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Monday, Sep 26, 2022

Market Street: Historical Markers Offer Glimpses Into the Past

I was driving around downtown on a recent Sunday with the top down on my midlife crisis red convertible when I spotted a co-worker and his family out for a stroll on Market Street.

It was a living anachronism. The couple pushed their baby boy in a carriage, while his older sister, clad in long-sleeved dress with a wide Peter Pan collar held her mother’s hand as they walked. I had a vision of young families venturing out of Victorian homes for a midday walk in downtown a century ago.

Back to the future: An outdoor muralist was busy applying the final touches on a vivid work depicting musicians that adorned the exterior of an old brick building facing Market.

After driving halfway to Phoenix to make a legal U-turn, I found a parking space on Ninth Avenue and joined the family for lunch at Caf & #233; Chloe.

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The happening entertainment district seemed to be drawing its breath from the happenings of the night before.

Russ Havens, our circulation director, is a camera bug in his spare time. He collects shots of old single-room-occupancy buildings in downtown, because, as he says, many are doomed for the wrecking ball since they lack the historical significance necessary to ensure their preservation.

His children will enjoy the pictures as they grow up, and they’ll also have the benefit of seeing their ever-changing environment before it changes.

Russ and family don’t confine their outings to the Gaslamp Quarter. They also make regular weekend visits to Del Mar, Carlsbad and other coastal communities and attractions. But the point is always to take a leisurely walk.

A great substitute for the Sunday drive , a family tradition evidenced after WWII and before freeways dominated the landscape with speed limits that deter sightseeing.

I experienced Sunday drives as a kid growing up in Wisconsin in the 1950s. Sitting between my grandparents in the front seat of a Buick Roadmaster, we’d take in the sights and sounds of Stevens Point and Portage County.

I particularly liked to watch houses being built. They were all different then as suburbs hadn’t come into being, and my grandparents usually knew who would occupy them. I also enjoyed the reflection of trees in the Wisconsin River when the leaves changed colors as summer turned into fall.

Savoring fond memories of family bonding, I decided to leave my car parked , it wouldn’t start actually, since it was having a crisis of its own , and walked south on Sixth Avenue to Hotel Solamar’s J-Six Restaurant where I would meet my son, who eventually got it started.

I had a couple hours to kill beforehand, however, so I paused to read historical markers on vacant storefronts that originally served as hardware outlets during downtown’s building heyday. I wonder how long it will take before they’re transformed into new uses in the current building heyday.

Better check back soon, I said to myself. Then I bumped into a few more people I know who just happened to be out for their afternoon constitution, and we shot the breeze about new hotels and restaurants due to open in the Gaslamp.

Accidental pedestrian though I was, my walking tour of downtown was great fun, kind of like when the electricity goes out and you have to burn candles at night.

Send tourism and hospitality news to Connie Lewis via e-mail:


. She may also be reached at (858) 277-6359.


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