At a time when the world was crawling out from a Depression and about to go into a world war, there was excitement brewing on a mountain in northern San Diego County.

In Southern California is a road which is receiving consistently more attention and publicity, known as “The Highway to the Stars,” wrote Walter Beuthel, Assistant District Highway Engineer for California’s highway department. “It is appropriately named and of increasing importance far beyond its immediate locality.”

The exciting project was the construction of what’s now called South Grade, which runs from Pala Road (Highway 76) up to Palomar Mountain. It’s a chapter in my Joyrides Around San Diego and a drive that can’t be missed.

“It is the road recently constructed up the south slope of Mt. Palomar, in San Diego County, to make possible the locating of an observatory on the mountain to hoiise the largest telescope in the world,” he wrote in the September 1939 edition of California Highways and Public Works magazine.

You can check out the issue on the archive.org website. It’s a contemporary look at what was one of the ultimate high-tech projects at the time. Because of World War II, it wasn’t finished until 1949.

When you take the drive today, be sure to think back to what it was like hauling all this equipment up that twisting road.

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