[Book Review]

Local Knowledge


ABANDONED SAN DIEGO, 96 pages, paperback, published by America Through Time, 2019, Jessica D. Johnson author

review by Rob

I like this little book because I love San Diego. Any book that attempts to reveal useful hidden knowledge pretty much has my vote, but since ABANDONED SAN DIEGO is about my hometown makes it all the more dear. Here’s my disclosure up front. Now you know, I do have a bias. I also need to say Jessica has been a contributor to Reviewer Magazine’s print version, submitting some choice local color editorial that has ran in our pages, most notably a story about exploring the interior of The Lake Hodges Dam. So I like this book for that reason too: its author has been a friend of the magazine. But I’ll try and be professional, give it an honest review anyway and not be a glowing fanboy.

ABANDONED SAN DIEGO covers the region with five chapters. One, Abandoned Mines of San Diego explores a bit of the forgotten local mineral resource exploitation of the past. Two, the Highway That Time Forgot, which details the early twentieth century history of Highway 80. Three, Suburban San Diego Ruins, which may surprise readers with its hidden gems. Four, Urban San Diego Ruins, which is valuable in its cataloging of a diminishing genre. And my favorite, chapter five, Historic Cemeteries, which profiles some of our neglected local grave fields.

The tragic disruption of the Mission Hills Pioneer Park cemetery is most poignant. The graveyards’ defilement reads like an account of historical revisionism during the mid-twentieth century, one politically motivated, an essentially hostile act against the memory of the founders of early San Diego. But why?

There’s much more, such as The California Theater in downtown whose section summons up the ghosts of entertainment and nightlife past with many color photos — the book is well illustrated — and the Sunset Cliffs cave at Smugglers’ Cove highlights the bootleg era when San Diego’s southern border was a new link to Tijuana’s steady stream of contraband.

The only real negative issue I would find with ABANDONED SAN DIEGO is in the title. For so many decades this city has been in the path of progress, not decline. Ever since Los Angeles became traffic-filled and smog-ridden San Diego real estate sellers could add a high percentage as a sun tax. New citizens moving here from back east or the midwest, or any people looking for the good life in a growing city with low crime and sunshine, grabbed up available parcels. There’s never been any real “abandoned” anything here. There’s been “derelict” San Diego, or “sitting temporarily vacant” San Diego, but the owners, their heirs, or hungry would-be purchasers would always have an eye on it, waiting for the right economic moment to make their move, to pounce. Be it because of the excellent natural harbor or the thrillingly varied geography or the fine weather, this has never been a ghost town.

However so much good revealing splendor is packed into this tiny book, and I rarely use this phrase, it’s truly a must-read if you find yourself interested in the fascinating background of what local civic boosters once appropriately called America’s Finest City.

Despite the lack of truly abandoned real estate here, there’s still plenty of subject matter to fill another volume. I asked Jennifer about the old mine in Black Mountain my friends and I used to hike to back in the mid-1970’s which was omitted from ABANDONED SAN DIEGO. It seemed like the perfect story for its first chapter. She cited page space and word count as limitating it in print here but I think it’s listed on her website, hiddensandiego.net. She’s also diversifying into covering hidden California.

This was Jessica Johnson’s first outing as a book author and I hope we can look forward to more of her whimsically fresh views about San Diego and beyond.


From Amazon:
About the Author JESSICA D. JOHNSON is a native San Diegan who has lived her entire life in and around “America’s Finest City.” While she loves San Diego’s major attractions, her life’s mission has been to explore and describe the unknown and overlooked wonders of the area. Her work reached fruition in her creation of the HiddenSanDiego.net website, which has received millions of unique online visits, and has become an invaluable resource for tourists and local explorers alike. Her work has been featured in local and national print media, radio and television, and she has written extensively on a wide variety of things San Diego.

Paperback: 96 pages
Publisher: America Through Time (February 25, 2019)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1634991044
ISBN-13: 978-1634991049
Product Dimensions: 6.5 x 0.3 x 9.2 inches


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