The Patron of Alpine
Get to know Benjamin Arnold, Alpine's historic benefactor and driving force behind many of our beloved landmarks.
Written by Carol Walker, Alpine Historical Society
Almost everyone in Alpine has heard about Benjamin Arnold—a leading figure in the development of our community in the late nineteenth century. Arnold Way was named in his honor.
Mr. Arnold was described as having a strong character, yet he was gentle in manner and very approachable. He was born in Kent County, Rhode Island on September 22, 1822.
He was engaged in the East African Trade with his brother and uncle and dealt in ivory and spices. Already a very wealthy man, he and his wife, Harriett, moved to this area to help relieve his asthma and began acquiring land. During the great land boom of 1887-1888 he bought several lots, known as the Horton Addition, in downtown San Diego and built a mansion on the corner of 5th and Juniper Streets.
In 1889, the Arnolds visited Alpine, liked it and soon purchased property in the center of the settlement. He built a large home named Los Robles (pictured below) and from then on he and his wife divided their time between Alpine and their home in San Diego. His Alpine Hotel was built in 1890. His home and hotel were both destroyed by fire.
Mr. Arnold was responsible for the building of several significant public buildings in Alpine. The Alpine Center School was built in 1890 and the Parsonage in 1893. Land for the Alpine Cemetery on Victoria Drive was donated in 1899. Also in 1899, he advanced half the cost to build a Town Hall. Alpine’s first corporation, The Hall Company, Inc., was formed with $600.00 in shares sold to stockholders. The Town Hall became the village’s social and political center. The Town Hall and the Parsonage still stand today—a constant reminder of the significant contributions Mr. Arnold made to the Alpine community. The Town Hall is now the Alpine Woman’s Club building and the Parsonage is Kasitz Kastle Retirement Home.
In addition to buildings, Mr. Arnold made significant improvements to the “terrible road” from Lakeside to El Cajon and took over the stage line and added more horses, better equipment and additional stops.
Benjamin Rice Arnold died on August 24, 1899 at his home in San Diego of heart failure. He was buried at Mt. Hope Cemetery in San Diego. Mrs. Arnold died on June 11, 1902 in Rhode Island. That same year, Mr. Arnold’s remains were moved to Swan Cemetery in Rhode Island where he was buried next to his wife.
“That he was loved by the people of the mountain settlement he had adopted is accepted, and that he loved them and their village can be assumed by what he did while here.” …quoted from Alpine, History of a Mountain Settlement, by Beatrice LaForce.