History Center visits San Diego legend Nathan Harrison.

Most of the museums in Balboa Park have reopened now that the COVID-19 pandemic is subsiding. Yesterday I visited the San Diego History Center and enjoyed viewing one of their current exhibits.

Born a Slave, Died a San Diego Legend concerns freed slave Nathan Harrison, who lived in a small cabin on Palomar Mountain in the late 19th and early 20th century.

Perhaps you’ve driven up to Palomar Mountain State Park and the world-famous Palomar Observatory via Nate Harrison Road. The road is named in honor of this legendary homesteader who provided water and stories to tourists who made the precipitous trek to the mountain top. Nathan Harrison was once the most photographed person in San Diego!

Born a Slave, Died a San Diego Legend shows what it would have been like to journey up to Harrison’s cabin on Palomar Mountain. It also examines what San Diego State University archaeologists have discovered about his life and interactions with his visitors, who offered him gifts of all types. To learn more about the Department of Anthropology’s fascinating Nathan “Nate” Harrison Historical Archaeology Project, click here.

One interesting thing I learned was that Harrison had a sister-in-law named Ramona Wolf. She was the namesake for Helen Hunt Jackson’s novel Ramona, one of the most popular American novels ever written. (You might recall that, to draw tourists and increase the number of riders on his San Diego Electric Railway, entrepreneur and philanthropist John D. Spreckels once claimed the dilapidated Casa de Estudillo in Old Town was the marriage place of the novel’s character Ramona, and thereby preserved an historic building.)

Nathan Harrison’s life is an integral part of San Diego history. His story spans the Antebellum South, the California Gold Rush and Wild West, and the early part of the 20th century.

His many personal adventures, his independent life on a mountain, and his friendship inspired countless San Diegans. When you visit the exhibit at the San Diego History Center, you will also be inspired at how, in his own unique way, a freed slave achieved the American Dream.

I live in downtown San Diego and love to walk around with my camera! You can follow Cool San Diego Sights via Facebook or Twitter!

Unusual traffic signal box memorial in Balboa Park.

You rarely find a traffic signal box with a special dedication plaque. There’s one such box in San Diego, and it’s located in Balboa Park at the corner of Park Boulevard and Presidents Way.

This traffic signal box memorializes Walter J. Sarnaw. The plaque reads:

THIS TRAFFIC SIGNAL SYSTEM
IS DEDICATED TO THE MEMORY OF
WALTER J. SARNAW
IN APPRECIATION FOR HIS
DEDICATED SERVICE TO THE
SAFETY OF THE CITIZENS OF
SAN DIEGO

I can find no biography of Walter J. Sarnaw online, apart from some basic information on this Find a Grave page. It indicates Walter Julian Sarnaw was born in 1916 in Illinois, attended San Diego State College, was a member of the campus Engineer’s Association, served in the Army at the end of World War II, and died in 1973 in San Diego.

And we know for certain that he was dedicated to the safety of the San Diego community. Which made him an important contributor to the life and history of our city.

If you know more about Walter J. Sarnaw, please leave a comment!

I live in downtown San Diego and love to walk around with my camera! You can follow Cool San Diego Sights via Facebook or Twitter!

Historical marker at Kate Sessions nursery in Pacific Beach.

If you’ve driven down Garnet Avenue in Pacific Beach, you might have noticed a couple of enormous old trees at the corner of Pico Street, just east of Soledad Mountain Road.

By the sidewalk stands an easily overlooked historical marker. It reads:

KATE OLIVIA SESSIONS’ NURSERY SITE

1857-1940

THIS PLAQUE COMMEMORATES THE LIFE AND INFLUENCE OF A WOMAN WHO ENVISIONED SAN DIEGO BEAUTIFUL. ON THIS SITE SHE OPERATED A NURSERY AND GAINED WORLD RENOWN AS A HORTICULTURIST. SHE WAS THE FIRST WOMAN TO RECEIVE THE INTERNATIONAL MEYER MEDAL IN GENETICS.

CALIFORNIA REGISTERED HISTORICAL LANDMARK NO. 764

PLAQUE PLACED BY THE CALIFORNIA STATE PARK COMMISSION IN COOPERATION WITH THE PACIFIC BEACH WOMAN’S CLUB.

JULY 7, 1961

Kate Sessions is probably best known as the Mother of Balboa Park. In addition to owning other nurseries and growing fields in San Diego, she maintained a small nursery in a corner of Balboa Park (originally called City Park) under an 1892 agreement with the City of San Diego. She was required under the lease to plant 100 trees in the park each year. Most of the older trees in Balboa Park that you see today were planted by her hand.

The colorful jacaranda trees seen around San Diego were also introduced to the city by Kate Sessions.

I recently blogged about the very first camphor tree planted in North America. She’s the one who planted it. The historic camphor tree stands just west of Balboa Park in Bankers Hill near a beautiful historic house. To revisit that old blog post, click here.

Here are a couple more photos that I took this weekend by the historical marker…

I live in downtown San Diego and love to walk around with my camera! You can follow Cool San Diego Sights via Facebook or Twitter!

You can easily explore Cool San Diego Sights by using the search box on my blog’s sidebar. Or click a tag! There are thousands upon thousands of photos for you to enjoy!

A bit of Balboa Park in Mission Hills!

I was walking through Mission Hills yesterday when I suddenly thought I’d taken a wrong turn and ended up in Balboa Park!

There, rising in front of me, was a miniature version of the old Ford Building, home of the San Diego Air and Space Museum!

The unique, cylindrical, Streamline Moderne-style Ford Building in Balboa Park, which resembles a V8 engine, was erected by the Ford Motor Company for the 1935 California Pacific International Exposition.

This smaller version in Mission Hills can be found at the corner of Ft. Stockton Drive and Hawk Street. It’s the home of the Fort Oak restaurant.

Ford Building from 1935 California Pacific International Exposition in Balboa Park. No known copyright image from Flickr.

My walk yesterday went from Hillcrest through Mission Hills. I also visited Pacific Beach. Many photos and fascinating blog posts are coming! I also will be blogging about an amazing historic site in Vista, which I visited last weekend.

Now I’m about to head out walking again! Happy Sunday!

This blog now features thousands of photos around San Diego! Are you curious? There’s lots of cool stuff to check out!

Here’s the Cool San Diego Sights main page, where you can read the most current blog posts.  If you’re using a phone or small mobile device, click those three parallel lines up at the top–that opens up my website’s sidebar, where you’ll see the most popular posts, a search box, and more!

To enjoy future posts, you can also “like” Cool San Diego Sights on Facebook or follow me on Twitter.

New tile murals at Automotive Museum debut!

Today was an historic day! Four long-anticipated murals have debuted above the entrance of the San Diego Automotive Museum!

Yesterday’s scaffolding has been removed, revealing beautiful tile artwork that will be enjoyed by visitors to Balboa Park for many decades–perhaps even centuries–into the future!

I first blogged about the project back in late 2017. You can read what I wrote here.

As I explained, these permanent tile murals “…are based on murals that decorated the (California State Building) during the 1935 California Pacific International Exposition….Much of the California State Building’s original ornamentation no longer exists, including the four original murals. They were created for the exposition by Hollywood set designer Juan Larrinaga. Painted on fiberboard to appear like tilework, they depicted California’s commerce, scenic beauty, agriculture and industry.”

The exquisite tiles were created by RTK Studios in Ojai, California.

Those who enjoy at visit to the San Diego Automotive Museum, or the newly opened Pan American Plaza in front of the museum, will now be able feast their eyes on these four truly remarkable works of public art!

I live in downtown San Diego and love to walk around with my camera! You can follow Cool San Diego Sights via Facebook or Twitter!

You can easily explore Cool San Diego Sights by using the search box on my blog’s sidebar. Or click a tag! There are thousands upon thousands of photos for you to enjoy!

Early spring in the Zoro Garden.

Spring sprang two days ago.

Late this afternoon I descended into Balboa Park’s sunken Zoro Garden.

The day’s final rays of sunshine were filtering down to flowers planted along the stone walls and walkways.

I didn’t see any butterflies. Not yet! But I did see early spring color, and the promise of many more flowers to come…

I live in downtown San Diego and love to walk around with my camera! You can follow Cool San Diego Sights via Facebook or Twitter!

Balboa Park’s hidden Australian Garden.

The nation of Australia presented the City of San Diego with many beautiful plants in 1976 for the United States Bicentennial. These plants can be found in Balboa Park’s seldom visited, little known Australian Garden.

Should you drive into the heart of Balboa Park by turning from Park Boulevard onto Presidents Way, you’ll glimpse the top of the Australian Garden to your right. To see most of the native Australian trees and shrubs, however, you must drive or carefully walk down winding, slightly steep Paseo de Oro, which motorists pass just before they reach the large parking lot behind the Spreckels Organ Pavilion. Look for the Gold Gulch Remote Parking Lot sign. There’s no sidewalk!

You can also reach the Australian Garden by walking south down Gold Gulch Trail, which begins near El Prado at the Zoro Garden. The trail passes under the Space Theater Way bridge near the Fleet Science Center and continues along the east side of the Japanese Friendship Garden. Once you see a fenced area where the green Balboa Park shuttles are stored, you’re there!

Plants in the Australian Garden, according to this page, include: “Grevellia, Acacia, Callistemon, Banksia, Hakea, Stenocarpus, Leptospermum, Melaleuca, and Eucalyptus.” There are no signs in Gold Gulch Canyon at the garden, but apparently there are plans to create trails in this area of Balboa Park and erect an informational kiosk.

In 1935, this small canyon was the home of Gold Gulch, a popular attraction at Balboa Park’s California Pacific International Exposition. According to Wikipedia, Gold Gulch was an “Old West mining town-ghost town re-creation for fairgoers to experience the atmosphere of a mining boomtown… Gold Gulch inspired and influenced subsequent Western theme parks…Examples include the Calico Ghost Town…and the “Ghost Town” section of Knott’s Berry Farm… and Frontierland by Walt Disney.…”

The above photo of the “hidden” Australian Garden was taken from a point above the canyon, behind the WorldBeat Cultural Center and Centro Cultural de la Raza.

This blog now features thousands of photos around San Diego! Are you curious? There’s lots of cool stuff to check out!

Here’s the Cool San Diego Sights main page, where you can read the most current blog posts.  If you’re using a phone or small mobile device, click those three parallel lines up at the top–that opens up my website’s sidebar, where you’ll see the most popular posts, a search box, and more!

To enjoy future posts, you can also “like” Cool San Diego Sights on Facebook or follow me on Twitter.

Young Art: Outside the Frame at Balboa Park!

The San Diego Museum of Art, in partnership with San Diego Gas & Electric and Mindful Murals, will soon showcase an inspiring community project titled Young Art: Outside the Frame!

Twenty five SDG&E utility boxes near Balboa Park and along Park Boulevard into downtown are now being painted with artwork selected from the museum’s biennial exhibition of local student art.

The museum’s upcoming exhibition is titled Young Art 2021: My World, Our Planet.

I was walking up Park Boulevard by Balboa Park’s Pepper Grove Playground this afternoon when I noticed one of the utility boxes is now being painted! San Diego artist Amanda Saint Claire was mentoring Katie Flores as the two created some beautiful new public artwork!

I was shown how the youth art that was selected for this particular box appears. You can get an idea with the following photo:

All the boxes are being painted by professional artists, under the coordination of Mindful Murals. (You might remember I saw some of Mindful Murals’ inspiring work at Edison Elementary School in City Heights a couple years ago and posted photos here.)

The 25 utility boxes should be finished by March 22. The San Diego Museum of Art’s exhibition Young Art 2021: My World, Our Planet will be on view March 26 to May 9, 2021.

A map showing the location of each utility box will be provided!

Stay tuned for more!

UPDATE!

I walked past the box early the following morning and saw more progress has been made. I didn’t have a chance to go by later in the day, but I’ll visit it again in the next few days to see if it’s completed! Here are the photos…

As you can see, butterflies have appeared on top of the box!

SECOND UPDATE!

I went by the next morning, too, and this is what I saw! I’m not sure if the box is finished, but it looks great!

I live in downtown San Diego and love to walk around with my camera! You can follow Cool San Diego Sights via Facebook or Twitter!

Installing beautiful new murals in Balboa Park!

Four beautiful new murals above the entrance of the San Diego Automotive Museum are presently being installed!

As I walked through Balboa Park’s new Pan American Plaza this afternoon, I noticed workers were carefully cementing finished ceramic tiles to the Automotive Museum’s historic 1935 California State Building.

If you’re curious about these colorful tile murals, and wonder how they’ll appear when finished, click here. You’ll see photos of identical, but temporary printed murals that appeared above the museum entrance several years ago.

You’ll also learn how these new ceramic murals are based on past artwork created for the 1935 California Pacific International Exposition in Balboa Park!

UPDATE!

A couple weeks later I peered through the scaffolding and saw this…

I live in downtown San Diego and love to walk around with my camera! You can follow Cool San Diego Sights via Facebook or Twitter!

Cool photo memories from March 2016.

We’ve stepped into a new month, so it’s time to look back at some of the things Cool San Diego Sights featured five years ago!

Back in March 2016 there was a whole lot going on in San Diego!

The following links will take you to photographs of various events and places of interest that you might enjoy seeing again. Unless, of course, you’re new to my blog. In that case, you’ll see these photos for the very first time!

Click the following links for lots of photographs…

Mountain men, a gunsmith and a blacksmith.

Irish pride on display at big St. Patrick’s Day Parade!

Photos of International Mariachi Festival in National City.

History comes alive during tour of Spanish Village.

Photos of National City Depot museum and streetcars!

This blog now features thousands of photos around San Diego! Are you curious? There’s lots of cool stuff to check out!

Here’s the Cool San Diego Sights main page, where you can read the most current blog posts.  If you’re using a phone or small mobile device, click those three parallel lines up at the top–that opens up my website’s sidebar, where you’ll see the most popular posts, a search box, and more!

To enjoy future posts, you can also “like” Cool San Diego Sights on Facebook or follow me on Twitter.