A tour inside the San Diego Convention Center!

Beautiful.

To me, that’s the one word that best describes the San Diego Convention Center.

Yesterday I enjoyed a fantastic inside tour of our city’s world-class convention center, thanks to the annual Open House event put on by the San Diego Architectural Foundation.

During the whirlwind tour our group saw many areas throughout the convention center, in both the iconic original structure and the later Phase 2 addition. We poked our noses into a vast hall where a new technology convention was being set up (no photos allowed), headed up an escalator one level, walked through the Sails Pavilion and a large ballroom, then took a freight elevator down to one of two huge loading docks. We walked through service corridors, got to see the convention center’s kitchen, and we learned about the logistics required to smoothly run such a mind-boggling operation.

During the tour we learned about the San Diego Convention Center’s new carpeting, the new digital signage, the emphasis on sustainability with LED lighting and a comprehensive recycling program, and so much more!

The problem is, as we turned each new corner, my eyes were always busy looking for photographic opportunities and I took few notes. I was dazzled by the sheer beauty of the public spaces. I can’t imagine a more beautiful convention center exists anywhere in the world. There is abundant sunlight, complex, jewel-like patterns of glass, and stunning views of San Diego Bay and downtown.

I won’t even try to caption these upcoming photos. To those who follow Cool San Diego Sights due to my coverage of Comic-Con, here’s what the San Diego Convention Center looks like without swarming crowds!

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!

Photos inside the San Diego Civic Theatre.

Looking up at the impressive chandelier in the Grand Salon of the San Diego Civic Theatre.
Looking up at the impressive chandelier in the Grand Salon of the San Diego Civic Theatre.

I’ve lived in downtown San Diego for nearly 20 years. It’s sad to admit, but there are places of great interest within easy walking distance that I still haven’t visited. Until today, one of those places was the San Diego Civic Theatre.

This morning I took a guided tour behind the scenes at the San Diego Civic Theatre, courtesy of the San Diego Architectural Foundation’s big annual Open House event!

According to the event website: “The 2,967 seat San Diego Civic Theatre is the region’s largest and most attended performing arts venue. Owned by the City of San Diego, the theater hosts performances in opera, classical and contemporary music, dance and Broadway shows, in addition to serving as a community gathering place for inaugurations, governmental addresses and public meetings. Built at a cost of $4.1 million, the Grand Salon features back lit Italian onyx panels and an iconic $35,000 chandelier made of Bavarian crystal.”

Our group entered the lobby from Civic Center Plaza, ascended stairs and stood with heads tilted back as we took in the awesome beauty of the Grand Salon. Overhead, the impressive 2800 pound chandelier sparkled with its 186 lights and 52,000 crystals, casting magic about the elegant gathering place.

We then walked into the enormous theatre and stood for a moment “atop” the orchestra pit, the floor of which can be raised or lowered like an elevator. Then we went backstage to see the positively enormous space that is utilized to produce major shows of all sorts. In one corner of the dark stage, out of sight of the audience, there’s a very cool shrine to Elvis Presley!

It’s hard to describe the immense grandeur of this venerable theatre. The world’s biggest stars have performed here over the years, including Frank Sinatra, Bob Hope, Johnny Cash, Diana Ross, Tony Bennett, Bruce Springsteen, Bob Dylan and many others. Several United States Presidents have also attended events in the building. Today, the venue is the home of San Diego Opera, Broadway San Diego and California Ballet Company.

The lighting inside the building wasn’t ideal for my poor little camera, but during the tour I did manage to capture a few photos.

An outside view of the architecturally interesting San Diego Civic Theatre as I approached from the east down B Street.
An outside view of the architecturally interesting San Diego Civic Theatre as I approached from the east down B Street.
A poster outside the lobby entrance. The San Diego Civic Theatre is celebrating its 55 year anniversary.
A poster outside the lobby entrance. The San Diego Civic Theatre is celebrating its 55 year anniversary.
Waiting outside in Civic Center Plaza for the tour to begin.
Waiting outside in Civic Center Plaza for the tour to begin.
We enter the lobby, which as you can see is dimly lit.
We enter the building lobby, which as you can see is dimly lit.
Graphic shows the Civic Theatre under construction, before opening in 1965. It was designed by Lloyd Ruocco, one of San Diego’s most influential architects.
Graphic shows the Civic Theatre under construction, before opening in 1965. It was designed by Lloyd Ruocco, one of San Diego’s most influential architects.
Looking up inside the gorgeous Grand Salon, which is located on the building's second floor. The original design had the salon at ground level.
Looking up inside the gorgeous Grand Salon, which is located on the building’s second floor. The original design had the salon at ground level.
The sunbursts decorating the edges of each level were removed years ago.
The sunbursts decorating the edges of each level were removed years ago.
The amazing chandelier is the centerpiece of the Grand Salon.
The amazing chandelier is the centerpiece of the Grand Salon.
I believe this bust in the Grand Salon is of Giuseppe Verdi.
I believe this bust in the Grand Salon is of Giuseppe Verdi.
A glimpse of the gritty inner workings of a major theatre, tucked between the audience and the stage.
A glimpse of the gritty inner workings of a major theatre, tucked between the audience and the stage.
Now we are backstage, looking at dozens of ropes that might be used to lift or manipulate props, lighting, drop curtains--and perhaps even actors!
Now we are backstage, looking at dozens of ropes that might be used to lift or manipulate props, lighting, drop curtains–and perhaps even actors!
Looking up!
Looking up!
Here's the shrine to Elvis in a corner of backstage. I didn't catch the story behind it.
Here’s the shrine to Elvis in a corner of backstage. I didn’t catch the story behind it.
Old black and white photograph shows a packed house.
Old black and white photograph shows a packed house.
Looking out from the stage upon thousands of empty red seats!
Looking out from the stage upon thousands of empty red seats!

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!

Magic inside the San Diego Law Library!

Plaque outside the San Diego County Law Library, dedicated October 7, 1958. The building was renovated in 2011 with technological updates and multi-use spaces.
Plaque outside the San Diego County Law Library, dedicated October 7, 1958. The building was renovated in 2011 with technological updates and multi-use spaces.

Today I enjoyed guided tours of three notable downtown buildings. That’s because this is the weekend of the annual Open House event organized by the San Diego Architectural Foundation!

I’ve walked past the San Diego Law Library at Front Street and C Street numerous times over the years. The front of the building with its polished black granite and glass windows is attractive, but the effect is overshadowed by nearby buildings and a bit lost in the urban clutter. I always assumed the facility was for lawyers and people in the legal profession, so it never occurred to me to venture inside. When I stepped through the front door, I had no idea what to expect.

What I found was an inviting, spacious, light-filled law research library that is open free to the public!

During the tour I saw many functional spaces, including a reading room, a computer center, the jam-packed stacks, and a high tech meeting room–all designed to give the public access to vital legal information. For those who can’t make it downtown, educational programming and legal assistance are often beamed from a meeting room into far-flung San Diego County libraries.

Most of the spaces I saw are enlivened by displays of artwork. As you’ll see, at the end of the tour I was led through a surprising, magical door!

According to the Open House San Diego website: “When it was built in 1958, the county’s public law library was a state-of-the-art resource for people needing legal assistance. Over 50 years later, the building was completely renovated to bring back its original clean sight lines and mid-century modern design aesthetic. The building boasts an iconic floating staircase, black Escondido granite facings, floor-to-ceiling west-facing windows, white Carrara marble floors, a buried peek-a-boo time capsule, and one-of-a-kind spaces including a permanent hand-painted labyrinth and a Hogwarts-inspired lounge.”

Here are a few random photos that provide an idea of what you’ll find when you visit the San Diego Law Library. I was told anybody can use the library commons seating area, even if it’s simply to converse with friends or relax and read something you brought. They do ask that the limited computers are used exclusively for law related research.

A look at the comfy commons area, where anyone can lounge (and perhaps play chess) near the library's large front windows.
A look at the comfy commons area, where anyone can lounge (and perhaps play chess) near the library’s large front windows.
One display includes artwork concerning the Law Library's Topic of the Year: Tribal Law.
One display includes artwork concerning the Law Library’s Topic of the Year: Tribal Law.
The San Diego Law Library offers many sources of information, including their new Federal Indian Law and Tribal Law research guide.
The San Diego Law Library offers many sources of information, including their new Federal Indian Law and Tribal Law research guide.
Colorful art near the ceiling as I walk up some beautiful stairs.
Colorful art near the ceiling as I walk up some beautiful stairs.
Looking down at the commons lounge area and the adjacent computer center.
Looking down at the commons lounge area and the adjacent computer center.
Even this upstairs hallway is like an art gallery.
Even this upstairs hallway is like an art gallery.
Modern meeting rooms offer wi-fi and other technological capabilities.
Modern meeting rooms offer Wi-Fi and other technological capabilities.
What's that I see on the Break Room door? Flying books? Does this lead to Platform 9 3/4?
What’s that I see on the break room door? Are those flying books? Does this doorway lead to Platform 9 3/4?
The amazing break room offers those who work hard at the Law Library a welcoming retreat. It looks a lot like a student common room in the Harry Potter series!
The amazing break room offers those who work at the San Diego Law Library a welcoming retreat. It looks like a student common room in the Harry Potter series!
The Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry can be seen from a window inside the San Diego Law Library!
The Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry can be seen from a window inside the break room of the San Diego Law Library!

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 cool mural walk in Pacific Beach!

One of many cool works of art a group learns about during a guided mural walk in Pacific Beach.
One of many great works of art a group learns about during a guided mural walk in Pacific Beach.

Today I was lucky to go on a really cool guided mural walk in Pacific Beach! The tour was led by Leslie Dufour of beautifulPB, which is a volunteer organization formed by PB residents and businesses who are working to create a sustainably beautiful Pacific Beach. You can learn more about beautifulPB by visiting their website here.

During the walk, I learned that the folks of beautifulPB have a PB Murals program, and they’re looking to add even more public art to their already colorful community.

The murals we saw today were all fantastic, and there were many that I hadn’t seen during my various Pacific Beach walks over the years. We even got to meet one the artists, Kathleen King. She painted an iconic PB mural that you will see in my upcoming photographs, plus the landmark America’s Finest City mural in downtown San Diego!

Today’s amazing tour began in a small courtyard area behind Randall’s Sandals on Garnet Avenue, where we learned from Leslie Dufour about the history of murals, particularly their early 20th century renaissance in Mexico led by artists Diego Rivera, José Clemente Orozco and David Alfaro Siqueiros. That movement continues to influence muralists today.

After the fascinating presentation our group embarked on a looping walk of perhaps a mile or less. Future walks featuring additional murals are planned!

Thank you to Yerba Mate Bar & Empanadas, where we paused to enjoy some vegan treats that were really delicious! They intend to turn their outdoor courtyard space into a Pacific Beach arts center. Very cool!

Okay, let’s see some photos! Read the captions!

Our group heads through the beautifully painted walkway of Randall's Sandals, where the long mural opens up for all to see.
Our group heads through the beautifully painted walkway of Randall’s Sandals, where the long mural opens up for all to see.
We learn about the history of murals beside the work of muralist Jared Blake Lazar.
We learn about the history of murals beside the work of muralist Jared Blake Lazar.
Mural by @MatthewMillington depicts a very colorful Quetzalcoatl, the feathered serpent diety of ancient Mesoamerican people.
Mural by @MatthewMillington depicts a very colorful Quetzalcoatl, the feathered serpent diety of ancient Mesoamerican people.
A mermaid mural by @LovePaperPaint (Katie Gaines) is inspired by the traditional La Sirena image in Mexican Lotería.
A mermaid mural by @LovePaperPaint (Katie Gaines) is inspired by the traditional La Sirena image in Mexican Lotería.
This female superhero mural was painted by artist MDMN (John Moody) during a past San Diego Comic-Con.
This female superhero mural was painted by artist MDMN (John Moody) during a past San Diego Comic-Con.
Our group meets muralist Kathleen King, whose 1988 mural was painted from a 1943 photo of Garnet Avenue, looking west toward Crystal Pier.
Our group meets prolific artist Kathleen King, whose 1988 mural was painted from a 1943 photo of Garnet Avenue, looking west toward Crystal Pier.
Plaque explains the mural depicts the corner of Cass Street and Garnet Avenue as it was in 1943.
Nearby plaque explains this mural depicts the corner of Cass Street and Garnet Avenue as it was in 1943.
The historic brick building in this iconic PB mural still stands at the nearby corner.
The historic brick building in this iconic PB mural still stands on the street corner.
And here is that building!
And here is that building!
A cool John Lennon mural on the side of Five Guys was painted in 2006 by Steve Gorrow, Creative Director of Insight Clothing.
John Lennon with a daisy in his eye. A cool mural on the side of Five Guys that was painted in 2006 by Steve Gorrow, Creative Director of Insight Clothing.
Left part of fantastic shark mural at Even Keel Tattoo, by artists Nate Banuelos and Kyle Walker.
Left side of fantastic shark mural at Even Keel Tattoo, by artists Nate Banuelos and Kyle Walker.
Right side of mural, with many fantastic, romantic, sea-themed elements.
Right side of the same mural, which contains romantic, sea-themed elements.
Learning about one of Pacific Beach's many amazing, colorful murals during a guided walk!
Learning about one of Pacific Beach’s many beautiful, creative murals during a guided walk!

This blog now features thousands of photos around San Diego! Are you curious? There’s lots of cool stuff to check out!

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Photos of Gaslamp history on Fifth Avenue.

Should you walk down Fifth Avenue through the Gaslamp Quarter, you might notice electrical boxes on street corners that feature photos from San Diego history. I believe these graphics debuted a few months ago.

The San Diego History Center and Gaslamp Quarter Historical Foundation have furnished old photos and bits of fascinating information for curious people passing down the sidewalk.

In 1885 Wyatt Earp came to San Diego, where he operated three gambling halls, organized gambling excursions in Mexico, and prospected copper and gold.
In 1885 Wyatt Earp came to San Diego, where he operated three gambling halls, organized gambling excursions in Mexico, and prospected copper and gold.

The Louis Bank of Commerce building was the location of Madam Cora's infamous Golden Poppy Hotel. It was also San Diego's first downtown ice cream shop.
The Louis Bank of Commerce building was the location of Madam Cora’s infamous Golden Poppy Hotel. It was also San Diego’s first downtown ice cream shop.

The Old City Hall building housed police headquarters. The Gaslamp during much of its early history was a red-light district known as the Stingaree.
The Old City Hall building housed police headquarters. The Gaslamp during much of its early history was a red-light district known as the Stingaree.

The Yuma Building was one of downtown San Diego's first brick structures. The bottom floor contains the only original interior from the 1880s in the Gaslamp Quarter.
The Yuma Building was one of downtown San Diego’s first brick structures. The bottom floor contains the only original interior from the 1880’s in the Gaslamp Quarter.

In the 1970s a redevelopment and preservation program began aimed at establishing the historic Gaslamp Quarter.
In the 1970’s a redevelopment and preservation program began aimed at establishing the historic Gaslamp Quarter.

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!

Behind the scenes look at the City Archives!

Old books contain important records in the cold vault of the San Diego City Clerk's Archives Center.
Stacks of old books contain important records in the cold vault of the San Diego City Clerk’s Archives Center.

Yesterday I stepped into City Hall to enjoy an educational event open to the public during the City Clerk’s 3rd Annual Archives Month. When I entered the Archives Center in the basement of the San Diego City Administration Building, I didn’t really know what I might experience.

I saw and learned more from this behind the scenes tour than I expected!

I and a few others were led into a small lecture room and introduced to City of San Diego Archivist Jerry Handfield. He’s an energetic historian and professional archivist who in the past has served as State Archivist for both Indiana and Washington.

Jerry Handfield presented an overview of his job and explained the critical importance of maintaining genuine, reliable, trustworthy public records.

We learned that good governance depends on maintaining accurate records. Trustworthy public records protect the rights of citizens and promotes public trust in government. A healthy democracy relies on trust in its institutions.

Archives play such an important role that in 1850, when San Diego was a tiny town with very limited resources, the city’s newly created common council directed that a very expensive iron safe be appropriated to the clerk for the safekeeping of city records.

As an archivist, Jerry Handfield provided a list of reasons why records matter: they protect life (medical records), protect the public from disasters (maps and floor plans), protect property rights (deeds), and include all sorts of other critical information. He mentioned insurance and bank records, marriage licenses, work licenses and business records.

We learned that for an archivist preservation is a constant war. It’s a war against time, negligence, disasters like floods and mold, decay caused by acids in paper, and other often unpredictable factors. Some media that store records, such as floppy disks and magnetic tape, degrade over time, become corrupted or technologically obsolete.

Some of the City Archive’s older paper documents are given a special chemical treatment to help preserve them. Many are placed in acid-free sleeves or boxes and placed in a temperature and humidity controlled cold vault.

The City Clerk Archives is continuously working to digitize its many hard copy records–to preserve them for all time and make them readily available to the public via the internet. But there remain thousands upon thousands of documents and photos to be scanned and classified.

After the lecture we stepped into the cold vault and saw shelves stacked high with archival material. Then we stepped into a room where photos and negatives are scanned and digitized.

Ranged all around the main room of the Archives Center are additional interesting displays. I saw many Mayoral Artifacts that were presented as gifts to the city from all over the globe. Among these are an assortment of beautiful decorative plates.

Enough of my inadequate written description. Let’s look at a few photos and you’ll get a better idea of what I experienced!

San Diego City Archivist Jerry Handfield describes the importance of accurately recording and carefully preserving critical information.
San Diego City Archivist Jerry Handfield describes the importance of accurately recording and carefully preserving critical information.
Stacks of special boxes containing official records fill the temperature and humidity controlled cold vault at the City Archives.
Stacks of boxes containing official records fill the temperature and humidity controlled cold vault at the City Archives.
Archivist Jerry Handfield shows visitors shelves of old canvas and leather-bound books, including some that contain City Council Resolutions.
Archivist Jerry Handfield shows visitors shelves of old canvas and leather-bound books, including many that contain past City Council Resolutions.
In one room at the Archives Center, old photographs are scanned and categorized in order to be digitized for easy public access.
In one room at the Archives Center, old photographs are scanned and categorized by trained volunteers, in order to be digitized for easy public access.
Many cool historical photos of San Diego cover the walls!
Many cool historical photos of San Diego cover the walls of this room!
Man and Children in Halloween costumes, circa 1960.
Man and Children in Halloween costumes, circa 1960.
First Official Map of San Diego, June 1867.
First Official Map of San Diego, June 1867.
A treasure trove of San Diego history at one's fingertips!
A treasure trove of San Diego history at one’s fingertips!
Mayoral artifacts displayed at the San Diego City Clerk's Archives Center include many gifts from around the world.
Mayoral artifacts displayed in the main room of the San Diego City Clerk’s Archives Center include gifts from other cities and people around the world.
Armetale plate with Seal of City of San Diego.
Armetale plate with Seal of City of San Diego.
Paper mache oni mask from Mizusawa, Japan.
Paper mache oni mask from Mizusawa, Japan.
Filner Mayoral Artifact RF-4. Ballast Point Whaling Station, San Diego, California (1820's).
Filner Mayoral Artifact RF-4. Ballast Point Whaling Station, San Diego, California (1820’s).
While walking about the City Archives I spied the cover of an Official Views San Diego Panama-California Exposition souvenir book.
While walking about the main room of the City Archives I spied this cover of an Official Views San Diego Panama-California Exposition souvenir book.
Boxes upon boxes hold tons of paper records in the basement of City Hall!
Boxes upon boxes hold tons of paper records in the basement of City Hall!

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 might say this blog is a sort of digital archive. 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!

Fascinating photos behind the scenes in San Diego.

Over the years I’ve taken photos “behind the scenes” at various interesting and historic places in San Diego. I thought it would be fun to revisit some of those blog posts, in case you’ve missed them.

Here are ten guided tours and curious walks that provided fascinating views of San Diego that many do not see.

Click the following links:

A tour inside the historic Spreckels Theatre.

A very cool tour of Petco Park in San Diego!

Get out of jail free at old police headquarters!

Photos behind the scenes at Copley Symphony Hall!

Photos aboard new Scripps research vessel Sally Ride!

Behind the scenes look at the Spreckels Organ.

Photos from Port of San Diego’s harbor tour.

History comes alive during tour of Spanish Village.

Photos: amazing tour of Spanish galleon build site!

Photos inside a World War II bunker on Point Loma.

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!