ARTS youth add more smiles to National City!

A few weeks ago a corner store in National City was brightened by the young artists of A Reason To Survive (ARTS).

The Munchies Corner Store, at the corner of 18th Street and Palm Avenue, has been painted colorfully with many fun, smiling characters! (Including a few of the tasty snacks that await inside!)

The mission of A Reason To Survive is to lift and encourage South Bay youth to become confident, compassionate, and courageous community builders through the transformative power of creativity. As you can see, these young painters have made a positive contribution to their community!

Enjoy some photos that I took this morning. You can plainly see how the efforts of ARTS and inspired young people are making National City more welcoming and beautiful…

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!

Memorial Day ceremony to be held in National City.

National City will be hosting a Memorial Day ceremony tomorrow, May 30, 2022. The event will honor those who made the ultimate sacrifice while serving in our nation’s armed forces.

The ceremony will be held at 4 pm in front of the War Memorial and Veterans Wall of Honor, which is located at 12th Street and D Avenue, at the northeast corner of Kimball Park.

I noticed other San Diego websites failed to list this important Memorial Day event, so I thought I’d mention it here. Spread the word.

I plan to take the day off and simply rest. Perhaps write a little. I’m not getting any younger.

Believe me, I’m grateful to live in a free country. And I want to thank those who have sacrificed to defend freedom.

I attended the National City Memorial Day ceremony last year, and posted many moving photographs of it 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!

Original streetcars from Balboa Park’s 1915 exposition!

Do you want to see an incredible, important part of San Diego history? Then head over to the National City Depot Museum, which is operated by the San Diego Electric Railway Association. Last year they obtained the three only remaining streetcars that operated in the 1915 Panama-California Exposition in Balboa Park!

As you step into the depot museum, you’ll see a sign that describes the history of these historic cars. To summarize:

In 1910 the Class 1 streetcars were designed in San Diego and ordered from the St. Louis Car Company. Twenty four cars were built, and they began operations in San Diego in 1912. These cars would operate on various streetcar lines until 1939.

In 1939, a couple residing in El Cajon bought three streetcars that weren’t scrapped; in 1996 they were acquired by a local antique dealer and moved to storage on Adams Avenue; and in 1997 the cars were designated San Diego Historical Landmark #339.

Between 1997 and 2013 extensive restoration work was performed on car 138 by San Diego Historic Streetcars, as you can see in my photographs. There had been a plan to operate the cars during Balboa Park’s 2015 Exposition Centennial.

Finally, in 2021, the three historic streetcars were donated to the San Diego Electric Railway Association in National City, where the public, on open weekends, can freely observe them up close!

The plan now is to obtain wheels for car 138, and to fully restore the car so that it will endure for future generations.

Anyone who is intrigued by San Diego’s history, and what life might have been like around the time of the 1915 Panama-California Exposition, must see these three original streetcars!

With a little imagination, one can picture the colorful cars running up rails that once existed near today’s Park Boulevard, transporting crowds of excited visitors to the exposition grounds!

The book Rails of the Silver Gate by San Diego railroad historian Richard V. Dodge provides a description of cars 125-148.

At the other end of the National City Depot Museum’s large outdoor yard stand the two unrestored streetcars, numbers 126 and 128.

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!

An amazing San Diego museum few know about!

One of San Diego’s most amazing museums is little known to the public. But if you are interested in our city’s history, it’s a place you absolutely must visit!

The San Diego Electric Railway Association’s historic National City Depot museum is positively jam packed with fascinating exhibits. I last visited the old train depot six years ago, and I posted this blog with lots of photos and interesting information. On a whim I swung by the museum yesterday–and was wowed once again!

Display cases are filled with artifacts and ephemera from a century ago when a growing San Diego was crisscrossed with streetcars. And, of course, there are the many outdoor exhibits, including old trolleys, streetcars and railway equipment.

As I entered the depot, my eyes immediately fixed upon something astonishing. A sign described how three of San Diego’s original streetcars were added to the museum last year! I’ll be blogging about that shortly!

If you have kids and need something to do on a weekend, they’ll love the museum. I bet you will, too! And it’s free!

Take a look at just a tiny bit of the San Diego history you’ll see…

There are important out of print reference books available at the museum, too, including one titled Rails of the Silver Gate that I purchased. Published in 1960, it provides a complete detailed history of entrepreneur John D. Spreckels and his creation of the San Diego Electric Railway. The incredible book includes many photos, plus descriptions of every car that ever operated, and route maps that became increasingly extensive over the years!

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!

Healthy food, art and books in National City!

Healthy food, art and books are easily accessible to residents in National City’s Old Town neighborhood. Take a look!

During my incredible tour around National City last month, Patty Corona of Olivewood Gardens and Learning Center showed me how positive changes have come to a community that has been historically underserved.

Many liquor stores in National City now offer fresh fruits and vegetables, thanks to students at San Diego State University who operate nonprofit BrightSide Produce Distribution. National City residents who rely on fast food restaurants, or who have difficulty traveling to distant supermarkets, are able to purchase fresh produce within several blocks of their home. The availability of fruits and vegetables at many corner liquor stores has made it easier for lower-income residents to find healthy, nutritious food.

In the case of Big B Market & Deli in National City’s Old Town neighborhood, not only are fresh veges available, but a whole lot of inspiring art has been installed around the building! Mosaics on planters and walls and a very colorful mural were all created with the help of A Reason To Survive (ARTS), an organization in National City that uplifts and inspires at-risk youth.

And there’s a cheerful little free library box outside the store that promotes literacy, too!

At the corner of 16th Street and Coolidge Avenue, many good things are in reach for body, mind and soul!

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!

Another colorful mosaic wall in National City!

Colorful mosaic art can be found all around Kimball Park in National City. I spotted this wall covered with cheerful mosaics during one of my recent adventures in the South Bay.

The low wall, on the north side of Kimball Park, is filled with bright, beautiful trees and houses and animals and musical notes. The designs are fashioned from tiles, bits of ceramic and glass. I believe it was another project of A Reason To Survive (ARTS) whose building rises just a few steps to the north.

The lighting wasn’t ideal with alternating bright sunlight and shadow, and the artwork appeared dulled by time and weather, so I’ve altered my photographs slightly, in an attempt to make the colors more vibrant.

You can check out several other amazing mosaics in the immediate area by clicking here or here or 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!

Sculptures beautify Paradise Creek Gathering Place.

On the south side of National City’s Kimball Park, near 16th Street, a footbridge crosses Paradise Creek. Look up near the bridge and you’ll spy beautiful small sculptures mounted atop high posts.

These shining metal sculptures at the Paradise Creek Gathering Place were created by San Diego artist Vicki Leon, in collaboration with high school students at A Reason To Survive (ARTS), an organization in National City that uplifts local youth using the power of creativity.

The Paradise Creek Gathering Place sculptures together are titled Migratory Flight. They resemble silvery birds taking wing. Solar-powered lights illuminate bits of colored glass in clear tubes beneath each sculpture.

The environmental sculptures, symbolizing wildlife that depends on Paradise Creek, were installed in 2018. Many in the community came out to help build and beautify the Paradise Creek Gathering Place, including the Olivewood Gardens and Learning Center’s Kitchenistas and students from San Diego City College and San Diego State University. You can read more about the project here and here.

Lead artist Vicki Leon has also helped to beautify her own City Heights Azalea Park neighborhood. You can see photos of more amazing public artwork that I took during a special visit to Azalea Park here and here and 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!

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!

Bright, colorful butterflies fill National City parks!

Giant butterflies take flight in the blue sky above three National City parks!

Should you visit Butterfly Park, Kimball Park or Las Palmas Park, you’re certain to spot many large butterfly wings! The colorful sculptures were created in 2015 by families throughout the National City community.

Every butterfly is composed of two pieces of cut aluminum, and the separate sides of each butterfly are uniquely decorated with different colors of reflective vinyl tape. I’ve been told that car headlights shining on the butterflies at night reveal bright bursts of life!

The project, led by local artist Roberto Salas, is called Butterfly Path. Its creation was made possible through a commission from the San Diego Museum of Art’s “Open Spaces” program, supported by a grant from the James Irvine Foundation.

The first time I spotted some of these butterflies–last year at Kimball Park–I didn’t know a thing about them. Comments made by readers provided great information. Revisit that old blog post here.

Since then I’ve seen more of the beautiful sculptures, and have learned more about them, particularly during an amazing tour of Butterfly Park, which you can read about by clicking here.

These artistic butterflies symbolize an ongoing metamorphosis in National City. The transformation is to an even more proud, healthy and environmentally friendly community that shines with greater and greater beauty.

Here are just some of the butterflies you might encounter, in no particular order…

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 beautiful transformation in National City!

A beautiful transformation began in National City in 2013. Hundreds of community members came together to make a positive, permanent change. Butterfly Park, a blighted strip of land near the corner of 20th Street and Palm Avenue, became more like its namesake!

I first learned about this wonderful transformation on Sunday, during an incredible tour provided by Olivewood Gardens and Learning Center’s super nice Cooking for Salud Coordinator, Patty Corona.

We walked through the park and were greeted by colorful butterflies everywhere we turned!

I learned how, during the course of several days, families from throughout the neighborhood, school students, the Kitchenistas of Olivewood Gardens, and even the mayor of the time worked in the park installing butterfly beauty: mosaics on benches, a table and a trashcan, beautiful metalwork on posts, and an outdoor stage shaped like a butterfly wing! Vegetation that attracts butterflies was planted, too!

According to this article, “The project was led by Pomegranate CenterOlivewood Gardens and Learning Center…pitched the idea for a community gathering space in November 2012.

(The Pomegranate Center was also instrumental in creating the Manzanita Gathering Place in City Heights. See those photos here.)

As we walked through the park, I learned the wavy metal sculptures on posts were created by Sweetwater High School welding students, and the log benches were the work of former National City Mayor Ron Morrison.

In 2015 the very colorful aluminum butterfly sculptures you see in my photos were decorated by community members using reflective vinyl, under the leadership of local artist Roberto Salas. This “Butterfly Path” can also be found in two other National City Parks: Kimball Park and Las Palmas Park.

I’ll be posting more photos of them in an upcoming blog post!

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 tour of Olivewood Gardens in National City.

Yesterday I enjoyed an awesome tour of Olivewood Gardens and Learning Center in National City.

As you will see in my photographs, Olivewood Gardens is a very special place.

It’s a green paradise in the middle of an urban setting, where students, families and neighbors learn about organic gardening and good nutrition. Olivewood Gardens and Learning Center is the destination of school field trips, where city kids can experience the virtues of a vegetable garden, being active outdoors, and environmental stewardship. There are also classes where parents learn how to prepare healthy meals, and how to become leaders in their community.

Graduates of Olivewood’s Cooking for Salud program are called Kitchenistas. They are integral participants in this non-profit organization’s educational programs. The Kitchenistas, through a Community Engagement Program, proudly work to improve the well-being of families throughout National City!

Patty Corona, the Cooking for Salud Coordinator, showed me all around Olivewood Gardens. We toured most of the grounds and checked out several demonstration gardening areas. We then walked through Olivewood’s historic Victorian house and its kitchen, which serve as the hub for a variety of fun events and educational activities.

In 2006, the beautiful 1896 Queen Anne style house and surrounding gardens were generously donated by the Walton family to the International Community Foundation “with the goal of leveraging the property to engage, grow, and promote healthy communities and dialogue through civic engagement and philanthropy in the San Diego-Baja California border region.” Through their own personal experiences, the Waltons understood the importance of eating healthy foods.

Learn more about the history of ICF and Olivewood Gardens, and the positive programs that are offered to the community, by visiting their website here.

Please enjoy these photographs from my tour! And read the photo captions for much more information.

I was excited to discover this small paradise in San Diego’s South Bay area, where gardens flourish, the sun shines, and nature’s beauty and healthy people thrive!

A view of Olivewood Garden’s beautiful Victorian house from N Avenue in National City.
One of many works of art gracing Olivewood Gardens and Learning Center.
Various signs near the the late 19th century house provide visitors with information.
Oliver H. Noyes, National City postmaster (and retired senator from New Hampshire), built this Victorian house for his family in 1896. They sold it in 1947 to the Newlan family, who sold it to John and Christy Walton in 1985…
In July 2006, Christy Walton donated her former home and garden to the International Community Foundation to increase cross-border dialogue and philanthropy…
An area of the garden north of the house where school students gather, experience and learn.
Beds with growing vegetables, where young hands can work in the earth.
Look at all the healthy veges growing in this organic garden!
When I was young, my family had a large vegetable garden. Simply standing here brought back happy memories.
More surprising artwork in the garden. A stunning mosaic depicts colorful flowers.
Here’s a small succulent garden, demonstrating native plants.
Mural on a garden shed is bright with fruits and vegetables. By artist Brianna Perkins.
Don’t hog the water. Think several generations ahead.
Many butterflies like these, decorated differently, can be found in parks around National City. They were created by artist Roberto Salas, the Kitchenistas, and families from around the community.
As we walked along, I spied these sunlit roses.
A closer look at the beautiful sculpture you saw earlier from the street. It’s titled Reina de los Mares (Queen of the Seas), by artist Rocio Sánchez.
Walking through a lush green world.
We’ve arrived at another larger garden south of the house.

A sign describes Lukas’ garden…

When the Walton family lived here, their son Lukas was diagnosed with cancer at the age of three. When his cancer returned…his parents decided to treat him with herbs, juices, and produce they grew themselves. They made changes to their garden, growing all their food organically (with no chemicals) and biodynamically (by building healthy, living soil).

Lukas graduated from college, cancer-free in 2010.

A funny mural painted by the chicken coop.
Olivewood Gardens is filled with natural beauty.
A nursery on the grounds, overlooking National City Golf Course.
Taking a trail few other visitors travel.
On the hill above the golf course, Olivewood Gardens is growing dragon fruit! These interesting cacti are indigenous to the Americas.
Delight.
Making our way back to the Victorian house. This is where many classes, events and activities are held at Olivewood Gardens and Learning Center.
A mermaid sculpture beside the house.
Hand prints from the four members of the Walton family.
The kitchen area, where healthy cooking classes for students and parents take place.
Gorgeous stained glass window in the nearby dining room, where presentations to local teachers are also made.

The following few photos provide a taste of the house’s amazing interior decoration.

An old photograph in one room shows the house as it appeared over a century ago. Today the historic house remains in absolutely pristine condition.

Photograph of the Oliver H. Noyes home, circa 1900.
A smile at a very special place in National City!

Feeling inspired?

Do you want to volunteer, become an intern, learn gardening, take a cooking class, request a speaker, book a private event? Would you like to take steps toward becoming a community leader, so that you can create positive change?

Want to learn more?

Visit the Olivewood Gardens and Learning Center website 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!