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San Diego History

How did San Diego come to be known as America’s Finest City?

Originally inhabited by Native Americans, it is believed that the Kumeyaay people occupied the San Diego and Southern California region for over 12,000 years prior to European contact. In 1542, Portuguese explorer, Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo, sailed into what is now called the San Diego Bay although it wasn’t until about 200 years after that it was settled by Europeans in 1769 under Spanish and Mexican rule.

By the 1830s, “Old Town” was developed on the bay and was a much sought-after prize during the Mexican War. After several change-overs, the American army won it over and claimed permanent rule in 1846. Throughout the next few decades, the town would attempt to build businesses and promote the potential of San Diego, but went through an abrupt depression of its attempts. Then in 1867, leadership passed to Alonzo E. Horton, a real estate developer from San Francisco. When Alonzo arrived, he believed that San Diego was possibly the best spot for building a city in the world and he purchased around 1,000 acres of what would become downtown San Diego. Horton’s development was a success and in the following years, San Diego’s population, land, and railroads would flourish.

Although this boom dwindled at the turn of the century, San Diego would soon after become a military landmark for the U.S. Navy at the beginning of World War II. San Diego’s military growth continued to magnify miles across the city and this also expanded diversity to agricultural areas, seaside communities, and industrial corporate headquarters. The city continued to experience other business and population downturns through the 20th century, but despite this, San Diego grew from world fairs such as the Panama-California Exposition, the tuna industry, universities, and an ironic attempt to host political conventions.

In 1971, the Republican National Committee chose San Diego to be the hosting site for the 1972 Republican National Convention, but they soon faced concerns of the venue and having adequate hotel space. The decision was then made to move the convention to Miami, Florida and in response to this, Mayor Pete Wilson declared the week of the convention as “America’s Finest City Week”, molding into the current slogan “America’s Finest City”.

Through centuries of discovery, war, economic booms and depressions, San Diego history has resulted in establishing the eighth largest city in the U.S., home to one of the largest military presences, a tourist hotspot, a city rich in biodiversity and scientific research, and a stunning coastal and inland landscape; Mayor Pete Wilson’s declaration of “America’s Finest City” remains.

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