of national defense, and it is certain coordination can iron out most points of conflict. What we have to watch is that the War Department does not get far along with their plans, of necessity secret in nature, and not keep in mind the problems of the National Park Service. [41]

National defense soon took precedence over the concerns of the Park Service, however, and in February 1941, the Army and Navy Joint Defense Board requested that the monument be transferred to the War Department for administration by the Army as part of Fort Rosecrans. Plans were obviously afoot to make use of the lighthouse immediately. In March, Rear Admiral Blakely requested that the Regional Director send plans and elevations of the lighthouse which had been prepared when the structure was remodeled in 1935. [42] In a memo to Colonel White, now Director of the Western Region, Newton B. Drury, Park Service Director wrote: "while the paramountcy of national defense is recognized, every proper effort should be made to retain Cabrillo National Monument in its present status." [43]

An uneasy cooperation between the two agencies continued at the monument for several more months. Hours were shortened to half a day, and an FBI man and two guards were posted at the entrance gate. Visitors were permitted to make only two stops within the reservation, at the military cemetery and at the monument itself. In addition, all photography was prohibited. On May 12, 1941, the Secretary of War formally requested the Secretary of the Interior's permission to occupy and use Cabrillo National Monument for the duration of the war. At the same time the permit issued in 1940 that gave permission for the Park Service to use War Department land adjacent to the monument as a parking lot was revoked. [44] Rather than returning its land to the War Department permanently, however, the Secretary of the Interior issued the War Department a Special Use Permit on May 17, 1941, thus making it possible for the Park Service to reclaim its property after the war. [45] For a short time after the agreement was signed, the road to the monument remained open during restricted hours but visitors were not permitted to park, and construction on the base made travel along the road hazardous. [46] On June 3, 1941, the San Diego Union announced that the road would be closed to civilian traffic until further notice.

Military Use of the Monument During the War

In view of its location, it is less surprising that the monument was closed in 1941 than that the Army permitted it to be open so long, surrounded as it was by a defense revitalization project of such great magnitude. Although Ft Rosecrans had been allowed to deteriorate in the 1930's, the ensuing years made it obvious that a new coastal defense system centered in San Diego was imperative. The reasons were many: Consolidated Aircraft Company was rapidly expanding and increasing its production of patrol bombers for the United States Navy; a Navy destroyer base was being developed into a complete repair base to service all types of units from the Pacific Fleet; some of the nation's largest aircraft carriers were based in San Diego and the San Diego Naval Air Station was in the process of being enlarged to provide a base for the air arm of the Pacific Fleet In addition, a Navy supply depot, the Naval Training Station, a Marine base, the Naval Fuel Depot and many smaller installations were all located in San Diego. [47]

The defenses provided for all these activities were woefully inadequate. Although an attack by land seemed unlikely, a plan of protection was drawn up nonetheless. Since an enemy approach from the East was improbable because of the rugged, mountainous terrain in that direction, the emphasis was placed on the avenues the enemy might make from the north and south. Protection against attack from the north was provided by several thousand Army troops stationed at Camp Callan and Marines at Camp Elliot In the south, the 11th Cavalry carried on frequent maneuvers along the Mexican border to forestall any attacks coming through Mexico. The problem lay not in defense of the land but that of the coast approaches from the seas were patrolled to a very limited extent by U.S. Navy planes. There was, however, virtually no protection from an air attack. A volunteer air raid warning service was being developed, however, there was no radar system. Even if enemy aircraft were spotted, no means of active defense was available. An inventory of the armament available for harbor defense in early 1941 revealed a collection of antiquated and obsolete equipment that was wholly unsuitable for the task. One member of the gun crew of Battery Wilkeson, a gun battery installed in 1900, reports that his superior officers made an interesting discovery immediately before the war—batteries Wilkeson and Calef, with a maximum range of 14 miles, could not depress their muzzles enough to fire at any ship entering San Diego harbor but were actually pointed directly at National City. [48]

Though the Harbor Defense armament was inadequate, the troops assigned to the area at the time were not. Enlisted men of the 19th Coast Artillery Regiment had come for the most part from the regular Army and the remainder were primarily selectees from the Middle West who had ten months training. The field officers were regular Army, and company grade officers were largely Coast Artillery Reserve who had been on active duty from six to eighteen months. The regiment was trained intensively in artillery drill, infantry drill and small arms firing as well as seacoast artillery target practice. [49]

Hollis T. Gillespie, who was assigned to the 19th Coast Artillery at the time, later recalled his experience of becoming a soldier amid the incredible physical beauty of Point Loma.

Point Loma is a location, a piece of dirt, a peninsula, the location of a National Cemetery where I always hoped to be buried some day and spend eternity. That is the place where I saw an ocean for the first time, the place where the first "civilized man first set foot on the west coast of the North American continent, a place where you can stand by Cabrillo lighthouse and look down on San Diego bay with its sail boats and water so blue you could use it for ink.... Ft Rosecrans was something else. It was a live, breathing, active fort. It was a place where a lot of green country boys became men. [50]

The reality of war came suddenly to Gillespie and his fellow soldiers:

...Ft. Rosecrans was where the men of the 19th Coast Artillery set up three .30 caliber, water cooled machine guns as a first line of defense against the Japanese Air Force on the night of Dec 7, 1941, and slept or stood guard all night out in the sage brush on the hills of Point Loma so we wouldn't be taken by surprise and bombed in our barracks as they were that morning in Hawaii... [51]

It was the attack on Pearl Harbor that escalated the implementation of the Harbor Defense plan. The project, which called for a network of artillery batteries and fire control facilities along the coastline from the Mexican border to approximately 25 miles north of the city of San Diego had been initiated in 1940. Only one battery, however, Battery Strong, had been completed and test fired by the summer of 1941. [52]

With the temporary impairment of the Pacific Fleet on December 7, military authorities believed that the enemy attacks on the Pacific Coast were not only possible but probable. [53] Action at Fort Rosecrans, which remained the center of the expanded coastal defense system, swung into high gear. Troops were moved to their gun positions immediately. Ammunition was hauled to the battery positions and made ready for firing. Field fortifications and beach defenses were strengthened and camouflage improvement was initiated. The Harbor Entrance Control Post was moved from its position in the old lighthouse at the monument to a room in the Harbor Defense Command Post structure. Through the ensuing months, construction on a large scale of armament and base-end stations [54] was continuous. Twenty-six new base end stations with portable searchlights to serve them were completed in the next two years. In addition, decoy rockets and installations were put into place in an attempt to draw attention away from the actual positions. In 1942, a bomb-proof transmitter station was completed and, in February 1943, the first radar in the Harbor Defense went on the air—a joint Army-Navy endeavor. [55]

In spite of the intense effort expended on modernizing the Harbor defense system, it became obvious with the atomic bombing of Hiroshima, Japan on August 6, 1945, that the plans had been obsolete even as they were being implemented. With the end of the war, the concept of harbor defense using long-range artillery was abandoned and the guns scrapped. [56]

However, as the Army prepared to withdraw from Point Loma, the Navy saw the property fitting nicely into its expansion plans. The period of changeover from Army to Navy jurisdiction in the decade following the war proved to be a time filled with uncertainty for the future of Cabrillo National Monument. Though the Navy was eventually seen as the primary obstacle to the expansion of Cabrillo, it was the Park Service administration in Washington which nearly engineered the permanent closing of the monument.

The Return of the Monument to the Park Service

Although the monument was tightly guarded and inaccessible to the public throughout the war, Colonel White made it clear that he had no intention of abandoning the property permanently. Four months after the monument's closing in June 1941, he met with Major McCauley, who was the Secretary of the San Diego Chamber of Commerce, Clifton Rock, and Colonel Ottosen of the Coast Artillery Corps at Ft Rosecrans. Both McCauley and Rock were fearful that, after the War, the Army might have permanent designs on the area and advised White that it would take constant pressure on the part of the Department of the Interior to have the monument returned after the emergency was over. [57]

In 1943, White was granted access to the monument for inspection and was alarmed by what he saw:

The "Old Spanish Lighthouse" has been camouflaged and is occupied as a U.S. Naval Signaling Station. On the parking area south of the lighthouse a wooden observation tower has been erected and a large subterranean observation post consisting of concrete rooms and appurtenances constructed. The main highway to the monument has been torn up for a distance of several hundred feet and huge piles of dirt are nearby, excavations from the foundations of the great battery which is under construction near the monument. There are many other construction projects, batteries and observation posts not far from the monument [58]

Not only had the grounds been altered beyond recognition, but Colonel Ottosen was emphatic in stating his belief that the War Department would not surrender the monument at the end of the War. In fact as a national defense measure "... it would be necessary permanently to exclude the public from Point Loma and the Cabrillo National Monument." [59]

Rather than being concerned at the prospect of losing the monument, the Park Service's Regional Office in San Francisco viewed the circumstances as a fortuitous excuse to rid itself of a property that seemed more trouble than it was worth. In a memo to Regional Director, O. A. Tomlinson, Acting Regional Director Herbert Maier expressed his opinion that it was probably too early to take steps toward disposition of the monument following the war. However, he suggested one possibility that might be considered would be to allow the War Department to operate it as a fort or a historic area even though this would mean "that it would no longer be a monument." Penciled in later was the notation, "Any great loss?" [60]

By the time a recommendation reached the Director in Washington, several more opinions had been gathered from the staff. Herbert Kahler, Acting Supervisor of Historic Sites, was blunt in his evaluation: "Because the area is memorial in character and has no outstanding historical significance, I recommend that it be disestablished as a national monument" [61] After further discussing the matter with the chiefs of the branches of Plans and Design and Natural History, Conrad Wirth, the Chief of Land Planning, wrote his evaluation to Director Newton B. Drury. In it he concurred with his associates that since they had been given the opportunity: "Why not dispose of Cabrillo National Monument if we can." [62] The reasons were almost identical to those given by Roger Toll in 1932 when he inspected the monument for the Park Service and argued against its acquisition. The area was more of a memorial than a national monument; there was no evidence that Cabrillo ever set foot on the property; the main feature of the area was a lighthouse which bore no relationship to Cabrillo's discovery of the area; and finally, since it was completely surrounded by War Department properties, the Army should be responsible for it. It was a convincing case, but Associate Director A. E. Demaray interjected a note of caution. Though he had no serious objection to disestablishing the monument, he believed that it was not advantageous for the Park Service to initiate the action.

Doubtless the group interested in having Cabrillo established as a national monument will not be pleased and protest will be made to Congressman Izac representing San Diego County. My suggestion would be that we let nature take its course. If the War Department does not want to return it to the National Park Service after the war, let the Department initiate legislation transferring the area to, and as part of, Fort Rosecrans. [63]

The matter appeared to be dropped until the war was over, and once more Colonel White made contact with the civic groups of San Diego. If he knew of the movement afoot in Washington to quietly dispose of the little monument, he gave no indication in his reports. Accepting an invitation on March 12, 1946, to the annual meeting of the San Diego Historical Society, White gave the keynote address. His subject was the growth of the National Parks system and one of his primary points was the fact that "we had a great many historical parks and monuments in the East and practically none in the West." The talk was extremely well received and "a great many of those present took occasion to state their interest in the retention by the Service of the Cabrillo National Monument." [64]

The hope of the Park Service administration that the War Department would solve its disposal problem by demanding to keep the monument was not borne out. To the contrary, White reported that the acting commanding officer at Ft Rosecrans could see no objection from the Army point of view for permitting public access to Point Loma. On the other hand, there might be a problem with the Navy since the upper gate on the main road to the monument had been turned over to them. This gate was now situated in the middle of the Navy Electronics Laboratory buildings which were located half within and half outside the Fort Rosecrans Military Reservation. After speaking to Captain Hord, the Commanding Officer of the Laboratory, White concluded that even this might not be a problem. He reported that, according to Hord, "if the Army requested the return of the monument to the Department of the Interior and the opening of the gate, the Navy would not oppose the request." [65] The question would need to be resolved, however, by the Commanding Officer of the 11th Naval District at San Diego.

White realized that it was unlikely that the Park Service would take action on the matter and also knew the power of public opinion in influencing the policies of both the Service and the War Department. Believing that a demand for the return of Cabrillo National Monument must come from the people of San Diego, he nonetheless helped the process along by visiting the Historical Society and the Chamber of Commerce which, he said, "has reawakened interest in this matter and these organizations will foster a movement for the return of the monument" [66]

In spite of a seeming consensus in Washington during the war that the Park Service would do well to rid itself of Cabrillo, the stance softened somewhat by 1946. In a memo to the Director, Ronald F. Lee, Chief Historian, rendered his opinion that while disestablishment of this particular monument was not a bad idea in itself, it might set a dangerous precedent. Such an action, he said, could "carry possible implications regarding the permanence of the arrangements under which other national monuments have been set aside and might at some future time weaken the position of the Service in defending boundaries of its areas." [67]

In addition, it appeared that disestablishment was not a simple matter legally. The Chief Counsel's office advised the Director that the area could not be abolished as a national monument without legislative authority. The best that could be done would be to designate it a national historic site and seek a cooperative agreement with the State of California for its administration. Director Drury did not favor this alternative and pointed out that when such an arrangement had been made at Mound City Group National Monument, it had led to a great deal of criticism. [68]

In the meantime, the interest of the local public in re-opening the monument accelerated. Appearing on a weekly radio forum with a presentation entitled, "Our Lost Viewpoint," Clifton Rock made a statement that Ft Rosecrans might again be opened to the public in the near future though probably on Sundays only. The local press picked up the story and mistakenly quoted Rock as saying that the area would be open the following Sunday. The announcement caused a minor riot as over a thousand people appeared at the gates demanding admission to the reservation. [69]

By September 1946, the newspapers reported regularly on progress toward reopening the monument. Citing an unattributed rumor, the San Diego Tribune said that the Chamber of Commerce feared Cabrillo might be turned over to the War Department permanently. [70]

On September 21, the San Diego Journal ran a lengthy article entitled, "Reopening of Cabrillo Shrine Tangled Mess of Confusion." The paper reported an impending visit to the monument of Herbert Kahler. Whether or not the paper knew that Kahler was responsible for the move for disestablishment, it was adamant in its message to him: "Somebody had better send storm warnings to Chief Historian Herbert E. Kahler of the National Park Service," the article said. In spite of the fact that the Chamber of Commerce had sent "reams of letters" to "this, that and the other department trying to have the park reopened," the article continued, there was still a great deal of confusion as to who currently had jurisdiction over the property. Since inquiries to the War Department had been referred to the Department of the Interior, the newspaper suggested that the property might have been returned. If this were the case and "Interior really is going to 'unload' it on War, permanently closing it to the public, there'll be another war. Look out, Mr. Kahler!" [71]

The San Diego Union was considerably more sedate in reporting Kahler's visit. According to its report, Kahler had told the Chamber of Commerce that he would do everything in his power to induce the War Department to open the monument to the public. Ronald Lee, contacted in Washington after Kahler's visit, denied the rumors that the Park Service wanted to permanently surrender the property to the War Department. On the contrary, he said that the Service was well aware that the it was the only national park property south of Sequoia and that in the three year period prior to the war it had attracted over 2 million visitors. [72]

The push to re-open the monument received a boost with the involvement of California Senators William F. Knowland and Sheridan Downey. Responding to their inquiries, Acting Secretary of War. John Sullivan wrote to the Senators in November 1946: "The War Department which took over Cabrillo Park from the Interior Department's National Park Service under a temporary permit, has agreed to swing open the gates again provided the Navy offers no objection." [73]

On November 4, 1946, Thomas Bomar, assistant general manager of the Chamber of Commerce was notified by J. B. Olendorf, 11th Naval District Commandant, that the the district was not opposed to the monument becoming public provided that appropriate security measures for the Navy's installations could be maintained. [74] Five days later, the Evening Tribune ran a front page article headlined: "Monument Freed to the Public — May Again Visit Lighthouse." Appropriately, the official re-opening occurred on November 11, 1946—Armistice Day. Once again free to enjoy the spectacular view, the local populace turned out 12,000 strong to celebrate, in the words of the San Diego Union, "the return to life as it has been preserved for San Diego." [75]

Early the following year, bureaucratic formalities had at last been satisfied. On January 28, 1947, the Interior Department permit giving the Army control over Cabrillo National Monument was officially revoked, thus returning jurisdiction to the National Park Service. [76]

In the absence of any written records of the transaction between the Department of War and the Department of the Interior, it is difficult to speculate whether the delay in returning the monument was due to deliberate intention or merely bureaucratic inertia. There is no doubt, however, that the campaign waged by the Chamber of Commerce, the Historical Society, and the local newspapers (aided and abetted by the indomitable Colonel White) had its effect. If the military believed they could quietly usurp the tiny property with the complaisance of the Park Service, both agencies seriously underestimated the emotional attachment that the people of San Diego had for their monument and the lengths to which they would go to get it back.

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Last Updated: 02-Mar-2005