Last month the Friends of Balboa Park installed a new information sign at the Golden Hill Fountain Grotto. The sign provides a good description of the fountain grotto’s history in Golden Hill Park. The community park, with views of downtown and Florida Canyon, is located in the southeast corner of much larger Balboa Park.
Five years ago I posted photos of the grotto on my now dormant blog Beautiful Balboa Park. You can read what I wrote and see those photographs here. I walked to the grotto again last weekend to check out the newly installed sign.
The sign explains how Golden Hill Park, developed in 1889, was the site of San Diego’s first playground. The Golden Hill Fountain Grotto was a decorative park installation designed in 1907 by Henry Lord Gay. He was also responsible for downtown San Diego’s Western Metal Supply Co. building, which is now a part of Petco Park.
Henry Lord Gay “created a sunken garden grotto built of stone and concrete with twin cobblestone stairways curving down to a sheltered fountain and seating area in a rugged canyon…Stones evoke mystery, creativity and contemplation; flowing water signifies life, and pathways lead out to the open sky…”
You can see in my photos how the fountain was made to appear like a natural spring whose pool trickles down into a hollowed rock.
Sadly, I observed evidence of homelessness and drug use in the secluded grotto. These tragic problems have become widespread in San Diego. Trash, graffiti and a burnt out fountain is probably not what Henry Lord Gay and the early residents of our city envisioned.
The Golden Hill Fountain Grotto is over a century old and is, according to the information sign, Balboa Park’s oldest designed feature.