Kumeyaay and The Tracks We Leave Behind.

Native American Kumeyaay from the San Diego area work near the foot of an Ewaa, or dome shaped home made of sycamore and oak tree branches.
Native American Kumeyaay from the San Diego area work near the foot of an ewaa, a dome-shaped hut made of sycamore and oak tree branches.

Over two years ago, when Cool San Diego Sights was relatively new, I blogged about some amazing public art near the Santa Fe Depot in downtown San Diego. I provided just a brief glimpse, really.

The artwork, titled The Tracks We Leave Behind, created by Betsy K. Schulz in 2008, is so utterly fantastic, so absorbing, I’ve decided to blog about it once again. Whenever I walk past (which is often), I like to pause an extra few seconds beside my favorite column, which features gorgeous mosaics that depict wild nature and the Native American Kumeyaay people, who have lived around San Diego for about 12,000 years.

Living in this place we set fires to open the land and make the seeds grow. We fish all year, both near shore and deep. We walk to the canyons and the mountains--hunting, gathering food and trading . . .
Living in this place we set fires to open the land and make the seeds grow. We fish all year, both near shore and deep. We walk to the canyons and the mountains–hunting, gathering food and trading . . .
Public art titled The Tracks We Leave Behind, by Betsy K. Schulz, 2008, includes image of a Kumeyaay hattepaa (coyote) howling.
Public art titled The Tracks We Leave Behind, by Betsy K. Schulz, 2008, includes the image of a Kumeyaay hattepaa (coyote) howling.
Beautiful handmade mosaic tiles show a Kumeyaay ispa (eagle) in flight.
Beautiful handmade mosaic tiles form a Kumeyaay ispa (eagle) in flight.
The bald eagle has captured a Kumeyaay hiiwaa (fish).
The bald eagle has captured a Kumeyaay hiiwaa (fish).
Yellow Sycuan Suncups grace this gorgeous, detailed public artwork in downtown San Diego.
Yellow Sycuan Suncups grace this gorgeous, detailed public artwork in downtown San Diego.
The yellow bloom of a prickly pear. This sculpted tile mosaic is so phenomenal, you almost can't remove your eyes from it!
The yellow bloom of a prickly pear. This sculpted tile mosaic is so phenomenal, you almost can’t remove your eyes from it!
The native Kumeyaay people (also called Kumiai, Ipai-Iipay, Tipai-Tipay, Diegueño, Kamia) have lived in the San Diego region for around 12,000 years.
The native Kumeyaay people (also called Kumiai, Ipai-Iipay, Tipai-Tipay, Diegueño, Kamia) have lived in the San Diego region for around 12,000 years.
Public art in San Diego depicts Cinon Duro Mataweer, spiritual leader (kuseyaay or tribal shaman) of the Ipai (formerly northern Diegueño) Native American Indian tribe.
Public art in San Diego depicts Cinon Duro Mataweer, spiritual leader (kuseyaay or tribal shaman) of the Ipai (formerly northern Diegueño) Native American Indian tribe.

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Old train posters between Santa Fe Depot and MCASD.

Old poster highlights points of interest reached by past San Diego streetcar and railroad lines. Depicted are orange groves, Mexican bullfighting, an ocean liner and Balboa Park.
Old poster highlights points of interest reached by past San Diego streetcar and railroad lines. Depicted are orange groves, Mexican bullfighting, an ocean liner and Balboa Park.

When I catch the trolley at downtown San Diego’s Santa Fe Depot, I often walk through an outdoor passageway that separates the hundred year old train station’s enormous waiting room from it’s original baggage terminal. The latter building was converted years ago into an interesting space used by the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego (MCASD).

Recently, while strolling through the passageway, I paused to examine three eye-catching graphics created by the museum to promote one of its current exhibitions. Two of the images incorporate old train posters from San Diego history, which I find to be very cool.  I thought you might enjoy a look!

MCASD’s exhibition titled “John D. Spreckels and The Impossible Railroad” concerns a railway project undertaken a century ago by one of San Diego’s most prominent entrepreneurs and benefactors.  Perhaps Spreckels’ greatest accomplishment was to complete the logistically difficult San Diego & Arizona Railroad, our nation’s southernmost transcontinental railroad route.  I haven’t visited the exhibition, but according to what I’ve read it utilizes interesting visual devices to demonstrate the near impossibility of building Spreckels’ railroad, which had to wind around and over deep mountain gorges.  (Spreckels was also responsible for a large network of electric streetcars which traversed San Diego decades before our modern day trolleys.)

Outdoor passage between the Santa Fe Depot and Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego (MCASD) downtown Jacobs Building, which used to be the historic train station's baggage terminal.
Outdoor passage between the Santa Fe Depot and the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego’s downtown Jacobs Building, which years ago was the train station’s baggage terminal.
John D. Spreckels and the Impossible Railroad is one of the current art exhibitions at MCASD.
John D. Spreckels and the Impossible Railroad is one of the current art exhibitions at MCASD.  These interesting promotional graphics also incorporate historical newspaper articles.
Old advertisement for the San Diego and Arizona Railway, the Carriso Gorge Route, which included possible destinations Chicago, New Orleans, Kansas City, El Paso, San Diego.
Old advertisement for the San Diego and Arizona Railway, called the Carriso Gorge Route, which included possible destinations Chicago, New Orleans, Kansas City, El Paso, San Diego.

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Hundred year old photos of Santa Fe Depot.

Celebrating the 100th Anniversary of San Diego's Santa Fe train depot!
Celebrating the 100th Anniversary of San Diego’s Santa Fe train depot!

I was walking around today when I noticed a large banner hanging above the entrance of downtown’s Santa Fe Depot. This year the historic train station and San Diego landmark turns one hundred years old!

A friendly gentleman inside the waiting room at the information booth gave me a flyer about a special event tomorrow. The public is invited to attend a celebration of the historic depot’s centennial! The festivities take place between 11 am and 1 pm. The address of the Santa Fe Depot Union Station is 1050 Kettner Boulevard, just north of Broadway in downtown San Diego. I will be working, so I’ll probably miss it.

In the past I’d thought about posting cool old photos of the depot, but now seems the appropriate time! Check out the following photographs that I found on Wikimedia Commons.

First, a little background on the depot, with a few details taken from an informative handout…

A fine example of the classic Spanish Mission-Colonial Revival style of architecture, including Moorish influences, the Santa Fe Depot is on the National Register of Historic Places. Today it lies at the southern terminus of the nation’s second-busiest Amtrak rail corridor. In addition to the Pacific Surfliner trains, it also serves as an important station for Coaster commuter trains and the San Diego Trolley.

Built by the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway, it opened on March 7, 1915. It replaced the California Southern Railway’s smaller 1887 Victorian depot. The beautiful new depot was designed to welcome rail travelers visiting the 1915 Panama-California International Exposition, which was staged in expansive Balboa Park, just northeast of downtown. You can see dozens of fantastic photos of Balboa Park from a century ago here.

The huge Santa Fe Depot waiting room is 170 feet long and 55 feet wide. The varnished oak benches are lit by 16 bronze and glass chandeliers. You can see pics of today’s interior here.

Old photo on today's information booth shows large waiting room as it was once configured, with ticket counters, checkroom and shops in wooden structures on the west side.
Old photo on today’s information booth shows large waiting room as it was once configured, with ticket counters, checkroom and shops in wooden structures on the west side.
Historical photograph of Santa Fe Depot's construction, dated August 17, 1914.
Historical photograph of Santa Fe Depot’s steel construction, dated August 17, 1914.
Santa Fe Railroad Station under construction beside the old 1887 Victorian depot. Photo dated September 3, 1914.
Santa Fe Railroad Station under construction beside the old 1887 Victorian depot, which stood on the other side of the tracks. Photo dated September 3, 1914.
Photo of the old depot tower being demolished in 1915.
Photo of the Victorian depot tower being demolished in 1915. A locomotive pulled the old tower over to great public fanfare.
Color postcard from around 1920 features inviting image of San Diego Union Depot.
Color postcard circa 1920 features inviting image of San Diego Union Depot.
The Santa Fe Depot as it appears today, with modern high-rise buildings nearby.
The handsome Santa Fe Depot as it appears today, with modern high-rise buildings nearby.

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New public art along downtown trolley tracks.

New public art being applied to building on San Diego's waterfront.
New public art being applied to building on San Diego’s waterfront.

Early yesterday morning, I strolled for a few minutes along San Diego’s beautiful Embarcadero. I wanted to get some photographs to update last year’s blog post about the Star of India’s tattered sails.

While heading back east on Beech Street, I noticed some gigantic public art is being applied to the west side of the relatively new Ariel Luxury Apartments building. This high-rise stands between Santa Fe Depot and the Little Italy trolley station.

I’ve found no info on the internet about this new artwork. Here are some pics!

A red San Diego trolley passes fishermen catching a huge fish!
A red San Diego trolley passes fishermen catching a huge fish!
This new artwork is on the side of the Ariel Luxury Apartments in downtown.
This new artwork is on the side of the Ariel Luxury Apartments in downtown San Diego.

Half a century ago, San Diego was home to the world’s largest tuna fishing fleet! This image of fishermen working together is very similar to a sculpture on Shelter Island, which I have yet to blog about!

Workers on platform busy mounting a gigantic trophy fish to a high-rise building!
Workers on platform mount a gigantic trophy fish to a high-rise building!

I’m not sure what the white stuff is running down the building’s side. I suppose that will be removed when all is done!

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A look inside San Diego’s old Santa Fe Depot.

Approaching the front of Union Station in San Diego.
Approaching the front entrance of Union Station in San Diego.

Walking into San Diego’s Union Station, more commonly called Santa Fe Depot, is like walking into the past. Or through some airy, sacred, vaulted cathedral.

The old train station seems utterly enormous when contrasted with the actual role that it plays in modern San Diego. Sure, it’s a reasonably important transportation hub, serving two lines of the San Diego trolley, plus the Amtrak Surfliner and Coaster trains. But today it seems to me more like a living memorial to a time long ago, when trains were a central feature of American life.

Here are a few cool photos of the Santa Fe Depot’s somewhat sparse but elegant interior. I love the tile work on the walls, the huge glowing windows, the beams in the arched ceiling…but most of all the classic long polished wooden benches. Whenever I walk through I feel like sitting down with the waiting passengers and pretending I’m off on some exciting transcontinental voyage.

Many years ago the depot held a large model of the USS Midway aircraft carrier under glass; I remember seeing that it was moved over to Petco Park. If memory serves, there was also a small pinball and video game arcade off to one side, by an exit to Kettner Boulevard.

Plaque dates Santa Fe Depot from 1915.
Plaque dates Santa Fe Depot from 1915.

The above plaque is just outside the main entrance.

A look inside the large train station in downtown San Diego.
A look inside the large train station in downtown San Diego.
A cool photo of the arched ceiling of Union Station.
A cool photo of the arched ceiling of Union Station.
Looking back toward the front entrance from inside.
Looking back toward the front entrance from inside.
Coaster train can be seen waiting outside on one track.
Coaster train can be seen waiting outside on one track.
Blue and orange tiles form classic Santa Fe design.
Blue and orange tiles form classic Santa Fe design.

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Art at Santa Fe Depot shows San Diego history.

Check out this cool public art!  A series of beautiful, detailed scenes from San Diego history decorate ten columns just north of downtown’s Santa Fe Depot, where they can be viewed by trolley riders as they head toward Little Italy.  The handmade tiles which form the exquisite sculptural mosaics were pieced together by Betsy K. Schulz in 2008. Located on the west side of downtown’s Sapphire Tower residential condominium, the artwork is titled The Tracks We Leave Behind.

As one proceeds north one moves forward through time, from the earliest days of San Diego right up to the present day.  I sorted these photos in such a way that you move backward into the past…

01 san diego arts and gaslamp
San Diego arts and the Gaslamp.
02 san diego on the move
San Diego on the move.
03 san diego a generation ago
San Diego a generation or two ago.
04 palomar telescope and bay bridge
Palomar telescope and Coronado Bay Bridge.
05 tuna fishing and ship building
Tuna fishing and ship building.
06 lindbergh and san diego zoo
Lindbergh and the San Diego Zoo.
07 half a century of history
Half a century of history.
08 sagebrush to city
From sagebrush to city.
09 an american town
An American town.
10 citizens of old san diego
Citizens of Old Town San Diego.
11 san diego's californios
San Diego’s Californios.
12 spanish missions and settlements
Spanish missions and early settlements.
13 cabrillo discovers bay
In 1769 the Presidio and Mission San Diego are established.
14 early explorers
Cabrillo and early explorers map San Diego Bay.
15 native americans in san diego
Native Americans in San Diego.
16 wild nature and wide open spaces
Wild nature and wide open spaces!

San Diego Trolley and Santa Fe Depot.

red san diego trolley and santa fe depot

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.

San Diego Trolley pulls into Santa Fe Depot from the south.
San Diego Trolley pulls into Santa Fe Depot from the south.

Domes of San Diego’s Santa Fe Depot.

dome of san diego's santa fe depot

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!

Birds fly over one of the distinctive domes.
Birds fly over one of the distinctive tiled domes.
Looking up through palm trees toward the dome.
Looking up through palm trees toward one dome.

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.

The Santa Fe Depot in downtown San Diego.
The east side of the Santa Fe Depot in downtown San Diego.
Buildings rise behind the domes of the Santa Fe Depot.
Buildings rise behind the domes of the Santa Fe Depot.
The two domes of San Diego's Santa Fe Depot.
The two domes of San Diego’s Santa Fe Depot.
Amtrak train parked by historic Santa Fe Depot.
Amtrak train parked by historic Santa Fe Depot.