San Diego Feature


Balboa Park's Development

Looking at the intricate designs of Balboa Park today, it is hard to imagine its humble beginnings as empty scrubland on the outskirts of town.

1868: City leaders designate 1,400 acres of undeveloped land above Alonzo Horton's New Town (now San Diego's downtown) as a public park, known then as "City Park."

1892: Horticulturalist and entrepreneur Kate Sessions negotiates with the city to plant 100 trees within the park each year in return for the use of a 32-acre parcel of parkland to house her nursery business. In accordance with the deal, Sessions, the "Mother of Balboa Park," begins to transform the scrub-filled mesa into the landscaped oasis it is today.

1910: A local contest renames the park "Balboa Park" after Vasco Nuñez de Balboa, a European explorer who claims the first sighting of the Pacific Ocean.

1915-16: Balboa Park hosts the Panama-California Exhibition, in honor of the Panama Canal's successful completion. Several buildings are constructed for the expo, including the Spreckels Organ Pavilion, and the Houses of Charm and Hospitality. The Cabrillo Bridge and El Prado walkway are laid out, and the park takes on much of its current character.

1935-36: Balboa Park welcomes another major fair, the California Pacific International Exhibition, during the Great Depression. The House of Pacific Relations International Cottages as well as several buildings designed by lead architect Richard Requa are added to the park.

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