Founders of Balboa Park linger in Sefton Plaza.

Kate Sessions, the Mother of Balboa Park, holds a pine cone by the grass.
Kate Sessions, the Mother of Balboa Park, holds a pine cone by the grass.

Balboa Park is bursting with cool sights wherever you go. If you’ve ever driven or walked along El Prado a short distance west of the Cabrillo Bridge, you’ve probably seen some slightly larger than life sculptures of people standing on either side of the street. Sefton Plaza, located at the intersection of El Prado and Balboa Drive, is the location of these four bronze sculptures.

On the south side stands a representation of horticulturist Kate Sessions holding a trowel and pine cone. Often called the Mother of Balboa Park, she was instrumental in creating the park’s many lush gardens and groves of trees. The sculpture stands among a variety of beautiful plants including species she introduced in the early years of the park.

The three lifelike sculptures on the north side of Sefton Plaza, an area called Founder’s Plaza, represent Ephraim Morse, Alonzo Horton and George Marston. These three were the visionaries who orginally conceived Balboa Park, then worked tirelessly to create it.

Ephraim Morse, an early settler and promoter of San Diego, and Alonzo Horton, a land speculator responsible for downtown San Diego’s current location, proposed in 1868 that the new city park occupy 1,400 acres. The sheer size of the park was simply amazing, considering San Diego at the time had a mere 2,300 residents! George Marston, often called the Father of Balboa Park, was a prominent department store owner who personally funded the park’s design. To turn the grand vision into reality, he hired the former superintendent of New York City’s Central Park, Samuel B. Parsons Jr. The park’s construction began in 1903 at the corner of Sixth Avenue and Date Street. (Just a three minute walk from where I live! I love it!)

The four wonderfully realistic bronze sculptures were created by local artist Ruth Hayward. She intentionally made them about 10% larger than life, so they’d appear slightly imposing.

Balboa Park, which began as a audacious idea in the minds of just a few people, today is the nation’s largest urban cultural park!

During her life, Kate Sessions created gardens and landscapes for all to enjoy.
During her life, Kate Sessions created gardens and landscapes for all to enjoy.
Bronze sculpture stands on footpath between Cabrillo Bridge and Sixth Avenue.
Kate Sessions lingers on footpath between Cabrillo Bridge and Sixth Avenue.
More pine cones fill a shallow box at Kate Sessions' booted feet.
More pine cones fill a shallow box at Kate Sessions’ booted feet.
Lifelike sculptures of Ephraim Morse and Alonzo Horton in Founder's Plaza.
Lifelike sculptures of Ephraim Morse and Alonzo Horton in Founder’s Plaza.
Two of Balboa Park's early advocates survey their awesome creation.
Two of Balboa Park’s early advocates survey their awesome creation.
Founders Plaza gifted to the James Dayton North Family 1868.
Founders Plaza gifted to the James Dayton North Family 1868.
Near Morse and Horton, George Marston sits on a wall, enjoying the surrounding beauty.
Near Morse and Horton, George Marston sits on a wall, enjoying the surrounding beauty.
George Marston is remembered today as the Father of Balboa Park.
George Marston is remembered today as the Father of Balboa Park.
Bronze sculpture sits comfortably next to its hat by a small pool of water.
Bronze sculpture sits comfortably next to its hat by a small pool of water.

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Published by

Richard Schulte

Downtown San Diego has been my home for many years. My online activities reflect my love for writing, blogging, walking and photography.

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