Structure Type: built works - industrial buildings - power plants; built works - infrastructure - transportation structures

Designers: Hebbard, William Sterling, Architect (firm); William Sterling Hebbard Sr. (architect)

Dates: constructed 1889-1890

4th Avenue and Spruce Street
Bankers Hill, San Diego, CA 92103

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This ill-fated cable car venture, the San Diego Cable Railway Company, began service on 06/07/1890, and ended service in 08/1893. A new owner of the company's rolling stock and track transformed the cable car system into one run by electric motors in 1894 and renamed the "Citizen’s Traction Company."

Building History

In the late 1880s, George D. Copeland inaugurated electric rail service along 4th Avenue to the University Heights tract being completed. Copeland; he sold his interest in this route to three investors--D. D. Dare, J. W. Collins and John C. Fisher--keen on transforming the electric rail line into a cable car system. Dare and Collins ran the California National Bank that was in the process of lending liberally to various public improvement projects that aimed to keep people in San Diego. (The city experienced a real estate bubble that started to drain population from it in 1888.) Dare and Collins soon overextended their bank and undermined the cable car system's financial viability in the process.

The Powerhouse for San Diego's Cable Railway Company was the first independent commission taken on by the young, Cornell-trained architect William Sterling Hebbard. An article published on the Cable Railway Company described the Powerhouse: "The power house was a solid brick building, with a frontage on Fourth of 100 feet, 200 feet on Spruce, and 40 feet on Third. The steam powered two Corliss engines on the Spruce side. Also found in the power house was the cable driving apparatus. It cost $30,000 with all the equipment. Since the road is divided into two parts, the cable moves at different speeds. 'The down rope ran eight miles an hour and the outer one running to Mission Cliff Gardens ran twelve miles an hour… there wasn’t as much traffic out there.'" (See Susan Davis Haga, "San Diego's Cable Railway," Journal of San Diego History, vol. 15, no. 2, Spring 1969.)

PCAD id: 22003