History collage


Naming of the Torrey Pine | Protecting the Pines | Establishment of Park
Torrey Pines Lodge Built | Park Expansion | Interest Groups formed to Assist TPSNR

Native Americans

Long before Europeans arrived, the Torrey Pines area was home to the Kumeyaay. Their lands extended from the Pacific Ocean south to what is now Ensenada, Mexico, east to the sand dunes of the Colorado River in the Imperial Valley, and north through the Warner Springs Valley, to what is now Oceanside and Highway 78. These lands were linked together by vast trading networks.

Living in bands of extended families, the Kumeyaay traveled the coast, mountains, and desert foothills. They spoke several dialects - the "Ipai" here in the north, and the "Tipai" in the south.

Their shelters and shade ramadas were constructed from local plants, which included willow, oak, manzanita, deerweed, tule, and chamise. Some of these, as well as other local materials, were also used in their fine coiled baskets and pottery.

Seasonally appropriate clothing, such as robes, capes, and blankets as well as skirts were made from rabbit skins. Buck skin, sea otter skin, and bark were also used. Shoes and sandals were made of agave or yucca fiber. Personal items included necklaces, bracelets, hairpins, and musical instruments. These were made from bones, claws, hooves and shells.

Stone was the raw material used for the making of many tools, which included knives and projectile points. The Kumeyaay were also adept at the use of milling and grinding tools used in the processing of many foods, such as the acorns, which were seasonally gathered in the local mountains. In addition, they gathered roots, berries, nuts and seeds, some of which were used for medicinal purposes.

The Kumeyaay were seasonal hunters. They processed many plants for food and practiced limited horticulture. They fished and hunted sea animals in the lagoons and ocean using fishhooks and nets. They also gathered grunion (small fish), shellfish, and mollusks from the beaches. The Kumeyaay hunted game ranging from rabbits and quail to large animals such as deer using implements like bows and arrows, throwing sticks and snares.

Today, Kumeyaay people still live in many of the same areas, including San Diego County and neighboring Baja California, Mexico. To learn about Kumeyaay language, stories and customs, visit their websites at www.Kumeyaay.org. and www.Kumeyaay.com.  Mike Winterton, TPSNR Ranger

return to top

Naming of the Torrey Pine

Because groves of trees were not common along the Southern California coast, early Spanish explorers (1500-1700 AD) referred to this area as Punto de Los Arboles, which literally means "Point of Trees." They used this area both as a landmark and as a warning that they were too close to the shore in the fog. In 1769, the Portola-Serra Sacred Expedition passed through nearby Sorrento Valley on its way from San Diego to colonize Monterey and establish missions along the way. The trail they used is referred to as El Camino Real. The trees themselves were referred to as Soledad Pines (Solitary Pines) by the first non-Native Americans to visit the area. The name remained until 1850.

The first modern account of the Torrey pine occurred with the renaming of the tree in 1850. It was "officially" discovered by Dr. Charles Christopher Parry. This was the year that California became a State of the Union. Parry was in San Diego as botanist for the US - Mexico Boundary Survey. The purpose of the survey was to determine the boundaries between Mexico and California. Parry was a medical doctor with an interest in botany: specifically, why plants grew where they did and how Indians used plants. This area and the Torrey Pine tree were brought to his attention by entomologist Dr. John Le Conte. Parry named the tree for his friend and colleague, Dr. John Torrey, of New York. Torrey was one of the leading botanists of his time. He had co-authored A Flora of North America, and was the sole author of A Flora of New York State. Unfortunately, Torrey never came here. But Parry did send him samples of seeds, branches, and cones.  Judy Schulman, Torrey Pines Docent Society (TPDS) Docent

return to top

Protecting the Pines

In 1883, Parry re-visited the area. Surprised at the lack of protection for the trees, he wrote a historical and scientific account of the pine emphasizing the need to protect the tree from extermination. This was presented to the San Diego Society of Natural History.

The first source of protection came in 1885 from the San Diego County Board of Supervisors. They posted signs citing a reward of $100 for the apprehension of anyone vandalizing a Torrey pine tree.

This attempt to protect the trees was reinforced by botanist J. G. Lemmon of the newly formed California State Board of Forestry. In 1888, he suggested that appropriate legislation be mandated to protect the tree. That same year, the mystique of the tree was enhanced by botanist T. S. Brandagee's discovery of Torrey pines on Santa Rosa Island. Several theories have been set forth trying to explain the two stands of trees some 175 miles apart. These include that trees were planted there from bird droppings; that earthquakes moved landmasses over long periods of time due to plate tectonics; and that the trees were once more widely spread along the Southern California coast.

In 1890, some pueblo lands in San Diego were leased for cattle and sheep grazing. This was in spite of early warnings for preservation. In order to clear the land, trees were cut and hauled away to be used for firewood. The present Torrey Pines area was included in this lease.  Judy Schulman, TPDS Docent.

More about Charles Parry

return to top

Establishment of Park

Persuaded by city father George Marston, botanists David Cleveland and Belie Angler, the City Council in 1899 passed an ordinance to set aside 364 acres of pueblo lands as a public park. Unfortunately, the ordinance made no provisions for protecting the tree.

After the turn of the century, the lands surrounding the park were in danger of being commercially sold. Between 1908 and 1911, newspaper woman and philanthropist, Ellen Browning Scripps, acquired two additional pueblo lots and willed them to the people of San Diego. This added to the park the area of North Grove and the estuary. By the time she died in 1932, Miss Scripps had contributed greatly not only to the establishment of our park, but also to the Natural History Museum, Scripps Institution of Oceanography, the Zoo, the La Jolla Childrens' Pool, and the Scripps Clinic and Research facility.

Representing the San Diego Society of Natural History and the San Diego Floral Association, Guy Fleming and Ralph Sumner visited the park in 1916 to conduct botanical studies. Their report of damage caused by picnickers and campers resulted in public support for the preservation of the area. The movement was spearheaded by Miss Scripps.

In 1921, Miss Scripps and the City Park Commission appointed Guy Fleming as the first custodian of the park. A former naturalist and landscaper, he later went on to become the District Superintendent for the State Park System in Southern California.

In 1922, Miss Scripps retained Ralph Cornell, a well known landscape architect, to suggest a long term plan for the park. His three-part plan called for restrictions against changing the original landscape or introducing plants or features not indigenous to the area or over-cultivating the Torrey pine to the exclusion of open spaces.  Judy Schulman, TPDS Docent

More about Guy Fleming

return to top

Torrey Pines Lodge Built

Also in 1922, Ellen Browning Scripps financed the construction of Torrey Pines Lodge. The architects were Richard Requa and H. L. Jackson. They applied modern methods to the use of adobe bricks. These modern methods were said to protect the earth walls from rain, capillary moisture, and earthquakes. The lodge was styled after the Hopi Indian houses of the Arizona desert. According to one newspaper article, Indian crews were brought over from Arizona to insure exactness of the construction. Requa was one of the leading exponents of the Mission Revival style. Later he became the Director of Architecture for the 1935 California Pacific International Exposition at Balboa Park.

The Lodge was completed in February, 1923, and used as a restaurant. Both tour buses and locals out for a Sunday drive made it a regular stop. Our current display area was the main dining room. People also ate out on the front terrace. The ranger office was the kitchen and food storage area. The slide room and the docent lounge were the living room and bedroom of the Burkholders, the first restaurant proprietors. The Resource Ecologist's office was the waitresses' bunkroom.  Judy Schulman, TPDS Docent

return to top

Expansion of the Park

In 1924, the city council added other pueblo lands to the park. This addition was the result of a request for expansion by the City Park Commission and interested civic groups. The park now included almost 1,000 acres of cliffs, canyons, mesas, and beach. Between 1928 and 1930, the League To Save Torrey Pines fought and won against a proposed cliff road above the beach. The purpose of the road was to eliminate curves and grades in the old road. The opponents felt that the road would not only destroy a section of the park but would also be costly to build. One of the reasons the League was so against this new road was that it called for using landfill in the canyons so that the road could go across them.

With the advent of W.W.II, the Army leased 750 acres of Torrey Pines Mesa from the City of San Diego to be used for training purposes. Camp Callan then came into being as an anti-aircraft artillery replacement training center. It extended from the southernmost boundaries of Torrey Pines Park towards the Muir Campus of UCSD. In return for an occupational permit to use the lower portion of the park, the military had to guarantee that no part of the park would be damaged. The park itself was kept open to the public. The camp opened during January, 1941, and closed November, 1945. The buildings were torn down and used for lumber to build homes for veterans.

The city park under the authority of the San Diego Department of Parks & Recreation did not have the legal authority to protect the many endangered species with the level of protection they needed.  So a special city election in 1956 resulted in giving the nearly 1,000 acre park to the State of California for the higher protection afforded by being a state reserve. About 100 acres were appropriated for the construction of a public golf course. The State Park became official in 1959.  In 2007 the nomenclature was changed to Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve.

Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve Extension was acquired in 1970 after six years of effort. Starting in 1964, local conservation groups (Torrey Pines Association, the Sierra Club, the Citizens Coordinate) became concerned with bulldozing of Torrey pines on the north side of Los Penasquitos lagoon to make roads for residential developments. In addition to support from local civic, social, and school groups, there was a lot of national media attention. The acquisition added about 197 acres and 1500 trees. Plants in the Extension not found in the main part of the Reserve include the coastal blue lilac and the scarlet larkspur.  Judy Schulman, TPDS Docent

return to top

Interest Groups formed to Assist TPSNR

The Torrey Pines Association was founded in 1950 by Guy Fleming. Its purpose was to unite people interested in the protection of the tree. The Association was, and still is, involved in conservation of the Torrey pine and in serving as watchdogs of the area. Today they are known for their work in the acquisition of the Extension, lobbying for protection of the tree, supporting special projects for the welfare of the tree, providing funds for the enhancement of buildings and trails, supporting the purchase and maintenance of educational materials and furnishings, providing memorial gifts, and sponsoring publications concerning the Reserve.

The Torrey Pines Wildlife Association came into existence in 1965. Their purpose was to be involved with public education, scientific observation, and conservation. A group of the Association known as "lodge sitters" was the predecessor of the Docent Society.

The Torrey Pines Docent Society was started in 1975 under the guidance and training of Ranger Linda Engel. As an organization of volunteer nature guides, its members--just as they are now--were dedicated to the preservation and interpretation of the natural features of the park. In addition to staffing the Visitor Center, members also give nature walks and do special projects. Some of these projects have included making a commercial for the State Park System "Year of the Volunteer" in 1980, helping to fund a cable series on State Parks, publishing books, producing postcards, and designing museum displays.  Judy Schulman, TPDS Docent

return to top

Aerial photos of Torrey Pines State Beach

Home | Park Info | Activities | Education | History | Plants | Animals | Geology | Docent Login | Contact Us

Copyright Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve 2013
Site designed by Goodkin Design

Trail maps Volunteering Donations Torreyana newsletter Frequently asked questions Related links Aerial photos of Torrey Pines State Beach Map of Torrey Pines State Reserve Contact us