Two unusual water towers in North Park!

Strange to say, but one of the most iconic landmarks in San Diego’s North Park neighborhood is a gigantic water tower.

Even stranger, should you wander around North Park, you’ll discover not one water tower, but two! The one is absolutely enormous, but the other is much smaller–and in fact isn’t a genuine water tower at all!

I took photos of the mini-water tower several weeks back. Drivers coming down Interstate 805 might glimpse it by looking up as they pass north of El Cajon Boulevard. It’s located at the intersection of Meade Avenue and Boundary Street.

The smaller tower is actually an AT&T cell tower that was erected several years ago. North Park signs on the disguised antenna greet alert travelers coming in either direction down the freeway. I was surprised to find a small, somewhat neglected garden beside the unique cell tower.

The genuine, gigantic, historic North Park Water Tower is over 140 feet tall. It stands near North Park Community Park just south of El Cajon Boulevard and was built in 1924.

According to this article, there were claims that it was “largest elevated tank in the world” when constructed, and held more than one million gallons of water but now is decommissioned and empty since the 1990s.

Today the tall North Park Water Tower is an iconic landmark that can be seen from many city blocks in every direction. Its unique design and historical importance has been recognized by the American Society of Civil Engineers.

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The historic William Clayton House in Bankers Hill.

Those entering Balboa Park from Bankers Hill might notice this beautiful old house at the corner of Sixth Avenue and Laurel Street. During my walks I’ve often wondered about it.

After doing a little research, I discovered it’s called the William Clayton House. It was designed in 1907 by San Diego’s first female architect, Hazel Wood Waterman.

Hazel Wood Waterman got her start as one of renowned architect Irving J. Gill’s two chief draftspeople. With a particular love for the Arts and Crafts style, she would eventually design a number of houses and buildings around San Diego. Her most famous work was the 1910 restoration of the Casa de Estudillo in Old Town, a commission that came from John D. Spreckels.

You can learn more about Hazel Wood Waterman here.

The William Clayton House barely avoided demolition almost thirty years ago. You can read about that here. Today it is San Diego Historic Landmark #270 and location of the Vista Balboa Crisis Center.

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Hotel San Diego sign at Liberty Station.

If you’ve ever entered Liberty Station by turning down Dewey Road from Rosecrans Street, you might’ve glimpsed a very unusual sight. On the left, beyond some trees, an enormous sign is lying on the ground!

Last weekend I walked down a footpath behind Officer’s Quarters D of the old Naval Training Center San Diego for a better look. Quarters D until recently was the home of SCOUT. It is now home of Banyan Tree Educational Services.

The huge sign lying strangely on the ground once belonged to the Hotel San Diego. For many decades the neon sign was an iconic sight on Broadway in downtown San Diego. The large hotel was demolished in 2006 to make way for a new federal courthouse.

I myself stayed in the hotel a little over twenty years ago, when I moved to San Diego, and I remember seeing this landmark sign on the historic building.

The Hotel San Diego was built in 1914 by John D. Spreckels to accommodate visitors arriving for the 1915 Panama-California Exposition in Balboa Park. Learn more about it and see historical photos here.

Why is this large, rusting sign now lying on some grass at Liberty Station? It was preserved with the intention of restoring it for display in the garden behind Officer’s Quarters D. Read more about that here.

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Photos of Carlsbad’s grand, historic Twin Inns.

Several impressive landmark buildings can be observed during a visit to Carlsbad.

Perhaps the most prominent landmark stands at the corner of Carlsbad Boulevard (the local stretch of old Highway 101) and Carlsbad Village Drive. It’s called the Twin Inns. Look for the big blue Victorian building next to the Carlsbad gateway sign.

Approach the Twin Inns and you’ll not only be impressed by its grand architecture, but you’ll have the opportunity to view an informative plaque that relates a good deal of fascinating history.

The plaque by the front steps reads:

TWIN INNS

This Victorian structure was built in 1887 for Gerhard Schutte, whose role in the development of the town led to his being called the “Father of Carlsbad.” Schutte and partners Samuel Church Smith and D.D. Wadsworth founded the Carlsbad Land and Mineral Water Company and had as their vision “a town of small farms and gracious homes.” To that end they bought 400 prime acres at $40 per acre for development as a community. They laid out a townsite, lined roads with eucalyptus seedlings, and named the streets. This property was converted to the Twin Inns Restaurant circa 1917 by Whiting and Reed and was purchased by Ed and Neva Kentner in 1919. It was named the Twin Inns since the building was identical to the nearby Wadsworth home, also used as an inn. The building was extensively remodeled with a large octagonal dining room added in 1922. The Twin Inns was a popular summer dining area frequented by many of the Hollywood set after a day at the races and later figured prominently in Carlsbad’s history serving as the site of the first City Council meeting and deliberations on the city’s incorporation. The building was also famous for its fried chicken dinners, which were promoted by large plaster chickens out front. After 60 years as a family business, the Twin Inns was sold in 1984 and became part of the Village Faire Shopping Center.

COURTESY OF THE CARLSBAD HISTORIC PRESERVATION COMMISSION

On either side of the steps you’ll find two decorative signs…

The Twin Inns – Famous Chicken Dinners
Built by Alonzo Culver for Gerhard Schutte in 1887.
The north side of the Twin Inns.
The south side of the Twin Inns. You can see a sign for one small business that presently occupies the building, Sun Diego Boardshop.
The southeast corner of the Twin Inns. This part of the historic building is now used by Pedego Electric Bikes.

I was told by a friendly employee of Pedego Electric Bikes that the above door, on the building’s east side, used to be an entrance to a speakeasy back during Prohibition!

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Mural at southwest corner of continental USA!

Walk out to the end of the Imperial Beach Pier and you’re standing near the most southwesterly point in the continental United States!

And if you turn around at the end of the pier to look at one side of the Tin Fish restaurant, you’ll see a big mural created late last year by the local artists of Pandr Design Co. The mural includes geographic coordinates in degrees of latitude and longitude that prove its assertion!

While walking along the pier I noted a few other cool murals which were also painted recently by Pandr Design Co….

AS LONG AS THERE’S BEEN SURFING THERE’S ALWAYS BEEN THE QUEST FOR THE PERFECT WAVE
GOOD VIBES ONLY
IMPIERIAL BEACH CALIFORNIA Forever

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Markers and monuments at San Ysidro border.

Two historical markers can be seen just north of the San Ysidro Port of Entry border crossing. They stand near the entrance to the pedestrian bridge that crosses over Interstate 5 to Camino de la Plaza. I spotted them during my last walk around San Ysidro and took photographs.

A granite monument, marker number 255, reads Boundary of the United States–Treaty of 1853–Re-Established by Treaties of 1882-1889. The opposite side contains the same information in Spanish. The monument’s two other sides show the principal names from the international commission that precisely determined the previously disputed boundary with Mexico in 1892 to 1896. It was one of 258 markers placed along 689 miles of border.

The fascinating story of this particular marker includes a flood, a replacement duplicate, and the original marker’s rediscovery and relocation to this spot. Read more about its complicated history here.

Behind the granite boundary monument, a historical sign on a post marks the Blue Star Memorial Highway. The sign describes the highway as A tribute to the Armed Forces that have defended the United States of America.

Perhaps you’ve seen these signs elsewhere across the United States. Read more about the Blue Star Memorial Highway (which is in fact numerous highways) here.

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A look at the Stratford Square building in Del Mar.

Possibly the most unique and well known building in Del Mar is Stratford Square. Located at Camino del Mar and 15th Street, the English Tudor style architecture makes Stratford Square instantly recognizable.

This historical landmark was constructed in 1927 and was originally called the Kockritz Building. Today it’s the home of a couple dozen offices and a few small shops and eateries.

Stratford Square was built across 15th Street from the now long-vanished 1909 Stratford Inn. The Stratford Inn, later called the Hotel Del Mar, had a very similar Tudor appearance. It became a gathering place for many of Hollywood’s stars after Bing Crosby built the Del Mar Racetrack.

The spot where the old Stratford Inn stood overlooking the Pacific Ocean is now the location of the L’Auberge Del Mar luxury hotel.

As you travel through Del Mar, you might notice a few other buildings with an English Tudor appearance. Like Stratford Square, they were inspired by the original Stratford Inn.

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An octagonal Chinese-Mexican building in La Mesa.

One of the most distinctive buildings in La Mesa can be found in MacArthur Park. The designated historic landmark, located at 4910 Memorial Drive, is called Porter Hall.

This small octagonal building, built by the Porter family in the late 1920’s, has an unusual tile roof that appears a little Chinese and a little Mexican. The roof’s exotic contours are explained by the fact that Henry and Elizabeth Chapin Porter had previously lived in China.

From 1932 to 1957 Porter Hall served as a San Diego County library.

Prior to 1974 the original octagonal structure stood on the other side of University Avenue. It was moved when the street was widened. Today the enlarged building is home of the Foothills Art Association.

When I walked past Porter Hall a couple weekends ago, I took these photographs. Some artwork could be seen from the sidewalk, including a beautiful mosaic bench with a colorful parrot. A plaque dedicates the bench to Katherine Faulconer.

You can learn more about La Mesa’s influential Porter family by reading page 5 of an old La Mesa Historical Society publication here.

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Amazing, monumental The Shell nears completion!

Oh my goodness! Look at these photos! I took them today during a walk along San Diego’s waterfront, at Embarcadero Marina Park South.

San Diego Symphony’s monumental The Shell is nearing completion and it’s more amazing than I anticipated!

As I understand it, the San Diego’s Symphony’s popular summer concerts will resume this year, after being cancelled in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. And for the very first time, Bayside Summer Nights will be held at this permanent outdoor venue.

I spoke to a construction worker and he said the project is indeed nearing completion. I could see that landscaping is now underway, and that most of the structures seem about ready to go.

If you’d like to compare how the project appeared in late 2019, as it was just getting started, you can check out photos I took here. At the time the venue was referred to as Bayside Performance Park.

Today this outdoor stage, the only venue of its kind on the West Coast, whose acoustic quality is said to be as good as any indoor concert hall, and whose white “shell” is made of the same material as the San Diego Convention Center’s iconic sails, is simply called The Shell.

As I walked outside the construction fence peering at The Shell, I could immediately see that this extraordinary landmark will help further distinguish San Diego from every other city in the world, and is destined to become a beloved part of the already beautiful skyline.

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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!

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