Mid Century Scripps Ranch

Mid Century Scripps Ranch

Scripps Ranch After E.W.

After E.W. Scripps’ wife Nackie passed away in 1930, Tom and Nackey Meanley purchased 100 acres from the Scripps estate and built their home, which was located near the current Scripps Miramar Ranch branch of the public library. Tom Meanley, secretary to E.W. Scripps, eloped with Nackey Scripps when she was eighteen. Despite the disapproval of E.W. Scripps, the couple would have a long and happy marriage.

Tom and Nackey Scripps Meanley at their home Mira Mesa in 1956 Scripps Ranch

Mira Mesa, The Meanley Ranch

They designed and built a large mission revival style home, named Mira Mesa. The house was constructed in the shape of a square with rooms around a central courtyard, with the inclusion of two large cisterns to collect and store water for use in the house, with Evans Pond serving as a source of water for the surrounding plantings and the horse stable.

The Meanley Ranch was given its name Mira Mesa by Tom Meanley Jr. when he was 10 years old. He was discussing the naming of the ranch with his mother, Nackey, and he said that he could see the ocean, which reflected like a mirror, and at that time the entire mesa below allowed you to see for miles.

Hence, the name “Mira Mesa” was given to the Meanley Ranch.

The Meanley Mansion, Mira Mesa, one of the original Scripps Ranch homes in 1930

In the same year, Bert and Katherine Hendrix moved into a house located on the Miramar Ranch property that was near a pond that was ultimately named after them, Hendrix Pond. Bert Hendrix worked for James and Robert Scripps. The pond, formerly known as the “C” Dam and part of an extensive water collection system, was present when they moved in and was formed by rain runoff.

The Meanley Wall

During the Great Depression, a stonemason came to the Meanley mansion with his three children and asked Nackey Meanley if she had any work. He told her of his specialized skills and said he would do any stonework she wanted in exchange for food for his children. Nackey agreed and had the stonemason build a variety of decorative garden paths, walkways, and an impressive 6-foot by 200-foot wall.

The large stone wall ran the length of one side of the home and included a double set of stairs leading down to the trail past Evans Pond to Nackey’s prized horse stables. The wall can be seen on the property at the site of the Scripps Miramar Ranch Library on Scripps Lake Drive to this day. 

Old Highway 395

By declaration of the American Association of State Highway Officials, U.S. 395 was extended to San Diego, California in 1934. The road underlying the current Pomerado Road was designated as part of Federal Highway U.S. 395. It meandered like a snake through San Diego County in ways that seem odd today.

Road engineering back then could not move as many mountains and flatten grades in ways we view as natural today. So, at the time, U.S. 395, a north-south route, took a definitive and extended “east” turn through Scripps Ranch.

Old Highway 395 goes over the new Poway Grade in 1939 Scripps Ranch

At that time, there was no way the route could have been aligned directly north over the Penasquitos Creek as it did after the 1949 bridge was completed. The hills north of Pomerado (which were later flattened for post-1949 U.S. 395 and Interstate 15) were impassable. Such long, spanning bridges were beyond the ability of machinery or budget to design and implement.

The southern approach to U.S. 395 (Pomerado) was from what is now designated Kearny Villa Road through MCAS Miramar. U.S. 395, before the current Kearny Villa Road existed, turned east at the present day Miramar Road-Pomerado Road bridge. Although the current Pomerado asphalt buries beneath it most of the original slab concrete roadway of U.S. 395, vestiges of the pre-1949 U.S. 395 layout can still be seen in the white-dashed raised asphalt curbs bordering the south side of Pomerado.

The pre-1949 U.S. 395 was just a few feet narrower than the current Pomerado that inherited its alignment. Sailors would drive up U.S. 395 from the naval bases, manage the switchbacks in Scripps Ranch and down the Poway Grade, and then go drinking at the Big Stone Lodge on Old Pomerado.

Map of San Diego County circa 1937 Scripps Ranch Old Highway 395

Scripps Ranch During War

Both the Navy and the Marine Corps occupied Miramar in the early 1940s during World War II. East Miramar (Camp Elliott) was used to train Marine artillery and armored personnel, while Navy and Marine Corps pilots trained on the western side.

After the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1942, the Army took up residence at Mira Mesa, the Meanley Ranch, for approximately two months to utilize the eucalyptus as cover. They also used a 14-foot tall playhouse platform tower that Thomas Meanley Jr. had built at the age of 12 as a lookout post.

Tom Meanley Jr. remembered that “there was a strip at Camp Kearny where planes could land, and one time Lindberg Field was closed and civilian planes were routed to Miramar.” He remembered getting their cars out to help light the field with their headlights.

Camp Kearny Miramar Ranch 1942 warplanes

naas and MCAS Miramar

The Navy departed Camp Kearny on May 1, 1946 and the station became Marine Corps Air Station Miramar. After only a year, the Marines closed MCAS Miramar and moved all units to El Toro. The Navy redesignated Miramar as a Naval Auxiliary Air Station.

In 1954, following the Korean War, the Navy faced cutbacks and offered NAAS Miramar to San Diego for $1 and the city considered using the base to relocate its airport. But it was deemed at the time to be too far away from most residents and the offer was declined. The Navy decided to keep Miramar open and eventually built the station into one of the Navy’s biggest bases.

The first Miramar Air Show was held in 1956. The Navy’s precision jet flying team, the Blue Angels, first started performing in the Miramar Air Show sometime during the 1950s.

U.S. Navy 1952 Blue Angels Miramar

By 1961, NAAS Miramar was designated for fighter squadrons only and was unofficially known as “Fightertown.”

Scripps Ranch in the 60s

Post-war times proved to show much growth and improvement in Scripps Ranch and Miramar as a whole. The amount of Scripps Ranch homes for sale would create a booming new economy in which there would be much room for a new generation of homesteading and movement in the community.

Water Improvements

On September 15, 1960 dedication of Lake Miramar Dam and Reservoir was completed as part of the second San Diego Aqueduct. At its maximum operating level, Lake Miramar contained 1.8 billion gallons of water and was 103 feet deep.

Water treatment plant and Miramar dam before it was filled, 1960

Miramar Reservoir was built about 300 to 400 feet down-canyon from the old Surr Dam, which was covered in the process of filling the lake.

1960 aerial photo depicting partially-filled Miramar reservoir

The Miramar Water Treatment Plant was put into commission in 1962.

Beauty and Growth in Scripps Ranch

Chauncy Jerabek led nature walks at Miramar Ranch in conjunction with the San Diego Vassar Club starting in April of 1963. The Vassar Club was conducting the first public tour of the estate, then owned by Margaret Hawkins, widow of Robert P. Scripps.

The Macco Corporation would go on to purchase a large sum of acres from Miramar Ranch, with the promise of keeping the mansion intact and open for tours.

California Western University received a Federal land grant for a new campus in the Scripps Ranch community in 1965. The property was previously part of Camp Elliott, a Marine Corps training facility. In 1967 California Western University changed its name to United States International University (USIU) to reflect its expanded commitment to a global perspective, and construction began on the Scripps Ranch campus of USIU in 1968.

United States International University, Alliant International University, Scripps Ranch San Diego 1970

The End of a Decade

By December of 1968, Nackey S. Meanley sold a 1,067-acre piece of land on the north side of Miramar Reservoir to a limited partnership called Lago Dorado for $2.4 million. The limited partnership worked for a year to put together a master plan for a development project based around a golf course.

Tours of the Scripps Miramar Ranch home and 15-acre grounds commenced on March 15, 1969. There were over 20,738 viewers who toured the premises by July 1970. The admission was $2 for adults and 90 cents for children. Visitors walked through massive Italian Renaissance doors into the living room. The 17 bedrooms, each with a different theme of décor, were accessed by four 100-foot corridors. Over the years, most rooms were modernized, except for E.W. Scripps’ office. The replacement cost of the estate was estimated at $1.5 million.

By the Fall of 1969, Macco’s Leadership Homes held their grand opening sales presentation, showing model homes to prospective buyers interested in Scripps Ranch real estate.

The Penny Press

The developer, Macco, produced The Penny Press, naming it after The Cleveland Penny Press, which was the name of the first newspaper controlled by E.W. Scripps.

E.W. Scripps’ paper started in 1878, was limited to four pages, and sold for one cent. According to E.W. Scripps, the original Penny Press was the greatest money maker of any of the Scripps family newspapers.

First edition of The Penny Press by Macco Corp Leadership Homes for Scripps Ranch real estate

The first issue of the Penny Press included an item about the unique street lights in Scripps Ranch. It explained that ranch architects were inspired by an old lamp on the mansion patio.

They developed unique street lights for ranch neighborhoods made of cast aluminum with an antique epoxy finish. Because they were mounted on 16-foot posts, shorter than the standard street light poles, they were placed closer together, giving better uniform lighting and lending a distinctive touch to the neighborhood of Scripps Ranch.

The following text is pulled directly from the first issue of the Scripps Ranch Penny Press.

80 years have passed. The eucalyptus and pines are taller now. Quiet forests are filled with deer and songbirds and lakes teem with old lunker bass. The 47-room mansion, built in 1890 by millionaire E.W. Scripps, is mellow with age, yet exactly as it was when he first invited his friends here—a monument to the gracious, rural way of life that led the famous publisher to carve his Shangri La out of these rolling California hills.

Now we’re inviting our friends to see it all… the ranch. With its stunning antiques, adobe stables, gymnasium, gardens and aviary, and the beautiful new community that is now abuilding in this woodland wonderland.

We’d like you to see how we are transforming woods and meadows into protected parks that make a Sunday outing just a stone’s throw from your doorstep. You might even want to stroll the beautiful campus of the exciting new University of California at San Diego, destined to be one of the world’s great centers of learning. You can also visit the famous Scripps Institution Of Oceanography just down the road.

But above all, we want you to experience the tradition of rural elegance and quietude for which the Ranch has been famous for more than a half-century.

Like E. W. Scripps, Leadership Homes, too, has a sense of tradition. You’ll see it in the nine new models of outstanding two, three, four and five bedroom homes that will go on display grand opening day.

These subtly designed homes feature step-down living rooms with vaulted ceilings, spectacular patio kitchens with luminous ceilings, dishwashers and disposals, beautiful wall-to-wall carpeting, custom designed fireplaces, and “growing” rooms for growing families.

…And The Rest Is History

On New Year’s Eve, 1969, Paul and Sheila Donigan, the first residents of Scripps Ranch, moved into their new Scripps Ranch home. When the Donigans moved in, they didn’t have a neighbor for months. There were no schools, fire department, shopping, police protection, or phone services.