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La Jolla Then & Now: Revisiting 1970s & '80s profiles on San Diego neighborhood

News 8 looks into the history of La Jolla and what it's like today. We revisit Harry's Coffee Shop, housing and more of 'the jewel' as featured in the 1970s & '80s.

SAN DIEGO COUNTY, Calif. — Back in 1978, News 8 ran a story that called La Jolla, “the good life.” The area’s coastline, shopping, and restaurants were second to none. Now, more than 40 years later, La Jolla continues to be known for its world-class beaches and upscale vibe, but it's also praised for having a compelling mix of new and old.

“We're standing in front of Wisteria Cottage - this is a home that was built in 1904,” said Lauren Lockhart, Executive Director of the La Jolla Historical Society

Their facilities are in 3 cottages. Each of them, more than 100 years old.

Carol Olten works in one of the cottages as their historian.

“This is Girard Avenue in the early days,” she said holding up a picture from the 1940s. “You can see the street wasn't paved.” 

Girard used to be lined with homes, but now it’s a bustling business district.

Carol then gave News 8 a walking tour of the village and showed us a hidden treasure – Villa Waldo. Built in 1894, Villa Waldo now sits on Drury Lane. Most people would call it an alley, but in the early days, residents of La Jolla thought it sounded better to call alleys, “lanes.”.

Photo of Villa Waldo and owner Olivia Mudgett c 1890s

Posted by La Jolla Historical Society on Friday, June 17, 2016

Also built in 1894, the building that houses the popular Brockton Villa Restaurant.

Carol moved to La Jolla in 1965, just a few years after UC San Diego opened. She said that had a profound impact on La Jolla's history. 

“With the coming of the university - I mean we got all the intellectual people, the Town and Gown people and that changed the community and changed the community for the better.”

What was once a McSnack on Prospect Street in La Jolla is now Blue Apparel:

The one downside, traffic. Video from the News 8 archives shows traffic getting in and out of La Jolla has been brutal for decades, but not frustrating enough to stop people from enjoying its beaches.

La Jolla Shores is still the area's most popular beach, but Windansea's shack arguably has the best history. It was originally built in 1946 by surfers who wanted a shady spot for their kids to hang out. Soon it became party central with legendary luaus. Storms have knocked it down several times, but the surfers keep rebuilding it.  Now it's officially a historical landmark - guaranteeing it'll be here for generations to come.

Though not officially designated, locals would argue that another historical landmark here is Harry's Coffee Shop. It's been in the same spot for more than 60 years and it definitely hasn't changed much since the Unknown Eater visited in 1987. He noted the long counter on one side and the classic booths on the other, plus the great service and filling food.

“Started with the super omelette - stuffed with ham, onions, salsa and cheese. As good as it was huge,” the Unknown Eater reported at the time. “Mrs. Eater was more and ordered the strawberry pancakes. And Eater Junior was along with us on this day and had the child's plate of french toast. Our meal for 3 cost us $17.”

More than 30 years later, you can still get that exact same breakfast at Harry's - including the fresh strawberry pancakes, but the Unknown Eater's bill today would be double - $34.

Harry's looks very much the same as it did in 1987; the cars out front look a little different:

Of course, the one area where prices have really gone up in La Jolla is housing. In 1979, News 8’s Janet Zappala reported on ocean view lots selling for the then outrageous price of $300,000. 

“It's really what dreams are made of,” she said in her story, adding, “but when you're paying hundreds of thousands of dollars for a lot like this... you'd think you get a house to go along with it!”

Realtor Maxine Gellens was also selling ocean view lots around that time. She showed us a lot that had an asking price in 1979 of $380,000. Later, that lot was split in half… and recently sold. The price for half a lot?  

“We sold it this year, in August, for $5.1 million - all cash,” she said.

And that seems like a bargain when you consider another property she showed us. Maxine sold the lot in 1980 for $380,000. In July, she sold the lot, now with a mansion sitting on it, for $10.3 million. Maxine said the market has never been hotter because buyers appreciate that the area has everything. 

“I don't have to go out of La Jolla to do anything,” she said. “Whether it be my hair, groceries, doctor, dentist, everything is here... and the view!”

La Jolla - a jewel - then and now. 

The entrance to George's at the Cove got an upgrade in the past 30+ years:


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