Photos of historic centennial U.S. Air Mail flight!

A vintage biplane is almost ready to embark on an historic flight.
A vintage biplane is almost ready to embark on an historic flight.

Today I witnessed a bit of history. I headed to the Allen Airways Flying Museum at Gillespie Field to watch three vintage Stearman Speedmail biplanes take off on the first leg of the old Contract Air Mail 8 (CAM 8) route.

The very special six-day event marks the centennial of United States Air Mail service, which began on May 15,1918 with a flight from Washington D.C. to New York. Today’s flight, endorsed by the U.S. Postal Service, was the beginning of a 1200 mile journey up the West Coast that will include 12 stops, finally ending at Paine Field in Everett, Washington.

Many hobbyists, pilots and history enthusiasts were on hand to see the trio of vintage biplanes begin their commemorative flight. I read that only seven Stearman Speedmail airplanes survive today; 41 were originally built to transport the U.S. Mail by air.

As the planes taxied down the runway for takeoff, a friendly gentleman provided me with a little more history. I learned the original CAM 8 route up the West Coast took about two days, depending on the weather and the wind. He explained how the highly dependable Stearman Speedmail planes have a powerful 450-horsepower engine, and we observed how they took to the air very quickly. In the early days of aviation, before modern airports with lengthy runways, this was a requirement.

I also learned that many other owners of vintage aircraft flew in for today’s event, parking their colorful planes outside the Allen Airways Flying Museum. The museum itself is home to a variety of cool, historical aircraft, and welcomes visitors by appointment.

Here come some photos!

One of three Stearman Speedmail biplanes which will fly from San Diego to Seattle to commemorate the centennial of U.S. Air Mail service.
One of three Stearman Speedmail biplanes which will fly from San Diego to Seattle to commemorate the centennial of U.S. Air Mail service.
Mail collected at a USPS table is put into a canvas airmail bag. Each piece will be postmarked at the 12 stops along the 1200 mile flight.
Special mail collected at a USPS table is put into a canvas airmail bag. Each piece will be postmarked at the 12 stops along the 1200 mile flight.
The City of El Cajon issued a proclamation to mark the 100th Anniversary of U.S. Airmail Service.
The City of El Cajon issued a proclamation to mark the 100th Anniversary of U.S. Airmail Service.
A Ford U.S. Air Mail truck was on display during the event, courtesy of the San Diego Air and Space Museum.
A vintage Ford U.S. Air Mail truck was on display during the event, courtesy of the San Diego Air and Space Museum.
Loading a sack of official U.S. Mail into a cockpit of one Stearman Speedmail biplane.
Loading a sack of official U.S. Mail into the front of one Stearman Speedmail biplane.
Another plane participating in the event awaits nearby.
Another plane participating in the event waits nearby.
People roll the biplane off the grass so that it can taxi away from the Allen Airways Flying Museum.
People roll the biplane off the grass so that it can taxi away from the Allen Airways Flying Museum.
These two planes are ready to safely head out onto the Gillespie Field runway.
These two planes are ready to safely head out onto the Gillespie Field runway.
It's almost 11:45, the time the three planes will start their U.S. Air Mail centennial celebration flight.
It’s almost 11:45, the time the three planes will start their U.S. Air Mail centennial celebration flight.
The first Stearman Speedmail biplane taxis out onto the runway.
The first Stearman Speedmail biplane taxis out onto the runway.
It slowly heads down the runway to prepare for takeoff.
It slowly heads down the runway to prepare for takeoff.
The second Stearman Speedmail aircraft follows.
The second Stearman Speedmail aircraft follows.
And here comes the third. An historic flight will soon begin!
And here comes the third. An historic flight will soon begin!
The trio of vintage biplanes heads down to the end of the airport's runway.
The trio of vintage biplanes heads down to the end of the airport’s runway.
People watch as the Air Mail centennial celebration flight begins in San Diego!
People watch as the Air Mail centennial celebration flight begins in San Diego!
A vintage biplane plane flies north, beginning a 12-stop 1200-mile flight that retraces the Contract Mail 8 (CAM 8) air mail route.
A vintage biplane flies north, beginning a 12-stop 1200-mile flight that retraces the Contract Mail 8 (CAM 8) air mail route.
A wonderful day in El Cajon, and a bit of history, too!
Today many enjoyed a fun celebration of American history at Gillespie Field in El Cajon!

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!

Searching for bats in Balboa Park!

As evening approaches, people slowly gather by the Balboa Park lily pond to watch for bats. The event was organized by the San Diego Natural History Museum.
As evening approaches, people slowly gather by the Balboa Park lily pond to watch for bats. The event was organized by the San Diego Natural History Museum.

This evening I joined a small group of people by the Lily Pond in Balboa Park searching for bats!

The San Diego Natural History Museum held the dusk event as part of the 2018 City Nature Challenge. The worldwide challenge–which is being held in almost 70 cities– encourages ordinary citizens to use their smartphones to record as many local flora and fauna as they can over a 4-day period. Images are submitted via the iNaturalist APP for identification! (If you want to see San Diego County’s totals thus far, here’s the link.)

Anyway, I arrived at the Lily Pond before sunset and was greeted by a couple of friendly experts representing the San Diego Natural History Museum. I was shown some cool equipment, videos and specimens, then stood by as a super sensitive microphone was turned on in order to detect the high frequency ultrasonic chirp-like noises produced by echolocating bats!

While we waited and the sky darkened, I learned a few fascinating facts. I learned that the bats most common in Balboa Park are the Mexican free-tailed bat, the hoary bat, and the western red bat. I learned some bats are solitary, and feed where insects aren’t abundant enough to support large colonies of bats. I learned bats drink by rapidly skimming above a body of water– which has been observed at the park’s lily pond. I learned some bats can fly as fast as a hundred miles per hour and as high as 10,000 feet! I also learned bats often feed around lights where flying insects gather, often live in the dead fronds of palm trees, and absolutely love hanging out under bridges.

Did we see or detect any bats? None were seen in the darkness, but the microphone did record the acoustic signature of a nearby Mexican free-tail!

When bats fly about and utilize echolocation, a microphone detects the high frequency sound and software produces a sonogram. Different bats can be recognized by their unique acoustic signatures.
When bats fly about and use echolocation, a sensitive microphone detects the high frequency sound and software produces a sonogram. Different bat species can be recognized by their unique acoustic signatures.
Demonstrating a powerful directional microphone, which is mounted on a long pole.
Demonstrating a powerful directional microphone, which is mounted on a long pole.
A friendly volunteer who travels around the county observing and recording bats points to several specimens. The one indicated is a Mexican free-tailed.
A friendly volunteer who travels around the county observing and recording bats points to several preserved specimens. The one indicated is a Mexican free-tailed.
Several people have gathered to learn about bats shortly before dusk. A curious duck listens in.
Several people have gathered to learn about bats shortly before dusk. A curious duck listens in.
Bats often live in the dead clustered fronds of palm trees. I see a passing gull and a nearly full moon above the Casa del Prado.
Bats often live in the dead clustered fronds of palm trees. I see a passing gull and a nearly full moon above the Casa del Prado.
Darkening palm trees above the Timken Museum of Art in Balboa Park. Perhaps some bats are hanging out in these.
Darkening palm trees above the Timken Museum of Art in Balboa Park. Perhaps some bats are hanging out in these.
Pointing at the cool bat-detecting instrument. As darkness fell, we recorded one Mexican free-tailed bat, but it must have been too chilly this evening for much activity.
Pointing at the cool bat-detecting instrument. As darkness fell, we recorded one Mexican free-tailed bat, but apparently it was too cold this evening for much bat activity.

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!

Cool poster designs at SDSU Downtown Gallery!

Some of the coolest posters you’re likely to ever see are now on display at the SDSU Downtown Gallery! Take a look at a few examples!

The exhibition is titled Give-and-Take: Poster Design by Nancy Skolos and Thomas Wedell. Thirty-four awesome posters by the husband and wife team leap out from the walls and make the viewer feel they’ve entered dazzling, conceptually complex three-dimensional puzzles.

In their posters the two artists have created a unique fusion of analog and digital technology. Skolos is a graphic designer and Wedell is a photographer. Many of the posters were brainstormed and carefully worked out by collaging bits of colored paper and images cut from magazines. The posters in the gallery were produced between 1980 (many years before the advent of high quality digital design) and 2017.

Skolos-Wedell posters have been collected by the likes of the Smithsonian Design Museum, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and the Museum of Modern Art.

This very special exhibition at the SDSU Downtown Gallery runs through July 22, 2018. Admission is free!

Give-and-Take: Poster Design by Nancy Skolds and Thomas Wedell.
Give-and-Take: Poster Design by Nancy Skolds and Thomas Wedell.
The SDSU Downtown Gallery now has a very cool exhibition concerning poster design.
The SDSU Downtown Gallery now has a very cool exhibition concerning poster design.

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!

Contemporary art program for students in San Diego.

The Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego has a special Extended School Partnership (ESP) program for local 6-12th-grade students. Teachers have the opportunity to expose their students to contemporary art in partnership with the museum.

Students are taught about art making, collaboration and, according to a new sign posted near MCASD’s downtown location, their own identity, solidarity and activism. (As someone who is passionate about writing, I hope there’s an emphasis on personal freedom, truth-seeking and authentic creativity–not politics or propaganda.)

Yesterday I took a photograph of this sign in the breezeway between downtown’s Santa Fe Depot and the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego. The two art panels were created by local students at Valhalla High School.

Read the sign if you’d like to learn more about this program.

(Click this photo to enlarge for easy reading.)
(Click this photo to enlarge for easy reading.)

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!

Art on construction fence at MCASD La Jolla.

Images from the collection of the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego on a construction fence at the La Jolla campus.
Images from the permanent collection of the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego decorate a construction fence at their La Jolla campus.

During my walk through La Jolla last weekend, I noticed some graphics on a construction fence in front of the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego. As I approached the fence, I read signs that provided an explanation.

This cool, temporary Inside-Out Gallery features images of works that are in the museum’s permanent collection. An expansion of the museum’s La Jolla campus is underway. Please read to the photo captions to learn about MCASD’s very bright future!

The Inside-Out Gallery features images from the museum's permanent collection. The La Jolla location is closed for construction. The gallery space is being greatly increased.
The Inside-Out Gallery features images from the museum’s permanent collection. The La Jolla location is closed for new construction. The gallery space is being greatly increased.
Red Blue Green, Ellsworth Kelly, 1963.
Red Blue Green, Ellsworth Kelly, 1963.
An Inner Dialogue with Frida Kahlo (Collar of Thorns), Yasumasa Morimura, 2001.
An Inner Dialogue with Frida Kahlo (Collar of Thorns), Yasumasa Morimura, 2001.
Terms Most Useful in Describing Creative Works of Art, John Baldessari, 1966-1968.
Terms Most Useful in Describing Creative Works of Art, John Baldessari, 1966-1968.
No Splash, Ramiro Gomez, 2013.
No Splash, Ramiro Gomez, 2013.
Bottles, Philip Guston, 1977.
Bottles, Philip Guston, 1977.
Sinjerli 1, Frank Stella, 1967.
Sinjerli 1, Frank Stella, 1967.
Under the Table 2, Nicole Eisenman, 2014.
Under the Table 2, Nicole Eisenman, 2014.
Pool Party, John Valadez, 1986.
Pool Party, John Valadez, 1986.
The Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego is expanding its La Jolla campus. The gallery space will be quadrupled from 10,000 to 40,000 square feet.
The Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego is expanding its La Jolla campus. The gallery space will be quadrupled from 10,000 to 40,000 square feet.
A rendering shows the future museum after expansion. The design by New York City-based Selldorf Architects will offer dramatic views of the nearby ocean and coast.
A rendering shows the future museum after expansion. The design by New York City-based Selldorf Architects will offer dramatic views of the nearby ocean and coast.
Another rendering depicts a front corner of the museum after expansion.
Another rendering depicts a front corner of the museum after its expansion.
The Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego in La Jolla is currently closed due to the construction.
The Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego in La Jolla is currently closed due to the construction.
A plaque near the museum's entrance. In Memory of Ellen Browning Scripps. The building was her former La Jolla home.
A plaque near the museum’s entrance is In Memory of Ellen Browning Scripps. The original building whose facade is still visible was designed by famed architect Irving J. Gill and considered one of his masterworks. The building was commissioned by Scripps and became her La Jolla home.
Flowers, Andy Warhol, 1967.
Flowers, Andy Warhol, 1967.

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!

Visit a world-class map museum in La Jolla!

World Map (Ptolemy), Johann Schnitzer, 1482 or 1486.
World Map (Ptolemy), Johann Schnitzer, 1482 or 1486.

I was surprised to learn recently that a world-class map museum is located in San Diego. The Map and Atlas Museum of La Jolla is considered to be one of the best dedicated map museums in the entire world!

Out of curiosity, I swung by the small museum yesterday and lingered for at least an hour. I could have spent the entire day looking at the amazing collection of historical maps that fill several themed galleries.

Many of the rare maps are antique, dating from centuries ago when the world’s outlines were unknown, and sea monsters inhabited the watery margins. Every map in the collection is original and authentic, including the first map ever printed!

As I stepped through the door I was greeted by Richard, the friendly director of the museum. I learned that this free museum was founded by Michael Stone, a local businessman and collector with a love for maps. In his youth he collected baseball cards, stamps and coins, before maps and cartography became his passion. At any given time, about ten percent of his vast collection is on display. I was told that Michael is one of the top half dozen map collectors in the world.

There are antique maps showing Earth as the center of Creation, maps from the Age of Exploration, maps from the Revolutionary War, Victorian maps, tourist maps, even maps showing early San Diego. There’s a woodcut map that was created by Benjamin Franklin! There are artistic maps, humorous maps, playing card maps, practically every variety of map or atlas ever conceived by the human mind. There are also historical instruments used by the old explorers and map makers.

For history lovers, the Map and Atlas Museum of La Jolla is a jaw-dropping delight! Visitors might feel they’ve stepped into the vaults of the Smithsonian or National Archives. The collection is that extraordinary!

Richard wandered about the museum during my visit, greeting people and providing tidbits of fascinating information. He informed me many students come by the museum, where they can study history, cartography, design and art.

The museum contains such an abundance of cool stuff, I don’t know where to possibly begin. To provide an idea of what you will see, I offer a sampling of photos. I’ve roughly arranged these maps in chronological order. Read the captions!

In my opinion, this little-known attraction in San Diego is an absolute must see! You can find it in the lower courtyard level of the office building at 7825 Fay Avenue in La Jolla. Check out their website for hours and more info, including special exhibitions.

Visitors look at an amazing collection of historic maps at the Map and Atlas Museum of La Jolla.
Visitors look at an amazing collection of historic maps at the Map and Atlas Museum of La Jolla.
I was shown the museum's work room, containing a library containing many books that the public can access. A variety of projects like the scanning of historic documents is also done here.
I was shown the museum’s work room, containing a library of books that the public can access. A variety of museum projects like the scanning of maps and historical documents is also done here.

The following is a tiny sample of the many original, rare maps you’ll see when you visit the museum:

The world's first printed map of a certain date, 1472. This woodcut T-O shaped world map is from Isidorus Hispalensis (Isidore of Seville).
The world’s first printed map of a certain date, 1472. This woodcut T-O shaped world map is from Isidorus Hispalensis (Isidore of Seville).
World Map, anonymous, 1491. This map was often hung in medieval monasteries or palaces. It first appeared in the Rudimentum Novitiorum of 1475.
World Map, anonymous, 1491. This map was often hung in medieval monasteries or palaces. It first appeared in the Rudimentum Novitiorum of 1475.
World Map (Ptolemy), Martin Waldseemuller, 1513. Even after the discovery of America, Ptolemaic maps devoid of a Western Hemisphere were still printed.
World Map (Ptolemy), Martin Waldseemuller, 1513. Even after the discovery of America, Ptolemaic maps devoid of a Western Hemisphere were still printed.
North Atlantic, Jacob Ziegler, 1532. Information for this map was obtained from two Archbishops in Rome. Newfoundland is Terra Bacallaos, or land of codfish.
North Atlantic, Jacob Ziegler, 1532. Information for this map was obtained from two Archbishops in Rome. Newfoundland is Terra Bacallaos, or land of codfish.
America, Sebastian Munster, Basle, 1540. This depiction of North America came from reports by explorer Giovanni da Verrazano.
America, Sebastian Munster, Basle, 1540. This depiction of North America came from reports by explorer Giovanni da Verrazano.
Eastern North America, Girolamo Ruscelli, 1561. Little was known about the inland geography.
Eastern North America, Girolamo Ruscelli, 1561. Little was known about the inland geography.
North America, Paolo Forlani, 1565. A map that shows America and Asia separated with a strait.
North America, Paolo Forlani, 1565. A map that shows America and Asia separated with a strait.
China, Japan and Korea, Jodocus Hondius, 1606. Copperplate engraving from the Mercator Atlas.
China, Japan and Korea, Jodocus Hondius, 1606. Copperplate engraving from the Mercator Atlas.
View of Macao, Theodore de Bry, 1607. A stylized map, the first published image of Macao.
View of Macao, Theodore de Bry, 1607. A stylized map, the first published image of Macao.
The Low Countries in the Form of a Lion, Petrus Kaerius, 1617. A map of the Netherlands and Belgium.
The Low Countries in the Form of a Lion, Petrus Kaerius, 1617. A map of the Netherlands and Belgium.
Northeast North America, Jan Jansson and Nicholas Visscher, 1655.
Northeast North America, Jan Jansson and Nicholas Visscher, 1655.
Second Hemisphere with the Christianized firmament, Andreas Cellarius, 1660. The twelve apostles supplanted the old zodiacal constellations in this map.
Second Hemisphere with the Christianized firmament, Andreas Cellarius, 1660. The twelve apostles supplanted the old zodiacal constellations in this map.
The Sizes of the Celestial Bodies, Andreas Cellarius, 1660. The heavenly bodies compared with Earth, according to Ptolemy.
The Sizes of the Celestial Bodies, Andreas Cellarius, 1660. The heavenly bodies compared with Earth, according to Ptolemy.
English colonies, Richard Daniel, ca. 1679. The first printed map of the colonies depicting roads.
English colonies, Richard Daniel, ca. 1679. The first printed map of the colonies depicting roads.
California on early maps was depicted as an island.
California on early maps was depicted as an island.
Southern and Southeast Asia, Frederick de Wit, ca. 1680. A standard Dutch published map.
Southern and Southeast Asia, Frederick de Wit, ca. 1680. A standard Dutch published map.
Eastern North America, Hermann Moll, 1715. Beautiful illustration on what is commonly called the beaver map, which was copied from an earlier 1698 map by Nicolas de Fer.
Eastern North America, Hermann Moll, 1715. Beautiful illustration on what is commonly called the beaver map, which was copied from an earlier 1698 map by Nicolas de Fer.
Nova Orbis Terraquei Tabula Accuratissime Delineata, Pieter Van Der Aa, 1713. I love the extensive Latin name given to this highly ornate copper-plate engraving Dutch map!
Nova Orbis Terraquei Tabula Accuratissime Delineata, Pieter Van Der Aa, 1713. I love the extensive Latin name given to this highly ornate copper-plate engraving Dutch map!
A display case at the Map and Atlas Museum of La Jolla includes geographic playing cards from the early 18th century.
A display case at the Map and Atlas Museum of La Jolla includes geographic playing cards from the early 18th century.
Chesapeake and Delaware Bays, Benjamin Franklin, 1733. Franklin likely cut the woodblock himself. The map shows the newly delineated boundaries of Maryland and Pennsylvania.
Chesapeake and Delaware Bays, Benjamin Franklin, 1733. Franklin likely cut the woodblock himself. The map shows the newly delineated boundaries of Maryland and Pennsylvania.
Battle of Long Island, Samuel Holland, 1776. A section of a map that shows the plan of the first major battle in the American Revolution.
Battle of Long Island, Samuel Holland, 1776. A section of a map that shows the plan of the first major battle in the American Revolution.
New Jersey and Pennsylvania, William Faden, 1777. Plan of the Operations of General Washington, against the King's Troops in New Jersey.
New Jersey and Pennsylvania, William Faden, 1777. Plan of the Operations of General Washington, against the King’s Troops in New Jersey.
Philadelphia, William Faden, 1777. Lower half of the map includes copy of the earliest known printed image of Independence Hall.
Philadelphia, William Faden, 1777. Lower half of the map includes copy of the earliest known printed image of Independence Hall.
The Wonderground Map of London Town, MacDonald Gill, 1915. This small section shows some of the delightful retail map's humor.
The Wonderground Map of London Town, MacDonald Gill, 1915. This small section shows some of the delightful retail map’s humor.
Mission Beach, San Diego, 1915. Map of the projected development of Mission Beach.
Mission Beach, San Diego, 1915. Map of the projected development of Mission Beach.
San Diego, Joseph Jacinto Mora, 1928. Corner of a map containing historic illustrations and important places, like the pictured Union Station (now Santa Fe Depot), Horton House (where the U.S. Grant Hotel stands today), Army and Navy YMCA, and Casa de Estudillo in Old Town, which was then called Ramona's Marriage Place.
San Diego, Joseph Jacinto Mora, 1928. Corner of a map containing illustrations of local history and important places, like the pictured Union Station (now Santa Fe Depot), Horton House (where the U.S. Grant Hotel stands today), Army and Navy YMCA, and Casa de Estudillo in Old Town, which was then called Ramona’s Marriage Place.
Another section of the same map showing areas around San Diego Bay including downtown, National CIty, Coronado and Point Loma.
Another section of the same map showing areas around San Diego Bay including downtown, National City, Coronado and Point Loma.
A Map of Ceylon showing her Tea and Other Industries, MacDonald Gill, ca. 1934.
A Map of Ceylon showing her Tea and Other Industries, MacDonald Gill, ca. 1934.
Mail Steamship Routes, MacDonald Gill, 1937.
Mail Steamship Routes, MacDonald Gill, 1937.
The Time and Tide Map of the United Nations, MacDonald Gill, 1948.
The Time and Tide Map of the United Nations, MacDonald Gill, 1948.
Southern California, Roads To Romance, a tourist map ca. 1958.
Southern California, Roads To Romance, a tourist map ca. 1958.
Thomas Jeffery's brass theodolite, part of the museum's collection. Jeffery was geographer to King George III. The antique theodolite is pictured in the book The Cartographical Collection of Michael R. Stone.
Thomas Jefferys’ brass theodolite, part of the museum’s collection. Jefferys was geographer to King George III. The antique theodolite is pictured in the extraordinary book The Cartographical Collection of Michael R. Stone.
The Location of the Earth, Encircled by the Celestial Circles, Andreas Cellarius, 1660.
The Location of the Earth, Encircled by the Celestial Circles, Andreas Cellarius, 1660.

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!

Architecture and light at Timken Museum of Art.

The Timken Museum of Art in Balboa Park is designed to be filled with natural light.
The Timken Museum of Art in Balboa Park is designed to be filled with natural light.

Would you like to enter a truly magical place? Step into the Timken Museum of Art. Walls disappear, and suddenly you are surrounded by fine art masterpieces, natural light, and the greenery and open space of beautiful Balboa Park.

I took a special tour of the building during the San Diego Architectural Foundation’s 2018 OPEN HOUSE event. I jotted a few notes and will now try to describe my experience.

According to our tour guide, David Kinney, a Balboa Park Conservancy Board Member, the building housing the Timken Museum of Art is disimilar in many respects to the extremely ornate Spanish Colonial buildings lining El Prado, which were designed for the 1915 Panama-California Exposition. The Timken has clean, symmetric, simple lines. It is the only building in Balboa Park specifically designed for people to walk around. The museum was built in 1965 and incorporates many facets of modern architecture. It was designed by San Diego architect John Mock, who intended it to be a “see-through” museum, where boundaries are blurred and gardens and sky are visible from many points inside.

When built, the Timken was the most expensive building ever constructed in San Diego. The building is widely considered to be one of the finest examples of mid-century Southern California Modernism and the International Style in the nation.

The abundant travertine, bronze and glass create a magical effect. Visitors to the museum feel surrounded by San Diego’s native sunshine. There are views of small gardens, the Plaza de Panama, the Lily Pond and families enjoying picnics on nearby grass.

By taking a few steps into the museum’s intimate galleries, visitors can view one of the most amazing small collections of fine art in the world. There are 60 major works, paintings by the likes of Copley, Johnson, Bierstadt, Veronese, Guercino, Clouet, Claude, David, Brueghel, Rubens, van Dyck, Zurbarán and Murillo. The Timken owns the only Rembrandt to be found in Southern California. Every work is partially bathed in indirect natural light, from hidden skylights along the walls in each gallery. During our tour, as we gazed at the Rembrandt, a cloud passed over the sun, and the light in the gallery dimmed. It was an extraordinary experience that infused additional life into the moody masterpiece.

Come along with me as I show you a few photos. Read the captions for more info!

Fences enclosing a small garden and sections of the museum seem like airy lacework. The building's white travertine reflects San Diego's sunlight.
Fences enclosing a small garden and sections of the museum seem like airy lacework. The building’s white travertine reflects San Diego’s sunlight.
Turning west, we can see the California Tower across the Plaza de Panama.
Turning west, we can see the California Tower across the Plaza de Panama.
Our tour guide describes an architectural marvel.
Our tour guide describes an architectural marvel.
This small garden by one large museum window was created in 1983 by a Japanese master designer.
This small garden by one large museum window was created in 1983 by a Japanese master designer.
Inside the central lobby of the museum. The seats are Italian made. Another large window allows light in from Balboa Park's beautiful Lily Pond.
Inside the central lobby of the museum. The seats are Italian made. Another large window allows light in from Balboa Park’s beautiful Lily Pond.
Inside one of the galleries. The small fine art museum is free to the public and a popular destination in Balboa Park.
Inside one of the galleries. The small fine art museum is free to the public and a popular destination in Balboa Park.
Lights along the ceiling perimeter include skylights, admitting natural indirect sunlight.
Lights along the ceiling’s perimeter include hidden skylights, admitting natural indirect sunlight.
Saint Bartholomew, Rembrandt van Rijn, oil on canvas, 1657.
Saint Bartholomew, Rembrandt van Rijn, oil on canvas, 1657.
The Timken's collection was begun by the Putnam sisters, who had a passion for fine art. They also loved Russian Orthodox religious icons, a few of which are housed in one gallery.
The Timken’s collection was begun by the Putnam sisters, who had a passion for fine art. They also loved Russian Orthodox religious icons, a few of which are housed in one gallery.
Our tour ventured into the Timken's employee lounge, where we saw the original blueprints of this iconic building.
Our tour ventured into the Timken Museum’s employee lounge and meeting room, where we saw the original blueprints of this iconic building.
Also displayed was one early Timken architectural design concept, where the building would have been circular.
Also displayed was one early Timken Museum architectural design concept, where the building would have been circular.
A very cool free museum in San Diego, the Timken combines the magic of sunlight, a carefree day in Balboa Park and fine art.
A very cool free museum in San Diego, the Timken combines the magic of sunlight, a happy, carefree day in Balboa Park and fine art.

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!