Lacey J's Site Has History and Faces an Uncertain Future

Santee Historical Society researcher looks at the prominent local bar and restaurant once known as the Wagon Wheel.

By Ellen Henry, Researcher

was a prominent restaurant, bar and dance hall located at the corner of Magnolia Avenue and Woodside Avenue, in Santee. Jeanna Cash took over operations as General Manager and owner in 2011. But, the spot , with Cash announcing via Facebook:

“It is with a saddened heart that we announce Lacey J's last day of business will be Sunday, August 12th. Please come out and support us as you can.”

The restaurant has changed hands and names several times in the past 70 years. The building and land that makes up Lacey J’s are deeply rooted in Santee’s history and local nostalgia.

Santee Historical Society member Scotty D. stated: “There are some interesting findings with respect to property parcel No. 5048372.”

According to a 1999 government site survey titled, Defensive Environmental Restoration Program: Formerly Used Defense Sites, Findings and Determination of Eligibility reported: “At an unknown time during 1941 the Army acquired possession of a portion of a parcel on the southeast corner of the intersection between Magnolia Avenue and Woodside Avenue in Santee, California.”

The Army’s official designation for this site was called “Army Camp, Santee, California, Site No. J09CA732300.”

According to the report, “A structure built in approximately 1915 was used as headquarters for the camp, this structure was known as Greenleaf's Ice Cream Parlor, which then became the Wagon Wheel Restaurant and dance hall.”

“The Santee Historical Society is still in the process of trying to ascertain documents to validate some of these claims made by the government report,” explained Scotty.

The Wagon Wheel Restaurant and Dance Hall opened for business in 1944. The establishment grew to become a highly successful restaurant and social hot spot for the area. In 1976 the new owner (George Wood) changed the name from Wagon Wheel to Mulvaney’s. In 2003 the new owners (James, Emily and Tina Thomson) decided to show tribute to the history of the building and changed the name back to Wagon Wheel.

In 2011 Jeanna Cash acquired the restaurant and change the name to in hopes of reviving the restaurants failing business. The restaurant held many fond memories for Jeanna and she worked hard to bring those memories to life, but the economy would not be so kind and she was .

The future for the building and land that once made up the Wagon Wheel is up in the air.

Scotty D says, “Santee’s demographics are changing, the once small sleepy dairy and agriculture town is growing at an exponential rate. I would not be surprised to see a chain restaurant step in to take over the property; that day will be a sad one, for Santee will lose yet another piece of her history.”

Help preserve Santee history: 

El Henry September 11, 2012 at 02:03 AM
LOL Bill..I can just see ya now! Let's hope someone can figure out a business that is sustainable for that area, or we may lose another landmark in Santee! I agree with Rick, the place needs more parking and visibility, it's buried behind the dealership, and everything else around it!
Barry Berkeley September 16, 2012 at 01:25 AM
The wagon wheel should be kept country western with hard core country western. We want the sould of Merle Haggard, Kitty Wells and Loretta Lynn. Keep alternative music away. Will Cook may reopen the Wagon Wheel if the City of El Cajon will help him out.
Barry Berkeley September 16, 2012 at 01:28 AM
The previous owner failed as she did not keep it 100 per cent country. Will Cook will prove to make things right. He is the Savior of east county.
Mark swatson October 20, 2012 at 11:33 PM
Finally this dump is closed!!! This place was filled with confused people who thought they were white power but once they drove off in their over compensating lifted trucks blasting and singing along to some rap music. Don't get me wrong I love country music but this place gives Santee a bad rep.
Meressa Kauffman May 11, 2013 at 03:47 PM
I was under the impression that this building was being taken over by a church. Has that changed?


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