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8 Points to Visit in San Ysidro



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History

San Ysidro has come to be known as "The Gateway to the Americas" because of its location at the southernmost portion of California. Together with Tijuana, Mexico, it is considered the busiest border crossing city in the world.

The construction of Interstate 5 and Highway 805 during the 1970s and 80s gave San Ysidro the title of biggest port of entry worldwide.

San Ysidro's history dates back to the 1700s. At the time, the Kumeyaay Indians occupied what we know as San Diego. Franciscan Priest Junípero Serra, who came from the Loreto mission in Baja, established the current California Missions on those same lands.

In the early 1900s, centuries after Fray Junípero Serra had first arrived to California, a settlement was established by William Smythe. This settlement was named "Little Landers Colony." Years later it was renamed San Ysidro in honor of the farmer's patron saint. In 1957 it was annexed to the City of San Diego.

8 Points to Visit in San Ysidro

  1. U.S. Custom House
    The first U.S. Custom House was built in 1874. From 1932-1933, another building was constructed to replace the old one under the design of James A. Wetmore. Mr. Wetmore worked as Architectural Supervisor of the U.S. Treasury Department in Washington for over 40 years. At least 2,000 buildings were designed in his office. In 1983, the U.S. Custom House in San Ysidro entered the National Register of Historical Places.
  2. Plaza el Toreador
    El Toreador Motel was built in 1947 by a Portuguese contractor. This Spanish-style motel has been a stopping place for many celebrities including Buster Keaton, John Wayne, and Jay Silverheels. Many elite travelers from Mexico and the U.S. stayed in the motel because of its proximity to Casino Agua Caliente in Tijuana. El Toreador owes its name to the Spanish word torero which means bullfighter. It is believed the toreros who stayed at the motel prayed at the grotto where there is an altar to the Virgin Mary. The motel was closed in 1985 and was later turned into a shopping center.
  3. San Ysidro's Public Library
    San Ysidro's public library was built in 1924 in Little Landers Park. It was constructed with a $7,000 donation by Frank Beyer. Mr. Beyer was a mining engineer, a partner in the Southern California Jockey Club and a philanthropist. The construction of the library was just one from his many contributions to San Ysidro. The library is currently one of San Diego's smallest branch libraries.
  4. Feed Store
    Joe Cuen came to San Ysidro from Tijuana, Mexico in 1933. Six years later, he opened the San Ysidro Feed Store with little money in his pocket. Ed Cuen (Joe Cuen's son) is now the owner of the store. Because of the construction of Highway 805, the Feed Store had to relocate and is now located on W. San Ysidro Boulevard.
  5. Iglesia Torre Fuerte
    In 1927, Frank Beyer, considered one of San Ysidro's greatest benefactors, donated the land on which San Ysidro's first Catholic Church was built. Mr. Breyer also donated $1,000 for the church's construction fund. The church was built by contractor W.B. Settle and was named Our Lady of Mount Carmel. The building is still standing, but the congregation built a new larger facility.
  6. Visión International Church
    The community church was formally founded in 1913, but it wasn't until 1924 that the Mission Revival Architecture style was designed and built by architect Louis Gill, nephew of San Diego's most innovative architect Irving Gill. This was the first protestant church in the San Ysidro area used by the Little Landers. Several benefactors contributed to the construction of the church including Mr. Frank Beyer.
  7. Hotel San Ysidro
    The construction date of the Hotel San Ysidro is unknown. It is believed that is was constructed around the late 1800s or early 1900s. The land was formerly owned by George Balcher who later sold it to William Smythe. It was the original ranch for the Little Landers Colony. Later, Mr. Smythe turned it into a hotel because the settlement grew and accommodations for potential buyers were needed. Currently the hotel acts as a boarding house.
  8. Hardware and Grocery Store
    The building used to be known as San Ysidro Commercial Company. It was built in 1929 by R.W. (Bob) Smith. A few years after the store opened, Bob's brother-in-law, Dave Horowitz, joined as a partner. In 1935, Bob, together with his family, started a business in San Diego named R.W. Smith and Co. He sold his partnership to Dave Horowitz and moved to San Diego. Dave maintained the business until 1949. After that, he sold the business and retired.

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