5th Avenue Streetcar History – Part 1

Fifth Avenue in the Gaslamp District is one of San Diego’s most popular destinations for tourists and locals alike. The stretch of Fifth south of Broadway is a mix of shops, restaurants, and office space, much as it was in the late 1800s. This stretch of Fifth is also one of the oldest streetcar routes in San Diego.

Track was first laid along Fifth Avenue in 1886 by the San Diego Streetcar Company, owned by Coronado developers Elisha Babcock and Hampton Story. The San Diego Streetcar Company operated horse-drawn streetcars in the downtown core and surrounding suburbs, starting service on July 3, 1886. The southern terminus of the system was the Pacific Coast Steamship Wharf at 5th and L St, near the National City & Otay and Coronado Railroad depots. From there, the line ran north up 5th to the luxury Florence Hotel in Florence Heights (Bankers Hill). Connecting routes crossed 5th at H Street (Market) serving the Coronado Ferry Terminal and Logan Heights area, and at D Street (Broadway) serving the Santa Fe Railroad Depot and the Golden Hill neighborhood.

Photo: Horse-drawn streetcar on Fifth Avenue facing north from Market Street, circa 1888. On the right is the Yuma Building, still extant (photo courtesy San Diego History Center).

For more San Diego streetcar history, see my book Images of Rail: San Diego Trolleys (Arcadia, 2017).

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