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Charles and Bertha Stein Background

Charles and Bertha Stein first lived in a homestead in the El Nido area of Otay. Charles had changed his name from Carl at the same time he received his citizenship on June 11, 1888. A very successful farmer, Charles improved his El Nido property with orchards of olives, citrus, deciduous trees, and grape vines. In addition to a house, he constructed a barn and outbuildings. His kitchen garden area was fenced to protect it from rabbits, and the family raised a productive supply of food from it. He insured water to his orchards and gardens by having 3 different wells constructed, and also enjoyed the constant supply from Otay Creek, which ran through a portion of his land.

At this time San Diego was growing rapidly. In fact, this period is referred to as the "Boom of the 80's." Increased need for water had resulted in the contstruction of dams throughout the county. In the South Bay, the massive Sweetwater Dam was soon followed by the Otay Dam. Unfortunately for the Steins, this latter dam flooded his farm. Offered what he thought was a paltry amount for the loss of his property, he took the builders of the dam to court and sued for a better settlement. Stein, a small time farmer and immigrant, was neither awed nor intimidated by the rich and powerful men who tried to cheat him. The transcript of the suit shows that Stein, who had lived on that property for about 13 years, not only understood the value of his property, but clearly realized how to manipulate the court proceedings to his advantage. When E.S. Babcock's lawyers presented unflattering photographs of his property, Stein countered by bringing in a stunning display of the crops from the farm. This resulted in the adjournment of the court so that the jury could visit the farmstead. Charles Stein won his suit.

It was with $1000 of this money that Charles Stein purchased the property in National City from E. Thelen in 1900. The land consisted of "blocks 1 and 2, subdivision of 10 acre tract, lot 14 in quarter section 153" of Rancho de la Nacion (Nationl City Record August 16, 1900).

Charles Stein immediately set to work to improve his new property. There is some debate about the origins of the house. According to some, the house at 1808 F Avenue was constructed using parts from their homestead house, and then Stein moved his old kitchen and attached it to the rear of the new two story structure. A second theory is that the house, which structurally dates to the 1880s, was moved from the El Nido homestead. Alternately, it is suggested it was moved from some other unidentified original site. Another train of thought says the house was already on the property when Stein moved his kitchen there from El Nido. At any rate, Charles dug the partial basement underneath the western end of the building.

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