The corner lit by San Diego’s first gaslamp!

The very first gaslamp that lit downtown San Diego was located in today’s Gaslamp Quarter. But where?

Stand at the northeast corner of Fifth Avenue and F Street, and you’ve found the location!

You’ll be standing next to the historic Marston Building. A plaque on this interesting old building reads:

Marston Block, 1881

In 1881, George Marston located his third department store in this two-story Victorian Italian-style building. It remained here until 1896 when it was relocated to a larger building. Until the 1970s, Marston’s was the largest and most successful San Diego-based department store and was purchased by Broadway Stores. The building suffered severe fire damage in 1903, and had to undergo extensive remodeling. The first gaslamp was placed on this corner in 1885, and on March 16, 1886, the first electric arc lamp was illuminated outside this building.

If any of you remember visiting the Marston Department Store as a young child, it was most likely Marston’s final location, in a large four-story, neo-Renaissance building on C Street between Fifth and Sixth Avenue. That building was demolished years ago. To learn more about George Marston’s various stores in San Diego, click here.

To view a historical black-and-white photo of Marston’s 1881 store–the location of San Diego’s very first gaslamp–click here.

As you can see, things have changed quite a bit in nearly a century and a half!

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Stars on colorful mosaic walls in National City.

A few weeks ago, as I waited for a Memorial Day ceremony at National City’s War Memorial and Veteran’s Wall of Honor, I walked around the nearby intersection of 12th Street and D Avenue, where there’s a traffic roundabout.

In the center of the roundabout I discovered five medallion-like plaques that honor five branches of the United States Armed Forces. But what really caught my eyes were the colorful red, white and blue star mosaics that decorate several walls surrounding the intersection!

I believe this public artwork was part of the 2015 improvement project that you can read about here.

I love the how the stars in the patriotic mosaics look like they’re flying, bouncing and dancing, or unspooling like musical notes. They also sort of appear like bursting fireworks!

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Memorial Day at National City’s Wall of Honor.

Late this afternoon I attended a Memorial Day ceremony at National City’s Wall of Honor.

It was a special event for the South Bay community. Those who served in the United States Armed Services and have passed on were remembered.

The Wall of Honor extends on either side of the National City War Memorial, which stands overlooking a corner of Kimball Park. Plaques on the wall are dedicated to loved Veterans. Through the memorial’s arch children could be seen playing on the park’s wide green grass, and looking through that arch during the ceremony was like peering through the window of Freedom.

National City’s mayor and various dignitaries were in attendance and spoke. The Navy was represented as well. Retired vets who had served their country received handshakes from all.

I took these photographs of the beautiful and very meaningful ceremony. Memorial Day is a time to recognize sacrifices, and to seriously reflect.

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 hidden Memorial Day plaque in Balboa Park.

A plaque that was dedicated on May 30, 1939 can be found in a seldom seen nook in Balboa Park.

At the rear of the Spreckels Organ Pavilion, behind the large bronze tablet that honors Ernestine Schumann-Heink, a small memorial plaque is set in the wall at the rear of a fountain.

The plaque appears to have been placed there by the American Legion and American Legion Auxiliary. But I can find absolutely nothing concerning it on the internet.

The plaque reads:

MEMORIAL
FLANDER’S POPPIES
DEDICATED TO THOSE WHO
REST IN FLANDERS FIELD
CITY SERVICE POST AND UNIT 537
MAY 30, 1939 A.D.

Flanders Fields poppies are often associated with May 30, or Memorial Day, which in earlier times was known as Decoration Day. Red poppies that grew over the graves of fallen soldiers in World War I resulted in Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae’s poem In Flanders Fields, and, later, the internationally recognized remembrance poppy.

The American Legion adopted the poppy as their official symbol of remembrance in 1920.

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An octagonal Chinese-Mexican building in La Mesa.

One of the most distinctive buildings in La Mesa can be found in MacArthur Park. The designated historic landmark, located at 4910 Memorial Drive, is called Porter Hall.

This small octagonal building, built by the Porter family in the late 1920’s, has an unusual tile roof that appears a little Chinese and a little Mexican. The roof’s exotic contours are explained by the fact that Henry and Elizabeth Chapin Porter had previously lived in China.

From 1932 to 1957 Porter Hall served as a San Diego County library.

Prior to 1974 the original octagonal structure stood on the other side of University Avenue. It was moved when the street was widened. Today the enlarged building is home of the Foothills Art Association.

When I walked past Porter Hall a couple weekends ago, I took these photographs. Some artwork could be seen from the sidewalk, including a beautiful mosaic bench with a colorful parrot. A plaque dedicates the bench to Katherine Faulconer.

You can learn more about La Mesa’s influential Porter family by reading page 5 of an old La Mesa Historical Society publication here.

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Unusual traffic signal box memorial in Balboa Park.

You rarely find a traffic signal box with a special dedication plaque. There’s one such box in San Diego, and it’s located in Balboa Park at the corner of Park Boulevard and Presidents Way.

This traffic signal box memorializes Walter J. Sarnaw. The plaque reads:

THIS TRAFFIC SIGNAL SYSTEM
IS DEDICATED TO THE MEMORY OF
WALTER J. SARNAW
IN APPRECIATION FOR HIS
DEDICATED SERVICE TO THE
SAFETY OF THE CITIZENS OF
SAN DIEGO

I can find no biography of Walter J. Sarnaw online, apart from some basic information on this Find a Grave page. It indicates Walter Julian Sarnaw was born in 1916 in Illinois, attended San Diego State College, was a member of the campus Engineer’s Association, served in the Army at the end of World War II, and died in 1973 in San Diego.

And we know for certain that he was dedicated to the safety of the San Diego community. Which made him an important contributor to the life and history of our city.

If you know more about Walter J. Sarnaw, 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!

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…

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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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…

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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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.

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!

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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