Walking recently through San Diego’s Civic Center Plaza, I enjoyed a variety of historical images and colorful designs inlaid in the central courtyard.
Check out Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo’s galleon the San Salvador. In 1542, the Portuguese explorer discovered San Diego Bay on behalf of Spain while searching for a mythical water route across North America.
An actual working replica of the San Salvador is being built by the San Diego Maritime Museum. One of these days I’ll walk north along the bay to Spanish Landing in order to take some pics!
Should you ever walk through Civic Center Plaza, you’ll probably see this unusual group of signs. These are a few of San Diego’s sister cities. Pointing in almost every direction, the signs indicate distances in miles and kilometers.
Another similar group of fun signs can be found directly across the plaza.
San Diego’s 16 sister cities are:
Alcala de Henares, Spain
Jeonju, South Korea
Taichung City, Taiwan
UPDATE! I walked through Civic Center Plaza about half a year later and I noticed brand new signs!
This red trolley belongs to the blue line. Makes sense, right? It’s waiting for passengers at the America Plaza station, across the street from the Santa Fe Depot. The blue line stretches from downtown San Diego all the way down to the Mexican border.
In this photo you can see both domes of the historic train station.
Old black-and-white photos of the Santa Fe Depot pretty much show nothing around it. It just sits there in the middle of nowhere, seemingly. Today the city rises and surges all about it, and it can almost seem lost among the many bright tall buildings.
The Santa Fe Depot is downtown San Diego’s train station. Amtrak’s Pacific Surfliner, the Coaster, and the San Diego Trolley’s orange and green lines all stop at the historic building.
The Santa Fe Depot, built in the Spanish Colonial Revival style, was opened in 1915 to serve thousands of visitors to Balboa Park’s Panama-California Exposition.
This photo shows one of the Santa Fe Depot’s two colorful domes and some palm trees against a backdrop of high-rise condos. The architects a hundred years ago probably didn’t imagine that glassy skyscrapers would tower nearby!
Here are some more photos taken at a later time. Black material now covers up part of the two domes. I learned that the terracotta columns are cracking.
This plaque, embedded in a large old slab, is located on the Embarcadero. You’ll find it right next to the USS Midway Museum, at the north end of the Greatest Generation Walk. It remembers the victims of the surprise attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941.
IN MEMORY OF THE 2335 MEN WHO PERISHED IN THE SERVICE OF THEIR COUNTRY ON THE ISLAND OF OAHU.
It looks like the memorial was unveiled by a local chapter of the Pearl Harbor Survivors Association in 1984. I’m not sure where the plaque was located originally. I searched the internet briefly, but found nothing.
I’ve learned that this plaque was originally located on the Broadway Pier, prior to its renovation a few years ago. This post contains more info I received from the Port of San Diego.
Usually the huge elevator on the south side of the USS Midway Museum contains a few tables and chairs. When I walked by and took the above photo, it featured an F-4 Phantom II jet fighter that flew during the Vietnam War!
The historic USS Midway, a modern aircraft carrier converted into a museum, has become one of the most popular attractions in San Diego. It’s docked on the old Navy Pier right next to downtown. Over a million people visit the Midway each year!
Over time the museum continues to add refurbished military aircraft exhibits. The flight deck is now crowded with them, and the hangar below is filling up. The old airplanes are fixed up and painted by volunteers at Naval Air Station North Island across San Diego Bay, then brought over to the Midway on a barge and lifted onto the flight deck with a big crane. I saw this happen once years ago and it was a very cool sight!
UPDATE! I took the next photo on a sunny day the following summer…
ANOTHER UPDATE! Here come two more pics that I took in late 2014. It seems the A-4 Skyhawk is now a permanent feature on the elevator…
ANOTHER! Why not add another pic? This one was taken in early 2016…
This large statue is amazingly popular with tourists visiting San Diego’s Embarcadero. Tour buses park in the nearby parking lot and throngs of people stand beneath the kissing sailor and nurse, snapping photos. Many couples joyfully imitate the dramatic pose. Critics say the statue is too kitsch, but I disagree! It perfectly represents a moment in time: the end of the Second World War.
Referred to by many as The Kiss, this huge sculpture was created by the artist Seward Johnson. Its proper name is Unconditional Surrender. It’s based on a photograph taken during V-J day in New York’s Times Square. An American sailor, overjoyed at the news of the war’s end, grabbed a random nurse nearby and gave her a spontaneous kiss. The photograph became world famous.
A temporary Unconditional Surrender statue was originally placed at this site, but it was replaced with a permanent bronze version in 2012. Unlike most other monuments and memorials located on the Greatest Generation Walk, just south of the USS Midway, this statue is so enormous it can be glimpsed from several points on San Diego Bay.
This is the bust of Vice Admiral Clifton Sprague. He commanded Task Unit 77.4.3, also known as Taffy 3, during World War II. The 13 ships and over 7000 men of Taffy 3 fought courageously in the Pacific, repulsing a vastly superior force of Japanese battleships, cruisers and destroyers in the Battle of Leyte Gulf. It was the war’s final and greatest battle between the two opposing fleets.
Behind the bust, the monument features thirteen black polished granite panels. Each one contains historical information about the American naval ships that participated.
The Battle of Leyte Gulf Memorial is located in the middle of the Greatest Generation Walk, just south of the USS Midway. It’s not far from the huge, iconic Unconditional Surrender statue, which people often dub The Kiss. You can see it there in the first photo’s background!
I love this statue. It’s located on the Embarcadero a little south of the USS Midway, just off a bike and pedestrian path, in an area called the Greatest Generation Walk. Other statues, plaques and memorials can be found in the vicinity, but this bronze sculpture expresses such genuine feeling and humanity, it’s hard to take one’s eyes from it.
It’s called Homecoming. It depicts a sailor newly returned from deployment, reunited with his wife and small child. It’s a scene often televised by local news stations. San Diego is home to several large Navy bases, and is the homeport of many naval ships.
The artist who created this is named Stanley Bleifeld. According to the Port of San Diego website, this sculpture is identical to the artist’s original work, which is featured at the entrance to the Naval Heritage Center next to the Navy Memorial in Washington, D.C.
A whole variety of street performers, entertainers, psychics and artists can be found along the path that separates Seaport Village from Embarcadero Marina Park North. It’s a lively scene, especially during the summer. I snapped a great photo of a portrait artist sketching the faces of a couple who were seated together. Some of the artists seem more skilled than others; some paint, some draw, some do cartoons and caricatures.
The following pic is from another sunny summer day…