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Walk merges history and technology

ENCINITAS — In the shadow of towering eucalyptus trees, the sun still warms the historical path of downtown Encinitas.
The relics of the past are alive and accessible with the
comprehensive Downtown Encinitas Mainstreet Association Walking Tour using cutting-edge technology to guide participants through the maze of historical sites.
A large group of residents and city staff gathered May 25 to kick off the inaugural Downtown Encinitas Historic Walking Tour. With lunch provided by Moonlight Beach Concession Stand, made with local, organic produce, participants were energized to walk the four-mile tour.
Beginning at Swami’s Park, the tour mixes the hustle and bustle of the modern downtown commercial district with the era of bygone days steeped in Southern California charm.
The area is rooted in the history of Highway 101. As the traffic from San Diego to Los Angeles increased over the decades, the commercial corridor blossomed. Founded in 1883, the area was a dot on the map linking one region to another.
But something special happened along the way according to history buffs. Merchants settled in the city and opened up shop, so to speak. Highway 101 Corridor Coordinator Peder Norby said that’s what makes downtown so unique. “We’re in a commercial district, where we provide goods and services. But, we are differentiated from other commercial districts in the surrounding areas because ours is a historic downtown with architecture that weaves a philosophy of preservation,” he said.
Norby likened the comparison of downtown Encinitas to other commercial districts as the difference between a vintage woodie and a new sport utility vehicle. “They just don’t make them like that anymore,” he said.
“Our value as a commercial district is different, it’s not a façade — it’s the real deal,” Norby said.
The tour is a self-guided web-based tour accessible to visitors through the organization’s website. “Learning history and allowing people to self-explore, it does two things,” Norby said. It helps people understand why we think downtown is so great and it elevates the whole culture of historic preservation. It’s what makes Encinitas different.”
The tour is for visitors and locals alike. Nuggets of historical significance continue to surprise even the most seasoned residents. City Manager Phil Cotton took the tour and realized how many interesting facts he’d missed about the city. “I found myself saying ‘I didn’t know that’ while I was walking around downtown,” he said.
For instance, did you know the Sidney Chaplin Building was owned in the 1920s by a brother of silent film movie star Charlie Chaplin? Sidney owned other property as well, including several lots near today’s Self Realization Fellowship and property on the hillside overlooking downtown.
Charlie Chaplin also purchased property in the downtown area. Soon after a two-story Neoclassical home was completed on Neptune Avenue in 1925, Charlie Chaplin bought it for his mother.
“The walking tour brings to life the ancient art of passing along history through storytelling,” said Supervisor Pam Slater-Price, a Del Mar resident who recommended funding the tour to the County Board of Supervisors. “From the early settlers to today, Encinitas residents and visitors alike can experience the intriguing evolution of this California seaside community.”
The public is invited to take the tour at its leisure. Using a simple mp3 player or similar device, audio files can be downloaded from the organization’s website to guide participants on the walk. A map is also available for download or print.
For more information contact the Downtown Encinitas Mainstreet Association at or call (760) 943-1950.