Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Ornate Balboa

Gemstones are not formed over night and neither was the jewel of San Diego, Balboa Park. In 1868, a 1,400-acre mesa elevated above Downtown San Diego ("New Town" at the time) was set aside for public use as a park and recreation area. Starting in 1892, San Diego City planners traded 32 acres of park-land to Kate Sessions in return for 100 planted trees annually. This action is one of the reasons that Balboa Park today is lush in the arid climate of Southern California. The first master plan was established in 1903 and construction commenced for the 1915-16 Panama-California Exposition. The Exposition was held to celebrate the completion of the Panama Canal, an extreme engineering feat, even by today's standards. Many buildings were fabricated for this festival and were designed with great Spanish influence. The area surrounding the Botanical Building and the lily pond is one of the best spots in all of Balboa Park. Today El Prado, the main entrance into Balboa Park, looks much like it did in 1915. Spreckels Pavilion, the world's largest outdoor pipe organ, was built for the 1915-16 Panama-California Exposition. The organ contains over 4,510 pipes in 73 ranks. The Spreckels Organ Society holds free Sunday afternoon concerts and puts on the Summer Organ Festival, a free concert every Monday during the summer months. To boost the local economy during the depression, the 1935-36 California Pacific International Exposition was held in Balboa Park. More buildings were erected in other locations throughout the park. Balboa Park evolved from an elevated bluff to a city-center filled with museums (Photographic Arts, History, Air & Space, Automotive, Sports, Railroad, Museum of Man, and Veterans), performing arts centers (Old Globe, Civic Youth Ballet, Spreckels Organ Pavilion, Junior Theatre, and Hitchcock Puppet Theater), and gardens (Lily Pond, Botanical Building, Parker Memorial Rose Garden, Old Cactus Garden, Palm Canyon, Zoro Garden, Floral Association, and Bay Fig Tree). In 2009, Balboa Park is a 1,200-acre jewel of San Diego, 141 years in the making. Please visit History of Balboa Park. for a detailed history of the park from inception to present-day.

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