Monument in Otay Mesa to aviation pioneer Montgomery.

It seems few in San Diego know of the historically important hill in Otay Mesa West. From the top of this hill, which overlooks San Diego’s South Bay cities, aviation pioneer John J. Montgomery made the world’s first “controlled” winged glider flights in the late 19th century.

A monument to Montgomery’s achievements stands on the hilltop in the form of a vertical aircraft wing, erected in 1950. Words engraved on a black marble tablet near the wing include:

JOHN J. MONTGOMERY MADE MAN’S FIRST CONTROLLED WINGED FLIGHTS FROM THIS HILLTOP IN AUGUST 1883

HE OPENED FOR ALL MANKIND THE GREAT HIGHWAY OF THE SKY

Erected by the San Diego Junior Chamber of Commerce Montgomery Memorial Committee. Dedicated May 21, 1950

When I researched the early heavier-than-air flights of Montgomery, I noticed there’s a lot of debate about who in the world actually achieved various flying firsts. Some historians assert he made the world’s first “controlled” glider flights. Such as here. “Montgomery should be credited for the invention and demonstration of the 1st controlled glider flight, and patented hinged surfaces at the rear of the wing and a patent for the parabolic wing…

According to Wikipedia: “In the early 1880s Montgomery began studying the anatomy of a variety of large soaring birds to determine their basic characteristics, like wing area, total weight and curved surfaces. He made detailed observations of birds in flight, especially large soaring birds such as eagles, hawks, vultures and pelicans which soared on thermals near San Diego Bay…In the 1880s Montgomery…made manned flight experiments in a series of gliders in the United States in Otay Mesa near San Diego, California. Although not publicized in the 1880s, these early flights were first described by Montgomery as part of a lecture delivered at the International Conference on Aerial Navigation at Chicago, 1893. These independent advances came after gliding flights by European pioneers such as George Cayley’s coachman in England (1853) and Jean-Marie Le Bris in France (1856). Although Montgomery never claimed firsts, his gliding experiments of the 1880s are considered by some historians and organizations to have been the first controlled flights of a heavier-than-air flying machine in America or in the Western Hemisphere, depending on source.

Today, the Montgomery Memorial‘s 93-foot airplane wing juts vertically into the sky at Montgomery-Waller Community Park, which is located at the northeast corner of Coronado Avenue and Beyer Boulevard in Otay Mesa West. The silver wing is from a World War II Consolidated Aircraft B-32 Dominator heavy bomber. It’s an impressive albeit somewhat peculiar reminder of how aviation technology continues to progress.

Montgomery-Gibbs Executive Airport in San Diego, one of the busiest airports in the United States for small aircraft, was once called Montgomery Field, named after the aviation pioneer.

When humans eventually land on Mars, and spread outward into the Solar System, it should be remembered that we made one of our first flights from a hilltop in San Diego.

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Views from Presidio Park’s Inspiration Point.

View of the Junipero Serra Museum from Presidio Park's Inspiration Point.
View of the Junipero Serra Museum from Presidio Park’s Inspiration Point.

Today I walked around Presidio Park, including a seldom visited area called Inspiration Point. I wanted to be inspired! I also wanted to see the little known monument to a White Deer in one far corner of the park–which I’ll blog about shortly!

If you’ve ever seen a steep, winding driveway that heads up the hill east of the park’s Taylor Street entrance, that way leads to Inspiration Point. There’s a small parking lot and some picnic benches up on top.

You can also reach the area from various parts of Presidio Park via several unmarked dirt trails, which is what I did. If you take any of these trails, wear good shoes and use your eyes. You can easily navigate with Google Maps and common sense. No matter which way you go, there are fairly steep short climbs. You can’t really get too lost, but you might run into people who hang out in the dense vegetation who you’d rather avoid.

A short walk north of the small Inspiration Point parking lot, views can be enjoyed of Mission Valley from northwest to northeast, and you can see the Mission Revival-style Serra Museum building rising above trees to the west. The viewpoint amounts to a short path along a wooden fence. You can see it in my photos.

I must say much of what you see below is Interstate 8. I suppose before there was a freeway, and all the development built along it, the views of Mission Valley were much more green, open and natural.

Just beyond Interstate 8 you can see the nearby Presidio Little League ball fields, some motels, and far across the valley, up on the facing hill, Linda Vista and the distinctive buildings of the University of San Diego. If you really peer into the hazy northwest, you can glimpse Soledad Mountain.

Note: If Cool San Diego Sights now appears a little different, that’s because WordPress has forced everyone to use the new block editor. Which requires some changes. I’m doing my best!

Walking up a short path to the viewpoint.
Walking up a short path to the viewpoint.
Between the Inspiration Point parking lot and the viewpoint are some picnic tables. Various canyon trails connect this area with other parts of Presidio Park.
Between the Inspiration Point parking lot and the viewpoint are some picnic tables. Various canyon trails connect this area with other parts of Presidio Park.
A bit of a view opens between trees.
A bit of a view opens between trees.
Looking north into Mission Valley. Beyond lanes of Interstate 8, I see a baseball diamond used by the Presidio Little League.
Looking north into Mission Valley. Beyond lanes of Interstate 8, I see a baseball diamond used by the Presidio Little League.
A big old tree at the scenic viewpoint.
A big old tree at the scenic viewpoint.
Gazing northwest.
Gazing northwest.
Gazing northeast.
Gazing northeast.
Turning south, I take a photo of the lush vegetation in this part of Presidio Park.
Turning south, I take a photo of the lush vegetation in this part of Presidio Park.
My camera zooms west. Another look at the Mission Revival-style Junipero Serra Museum, a well known San Diego landmark high atop Presidio Hill.
My camera zooms west. Another look at the Mission Revival-style Junipero Serra Museum, a well known San Diego landmark high atop Presidio Hill.

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Historical markers at entrance to Presidio Park.

Several historical markers can be found near the northwest entrance to Presidio Park. If you’ve ever driven along Taylor Street just past Morena Boulevard and the Presidio Recreation Center, you might’ve glimpsed them. They stand beside a sidewalk that comes to an abrupt end, in a place where almost nobody walks.

The three markers were placed years ago near three sites of historical importance: the Serra Palm, Derby Dike, and the La Playa Trail.

I’ve transcribed the words on each plaque.

I was told by a park ranger who happened to be parked nearby that the Serra Palm is long gone. He said it was probably blown over in a windstorm, and pointed out a pine tree that was toppled by our most recent storms.

The Serra Palm was planted in 1769 by Padre Junípero Serra, and marked the beginning of El Camino Real.

I’ve photographed a similar La Playa Trail marker near Mission San Diego de Alcalá. To view that photo, click here.

According to Wikipedia: “In 1934, six commemorative terra cotta plaques were placed along the length of the trail by the local chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution and other groups, based on a relief designed by sculptor Rose M. Hanks. The original six were located at Mission San Diego de Alcala; at the foot of Presidio Hill in Old Town; near the intersection of Rosecrans St. and Midway Blvd. in the Midway area; at the corner of Rosecrans and Lytton streets in Loma Portal, across from the Naval Training Center San Diego golf course; at the corner of Rosecrans and Byron streets in Roseville; and at the site of the fuel depot at Naval Base Point Loma…”

SERRA PALM

TRADITIONALLY THE EARLIEST PLANTED TREE IN
CALIFORNIA. DIRECTLY IN THE REAR, BENEATH
THE BROW OF THE HILL, LIE THE DEAD OF THE
SACRED EXPEDITION OF 1769, BURIAL PLACE OF
OUR FIRST UNKNOWN SOLDIERS.
STATE REGISTERED LANDMARK NO. 67
MARKER PLACED BY CALIFORNIA CENTENNIALS COMMISSION
IN COOPERATION WITH
SAN DIEGO COUNTY HISTORICAL MARKERS COMMITTEE
DEDICATED SEPTEMBER 2, 1950

DERBY DIKE

UNTIL 1853 THE ERRATIC SAN DIEGO RIVER DUMPED TONS
OF DEBRIS INTO THE HARBOR OR POURED INTO FALSE
BAY, NOW MISSION BAY. AT TIMES IT THREATENED TO DE-
STROY OLD TOWN SAN DIEGO. LIEUTENANT GEORGE
HORATIO DERBY, U.S. TOPOGRAPHICAL CORPS, BUILT A
DIKE THAT DIVERTED THE WATERS INTO FALSE BAY. THIS
WAS THE FIRST EFFORT TO TAME THE RIVER, AND ONE
OF THE FIRST U.S. GOVERNMENT PROJECTS IN CALIFOR-
NIA. THE RIVER WAS NOT FULLY HARNESSED UNTIL THE 1950s.
CALIFORNIA REGISTERED HISTORICAL LANDMARK NO. 244
FIRST REGISTERED JUNE 10, 1936. PLAQUE PLACED BY THE
STATE DEPARTMENT OF PARKS AND RECREATION IN CO-
OPERATION WITH THE SAN DIEGO DEPARTMENT OF PARKS
AND RECREATION AND SQUIBOB CHAPTER, E CLAMPUS
VITUS, AUGUST 4, 1990.

LA PLAYA TRAIL
JEDEDIAH STRONG SMITH
PATHFINDER OF THE SIERRAS
HERE COMPLETED THE FIRST TRAIL FROM
THE ATLANTIC TO THE PACIFIC JAN. 1827
ERECTED BY
SAN DIEGO CHAPTER D.A.R. 1937

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Bayside Performance Park rises on San Diego Bay!

Look what I spotted this afternoon during my walk along San Diego Bay. I was approaching the Marriott Marina when my eyes were surprised by a monumental steel structure rising from Embarcadero Marina Park South.

It’s the enormous stage of the new Bayside Performance Park, now under construction!

This permanent concert venue is an amazing gift from the San Diego Symphony to all of San Diego. How appropriate it appeared in time for Christmas!

As I walked around the construction site on my way to the Embarcadero Marina Park South pier, I spoke to a crew member of the Silvergate, a Coronado ferry that docks nearby, and he informed me the steel structure you see in my photographs went up rapidly four or five days ago.

You can also see a banner on a fence that shows what Bayside Performance Park might look like when completed. The concert stage’s curving shell is not only visually attractive, but it’s designed to provide a high quality acoustic experience.

Bayside Performance Park is due to open in time for the 2020 season of San Diego Symphony’s Bayside Summer Nights.

I can’t wait to see how it looks (and sounds) when completed!

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Flagpole and historic plaque at Marston Point.

I took a walk early yesterday morning. I headed from downtown San Diego up Sixth Avenue to Marston Point, which is located in the southwest corner of Balboa Park.

Near the south end of Marston Point, a flag flies at the center of a parking lot that overlooks the city. At the base of the 80-foot flagpole there’s an historic plaque. It reads:

ERECTED
BY THE
FREE AND ACCEPTED
MASONS
OF SAN DIEGO COUNTY

IN COMMEMORATION OF
THE ADOPTION OF THE
UNITED STATES FLAG
1777 JUNE 14TH 1927

A second, smaller plaque reads:

REDEDICATED
JUNE 15, 1947

According to what I found on the San Diego History Center website here, the Masons’ flagpole dedication was celebrated with a big parade.

Today the flag remains a landmark seen by thousands every day.

Early yesterday morning, as I arrived at the flagpole and empty parking lot, the rising sun was coloring beautiful clouds.

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!

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Photos beneath I-805 bridge in Mission Valley.

Yesterday morning I jumped off the Green Line trolley at the Rio Vista station. I walked east over Qualcomm Way via the pedestrian bridge then continued down the little-used walkway that runs parallel to the trolley tracks.

I had never gone that way before.

The concrete walkway leads behind the Marriott Mission Valley and several large, gleaming office buildings and finally terminates by a parking lot directly beneath the very impressive I-805 freeway bridge.

I turned my camera upward and snapped photos beneath the tall landmark bridge!

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!

Mural at Civita celebrates San Diego!

Ranches, hot air balloons, the San Diego Zoo Safari Park.
Ranches, hot air balloons, the San Diego Zoo Safari Park.

There’s a very cool mural inside a pedestrian tunnel at the Civita development in Mission Valley. I recently learned about this public art because it was nominated for a 2019 Orchid Award by the San Diego Architectural Foundation.

The 72-foot-long mural, which can be found under Via Alta next to the Civita Dog Park, was painted in 2018 by local artist and muralist Kevin Anderson. It depicts well-known and beloved places in the city of San Diego and the surrounding county.

San Diego County is so enormous, it’s geographic area is larger than Rhode Island and Delaware put together! Looking at this beautiful mural, you can see the county’s fantastic natural diversity, from the oceans to the mountains and deserts, not to mention San Diego’s rich history and culture.

Because this mural isn’t far from my work, I couldn’t resist walking over today to check it out!

Here are photos that you might enjoy!

View of the pedestrian tunnel that passes under Via Alta in Civita Park. The mural inside depicts many wonderful places around San Diego.
Outside view of the pedestrian tunnel that passes under Via Alta in Civita Park. The mural inside depicts many wonderful places around San Diego.

The Blue Angels, citrus and agriculture, San Diego County mountains, golf.
The Blue Angels, citrus and agriculture, the mountains of San Diego County, golf.

Potato Chip Rock, mountain biking, rural living.
Potato Chip Rock, mountain biking, rural living.

Julian apple pie, wildlife and wildflowers, the Palomar Observatory.
Julian apple pie, wildlife and wildflowers, the Palomar Observatory.

Mountains overlooking Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, cacti, bighorn sheep.
Mountains overlooking Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, cacti, bighorn sheep.

Beneath San Diego State University and Balboa Park, Civita Park has been painted in Mission Valley, along with the names of Civita Kids Art.
Beneath San Diego State University and Balboa Park, Civita Park has been painted in Mission Valley, along with the names of Civita Kids Art.

Junior Seau, Tony Gwynn, Petco Park, downtown and San Diego Bay.
Junior Seau, Tony Gwynn, Petco Park, downtown and San Diego Bay.

USS Midway, Coronado Bay Bridge, Star of India, Hotel del Coronado.
Little Italy, USS Midway, Coronado Bay Bridge, Star of India, Hotel del Coronado.

Mariachis of Old Town beneath the Serra Museum, SeaWorld, Mission Bay.
Mariachis of Old Town beneath the Serra Museum, SeaWorld, Mission Bay.

La Jolla Cove and Pacific Ocean aquatic life.
La Jolla Cove and Pacific Ocean aquatic life.

Surfing and paragliding along the cliffs of Torrey Pines.
Surfing and paragliding along the cliffs of Torrey Pines.

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!

Jessop’s Street Clock removed from Horton Plaza.

The historic 1907 Jessop’s Street Clock, San Diego’s biggest tourist attraction over a century ago, has been removed from Horton Plaza. I made the discovery after work today as I walked through downtown’s once popular but now almost vacant shopping mall.

Horton Plaza is to undergo redevelopment. The one-of-a-kind, gold-plated, precious gem-filled, award-winning Jessop’s Clock has been moved to a warehouse for refurbishment. According to a posted notice of application, the amazing street clock will be reinstalled at a new location.

To learn more about the history of the Jessop’s Street Clock, and see many more photographs, you can check out an old blog post of mine 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!

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!

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Sand sculpture murals show San Diego history!

Two bas-relief sand sculpture panels by renowned artist Charles R. Faust in the lobby of 2550 Fifth Avenue in San Diego.
Two bas-relief sand sculpture panels by renowned artist Charles R. Faust in the lobby of 2550 Fifth Avenue in San Diego.

Two amazing works of art can be viewed inside an office building in Bankers Hill. The small murals–sculptures made of sand that appear as bas-relief panels–decorate a wall in the lobby of 5th & Laurel, the building best known as the home of Mister A’s restaurant.

Commissioned by the now defunct Great American First Savings Bank to celebrate their Centennial in 1985, the two panels depict important San Diego landmarks and aspects of local history.

The two sand cast panels were created by Charles R. Faust (1922 – 2000), a prolific artist who for many years worked as the director of architectural design at the San Diego Zoo. His invention of moated animal enclosures in the mid-1950’s revolutionized how the world famous zoo and their Wild Animal Park near Escondido exhibited animals. He also designed the San Diego Zoo’s huge walk-in aviary–the first of its kind in the world.

After retiring from that job, Charles opened Faust Sand Casting in Ocean Beach with his son. Over his creative lifetime the art of Charles Faust would also include fine drawings, watercolors and oil paintings, many of which depicted life in the Old West, a theme he loved.

His sand sculpture murals have added beauty to many locations around San Diego. I photographed a couple of these murals in the past for Cool San Diego Sights, without realizing at the time they were created by Charles Faust. You can spot them here and here!

Yesterday morning I spoke to a security guard in the lobby of 5th & Laurel, and he said these two “sand art” panels were moved from a suite in the building where there used to be a bank. I believe they were in Suite 120, once the home of Pacific Premier Bank, and the future home of an upscale Italian restaurant. But I’m not sure about the exact history of these particular panels. If you know anything more about them, please leave a comment!

(Please note these photographs make the panels seem more yellowish than they are in reality, due to the indoor lighting and my modest camera.)

The panel on the left. It depicts early San Diego history, including Mission San Diego de Alcalá and the ranchos.
The panel on the left. It depicts early San Diego history, including Mission San Diego de Alcalá and the ranchos.

A friar outside the Spanish mission. The man on horseback might be a soldier from the old presidio.
A friar outside the Spanish mission. The man on horseback might be a soldier from the old presidio.

The bells of Mission San Diego de Alcalá, first Spanish mission in Alta California.
The bells of Mission San Diego de Alcalá, first Spanish mission in Alta California.

Scenes from the Old West in San Diego, including an old wagon and a ride on a bucking horse.
Scenes from the Old West in San Diego, including an old wagon and a ride on a bucking horse.

A rancher or vaquero, and a herd of cattle.
A rancher or vaquero, and a herd of cattle.

The panel on the right. It depicts many later San Diego landmarks. Images include Balboa Park, a streetcar, Coronado ferry, naval ship, farm and Victorian houses.
The panel on the right. It depicts many later San Diego landmarks. Images include Balboa Park, a streetcar, Coronado ferry, naval ship, farm and Victorian houses.

GREAT AMERICAN CENTENNIAL – 100 YEARS – 1885-1985
GREAT AMERICAN CENTENNIAL – 100 YEARS – 1885-1985

A sailboat and birds share San Diego Bay with a pre-bridge Coronado ferry and an early 20th century Navy warship. In the upper right corner I spy a tiny Old Point Loma Lighthouse!
A sailboat and birds share San Diego Bay with a pre-bridge Coronado ferry and an early 20th century Navy warship. In the upper right corner I spy a tiny Old Point Loma Lighthouse!

I recognize the Cabrillo Bridge and the California Building and Tower of Balboa Park.
I recognize the Cabrillo Bridge and the California Building and Tower of Balboa Park.

I think I recognize the historic Long-Waterman House of Bankers Hill. The house to the right of it might be a south view of the Britt-Scripps House, but it appears a bit different.
I think I recognize the historic Long-Waterman House of Bankers Hill. The house to the right of it might be a south view of the Britt-Scripps House, but it appears a bit different.

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.