La Mesa, California is a gorgeous town in Southern California with a unique origin story. Many towns in California were originally agricultural in nature, and this is also the case with La Mesa. The early settlers in California were stunned by the area’s natural beauty and excellent year-round weather. La Mesa had notably good soil, and the sort of spacious expanses of land that farmers can easily use. It didn’t take long for settlers to create thriving agricultural communities there.
The Early Days of La Mesa
Settlers first named the La Mesa location in the year 1869, so the area had plenty of time to develop between the nineteenth and twentieth century. However, the city of La Mesa town that people recognize today was officially created and incorporated in 1912. It’s called the Jewel of the Hills, although ‘la mesa’ means ‘the table’ in Spanish.
The name could also be translated to mean ‘the plateau.’ While this sort of designation might just seem generically descriptive, the geography of La Mesa has had a tremendous effect on its history from the nineteenth century onward, especially regarding the early days of film history.
Film history is more complex than some people think, and it didn’t just begin with Hollywood. From the early 1900’s until the middle of the 1920’s, many early studio executives were interested in La Mesa.
History of La Mesa (the Silent Film Era)
The Western film genre was very popular in the early twentieth century. Filmmakers during the silent film era couldn’t rely as heavily on practical effects as more modern filmmakers, making the filming locations of silent movies particularly important. Geographically, La Mesa was an ideal location for the filmmakers who wanted to create Westerns.
La Mesa is always warm, and it has plenty of broad and open areas, which had made the area useful for farmers a century ago and now made it just as appealing to filmmakers. Professionals involved with the silent film industry knew that it would be possible for them to create films all year. A film troupe affiliated with the American Film Manufacturing Company created several short films in La Mesa in 1911. Entrepreneurs like Ed Fletcher and Arthur Sawyer were interested in creating studios of their own in La Mesa.
They worked with San Diego investors to create film studios in La Mesa. The studios themselves ultimately weren’t successful, but Fletcher used the location to create a restaurant and roller rink. Both of these lasted until 1934, and they helped attract more interest in the area. This neighborhood is still known for its recreational centers today, including indoor soccer arenas.
Hollywood had the advantage when it came to infrastructure and established business connections, but La Mesa certainly had potential as a movie-making town. Hollywood continues to dominate California movie-making today.
However, La Mesa has managed to make a tremendous impact over the years in other ways. Professional athletes like Bill Walton were originally from La Mesa, and plenty of musicians and writers have been inspired by the town over the years. La Mesa also continues to attract a lot of tourists, who are all interested in all of the different seasonal events that have made La Mesa famous.
Here is an article on Things to do in La Mesa.