Carlson Lane

William Henry “Billy” Carlson (1864-1937) named this street for himself on his 1906 Redondo Villa tract. Born in Sweden and raised in San Francisco, Carlson moved to San Diego in 1885 and formed a realty firm with Frank J. Higgins. Two years later, they established Ocean Beach, which ignited Carlson’s decade-long obsession with funding a railroad between San Diego and parts east. Higgins went mad and slashed his own throat in early 1889, so Carlson, who had become a city trustee at the tender age of 22, got into politics full-time and was elected mayor of San Diego in 1893. He lost a third term in 1897 and quickly relocated to Los Angeles, where he returned to real estate. Carlson named numerous streets in Redondo Villa and in his 1902 Pasadena Villa tract (in El Sereno) after famous American capitalists, above all railroad barons like E.P. Ripley (see Ripley Ave.) and C.P. Huntington (see Collis Ave.). Indeed, Carlson had aggressively pursued Huntington during his mayoralty, hoping the old tycoon could make his railway happen, but it came to naught. A smooth-talking huckster, Carlson’s flair for shady development schemes caught up with him in 1917 when he was busted for mail fraud; sentenced to four years in federal prison, he served two. Carlson’s personal life was more constant: he married Carmen Luisa Ferrer (1867-1937), the daughter of powerful Spanish and Californio families, in 1887, and their union lasted nearly half a century. Of their four sons, two survived them. (Billy Jr. was a popular racecar driver who died after a track mishap.) The couple spent their final years in South Pasadena; Carmen passed away just ten days after her husband.