An early group of English settlers, with obviously romantic inclinations, called the area ‘Leucadia’, meaning, ‘place of refuge’ in Greek. As the area developed, a local tradition was established, to also give the streets Greek names…Hygeia, Hymettus, Eolus, Vulcan, Sparta, Olympus, Pireus, Orpheus, Athena, Urania and many others.
In 1883, E.B. Scott arrived by train with his family, unsure if they’d be staying long. However, Leucadia’s, ‘cool and pleasant ozone breezes and wildflower beauties of creamy-white, pink, yellow, gold and crimson, scattered everywhere…captured my heart’ and they never left. Many of us who live here today would tell you a similar story of simply falling in love with Leucadia and never wanting to leave.
For a brief time, the area had the unfortunate name of ‘Merle’. It seems the US Postal Service balked at issuing a franchise to a place with such a long and strange name as ‘Leucadia’. We still have our own tiny Post Office and are darned proud of it.
In 1848 California became a state, land was available through the Homestead Act and a few pioneers began settling in the Encinitas area around 1875. This was long before surfing or just hanging out at the beach became popular activities.
In 1881, The California Southern Railroad Company began constructing tracks from National City to Oceanside. Most of the laborers were Chinese and they moved their construction camps with them as they progressed north.
A tower was built at Cottonwood Creek to collect and store water for the seam engine’s tanks and the local oak trees were used as fuel. Thus, what is now site of Cottonwood Creek Park at the intersection of Vulcan and Encinitas Blvd, became the epicenter of the community.
If Leucadians agree on anything, it’s that we all love trees. As part of their efforts to ‘settle’ the area, the Railroad planted eucalyptus trees.
Originally from Australia, they grew well in the climate and, it was hoped, they would supply wood for ties and burning in steam engines. As the years went by, a large variety of trees were planted along the highway and Leucadia became well known for the lush canopy of trees that crossed our stretch of Pacific Coast Highway. It is one of the main focus efforts of the Leucadia Town Council to restore that tree canopy.
By 1882, the Eric Chaffin family had opened the first store in Encinitas. Besides caring for her family, Mrs. Chaffin was the storekeeper, post-mistress and railroad ticket agent. She had to set out a flag to stop the train.
An official railway station was built in downtown Encinitas in 1887. Later, the wood frame building was moved north to Leucadia where it was painted a cheerful yellow and is lovingly maintained in its rustic glory. The Pannikin, a popular coffee house serving yummy, light meals and pastries, is a favorite gathering spot for locals and travelers alike.
Water has always been an issue in Southern California. The slightly slopped, western facing land of this area was perfect for crops but the mild weather could not guarantee enough rain to make farming practical. In 1907, the South Coast Land Company negotiated a contract to transport water from Lake Hodges dam, improving farming prospects for the area and making the land easier to sell.
The state of California constructed Pacific Coast Highway 101 through the Encinitas area in 1913, following the path of the railroad and increasing traffic and business revenue. By 1923, an improved water system encouraged folks to plant groves of citrus, avocados, papaya, figs, apricots, several varieties of nuts and, of course, flowers.
During the Roaring Twenties, Leucadia remained true to it’s name, a ‘place of refuge’, for folks from the Los Angeles area, especially Hollywood. Zane Grey and Charlie Chaplin, among others, built homes on Neptune. Of course the Depression brought a halt to those good times.