History of Scripps Family in San Diego

From hospitals to museums to beaches, learn how the Scripps family helped fund countless attractions & amenities in La Jolla & throughout the San Diego area.
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The Scripps Family’s Philanthropy

What do the Children’s Pool beach of La Jolla, the San Diego Natural History Museum, the La Jolla Public Library, the Scripps Institute of Oceanography and the Scripps Pier all have in common? Aside from being notable San Diego landmarks that all make for excellent additions to a vacation itinerary, their founding and continued operation can all be traced back to the efforts of the Scripps family.

Miss Ellen Browning Scripps, along with her half-brother E. W. Scripps, were philanthropists who had a hand in the creation of much of what makes San Diego such an incredible place today. After establishing a profitable newspaper business that afforded them great wealth, both Ellen and E. W. moved to San Diego and began to share their wealth in ways that improved the community.

Ellen especially donated large sums of her money toward educational facilities, especially for women’s education, and tourist attractions that made San Diego into a hub of activity.

The family’s contributions continue to help local communities throughout San Diego to this day. They are maintained through programs like the Scripps Family Impact Fund, which provides grants to nonprofits, and the Scripps Howard Foundation, which supports childhood literacy.

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The History of Ellen and E. W. Scripps

While the Scripps' philanthropic causes made a name for themselves in Southern California, their legacy actually began in Detroit. Here, Ellen Scripps and her brother James E. Scripps worked together to found The Detroit Evening News in 1873. It was an independent local newspaper targeted toward the working class, and for which Ellen ran her own daily column.

Newspapers were the venue by which the Scripps family received their first taste of notoriety. Just a few years later in 1878, E. W. Scripps founded the E. W. Scripps Company in Cleveland, Ohio. This was a chain of papers that grew to encompass local publications in Cincinnati, St. Louis, and Cleveland.

The newspaper business left the Scripps with significant returns on their investments. Even though Ellen lived during a time when women were unable to achieve college degrees, she still pursued her studies and got a certificate from Knox College, becoming financially independent of her business ventures. She went on to become one of the most significant female philanthropists of her time!

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Sources estimated that during her lifetime, she donated as much as $2 million to charitable causes.

Both Ellen and E. W. moved to San Diego in 1898, quickly falling in love with the town and redirecting their excess funds toward communal outreach and local charity projects. E. W. set up an estate at what’s now known as Scripps Ranch, which he and Ellen expanded and renovated together until Ellen moved out to La Jolla in 1897.

It was after her relocation that Ellen truly started to devote herself to the improvement of her community. In between enjoying time at her quiet seaside cottage South Molton Villa and socializing with the widows and unmarried women who made up much of the local population, she turned her gaze toward efforts to improve the lives of everyone in La Jolla.

Many of her efforts focused on female empowerment during a time when women were afforded very few rights. Ellen was a founding member of the La Jolla Woman’s Club, which began as a social club and still stands today as a historic building and popular wedding venue.

She also helped fund the La Jolla Library, the Athenaeum Music & Arts Library, and Scripps College in Claremont, supporting public education for all local residents.

During her 35 years in La Jolla, Ellen funded a variety of institutions and cultural centers. Of her $30 million, nearly all of it was reinvested in the service of San Diego. She helped put the Scripps name on the map, achieving recognition with a spot in the Women’s Hall of Fame, a cover story for Time magazine, and the dedication of the Ellen Browning Scripps Park.

The Scripps family had arguably the most significant contribution to San Diego’s status as a historic and cultural landmark, as well as its ability to draw in tourists from all across the globe. Their enduring contributions helped turn La Jolla and San Diego County into a city beloved near and far.

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The Scripps Family Generosity in Current Times

The Scripps family legacy is extensive and significant, spanning many different kinds of community-focused charitable causes that are still impacting the area to this day!

Some of these efforts come in the form of charity foundations like the Scripps Howard Foundation, while others are buildings and institutions that continue to carry out the Scripps’ philanthropic history.

Whether you’re planning your next visit to San Diego and looking to visit some of the many points of interest, or you’re a San Diego resident who wants to learn more about the history of your hometown, the story of the Scripps family cannot be overlooked!

It is integral to San Diego as we know it today. As you visit various attractions in Balboa Park, La Jolla and throughout the San Diego area, don’t forget about the generous contributions of the Scripps family that helped make all of it possible!

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Attractions and Amenities Funded by the Scripps Family

Learn about some of their most notable institutions, or better yet, consider a trip to San Diego to visit them yourself!

Scripps Institution of Oceanography

The Scripps Institution of Oceanography is a research institute focused on environmental conservation and the preservation of aquatic life. It features its own fleet of research vessels and state-of-the-art facilities for both marine biology and earth science, as well as a well-trained staff of Scripps employees and volunteers alike.

Birch Aquarium at Scripps

The Birch Aquarium at Scripps in La Jolla makes it easy and fun to learn about the different fish and other sea creatures just off the coast of California, in a way that the whole family can enjoy. There are dozens of tank exhibits and feeding shows, all of which are held with the goal of raising awareness for conservation efforts.

If you’re interested in visiting the The Birch Aquarium at Scripps, consider purchasing Go San Diego passes for your family in advance to save on the price of admission. The passes can be combined with other popular area attractions like the world-famous San Diego Zoo, LEGOLAND California and SeaWorld San Diego in nearby Mission Bay.

If you purchase the Go San Diego pass via our website you will get an additional savings on top of the Go Pass savings to save even more!

The Children’s Pool

The Children’s Pool Beach in La Jolla was originally funded by Ellen Scripps. She oversaw the construction of a concrete breakwater surrounding the cove so kids had a safe place to swim without fearing the waves and currents.

Though the breakwater has worn away over the years, The Children’s Pool remains a popular tourist destination thanks to the many seals that make the area their sunbathing and spawning ground.

Ellen Browning Scripps Park

Previously named La Jolla Park and La Jolla Shoreline Park, this lovely area was dedicated to Ellen Scripps in 1927. The Ellen Browning Scripps Park is a seaside park in between The Children’s Pool and La Jolla Cove.

You can picnic or enjoy fun activities like Frisbee on the wide, grassy stretch, or head down to the coastline and walk along the waterfront. It’s also routinely used as a wedding venue.

Scripps College

Scripps College is a liberal arts school in Claremont, California. It is a private women’s college that dates all the way back to 1926, making it a significant early avenue for women to get a college education. It remains just one of 42 women’s colleges in the United States.

The Bishop’s School

The Bishop’s School in La Jolla is a small college-preparatory day school. There are just 800 students, with attendees ranging from grades six to twelve. Since its founding in 1909, it has assisted students in preparing and applying for college and university.

The school focuses on moral and ethical development as well, with teachings in line with its Episcopal background. Ellen Scripps donated the land and money necessary for the college to open over 100 years ago along with co-founder Eliza Virginia Scripps, her half-sister.

Scripps Memorial Hospital and Scripps Metabolic Clinic

The Scripps Memorial Hospital and Scripps Metabolic Clinic, located in La Jolla, are nationally recognized for their work and research efforts. The Scripps family’s ventures included funding for comprehensive medical care, as reflected in their prioritization of hospitals and clinics.

Scripps employees at both the hospital and the metabolic clinic routinely provide healthcare to thousands of families. Another branch of the Scripps Memorial Hospital is located in Encinitas.

La Jolla Recreation Center

The La Jolla Recreation Center was funded by Ellen Scripps and constructed on property adjacent to her home. Irving Gill, one of San Diego’s most famous architects, was responsible for its design. Construction on the Recreation Center was completed in 1915, and the building was donated to the city of San Diego soon after to be used by all its residents.

Ellen Scripps was insistent the property be open to all, including a children’s play area and stipulating that people of any “race, creed, or opinions” be allowed to use the facility.

Scripps Research Institute

The Scripps Research Institute is a nonprofit medical research facility originally funded by Ellen Scripps. Since its founding in 1924, it has launched hundreds of research projects to further human understanding of diseases, other health conditions, and cutting-edge treatment methods.

The California campus is the original and best-known institute, but there is also a Florida location.

Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve

The Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve is a large state park located in La Jolla. It spans over 2,000 acres, and while visitors are welcome to hike, birdwatch, or simply enjoy the scenery, the area has remained protected from development since 1977.

It is one of the best places to experience local San Diego wildlife in its natural habitat, largely undisturbed by the presence of humans.

La Jolla Woman’s Club

The La Jolla Woman’s Club began its life as a social club dedicated toward the many single women and widows that called La Jolla home in the early 1900s. Its original and current mission is still to work toward improving the welfare of La Jolla residents and the world at large by serving as a hub of culture, history, art, and education.

The Woman’s Club holds frequent charitable fundraiser events such as their annual gala. Its ceremony garden and large terrace make it the perfect location for a wedding and reception.

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Unique Facts and Trivia

In addition to their many philanthropic contributions, there’s plenty to learn about the Scripps family and the other ways they left their mark on California.

Miss Ellen’s Miscellany

Ellen Scripps ran a daily newspaper column for The Detroit Evening News called “Miss Ellen’s Miscellany.” It included brief snippets of national and local news stories.

A Large Family

Ellen and E. W. had 10 other siblings. Ellen and her six siblings were born in London, England, while E. W. and her other half-siblings were born in Illinois.

San Diego Residents

E. W.’s home in San Diego was initially called the Miramar estate before becoming Scripps Ranch. When Ellen moved to La Jolla, her first home was the South Moulton Villa.

Scripps Family Impact Fund

The Scripps Family Impact Fund provides annual grants for nonprofit charities to fund research and development for causes at the heart of San Diego.

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