In 1872, at a meeting in San Francisco, the Presiding Elders of the Methodist church contemplated the idea of establishing a summer resort in northern California where good Christian families could find an annual respite for restoring their spiritual and physical vitality.
The Church Elders were inspired by the work of Reverend William B. Osborne, a Methodist preacher who, in 1870, established a seaside resort along the northern coast of New Jersey. Osborne’s camp was called “Ocean Grove” and New Jersey issued a state charter to the “Ocean Grove Camp Meeting Association.” The Association was granted the power to acquire and sell land and provide other services and improvements necessary for the establishment of a permanent town.
Eventually, the Ocean Grove Camp Meeting Association parceled out over 1,971 lots “where families of like mind can pitch their tents, and for a while in the summer enjoy the sea air, bathing, fishing, etc. having such social and religious exercises intermingled as convenience and inclination might suggest.”
In 1873, a Methodist minister from Alameda named W.S. Ross and his wife, “both being in feeble health,” in the words of contemporary records, “and having tried all the remedies that science could suggest, were advised to find some place where the fluctuations from heat to cold were merely nominal. After many months spent in research, it was at last decided that Monterey was the most likely place to supply those requirements.”
While visiting Monterey, Reverend Ross was introduced to David Jacks whereupon Jacks urged Ross to dwell among the pine trees using a small shack located about one-half block below the present site of the Methodist Church in Pacific Grove [near Sixteenth Street and Lighthouse?]. Sleeping in hammocks under trees, Reverend Ross lived primarily on fish, game and sea air. After several weeks, with his health much improved, his recovery was described as miraculous.
Reverend Ross became so enamored with the piney paradise that he suggested to the church elders, and to David Jacks, that it be considered for the site of the seaside resort that the Presiding Elders had been seeking.
Jacks—probably less motivated by eleemosynary considerations than he was by the prospect of having such a group of eminent men help gin up demand for his property—heartily welcomed the idea. Turning over control of a small nucleus of his massive holdings in the Rancho Punta de los Piños to a wealthy assembly of pious families would certainly enhance the value of his other property in the vicinity, which was nearly all the property in the vicinity.
Jacks promptly wrote a letter to the Presiding Elder of San Francisco at the time, Reverend George Clifford, suggesting that his property by the sea would be perfectly suited to their purposes.
A committee comprised of Bishop J. T. Peck, Reverend Clifford, Reverend Ross, and Reverend George Ash of Salinas was formed to investigate the suitability of the area. Jacks arranged to meet them in Salinas and took them by horse and buggy to visit the property. The view from what we now call “Lover’s Point” must have been breathtaking to any among them that still required convincing. Preliminary negotiations for the camp had begun that evening over dinner at David Jack’s home in Monterey.
On September 15, 1874, at the 23rd Conference of the Methodist Church held at the Central Church in San Francisco, David Jacks officially offered the Church 100 acres of land to form the basis of their retreat.
On May 28, 1875, Jacks formally transferred the 100 acres to the church. According to the May 29 issue of the Monterey Weekly Herald, the 100 acre site was being referred to as “Ocean Grove.”
On June 1, 1875, a meeting was held at 9am at the Methodist Episcopal Church on Howard Street in San Francisco for the purpose of selecting the board of trustees for a new organization to assume responsibility for the supervision and operation of the proposed camp.
According to the minutes of the meeting, “Various names were presented for the association and its grounds and, after a comparison of view and tastes, the name of Pacific Grove Retreat was finally agreed upon and adopted.”
Thus, at this organizational meeting, it seems some thoughtful soul had the presence of mind to question the prudence of calling the retreat, “Ocean Grove.” By changing “Ocean” to “Pacific,” the association obviated any confusion that might have arisen by having two Methodist retreats of the same name. Yet, the new name—though adding the distinctive spirit of the Pacific coast—still pays quiet homage to its Ocean Grove, N.J. inspiration.
1875 Surveyor Plan for Pacific Grove Retreat
According to its agreement with David Jacks, the Retreat Association would manage the configuration, price and sale of the 100 acres at the association’s expense, provided that the land was sold for no less than $500 per acre. The trustees ordered the lots to be thirty feet in width fronting on streets and sixty feet in depth extending back from streets, together with such larger lots as shall be found convenient and economical upon survey.
The proceeds from the sale of every other lot were to be paid to Jacks, with the remainder retained by the association to cover its expenses.
The association fixed the minimum price of the lots at $50 and appointed a committee authorized to grade the prices upward from that amount according to location and value. The purchase price was payable on what was considered easy terms at the time: one-half down, one-half after one year from the date of purchase, with interest at one percent per month.
If two or more people desired the same lot, the committee was authorized to sell the lot to the highest bidder. No person was allowed to purchase and hold more than two lots at one time. Owners were required to make and maintain improvements (i.e., build a house) at an expense equal to at least double the purchase price of the lot. The improvements had to be made within two years from the date of purchase.
Curiously, someone at the meeting insisted that “the streets or avenues be not named after or by names of men.” Upon motion, a resolution was passed to that effect.
The association promptly incorporated in California, and on June 15, 1875 its articles of incorporation were filed Monterey County Courthouse. By then, Jacks had already begun clearing much of the ground and a Mr. John Cox, a surveyor from San Francisco, was engaged to survey the land.
On August 8, the retreat opened three weeks of prayer meetings which were held in an enormous tent set up in what is now Jewell Park. Beneath the tent stood an elaborate preacher’s stand—in the shape of a square with four gables—which was, in the words of A Handbook of Monterey published in 1876, “an elegant structure, carefully and substantially built by [Herman] Prinz of Monterey, containing a platform for the ministers and seats for the choir.” Robert Louis Stevenson would later describe it as an “open-air temple, with benches and sounding-board, as though for an orchestra.” When Chautauqua Hall was built for indoor meetings in [1881?], the stand was sold and fitted for a stable and later used to form a garage at 311 Forest.
The first sale of lots was held on August 26, 1875 and among the first buyers were Reverend J. W. Ross, (Rev.) Dr. Frank Jewell, and (Rev.) Dr. Thomas Sinex. If you ever travel on Jewell or Sinex streets in present-day Pacific Grove, you might consider how Drs. Jewell and Sinex would have reacted if they had known that streets were to be named in their honor.
The prayer meetings became an annual event and the accommodations for both the prayer sessions and the campers were expanded each year to meet demand.
In 1874, Lake Chautauqua, New York became the venue for a summer training camp for Methodist Sunday School teachers. “Chautauqua” soon developed into a nation-wide educational and cultural network, featuring lectures, concerts, readings and social entertainment.The Chautauqua Assembly first came to Pacific Grove in the summer of 1879, meeting in a large tent set up at Forest Avenue and Seventeenth Street.
Until 1880, Pacific Grove Retreat was first and foremost a summer resort, with only a few residents remaining throughout the winter. During the summer, hundreds of tents were set up at Sixteenth, Seventeenth, and Eighteenth streets, and along Lighthouse Avenue from Grant to Forest. Campers were charged 50 cents a head, which included wood, water, and clean up.
At the end of each summer, the tents were taken down, leaving only the wooden frames standing.
In 1879, Robert Louis Stevenson in his Old Pacific Capital, captured the sensibility of the place during the off season:
One day—I shall never forget it—I had taken a trail that was new to me. After a while the woods began to open, the sea to sound near at hand.I came upon a road, and, to my surprise, a stile. A step or two farther, and, without leaving the woods, I found myself among trim houses. I walked through street after street, parallel and at right angles, paved with sward and dotted with trees, but still undeniable streets, and each with its name posted at the corner, as in a real town.Facing down the main thoroughfare—“Central Avenue,” as it was ticketed—I saw an open-air temple, with benches and sounding board, as though for an orchestra. The houses were all tightly shuddered; there was no smoke, no sound but the waves, no moving thing.I have never been in any place that seemed so dreamlike.Pompeii is all in a bustle with visitors, and its antiquity and strangeness deceived the imagination; but this town had plainly not been built above a year or two; and perhaps had been deserted overnight. Indeed, it was not so much like a deserted town as like a scene upon the stage by daylight, and with no one on the boards. The barking of the dog led me at last to the only house still occupied, where a Scotch pastor and his wife passed the winter alone in this empty theater. The place was “The Pacific Camp Grounds, the Christian Seaside Resort.Thither, in the warm season, crowds came to enjoy a life of teetotalism, religion, and flirtation, which I am willing to think blameless and agreeable. In January 1880, the Southern Pacific Railway completed its connection between Castroville and Monterey, linking Monterey to points north as far as San Francisco. Desiring to build a large luxury hotel in Monterey not far from the terminus of its railway station, Southern Pacific—through a sister holding company formed in 1878 for such purposes, the Pacific Improvement Company—had its eye on a piece of property owned by David Jacks, a very big piece of property.
By a deed dated May 3, 1880, David Jacks sold to the Pacific Improvement Company all of the pueblo lands that remained in his control, including nearly all of Jacks’s holdings in the Rancho Punta de los Piños and Rancho El Pescadero areas. This included unsold properties in Pacific Grove, plus Asilomar, the Del Monte forest, and Pebble Beach—more than two thirds of the Monterey Peninsula (except for the Gomez property, comprising a strip of land wedged between the northwest side of the Rancho El Pescadero and the northwest side of Rancho Punta de los Piños). What was the price for all this land? $35,000!
It must be asked, what could possibly have persuaded David Jacks to sell off such a large, valuable property at what appeared to be a fire sale price? At the time, small lots just a fraction of an acre in the Pacific Grove Retreat were selling in the hundreds of dollars. Rancho Punto de los Piños and Rancho El Pescadero alone comprised 2,667 acres and 4,426 acres, respectively, and his lands in the vicinity of Monterey included what is now known as the entire Fort Ord property and the city of Marina.
Could David Jacks have been given an offer he couldn’t refuse?
The buyer, the Pacific Grove Improvement Company, was owned by California’s “Big Four”—Leland Stanford, Charles Crocker, Collis Huntington, and Mark Hopkins, the merchants who founded the Central Pacific Railroad, the western extension of the transcontinental railroad. By then, the Big Four had also acquired the Southern Pacific Railroad, which was moving aggressively to extend its lines throughout California. By the time the Big Four aimed its sights on Monterey, they collectively had amassed one of the largest personal fortunes in the world and were clearly the most powerful men on the west coast.
Their power was both financial and political. As a Congressional investigation was later to uncover, the U.S. government was reckoned that Leland Stanford and his partners spent over $2¼ million to influence legislation during the years they were building their railroad and land development empire. Leland Stanford had served as governor of California from ___ to ____, and certainly had the money and connections to influence the California legislature. David Jacks had to be concerned: What the legislature giveth, it might taketh away. And if putting the legislative screws against Jacks didn’t work, Stanford might have applied his considerable influence with the State’s judiciary.
As powerful as David Jacks had become on the Monterey Peninsula, his powerbase was no match for the likes of the Big Four. Charles Crocker was particularly intent on building his hotel and he must have been convinced, from past experience, that the arrival of the railroad and a world-class resort would have a dramatic affect on the area’s real estate values.
David Jacks was already a made man, and a good part of his fortune was made by virtue of a transaction he completed with the Southern Pacific Railroad eight years earlier. Jacks owned Rancho Chualar, an 8,890 acre tract of land about nine miles south of Salinas. Working with several business associates in the Salinas Valley, Jacks persuaded the Southern Pacific to push their railroad south to his Rancho Chualar. He dedicated land for a right-of-way, laid out a town, and guaranteed a large freight business. With the railroad coming through town, and soon extended southward, he was able to sell off lots in the new town at a significant profit.
At the end of the day, David Jacks had sufficient reason to take the $35,000, not the least of which was to avoid being on the weaker end of a winner take all match-up.
With much of the Monterey Peninsula lands in their position, the Pacific Improvement Company soon opened the legendary Del Monte Hotel. Situated within 126 acres of forest, now the site of the Naval Post Graduate School, the legendary and highly successful Del Monte Hotel hosted prominent guests, mostly arriving from San Francisco, now just a three hour train ride away.
When the Pacific Grove Retreat Association got wind of Jacks’ deal, they expressed grave concerns that the new circumstances would adversely effect the morals and tone of the Pacific Grove Retreat. Consequently, David Jacks negotiated conditions in his sale agreement that assured that, while the Pacific Improvement Company would retain financial management of the lands, the Pacific Grove Association would continue to have “moral and prudential control over the grounds,” control which extended a distance of one mile from the geographical center of the original survey (at the intersection of Fountain and Central Avenues).
To no one’s surprise, with the railroad bringing the Monterey Peninsula within hours of San Francisco, the area soon experienced a real estate boom. Having seen how rapid economic growth adversely affected other California towns of the era, the Grove’s founding fathers were as determined as ever to retain the pious nature of the community—and they had the means to do it.
Deeds to all property within the retreat had already included restrictive covenants forbidding the sale or use of “any spirituous or malt intoxicating liquors, wine or cider” and the conduct of “any species of card or dice playing, gaming or gambling.” The deeds specifically provided that any violations of the covenants, or any of the by-laws or rules and regulations of the Pacific Retreat Association, would result in the automatic termination of title.
Accordingly, the Association moved quickly to strengthen its by-laws and rules by passing ordinances, which it could enforce by the cancellation of title. The first of these new rules were dated June 21, 1883 and signed by Frank F. Jewell, Secretary. They included a prohibition against walking on the grounds to the beach in a bathing suit and, when at the beach, no person was allowed to appear on the beach or in the water “in tights or Jerseys only.” A speed limit was established prohibiting any person on the grounds on horseback or carriages from riding or driving faster than a walk.
One rule, entitled “Six Days Shalt Thou Labor,” prohibited baggage from being delivered on the grounds on Sunday in time of public religious service. Another, entitled “Disturbance,” stated,
Profane or obscene language and all loud and boisterous talking—coarseness and rudeness—are to be discountenanced as not in harmony with good order and propriety.
Among other prohibitions, the new rules made it clear that the buying, selling or giving away of any and all intoxicants—spirituous liquors, wine, beer or cider—were strictly prohibited on any public or private property within one mile of the center of the original survey of the Retreat.
Over the years, these rules were strengthened by ordinances specifying more detailed prohibitions. These “blue laws” were amended to prohibit bathing and swimming on Sunday, on which day stores were permitted to sell only medicine. Bathing suits were required to be made of an opaque material “worn in such a manner as to preclude form, from above the nipples of the breast to below the crotch” and must have “double crotches or a skirt of ample size to cover the buttocks.” Dancing was prohibited altogether.
A curfew was enacted which prohibited any person under eighteen from being on the streets after eight o’clock in the evening in the winter or nine in the summer. The shades in all houses had to be kept up until 10 p.m., at which time they were to be lowered and the lights extinguished.
Before the reader dismisses these actions as the mere moral prudishness of an outdated assembly of extremists, contrast the near lawless state of other California towns of the Gold Rush era with the following description of the retreat, published in May 3, 1886, by the person responsible for enforcing its laws, the town superintendent:
I want to say to all parents and all interested, that out of all the resorts on the coast, Pacific Grove is the only place where you can say as a fact that you are entirely clear of all objectionable things that are usually found where large crowds of people congregate. No whiskey, wine or cider is sold; no dancing or carousing, or roughness of any description is permitted; all places of public assemblies or public parlors close at 10 p.m. Persons are not permitted to go carousing and strolling through the grounds at all hours of the night to the discomfort of others. We have a night watchman and a well-regulated fire department whose duty it is to see that all is quiet and safe during the night; and during my residence of eight years here we have never had to make an arrest.
The town erected a high fence encircling the entire retreat except the side facing the bay. A gate blocking the entrance to the retreat was locked each evening at 9 o’clock. These measures were designed to prevent “both intrusions from interlopers and the sale of lots to the ungodly.” However, the inconvenience caused by the locked gate, especially to those permanent residents who traveled frequently to Monterey, soon proved too intrusive.
Late one evening, State Senator Benjamin Langford, who owned a summer home in the Grove, arrived at the locked gate with his family. Rather than hike the mile or so necessary to retrieve the key from the Retreat Association’s office, he chose rather to do violence to the gate. Taking an axe to the stile, he once and for all eliminated the physical, if not the spiritual, barrier that separated Pacific Grove from its neighbor to the east.
Growth on the peninsula continued throughout the 1880s and, by the end of the decade, Pacific Grove had about 1,500 permanent residents. The real estate boom was turning into another kind of boom: a housing boom.