San Diego Gaslamp Quarter

Locals know this area of San Diego as “the old, pretty place downtown with lots of great restaurants.” Visitors see it as another place to take tours. Neither is wrong, but for history buffs like me, it’s a (less than pure) time capsule of the past – a place where we can walk around and (if we can look past the honking cars, modern street lamps, and scads of modern advertisements) imagine what it might have been like to walk these same streets 100 or more years ago.

Last week I wrote about my visit to the Davis-Horton House Museum. That museum is located within the San Diego Gaslamp Quarter. In fact, it is #1 on the “Architectural Guide and Walking Tour Map” they sell in their gift shop. This wonderful map provides glimpses into the history of the buildings you will see walking the streets of the Gaslamp Quarter. Naturally, I couldn’t resist such find, so after my visit at the museum, I spent some time wandering the Gaslamp Quarter and taking photographs of the buildings I found the most interesting. Over the next few weeks, I’ll be sharing these with you, along with some additional information I have discovered about each building.

Today I begin with building #32 on the map:  the Louis Bank of Commerce built in 1888.

Nesmith-Greeley and Louis Bank Commerce

I spotted its twin towers from down the street and knew immediately that I would be sharing this building with you. I’m sorry to say that my photograph hardly does this building justice.

Louis Bank of Commerce 1888

Is it not a magnificent structure? From the windows to the carvings, to the peaks of its towers, this granite Baroque Revival building commands attention.

In fact, the building itself commands so much attention that it can be easy to miss a very interesting detail of this building’s history staring you right in the face. Did you see it? No? Here, let me point it out:

Louis Bank of Commerce 1888 - Awning close up

That’s right, this building was once home to the Oyster Bar, a gambling house and saloon operated by the famous/infamous Wyatt Earp! While many know of his involvement in the famous gun fight at the O.K. Corral, in Tombstone, Arizona, fewer are aware of the lawman’s ties to San Diego.

In fact, Wyatt and his wife Josephine spent much of the 1880s and 1890s living in San Diego where they bought and sold real estate, and invested in various businesses in San Diego – including several gambling establishments such as the Oyster Bar.

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