The Park Service Regains Cabrillo
Following the re-opening of Point Loma to civilian traffic on November 11, 1946, the public was once again permitted to drive to the end of the point and enjoy the view. For several months afterwards, however, that was all they were able to do, since the facilities at the monument remained closed. John R. White, with his usual impatience, wrote to the Director in February 1947:
Officials finally began to take action to improve the situation in March, when the commanding officer of Fort Rosecrans made an inspection tour of the area with representatives of the Park Service.  Plans were made at that time to refurbish and re-open the facilities. Clifton Rock was again awarded the concessioner's contract and $1,000 was allocated for the administration of Cabrillo for the rest of the year. For the first time in the monument's history, the Park Service agreed to hire a full time employee, designated as janitor (CPC-4).  The salary offered, $2,020 per year, did not bring on a great rush of applicants and the choice was finally made by Rock, who conducted the interviews, in June 1947.  Donald M. Robinson, a former Navy petty officer, was chosen for the position and began work immediately. 
As the only Park Service employee on the premises, Robinson assumed the administrative duties that had previously been handled by Rock. His first report to the Superintendent was submitted on August fifth and was as succinct as Rock's were colorful and informative. The concessioner was now able to devote additional time to his shop, which became much more profitable than before the war even though the tearoom was no longer in operation.  Rock did not completely abandon his former responsibilities, however, and when Robinson was off duty two days a week, he filled in without pay. 
The extra space in the lighthouse left vacant by the discontinuation of the tearoom was quickly appropriated by Robinson as "museum space." With the aid of the historical society and interested citizens, he began collecting artifacts for display  which included, "the first piano brought to San Diego," a desk used by an early postmaster of the city, a spinning wheel, a hope chest  and an extensive shell collection for which he planned to build display cases. In addition, he obtained a flagpole "through the cooperation of the Navy and installed by the Army"  and an anchor which he placed on the south side of the main walk leading to the lighthouse. 
Robinson's enthusiasm for the project was not matched by the officials in the Regional Office. His superintendent's reports were often liberally annotated by his superiors with such comments as: "Unless we watch this, it could well develop into an antique shop under the name of a National Park Museum."  The Regional Director was concerned enough with the situation to advise the superintendent of Sequoia that until a museum plan could be developed for Cabrillo, he should be cautious in allowing Robinson to accept donations "which might later prove embarrassing to the Service...." 
The concession continued to be a thorn in the side of the regional administrationa situation only aggravated by Robinson's attempts to turn the lighthouse into a museum. A committee set up at the Regional Office to review the problems of Cabrillo reported in March 1948 that:
The situation reached a critical point in 1949 when the Regional Office decided that the increase in Rock's profits for the year was excessive and demanded through the chief of concessioners in Washington, that his mark-up on items sold be limited to 75 per cent over the delivered cost. This would, in effect, reduce his income by approximately $4,000, "which on the basis of 1948 volume, would leave an amount equivalent to what is considered a fair salary for the concessioner."  Rock replied with an emotional fifteen page letter listing his years of faithful service to the Park Service, the responsibilities he had assumed without pay and the losses he had incurred when the monument closed during the war. E.T. Scoyen, Col. White's successor at Sequoia, supported Rock's positionthough in a style more logical and less impassioned than that of his energetic predecessor. 
White, by this time retired, could not resist entering the argument, however. After visiting Rock, who had been admitted to the hospital shortly after the fray began, he wrote to the Regional Director:
As word of Rock's illness spread, the Regional Office received several requests to assume the concession. Associate Director A.E. Demaray, sent from Washington to evaluate the situation, arrived at the decision that the concession should be discontinued since the space was badly needed for public use. In addition, he said, facilities such as those offered by Rock's gift shop were available outside the monument area. In consideration for Rock's years of service, however, he was permitted to continue the operation until his health forced him to retire. 
A Statue for the Monument
The original purpose for the establishment of Cabrillo National Monument in 1913 had been, according to the Order of Panama, to provide a suitable place for a "heroic statue of Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo."  When the monument reopened to the public after the war, it still possessed a restored lighthouse, a remarkable view and a bronze plaque, but no statue. The situation was remedied through a set of circumstances that not only contributed to the folklore of the place but exemplified the extraordinary relationship which the community of San Diego had developed with the Cabrillo (both the man and his memorial) over the years.
Versions of the story, as told by the two men most closely involved, Lawrence Oliver and State Senator Ed Fletcher, differ slightly in detail but agree in substance. According to Oliver, founder of the Portuguese-American Social and Civic Club, the saga began in 1935 when Alvaro De Bree, a young Portuguese sculptor, was given a commission by his government to create a statue of Cabrillo to be presented as a gift to the state of California. The statue, when completed, was to be exhibited in the Portuguese exhibit at the San Francisco Exposition of 1940.  In 1939, Oliver received a request from the Committee of the House of Portugal asking for funds from his association to help defray the costs of the exhibit. When sending his donation, Oliver wrote to the committee explaining that the Portuguese community of San Diego was interested in acquiring the statue once the Exposition was over. At about the same time, Clifton Rock received a letter from J. R. De Faria, historian of the Cabrillo Civic Club of San Francisco, describing the statue and enclosing a photograph. After consulting with the San Diego Historical Society, Rock contacted Col. White, then serving as chief of operations in Washington, to use his influence in getting the statue for the monument. 
While much information concerning the statue circulated through the community, no one had actually seen it. One group of San Diegans from the Heaven on Earth Club made a special fact finding trip to the Exposition but had no luck in locating the elusive 14,000 pound, 15 foot sculpture. Two landscape architects from the Park Service appeared, at first, to have better luck. In a report to the Regional Director, the two described a plaster statue 4-1/2 feet high with a post and cross projecting 18 inches above. The plaster was covered with a green mottled coating designed to resemble marble. Both architects worried that the statue, if subjected to the elements, would dissolve. Therefore they suggested that if it was acquired for the monument, it be installed in the stairwell niche inside the lighthouse. 
While plans were being made for this statue, which turned out to be a smaller replica of the original, the genuine one had yet to be located. Purely by chance, Oliver mentioned his search to a family friend, Anna Lewis Miller of San Francisco, only to discover that the statue was crated and stored in her garage. The sculpture had been put there either because it was too large and heavy for the exhibition space, it was broken on arrival, it was delivered too late, or some combination of the three. In any event, the piece having been discovered, now needed to find its way to San Diego. For this, Oliver enlisted the aid of State Senator Ed Fletcher. 
Fletcher, according to his recollection of the matter, was told by the Portuguese commissioner, Antonio Ferro, that although the statue was a gift to the State of California, he believed that the statue should be placed in San Diego since Cabrillo first landed on Point Loma. The governor, Culbert Olson, had a different plan, however, having promised the statue to the city of Oakland. Fletcher accused Olson of playing politics owing to the large number of Portuguese voters in the area,  but there is also, no doubt, some truth to the assertion that since the Portuguese organizations of the Bay Area had arranged and helped pay for the transportation of the statue, they should have kept it.
By the time the it was located by Oliver, the governor had already accepted the statue on behalf of the State of California and announced that it would be located in the City Park of Oakland. Fletcher had other ideas:
After checking with the State Legislative Council, Fletcher received its legal opinion that while the Governor had a right to accept the statue in the name of the State of California, only the legislature had the authority to decide how it should be disposed. Fletcher immediately introduced a bill in the state senate which would give the statue to San Diego. The bill passed with no opposition and was sent to the assembly where it was referred to committee and eventually killed "owing to the opposition of the assemblyman from Oakland."  Now at a legal impasse, Fletcher's "only thought was to get possession, as that is nine points of law, so lawyers say." 
Fletcher arrived early on a Saturday morning at Anna Miller's house armed with a copy of the state journal that listed passage of the Senate bill. For good measure he had a letter from the president of the State Park Commission asking her to release the statue. To add further credence to the request, he had Frank Jordon, Secretary of State, affix the golden seal of the State of California. Satisfied with the official looking documents and eager to get rid of the crate that had cracked the floor in her garage, Miller gave permission for the statue to be removed. As it was being loaded aboard a moving van:
By the time the governor could object, the statue had been loaded aboard a railroad freight car and was on its way to San Diego.
Having reached its destination, it was put in the city garage for safe-keeping, and a committee was formed to decide exactly where the plundered prize should be located. In March 1940, the committee recommended that rather than moving the statue to the lighthouse, it should be placed "near the terminus of Harbor Drive close to the water" since this area, known as La Playa, had a large Portuguese colony.  Fletcher and Oliver however preferred that it be part of the monument and met with Rock to win Park Service approval for the matter.  By May, the furor showed no signs of abating with Governor Olson ordering the statue returned to San Francisco. The situation was further complicated by the fact that the statue was found to be broken and the cost for repair estimated to be as much as $5,000. Rock, amused by the local brawl, wrote to Scoyen that he considered it a "wild western tempest in a teapot."  In any event, he suggested that it would be unwise for the Park Service to become involved. "The complications," he wrote, "sort of make the statue out of the question this year, and it might be wise to use the money in some other way."  Scoyen wrote to the Director on December 12, 1940:
On January 25, 1941, an Oakland assemblyman introduced a bill to transfer the statue to the city of Oakland, but it was killed in committee. Though Fletcher reported "a bitter fight that continued for years,"  the participants eventually ran out of steam and the statue stayed in San Diego.
Having been by now repaired and mounted on a base, the statue stood at the west end of the Naval Training Center facing Ballast Point, where, "it was under guard day and night by the United States Navy"  presumably safe if legislators from the north came to take it by force. The official dedication of the site took place on Sept 28, 1942, the 400th anniversary of Cabrillo's landing. The dedication was to have been part of a quadricentennial exposition but due to the war, the festivities were cancelled. Instead a small commemorative ceremony was held, attended primarily by members of the Portuguese community, Senator Fletcher, Lawrence Oliver and dignitaries from the military and the city. The main address was delivered by Dr. Euclides Goulart da Costa, consul of Portugal at San Francisco, who unveiled the statue with the words: "May the statue of this Portuguese of honor and courage serve as a perpetual reminder of the friendship between the American and Portuguese people." 
Unfortunately, the statue could not remind anyone of anything since the military base on which it was located was closed soon after. The statue waited out the war "in about as unsuitable a place as could be found; surrounded by the cheap, temporary utility buildings of the Submarine Experiment Base [and] surrounded by a high barbwire fence." 
The prize was too hard won for it to be left indefinitely at the mercy of the military, and after the war interest was rekindled to give the statue a more suitable home. In 1947, the San Diego Historical Society formed a committee with the purpose of having the statue moved from Navy property to a site at Cabrillo National Monument.  Since the controversy regarding ownership of the statue had died down, the Park Service became less concerned with its dubious lineage and more interested in the practical consideration of how and where it was to be moved. White examined the statue and wrote to the Regional Office that "I feel it belongs in the Cabrillo National Monument and...the San Diego Historical Society feels that it should be there." 
The Chief of the Museum Bureau in Washington, after examining photographs judged the work to be "a satisfactory piece of memorial sculpture" and declared that it appeared suitable "from an artistic standpoint."  Restricted by its usual funding limitations, the Service agreed to accept the statue with conditions: "This service has no objection to placing this statue at Cabrillo National Monument provided that a suitable base will be furnished and the statue reerected without expense to the Service and that the Navy Department will interpose no objections." 
In past instances, when private groups had attempted to obtain a statue for the monument, plans had been abandoned because of lack of funds. This time, the organizations involved took no chances. Through their efforts, the City of San Diego agreed to take responsibility for the project. On January 20, 1948, the city council passed a unanimous resolution which stated that the "cost of moving said statue and erecting it at the new location will be borne by the City of San Diego."  Working with the the City, the Regional Office in San Francisco created plans and drawings for the transfer. As is the case with many arrangements involving large agencies, there were long delays, and at times, it seemed the project had been abandoned. Over a year later, on May 24, 1949, the manager of the San Diego Chamber of Commerce wrote to the City Manager saying that the Navy was very anxious to have the statue removed and inquiring as the the status of the project.  Goaded into action, the two agencies finalized plans and the City accepted a bid for $1,645 for moving the statue.  There were some minor setbacks as Custodian Robinson noticed that the scale on the accepted plans was wrong and that:
Details were soon ironed out, however, and things began moving ahead as planned. On September 1, 1949, Superintendent Scoyen received an invitation from the Portuguese American Social and Civic Club to the "rededication of the statue of Joao Rodrigues Cabrilho, discoverer of California"  at the monument on September 28a ceremony which had apparently been planned without the knowledge or blessing of the Park Service. Scoyen took this development in stride, however, and wrote to the Regional Director that "they have gone ahead with their plans and have issued invitations in the name of their Society and the National Park Service...but I believe no harm has been done and the arrangements so far are satisfactory..." 
In the manner of last minute arrangements, the statue was actually moved on September 26, only two days before the dedication ceremony. So hurried was the project that the possibility of a disaster did cross Robinson's mind. Recalling the incident, he said: "We put it up there so fast, we were worried that the concrete [on the base] was too wet...we thought maybe the weight of the statue would smash down on itbut we were able to get away with it." 
A plaque, which had been designed by the Portuguese club, was also somehow lost in the planning shuffle but on September 23, the Regional Director wrote that though it would be impossible to have the plaque designed and cast for the dedication ceremony, "we are placing the design...on our plans list. We will place this job in high priority and hope to be able to forward drawings to you in October." 
The ceremony to dedicate the statue was held on September 28 as scheduled with the appropriate pomp, circumstance and dignitaries. The Mayor of San Diego, Harley E. Knox, formally presented the statue to the National Park Service and Dr. Manuel Rocheta, chancellor of the Portuguese Embassy in Washington, D.C., delivered an address. In his statement at the ceremony, Superintendent Scoyen described the life of the explorer Cabrillo and the sculpture which represented him:
The monument had waited since 1913 for its statue of Cabrillo and on September 28, 1949, the wait had finally come to an end.
Extension of the Monument's Boundaries
While the acquisition of the statue provided a focus for the symbolic meaning of Cabrillo National Monument, during the next ten years administrators had to deal with a more practical issue as well. Nothing, aside from the constant shortage of funds, provided more controversy than the question of space or, more precisely, the lack of it. Limited in size to less than half an acre and constantly at the mercy of the vagaries of military policy, it is no wonder that the Park Service had responded with such eagerness when presented with the possibility with disposing of Cabrillo after World War II. When this plan was short-circuited by the efforts of San Diegans, the Service responded with the only other alternative, an attempt to permanently secure more land from the Army and Navy.
Trying to obtain land from the military was not a new issue and had been dealt with intermittently throughout the Park Service's administration of the monument Acquiring permanent rights to any military land proved impossible in the 1930's and the best that could be done was to obtain a five year revokable permit, issued on May 23, 1935, for a parking lot and comfort station adjacent to the monument. The permit, because of its short duration and the fact that it forbade any permanent buildings, made long range planning for the monument impossible.  The question arose again when the time came for renewing the permit. However, the military's openness to the suggestion of extension seemed to depend on the opinion of the commanding officer of Fort Rosecrans at any particular time.  With the coming of the war, the boundary question, along with all other matters related to the monument, was placed on temporary hold.
Early in 1948, rumors abounded that the Army was about to declare the land of Fort Rosecrans surplus. The Chamber of Commerce believed that this would be an excellent opportunity for the Park Service to acquire the additional land it had sought. In a letter to Representative Charles K. Fletcher on January 8, San Diego Chamber of Commerce manager Arnold Klaus suggested that he "contact the proper individuals in the National Park Service...to take steps to acquire any of this surplus property for the expansion of Cabrillo National Monument." 
After receiving correspondence from both Fletcher and the Chamber of Commerce, Director Newton B. Drury informed the Regional Director in San Francisco that it was time for the Park Service to take a stand on Cabrillo:
The Park Service was to have competition in its quest, however, from, strangely enough, the City of San Diego. The San Diego Union ran a large front page story on February 22, touting the idea of Philip L. Gilred of the planning commission. According to his plan, the entire military reservation would be turned over to the City and turned into a vast city park that would "dwarf all other City parks in the west, from the standpoint of both size and scenic view."  To further complicate the situation, an equal number of rumors persisted that the Navy desired all the land on Point Loma and had plans to close the entire area to the public.  The Army, for its part, denied any and all claims and promised to "study the matter." 
While lower level officials in the Army, Navy and Park Service Regional Office reviewed "confidential maps" and hypothetically divided the spoils,  the problem eventually reached the top. In a terse letter, Gordon Gray, the Assistant Secretary of the Army informed the Secretary of the Interior that "current plans do not contemplate declaring any portion of Fort Rosecrans surplus."  However, an investigation was underway to study the feasibility of making some land around the immediate area of the monument available to the Park Service.
Promises from the Army were to prove useless, however, since according to the Commanding Officer of the Naval Electronics Laboratory:
He told Scoyen that, as far as he knew, the Navy would have no objection to the Park Services plans and further counseled:
As it turned out, the Park Service would have good reason for discouragementfor its troubles, far from being over, had just begun. During the following four years, a multitude of correspondence was exchanged among Park Service officials, the Army, the Navy, the Chamber of Commerce and every Senator and Representative who could be convinced to become involved. Further complicating matters were news stories in the local press that announced the expansion of the monument as an accomplished fact. On April 30, 1950, the San Diego Union published a story which not only said that 61 acres had been transferred by the Army to the Park Service but included a map and development plans for the area. The story came as news to the participants in the negotiations and after meeting with Admiral Baker, Commandant of the Naval District in San Diego, Superintendent Scoyen reported that the Navy claimed jurisdiction over the area in question. Furthermore, while Baker would agree to "allowing the Park Service to use the land in question...he would not agree to inclusion of any lands south of the present monument in a proclamation extending the Cabrillo boundaries." 
The advent of the Korean War brought an abrupt end to all discussions. In a letter to the Managing Director of the San Diego-California Club on May 9. 1951, the Commandant of the Eleventh Naval District explained that the transfer had "been held in abeyance due to the suspension of authority to transfer or to dispose of excess and surplus real property."  Unlike World War II, the Korean War did not bring a closure of the monument and activities there continued. Far from abandoning the idea of expansion, Park Service officials continued during the war to pressure military authorities for a resolution to the boundary problem.
By 1952, discussions seemed permanently bogged down as the Navy and Army disagreed as to which of them actually held jurisdiction over various portions of land. Realizing that the prospect of acquiring the 61 acres adjacent to the monument were increasingly dim, Custodian Robinson decided that the time had come to concentrate on his most immediate problem, the desperate need for parking space. In spite of the fact that the Navy denied having control over the three acre plot of land that Robinson requested, he "spent a few days with the Army running down the title to this area, and I found that a permit classified as secret was issued to the Navy on July 1, 1951, giving them a five year permit covering the area south of the monument."  After further discussions with Captain Bennett of the Naval Electronics Laboratory, and with some intervention on the part of Representative Bob Wilson,  Robinson reached an agreement for use of the parking area. Four years of correspondence, discussions and negotiations had yielded only a five year sublease on a three acre parcel of land the same area that had been used by the monument since 1934. 
The following years were to bring even more promises and delays by the military. Endless correspondence followed by futile meetings on the local, regional, and national levels made the project seem hopeless. While both the Army and Navy made public statements giving their approval to expanded lands for the monument,  no one in the hierarchy of either service was willing to make the idea a reality. Though Robinson was often successful in getting military officials on the local level to agree to expansion, the proposal was invariably scuttled higher up. In frustration, Robinson wrote to the Superintendent of Sequoia in November, 1954:
Bob Wilson's aid had been sought earlier in the struggle. Pressure on him to actively participate, however, continued to increase. Letters were sent from the San Diego Visitor's Bureau, the Cabrillo Club of California and other civic clubs. Petitions and letters from individual citizens flooded his office.  Although securing the additional acreage would indeed be, "a feather in [his] cap,"  Wilson had more personal reasons for taking on the project besides its popularity with his constituents. Coming from a family long associated with lighthouses (his mother was born in one and both his father and uncle were lighthouse keepers), he had always had a sentimental attraction for the lighthouse located on Point Loma.  Furthermore, his membership on the powerful House Armed Services Committee put him in the perfect position to address the problem on a direct level.
It became obvious in 1955 that the delay in acquiring a firm commitment from either the Army or Navy in the preceding years had been tied to a pending land deal between the two services. In June of that year, the Navy publically announced plans to acquire additional acreage from the Army as part of a two and a half million dollar public works authorization bill. Though the Navy refused to provide details, officials did admit that the land transfer had been pending for over two years and that there had been considerable controversy over financing, details of which were being ironed out at "high military levels."  Concerned that once the transfer had been made, the Park Service would have little chance of wresting it from the control of the Navy, Wilson was urged to push for acquisition of land for the monument at the same time. While negotiations continued on a higher level, the local population redoubled its efforts to apply pressure on those in charge, even though, no one was quite sure who that might be. Both the Army and Navy complained of "a barrage of propaganda" and told the Park Service that rather than helping the situation, it was making it worse.  If that were not enough, providing a survey of official boundaries that could be agreed upon by all the involved parties became a major obstacle.  In addition, the Navy became quite insistent that they wanted all of Ft Rosecrans at the time of transfer, that they did not wish to deal with the Park Service until after that time and that while they might consider a long term lease, an outright deed to the land was out of the question.  In a letter to Wilson, Robinson complained bitterly of the Navy's actions:
Though he understood Robinson's frustration with the Navy, Scoyen was somewhat abashed by the letter. In a personal memo to Robinson, his superior suggested that in the future, he might be more diplomatic because: "Should the Navy ever gain possession of the letter I am sure if they did not demand an explanation of your remarks, they would resent them very much." 
Any resentment the Navy may have felt has gone unrecorded but it is evident that officials in that service were still in no hurry to settle the matter. By June of the following year, even the Chairman of the Armed Services Committee, whose help had been enlisted by Wilson, was becoming impatient with the impasse. In a letter to the Assistant Secretary of Defense, Chairman Carl Vinson reminded him of Wilson's request for action on the project:
Six months later, the Secretary of the Navy assured the committee that the project would reach the Armed Services Committee in about two months and as soon as the project was approved, the Navy would immediately request the Army to transfer Fort Rosecrans. At that time, Wilson planned to "insist that the 64 acres in question be transferred directly to the Interior...."  In the interval of time during which negotiations had been made, references to the project by participants became almost impossibly garbled and contradictory. On February 8, 1956, Rear Admiral C. C. Hartman, the 11th Naval District commandant, had been quoted in all the local newspapers as saying that the "U.S. Park Service...may have as much land as it needs to enlarge the Cabrillo National Monument area on San Diego's Point Loma."  However, precisely how much this was varied according to the person involved and the particular year, month and day of the week. The area in question at various times was referred to as 75 acres, 77 acres, 64 acres and 80.6 acres "more or less."  Surveys were made, boundaries redrawn and legal descriptions were rejected by one or another of the agencies in a continuing bureaucratic comedy of errors. In spite of what seemed interminable delays, the House Armed Services Committee at last approved the proposal to transfer approximately 80 acres to the Park Service in July of 1957 and the Senate committee followed soon after.  Just when it seemed that the situation might actually be getting under control,  the Director of the Park Service received the following news from Elmo L. Buttle, Chief of the General Services Administration (Acquisition and Disposal Division):
After some hasty searching for a loophole in the ever increasing morass, Scoyen, now Associate Director of the Park Service, informed Buttle that "the transfer could be made without reimbursement on the basis of our certification that no funds were available and that GSA would determine the best interest of the Government would be served by the transfer of the property for the purposes requested." 
With one more obstacle cleared away, a proclamation was drawn up by the Department of the Interior for the President's signature on August 11, 1958.  Not even Presidential Proclamations were speedily dispatched in 1958, however, and by November President Eisenhower had still not signed the document.  On February 2, 1959, over ten years after the first serious efforts began to expand Cabrillo's boundaries, the President finally signed Proclamation 3273 assigning "approximately eighty acres of land contiguous to and completely surrounding the present site of the monument...."  Cabrillo, no longer a tiny speck on the tip of Point Loma, at last had some room to grow.
Last Updated: 02-Mar-2005