Two unusual water towers in North Park!

Strange to say, but one of the most iconic landmarks in San Diego’s North Park neighborhood is a gigantic water tower.

Even stranger, should you wander around North Park, you’ll discover not one water tower, but two! The one is absolutely enormous, but the other is much smaller–and in fact isn’t a genuine water tower at all!

I took photos of the mini-water tower several weeks back. Drivers coming down Interstate 805 might glimpse it by looking up as they pass north of El Cajon Boulevard. It’s located at the intersection of Meade Avenue and Boundary Street.

The smaller tower is actually an AT&T cell tower that was erected several years ago. North Park signs on the disguised antenna greet alert travelers coming in either direction down the freeway. I was surprised to find a small, somewhat neglected garden beside the unique cell tower.

The genuine, gigantic, historic North Park Water Tower is over 140 feet tall. It stands near North Park Community Park just south of El Cajon Boulevard and was built in 1924.

According to this article, there were claims that it was “largest elevated tank in the world” when constructed, and held more than one million gallons of water but now is decommissioned and empty since the 1990s.

Today the tall North Park Water Tower is an iconic landmark that can be seen from many city blocks in every direction. Its unique design and historical importance has been recognized by the American Society of Civil Engineers.

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House of Charm’s bell tower restored!

I couldn’t believe my eyes this afternoon!

I had just entered Balboa Park’s Alcazar Garden when I noticed something unusually colorful up in the sky. It was the bell tower of the House of Charm–appearing brand new!

Look at these photos! The restoration of the bell tower’s exterior has been so remarkable, my photos almost look like perfect, flawless paintings!

The Mingei International Museum, which occupies most of the House of Charm, is currently undergoing their big expansion and renovation, which, among other improvements, will provide visitors access to the bell tower.

The original building and its tower, created for the 1915 Panama-California Exposition, were designed by architect Carleton Winslow. During the exposition the building was called the Indian Arts Building. The colorful bell tower was modeled after the tower on the Church of Santa Catarina in Puebla, Mexico. It was meant to complement Balboa Park’s iconic California Tower that rises across from what was then called the Montezuma Gardens.

Once the Mingei International Museum’s renovation is complete, the bell tower will feature a new inside staircase and skylight. It will also contain a hanging glass sculpture by acclaimed artist Dale Chihuly.

I’ve included an old black-and-white photograph from 1915 so you can see the original tower and building. The photo below was taken from the Plaza de Panama. Although the building was completely reconstructed in 1996, you’ll notice the bell tower today appears much as it did back during the Panama-California Exposition, over a century ago.

Front of Indian Arts Building during the 1915 Panama-California Exposition in Balboa Park. (Public domain photo from Wikimedia Commons.)
The beautifully restored House of Charm tower, seen from the Alcazar Garden.
Photo of restored House of Charm bell tower taken at a distance, from the rear of the Spreckels Organ Pavilion. (As you can see, work is also being done on the Mingei International Museum’s roof.)

UPDATE!

Here are some pics that I took a couple days later…

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!

Transformation of Mingei Museum previewed!

View of the House of Charm in Balboa Park, home of the Mingei International Museum.
View of the House of Charm in Balboa Park, home of the Mingei International Museum.

I made a very cool discovery today during the San Diego Architectural Foundation’s 2018 OPEN HOUSE event!

After an amazing tour of the Timken Museum in Balboa Park, which I will be blogging about shortly, I crossed the Plaza de Panama to catch the final part of a special talk at the Mingei International Museum. I was astonished to learn the museum is about to undergo a complete transformation!

What I learned about the upcoming changes is really exciting! In order to make the museum more dynamic and accessible to the San Diego community, the first floor Plaza Level will become a free space where ordinary people can mingle and openly enjoy culture and expression with friends and other visitors. New additions will include a cool sculpture garden, a small sit-down restaurant, and a new theater space. A balcony overlooking the Plaza de Panama will provide amazing views of Balboa Park, and stairs to the second floor art gallery will ascend through the House of Charm’s iconic tower, with views of the beautiful Alcazar Garden below, where there will be a new west entrance!

I didn’t catch all the details, so I hope that what I’ve just told you is correct. You can see some of the plans on the Mingei’s website here. I did learn that this amazing transformation will begin later this year–I believe I was told around September–and the museum will close during construction. During the House of Charm’s renovation the museum will have surprise pop-up exhibitions around San Diego and other fun events to fill in the void.

I also learned the total cost of the project is $40 million, and more money needs to be raised. Can you help? If you’d like to help shape Balboa Park’s brilliant future, check out this page!

Visitor to the Mingei learns about the museum's upcoming transformation during the San Diego Architectural Foundation's 2018 OPEN HOUSE event.
Visitor to the Mingei learns about the museum’s upcoming transformation during the San Diego Architectural Foundation’s 2018 OPEN HOUSE event.

Images were displayed after a talk by celebrated architect Jennifer Luce. This one shows a theater space to be added to the building's southeast corner.
Images were displayed after a talk by celebrated architect Jennifer Luce. This one shows a theater space to be added to the building’s expanded southeast corner.

Rendering of the theater that will add even more life to the Mingei International Museum.
Rendering of the theater that will add even more life to the Mingei International Museum.

Stairs to the second floor Gallery Level will ascend through the House of Charm's iconic tower. A new entrance to the museum will be added at the east end of the Alcazar Garden.
Stairs to the second floor Gallery Level will ascend through the House of Charm’s iconic tower. A new entrance to the museum will be added at the east end of the Alcazar Garden.

Rendering of daytime activity on a new second floor balcony overlooking the Plaza de Panama.
Rendering of daytime activity on a new second floor balcony overlooking the Plaza de Panama.

Rendering shows diners at night on the balcony. Illumination along the balcony will add a signature touch to the museum's appearance.
Rendering shows diners at night on the balcony. Illumination along the balcony will add a signature touch to the museum’s appearance.

People freely enjoy a new pocket park-like sculpture courtyard at the Mingei.
People freely enjoy a new pocket park-like sculpture courtyard at the Mingei.

Photo taken today of the House of Charm and its iconic tower from the Alcazar Garden. Big changes are coming!
Photo taken today of the House of Charm and its iconic tower from the Alcazar Garden. Big changes are coming!

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!

Historic reopening of California Tower in Balboa Park.

Dignitaries cut symbolic ribbon officially opening California Tower on New Year's Day.
Dignitaries cut symbolic ribbon officially opening California Tower on New Year’s Day.

New Year’s Day in San Diego’s beautiful Balboa Park was marked by a historic event. Today, after 80 years, the California Tower reopened to the general public!

The California Tower is one of the most iconic sights in San Diego. Like many of the ornate Spanish Colonial Revival-style buildings in today’s Balboa Park, it was built for the 1915 Panama-California Exposition, which celebrated the opening of the Panama Canal. The tower was originally accessible to visitors, but in 1935 that changed. One of the most important developments during the Balboa Park Centennial Celebration this year is the long-awaited reopening of the amazing tower!

With the purchase of a special ticket, anyone can now join a small tour that climbs up 125 steps to an observation deck high above the park. Views are said to be breathtaking in all four directions. One day (when it’s not sold out) I’ll check the tour out and post some pics!

Dignitaries at the noon ribbon-cutting ceremony included U.S. Congressman Scott Peters, San Diego County Supervisor Ron Roberts, and San Diego City Councilman Todd Gloria.

You might recognize the California Tower and other portions of the California Building, which now houses the San Diego Museum of Man, from the movie Citizen Kane. Shots of Balboa Park’s architectural wonder were said to be Charles Foster Kane’s Xanadu Mansion in Orson Welles’ classic film.

The tower, reopened today to the general public, rises above tiled dome of California Building.
The tower, reopened today to the general public, rises above tiled dome of California Building.

Museum visitors can now climb the California Tower for amazing panoramic views.
Museum visitors can now climb the California Tower for amazing panoramic views.

Audience gathers for ceremony on the tower's 100 year anniversary.
Audience gathers for ceremony on the tower’s 100 year anniversary.

Several cool bicyclists happened to ride down El Prado in front of the Museum of Man.
Several cool bicyclists happened to ride down El Prado in front of the Museum of Man.

News cameras wait for speeches, and so do the assembled dignitaries nearby.
News cameras wait for speeches, and so do the assembled dignitaries nearby.

Micah D. Parzen of the San Diego Museum of Man begins by thanking many people.
Micah D. Parzen of the San Diego Museum of Man begins by thanking many people.

California Tower first opened in 1915 for Panama-California Exposition in Balboa Park.
California Tower first opened in 1915 for Panama-California Exposition in Balboa Park.

Photographers up on the observation deck, where the public can now go!
Photographers up on the observation deck, where the public can now go!

Local politicians, museum head and donor, poised ready to cut the big red ribbon!
Local politicians, museum head and donor, poised ready to cut the big red ribbon!

Everyone feels great about historic event, taking place during Balboa Park's Centennial Celebration.
Feeling great about historic event, taking place during Balboa Park’s Centennial Celebration.

Crowd disperses from ribbon cutting ceremony on another beautiful San Diego day!
Crowd disperses from ribbon cutting ceremony on another beautiful San Diego day!

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Clock tower at 12th and Imperial trolley station.

Clock tower at 12th and Imperial trolley station reflected in windows.
Clock tower at 12th and Imperial reflected in windows.

I got some unusual photos of the clock tower that stands next to the transit center at the 12th and Imperial trolley station downtown.  The clock is one cool San Diego sight that can be seen from many points in the city.

Looking up the interior of the clock tower structure.
Looking up the interior of the clock tower structure.

You can stand inside the base of the tower and look outward!

Clock tower above musician on Harbor Drive bridge.
Clock tower above musician on Harbor Drive bridge.