A mysterious, castle-like downtown building.

In downtown San Diego at the corner of Fourth Avenue and Ash Street you’ll find a very mysterious building. At first glance it appears to be a Gothic manor, or the corner of an impenetrable stone castle. Stranger still, a small shield on the building’s exterior includes the word GAS. Is this the castle in Monty Python and the Holy Grail, from which gas is expelled in your general direction? No–it’s a power substation of San Diego Gas and Electric!

The secure little building was designed by prominent architect Richard Requa in 1922, who would go on to become Master Architect for the 1935 California Pacific International Exposition in Balboa Park.

My imagination is always electrified when I walk past this unusual sight. Is a Frankenstein monster being assembled behind those dark walls?

Here are some photos!

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Photos of cool sand sculptures at Sun and Sea Festival!

A long time ago at a beach very very close...it is a period of sand wars. Cool Star Wars sand sculpture at the Imperial Beach Sun and Sea Festival!
A long time ago at a beach very very close…it is a period of sand wars… Star Wars sand sculpture at the Imperial Beach Sun and Sea Festival!

The 2015 Sun and Sea Festival at Imperial Beach today had almost everything. Lots of good food, live music, happy people, the beautiful ocean, and, of course, a whole bunch of awesome sand sculptures. What it didn’t have was sun. Monsoon conditions in San Diego have produced dark skies, frequent showers, even thunder and lightning this weekend.

But nothing could stop the crowds from enjoying this great annual tradition.

Ready to see the cool photos? Here they are…

The annual Sun and Sea Festival in IB features food, music, fun, people-watching and sand castles galore! This banner is hung on the pier above the beach.
The annual Sun and Sea Festival in IB features food, music, fun, people-watching and sand castles galore! This banner is hung on the pier above the beach.
The Port of San Diego is a sponsor of the yearly festival, home of the famous Imperial Beach Sandcastle Competition. This sculpture was created by sand master Kirk Rademaker.
The Port of San Diego is a sponsor of the yearly festival, home of the famous Imperial Beach Sandcastle Competition. This sculpture was created by sand master Kirk Rademaker.
A second photo of Kirk Rademaker's sculpture. Tiny sand people stand out on a sand IB pier over the sandy Pacific Ocean!
A second photo of Kirk Rademaker’s sculpture. Tiny sand people stand out on a sand IB pier over the sandy Pacific Ocean!
Sandstorm Fabrication team seems to be creating a large Viking head sand sculpture.
Sandstorm Fabrication team seems to be creating a large Viking head sand sculpture.
Cool froglike creature coming to life on the beach conveys a Help Conserve Water message.
Cool frog-like creature coming to life on the beach conveys a Help Conserve Water message.
The Sandcastle Man team is building an elaborate sandcastle! Of course!
The Sandcastle Man team is building an elaborate sandcastle! Of course!
The I.B. Posse team is crafting a complex, exotic scene of Myths and Legends out of sand near the Imperial Beach pier.
The I.B. Posse team is crafting a complex, exotic scene of Myths and Legends out of sand near the Imperial Beach pier.
Looks like the fallen head of a classic statue from a time long ago.
Looks like the fallen head of a classic statue from a time long ago.
Sand sculptor is closely watched by the unblinking eyes of an inanimate subject.
Sand sculptor is closely watched by the unblinking eyes of his inanimate subject.
This team wearing tie-dye was creating a hip sand scene with a fun, fanciful 60s flavor.
This team wearing tie-dye was creating a hip sand scene with a fun, fanciful 60s flavor.
Is that a mud-covered hippopotamus rising from a river? No. Just some imaginative Southern California artwork!
Is that a mud-covered hippopotamus rising from a river? No. Just some imaginative Southern California artwork.
Peace and Love. Hippie Hippos are cool, groovy and happening!
Peace and Love. Hippie Hippos are cool, groovy and happening!
These are my favorite sand sculptures: Star Wars. Chewbacca, R2-D2, stormtroopers, the Millennium Falcon and an X-Wing starfighter. 'Nuff said.
These are my favorite sand sculptures. Star Wars icons Chewbacca, R2-D2, stormtroopers, the Millennium Falcon and an X-Wing starfighter!
Fierce looking stormtroopers seem to be hanging out on sandy Tatooine. Where it happens to be raining today.
Fierce looking stormtroopers seem to be hanging out on sandy Tatooine. Where it happens to be raining today.
Han Solo is probably hoping this gifted sand artist can get the Millennium Falcon to jump to light speed.
Han Solo is probably hoping this gifted sand artist can get the Millennium Falcon to jump to light speed.
Okay. You have to admit this is a lot of fun.
Okay. You have to admit this is a lot of fun.
San Diego Sand Castles was skillfully carving toothy land sharks.
San Diego Sand Castles was skillfully carving toothy land sharks.
Hope it doesn't bite.
Hope it doesn’t bite.
Over here we have a large mechanical shark, driven by a small fish! The real shark must be terrified.
Over here we have a large mechanical shark, driven by a small fish! The “real” shark must be terrified.
This team seemed to be digging out a whale. It's huge!
This team seemed to be digging out a whale. It’s huge!
Of course, there were Minions. Lots of Minions. Oodles of 'em. They were popping out of the sand everywhere you turned.
Of course, there were Minions. Lots of Minions. Oodles of ’em. They were popping out of the sand everywhere you turned.
Five silly Minions seem to be having a party in a sand pit.
Five silly Minions seem to be having a party in a sand pit.
Another team had some Minions, too. This guy is just riding a sand wave on a surfboard. Too bad the sun isn't out.
Another team had some Minions, too. This guy is riding a sand wave while sitting on a surfboard. Too bad the sun isn’t out.
Lastly, I spotted Baymax of Big Hero 6 being created out of sand. Lots of sculptures at the family friendly festival appealed to kids.
Lastly, I spotted Baymax of Big Hero 6 being created out of sand. Lots of sculptures at the family friendly festival appealed to kids.
A cloudy, showery day with lightning, thunder and crowds on the beach enjoying a cool Imperial Beach tradition.
A cloudy, showery day with lightning, thunder, and crowds on the beach enjoying an awesome Imperial Beach tradition.

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Old Hotel Churchill in downtown San Diego.

Faded castle on side of San Diego's old Hotel Churchill.
Faded castle on side of San Diego’s old Hotel Churchill.

My walks through downtown often take me past a large, dilapidated building with a giant faded castle painted on its side. This now sad sight was once the splendid Hotel Churchill, the destination of tourists visiting San Diego a hundred years ago.

The Hotel Churchill was built to accommodate visitors to the 1915 Panama-California Exposition in nearby Balboa Park. The Arthurian theme made visitors feel like they’d entered Camelot, much like the Excalibur Hotel does in Las Vegas today. The building has been abandoned for many years. I remember watching the San Diego Fire Department using the tall edifice for practice, breaking through one window from the top of a firetruck’s ladder.

In 2003 the city designated the Hotel Churchill a local historical landmark. There are plans afoot to restore the old building and convert it into affordable housing.

Touristy hotel was built for 1915 Panama California Exposition.
Touristy hotel was built for 1915 Panama California Exposition.
Old door with spears and portcullis is locked shut.
Old door with fanciful drawbridge and portcullis is locked shut.
Looking up a rusty old fire escape.
Looking up a rusty old fire escape.
Hotel Churchill, a local historical landmark,awaits restoration.
Hotel Churchill, a local historical landmark, awaits restoration.

Here’s a pic I took in February 2015. The old hotel has been fenced off, awaiting restoration…

Hotel Churchill seen in early morning from across C Street.
Hotel Churchill seen in early morning from across C Street.

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