PCC streetcar at 12th and Broadway
PCC streetcar at 12th and Broadway, in front of the now-demolished Pearson Ford building, probably 1947 by the cars and ads in the window. Courtesy Dave's Rail Pix, Bill Volkmer collection.

A couple of months back, the Salvation Army tore down an iconic old building at the corner of 12th and Broadway, the old Pearson Ford. What was super cool about this building was that it was built at the same time as the Ford Building for the 1935-36 exposition and in the same art-deco style, rotunda and all.

The classic photo here shows a streamlined streetcar coming up to the corner. I can’t really see the car inside, but the “There’s a Ford In Your Future” banners means it’s at least 1946, probably 1947.

The sad thing was while the interior of the building, according to the Salvation Army, was “all chopped up,” the exterior still looked much like this. The signs were gone (including the classy BEAUTY SALON on the top floor), but the rotunda and art-deco flourishes were still there.

Next door is what might be the last standing Oscar’s drive-in. No, not Pat and Oscars, the breadsticks place, but the Oscar’s drive-in that spawned Jack-In-The Box. It’s not the circus-looking Oscar’s but a more 50’s streamlined version, now occupied by a Chinese restaurant. Minimal remodeling; even the sign at the corner is an Oscar’s remnant. What a great, historic block along 12th Avenue. Now that the area is revitalizing, it would have been great to have this history to redevelop.

Over the years, I suggested to bigwigs at the San Diego Automotive Museum that they move down there, that having cars in the classic showroom and a drive-in next door would be a great tourist attraction for the thousands who go from downtown to the park, but they just smiled.

To my friends who work for the city who were supposed to stop this type of thing… where were you???

Sad. We don’t have a lot from the 30s in San Diego and this block is a classic. I hope we don’t lose the Chinese restaurant as well.

If you’re looking for this now empty corner, it’s at 12th and Broadway in downtown San Diego. Take the 163 south to the end on 10th Avenue in downtown, turn left at Broadway and go two blocks east. While you’re there, the Chinese restaurant ain’t half bad. On the southeast corner of 12th and Broadway is also a classic, owner-operated diner. There’s a few remnants of car lots as you head east to 16th Street; once this was a major car sales area, long before auto malls.


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