Gravestones at Pioneer Park in Mission Hills.

Pioneer Park is a city park in Mission Hills that’s popular with neighborhood families and children. It features a playground, green grass, many shady trees . . . and well over a thousand unseen graves. If you don’t wander into the southeast corner of the park, you might never know it’s also a cemetery.

Pioneer Park was originally Calvary Cemetery. The Catholic cemetery was established in the 1870s, then converted a century later into a Mission Hills community park. According to this article: “All the 800-odd memorial markers were taken away in the 1970s except for a line of tombstones left on the park’s edge. Left as a memorial, they’re still there…” Sadly, the gravestones that had been removed were callously dumped by those then living into a ravine at distant Mt. Hope Cemetery.

Many of San Diego’s earliest residents remain buried under the grass at Pioneer Park. Even after the passage of many years, surviving gravestones show historically important names like Cave Johnson Couts and Father Antonio Ubach. But all of the names are gradually fading away. Time does that.

Six nearby plaques list the names of those who are interred in the park, and it is said there might be many more.

On any given day, life goes on cheerfully above the grass. And beneath it lie the remains of those who once lived, dreamed, toiled and loved exactly like you and me.

Here are some photographs, to provoke thought, and to help preserve a little history…

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Historical marker at Kate Sessions nursery in Pacific Beach.

If you’ve driven down Garnet Avenue in Pacific Beach, you might have noticed a couple of enormous old trees at the corner of Pico Street, just east of Soledad Mountain Road.

By the sidewalk stands an easily overlooked historical marker. It reads:

KATE OLIVIA SESSIONS’ NURSERY SITE

1857-1940

THIS PLAQUE COMMEMORATES THE LIFE AND INFLUENCE OF A WOMAN WHO ENVISIONED SAN DIEGO BEAUTIFUL. ON THIS SITE SHE OPERATED A NURSERY AND GAINED WORLD RENOWN AS A HORTICULTURIST. SHE WAS THE FIRST WOMAN TO RECEIVE THE INTERNATIONAL MEYER MEDAL IN GENETICS.

CALIFORNIA REGISTERED HISTORICAL LANDMARK NO. 764

PLAQUE PLACED BY THE CALIFORNIA STATE PARK COMMISSION IN COOPERATION WITH THE PACIFIC BEACH WOMAN’S CLUB.

JULY 7, 1961

Kate Sessions is probably best known as the Mother of Balboa Park. In addition to owning other nurseries and growing fields in San Diego, she maintained a small nursery in a corner of Balboa Park (originally called City Park) under an 1892 agreement with the City of San Diego. She was required under the lease to plant 100 trees in the park each year. Most of the older trees in Balboa Park that you see today were planted by her hand.

The colorful jacaranda trees seen around San Diego were also introduced to the city by Kate Sessions.

I recently blogged about the very first camphor tree planted in North America. She’s the one who planted it. The historic camphor tree stands just west of Balboa Park in Bankers Hill near a beautiful historic house. To revisit that old blog post, click here.

Here are a couple more photos that I took this weekend by the historical marker…

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A walk past historical buildings in Solana Beach.

Walk along Highway 101 in Solana Beach and you might notice a series of plaques describing historical buildings.

During my most recent adventure in Solana Beach, I took photos of several buildings and plaques immediately south and north of Plaza Street/Lomas Santa Fe Drive. This stretch of highway was the coastal town’s main street a century ago.

To learn more about these and other historical buildings, and to view a variety of interesting old photographs, visit this page of the Solana Beach Civic And Historical Society. They’re the ones who created the plaques.

This first batch of photos is from the 100 south block of Highway 101. All of these small, modest buildings are now home to local businesses, including an eatery and salon.

Stanley Estes’ Radio Service Shop, 1931.
Howard and Irene Witmer’s Sandwiches, Fountain and Sundries, 1927.
Ira E. Conner’s Meats, Groceries, Hardware and Dry Goods, 1925.
Claude E. Miles’ Solana Beach Meat Market, 1926.
William and Angie Kurtz’s Solana Beach Drug Store, 1928.

The next three photographs were taken on the 200 north block of Highway 101…

Ray Hobberlin’s Barber Shop and Residence, 1948.

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A walk around El Cajon’s Knox House Museum.

A few weeks ago, during my adventure in El Cajon, I walked around the Knox House Museum, which was closed at the time. I took a number of photographs of the historic structure, and the gazebo in small, grassy Judson Park to the north.

The Knox House Museum is operated by the El Cajon Historical Society. The building is a restoration of Amaziah Lord Knox’s original two-story, seven room El Cajon Hotel, which was built in 1876 near the present day corner of Main Street and Magnolia Avenue. The building also served as the Knox residence. In later years the hotel was altered in various ways and greatly enlarged. In 1972 the City of El Cajon purchased the original building and moved it to its present location, at the corner of Magnolia and Park Avenue.

To learn much, much more about the old hotel, the present day museum, and the history of El Cajon, which began in earnest with the discovery of gold in Julian in 1870, visit the El Cajon Historical Society’s website here! Among other things, you’ll learn why the Knox House Museum is painted in such unusual colors!

I spotted this old gazebo in Judson Park, across Park Avenue…

The plaque on the gazebo includes: In 1875 the bustling commerce of ore wagons, stage coaches and other traffic of the times passed this spot on route to and from San Diego and the gold mines of Julian. This land was later granted to the City of El Cajon by the C.S. Judson family…The gazebo was constructed by the El Cajon Historical Society…Dedicated July 26, 1992…This rose garden was presented to the people of El Cajon by the East County Rose Society…Dedicated November 2002…

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Monument honors South Bay Issei Pioneers.

In Chula Vista, at the corner of Palomar Street and Broadway, you’ll find busy shopping malls in every direction. And thousands of passing cars.

What you won’t see, unless you are one of the few who walk down the sidewalk, is a bronze plaque on a stone set back among bushes. This small monument to South Bay Issei Pioneers marks the place where the Chula Vista Gakuen or Japanese School stood when it was dedicated in 1925.

I’ve transcribed what I read on the plaque. (Issei are immigrants born in Japan. Nisei are their children, born in the new country.)

SOUTH BAY ISSEI PIONEERS

Initially arriving in 1885, these immigrants from Japan, through their intellect, diligence, and tenacity made numerous major contributions to the agricultural development of this area. These accomplishments were achieved at the same time as the issei were fighting discrimination, unfair land laws, and ultimately, the mass removal of all person of Japanese ancestry from the West Coast of the United States during World War II. This site marks the final location of the Chula Vista Gakuen or Japanese School, which was originally dedicated on October 6, 1925. The school helped nisei children to better understand and honor their heritage.

Japanese American Citizens League San Diego Chapter

Japanese American Historical Society of San Diego
September 1996

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The Welcoming Arches and Bell of Oceanside.

The Welcoming Arches and the Welcome Bell greet motorists driving south on Interstate 5 as they enter Oceanside, California. The arches and bell stand just beyond a large American flag and beside the parking lot of an In-N-Out Burger.

I passed by the California Mission inspired structure last weekend as I walked down the Coast Highway.

Mission San Luis Rey, founded in 1798, is located about four miles east-northeast of these bright white adobe mission-style arches.

The Welcoming Arches were designed by noted Southern California architect George M. Adams in 1978 and dedicated in 1982.

The first part of the above plaque reads:

THE WELCOMING ARCHES

AN OCEANSIDE CHAMBER OF COMMERCE PROJECT

“THE WELCOMING ARCHES WERE CONCEIVED FROM A WISH THAT
OCEANSIDES’ VISITORS RECEIVE A WELCOME REFLECTING THE
BEAUTY, BOUNTY AND HERITAGE OF THIS AREA.

REALIZING WHERE THERE IS PRIVILEGE THERE IS ALSO
OBLIGATION, THIS ENTRANCE EDIFICE WAS BUILT BY THE
VOLUNTARY GENEROSITY OF THE PEOPLE OF OCEANSIDE”


..LORRAINE SHAFFER

Part of this smaller plaque reads:

“WELCOME BELL”
DONATED BY
OCEANSIDE ROTARY CLUB
JOHN A. STEIGER, PRESIDENT
JANUARY 1983

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Wheel sculptures at Old Town’s Caltrans building.

If you driven down Taylor Street past Old Town San Diego State Historic Park, you’ve probably seen the big Caltrans building across the street. And you might have observed five sculpted wheels mounted atop a low wall by the sidewalk.

The five wheels together are titled Rodoviaria, and they made their first public appearance in 2006 when the new District 11 Caltrans Office Complex (also known as the Wadie P. Deddeh State Office Building) was dedicated.

Rodoviaria was created by two highly accomplished artists who are brothers: Einar and Jamex De La Torre. Their website describes this public art as: 2005. Rodoviaria, five 50” cantera stone wheels with sand cast glass inclusions, Caltrans District 11 New Campus Facility, San Diego, CA.

Look closely at the glass inclusions and you’ll see not only tiny cars, but all sorts of interesting imagery mixed in. I believe I see beetles, pre-Columbian motifs, masks, hands, abstract human figures…

A plaque on the wall beneath one of the wheels reads:

Einar and Jamex de la Torre
Rodoviaria, 2006

Transportation provides the mobility that enables cultural exchanges that in turn lead to the creations of new and dynamic cultural hybrids, most evident in California’s border towns and immigrant communities.

The first wave of sustained migration into California was made possible by the wagon wheel. Since then, many wheels have made the mobility and progress possible coupled with an ever changing and richly diverse culture.

Several years ago I posted photos of another example of inventive public art by these Mexican-born brothers. You might recall that big fun robot on Commercial Street. See it again here!

They also created the playful “dioramas” you see as you ride the main glass elevator at the San Diego Central Library. I hope to take photos of that one day, too!

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A look at the historic Tom Ah Quin Building.

The Tom Ah Quin Building stands at the corner of Fourth Avenue and Island Avenue in San Diego’s Asian Pacific Thematic Historic District. It was built in 1930 by Thomas A. Quin, the son of Ah Quin, Chinatown’s founder and unofficial mayor.

The Quin Building is in the Spanish Colonial Revival style, an architectural style that became popular in San Diego and Southern California after the 1915 Panama-California Exposition in Balboa Park. According to the Historic Building plaque by its entrance, the top part of the Quin Building had two apartments, and the street level contained a storefront and storage space.

A larger structure directly attached to the north side of the building, which was also built in 1930 by Thomas Quin, is called the Casa de Thomas Addition. It has been used by various businesses over the years, including the Empire Garage and Consolidated Vultee Aircraft Company (Convair). I’ve included a photo of that plaque for you to read as well.

Today both the Quin Building and the Casa de Thomas Addition are home to downtown San Diego’s popular FLUXX Nightclub.

You can see a portrait of the Ah Quin family and learn more about San Diego’s old Chinatown by clicking here!

(If you’re curious about that very fancy looking building to the left in the above photo, that’s the Horton Grand Hotel. I blogged about it over seven years ago, when Cool San Diego Sights was just getting started. Learn about how the Horton Grand Hotel is supposedly haunted here!)

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Bursts of beauty in Solana Beach!

Yesterday I took some interesting photographs of the tall sculpture that stands just west of the intersection of Highway 101 and Plaza Street in Solana Beach.

This public artwork looks almost like bursts of confetti up in the sky, or exploding fireworks, or atoms with their packed nuclei and fuzzy electron clouds suspended in space, or sudden irrepressible explosions of joy!

The sculpture blends in quite nicely with nearby palm trees, as you can see…

A bronze plaque at the sculpture’s base reads:

Plaza Beautification
1965-1967
A Gift to the Community from
SOLANA BEACH
WOMEN’S CIVIC CLUB
with appreciation to
Wadell Austin
Wenetta Childs
and other contributors

I believe the sculpture is titled Child’s Fountain. See a map of Solana Beach public artwork here.

To learn more about the sculpture and the artist who created it, Wenetta Childs, read this article.

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Historical plaque near Paradise Valley Hospital.

There’s a mysterious bronze plaque in National City near Paradise Valley Hospital.

You can see it on Euclid Avenue, north of 8th Street, right next to a bus stop and hospital sign. The archway to long-vanished Paradise Valley Sanitarium also stands nearby.

There’s no visible indication of who placed the plaque, or when. Just these words in bronze:

SITE OF ORIGINAL WELL

FAITH AND PRAYER WERE REWARDED IN
NOVEMBER 1904, FOR AT THIS SITE GOD
GAVE OUR PIONEERS WATER. MRS. ELLEN
G. WHITE IN REVEALING WHAT GOD HAD
SHOWN HER SAID, “IT MAY NOT BE AT THIS
SPOT, IT MAY BE SOMEWHERE ELSE ON THIS
ESTATE, BUT THERE IS PLENTY OF WATER
SOMEWHERE.” TO THIS DAY, THE SUPPLY HAS
NOT FAILED. OUR PRESENT WELL TAPS THE
SAME CHANNEL, BUT BECAUSE OF DRAINAGE
PROBLEMS IT IS ON A HIGHER LEVEL
APPROXIMATELY 700 YARDS EAST.

A little research indicates that the Ellen G. White mentioned was one of the founders of the Seventh-day Adventist Church.

According to Wikipedia: In 1883, Dr. Anna L. Potts started construction of Mount Paradise Sanitarium seven miles from San Diego. The thirty room sanitarium was finished in 1887. But in 1895, lacking water and patients, Dr. Potts closed Potts Sanitarium…in 1900, Ellen G. White…repeatedly received strong impressions from God that the region was a good location for a sanitarium and hospital. During Mrs. White’s visit to San Diego in 1902, Paradise Sanitarium was for sale for $11,000. Real estate prices slowly declined as the drought continued…later Mrs. White and a wealthy friend, Mrs. Josephine Gotzain, bought it for $4,000. There still was no water, so Ellen White hired a well digger and water was found at 98 feet…

More history concerning Paradise Valley Sanitarium–which became a world-famous health resort, and which was eventually replaced by Paradise Valley Hospital–can be found on this page!

(As you can see in my above photograph, somebody tried to cover up the plaque’s text with black paint or ink.)

No copyright image of Paradise Valley Sanitarium from adventistdigitallibrary.org

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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