Out & About—Natural springs in a desert city

Out & About San Diego

Not too far from me—in fact, directly across the street—is Collier Park. It’s a quaint little park with tennis courts, a boarded up unused building, a non-working drinking fountain, some picnic tables, a creek which somehow always has water in it (this is a desert), some very tall very old eucalyptus trees, and some unpaved trails bordered by California pepper trees. Pretty much the only people who use the park are tennis players from the high school not too far away and people playing with their dogs.

Collier Park currently is being renovated. Since renovation often means “historical destruction,” I decided to do a little research and get some pictures just in case what was there would be no more.

Collier Park is named for Colonel David Charles Collier, a distinguished San Diego citizen and early La Mesa developer. Collier is perhaps best known for organizing the Panama-California Exposition at San Diego in 1915. However, he also built a railroad line to Ocean Beach in 1909 which led to a real estate boom at the beach.

Colonel Collier bought East County lands in 1905, which included the natural springs and what is now Collier Park. By 1907 he had established a bottling works on the site. Those bottling works are the Spring House. From everything I can find, apparently the bottling works are still in existence inside the Spring House.

La Mesa Spring HouseCollier Park La Mesa, California

La Mesa Spring House, Collier Park, La Mesa

Spring House ca. 1912La Mesa Spring House, ca. 1912

The natural springs made it a seasonal stopping place for the Kumeyaay Indians. By the 1860s, rancher Robert Allison owned most of the southern part of La Mesa, and his family used the springs to water their herds of sheep.

Water still springs forth from the natural springs, which is why there is water in that creek all the time. Here’s the little drainage line that comes out of the Spring House, draining that natural spring water into the little creek:

Natural spring drainage in Collier Park, La Mesa, California

In 1910, Collier donated a portion of what is now Collier Park for public use, and by 1920 the City was developing the site for use as a municipal park.

Natural spring creek and spring fountainCollier Park La Mesa, California

The red brick structure in the picture above is the Spring Fountain. Originally it was located at the La Mesa Depot of the San Diego & Cuyamaca Eastern Railroad, as seen in this picture from 1912:

Spring fountain at La Mesa Depot, ca. 1914

Water for the Spring Fountain was pumped from La Mesa Springs about a mile away. The Spring Fountain was in use until the 1960s when it was moved to Collier Park.

Renovation plans indicated that the Spring House was to be destroyed but the citizenry appeared to have rebelled, and those plans of destruction appear to be on hold while the City tries to figure out what to do. I vote for opening it up as a tourist attraction. It wouldn’t be on the scale of Disneyland but I think quite a few people would stop by to see natural springs smack dab in the middle of a thriving city.

Collier Park La Mesa, California

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This post approved by Zoey the Cool Cat

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8 thoughts on “Out & About—Natural springs in a desert city

    1. Russel Ray Photos Post author

      Thanks. I missed my calling 40 years ago. I wanted to be a major research university professor, like, maybe at my alma mater Texas A&M. Then I discovered that to do something like that would require another 6 years or so of school. Ha! I got my bachelor’s and took off! Still love history and research, though, so much so that I finally have decided to write a book that combines history with my love of trains (my dad and granddad worked for Missouri Pacific). You’ll see more posts about trains in the future than what I usually have done.

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  1. europasicewolf

    I hope they don’t destroy it completely. Historic destruction is never a good thing in my book and this place is very appealing. The history you researched is very interesting. It gives a whole new depth to a place 🙂

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    Reply
    1. Russel Ray Photos Post author

      Our city council acts like the city councils in many cities in that they don’t really seem to care about the city or the citizens. However, the citizenry of this city is not like other cities. They tend to be pretty active, and we finally turned blue last election for the first time ever. With the uproar that already has happened concerning this building, I bet it’s not going to be destroyed.

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