Coronado Before and After the Bridge

Cranes build san diego-coronado bay bridge 1969
Building of the San Diego-Coronado Bay Bridge c. 1968

Coronado has a rich history. It was first shown on a map in 1602, five years before the settlement of Jamestown, Virginia. California, including Coronado, and several other states were Spanish or Mexican territory until 1846. Coronado changed hands multiple times between 1846 and 1885, when Elisha Babcock Jr. and Hampton Story purchased the peninsula. The Hotel del Coronado became the largest resort in the world in 1887. Two years later, John D. Spreckels purchased all non-privately owned land in Coronado. Over the next 20 years, Spreckels began to create a legacy that permeates Coronado more than a century later. North Island is acquired by the federal government in 1917 and Coronado’s military and government visitors and residents increase substantially.

Then, in 1969, the San Diego-Coronado Bay Bridge opens.* The world opens up to Coronado and Coronado opens up to the world.

Sisters Betty Reynolds and Sarah Durand moved to Coronado with their family as children in 1941. While Durand eventually moved away permanently, Reynolds moved back to Coronado after getting married and lived most of her life here. They recalled riding their bicycles around town and smelling the orange blossoms along Orange Avenue. They rode the trolley through town and the ferry to San Diego.

“I would say it was a great place to grow up and it’s a great place to grow old,” Reynolds said. “There is a great community of older people.”

According to the sisters, the bridge brought two huge changes: a change in traffic patterns and an increase in property values. Nancy Cuddy, a resident of Coronado since graduating college in 1958, concurred. She explained that while the bridge gave Coronado residents greater access to San Diego county, it also gave others better access to Coronado. Businessmen from San Diego began moving to Coronado once they could easily commute to work across the bay.

“When I came here in ’58 I was just out of college and my brother and I stayed up here. And we just had such fun,” Cuddy said, “and now, I think part of [what] has changed is that the real estate costs have eliminated the young people groups that we had – the pilots and other young people in the Navy. Nobody was married, there weren’t any babies or anything involved. It was all just young people having a good time.”

As Coronado residency swelled and space dwindled, certain aspects were overlooked. Durand noted that the city lacks retirement homes and resources for people with disabilities. Cuddy agreed, and pointed out that it would be difficult to build new ones even if enough people called for it. Additionally, beach access became difficult for older people and those with disabilities after the beach was widened. The increase in traffic also brought parking problems and made it less safe to ride bicycles.

Despite the troubles the 45,000 monthly tourists cause, Cuddy, Durand and Reynolds expressed their happiness at the increased tourism. Reynolds said she won’t complain about the traffic because it brings many wonderful people to Coronado. Cuddy and Durand also said they took joy in meeting new people from across the country.

Barry Thurman was one of many people who moved to Coronado after the bridge opened in 1969. He came to work with Pat Callahan at Head Start. He expanded on what the bridge brought to Coronado. According to Thurman, the access that the bridge provided allowed the Ferry Landing, the Coronado Shores and Tidelands Park to be built.

Cuddy stressed that the traffic isn’t a problem as she times her travels based on the traffic patterns. Durand, Reynolds and Thurman agreed that timing is everything. Durand pointed out that much of the daily traffic is caused by people working at North Island and thus is predictable. She also expressed sympathy for those who could not plan their travels around the traffic.

“I’d like to have some kind of lights, you know, something that would highlight the bridge as it’s the jewel [of Coronado],” Thurman said about what he would change about the bridge. “I think that would be nice. And I’d like to have some type of suicide barrier…”
[Editor’s note: both of these ideas are in the works.]

There is little else these four people would like to change about Coronado, though Thurman said he would like to have a Chick-fil-A in town. Overall, he, Cuddy, Durand and Reynolds said they all felt incredibly thankful to wake up in “paradise” every day.

San Diego-Coronado Bay Bridge at sunset looking towards tidelands
The San Diego-Coronado Bay Bridge at sunset.

Special Thanks:

The Coronado Times would like to thank Nancy Cuddy, Sarah Durand, Betty Reynolds and Barry Thurman for taking the time to help us with this story. We also would like to thank the John D. Spreckels Center and Bowling Green for allowing us to use the center to interview these four people.
*For a more complete history of Coronado, visit the Coronado Historical Association’s website.



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Taylor is a 2015 Coronado High School graduate and now a senior at The University of Texas at Tyler getting her Bachelor's in Mass Communications with a focus in Multimedia Journalism. She is also minoring in Graphic Design and Spanish. After graduating college she will return to San Diego.Have news to share? Send tips, story ideas or letters to the editor to: