Halls of History—Torrey Arms Apartments, and more Torrey stuff

Halls of History

I haven’t subscribed to a daily newspaper for four years, nor have I had television or cable in that same span. That left me wanting since my day usually started with the news, breakfast, and a shower. It took me a while to replace the news but the Internet and our local weekly paper, the San Diego Reader, have allowed me to carry on.

The San Diego Reader often has articles about local history as well as places and events to check out. Earlier this year they had an article on the history of San Diego State University. Turns out that the original campus still exists, so I went to wander around and take pictures. While I was wandering around, I discovered the Torrey Arms Apartments across from the old campus. Looks like this:

Torrey Arms Apartments, 4260 Campus Avenue, San Diego CA

The address, 4260 Campus Avenue, even tells us something about the history of the area. When I first came to San Diego in April 1993, this area and the beaches were where I hung out. I had always wondered why the street was Campus Avenue since there was no “campus” anywhere along the street, or at either end. It only took me 24 years….

From my research, I discovered that the Victorian main building was built in 1885 and is one of San Diego’s oldest buildings. The courtyard units seen at the sides in the picture were built in the 1930s.

There are 21 units in the building:

  • 11 studios, 300 square feet each
  • 7 units with 1 bedroom and 1 bathroom, 500 square feet each
  • 2 units with 2 bedrooms and 1 bathroom, 751 square feet each
  • 1 penthouse with 800 square feet but no indication of the number of bedrooms and bathrooms

John Torrey courtesy of WikipediaI found one source that stated the property once was owned by the renowned botanist Dr. John Torrey (picture at right). If that’s true, then we might have to define “property” because Dr. Torrey, born in New York City in 1796 and dying there in 1873, predates the construction of the main building by twelve years.

The same source stated that Dr. Torrey “discovered and named the Torrey Pine.” That’s not true. Someone’s using alternative facts. Plants and animals rarely, if ever, were named by the discoverer after himself/herself. In this case, the Torrey Pine was discovered on June 26, 1850, by Charles Parry, courtesy of WikipediaCharles Parry (1823-1890; picture at right), who came to San Diego in 1849 at the age of 26. Parry was a doctor, botanist, geologist, and surveyor. Parry named his new discovery after Dr. Torrey, one of his botany teachers at Columbia University.

Parry’s diaries, journals, and notes reside at the Iowa State University library as the Parry Collection.


Torrey Arms Apartments was for sale as recently as May 2016 for $4,260,000 but public records indicate that it still is owned by the people who bought it in October 2012.

Sources: The 1850 Discovery of the Torrey Pine, by James Lightner, 2014, and Wikipedia entries for John Torrey and Charles Parry.

Large Torrey Pine in Del Mar, California
Torrey Pine in Del Mar, California

This post approved by Zoey the Cool Cat

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