- on the northwest by Park Boulevard and University Heights
- on the west by Florida Canyon and both University Heights and Hillcrest
- on the southwest by Balboa Park
- on the south by Switzer Canyon and the South Park neighborhood
- on the east by Interstate 805 and City Heights
The pre-Interstate 805 boundary of North Park was widely considered to be 35th Street, which is now part of City Heights.
It includes the sub-neighborhoods of Burlingame, Altadena, and the Morley Field area (site of the Dryden Historic District). North Park is part of the 53rd congressional district, and San Diego City Council District 3.
The “community” of North Park as defined for planning purposes includes University Heights on the north and Juniper Canyon as the southern boundary, thus including as far southeast as Cedar Ridge Park in the officially defined community.
The North Park sign can be seen at 30th Street and University Avenue, and this intersection is considered to be the heart of the neighborhood.
In the summer of 1893, San Diego merchant Joseph Nash sold 40 acres (16 ha) of land northeast of Balboa Park to James Monroe Hartley, who wished to develop a lemon grove. The Hartley family began the arduous process of clearing the land to prepare the earth for the grove, but providing the fledgling trees with proper irrigation was always a problem. Barrels of water had to be hauled from downtown San Diego up a wagon trail that eventually was called Pershing Drive.
As the growth of San Diego eventually caught up with the original Hartley lemon grove, it eventually became roughly bordered by Ray Street to the west, 32nd Street to the east, University Avenue to the north and Dwight Street to the south. Hartley deemed his area Hartley’s North Park, and years later, the City of San Diego referred to the new suburb as North Park.
In 1911, Hartley’s eldest son Jack and brother-in-law William Jay Stevens developed the plot into one of San Diego’s early residential and commercial districts. After first establishing Stevens & Hartley, North Park’s first real estate firm, in 1905, Jack and William built North Park’s first “high rise” commercial building, the Stevens building, on the northwest corner of 30th Street and University Avenue (today’s “Western Dental” building) in 1912. “Thirtieth & University” became North Park’s symbolic place name, and within 10 years, this became the heart of the community.
Later in the 1910s, North Park became one of the many San Diego neighborhoods connected by the Class 1 streetcars and an extensive San Diego public transit system that was spurred by the Panama-California Exposition of 1915 and built by John D. Spreckels. These streetcars became a fixture of this neighborhood until their retirement in 1949.
North Park was the site of the crash of PSA Flight 182, California’s deadliest aviation accident to date.
Although North Park 92104 is a neighborhood of mixed architectural styles from many eras, one area of note is the Morley Field area of North Park. Named for its proximity to Balboa Park’s Morley Field Sports Complex, this area is lined with turn-of-the-century Craftsman Bungalows and California Bungalows. Because many of the homes were designed by renowned designer and builder David Owen Dryden, the area is the site of the “Dryden Historic District.” This historical district includes the homes along 28th and Pershing Streets, both bordered on the south by Upas Street and to the north by Landis Street. North Park Dryden Historic District was approved by Historical Resources Board on June 23, 2011 An application for designation of 28th Street and Pershing Avenue from Upas to Landis Streets as a historic district was filed with the City of San Diego Historical Resources Board in May 2007. In September 2008, City staff requested additional information. The Working Group submitted a Supplemental Application in January 2009. The Supplemental Application discusses why the neighborhood reflects significant elements of North Park’s development, justifies the proposed district boundaries and nominates Edward F. Bryans, who built more than a dozen homes in the proposed district, as a Master Builder.
On June 23, 2011, the City’s Historical Resources Board (HRB) approved, by a vote of 8-0, establishment of the North Park Dryden Historic District and also approved Edward F. Bryans as a Master Builder. Of the 136 homes in the District, 104 were approved by the HRB as contributing resources to the District.
As evidenced above, interest in the history of North Park (especially its architecture) appears to be growing. Helping to foster this interest and awareness is the North Park Historical Society, a local volunteer civic organization. The North Park Historical Society manages a website which contains many articles about historic sites, people and events; North Park walking tours; and information about committee projects and meeting information. Some of the site’s extensive collection of articles on North Park’s history were written by Donald Covington – historian, Dryden Expert and North Park enthusiast.