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Del Mar is truly a gem on San Diego’s north coast. The climate is ideal all year long, with the average temperature hovering between 65 and 78 degrees. The sunniest months are November through March; the warmest months are July through October.

Within the Del Mar city limits, a quaint historical village dating back to the 1800s serves as a backdrop to a small seaside resort first made famous in the 1930s by racehorse aficionados form Hollywood.

Today Carmel Valley is an important part of the greater Del Mar community, which is one of Southern California’s prized destinations. Known nationally for its premier race track and thoroughbred horse meet and gamed throughout California for the San Diego County Fair, Del Mar is fast becoming a popular resort destination. It is also a delightful residential community with a long history, which began with the railroad.

The Start of it All

The California Southern Railroad began service in 1882 on a track through what is now Del Mar, linking San Diego to San Bernardino. The railroad’s contractor/engineer, Theodore M. Loop, soon built the first house, at the mouth of the creek off Carmel Valley Road. Loop created a tent city on beachfront land he owned and sponsored weekend excursions that attracted many people.

The land boom that came with the expansion of the railroad and the discovery of Southern California as a desirable place to live influenced Loop to subdivide the land he owned on the mesa and resell it as home sites. A half-mile-wide town was plotted along both sides of the railroad, reaching approximately two miles along the coast, with the northern end of the town bounded by the river mouth. Park land was set aside along the bluffs. Five bluff-top ocean-view lots were reserved for a luxury hotel, which would be located near the future Southern California depot. Loop’s wife named the town Del Mar, meaning “of the sea.”

In the Past

In bygone days, an early feature in the town was a natatorium, the only bathing pool on the Pacific coast built into the surf. The pool was 40 feet by 198 feet and the far end was shaped like a ship’s prow to absorb the breakers. A dance pavilion on the beach with two floors of dressing rooms underneath for bathers stood at the foot of 11th Street.

Casa del Mar, the first hotel, was completed in August 1886, making the town a full-fledged seaside resort and a mecca for tired businessmen, scholars, idlers, sages and fair women seeking health, rest and recreation. Soon there was also an observation tower, a water system, a depot and a school, all in the park.

Stars of the Past

In 1933 the 22nd District Agricultural Association conducted a search for a permanent location for the county fair, finally agreeing to the present 184-acre site in the San Dieguito Valley. It was decided that a race track would also be constructed on the site.

Bing Crosby, who owned property in Rancho Santa Fe and had a stud barn for his thoroughbred horses, brought the Del Mar Turf Club into being. In 1937 the track opened, with many Hollywood stars among the 15,000 attendees.

Thanks to the fair and the race meet, the hotel was heavily booked and the demand for beachfront property was high. Jimmy Durante and Desi Arnaz, soon to be followed by other celebrities, purchased beachfront property lots.

Del Mar residents voted in favor if incorporation, and in 1959 the city of Del Mar became an official government entity. Soon it had its own fire department and lifeguard department.

Then There Was Del Mar Heights

In 1887 the firm of Howard and Lyons decided to develop the land adjoining Del Mar to the east, calling the new subdivision Del Mar Heights. They held a luncheon to attract new people to the new community. 75 people arrived from Los Angeles and 250 from San Diego. Following the lunch, an auction for the land sites was conducted. There were 230 sales and the average price paid was $175.