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December 8, 2016 /

Thursday Doors: Balboa Park (Part 2)

My Thursday Doors post last week highlighted some of the buildings and doors that were constructed for the 1915 Panama-California Exposition held in San Diego’s Balboa Park. This week’s post features a group of colorful structures that were added to the park close to 20 years later.

Hoping to mirror the success of the 1915 Exposition and promote the city during the Great Depression, San Diego civic leaders decided to hold a second large-scale event: the 1935 California Pacific International Exposition. To help accomplish this bold plan and create whole new areas of the park, San Diego was fortunate to receive the first funds allocated by the Works Progress Administration (WPA).

The second exposition, quite unlike the first, featured some controversial exhibits and unusual sideshow entertainment, including a nudist colony called Zoro Gardens, a Midget Village (yes, that’s what they called it), and Alpha, a 6’2”, 2,000 pound silver robot.

Even though this post isn’t about the nudist colony, I know you want to see it.

Even though this post isn’t about the nudist colony, I knew you would want to see it.

Robots and nudist colonies don't mix... or maybe they do?

Robots and nudist colonies don’t mix… or maybe they do?

San Diego architect Richard S. Requa oversaw the design and construction of many new buildings for the Exposition. Whereas the buildings from the 1915 fair were designed in the Spanish Colonial Revival style, Requa’s “California-Spanish” architectural designs pulled not only from Spain but also pre-Columbian Indian buildings and temples.


Included in the new construction was a group of quaint buildings and courtyards designed to depict a charming old Spanish village. The six buildings featured shops, restaurants, and a children’s theater.

In 1937, after the fair had ended, the Spanish village was reopened by a group of local artists as an artists’ colony. Although the colony was temporarily commissioned by the U.S. Army for barracks during World War II, after the war it was reclaimed and restored by the artists and has been a beloved local art destination ever since.

San Diego artists have continued to preserve and enhance this historical landmark by adding colorful plantings and unique entryways. Today, the Spanish Village Art Center continues to be a thriving community of over 200 independently juried local artisans. The Art Center features 37 working art studios and galleries that are open to the public.


Join the fun at Norm 2.0’s Thursday Door-a-palooza. If you have doors that you love (and who doesn’t love doors?) and want to share, click here for more info, to read other submissions, and to link up your post.



Leave a Comment
  1. tgeriatrix / Dec 8 2016 7:52 am

    Colorful doors, very nice!

  2. Kate Crimmins / Dec 8 2016 8:12 am

    Your nudist photo didn’t allow for a closeup! 🙂 Always interesting.

  3. Terri Webster Schrandt / Dec 8 2016 9:41 am

    Love the Spanish village! My mom always loved bumming around the park. Do you follow Cool San Diego Sites, a blog on wordpress?

  4. Dan Antion / Dec 8 2016 12:15 pm

    I like the blue door with one odd panel. Question, is the robot considered to be nude?

  5. jesh stg / Dec 8 2016 12:24 pm

    Great to see familiar places!. Balboa Park is one of them, and many of my photos come from there:) The artist corner is one of the most colorful. We used to live about 1 1/2 hrs. North of San Diego, but moved to Northern CA, out of the city. Are you regularly at Thurs. Doors?

    • / Dec 8 2016 2:49 pm

      Thanks for stopping by and commenting. I love to get to Balboa Park early when the light is good, there is plenty of parking, and the crowds haven’t converged yet. I post on Thursday Doors now and then, when I find some good doors to share.

  6. laura bruno lilly / Dec 8 2016 12:45 pm

    Yeah, Like Dan above, I’m wondering if that robot is an alien’s understanding of what it means to be nude???? HA!
    Love the art village in the middle of a city park…

    • / Dec 8 2016 1:30 pm

      Queen Zorine doesn’t look all that concerned either way. The art village is really a lovely place. I especially enjoy the whimsy and color that is everywhere.

  7. Norm 2.0 / Dec 8 2016 3:51 pm

    It really does seem like an interesting place – I’ll definitely make a point of checking it out if I’m ever in that area.
    Wonderful post 🙂

  8. sustainabilitea / Dec 8 2016 5:32 pm

    What wonderfully colorful doors and quite an interesting past. 🙂


  9. dconnollyislandgmailcom / Dec 8 2016 6:11 pm

    Wonderful doors and very interesting history! After reading your last post, and a couple of posts from Joanne, I was very inspired to join the ‘Thursday’s Doors’ linkup. I then discovered that the doors in our small town are incredibly plain. Seriously! Even our most interesting buildings have Home Hardware doors. Argghhh. I will keep on exploring!

    • / Dec 9 2016 6:42 pm

      It isn’t always easy to find doors that are worthy of Norm’s link-up. So many older doors have been replaced over the years with boring glass ones. Keep looking, I’m sure you’ll find some that you’ll want to highlight. Of course, often travel yields interesting doors.

  10. Jean Reinhardt / Dec 9 2016 5:09 am

    What a fabulously creative place to visit. My youngest would love it, she’s studying Art, Craft and Design at the moment.

    • / Dec 10 2016 9:03 am

      It is such a beautiful place! The artists have done a great job keeping it “real” and not allowing tacky touristy things to ruin it (no t-shirt or mug shop in sight!).

  11. Anabel Marsh / Dec 9 2016 12:10 pm

    Well, that was certainly a bold and different exposition in 1935! Intriguing.

    • / Dec 9 2016 6:45 pm

      I was amazed at how out there that fair was! There is a great picture of a bunch of men looking through peepholes and cracks in the fence surrounding the nudist colony. I don’t know how much the entrance fee was, but they were obviously looking for a freebie!

  12. Joanne Sisco / Dec 9 2016 5:59 pm

    Door-a-palooza is an understatement! Wowzer!! My favourite is the orange door divided into purple-bordered squares.
    I’m wondering what the organizers of the 1935 Exposition were smoking when they came up with their ideas – a Nudist *Zoo* was definitely ‘out there’ 😉

    • / Dec 9 2016 6:48 pm

      That is so strange, huh!? I’m sure they knew that it would be a real money-maker. I thought of you when I took the picture of the chimp in the spaceship… hopefully that means that your monkey is corralled and maybe headed to another planet.

      • Joanne Sisco / Dec 12 2016 7:17 pm

        Hopefully that pesky monkey is finished with me for another 12 years 🙂

  13. Parkit / Dec 12 2016 11:47 am

    Love Balboa Park! I always enjoy your blog and I have nominated you for the Sunshine Blogger Award. Check out the details here:

    • / Dec 12 2016 12:06 pm

      You are very nice to have nominated me. I’ve made it a blog policy, though, not to accept awards (with my usual caveat: unless they involve substantial amounts of cash… or all-expense-paid-trips 🙂 ). Congrats on your award!

  14. Kathy @ SMART Living 365 / Dec 12 2016 4:30 pm

    Hey Janis! I’ve never been to that part of Balbo Park so now we’ll have to plan another trip to San Diego. And your photos are great…including the nudist 😉 one! ~Kathy

    • / Dec 12 2016 4:51 pm

      Yes! Definitely come back to SD! Unfortunately, I can’t take credit for the nudist picture… it was a little before my time. 🙂 What a hoot that they did that!

  15. javealife / Jan 15 2017 6:23 am

    Avery unusual destination for sure, never been to any kind of artists retreat or colony

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