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!