Then & Now – the Journey from Greenleaf Ice Cream Parlor to Riverview Community Church

Did you know…?

In 1915 the U.S. Government acquired a parcel of land at the intersections of Mission Gorge, Magnolia and Woodside Avenues. Called ‘Santee Camp’, several quartermaster units for the Army were encamped in tents at the site, which also contained a fueling depot. A structure was built and used as the headquarters for the camp, known as “Greenleaf’s Ice Cream Parlor”, possibly a code name. The Army terminated use of this site in October 1943.

In 1944, the Wagon Wheel Dance Hall opened in that building at 8861 North Magnolia. The main dirt road from El Cajon ran past the Wagon Wheel on the way to Lakeside. At the time the structure was one of very few in the area which consisted mostly of the railroad, and grazing cattle and horses. By 1951 it became the Wagon Wheel Restaurant and Dance Hall, known for great food and entertainment. People would come all the way from San Diego, not as easy as you might think back then, to dance all night long. The entire building from front to back was used as a dance floor and food was served from the bar.

In 1976 the Wagon Wheel changed ownership and became Mulvaney’s. It was known for its amazing prime rib dinners and the largest dance floor in San Diego.

In 2003, new owners did a major renovation to update the decor, and paid tribute to its history by going back to its original name of Wagon Wheel. After a short stint as Lacey J’s Roadhouse Saloon & Grille, it is now home to the Riverview Community Church.

Then & Now

Then & Now

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– 1891 San Diego Union News – THE NEW COWLES SCHOOL

One of the Best Appointed School Buildings in the County

Land was deeded to School District by Jennie B. Santee, B. L. Cowles, et al on June 13, 1891 in the amount of $1.00

Land was deeded to School District by Jennie B. Santee, B. L. Cowles,
et al on June 13, 1891 in the amount of $1.00

“W. H. Sommers writes from El Cajon that the Cowles School took possession of the elegant new school house on Monday morning of this week.

It is doubtful if there is any building of the kind in the county provided with more conveniences. In the first place the furniture and school apparatus is of the very best. Then it is provided with a good well, wind mill and a large tank from which water is piped into the cloak room, where there is a wash bowl placed upon a neat marble slab.

On Arbor Day the children will plant trees upon the acre and a half of ground embraced in the school block. The intention is to irrigate the trees and shrubbery and make the grounds as handsome as good taste and care can make them. The lot is, of course, to be neatly fenced.

A nice bell of fine tone is one of the features of interest, which every school should possess.

This elegant little building will be dedicated with appropriate exercises on Friday evening, December 11 [1891]. The entertainment will consist of recitations, music and short addresses. At the close of the school exercises a lunch will be served, after which the young people will spend a few hours on the always popular amusement of dancing.”

– San Diego Union, San Diego, CA Thursday, December 17, 1891
– Story researched by Carole Delozier

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New Business Member!

Grocery Outlet Logo

We are pleased to welcome Grocery Outlet as the newest business member of the Santee Historical Society.

Grocery Outlet is the nation’s largest grocery extreme-value retailer that offers extreme bargains on brand name merchandise, with prices often up to 50% less than conventional retailers. Each store is a local, independently run, family business.   We are proud to welcome them to our Santee family.

Look for their grand opening coming soon!

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Terry Hansen – Santee man: A way with wood –

Hanson 20150325_165749_r900x493

Even as macular degeneration steals Terry Hansen’s eyesight and arthritis and other health problems slow him, the Santee resident is still crafting original wooden works of art that are beauties to behold. Even losing the top of his left thumb and full use of parts of his four left fingers from an accident three years ago, has not stopped Hansen from creating items from jewelry boxes to storage chests, from game boards to cutting boards, from small tables to counter tops. His items continue to draw applause, attention and awards at art fairs and craft shows around California and the West Coast. He is a featured artist at a show this weekend in Burbank.Hansen’s bursting star made of orange, padauk, purpleheart, maple, Peruvian walnut, wenge, bocote and cocobolo woods grabs attention in the front lobby at La Maestra Community Health Center in City Heights.

“I’m here to be an artist,” Hansen, 63, said of his purpose in life. “Five hundred years from now I want someone to look at my art and say, ‘He had so much in his heart when he made that.’ The idea is that if I do something positive for the world, the less harmful the world is. I guess I’m just an old hippie. I’ve had an amazing career.”

Hansen is a wood inlay artist, who for more than 45 years has been piecing together, almost like a jigsaw puzzle, exotic pieces of colorful wood in meticulous detail. His abstract, intricate and unique geometric designs made from more than 70 kinds of colorful wood from around the world have won him ribbons at the San Diego County Fair and other local contests for more than 30 years.

Inspired by M.C. Escher, Hansen works out of a soundproofed, modest garage studio near Santee Lakes, where colorful wood pieces are sorted out, stacked, separated and line the walls and floor. An electrical saw, knives and other cutting instruments and designing tools are at hand, as are special eye-wear and magnifying lenses to help him see.

“Having a background in woodworking, I’m amazed at his capabilities,” said North County resident Curtis Gerwig, who met Hansen at a Coronado art show 15 years ago, bought one of Hansen’s wooden trunks and went from being a fan to a friend. “I know the kinds of rare, exotic woods he uses and how really difficult it is to inlay, to create a plane finish and actually bring out the grain from the woods. They actually pop off the surface. The way he cuts wood and presents it as an art form is something he’s been working on and honing for 30 years. As far as woodworking, there is no comparison on the West Coast. I have great appreciation for it.”

He’s not alone. Over the years, Hansen said his items have been bought by a curator at the Smithsonian Institution, sold to George W. Bush long before he was president, and have been shown at the Louvre in Paris.
Hansen said he has made more than 43,000 items, not including wooden bars and wooden countertops, like the one he created in his garage for the kitchen of his rental home near Santee Lakes, where he lives with a roommate and four cats.

In his bedroom, Hansen has an intricate multicolored dresser with several drawers that he built many years ago. On top of it is his most cherished creation, a beautifully crafted box holding his mother’s ashes.

Hansen, a Michigan native and twice married and divorced with five children, has lived in Missouri, Florida and out of a mobile home as he traveled cross country for 15 years. Since coming to California, he has lived in several places in San Diego County. He said he first visited California 33 years ago, falling in love with San Diego.

For a time Hansen said he lived out of his mobile home, but for nearly 10 years he also lived among the homeless in the San Diego Riverbed off Friars Road. Health issues and finances put him on the street, but with help from his family, he got back on his feet again. Since the mid-2000s, he has called Santee home.

Another problem has arisen recently for Hansen. City officials have told him he is violating municipal code requirements for a home-based business, including not having a business license, noise and dust emanating from the garage, and an accessory structure in the backyard. Neighbors from across the street have attended City Council meetings to complain about what they say are traffic and parking issues related to his business.

Santee Planning Director Melanie Kush said Hansen may have underestimated his hobby-turned-business.

“A lot of crafters begin small and then they grow, they grow so fast,” Kush said. “They haven’t thought about going someplace else where cottage industries (belong). And sometimes businesses like his belong in industrial areas.”


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Wanted – Santee School Yearbooks

yearbook1 Do you have a yearbook from your years at a Santee, CA school that you don’t know what to do with?   You don’t want to throw them away…they were expensive and carry some wonderful memories!   But they are sitting on a shelf or in a box somewhere and you never look at them anymore.


DONATE THEM TO THE SANTEE HISTORICAL SOCIETY!   We would love to have your old yearbooks.  It doesn’t matter what year they are from.  Any day that that has passed is HISTORY!  And that means it belongs where it will be loved, cared for, and remembered forever.  What better place for those school memories to be than in a museum… like the SANTEE HISTORICyearbook3AL SOCIETY’S MUSEUM!   ♥


Call us at (619) 449-2024 …  or drop it by the museum (the green and white Edgemoor Barn at 9200 Magnolia Ave.)  Hours are as posted.


The Santee Historical Society is a 501(C)3 nonprofit.  Your donations may be tax-deductible.



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