1894 Wonder Bread brick building in San Diego's East Village

Out & About—East Village in downtown San Diego

Out & About

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

When I came to San Diego in April 1993, the East Village in downtown San Diego was a nightmare—crime, drugs, prostitution. It was an area that was dangerous for anyone to go into, even if they were part of the crime, drugs, homeless, gangs, prostitution…. Murders seemed to be a daily occurrence, day or night.

Then someone had the bright idea of building a professional baseball park in the East Village. The premise was that sports stadiums in downtown areas of other cities had helped revive downtown areas and resolve the urban blight and mass exodus that was occurring.

I was living in the San Diego city limits at the time, so I got to vote on the proposals. Although I always hesitate to use public funds to help rich, private sports team owners, I voted yes. My vote was based solely on what Camden Yards had done for downtown Baltimore. I thought San Diego could do the same.

Petco Park, opened in 2004, is the result of my vote:

Petco Park in San Diego

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

More than that, though, is that with the building of Petco Park, the East Village was completely renovated and revitalized. Crime, drugs, homeless, gangs, and prostitution in the East Village are virtually non-existent.

The East Village revitalization was so successful that in September 2013 the City of San Diego opened its new Central Library in the East Village, just across the street from Petco Park.

San Diego Central Library

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

The dome on the new Central Library is one of the largest domes in the world.

Downtown San Diego is alive with people, sights, sounds, entertainment—day and night—and it’s all good. Rarely is there a news story about crime and drugs and such in the East Village. Condominium towers have been built, and people are actually living in downtown San Diego again! Grocery stores and pharmacies have been built to serve the thriving downtown community.

Recently I was walking around the East Village looking for photographic opportunities of the new Central Library when I found a brick building built in 1894.

wonder bread pano b-2

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Brick buildings, especially old ones, are extraordinarily rare in San Diego. Even though San Diego was discovered in 1542, and the City founded in 1769, finding a building that was built before 1880 or so is almost impossible. Those that still exist usually were saved and moved from their original locations into Heritage Park and Old Town San Diego.

I was thrilled to find an 1894 brick building in the East Village, and that, to me, is one of the great benefits of building Petco Park and revitalizing the area. Many buildings that were being used by the homeless and criminals were saved from the wrecking ball and are now being used for businesses and even private loft residences.

The brick building I found appeared to be a tasting room for the Mission Brewery, one of San Diego’s craft breweries. However, Google search results lead me to believe that the building is an event venue for The Event Hangar. The Event Hangar’s web site has pictures of the interior’s four rooms:

  1. The Silo Room is 10,000 square feet and provides space for up to 450 people. It rents for $5,000, although I don’t know how many hours or days that $5,000 covers.
  2. The Tile Room is 3,500 square feet and accompanies up to 250 people. It also rents for $5,000.
  3. The Upper Gallery is 2,725 square feet and holds up to 170 people. It rents for $2,500.
  4. The Lower Gallery & Bar is also 2,725 square feet and rents for $2,500, but its capacity is 140 people.

Above the front entrance is the date 1894 and Wonder Bread:

1894 Wonder Bread brick building in San Diego's East Village

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Additional Google search results indicate that this was the main Wonder Bread factory in San Diego from 1924 to 2007, and that this brick section is only a small part of the original factory. Other parts of the factory have been renovated into office spaces for Mission Brewery; Interior Solutions; The Honest Kitchen; Financial Additions; and LPA, a sustainable design architectural firm.

I could find nothing about the building going back to it being ESTABLISHED 1894. Maybe a trip to the new San Diego Central Library, and a few hours of research, will shed some light on this beautiful brick building.

Wonder BreadAs an aside, I grew up on Wonder Bread. My wise old grandmother would buy nothing else. I used to come home from school at 3:30, get out the Wonder Bread, make myself a PB&J (Peter Pan peanut butter and strawberry jam, thank you), and go watch television.

Sadly, Wonder Bread is not available in the San Diego area anymore, having left the market in 2007.

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

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11 thoughts on “Out & About—East Village in downtown San Diego

  1. colltales

    Didn’t know you guys too have an E.V. and by the looks of it, it loosely resemble the area here, circa 1980s. Today, with the gentrification, most old New Yorkers would recognize the place (which serves as a warning; the same can happen there). But it’s one of the most interesting areas of the city. Hope one day you come to visit it. Best

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    1. Russel Ray Photos Post author

      Jim and I were there in 1999 as part of our year-long fifth anniversary tour of places we had not been. We did everything on Manhattan, from Battery Park and a boat ride out to the Statue/Liberty Island and over to Ellis Island. The farthest north we went was Central Park and The Dakota. As a lifelong Beatles fan, I had to go to The Dakota and Strawberry Fields in Central Park.

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    2. Russel Ray Photos Post author

      I used to have a few thousand pictures of Manhattan and everything we did. However, I scanned them and then ditched the prints and negatives. Then I proceeded to lose all of the scanned pictures in the Great Hard Drive Crash of August 2005. That, of course, simply means that I’ll have to come back some day!

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      1. colltales

        Please do. Too bad that a lot of what you had is probably gone now, but that’s life. It’s still been one of the most photographed places on earth along the years, so maybe not all is lost.

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  2. Gallivanta

    Do you mean no Wonder Bread at all, anywhere, or just not in San Diego? Glad that revitalisation has worked. This may be why our planners are eager to build a new sports stadium in the centre of our currently broken city. Many of us think it is an awful idea but I may have to change my mind, now that I have read of the success stories in San Diego and Baltimore.

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    1. Russel Ray Photos Post author

      Wonder left Washington and Oregon in the early 2000’s, and California in 2007-2008. It is claimed that they returned to the Southern California market in 2009, and maybe they did. I am in no position to argue with them since I didn’t (and don’t) buy Wonder anyway. However, everything made by Hostess, which owned the Wonder brand, disappeared in November 2012 when Hostess filed for bankruptcy.

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