Mammoth Caves of La Jolla

The La Jolla sea caves, formerly known as the Mammoth Caves, have been one of San Diego’s major tourist attractions since the late 1800s.  They are among the City’s most unique and scenic features.  Situated just east of the famous La Jolla Cove, the seven sea caves were naturally sculpted into the base of a 75 million year old sandstone sea cliff.  The caves' openings face north towards Scripps Pier and La Jolla Shores beach.  At low tide the caves are accessible from the ocean, but only one (“Sunny Jim’s Cave”), is accessible from land.  Visitors can enter Sunny Jim Cave via a tunnel which was dug in the early 1900s from the historical landmark, The Cave Store, located on the cliff above on Cave Street. 

Many stories have been told about the history of the fascinating and majestic sea caves.  City Clerk’s Archives special collection from the early 1900s tells the story of that tunneling and proposed tunneling of the infamous Mammoth Caves by two former Cave Street landowners, and includes the petitions and reactions on the subject by the then residents of the small seaside community and other concerned San Diego citizens.

  1. PDF icon Doc_2397_Thomas_Diamond_Petition_to_Connect_Mammoth_Caves_1902.pdf Petition, dated November 3, 1902 to the Common Council of the City of San Diego, California by Thomas Diamond, owner of property in La Jolla Park that fronts upon Cave Street. He requests the Council grant him a franchise and privilege to construct tunnels for purposes stated and to maintain the same, and to authorize him to collect a small revenue for each person using the tunnels as an entrance to the sea caves. Mr. Diamond states that beneath Cave Street are six sea caves about 90 ft. below the street which are only accessible during extremely low tides; that many people desire to visit these caves; that he wants to run a tunnel starting on his property at a 30 degree angle to the caves, and another tunnel running under Cave Street that would connect all the caves; that he intends to construct steps or a tramway leading from the surface of his property to the caves (gives dimensions of tunnel); and that because the construction will be expensive he wants to charge a fee not to exceed 25 cents to enter the tunnels to visit the caves. Attached to the petition and incorporated therein is Exhibit A, a map of the sea caves, his lot, Cave Street and the proposed tunneling. Four pages, including back with procedural summary and map.
  2. PDF icon Doc_2444_Protest_Petition_Residents_Against_Tunneling_1902.pdf Petition filed November 10, 1902 by La Jolla residents, property owners (some from Cave Street) and those interested in the welfare of La Jolla against the granting of a franchise to Thomas Diamond for tunneling under the city-owned land and street, because they believe it would be a danger to Cave Street and would shorten the lives of the sea caves. They state that “the bluff is composed of soft sand stone with a sub-stratum of hard pan - that the face of the bluff is exposed to the sun, and that in storms the waves strike the Bluff with great violence breaking and wearing away the sandstone and exposing the hard pan to the slow disintegrating action of the air. In heavy weather the concussion of the waves can be plainly felt at a distance of over 100 feet inland We would represent that to connect the series of caves by one long tunnel, running almost parallel with the coast line, the constant vibration caused by the breaking waves against the Bluff; would more than likely work with a very disastrous [sic] effect on the cliff, as constantly small particles [sic] would be loosened in such tunnel causing in time a caving in, and so hasten to destroy the caves.” Three pages including protest signer pages and procedural coversheet. Signers include: Ellen Browning Scripps, W. S. Hebbard, Olivia Mudgett, W. A. Sloane, Anson P. Mills, D. F. Garrettson, State Senator Leroy A. Wright, F. A. Stephens, Arthur Cosgrove, Samuel G. Ingle, Patterson Sprigg, and C. Fred Henking.
  3. PDF icon Prepare_to_Report.pdf “To Prepare Report.” San Diego Evening Tribune, November 19, 1902. Noting that the Street Committee of the City Council have been called to meet in order to prepare a report on some referred matters for use at the next evening”s Council meeting, including consideration of the Petition of Thomas Diamond of La Jolla “to allow him to tunnel into Smuggler’s cave at La Jolla. There will be a protest also, and probably several La Jolla citizens will be present to express their views on the subject.”
  4. PDF icon Doc_2483_Petition_for_Engineer_to_Survey_Project_1902.pdf Petition filed November 25, 1902 of F. T. Scripps and La Jolla property holders and tax payers for appointment of a competent engineer to examine the caves of La Jolla, to form a judgment and report as to whether the work proposed by Thomas Diamond could be done without endangering or defacing the beauty of the Caves. “And if in his judgment the work can be done. Then we would most respectfully ask that your Honorable Body grant his application for a franchise to do the work. The petitioner to pay the expense of the Engineer you may see fit to appoint.” Two pages including procedural cover sheet. Petitioners and signers by name: F. T. Scripps , James Dwynes (?), F. W. Barnes, C. S. Dearborn, Anthony Arnett, John McCormack, Myron C. Close, George D Uphem or Uphum, J. L. Pearson, J. T. Rutherford, John Work, Paul E. B. Chase, J. Mills Boal, and Joseph A. Flint.
  5. PDF icon Arrested for Battery.pdf “Arrested for Battery.” San Diego Union on Thursday, December 18, 1902: There was a little difficulty between Thomas Diamond and Prof. Gustav Schultz of La Jolla Tuesday, which resulted in the arrest of Diamond on the charge of battery on the professor. He was arraigned in the police court yesterday afternoon, and his hearing set for Friday morning at 10 o’clock. Meanwhile he is out on $10 bail. It will be remembered that Prof. Schultz is now tunneling into the caves at La Jolla from his property, and that a petition from Mr. Diamond for permission to tunnel from the street was denied.
  6. PDF icon Doc_3810_Gustav_Schultz_Petition_to_Widen_Cave_Entrance_1903.pdf Petition filed July 20, 1903 of Prof. Gustav Schultz (Cave Street property owner and resident at now infamous La Jolla Cave and Shell Shop with tunnel access to southernmost Sunny Jim Cave) for permission to widen the crevice and passageway which extends from the sea cave opposite and adjoining his property (Lot 27, Block 48 in La Jolla Park) to the cave opposite Lot 25 in the same Block. He states that the distance between these caves is 65 ft.; that the passageway the extends between these two caves runs along Cave Street; that he desires to widen the passageway between the caves so that tourists and sightseers “can, with comfort, proceed from one cave to the other.” He avows that the widening of the passageway can in no way affect or injure Cave Street. Three pages including procedural cover sheet and an artist’s watercolor sketch of the layout of the sea caves, highlighting his proposed passageway and contrasting it to the network of tunnels proposed and submitted to the City previously by Thomas Diamond (see above). Presumably this is his artwork, as he was an artist as well as a mining and civil engineer with a Ph.D.
  7. PDF icon Doc_4123_Resident_Petition_for_Connecting_Caves_1903.pdf Petition dated September 15, 1903 by Adeline S. Wing and the undersigned residents and property owners of La Jolla Park for permission for Prof. Gustav Schultz to connect the caves at La Jolla with a tunnel. They represent that Prof. Schultz has constructed and is operating a tunnel leading to the first of the Mammoth Caves of La Jolla; that said tunnel “renders the cave safely and easily accessible to any state of the tides; that said tunnel has given great pleasure to tourists and visitors and has been one of the principle attractions of said La Jolla Park; that said Prof. Schultz desires to connect the first cave with the cave adjoining it to the east by a tunnel of about one hundred feet in length; that in the opinion of the City Engineer of said City of San Diego, said proposed tunnel will not in any way endanger the integrity of the caves; and that no extra charge will be made on the visiting public on account of the proposed tunnel.” They conclude that allowing Prof. Gustav Schultz to construct and maintain the tunnel described will “materially add to the pleasure and instruction of all tourists and visitors and to the permanent benefit of said La Jolla Park.” Three pages including signatures and procedural cover sheet. Signers include: W. S. Hebbard, Herbert D. Fields, Adeline S. Wing, Chris D. Rolfe, Ed. M. Burbeck, John J. Shetrel (?), L. F. Hobbs, John Work, W. E. Reed, Greer (Geoge?) Arnett, W. H. Nicholias, Mrs. A. E. Loring, Catherine Murray, Mrs. A. P. Mills, Mrs. E. F. Chandler, W. R. Woodward, Paul B. Smith, Mrs. L. Waters, J. H. Robertson, W. G. Holston, George Cleary, M. A. Higley, G. (or L. ) D. Uphem or Uphum, M. C. Close, Thomas F. Fitzgerald, G. T. Martin, H. S. Gibbons or Gibbens, T. Thomas, A. (or S. ) C. Burr, W. H. Gilbert, U. S. Grant, Jr. property holder.