Olivenhain (pronounced Oh-LEE-ven-hine) is one of five communities in the City of Encinitas. Today, Olivenhain stretches from San Elijo Lagoon in the south, along both sides of Manchester Avenue and Rancho Santa Fe Road, out past the northern reach of Lone Jack Road. With winding two-lane roads, rail fences, and trails for horses, bicycles, and pedestrians, Olivenhain has a rural atmosphere greatly prized by residents. The “Dark Skies” policy, which limits outdoor lighting, allows us all an unparalleled view of the evening sky. In 1986, Olivenhain joined with Cardiff-by-the-Sea, Leucadia, New Encinitas, and Old Encinitas to incorporate as the City of Encinitas. But our community with the German name has an interesting history and heritage. Read on to discover more about Olivenhain past and present.
Rancho Las Encinitas
By the early 1800’s, California was a vast, sparsely inhabited territory of Mexico. Andreas Antonio Ybarra made a formal request to the Mexican government that he be awarded a land grant of the 4,431 acre rancho called “Los Encinitos”. The land grant was awarded on July 3, 1842. Ybarra constructed an adobe house on the northeast corner of his rancho where he and his wife lived for 18 years. In 1848, when California became part of the United States, Ybarra filed claim with the United State board of Land Commissions. His claim to the rancho was confirmed and accepted, but the spelling was changed to “Las Encinitas.” In 1860, Ybarra sold his land to two San Diego merchants, J.R. Mannasse and Marcus Schiller, for $3,000 (68¢ per acre). Mannasse and Schiller converted the adobe ranch house into a stage coach station which serviced the Seeley-Wright Stage Coach Line.
Today, Stage Coach Park in Carlsbad contains the remains of the walls of the adobe home on the hill above the tennis courts. The remaining wall fragments have been enclosed to prevent further damage by the environment or vandals.
Mannasse and Schiller encountered financial difficulties and lost the rancho to foreclosure in 1800. The rancho was sold first to James Courier for $5,000. Three months later, two brothers, Warren and Frank Kimball purchased the rancho for $5,225 ($1.18 per acre).
The Kimball brothers owned vast parcels of land in National City, Chula Vista, and Jamul. They planned to resell the rancho to a “Colony”, a homogenous group of immigrants who would purchase and settle on a large parcel of land. The Kimball brothers advertised for four years, and in the spring of 1884, received a response from Theodore Pinther of Denver, Colorado, who was willing to put together a German Colony.
It began in a bar on Larimer Street; Denver, Colorado. A middle-aged spokesman was addressing a group of German immigrants, and by his energetic speech, had their full attention. It was Spring 1884, and the spokesman was Theodore Pinther. He was proposing to establish a German colony in Southern California, and by his convincing description he sparked interest in the crowd.
Months before, Pinther had seen a newspaper advertisement offering a large rancho in Southern California. The seller was Frank Kimball, who at the time was developing National City and also owned several large holdings, including a 4,431-acre rancho called the Rancho Las Encinitas. Kimball was attempting to sell the rancho, and specified that the land was suitable for various types of orchards, including olive trees. Additionally, Kimball desired to sell the land to a colony. Following several letters back and forth and agreements on both sides, Pinther finalized his idea to organize a colony and purchase the Rancho Las Encinitas. Pinther privately realized a lifetime goal: to help his fellow German immigrants, and at the same time provide a huge financial profit for himself.
Denver contained a large population of German immigrants, and news of Pinther’s proposed colony quickly spread. The colony was officially launched on May 21, 1884 and membership grew quickly. Within the first month, a board of directors was elected with Theodore Pinther as president. By-laws were established, and a name for the colony was selected. The final choice, Olivenhain, is the composite of two German words and translates to olive-grove. It is pronounced Ol-LEE-ven-hine. The name was possibly influenced by Frank Kimball, who was the father of the olive industry in Southern California.
The general purpose of the colony was to establish a German settlement in Southern California. Each colonist would pay a membership fee which entitled them to five acres of cultivated land; complete with house, well, and an orchard. The colonists would then provide an income by growing agricultural produce.
The primary campaign tool was newspaper advertisements, with ads placed in Denver, Philadelphia, Chicago, and other cities. The colony secretary was soon flooded with requests for information from around the country, and membership continued to increase.
In mid-September of 1884, Theodore Pinther and his close associate, Conrad Stroebel, traveled to Southern California to examine the Rancho. They had been instructed to examine the land, but to obtain board approval before purchasing. After arriving in Southern California, Pinther and Stroebel not only examined the land, they also entered a legal contract to purchase the Rancho Las Encinitas from Frank Kimball. The cost was $66,500 and was payable over six and a half years. The land would be released to the colony by six individual deeds. The colonists in Denver were surprised they had not been contacted but were also pleased they now had colony land.
The first group of colonists, consisting of 67 members, arrived on the Rancho on the evening of November 8th, 1884. Each had invested their entire savings and future into a land they had never seen. Shelter was inadequate, consisting of several adobe structures; known today as Stagecoach Community Park.
After a temporary store and food supply was established, the colonists set to work. The one by two-mile valley on the southeast corner of the Rancho was viewed as the best land and was the first to be developed. The colonists began to clear and survey this valley into five acre lots. Through the center of the subdivision was a row of 1/10th acre lots, intended for the future town site. During this subdivision period, additional colonists arrived, more than doubling the population. Most were bachelors but also included women and children. The inadequate housing issue became critical, prompting parcel selections before the survey was complete.
Housing construction began immediately. Within the colonists there were several master carpenters who managed a large task force of workers. Twenty work horses were used to pull wagon loads of lumber to the job sites. Houses were rapidly constructed, some at the astonishing rate of one per day. A typical colony house was 14 X 28 or 16 X 24 feet. There was also a shanty version, which was 12 X 14 or 14 X 16 feet. The shanty was popular for financial reasons, and suited the limited needs of bachelors. About 80% of all colony dwellings constructed in 1885 were shanties.
By mid-March in 1885, 40 colony dwellings speckled the landscape. To fulfill their obligation, colony members planted fruit trees and/or grapes on each parcel. Early that year, hundreds of fruit trees, and thousands of grape cuttings had been planted. The accounting books of the time show orders for 1,200 apricots, 400 apples, 500 pears, 350 peaches, and 30,000 grape cuttings. Surprisingly, there was no record of ordering or receiving a single olive tree. Because the water system was not completed, all irrigation water was barreled from the Escondido creek and hauled by wagon to the plants.
By early March, the colony population exceeded 200 people. It would continue to increase, and at its peak would include about 300 people. Outwardly, the colony appeared to be a total success, both as an organization and a settlement. Inwardly however, the colonists were concerned. The colonists had been told and believed that water would be found by drilling a shallow well. After several attempts to dig wells by hand, a well drilling company was hired. Not until Mid-March 1885 did the drilling company move their equipment onto the colony land. The first well was drilled and it was dry. Additional wells attempted were also dry. Only near the Escondido Creek was water found in abundance. Various solutions were proposed, including damming the Escondido Creek.
Compounding the water problem was a rumor that Theodore Pinther and Conrad Stroebel were receiving a commission from Frank Kimball. With great concern, the colonists had the sales contract translated to German. They learned that, of the 6 deeds that transferred the title to the colony, the first deed released large areas of undeveloped land. The land the colonists had developed and built their homes upon would be one of the very last deeds to be released. Fear gripped the colonists as they realized they could lose everything. Fear turned to anger, and anger to violence. Pinther was held prisoner for several days and vigorously questioned. He was told that some of the colonists desired to hang him. Pinther finally admitted to his wrongdoing and reported that he would receive a commission of $9,700 for the sale of the Rancho Las Encinitas. Pinther was ultimately unharmed but was ejected from the colony by a group of volunteers. Stroebel’s departure was quickened by birdshot from a shotgun. Both men became outcasts to the colony they had founded. A legal battle with Kimball followed, and after several months, Kimball agreed that the colony need only purchase the land already developed.
The worst was over, but all the colonists were disillusioned and disappointed. At first, only a few would leave, but the exodus soon became a stampede and by 1887, 80% of the colonist would abandon the settlement. Many returned to their former locations in the midwest and eastern states, some to surrounding communities, and a few homesteaded on government lands northeast of the colony.
For various reasons, about 75 people remained on the original settlement. As they received land deeds, they became free from colony obligations, and quickly adopted a more independent lifestyle. By 1889, colony meetings were reduced to four per year. The colony had its last recorded meeting on November 15, 1897 and beyond that date, no reference to Colony Olivenhain can be found.
The abolishment of the colony should not imply that Olivenhain’s history ended; actually, it was just beginning. A healthier and more permanent community quickly evolved. Many of the people that remained after 1887 would remain for a lifetime. These people and their descendants would populate and farm Olivenhain for the next seventy years. In 1895 they celebrated their ten-year anniversary by building a meeting hall.
The colonists began farming grain and corn no later than 1888, thus establishing a food supply and financial income. Corn became the main commercial crop and was planted on ever larger fields. Those that were prosperous purchased additional lands from departing colonists. Beginning in 1905, the farmers switched to lima bean farming, which became extremely successful and completely replaced corn production. Lima beans were annually farmed in Olivenhain for over 50 years.
Olivenhain fell into a timeless period where one farming season followed another. Farms and families were expanded, and it seemed that it could go on forever and in fact it did for many decades. But the mid 1950’s would bring change. The farmers experienced decreasing profits due to rising operating costs, taxes and external competition. By the late 1950’s, less than half the fields were planted. The now aging second generation farmers began to view their properties not for its agricultural potential, but for its real estate value.
The age-old water problem was finally solved with the formation of the Olivenhain Municipal Water District. In the fall of 1961, imported water began its flow into Olivenhain. Land values immediately soared from hundreds to thousands of dollars per acre. Housing development began slowly, but accelerated with each passing year. By the mid 1960’s, Olivenhain was losing its identity as a farming community, as more and more fields gave way to residential housing.
As Olivenhain began to change and thrive, at least one building did not. The Olivenhain Meeting Hall was unused and forgotten by everyone except the County tax collector. To stimulate interest and income, the Olivenhain Town Council was founded in 1967. The Town Council established many fund-raising events, including the Bratwurst/Beer Fest, the Olivenhain Craft Fair, and many others. The fund raisers not only provided an income, but also united the community in their efforts to preserve the Meeting Hall. The Meeting Hall is now used many times each week and was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1993. As the early colonists had intended, the Meeting Hall remains the social center of the community.
Olivenhain has blossomed into a beautiful upscale community and was incorporated into the greater city of Encinitas in 1986. As it has done in the past, Olivenhain will continue to transform and prosper as it pushes into the future.
The Community of Olivenhain
The first school was opened in Theodore Pinther’s abandoned house in 1886. A larger one-room school house was opened in 1888 which was used as a school for 54 years. The standard education included up through eighth grade. Student who wanted a high school diploma completed their education in Oceanside or San Diego.
From 1889 to 1935 the enrollment at the Olivenhain School averaged twenty students. Then in the late 1930’s the number of students sharply dropped to nine. The decline continued, the Olivenhain School was closed in the spring of 1942 and the children were transferred to the Encinitas School District.
In 1887, a copper deposit was discovered near the termination of Lone Jack Road. A mine was developed by the Encinitas Copper Company and sporadically produced a low grade of copper ore until 1917. The shafts have since been blasted closed for safety, and evidence of the mine remains primarily in the street name Copper Crest Drive. At least four open pit clay mines were profitably worked from the early 1920’s to 1940. These mines produced many tons of clay and shale which was processed into firebrick, stoneware, and pottery.
Modern conveniences were slow to arrive in Olivenhain. The first rural mail delivery began in 1910. Telephone service was extended from Encinitas in 1938, and electricity came to Olivenhain in about 1946. The Olivenhain Municipal Water District was formally established in 1959 and dedicated in 1961, marking the end of reliance on wells and cisterns as the only source of water. Lone Jack Road was finally paved in the early 1970’s.
Many of the people that remained after 1887 would remain a lifetime. Their descendants would populate and farm the Olivenhain valley until the present day. The names of some of the original colonists and settlers are recognizable today in Bumann Road, Cole Ranch Road, Teten Way, and Wiegand Street.
The shanty was moved to the Meeting Hall property December 9, 1979. This shanty is ten years older than the Meeting Hall and is the last known survivor of many such shanties which were constructed during the Colony era. The small one room shanty, which measures 12’x14′, was built in 1885 by the colonists for Charles Lickert who selected Colony block number 50 located west of Rancho Santa Fe Road between 9th and 10th streets. Charles Lickert was a young bachelor and also a very religious person. He not only lived in his shanty, but he also used it as a church and held Sunday School classes as well as church services. Charles moved to San Diego in about 1890.
When Marie Emilie Bumann married Frederick William Wiro in 1916, they lived on the original Wiro home site, located west of Rancho Santa Fe Road and Lone Jack Road. Marie recalled that the shanty had already been moved to the Wiro Ranch in 1916.
The shanty was used as a storage shed until 1917 when Marie’s father-in-law, Wilhelm Wiro, came to stay with them and moved into the shanty. In 1919, a front window was added, along with a new door and interior paneling. Wilhelm lived in the shanty until his death in 1927, after which time the shanty was again used as a storage shed.
Around 1950, the original sawn cedar shingle roof was replaced with an aluminum roof. The shanty has remained virtually unchanged since that time. In 1979, Marie Wiro sold her property to Dan Wiegand, and the shanty was moved to the Meeting Hall property.
The Germania Hotel
On May 3, 1982, The Hotel was moved to the Town Hall Block property. This was the largest and most expensive home constructed in the Colony. The Hotel was built for Herman Baecht in 1885 at what is now the south end of Seventh Street. The Herman Baecht family was one of the original Olivenhain families arriving in 1884. Mr. Baecht anticipated using his house as a hotel and named it the Germania Hotel, but in the beginning it housed the 12-member family quite comfortably. It was later called “The Hotel” when Mrs. Baecht took in roomers. It has two rooms on the first floor with seven bedrooms on the second floor.On May 3, 1982, The Hotel was moved to the Town Hall Block property.
Although many of the original settlers spent their first evenings in Olivenhain in Mrs. Baecht’s hotel, it was little used as a hotel because it was off both the stage and the railroad routes and had little access to water. A number of colony families lived there including the Guntners, the Wallensteins, the Coles, and Miss Winters, one of the teachers.
When Dan Wiegand purchased the property in 1982, the Hotel was moved to the Town Hall property. The Hotel was the victim of vandalism almost from the moment it was settled near the Town Hall. It was spray painted on the inside, window boards were torn off, and mattresses were frequently found inside, indicating that homeless people were using it as a place to sleep. It was then boarded up until a restoration effort was re-initiated in 2004, supported by the generosity of members and grants from the Mizel Family Trust and other benefactors. Today, the Hotel is in the final stages of full historic restoration for the use of the community.
Olivenhain Today and Tomorrow
Thanks to our low-density zoning, there are approximately 1500 homes within the Community of Olivenhain today. The Encinitas General Plan projects a total of 1616 homes when available lots have been built.
Wiro Park, Little Oaks Park, and Sun Vista Park are the only developed parks within Olivenhain. Little Oaks Park on Lone Jack Road is a horse park complete with picnic tables, parking for horse trailers, and a riding ring. It provides access to the trails within Olivenhain. Wiro Park is a small community park on 11th Avenue west of Rancho Santa Fe Road. It has picnic tables, barbeque grills, and a small playground. Sun Vista Park is community park at the southwest corner of Rancho Santa Fe Road and Avenida La Posta.