Restoring history at the Gymnasium in Balboa Park!

The Municipal Gymnasium in San Diego’s Balboa Park is a popular destination for local athletes playing basketball. I like to venture inside during a weekend to watch part of a game.

I often wonder if those playing hoops in the old gym know they’re inside a historically important building that was constructed for the 1935 California Pacific International Exposition in Balboa Park.

The Palace of Electricity and Varied Industries building–today’s gymnasium–still retains an indication of its unique origin. Look down as you approach the front door and you’ll see this artwork in the entry…

I learned yesterday from local architect Robert Thiele (whose many accomplishments include designing the beautiful rotunda fountain inside the San Diego Museum of Art) that big changes are coming to this historic building. Decorative elements of the 1935 Palace of Electricity and Varied Industries are being restored!

Later this summer a fantastic 12′ x 20′ cold cast bronze panel will be hung above the entrance with bands of ornament above and below. You can see the bronze panel in that very first photograph.

Several architectural visualizations show how Balboa Park’s Municipal Gymnasium will appear once the panel is installed. Grand ornamental flourishes will crown both the building’s entrance and panel. Compare the following images.

Quite an amazing difference!

I’ve asked people who might be knowledgeable if this historic building, located next to three important San Diego museums, will continue to be used as a gym in the future, but that seems uncertain at this point. If anyone has more information concerning the Municipal Gymnasium’s fate, please leave a comment!

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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!

Mayan ornamentation added to Automotive Museum!

Uniquely beautiful Mayan ornamentation has been added to the front of the San Diego Automotive Museum in Balboa Park!

This sculptural artwork, completed recently, has made the Automotive Museum’s historic 1935 California State Building even more amazing!

A little over a month ago, four permanent tile murals were installed above the Automotive Museum’s front entrance. In my opinion the new Mayan designs frame and complement the murals handsomely. (To learn more about the colorful tile murals, and to compare how the California State Building looked before the addition of Mayan ornamentation, you can click here.)

One thing I noticed is that the Mayan decoration now aesthetically links the California State Building to the old Federal Building, which is also located in Balboa Park’s Palisades, but on the opposite side of Pan American Plaza.

The Federal Building, future home of the Comic-Con Museum, has its own entrance uniquely graced with pre-Columbian style ornamentation. The 1935 California Pacific International Exposition architect Richard Requa, according to this web page, “had conceived an architectural plan for the Palisades showing how the forms of indigenous architecture in the American southwest and in Mexico could be used to produce a distinctive American style of architecture…”

For comparison, here’s an old photo of the Federal Building’s entrance after the closure of its last occupant, the San Diego Hall of Champions…

When the Comic-Con Center for Popular Culture moves into the Federal Building in 2018, will visitors wear costumes?

And here is the amazing new entrance to the San Diego Automotive Museum…

I also learned today that the Palisades’ nearby Municipal Gymnasium, which back in 1935 was the California Pacific International Exposition’s Palace of Electricity and Varied Industries, is also to be renovated and made equally amazing!

Stay tuned!

Here are two more pics I took this afternoon of the Automotive Museum..


Here’s an architectural visualization I received of the California State Building with two flagpoles, and grizzly bears on the roof corners. In front of the building, at the center of a fully enlarged Pan American Plaza, you can see the proposed recreation of the 1935 Firestone Singing Fountains.

This is how the Automotive Museum might appear should plans finally come to fruition (without the palm trees and hanging vines)!

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!

Musicians rock at Starlight Bowl pop-up!

Great musicians gathered this afternoon and rocked Balboa Park’s Pan American Plaza during a pop-up performance in front of the Starlight Bowl!

I happened to walk past as the musicians were getting ready, and I stuck around to hear several songs. And I’m glad I did! Their absolutely rocking rendition of Creedence Clearwater Revival’s classic Proud Mary is still echoing in my head!

This cool pop-up event was not only terrific, but it also helped to raise awareness about Save Starlight‘s efforts to completely renovate and revitalize Balboa Park’s historic Starlight Bowl amphitheater.

In the past I’ve blogged about my own experiences at the Starlight Bowl as a youth, and more recently about the plans to bring the amphitheater, built for the 1935 California Pacific International Exposition in Balboa Park, back to life. You can revisit that old blog post here.

Today I learned that a “Beyond Starlight” concession will be opening at one end of the old box office this summer, offering Community, Coffee, Treats and Beats. Perfect for the nearby tables that now fill the Pan American Plaza, which was completed a few months ago!

I also learned that the spacious outdoor amphitheater that seats over 4,000 will be available to the public for a whole variety of potential events. According to this page: “Once we are open for operation it will be available, and affordable for everyone. Starlight will be open to the entire San Diego performance and event community to host their productions.”

So in a small way, today’s pop-up at the Starlight Bowl’s entrance is a tiny taste of the good times to come!

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 fence comes down, a city grows.

Early yesterday morning, workers were pulling down the construction site fence that surrounds a brand new building in downtown San Diego. The adjacent 20-story 450 B Tower is adding additional office and retail space in the heart of the city.

While many of us were hunkered down indoors during the year of the COVID-19 pandemic, construction continued throughout San Diego. It seems nothing will stop the city from growing.

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!

The new Aztec Stadium begins to take shape!

This afternoon I headed over to a spot west of the SDSU Mission Valley construction site. I was curious to see if San Diego State University’s new Aztec Stadium is taking shape yet.

It is–but the work is still in a very early stage!

I took these photographs from a distance. You can see where some lower level seating in the stadium will be.

If you want to see a rendering of the finished Aztec Stadium, and compare it to the construction so far, click here.

Because I work nearby, I’ll occasionally swing by in the future to check on the stadium’s progress and update my blog with new photos.

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!

Oil Painters of America comes to Escondido!

What is Left Unsaid, by artist Daniel Gerhartz.

An extraordinary exhibition of oil paintings by some of America’s finest artists opened at the California Center for the Arts, Escondido a couple weeks ago.

Yesterday I headed into the Center’s Museum to check out dozens of superb pieces that were created by members of the Oil Painters of America.

The Oil Painters of America has several thousand members who excel at representational oil painting, an art that has seen some decline in modern times. According to this page of their website: “Oil Painters of America was founded in 1991 by Shirl Smithson primarily to focus attention on the lasting value of fine drawing, color, composition and the appreciation of light…”

Think of those old masters in a fine art museum. Some of the exquisite works I saw yesterday appear to belong right beside them.

Contemporary art can be amazing, other mediums can be fantastic, but if you want to find a profound sense of humanity and subtle emotion in a canvas, this type of painting is hard to beat.

The exhibition is titled the 30th Annual National Juried Exhibition of Traditional Oils. The California Center for the Arts, Escondido is privileged to have these works on display. I noticed many of the pieces are for sale.

I loved so many of these fine paintings, it was hard to select a handful to give you an idea of what you’ll see when you enter the museum.

Whatever you do, be sure to pass through the California Center for the Arts’ Museum doors by May 16, 2021, when this fantastic exhibition of traditional oil painting draws to an end.

Taos Light, by artist Huihan Liu.
Considerations, by artist John Michael Carter.
Carpe Diem, by artist Jeff Legg.
Mother, by artist Kathie Odom.
Port Clyde Harbor, by artist Jim Carson.
Saffron In Blue Ridge, by artist Brandon Gonzales.
Into the Sun, by artist Sarah Kidner.

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!

Colorful characters gather for City Heights celebration!

This afternoon I attended an inspirational event in the heart of City Heights. Local artists, community leaders and excited residents gathered for a fun celebration in the newly opened “Characters” outdoor sculpture garden!

You might recall I posted some photos of this cool art installation a while back before it was completed. Since then, more creative sculptures have been installed! I also noticed small signs have been added to each piece, with information about the artist and artwork.

I arrived early and watched as the crowd slowly grew, mingling among the diverse Characters sculptures. And before my eyes the number of smiling characters increased!

Everyone enjoyed food and live music, and there was juggling and stilt-walking by a member of the Fern Street Circus. After a little while various community leaders spoke, including local artist Jim Bliesner, the curator of Characters.

He introduced the neighborhood artists who created each sculpture, and many of the stories were inspirational. Every piece, like every person in the life of a community, is special and unique.

During the event I also learned that in two years this now vacant lot at the corner of University Avenue and Interstate 15 will be developed into affordable housing. When finished, a five-story building, the project of Wakeland Housing & Development and the City Heights Community Development Corporation, will be located conveniently near the City Heights Transit Plaza.

What I learned above all, however, is that City Heights is becoming an ever more vibrant community, with the help of many hands and hearts.

Edwin Lohr poses beside his sculpture Covid Calamity.

The sculpture was created using scarves that belonged to Ruth, a City Heights neighbor, friend, and victim of COVID-19.
Kay Aye poses for a photo by her sculpture titled Speaking for Silent Majorities/Fruit of My Heart.
Kay Aye was born in a refugee camp in Thailand. Her art speaks of the oppression that has been going on for years in her native land.
Member of the Fern Street Circus engages in performance art! Different color paints dribble down 2020 Man, a sculpture made of tangled branches by Jim Bliesner.
Twisted, chaotic broken branches form a human shape. 2020 was a year full of twists and turns!
Art brings even more life to a vibrant City Heights community.

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!

Permanent outdoor circus tent comes to City Heights!

San Diego’s beloved Fern Street Circus has erected a permanent outdoor performance tent on a corner in City Heights!

Pedestrians coming down the sidewalk will soon begin seeing practice sessions and circus classes at the corner of University Avenue and 41st Street!

I learned about this cool development today during a big cultural celebration in City Heights, which took place in the adjacent, newly installed “Characters” sculpture garden. I’ll be blogging more about that event shortly.

As I walked around with my camera, I took these photos of the big circus tent and some of the colorful artwork that decorates the Fern Street Circus vehicles, which happened to be parked nearby. The cool graphics are the work of local artist Sergio Hernandez, who is also known as Surge.

To learn more about the Fern Street Circus and their many positive community activities, including after-school circus programs, click here. Fern Street Circus has been designated Cirque du Soleil’s Social Action Partner in San Diego, and they are celebrating their 30th anniversary!

Over the years I’ve attended several Fern Street Circus shows around San Diego and they are indeed wonderful.

Adding smiles to the world makes it a better place. And soon people walking and driving through City Heights will have another reason to smile!

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!

Soviet submarine at Maritime Museum nears end of life.

A sign posted on San Diego’s Embarcadero near the Maritime Museum of San Diego indicates their Russian Foxtrot Class attack submarine B-39 has continued to rust, causing the historic vessel to near the end of its life.

A storm this winter that tore away sections of the outer metal skin has accelerated the submarine’s degradation. I believe it was the storm that I recorded back in January here. You can see waves in usually calm San Diego Bay breaking against the submarine.

It’s hoped that as the COVID-19 pandemic subsides, museum visitors will have one more chance to take a look inside the B-39. I learned that once the submarine has reached the end of its life, it will likely be taken to a shipyard to recover whatever might be salvageable. I also learned the Maritime Museum has thoroughly recorded the interior of the vessel, to preserve a very important part of Cold War history.

Learn more about this submarine by checking out the museum web page concerning it here.

I enjoyed a self-guided tour inside the Foxtrot-class submarine nearly five years ago, and posted some interesting photographs. If you’d like to see them, click 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!

Demolition of Navy Broadway Complex resumes.

The demolition of the immense, old Navy Broadway Complex on San Diego’s Embarcadero has resumed!

This morning I happened to notice a good chuck of the large remaining Navy building has vanished!

In 2017 demolition began on an adjacent section of the complex, to make room for the new 17-story U.S. Navy Region Southwest Headquarters, which was completed in September of 2020.

Four years ago I posted photographs of that phase of the demolition, and other construction activity along San Diego’s waterfront, here.

Once the last remnants of the Navy Broadway Complex are finally removed, construction can begin in earnest of the Manchester Pacific Gateway, which will feature a total of six new buildings.

According to the site plan, there will be a 1.9 acre plaza across Harbor Drive from the Broadway Pier and USS Midway Museum, a 34-floor Convention Center hotel with retail on Broadway by Pacific Highway, and office space in the five other, smaller buildings.

If you want to learn more about this project, which has evolved over its many years of planning, click here.

It appears the new bayfront hotel and its outdoor park will be called One Broadway Hotel & Plaza.


One of my blog’s readers has informed me that I’m not quite up-to-date about this project. An article in the Union Tribune last September relates how “IQHQ real estate investment group…completed its acquisition of around two-thirds — or five city blocks — of the development site known as Manchester Pacific Gateway. The transaction paves the way for what IQHQ is calling the San Diego Research and Development District…”

So it seems the plans for this property have continued to evolve…

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!