Ed Fletcher is father of Solana Beach
This inaugural “Meet Your Neighbor” column will introduce you to Col. Ed Fletcher, the father of Solana Beach for whom Fletcher Cove is named.
In 1923, Fletcher’s imagined a sunny beach at his developing community did not exist. However, with his brother-in-law, Eugene Batchelder, the name Solana Beach was optimistically chosen and approved.
“So why do you call it Solana Beach, when there is no beach?” one local asked Fletcher.
A visionary, Fletcher had plans for Solana Beach, despite the naysayer. He wrote in his self-published memoirs of 1952: “I laid out the present Plaza at Solana Beach and got permission to use the water from Lake Hodges dam that was going over the spillway to (cut) through a bank 100 feet high and 400 feet wide at Solana Beach. … It was a most interesting sight to see one man for three months, using hydraulic pressure, melt away the soil.”
And so access was carved through the sandstone bluffs to the beach below.
On July 4, 1924, Fletcher Cove opened to fanfare. Two years earlier, Fletcher had bought 140 acres from George H. Jones, who had originally paid $20 an acre for his farming property. It was reported that Fletcher negotiated upward of $100 an acre. His idea was to sell residential lots that also served as avocado and citrus groves, echoing the development in nearby Rancho Santa Fe.
That grand opening day saw celebrities mingling with picnicking locals who joined in the carnival atmosphere and witnessed history. Charlie Chaplin’s brother, Sydney Chaplin, made a speech. Silent movie star Bessie Love was there, and horse racing on the beach added to the excitement.
Fletcher moved his focus from the beach, creating a town center with the development of the Plaza. He built a garage, a hotel, a bank and a grocery store there. On the southwest corner of Highway 101 and Plaza Street, the first commercial structure was completed, and the Ford agency and service garage opened. Solana Beach was designed with the motor car in mind and had the latest in modern conveniences to facilitate this vision.
In the 1920s, lots were successfully sold for $1,500, a huge return on Fletcher’s investment. But on the heels of the stock market crash of 1929, a half-acre lot went for $500.
In the dark days of the Great Depression, Fletcher lost his bank building, the garage, hotel and land, which reverted to the original project backer — the railroad company. He turned his attention to other projects around San Diego County, helped with the advancement of road building, and in later years became a state senator.
If you’d like to share your stories about the personalities, places or events — past or present — that have shaped the culture of Solana Beach or Del Mar, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org, and your story may be included in the next Meet Your Neighbor column.
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