New trees planted at Bennington Memorial Oak Grove!

Twenty five new oak trees were planted today in a very special place in Balboa Park!

Forever Balboa Park, trained Tree Stewards and dozens of volunteers gathered in the USS Bennington Memorial Oak Grove to revitalize a historically important area of the park that’s a bit off the beaten path.

Perhaps you’ve driven down 26th Street from Golden Hill toward Naval Medical Center San Diego and seen many old oak trees off to your left. Those live oaks were planted in 1905 to memorialize 66 sailors who died in San Diego Bay when the boiler of the USS Bennington exploded.

As these coast live oaks have aged, some have died or approached the end of their life. Planting small new oak trees infuses new life and meaning into this truly special urban forest.

Walking along, camera in hand, I got “volunteered” to help plant three of the twenty five trees! Cool thing is, when I walk this way again, I’ll know that I and others have tangibly touched the future with these living trees. They will be growing more beautiful long after I’m gone.

If you’d like to become a volunteer Garden Steward or Tree Steward in beautiful Balboa Park, click here!

Before the planting of new trees, Kathleen Winchester tells everyone the history of the USS Bennington Memorial Oak Grove.

Some of the spots where new coast live oaks will be planted.

Everyone learned the proper way to plant a tree so that it thrives.

Here’s a tree my group planted.

Using the shovel to make sure the tree is planted at the correct depth.

The planting of these 25 live oak trees in Balboa Park was the final phase of the 26th Street Trail park improvement project.

Last year members of the California Conservation Corps greatly improved the trail that leads up 26th Street to Golden Hill Park. The path, badly eroded in many places, was replaced with decomposed granite, and three new footbridges were built!

I walked up the trail to take some photos…

Lastly, thanks again to the Boy Scouts and sailors of the USS Theodore Roosevelt who made their mark improving and beautifying the oak grove five years ago. If you’d like to see what they did, click here!

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Ruocco Park plaque memorializes Deborah Hoffman.

Today I sat on one of the benches in Ruocco Park reading a book. As I stood up and looked around, I discovered a plaque in nearby greenery that I’d never noticed before. It reads:

In loving memory of Deborah Hoffman, of The San Diego Foundation.

Instrumental in bringing together private philanthropy and the public sector to create a park for future generations.

Here’s an article that explains how the idea of Ruocco Park originated in the minds of architect Lloyd Ruocco and his wife, Ilse, art professor at San Diego State University. It then explains how Deborah Hoffman, senior vice president for the San Diego Foundation, worked continuously for five years to meld the Ruocco fund with assistance from local governments, particularly the Unified Port of San Diego, which controls the land.

I’ve spent many hours over many years sitting in this fine park, reading, writing, listening to street musicians, gazing at people walking down the boardwalk past Tuna Harbor and its picturesque fishing boats.

All I can say is thank you.

Thanks for visiting Cool San Diego Sights!

I post new blogs pretty often. If you like discovering new things, bookmark coolsandiegosights.com and swing on by occasionally!

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!

Altar de Muertos at County Administration Building.

Día de los Muertos is again being celebrated with an altar at the San Diego County Administration Building.

For 2022, the altar has greatly expanded. Composed of many sections, the altar now fills almost half the outdoor plaza on the east side of the building.

Numerous loved ones who’ve passed on are being remembered this year.

I happened to photograph the altars the past two years. Though equally moving, in size they were small compared to the 3rd Annual Altar de Muertos that I observed today.

It appears the Día de los Muertos tradition at the San Diego County Administration Center is strong and growing.

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Día de los Muertos at El Campo Santo.

At sundown this evening there will be a Día de los Muertos candlelight procession through Old Town. Those participating will end at San Diego’s old El Campo Santo cemetery, where many of our city’s earliest residents are buried.

This afternoon the small cemetery had already been decorated for Día de los Muertos.

A colorful altar stands near the entrance, just beyond the El Campo Santo historical marker. According to one sign I noticed, the Community Altar is by the Descendants of Old Town San Diego.

Marigolds and paper sugar skulls decorate gravesites, and the names of deceased loved ones have been scrawled in chalk on the cemetery wall along San Diego Avenue.

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Day of the Dead altar at a most haunted house!

The Whaley House in Old Town San Diego is said to be the most haunted house in America. It has been featured in numerous articles, books and television shows.

Some believe that multiple ghosts haunt the historic building, including Whaley family members who once lived there. A few of those family members died tragically.

For the upcoming Day of the Dead celebration (Día de los Muertos), a traditional Mexican altar has been erected in the courtyard behind the Whaley House. These altars are created to entice the spirits of departed loved ones back to the world of the living.

Will the many ghosts of the Whaley House be summoned?

There are a number of portraits on the Day of the Dead altar. I recognize some of the Whaley family members. Fear not–these photos were taken respectfully from behind the rope.

I recognize Thomas Whaley, Jr., who died inside the house of scarlet fever, a baby of eighteen months. I also recognize the portrait of Violet Eloise Whaley, who committed suicide. She died by self-inflicted gunshot to the chest.

I spoke to an Old Town Trolley Tours guide, and she claimed all the ghosts who haunt the place rise up on Halloween.

Day of the Dead and Halloween!

It seems early next week might be an auspicious time to hunt for Whaley House ghosts, if you’re so inclined!

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Help restore a memorial to lost Navy submariners.

A San Diego memorial to U. S. Navy submariners lost at sea, the 52 Boats Memorial, needs your help. Some of the monuments that line two pathways at NTC Liberty Station in Point Loma are badly damaged.

I was walking through Liberty Station today when I took these photos. A search of the internet brought up this very recent article, which describes one man’s effort to restore broken markers, like those in my photographs.

The original markers need to be replaced with more durable concrete duplicates. There are already sufficient funds to undertake this endeavor–what they need is someone who can make concrete and use the molds…Ideally, the person or business also would be able to deliver and install the heavy monuments…

I first blogged about the 52 Boats Memorial over eight years ago here. It’s a very powerful Veteran’s memorial. Certainly someone out there can help.

If you haven’t read the article yet, do so here.

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Día de los Muertos altars in Old Town.

Many beautiful Día de los Muertos altars can now be viewed in Old Town San Diego State Historic Park. They were built for Mexico’s traditional Día de los Muertos celebration, which begins in a little over a week. The holiday stretches from November 1st to 2nd.

Several of the beautiful altars you are about to see have been installed in historical buildings that operate in the State Park as free museums. These altars pay tribute to people who lived in early San Diego.

Today I and several other visitors enjoyed an educational tour of four particular altars. Our friendly and knowledgeable guide was Aaron, whom I’d seen a few minutes prior to the tour hammering away in Old Town’s Blacksmith Shop!

Our group began in front of the Robinson-Rose Visitor Information Center, where we learned about the history of Día de los Muertos, its origin, meaning, and the rich symbolism contained in the traditional altars. You can learn all about the Day of the Dead by checking out this Wikipedia page here.

Our group began by looking at a small altar set up on a cart by the Visitor Center’s front door. The touching altar honored and remembered Old Town State Park volunteers who had passed on from this life.

Over 4 million visitors come to this State Park every year, including many school children. Without dedicated volunteers, maintaining the vibrancy of this very special place wouldn’t be possible.

We then proceeded across a corner of Old Town’s grassy plaza to La Casa de Machado y Silvas, which is now the Commercial Restaurant museum. Inside, we learned about this old adobe’s history.

In one room of the historic adobe a large, beautiful altar paid tribute to many notable residents of San Diego in the mid-1800s.

Some photographs in the altar showed relatives of María Antonia and her husband, José Antonio Nicasio Silvas. The newly married couple was gifted this house by María’s father José Manuel Machado, who commanded the military guards at nearby Mission San Diego.

Next came an altar inside La Casa de Machado y Stewart. The images in this altar are of José Manuel Machado and his wife María Serafina Valdez de Machado.

The two raised eleven children. Their daughter, Rosa Machado, married a New Englander named John “Jack” Collins Stewart and thereby inherited this house. Stewart was a shipmate of famous author Richard Henry Dana, Jr., who described a visit to the house in Two Years Before the Mast.

It was interesting to see that the ofrendas (offerings) on the floor in front of this altar include playing cards, a pipe and liquor!

Food and objects that brought pleasure in life are meant to entice souls back to our world–at least during Día de los Muertos.

Our group finally headed to the small historic San Diego Union Building, where an altar remembered two figures in the early history of our city’s major newspaper.

The photos are of Edward “Ned” Bushyhead and José Narciso Briseño. Bushyhead was not only a Cherokee miner and lawman, but he was the newspaper’s first publisher. Briseño, a native of Chile, was the printer.

This altar is quite unusual in that it contains a pile of sorts–small typesetting pieces used to assemble words, that were subsequently printed in columns on sheets of paper using a hand press.

The next two altars that I photographed today were not part of the tour.

The following example on a cart can be found in Wallach & Goldman Square, among many shops. I know nothing specific about it…

And finally, probably the most impressive of all the Old Town altars is the one inside the sala (living room) of La Casa de Estudillo.

The sprawling adobe and its beautiful courtyard, built by Presidio comandante José María Estudillo and his son, lieutenant José Antonio Estudillo, became San Diego’s social and religious center during the Mexican and early American periods.

Most Californio families, like the Estudillos, were Roman Catholic…traveling priests performed weddings, baptisms, and memorial services here in the Sala for the people of San Diego.

I encourage those visiting Old Town San Diego State Historic Park this week to sign up for the daily 3 pm Día de los Muertos altar tour. A limited number of people can participate. The guided tour lasts a little less than an hour.

You can sign up at the counter inside the Robinson-Rose Visitor Information Center!

Thank you for visiting Cool San Diego Sights!

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A legacy honored at Mission Bay.

A plaque by the Mission Bay boardwalk honors the legacy of a man who was an inspiration to many.

Ken “SAWMAN” Sawyer III is remembered as one who lived life to the fullest and left us a legacy of laughter, love and compassion…

I noticed this memorial plaque last weekend while walking near the boat rental dock of the San Diego Mission Bay Resort.

May we all be remembered for having such a positive influence.

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!

Memories of Queen Elizabeth II at House of England.

Queen Elizabeth II, who passed away earlier this month, is being memorialized inside the House of England at Balboa Park’s International Cottages.

Inside the cottage visitors will find notes of sympathy and bits of artwork accompanying photographs of the late Queen. During her long reign, through seven decades of the world’s turbulent history, Queen Elizabeth II remained beloved by many.

I stepped into the House of England’s cottage during my walk through Balboa Park today and took these photographs…

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Chula Vista remembers When Heroes Fall.

A memorial to fallen San Diego County law enforcement officers stands across an outdoor plaza at the City of Chula Vista Police Department.

When Heroes Fall…We Remember was created by Chula Vista artist Mark Martensen in 2004. A central bronze sculpture depicts two bowed officers facing a curved wall.

Beneath fluttering flags, the black marble wall is engraved with the names of heroes from different law enforcement agencies throughout the San Diego region who’ve given their lives in the line of duty.

The moving memorial is the work of the San Diego County Law Enforcement Memorial Foundation.

If you know more about the creation and history of this particular memorial, please leave a comment.

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!