U.S. Route 101 is an original 1926 U.S. Federal Highway connecting Olympia, Washington and, originally, our border with Mexico at San Ysidro, California. Interestingly, it never reached Canada, perhaps because nearby U.S. Route 99 did. The highway has a rich history in California which includes being “El Camino Real” (the King’s Highway) that linked the 18th Century Spanish Missions between San Francisco and San Diego.
Sadly, to some, the highway’s southern terminus has been moved from the U.S./Mexico border to downtown Los Angeles. This was precipitated by the Great California U.S. Highway Mass Extinction of July, 1964 and completion of the southern portion of Interstate 5 in the early 1970s.
But that’s “Progress”, which isn’t always even and can be very disruptive.
So let’s take the 1969 Porsche 912 for a ride to look at California’s highway progress, about 40 years later, northbound from San Ysidro to Los Angeles.
Above: This is the southernmost part of San Ysidro, very near the Mexican border. This was once the southern terminus of U.S. Route 101, with its 1940’s four lane divided highway alignment very much in evidence today.
Above: Today’s National Boulevard in National City once carried U.S. Route 101 between San Ysidro and San Diego. If you know what to look for, it’s clear that this was once a principal U.S. highway. This spacious former home gives a tantalizing hint of what it must have been like living so close to the ocean on a lightly (at the time) traveled U.S. highway.
Above: This is former U.S. Route 101 in northern San Diego. The roadway has been repaved with asphalt so many times that the asphalt now almost reaches the tops of the concrete curbs that once enclosed this former traffic island. I’m sure the original concrete highway is buried beneath all that asphalt.
Above: This elegant reinforced concrete highway bridge, built in 1933, carried U.S. Route 101 over a low point between two bluffs near Del Mar. This photo looks south. The Del Mar race track (for horses) is to the left and the Pacific Ocean is to the right. Note the railroad track below the bridge on the upper left. U.S. highways and railroad tracks are frequent companions.
Above: A short distance to the north, in Encinitas, the alignment was four-lane divided highway, parallel to railroad tracks as is so common with U.S. highways, and lined by graceful Eucalyptus trees. This view is to the north. The Pacific Ocean is just a few blocks to the left.
Above: This blue and white Oceanside house at the corner of Pacific and Seagaze was built by a local Medical Doctor back in the 1880s. It may look familiar. It’s known locally as the “Top Gun House” and was the Kelly McGillis character’s house. (She drove a Porsche Speedster in the movie.) The side porch near the large palm tree looked quite different after the Hollywood set decorators performed their magic, but it’s clearly in the movie.
Above: Former U.S. Route 101 is signed as “El Camino Real” in San Clemente and, typically, ran in front of the Arabesque 1926 City Hall. The city outgrew its 25 offices and “City Hall” moved to larger quarters in 1962. The building, and its nine basement parking spaces, is now used for commercial purposes.
Above: After passing through the urban sprawl of Orange and Los Angeles counties north from San Clemente, I reached the Hollywood Hills for this view of downtown L.A. in the distance. The concrete ribbon just in front of the 912 is still U.S. Route 101, also known locally as the Hollywood Freeway. Amidst the tall towers in the distance is the current southern terminus of this historic highway and the end of this armchair journey through some 20th Century highway history. I hope you enjoyed the ride and will come back for future installments.
1. U.S. Route 101
2. 1969 Porsche 912