About Elisha Spurr Babcock, Jr.
Elisha Spurr Babcock, Jr, is one of the most remarkable business men of his day. It would require a volume to record the many enterprises he has carried to a successful completion. After graduating from the high school of Evansville, he entered the service of the E. & T. H. railroad company, commencing as a freight clerk at the Evansville depot, and working himself up to the position of general freight agent of the road. He left the railroad service to engage in developing the Bell telephone company, which controlled a large territory, extending from Evansville to New Orleans, having at the same time the sole ownership of the Eugene ice company, with some five large houses and a number of agencies, and being a partner in the firm of E. S. Babcock & Son. Since the death of Oliver Babcock, his success marked him a man of distinctive mental character, a man of vast resources in large commercial transactions. In 1885 he commenced to close out all these industries with a view of retiring from business. Regaining his health, he began a year later to embark in the large enterprises in California that have since made him known far and wide. He and three associates, in 1885, purchased the property known as Coronado Beach, a tract of over 4.000 acres opposite San Diego, being the peninsula that makes the bay of San Diego. They organized the Coronado Beach company, of which Mr. Babcock has always been president and active manager. They laid out the city of Coronado, sold $2,750,000 worth of property during the boom, built the grand hotel, Del Coronado at a cost of $1,600,000—a building that is without a peer on this continent. They also built the water works for both Coronado and San Diego, the street railway lines, a railroad twenty-two miles long around the bay of San Diego, an electric light plant, a shipyard and many other enterprises. At the close of the boom Mr. Babcock bought out most of the other stock-holders. John D. Spreckles and A. B. Spreckles, sons of the sugar king, Claus Spreckles, bought the balance of the stock. These three men became the sole owners of the enterprises developed by Mr. Babcock. Since then he has entered on his wider career, which has made him one of the leading representative men of the Pacific slope. All the great works, looking to the development of San Diego county, Cal., are under his guidance. He is now engaged in the comprehensive development of the water supplies of the San Diego bay region. To show up briefly the result of his work since 1886, we may enumerate the following enterprises, which he has given or developed in the city of San Diego: Its water works, street railway system, electric light plant, a railroad twenty-two miles long and many other public institutions.
The Grand Hotel del Coronado is a thing of his creation, as is also the city of Coronado, with its tree-lined avenues and many beautiful parks, filled with the flowers of the tropics, its electric railway and railroad around the bay, its electric lights and ferry, its pure water and drainage. He has, besides his great interests in the Coronado Beach company, many investments outside. To his energy, grit and pe'rscverence is due all the great projects of which he is at present master. All the great schemes conceived by him have beeu carried to completion, and success has crowned his efforts in all undertakings, whether of public or private interest. He is in full vigor of body and intellect, and evidently has a long career before him.
For one thing among many, Mr. Babcock never sought public office, and lived free from such an infection. His private and corporate interests are so large that he has hardly a moment he can call his own. If he wishes to rest, he must leave home and conceal his whereabouts, as early and late at his business offices and in his private room, he is sought after at all hours by parties wishing his help or his information. In the bay region roundabout San Diego his name is a household word. You cannot walk the streets or enter a public conveyance without hearing his name and his projects discussed. He is very reticent about his business and private affairs, and it would be very hard to make an estimate of the amount of his fortune. The Coronado Beach company has a capital of $3,000,000, and he and John D. Spreckles and A. B. Spreckles are the sole owners. Though this is the largest business matter he is engaged in, it is, however, but one of the many. It is not his fortune so much as his great abilityr in opening up new sources of wealth to himself and the consequent development of the country that has made him so well known.
Source: "A history of Evansville and Vanderburgh County, Indiana", 1897