Thursday, September 22, 2005 | There are no roses in Rose Canyon.
That’s because it was not named after a flower, but after a man – Louis Rose, San Diego’s first Jewish settler, immigrant, entrepreneur, butcher and businessman.
The canyon is not the only place named after Rose. On Sunday, San Diegans will gather at Louis Rose Point in Point Loma for the Louis Rose Picnic. The event is the first of many fund-raisers organized to collect money to build a monument celebrating Rose’s extraordinary life.
Organizers hope the event will highlight the role the entrepreneur played in establishing and molding the heart of the city. They hope to establish a monument to Rose that will educate and thrill San Diegans for many years to come.
Rose came to San Diego from Germany, via New Orleans and Texas, in 1850. He was 43 years old, married but separated from his wife by distance and by his desire to see what treasures and opportunities lay hidden in the coastal deserts of California.
In 1849, leaving his wife, Caroline, in New Orleans, Rose had left the economic stagnancy of the South on board a wagon train bound for the Wild West. After a brief stay in Texas, Rose caught a whiff of gold fever and headed to California. In El Paso, he boarded a wagon train to San Diego. On board, he met Judge James W. Robinson. It was a propitious meeting. The two soon became close friends and business partners in their new home of San Diego.
Rose would go on to become a vital cog in the early machine of San Diego government. He was elected to the City Board of Trustees and was a member of the first County Board of Supervisors. A prominent landowner, he was instrumental in drumming up support to move the city from its base in Old Town to the San Diego Bay. Sure that the city would thrive and prosper in the right location, Rose became known for a phrase he liked to tell skeptics.
“He used to say ‘Just wait awhile and you will see,’ ” said Donald H. Harrison, author of a book about Rose and one of the founders of the Louis Rose Society. “San Diego’s population used to wax and wane, but he was a strong believer in the city.”
Not one to fail to act on his beliefs, Rose bought some land and founded a settlement – Roseville – in Point Loma, across the bay from where Alonzo Horton was laying out the plans for what is now downtown San Diego.
This Sunday’s picnic will be held in the heart of what was once Roseville. The outcrop of land where the old settlement’s streets once met the water has been officially renamed Louis Rose Point, and now sits at the foot of Womble Street in the Naval Training Center complex, known as Liberty Station.
The event, which will be held from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m., is aimed at the whole family. It will feature music, a kosher barbecue, costumed characters and speakers who will tell attendees about the site and the planned memorial to Louis Rose.
That memorial is still in its earliest planning stages, according to Harrison. It was conceived last year, during the 350th anniversary of Jewish settlement in North America. The city designated Louis Rose Point during those celebrations and Harrison and others began to plan a fitting memorial for the patriarch of Jewish settlers in San Diego.
Harrison envisions a statue surrounded by exhibits telling about Rose’s life and exploits. Eventually, he said, Louis Rose Point will be connected by a walkway to Spanish Landing near Lindbergh Field Airport.
“It will be a 100-year historical walk,” said Harrison. “Though I hope it won’t take that long to walk between them.”
For now, Louis Rose Point is little more than a hardscrabble patch of dirt, sandbags and gravel overlooking the water. Around it, construction is just beginning on a huge park that will fringe the new Liberty Station housing, business and arts complex. The monument will sit at the base of one of the development’s main thoroughfares and will become a focal point for the park.
The Louis Rose Society is raising donations for the memorial in a rather unique way. Rather than collecting a few large donations from prominent Jewish families in town, Harrison said he wants to collect hundreds of small donations from families all over San Diego.
To further this goal, the society has started a grassroots campaign to raise funds for the statue. They are asking households to contribute a $36 contribution toward the statue. That’s because $36 is twice times $18 or “double chai.” In Hebrew, “chai” means life with a numeric value of 18. Any household that contributes will have the chance to honor someone living or dead in the San Diego Jewish community.
Any money raised is channeled through the Jewish Community Foundation, a charity set up by local Jewish organizations to fund projects like the Louis Rose memorial.
“What’s so interesting about this guy (Rose),” said Shimon Camiel, one of the contributors to the project, “is he’s just this cranky old guy who happened to be one of the first people in San Diego. I think a lot of people are interested in history and in the role he played in it.”
So far, about 120 households have contributed to the Louis Rose Memorial fund. Harrison hopes that on March 24, 2007 – Louis Rose’s 200th birthday – the statue will be unveiled and a key part of San Diego’s history will be literally set in stone.
For more information about the Louis Rose Society, visit http://www.jewishsightseeing.com/louis_rose_historical/louis_rose_historical.htm
For a detailed description of the event, visit: http://www.jewishsightseeing.com/louis_rose_historical/2005-08-26%20louis_rose_newsletter-6.htm
Please contact Will Carless directly at