El Cajon, CA
El Cajon is located 12 miles east of San Diego and about 15 miles from the Mexican border. Surrounded by foothills, the site made a convenient camping locale for wagon teams passing between San Diego and the gold mines of Julian, following the California Gold Rush. In 1876, an entrepreneur named Amaziah Knox built a hotel near the crossing of two trails. Now that crossing of Main Street and Magnolia Avenue is the center of El Cajon, a city of nearly 93,000. In recent years, a concerted effort to revitalize the downtown area has largely succeeded in reversing an urban decline.
NEIGHBORHOODS AND DISTRICTS
Characteristic neighborhoods of El Cajon include:
- Downtown El Cajon. The Knox house remains at the corner of Park and Magnolia, among other historic buildings in the oldest section of El Cajon. The Civic Center is tucked behind Main Street, along with the court building and the East County Performing Arts Center. City boosters led by the El Cajon Community Development Corporation have consciously collaborated with artists to bring a renaissance to El Cajon's decaying downtown. The alley between Main and Rea Avenue has blossomed into an "Arts Alley," and dozens of the district's utility boxes and fire hydrants have undergone an artistic makeover.
- Fletcher Hills. Up the hills to the northwest of downtown, Fletcher Hills is a stable middle-class residential neighborhood with a mix of older and newer homes. The neighborhood boasts its own park, community center, swimming pool, and shopping centers.
- Bostonia. This neighborhood is located roughly a mile northeast of the city center, clustered around the intersection of North Second Street and Broadway. Most of the surrounding area, both within the city limits of El Cajon and up into the suburban tracts to the north, is also referred to as Bostonia.
- Granite Hills. Just east of the Bostonia section, Granite Hills is sprinkled with homes priced above the city's median value. The proximity of Interstate 8 makes this a convenient neighborhood for workers commuting to San Diego.
El Cajon is contiguous with these smaller communities in San Diego County:
- Spring Valley
ECONOMY AND INDUSTRIES
Although primarily a bedroom community, El Cajon has its share of economic development. Manufacturers in the area include:
- Taylor Guitars
- American Metal Processing
- Certified Metal Craft
- Windowmaster Products
- Toro Micro-Irrigation
- Several aviation supply wholesalers, located in the vicinity of Gillespie Field, San Diego's largest airport.
Other major employers in the area include:
- Sycuan Resort and Casino (on tribal land within El Cajon)
- Northrop Grumman (San Diego)
- Qualcomm (a telecommunications firm with headquarters in San Diego)
- Firms in the business park near Gillespie Field, who employ more than 2,000 people
The major shopping center in El Cajon is Parkway-Westfield Plaza, with over 200 businesses represented.
ARTS AND ENTERTAINMENT
The arts have been a critical component in the recent upswing of El Cajon's fortunes. On or near the downtown "Arts Alley" are many galleries, installations, murals, and several of the city's major cultural attractions:
- East County Performing Arts Center. This 1,100-seat theatre is reputed to have the best acoustics of any concert hall in San Diego.
- Olaf Wieghorst Museum. Danish-born Olaf Wieghorst, a popular 20th century painter of the American West, made his home in the El Cajon area, and this downtown museum exhibits many of his horse-filled works.
- Sophie's Gallery and Gift Shop features so-called "outsider art," produced by developmentally disabled adults through programs run by St. Madeleine Sophie's Center.
Other cultural events in the downtown district include:
- Concerts on the Green, a weekly concert series in summer that takes place on the Prescott Promenade, a pedestrian mall off of Main Street.
- Mother Goose Parade, a children's event on the Sunday before Thanksgiving, is San Diego's largest annual parade.
- The first Friday of every month is a gallery night in El Cajon's art district, with special entertainment events.
- Heritage of the Americas Museum, at Cuyamaca College, leads visitors into an exploration of archaeology, anthropology, natural history, and prehistoric art of the Americas.
- San Diego Air and Space Museum. Restored and model aircraft, including a replica of Charles Lindbergh's Spirit of St. Louis, convey an overview of the history of human aviation.
- Warbirds WestAir Museum, at Gillespie Field, preserves and displays American and Soviet military aircraft of the Cold War era.
- The El Cajon Historical Society maintains the Knox House, once part of a hotel built in 1876, as a museum.
Colleges in El Cajon include: Cuyamaca College, Grossmont College, and Christian Heritage College.
El Cajon falls within the San Diego media market. It is served by the daily San Diego Union-Tribune newspaper, which has a daily circulation of near 300,000.