I recently posted about spending a gorgeous day with a dear friend in one of San Diego’s most beautiful and popular destinations, Balboa Park. Since there are so many beautiful doors, arches, and entrances in the Park, I thought it would be a fitting submission for Norm 2.0 Thursday Doors link up.
I thought this gem in the middle of our city deserved a few more posts and pictures.
Balboa Park covers over 1,200 acres and is situated just minutes from downtown San Diego. It is home to 15 major museums, renowned performing arts venues, beautiful gardens, and the world famous San Diego Zoo. It is the nation’s largest urban cultural park and one of the oldest in the United States dedicated to public recreational use.
When the park (then named City Park) began in 1868 as land set aside by San Diego civic leaders, it was just a scrub-filled mesa without formal landscaping or development. That would change after the turn of the century when a master plan for improvements was formally introduced. San Diego was set to play host to the 1915 Panama-California Exposition and the city leaders wanted to put their best face forward as they welcomed visitors from around the world. San Diego would be the smallest city to ever hold a World’s Fair; its population at the time was less than 40,000.
The Exposition’s lead designer, Bertram Goodhue, wanted a regionally appropriate aesthetic for the architecture. To accomplish this, he and his design team combined the styles of highly ornamented Spanish Baroque with Spanish Colonial architecture to create the Spanish Colonial Revival Style used for the Exposition’s buildings. After attending the Exposition, President Theodore Roosevelt put his stamp of approval on the architectural style and recommended that the “buildings of rare phenomenal taste and beauty” be left as permanent additions.
Unfortunately, most of the expo buildings were only supposed to remain standing through 1916, and were not constructed with long-lasting materials. When the expo ended, several discussions were held to determine what to do with the buildings. Even the lead architect, Goodhue, recommended demolishing the buildings, saying “They are now crumbling, disintegrating and altogether unlovely structures, structures that lack any of the venerability of age and present only its pathos, and the space they occupy could readily be made into one of the most beautiful public gardens in the New World.”
Happily, cooler heads prevailed. A city-appointed committee hired an architect to review the buildings, and he determined that they could be restored by a slight margin over the costs to demolish the buildings. The necessary funds and materials for restoration were donated by San Diegans and the labor was financed by the federal government.
My next Thursday Doors post will cover another area of the Park, which was constructed for the 1935 California Pacific International Exposition.