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.Grossmont High School.

At the turn of the twentieth century, a renewed interest in the arts created an intellectual and artistic groundswell that resulted in the formation of loose-knit organizations devoted to aesthetic pursuits in various pockets of Europe and America. Artists banded together to enhance their lives and provide a mutually supportive work environment. Centers of activity sprang up in London, Paris, San Francisco, Carmel and, on a much smaller scale, in Grossmont, California, a place that appeared to have little in common with its cosmopolitan and sophisticated predecessors.

Grossmont High School, built in 1922

Excerpts from:
"God's Garden:" The Grossmont Art Colony
by Kathleen Crawford

Grossmont: six hundred arid, rocky acres, bounded today by Interstate Highway 8, Fuerte Drive, Helix Drive. Pine Street and Bancroft Street, overlooks the pleasant valley of El Cajon and the gentle hills of La Mesa, twelve miles east of downtown San Diego. The small peak of Grossmont nestled beside its larger sister summit, Mount Helix, had long been used as an observation point by the citizens of San Diego. The first permanent settlement of the area took place during the mid-nineteenth century.

Granted the land in 1845, Dona Maria Antonia Estudillo, first in a long succession of owners and a member of one of the oldest families in San Diego , built a modest home at the base of the foothills. Another pioneer resident, Enoch Birdseye, followed her example and constructed his house at the foot of the knoll. The early death of Mr. Birdseye after one year ended his Grossmont residency.  

Ed Fletcher with Grossmont in the background, c. 1908. He first filed a subdivision map in 1910 naming the area Grossmont Park.

Serious development of the land commenced with the purchase of six hundred acres by Harvey C. Parke of the Parke-Davis Medical Company in Detroit, Michigan Named the Villa Caro Ranch, it soon became a show-place with its acres of lush citrus trees, fragrant with the aroma of scented blossoms. A spacious wooden Victorian home, various barns and corrals, a lily pond, and masses of deep green camellia bushes graced the property. Cork oak, mulberry, and wild persimmon trees blanketed the grounds in direct contrast to the chaparral covered slopes above.

William Gross, seated in the car at the far right, on a visit to Grossmont with Fred Jackson in 1909.

Serendipity directed the future of this small plot of land. While on a brief visit to Yellowstone National Park in 1901, Edward Fletcher, a transplanted Easterner newly settled in San Diego with his young family, struck up an acquaintance with another visitor to the park, William B. Gross. A ride in a six horse tallyho, a horse drawn buggy, cemented their friendship. They made plans to continue this bond back in San Diego and this led in time to the formation of the "Grossmont Art Colony."  

Pennsylvania-born William Gross, a theatrical agent and sometime actor, brought his talents to San Diego in response to a request from Fletcher to visit the family home. Gross, a man of medium height and stocky build, with hypnotic eyes and a red beard trimmed to a Mephistophelean point, emphasized his resemblance to King Edward VII of England. While in San Diego, the bachelor impresarios mentioned his desire for profitable investments and a peaceful retirement home to Fletcher.

Ed Fletcher, six feet tall, with a classic profile and high broad forehead capped by dark wavy hair, and patriarch of a large, handsome family, began his lucrative real estate career with the purchase of the Villa Caro Ranch in partnership with William Gross in 1902. Charmed by the rustic beauty of the ranch, the men made an offer of $11,500 in cash. The deal included forty acres of citrus trees and $85,000 worth of furniture. Included in this remarkable bargain were the Victorian home and all the outbuildings on the property. Two hundred acres of "useless" land thrown in for good measure laid the cornerstone for the artistic colony.

*Photographs from the San Diego Historical Society's Title Insurance and Trust Collection.  

History of the Grossmont High School Christmas Pageant 

Grossmont High School today.

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