Honoring victims, heroes of USS Bennington disaster.

Today I walked through the historic Bennington Memorial Oak Grove in Balboa Park. It’s my first visit to the grove of live oaks since December of 2017, when I observed Boy Scouts and volunteers working to improve the living memorial.

During my walk today, not only was I pleased to see the quiet oak grove was as peaceful and beautiful as ever, but I noted some information has been posted in the kiosk. I took a photograph so you might read it. Click my photo of the sign and the image will expand for easy reading. (Unfortunately, you’ll note the clear plastic protecting the sign was broken by vandals. But thankfully I saw absolutely no litter, graffiti or other signs of disturbance.)

You might notice the sign also features a QR code that opens a dedicated memorial website. To learn much, much more about the Bennington Memorial Oak Grove, please visit BenningtonMemorial.com.

The memorial website honors the lives of the 66 U.S. Navy sailors who tragically died when the USS Bennington’s boiler exploded in San Diego Bay on July 21, 1905. A separate page of the website is dedicated to each victim. You’ll also learn about the 11 courageous men who each earned a Medal of Honor for their heroism that day.

To see inspirational photos from a year and a half ago, when Boy Scouts and crew members of the San Diego-based aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt were working to improve the Bennington Memorial, click here and here. For many of those photos, I am grateful to the San Diego Chapter of Daughters of the American Revolution, and historian Kathleen Winchester in particular.

Now please enjoy the following pics taken today by the kiosk, and along the shady footpath that winds through the Bennington Memorial Oak Grove.

Sign at the Bennington Memorial Oak Grove describes one of the Navy's worst peacetime disasters, which took place in 1905 on San Diego Bay. Sixty six live oaks were planted to honor the victims of the USS Bennington boiler explosion.
Sign in kiosk at the Bennington Memorial Oak Grove describes one of the Navy’s worst peacetime disasters, which took place in 1905 on San Diego Bay. Sixty six live oaks were planted in Balboa Park to honor the victims of the USS Bennington boiler explosion.

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!

Little Italy’s history, culture at Amici House.

Arriving at the historic Amici House, a cultural center in San Diego's downtown Little Italy neighborhood.
Approaching the historic Amici House, a cultural center in San Diego’s downtown Little Italy neighborhood.

In downtown San Diego’s beautiful Little Italy neighborhood, tucked among trees between Amici Park and the popular Little Italy Dog Park, one can find a small house that is named for friendship. It’s called Amici House.

A century ago the Amici House was home to the Giacalone family, who lived in Sicily before their arrival in San Diego in 1916. Antonio Giacalone and his wife, Josephine, became an integral part of the local Italian fishing community. Their modest Craftsman style house was originally located a few blocks to the west, near India Street. Last year the structure was moved to its present location at 250 W. Date Street, in order to make room for the new Piazza della Famiglia.

The historic home, now called the Amici House, has become a gathering place for the present-day community. Sheltered by graceful trees, its shady patio is the perfect place to relax, have a drink and chat with friends. Inside the house one can observe museum-like displays and learn about life in Little Italy, which was home to many immigrant fishermen back when San Diego was considered the tuna fishing capital of the world.

The Amici House is operated by The Convivio Society for Italian Humanities, a nonprofit organization that promotes Italian arts, culture and heritage in San Diego. The house with its intimate patio provides a unique venue for concerts and other entertainment. A variety of community activities such as outdoor movie screenings are often enjoyed in nearby Amici Park. The house can also be rented for private events.

I paid a visit on Saturday afternoon and took a few photos.

This grassy area in front of Amici House will soon be a venue for outdoor entertainment, with its own small stage.
This grassy area in front of Amici House will soon be a venue for outdoor entertainment, with its own small stage.
A group of people exits Amici House. I will be able to explore the place during a quiet moment on a Saturday afternoon.
A group of people exits Amici House. I will be able to explore the place during a quiet moment on a Saturday afternoon.
Steps lead up into the beautifully renovated Craftsman style Amici House.
Steps lead up into the small, renovated Craftsman style Amici House.
At the bottom of the front steps is a table with gifts. Caffè Convivio offers snacks and a few refreshing things to drink.
At the bottom of the front steps is a table with books and other gifts. Caffè Convivio offers snacks and a few refreshing things to drink.
Chairs and tables in front of Amici House provide a pleasant, shady place to relax on a sunny day.
Chairs and tables in front of Amici House provide a pleasant, shady place to relax on a sunny day.
This kinetic fish sculpture is popular with kids.
This kinetic fish sculpture is popular with kids.
After stepping into the small Amici House, I turned around and took a photo of old fishing artifacts above the door.
After stepping into the Amici House, I turned around and took a photo of old fishing artifacts above the door.
Photo into a large mirror on one wall provides a glimpse of the small museum-like interior.
Photo into a large mirror on one wall provides a glimpse of the small museum-like interior.
The walls inside the Amici House are full of historical photos and information concerning Little Italy, once center of a thriving tuna fishing industry.
The walls inside the Amici House are full of historical photos and information concerning Little Italy, once center of a thriving tuna fishing industry.
Posters, old photos and works of art with an Italian theme appear on all sides. I see Frank Sinatra.
Posters, old photos and works of art with an Italian theme appear on all sides. I see Frank Sinatra.
This small exhibition of art features work by sports fan and artist Christopher Paluso.
This small exhibition of art features work by sports fan and artist Christopher Paluso.
Examples of work by accomplished Italian American artist Christopher Paluso.
Examples of work by accomplished Italian American artist Christopher Paluso.
In a wooden cabinet I spied colorful gifts and crafts imported from Italy.
In a wooden cabinet I saw colorful glassware and crafts imported from Italy.
Painting of John D'Acquisto, Italian American baseball player who played four years with the San Diego Padres.
Painting of John D’Acquisto, Italian American baseball pitcher who played four years with the San Diego Padres.
Little Italy has a rich history, including many generations of families that still thrive in the community today.
Little Italy has a rich history, including many generations of families that still thrive in the community today.
I'm shown a rendering of a proposed, much larger cultural center that might be built by The Convivio Society elsewhere in Little Italy.
I’m shown a rendering of a proposed, much larger cultural center that might be built by The Convivio Society in the future.
Meanwhile, the Amici House is a repository of cherished memories for a lively and welcoming San Diego neighborhood.
Meanwhile, the Amici House holds (and produces) cherished memories for a lively San Diego neighborhood.

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Learning one’s letters in Old Town San Diego.

In the one room Mason Street School in Old Town San Diego, younger and older children sat together before the teacher and learned their letters.
In the one room Mason Street School in Old Town San Diego, younger and older children sat together before the teacher and learned their letters.

A cool theme developed during my walk through Old Town San Diego State Historic Park yesterday. First I wandered into the 1868 San Diego Union Building and observed ladies in 19th century dress practicing calligraphy. A short time later, as my eyes scanned the walls of the one room 1865 Mason Street Schoolhouse, I noticed a sheet on the wall titled First Lessons in Penmanship.

Turns out it was a great day to relearn the alphabet!

A super nice gentleman in the old print shop provided all sorts of tidbits of information concerning printing, publishing and life in early San Diego. I learned the original Washington hand press that was used by the San Diego Union newspaper is now in the collection of the Henry Ford Museum of American Innovation. And that setting up the tiny type for a single page of the newspaper took a keen-eyed person about 12 hours!

I posted photos of the old print shop and editor’s office four years ago. I also wrote a little about the San Diego Union’s history. You can revisit that blog post by clicking here.

You can see much more inside the old Mason Street School building and learn more about San Diego’s first school teacher, Mary Chase Walker, by clicking here!

Additional information that I learned yesterday is in my photo captions!

A sheet on the schoolhouse wall contains First Lessons in Penmanship. THE ALPHABET.
A sheet on the schoolhouse wall contains First Lessons in Penmanship. THE ALPHABET.
I'm given a small tour of the print shop inside the historic San Diego Union Building.
I’m given a small tour of the print shop inside the historic San Diego Union Building.
Like wet laundry, hundreds of newspaper sheets would be strung up all around the print shop so that the freshly impressed ink would dry!
Like wet laundry, hundreds of newspaper sheets would be strung up all around the print shop so that the freshly impressed ink would dry!
A demonstration of assembled type and the finished impression.
A demonstration of assembled type and a finished impression.
Part of a large plate in the Washington hand press. Today school students often visit the historic print shop to learn about publishing long before the digital age.
Part of a large plate in the massive Washington hand press. Today school students often visit the historic print shop to learn about publishing long before the digital age.
Those students can rearrange these letters to spell words like SUPER.
Those students can rearrange these letters to spell words like SUPER.
To proof newspaper sheets as type was assembled, this huge heavy roll would be used to make a quick impression.
To proof newspaper sheets as type was assembled, this huge heavy roll would be used to make a quick impression.
In the entrance of the San Diego Union Building, ladies sat at a desk practicing their penmanship.
In the entrance of the San Diego Union Building, ladies sat at a desk practicing their penmanship.
A sample of elegant Copperplate Calligraphy.
A sample of elegant Copperplate Calligraphy.
This beautifully penned text is from Lewis Carroll's humorous Lobster Quadrille in Alice's Adventures in Wonderland.
This beautifully penned text is from Lewis Carroll’s humorous Lobster Quadrille in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.
Showing how to write fancy letters with a quill and inkwell!
Showing how to write fancy letters with an old-fashioned pen and inkwell.

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!

Do you love to read?

You can find small, thought-provoking works of fiction at my website Short Stories by Richard.

Photos inside the historic Ohr Shalom building.

On Sunday I enjoyed a tour of the Ohr Shalom building in San Diego’s Bankers Hill neighborhood. The historic 1925 building, acquired by the Ohr Shalom Synagogue in 2002, was one of many sites around the city that were open to the public during the San Diego Architectural Foundation’s 2019 OPEN HOUSE SAN DIEGO.

The Ohr Shalom building was designed by architect William H. Wheeler, who is also known for downtown’s iconic Balboa Theatre building.

According to description provided by the San Diego Architectural Foundation: “With its dominant Moorish-style dome suspended high above an octagonal sanctuary embellished with Middle Eastern decorative motifs, the Synagogue . . . is one of the foremost examples of Mediterranean Revival, an architectural style that caught momentum around the mid-1920s.”

I learned that the synagogue was originally built for Congregation Beth Israel by M. Trepte & Son. It is constructed of steel-framed concrete and hollow clay tile, which was innovative for its time. Inside the sanctuary, which features a free-standing balcony, the lines are clean and simple, and worshipers are touched by light shining through the dome and a variety of stained glass windows and panels. Illustrations in the beautiful glass include the Ten Commandments, the menorah and Star of David, and a depiction of the twelve tribes of Israel.

During our tour we were allowed to stand near the pulpit. We were privileged to view one of the Torah scrolls and hear a sample of its reading.

Here are some photos that provide a feel for what it’s like to enter the Ohr Shalom Synagogue.

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!

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Baggage, a silvery orb, and contemporary art.

A large silvery orb is suspended from the ceiling of the Iris and Matthew Strauss Gallery, inside MCASD's historic Joan and Irwin Jacobs Building.
A large silvery orb is suspended from the ceiling of the Iris and Matthew Strauss Gallery, inside MCASD’s historic Joan and Irwin Jacobs Building.

On Sunday I headed to the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego to enjoy a tour of their downtown Joan and Irwin Jacobs Building. This historic building was one of many fascinating sites that the public could explore during the San Diego Architectural Foundation’s 2019 OPEN HOUSE SAN DIEGO.

I arrived early and walked about the building’s spacious galleries, gazing up toward the high ceiling and around corners at intriguing artwork. The current exhibition is titled Trevor Paglen: Sites Unseen. Trevor Paglen, a MacArthur Award-winning artist who lived as a child on military bases, creates pieces that concern mass surveillance and individual privacy. According to the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego website, he “blurs the lines between art, science, and investigative journalism to construct unfamiliar and at times unsettling ways to see and interpret the world around us . . . in Paglen’s photographs the infrastructure of surveillance is also apparent—a classified military installation, a spy satellite, a tapped communications cable, a drone, an artificial intelligence . . .”

When it was time for the architectural tour to begin, our small group gathered near the museum’s entrance and we learned a little about the very unique Joan and Irwin Jacobs Building.

The building at first glance appears to be an extension of the Santa Fe Depot, San Diego’s downtown train station. In fact, what is now called the Joan and Irwin Jacobs Building used to be the baggage building of the depot, and is separated from the train station’s passenger waiting room by an arched outdoor breezeway. The Santa Fe Depot, which is now a transit center that also serves Amtrak, was built in 1915 by Bakewell & Brown to accommodate travelers coming to San Diego for the Panama-California Exposition held in Balboa Park.

As decades passed, and travel by train waned, much less space was required at the station for baggage. Because of its historical importance, the huge old baggage building couldn’t be torn down or substantially altered.

The enormous interior space, large beautiful windows and high ceilings were perfect for a unique downtown art gallery. In 2007, the structure was converted by Gluckman Mayner Architects into an extraordinary downtown space for the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego.

The downtown MCASD usually features more experimental art than their La Jolla location, so the unusually large galleries can be put to good use. I learned that past exhibitions have included some monumental artwork, even a full-size translucent polyester fabric and stainless steel “New York” apartment, complete with major appliances!

To explore art inside the Joan and Irwin Jacobs Building is a remarkable experience. It’s like moving through a vast inner world where small dreams become large. Just as a museum should be!

Looking across Kettner Boulevard at the Santa Fe Depot. The old baggage building on the north side of the train station is now home to the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego.
Looking west across Kettner Boulevard at the Santa Fe Depot. The old baggage building on the north side of the train station is now used by the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego.
At the north end of the Joan and Irwin Jacobs Building is the modern three-story David C. Copley Building.
At the north end of the historic Joan and Irwin Jacobs Building is the modern three-story David C. Copley Building.
The David C. Copley Building has featured additional gallery space, but now houses administrative offices for MCASD while their La Jolla location is renovated and enlarged.
In the past the David C. Copley Building has provided additional gallery space. It now houses administrative offices for MCASD while their La Jolla location is renovated and enlarged.
Sign in front of MCASD's entrance entices visitors to come in and gaze at the orb.
Sign in front of MCASD’s entrance invites passersby to come in and gaze at the orb.
Looking from inside the museum across Kettner Boulevard toward the America Plaza trolley station. The building seen to the right is MCASD's original downtown location, now used by the museum for educational programs.
Looking from inside the museum across Kettner Boulevard toward the America Plaza trolley station. The two-story building seen to the right is MCASD’s original downtown location, now used by the museum for educational programs.
As visitors enter the museum, artwork inside the Iris and Matthew Strauss Gallery immediately catch the eye.
As visitors enter the museum, massive artwork inside the Iris and Matthew Strauss Gallery immediately catches the eye.
Looking west out glass doors at the Figi Family Concourse and trolley and train platforms at Santa Fe Depot.
Looking west out glass doors at the Figi Family Concourse, and trolley and train platforms at downtown’s Santa Fe Depot.
One of several large cubes outside the Joan and Irwin Jacobs Building, by artist Richard Serra, 2005
One of several large steel cubes outside the Joan and Irwin Jacobs Building, by artist Richard Serra, 2005.
Prototype for a Nonfunctional Satellite, by artist Trevor Paglen.
Prototype for a Nonfunctional Satellite, by contemporary artist Trevor Paglen.
More artwork by the large arched windows of the old baggage building. This interior wall is part of MCASD's unique Iris and Matthew Strauss Gallery.
More artwork by the large arching windows of the old baggage building. This interior wall is part of MCASD’s unique Iris and Matthew Strauss Gallery.
Visitors to the downtown Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego enjoy photographs and other pieces by Trevor Paglen.
Visitors to the downtown Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego view photographs and other pieces by Trevor Paglen.
Sign at MCASD explains the current exhibition Trevor Paglen: Sites Unseen. (click to enlarge)
Sign at MCASD explains the current exhibition Trevor Paglen: Sites Unseen. (Click photo to enlarge for easy reading.)
Autonomy Cube, 2015, Trevor Paglen. Working hardware that allows users to connect anonymously to the internet, by routing Wi-Fi traffic through the Tor network.
Autonomy Cube, 2015, Trevor Paglen. Working hardware that allows users to connect anonymously to the internet, by routing Wi-Fi traffic through the Tor network.
True Art ... (CIA Special Activities Staff), 2016, Trevor Paglen. High temp epoxy.
True Art … (CIA Special Activities Staff), 2016, Trevor Paglen. High temp epoxy.
A look into a spacious art gallery inside MCASD's Joan and Irwin Jacobs Building.
A look into a spacious gallery inside MCASD’s Joan and Irwin Jacobs Building.
"Fanon" (Even the Dead Are Not Safe) Eigenface, 2017, Trevor Paglen. Dye sublimation print.
“Fanon” (Even the Dead Are Not Safe) Eigenface, 2017, Trevor Paglen. Dye sublimation print.
Amazing sights await eyes at downtown's Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego!
Astonishing sights await curious eyes at downtown’s Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego!

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History and faith at St. Agnes Catholic Church.

On Saturday I stepped inside St. Agnes Catholic Church. It was one of three sites I visited in Point Loma during the San Diego Architectural Foundation’s 2019 OPEN HOUSE SAN DIEGO.

Donna Alves-Calhoun, author of the book Portuguese Community of San Diego, told me a little about the history of this church and the people whose lives are deeply linked to it.

I learned that an original church was built in 1908 by Portuguese fisherman families that had settled in La Playa, near the entrance to San Diego Bay. It was difficult for them to travel to Old Town or La Jolla to attend church services, so they built a small mission church in Point Loma.

In 1933 the new Mediterranean-style St. Agnes Catholic Church was built at the same location, using funds donated by the crews of local fishing boats.

The beautiful church’s bell tower was decorated with an illuminated statue of Our Lady of Good Voyage, which could be seen at a distance. Like a beacon it guided the Portuguese fishermen safely home. I also learned the extraordinary stained glass windows were made in Ireland, and the religious statues placed in corners of the church are from Italy.

After I moved around the church, looking up at the ceiling and its dark wooden beams painted faintly with tulips, Donna explained that many Dutch settled in the Azores. Like many who have descended from San Diego’s Portuguese fishermen, she herself possesses a measure of Dutch ancestry.

During the annual Festa do Espírito Santo celebration, a crown kept in a glass case near the altar, symbol of the supreme dominion of the Holy Spirit, is brought with other holy objects in a ceremonial procession from the U.P.S.E.S. Chapel and Hall to St. Agnes Catholic Church. The bringing of the “Coroa” remembers an historical gesture of compassion by Portugal’s beloved Santa Isabel, the Peacemaker and Holy Queen.

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 look inside the Portuguese Historical Center.

Anyone interested in the rich history of the Portuguese community in San Diego should visit the Portuguese Historical Center in Point Loma. It’s located at 2831 Avenida de Portugal, in a neighborhood that was home to many immigrant fishermen who came from the Azores, Madeira, and the mainland of Portugal, back in the days when tuna fishing was a major industry in our city.

I took a look inside the center yesterday during the San Diego Architectural Foundation’s 2019 OPEN HOUSE SAN DIEGO.

Every corner of the small museum is jam-packed with history. Shelves are brimming with Portuguese cultural artifacts, and there are photos of notable people, places and events. I saw many references to Juan Rodríguez Cabrillo, the Portuguese explorer who discovered San Diego Bay in 1542 on behalf of Spain.

A recently opened exhibit in the Portuguese Historical Center remembers those in the local Portuguese community who have served their country. During World War II, San Diego’s many Tuna Clippers were converted into patrol and supply boats that served the United States military throughout the Pacific Ocean theater. You can learn much more about that fascinating aspect of San Diego history here.

When I visited yesterday, the centerpiece of the museum was a stunning dress worn by the 2018 Festa Queen. The traditional Festa do Espírito Santo is celebrated each year by the community at the nearby U.P.S.E.S. Chapel and community hall. Festa is a Catholic celebration of Pentecost Sunday. During the colorful event a religious procession makes its way several blocks up Avenida de Portugal to St. Agnes Catholic Church.

In front of the Portuguese Historical Center, a shining Tuna Fishing Industry Monument is inscribed with the names of loved ones who’ve become a part of local history. Members of the Portuguese Historical Center also maintain the Tunaman’s Memorial on Shelter Island. You can see photos of that iconic memorial here.

Please enjoy this quick look . . .

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!