More history at the Golden Hill Fountain Grotto.

Last month the Friends of Balboa Park installed a new information sign at the Golden Hill Fountain Grotto. The sign provides a good description of the fountain grotto’s history in Golden Hill Park. The community park, with views of downtown and Florida Canyon, is located in the southeast corner of much larger Balboa Park.

Five years ago I posted photos of the grotto on my now dormant blog Beautiful Balboa Park. You can read what I wrote and see those photographs here. I walked to the grotto again last weekend to check out the newly installed sign.

The sign explains how Golden Hill Park, developed in 1889, was the site of San Diego’s first playground. The Golden Hill Fountain Grotto was a decorative park installation designed in 1907 by Henry Lord Gay. He was also responsible for downtown San Diego’s Western Metal Supply Co. building, which is now a part of Petco Park.

Henry Lord Gay “created a sunken garden grotto built of stone and concrete with twin cobblestone stairways curving down to a sheltered fountain and seating area in a rugged canyon…Stones evoke mystery, creativity and contemplation; flowing water signifies life, and pathways lead out to the open sky…”

You can see in my photos how the fountain was made to appear like a natural spring whose pool trickles down into a hollowed rock.

Sadly, I observed evidence of homelessness and drug use in the secluded grotto. These tragic problems have become widespread in San Diego. Trash, graffiti and a burnt out fountain is probably not what Henry Lord Gay and the early residents of our city envisioned.

The Golden Hill Fountain Grotto is over a century old and is, according to the information sign, Balboa Park’s oldest designed feature.

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!

Contrasts in a forever evolving city.

Some of these photographs are disturbing. They show a few of the many contrasts curious eyes will observe in a city. A city that is forever evolving.

People come and go. Businesses come and go. Buildings come and go. Dreams come and go. And we are always right here in the present, trying to recall what was.

These photos were taken during a walk on Saturday. I started up Fifth Avenue from downtown, climbed north through Bankers Hill, and finally entered Hillcrest.

I observed new high-rise and bike lane construction. Striking contrasts appear in photos that include St. Paul’s Cathedral and The Abbey.

I observed new signs and fresh ambitions, and dreams that were shattered.

I glimpsed a complex world, and now even those small glimpses are a fading memory.

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!

To read a few stories I’ve written, click Short Stories by Richard.

Mother Teresa mural expresses unconditional love.

A beautiful mural depicting Mother Teresa expresses the potency of unconditional love.

Roman Catholic nun and missionary Saint Teresa of Calcutta stands in a field of grain and flowers holding a small orphaned child. White doves raise a banner containing the words: “Saint Mother Teresa never judged people, she took more time to love them.”

Indeed, Mother Teresa and her sisters devoted themselves to loving and aiding the poorest of the poor, providing comfort for those suffering with leprosy, AIDS and other awful diseases, caring for those who lived in hopeless situations of homelessness and extreme hunger.

She loved those whom others would not love.

Would any of us do that?

This gentle but extremely powerful mural was painted in San Diego, California, in the Memorial neighborhood of Logan Heights. You can find it in an alley off 30th Street, north of Franklin Avenue.

The mural was painted recently by the artists of Arte Atolondrada. To visit their website, click here!

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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Images of the pandemic tragedy downtown.

As I walk around San Diego, I try to find what is uplifting and keep a positive attitude. But these photographs from the past few days aren’t happy. They show tragic aspects of the long COVID-19 pandemic nightmare.

Throughout downtown San Diego it seems time has stopped. It seems the life of my city keeps draining away.

It’s now December and I still see posters for events scheduled last March or April. I see hundreds of boarded windows and a steadily increasing number of For Lease signs. I see people avoiding people. I see more and more who are homeless. And now we’re told a second lockdown in San Diego is imminent.

They tell us this terrible pandemic will finally end in the coming months as vaccines are distributed. But for the time being the tragic scene downtown seems to only worsen.

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!

The beautiful, living art of Tree.

Tree has returned to San Diego. She has been travelling.

This morning Tree had her beautiful art on display on a downtown sidewalk. I happened to see her as I walked down Broadway near the Santa Fe Depot.

Tree is a passionate artist, full of life and energy. She’s always happy to greet passersby with a big smile.

Her small abstract watercolor paintings are like splashes of life seen through prisms. They are created with a careful eye and fine brush. Every complex design is a surprise. The colors are brilliant like jewels.

Next time you walk down Broadway just south of the Santa Fe Depot, keep your eyes open. You might discover unexpected treasures spread at your feet. And a smiling Tree.

Urban art at 1835 Creative Studios building.

I took photos of these colorful urban art murals several weeks ago during a walk along Imperial Avenue. They’re spray painted on the 1835 Creative Studios building, at the corner of Imperial and 19th Street, just east of downtown San Diego and Interstate 5.

Sadly, as you can see in a couple photos, many homeless people find refuge in this neighborhood. It’s a grittier part of the city, where one is likely to find all sorts of lively graffiti and urban artwork.

I believe I recognize the unique styles of both the first and last murals–very similar street art can be seen elsewhere in San Diego–but I’m afraid I don’t know the artists. I tried to decipher the signatures, to no avail.

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!

Walking east along the Sweetwater River.

A couple weekends ago I walked a very short segment of the Sweetwater River Bikeway, from Hoover Avenue west to the Pier 32 Marina. You can revisit those photos here.

Today I returned to the Sweetwater River and walked east along the bikeway from Hoover Avenue all the way to Plaza Bonita.

I was struck by the contrasts.

The rocky-sided river channel, as seen looking down from Interstate 5, appears almost barren, but when you walk along the bike path you notice many plants among the broken rocks, and the ones that are deep-rooted were very green in the summer sunlight.

During the day bicyclists and runners passed me by as I slowly walked, and the nearby busy westbound lanes of U.S. Route 54 sometimes came into view. But late at night, the scene is obviously very different. There was graffiti which increased as I progressed east to Interstate 805. There was trash and frequent evidence of homelessness. As I came into the vicinity of Interstate 805, I passed several active homeless encampments. And the graffiti spoke of gang activity, with references to drugs and death.

But as I headed east, the river also became more alive. A marshy wetland appeared with discarded shopping carts and happily paddling ducks. Trees began to flourish along the banks, and eventually grew so thick they concealed a river full of reeds and lush greenery.

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!

A strange mixture of sights downtown.

Go on any walk through downtown San Diego and you’ll see a strange mixture of sights. Sometimes you have to stop in your tracks to look again.

Many of the visions that rise before your eyes seem contradictory. Urban hipsters drinking coffee and listening to live music . . . a few steps away from people who are homeless. The boarded window of a looted Gaslamp shop . . . and spray painted messages of empathy and kindness.

And there are the sights that are wonderfully odd. Downtown’s reggae dog. A surprising tree in a surprising place. An insurance company for sharknados.

So much strangeness is mixed in the ordinary life of a city.

The mysteries appear everywhere.

I took these photographs during several walks the past few days.

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!

Stuff the Bus online to help students in need!

Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the annual Stuff the Bus campaign is being held entirely online this year!

You can help San Diego students who are in need–including those who are homeless–by providing them with school supplies. SDCCU has partnered with the San Diego County Office of Education to make your participation easy. Simply go to this GoFundMe page and make a donation!

Funds received will purchase backpacks full of school supplies like pencils, pens, binders and crayons for those kids who might otherwise go without. The backpacks will be distributed to schools all around San Diego County.

Last year, over 6,800 backpacks filled with school supplies were handed out!

The SDCCU Stuff the Bus campaign runs through July 31, 2020.

Visit the donation page here!

A tale of two San Diegos.

Many of these photos aren’t cool. But they represent reality.

There is a tale of two San Diegos that can be read every day.

One San Diego is optimistic. The other is bleak.

We are all participants in this tale of two San Diegos.

The story is complex and heart-breaking, and has uncounted pages.

There are many ways to help San Diego’s homeless. If that’s something you’d like to do, click here.