California Historical Landmark No. 764: Kate Sessions’ Nursery Site

The first California Historical Landmark I visited in 2013 was also the closest one to my house:

No. 764: Kate Olivia Sessions’ Nursery Site

Kate Sessions is a key figure in San Diego history, having left her mark on the city as a horticulturalist who both beautified San Diego (she is referred to as the “Mother of Balboa Park” for her numerous tree plantings there) and introduced both native Southern California plants to the landscaping scene, and from her expeditions, introduced and popularized various plants and trees to San Diego, in the late 1800s and early 1900s. She had nurseries in Mission Hills, Coronado, and Pacific Beach, and leased space in Balboa Park for growing fields.

While she is most closely associated with Balboa Park (there is a statue of her on the west side of the park at Sefton Plaza), Pacific Beach has an elementary school and a park (on the south side of Mount Soledad) named for her, as they are located close to the site of her PB nursery, started in 1928 at Pico & Balboa. Today, while her Pacific Beach nursery is long gone, the landmark marker is located as you drive into the community, and is next to a Tipuana tipu (Rosewood) tree planted by Sessions.

Plaque text:

    This plaque commemorates the life and influence of a woman who envisioned San Diego beautiful. On this site she operated a nursery and gained world renown as a horticulturist, she was the first woman to receive the International Meyer Medal in genetics.

    California Registered Historical Landmark No. 764

    Plaque placed by the California State Park Commission in cooperation with the Pacific Beach Woman's Club July 7, 1961.

A smaller plaque on the rock reads “Donated by Rotary Club of Mission Bay 1994”. The state plaque title doesn’t quite match the title No 764 (Site of the Kate O. Sessions Nursery) listed online at the Office of Historic Preservation – my guess is that when the plaque was replaced (likely in 1994), the plaque’s title was updated to include her full name.

The marker is located on the northwest corner of Garnet Avenue & Pico Street, as you head into Pacific Beach, after crossing Rose Creek. Closer to the corner is a large rosewood tree (Tipuana tipu) planted by Sessions in the 1920s. If you plan to visit the marker, you can park on Pico Street.

Up the hill from the nursery site is Kate O. Sessions Memorial Park (near where she once lived), a large city park with a great grassy hill known for its view of Mission Bay, and 60 acres of undeveloped space with trails. From the site, head west on Garnet Avenue, take Lamont Street north to reach the park.

On my visit on January 25, 2013, I took a handful of photos, available in this flickr album.

Other resources:

2013 goal of all landmarks in San Diego: 1 out of 73.


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