by Albert Simonson
When Alpine’s post office was built in the 1970’s, there was a little old house in the way. It was said to be the oldest house in town.
It had been the home of Henry J. Whitney, the storekeeper who was appointed Alpine’s first postmaster on November 11, 1885, but was not his first.
Whitney sold out to Charlie Emery, son of Pine Valley pioneer Capt. William Emery and his wife from the Spaulding sporting goods family. By the early nineties the post office was transferred to a new store at Alpine Boulevard and Victoria, on the northeast corner.
The exact location of Whitney’s first home and store has long been a mystery. An old photograph shows the “Alpine Store” and “Stage Station,” apparently on the uphill, south side of a dirt road. The words “Post Office” are barely legible above the store door.
Recently, however, Jim Hinds of the Alpine Historical Society was doing research in San Diego on Alpine’s first schools. There he came across a map clearly showing the store location on the old “stage road.”
Super-sleuth Jim acts on hunches, but always looks for corroboration, too. He found it in old-timer Neil Galloway’s description of it being by “Louie Landt’s Store.” As it happens, this is the building that was built on top of the old pavement of U.S. Highway 80, the building housing the Times Past Cafe at 2363 Alpine Boulevard.
The original store was built on the south side of the old “stage road,” which was covered by the pavement of U.S. 80, and in turn by the Times Past Cafe. The pavement can still be seen at the ends of the building, as if the building were on a cross-country trip.
You can still visit the site of Alpine’s first store and stage stop, from the days of the San Diego Julian Toll Road, and rumbling gold wagons from the Stonewall Mine. Stop in at Landt’s old building, check out the beauty shop, and pick up an old book at the bookstore. Then sit down at the old stage road in the nostalgic Times Past Cafe and think about all that has happened there.
1860’s – H. J. Whitney owner of WHITNEY’S STORE, one room on south side of road.
1865 – First mail service to store.
1890 –Charles F. Emery named it THE ALPINE STORE and owned it until it burned down in 1904.
1905 – T. M. Albee built a larger new building on the north side of the road.
1909 – Store taken over by Edwin B. Snow.
1913 – John B. Wilkinson ran the store for a year.
1914 – Mr. and Mrs. Harold Flegal purchased The Store.
1916 – The Flegals gave up the store to make pure grape juice from the Brabazon vineyard and winery that they had purchased in 1913. C. V. and Maude Hilton bought The Store.
1933 – Store burns down and is rebuilt. Store leased to Art and Alice Simmons.
1936 – Gordon and Mava Wilson with their four children took over the management of the Alpine Store. .Good merchants and friendly hosts as well, the Wilsons made a visit to THE STORE seem as much a call on friends as a shopping trip. .Everyone came to know the Wilsons and they to know everyone for miles around. .Mava and Gordon Wilson ran the store until 1951 when they retired, turning the business over to their son, Jack, who ran it until 1964. .THE ALPINE STORE closed its doors forever as a grocery store and is currently the Frontier Gallery.
For more history of THE ALPINE STORE, contact: Jack Wilson at 4478 Campus Ave. #103, San Diego, CA 92116-3954 (619-298-1427)