Sand sculpture murals show San Diego history!

Two bas-relief sand sculpture panels by renowned artist Charles R. Faust in the lobby of 2550 Fifth Avenue in San Diego.
Two bas-relief sand sculpture panels by renowned artist Charles R. Faust in the lobby of 2550 Fifth Avenue in San Diego.

Two amazing works of art can be viewed inside an office building in Bankers Hill. The small murals–sculptures made of sand that appear as bas-relief panels–decorate a wall in the lobby of 5th & Laurel, the building best known as the home of Mister A’s restaurant.

Commissioned by the now defunct Great American First Savings Bank to celebrate their Centennial in 1985, the two panels depict important San Diego landmarks and aspects of local history.

The two sand cast panels were created by Charles R. Faust (1922 – 2000), a prolific artist who for many years worked as the director of architectural design at the San Diego Zoo. His invention of moated animal enclosures in the mid-1950’s revolutionized how the world famous zoo and their Wild Animal Park near Escondido exhibited animals. He also designed the San Diego Zoo’s huge walk-in aviary–the first of its kind in the world.

After retiring from that job, Charles opened Faust Sand Casting in Ocean Beach with his son. Over his creative lifetime the art of Charles Faust would also include fine drawings, watercolors and oil paintings, many of which depicted life in the Old West, a theme he loved.

His sand sculpture murals have added beauty to many locations around San Diego. I photographed a couple of these murals in the past for Cool San Diego Sights, without realizing at the time they were created by Charles Faust. You can spot them here and here!

Yesterday morning I spoke to a security guard in the lobby of 5th & Laurel, and he said these two “sand art” panels were moved from a suite in the building where there used to be a bank. I believe they were in Suite 120, once the home of Pacific Premier Bank, and the future home of an upscale Italian restaurant. But I’m not sure about the exact history of these particular panels. If you know anything more about them, please leave a comment!

(Please note these photographs make the panels seem more yellowish than they are in reality, due to the indoor lighting and my modest camera.)

The left panel depicts early San Diego history, including Mission San Diego de Alcalá and the ranchos.
The panel on the left. It depicts early San Diego history, including Mission San Diego de Alcalá and the ranchos.
A friar outside the Spanish mission. The man on horseback might be a soldier from the old presidio.
A friar outside the Spanish mission. The man on horseback might be a soldier from the old presidio.
The bells of Mission San Diego de Alcalá, first Spanish mission in California.
The bells of Mission San Diego de Alcalá, first Spanish mission in Alta California.
Scenes from the Old West in San Diego.
Scenes from the Old West in San Diego, including an old wagon and a ride on a bucking horse.
A rancher or vaquero, and a herd of cattle.
A rancher or vaquero, and a herd of cattle.
The right panel depicts more San Diego landmarks. Images include Balboa Park, a streetcar, Coronado ferry, naval ship, farm and Victorian houses.
The panel on the right. It depicts many later San Diego landmarks. Images include Balboa Park, a streetcar, Coronado ferry, naval ship, farm and Victorian houses.
GREAT AMERICAN CENTENNIAL - 100 YEARS - 1885-1985
GREAT AMERICAN CENTENNIAL – 100 YEARS – 1885-1985
A sailboat and birds share San Diego Bay with a pre-bridge Coronado ferry and an old Navy warship.
A sailboat and birds share San Diego Bay with a pre-bridge Coronado ferry and an early 20th century Navy warship. In the upper right corner I spy a tiny Old Point Loma Lighthouse!
I recognize the Cabrillo Bridge and the California Building and Tower.
I recognize the Cabrillo Bridge and the California Building and Tower of Balboa Park.
I think I recognize the Long-Waterman House of Bankers Hill on the left. The house on the right might be a south view of the Britt-Scripps House, but I'm not certain.
I think I recognize the historic Long-Waterman House of Bankers Hill. The house to the right of it might be a south view of the Britt-Scripps House, but it appears a bit different.

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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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