CHAPTER ONE: The Making of the Exposition, 1909-1915
On July 9, 1909, G. Aubrey Davidson, founder of the Southern Trust and Commerce Bank and president of the San Diego Chamber of Commerce, said San Diego should stage an exposition in 1915 to celebrate the completion of the Panama Canal. He told his fellow Chamber of Commerce members that San Diego would be the first American port of call north of the Panama Canal on the Pacific coast. An exposition would call attention to the city and bolster an economy still shaky from the Wall Street panic of 1907. The Chamber of Commerce authorized Davidson to appoint a committee to look into his idea.
Because the idea began with him, Davidson is called “the father of the exposition.”
On September 3, 1909, a special Chamber of Commerce committee formed the Panama-California Exposition Company and sent articles of incorporation to the Secretary of State in Sacramento.
In 1910 San Diego had a population of 39,578, San Diego County 61,665, Los Angeles 319,198, and San Francisco 416,912. San Diego’s scant population, the smallest of any city ever to attempt holding an international exposition, testified to the city’s pluck and vitality.
The Board of Directors of the Panama-California Exposition Company, on September 10, 1909, elected U. S. Grant, Jr. to be president of the company and John D. Spreckels first vice president. Grant, son of the former U.S. president, was part-owner of the U. S. Grant Hotel. Spreckels, son of sugar king Claus Spreckels, was owner of San Diego real estate, hotels, newspapers, banks, and utility, water, transit and railroad companies. A.G. Spalding was chosen second vice president, L.S. McLure third vice president, and G. Aubrey Davidson fourth vice president.
The most important appointment made by the directors was that of real estate developer Colonel David “Charlie” Collier to be Director-General. The “Colonel” was an honorary title given to Collier by California governor James M. Gillett in 1907.
Collier shaped exposition policies. He chose City Park as the site, Mission Revival as the architectural style, and human progress as the theme. He lobbied at his own expense for the exposition before the California State Legislature and the U.S. Congress and traveled to South America for the same purpose.
On September 3, 1909, James McNab, president of the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce, declared that San Francisco would celebrate the opening of the Panama Canal. At a meeting in Los Angeles in January 1910, delegates from San Francisco told San Diego to abandon its exposition plans.
John D. Spreckels, on February 24, answered San Francisco’s challenge by subscribing $100,000 to the San Diego exposition. Encouraged by this donation, subscribers, on March 15, brought the total to $1,000,000, causing the hands of the dial at Fifth and D Streets recording stock subscriptions to complete the circuit.
In April, New Orleans tried to get the U.S. Congress to recognize it as the host city for a Panama Canal celebration. To meet this threat, San Diego Exposition stockholders, on May 7 agreed to a compromise with San Francisco, arranged by Collier. They would support San Francisco’s bid for an international fair if they could hold a smaller fair of their own. To show their determination, the Exposition board of directors decided to ask the people of San Diego to vote $1,000,000 in park improvement bonds for the exposition, and they published the first issue of The Panama-California Exposition Prosperity Edition.
On August 9, 1910, the exposition bonds carried by a vote of seven to one.
Congress, on February 5, 1911, invited foreign nations to participate in the San Francisco exposition.
Collier was undaunted. On May 22 he tried to persuade the House of Representatives to approve a Congressional resolution asking President William Howard Taft to invite Mexico and other Latin American countries to the San Diego Exposition. On August 19 the House approved the resolution.
The pendulum swung the other way in January 1912, when a Senate committee turned down San Diego’s request. The next month, President Taft invited foreign countries to exhibit at San Francisco only. San Diego’s hopes plummeted.
Influential San Franciscans had exerted pressure on Congress and on President Taft to forestall San Diego’s bid for a second California exposition. They promised to give their support to Taft in his struggle with the Progressive factions of the Republican party led by Theodore Roosevelt.
Joseph W. Sefton, Jr., vice president of the San Diego Savings Bank and acting director-general in Collier’s absence, snarled that San Francisco had given San Diego “a knife in the back.”
In a homecoming speech at the U. S. Grant Hotel, February 28, Collier rallied the exposition’s drooping supporters: “We never for a moment depended on congressional action. The work will go on just as if the action at Washington had been the reverse of what it has been.”
In the August 1912 primary election, Samuel C. Evans of Riverside defeated Lewis Kirby of San Diego for the Republican nomination for the House of Representatives. San Diego Republicans shifted their support to Democrat William Kettner. State Progressives and Republicans united in support of Theodore Roosevelt for president and California governor Hiram Johnson for vice president. Taft’s name was not on the general election ballot. On November 5, Roosevelt carried the state by a margin of only 174. San Diego County voted for Woodrow Wilson, the Democrat nominee for president, by a margin of about 1,600. San Francisco’s promises to Taft had yielded nothing.
Kettner was elected to the House by a margin of about 1,500. On May 23, 1913, an accommodating President Wilson signed Kettner’s bill authorizing government departments to permit the free admission of exhibits for the San Diego exposition.
Again possessed by exposition fever, San Diego voters, on July 1, 1913, by more than 16 to one, approved issuing a second set of park improvement bonds for $850,000. One hundred and thirty-five thousand dollars of this money were set aside to build the San Diego Stadium, east of the high school.
On November 9, 1910, the Buildings and Grounds Committee, chaired by George W. Marston, selected landscape architects John C. Olmsted and Frederick Law Olmsted, Jr. of Brookline, Massachusetts to lay out the exposition grounds. The Olmsteds had prepared ground plans for the 1905 Lewis and Clark Exposition in Portland, Oregon, and the 1909 Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition in Seattle, Washington. The committee had considered Chicago architect Daniel Burnham and west coast landscape architects Samuel Parsons, Jr. and John Nolen before deciding on the Olmsteds. The exposition was to be held on a southwestern part of City Park near the high school.
On January 5, 1911, the Buildings and Grounds Committee engaged Frank P. Allen, Jr. of Seattle as Director of Works. Allen had been manager of Seattle’s 1909 Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition. There he had achieved a minor miracle by completing the buildings before the exposition opened. In May 1911, a Park Board appointed by Mayor James Wadham opposed paying Allen $20,000. They questioned using park improvement money for temporary construction. Allen’s authority was confirmed by a new Park Board following the resignation of the old Board on June 24.
For supervisory architect, the Buildings and Grounds Committee hoped to get John Galen Howard, who had been supervisory architect of the exposition in Seattle and who had designed Mediterranean-Renaissance buildings for the University of California at Berkeley. As Howard was not interested, the Committee, on January 27, 1911, chose New York architect Bertram Goodhue. Goodhue had applied for the position at the prompting of the Olmsteds. The Committee also appointed San Diego architect Irving Gill to assist Goodhue and to design either an auditorium or a fine arts building.
Even before Goodhue had been appointed, Collier had decided to use Indian, Mission and Pueblo styles at the San Diego exposition instead of the Neo-Classical styles regularly used at international expositions. Irving Gill knew Mission and Pueblo styles well enough to use them for improvisations, but Goodhue’s celebrity status and familiarity with opulent Spanish Baroque relegated the simpler styles of the American southwest to second place.
John C. Olmsted was delighted with the southwestern site because of its proximity to developed sections of the city, views of the city and harbor from its higher elevations, irregular topography which allowed opportunities for dramatic placement of buildings, and location away from the natural beauty in the interior of the park. Frank P. Allen, Jr. thought the grading to accommodate roads, terraces and buildings and the two bridges needed to span Cabrillo and Spanish canyons would exceed the meager appropriations available. Against Olmsted’s objections, he advocated shifting the exposition to the Laurel Street entrance on the west side. Collier and Sefton supported Allen. As the Spreckels’ interests wanted to run a tram line through the park, Olmsted was convinced they were the “invisible hand” behind plans to relocate the exposition.
After Olmsted protested, the Buildings and Grounds Committee in July voted to support his plan. Meanwhile Collier had begun a campaign for more space than the southern site could supply. He claimed he had promises for exhibits from countries in Central and South America. At this juncture, Goodhue, who had resented Olmsted’s criticisms of his designs, entered the fray with a plan for the exposition in the Viscaino or central mesa of the park. The approach over a bridge spanning Cabrillo Canyon would incorporate the same dramatic features as the Alcantara bridge of Toledo, Spain. Elated, he wrote to Olmsted:
“I don’t know in any American public park of any effect that could compete with the bridge, the permanent buildings and the mall terminated by the statue of Balboa.”
Goodhue’s plan allowed access to the grounds from what was to become Park Boulevard on the east, thus making it possible to build the electric railway desired by the Spreckels’ Companies along the right-of-way which could be extended easily to about-to- be-developed tracts in Normal Heights and East San Diego.
Though George W. Marston, Thomas O’Hallaran, Moses A. Luce, and Julius Wangenheim, on the Buildings and Grounds Committee, supported him, Olmsted realized he had been outmaneuvered. On September 1, 1911, speaking for himself and his brother, Frederick Law Olmsted, Jr., he wired his resignation with the dire warning:
“This is contrary to our advice and will interfere with other portions of the design proposed for Balboa Park by us. We regret that our professional responsibility as park designers will not permit us to assist in ruining Balboa Park. We tender, herewith, therefore, our resignation.”
Goodhue’s disagreement with Olmsted was philosophical as well as personal:
“Since you told me that you regarded building as a disfigurement . . . and I in my turn said that to use landscape architecture was merely the proper means of letting down from pure artifice, i.e., architecture, to pure nature in natural landscape — I have felt the difference in our points of view was so great as to be irreconcilable.”
Goodhue realized he had secured his position through the intercession of the Olmsteds and that he would have to work with them on other projects. He, therefore, offered to resign.
Frank P. Allen, Jr., who had worked with John C. Olmsted on the Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition, seemed genuinely hurt by Olmsted’s resignation. He was under no delusion that one-time exposition buildings were going to be greater assets to the park than the landscape. He urged Olmsted to stay on the job:
“The only way in which this Exposition can achieve success is by having grounds and buildings of unusual and very exceptional artistic merit and I do not think this can be done without your assistance.”
Olmsted was not to be dissuaded. Though his theoretical authority over Allen and Goodhue had been bypassed, he did not spend time regretting his disastrous Balboa Park experience. Thereafter, his letters to Goodhue were models of decorum.
Besides his roles as manager, engineer and architect, Allen took over the preparation of ground plans for the exposition after Samuel Parsons, Jr. had applied for the job and had been turned down. Allen wisely left the choice of plants to Paul Thiene, the exposition gardener. He did not know everything, though sometimes he tried to convey that impression.
Soon after the Olmsteds resigned, Irving Gill walked out. His nephew, Louis Gill, told Esther McCoy his uncle had discovered graft in the purchase of building supplies in Allen’s department. He was replaced by Carleton M. Winslow, from Goodhue’s New York office, who arrived September 5, 1911, one day before Goodhue’s plan, as drawn by Allen, was published in the newspapers. Not having the sanction of a contract, Winslow’s status was ambiguous.
Before Gill had left, he had seen Goodhue’s sketches of buildings for the Exposition. Since he, along with the Olmsteds, believed architecture should complement rather than overwhelm its surroundings, he could not have regarded Goodhue’s Spanish fantasies with enthusiasm. In 1913, Gill again joined up with the Olmsteds in the development of the town of Torrance, California.
Goodhue had developed a liking for Spanish-Colonial architecture and for Muslim gardens as a result of trips to Mexico and Persia. A believer in “art for art’s sake,” he made many drawings of buildings and scenery suffused in a romantic haze. After he established his New York office and his successes as a designer of Gothic Revival churches mounted, he put his knowledge of Spanish-Churrigueresque to use in designs for the Holy Trinity Church, Havana, Cuba, and the Hotel Colon, Panama, and recreated his impressions of the gardens of Shiraz and Isfahan on the grounds of the Gillespie House, Montecito, California.
With the assistance of Carleton M. Winslow and Clarence Stein from his New York office and of Frank P. Allen, Jr. in San Diego, Goodhue conjured up a fairytale city in Balboa Park of cloud-capped towers, gorgeous palaces and solemn temples. He personally designed the permanent California Quadrangle and sketched the Southern California Counties Building. He supplied Winslow with drawings and photographs of buildings in Mexico and Spain and reviewed his designs for the temporary buildings. His control over Allen’s work was, however, constrained by distance, discord and dislike. As in Seattle, Allen’s contract in San Diego covered the construction, but not the design of exposition buildings.
The Balboa Park buildings contained reminiscences of missions and churches in Southern California and Mexico and of palaces and homes in Mexico, Spain and Italy. Muslim details, such as minaret-like towers, reflecting pools, colored tile inlays, and human-size urns highlighted the buildings. Arcades, arches, bells, colonnades, domes, fountains, pergolas, towers with contrasting silhouettes, views through gates of shaded patios, and vistas exposing broad panoramas provided variety. A low-lying cornice line and closely-spaced buildings helped preserve a sense of continuity.
Goodhue, Winslow, and Allen hoped the eclectic Spanish style buildings and mix of ornamental planting they were introducing would offer a festive, country-like alternative to the cold, formalized Renaissance and Neo-Classical styles that American architects had been using at fairs and in cities since the dazzling success of the World Columbian Exposition of 1893 in Chicago.
The San Diego Exposition, on a mesa 300 ft. above sea level, would be seen from all sides. As spectacular as the view inward might be, the view outward would be even more spectacular.
The exposition had a practical and also a romantic purpose. Manufactured products entertained better when shown being made rather than as finished objects. Scientific displays entertained better when illustrated by working models. A citrus orchard was more interesting than a pile of oranges. A vacuum cleaner, water pump, or reaper at work were more interesting than the same objects standing still.
The Fair would illustrate opportunity. It would show city people, through farm machinery in operation, through fields under intensive cultivation, and through a demonstration farm home, how easy it would be to make a good living on small farms in the Southwest.
Through modern farming and irrigation, the Southwestern desert could become, in the words of the inscription around the base of the dome of the California Building, taken from the Latin Vulgate of St. Jerome: TERRAM FRUMENTI HORDIE, AC VINARUM, IN QUA FICUS ET MALOGRANATA ET OLIVETA NASCUNTUR, TERRAM OLEI AC MELLIS (“A land of wheat and barley, of vines and fig trees, and pomegranates; a land of olive oil and honey.”)
Unlike other expositions, San Diego’s would stay open all year. Its glistening white buildings would be set off by continually blooming, subtropical trees and flowers. A magical wonderland was thus created that had no counterpart in Spain or Mexico. Critics in Mexico called the combination of nature and architecture in Balboa Park “Hollywood Spanish,” but this put-down did not deter wealthy Mexican landowners from putting up imitations of the Balboa Park buildings in their own country.
To the publicity department, the Exposition’s main function was to show how industrial, agricultural and commercial achievement could give rise to beautiful cities, homes and gardens in which the poetry (but not the pain) of the past would be recaptured. A publicity agent described the exposition’s intoxicating mixture of aestheticism, materialism and nostalgia:
“It is hard to pull oneself back to the twentieth century for it is wondrous sweet to dwell in the romance of the old days, to peer down the cloister and try to see the shadowy shapes of the conquistadores creeping up the dell from their caravel at anchor in the Harbor of the Sun.
“No other land has quite that atmosphere. No other land has the romance and lazy dreaming of this sort. No other land has such splendor of waving palms and slim acacias and lofty eucalyptus, such a riot of crimson and purple and gold, such brilliant sky or flashing seas or rearing peaks, and perpetual comfort of weather in the perfect harmony which exists on the mesa in San Diego. It is a land where God is kind. It is a land of loveliness that makes men kind. And, decked in such fair garments, it beckons the stranger in other lands and bids him come. It is opportunity.”
The name City Park was too lackluster to serve as the name for the site of the Panama-California Exposition. Accordingly, on October 27, 1910, park commissioners Thomas O’Halloran, Moses A. Luce and Leroy A. Wright, at a meeting with exposition representatives George W. Marston, Howard M. Kutchin and D. C. Collier chose the name “Balboa Park” for San Diego’s pleasure ground. On November 1, the Park Commissioners adopted the name. The California State Legislature ratified their decision, March 24, 1911, in the same piece of legislation which authorized the use of the park for an exposition.
The name Balboa seemed appropriate since Vasco Nunez de Balboa was the first European in the New World to see the Pacific Ocean, whose waters would soon be joined with the Atlantic’s upon the completion of the Panama Canal, an event the Exposition was to commemorate. As with the Columbian Exposition of 1893, no one at the time mentioned the negative aspects of the European subjugation of the New World.
Exposition groundbreaking ceremonies began July 19, 1911 with a military Mass in a shallow canyon about 1,300 ft. northeast of San Diego High School at the Olmsted-planned site for the exposition. Apparently this canyon was an extension of the same canyon that later provided the foundation for the San Diego (Balboa) Stadium. The occasion followed by three days the anniversary of the High Mass sung by Father Junipero Serra, July 16, 1769, on his founding of Mission San Diego de Alcala. Four Franciscan priests and 50 acolytes assisted Father Benedict, provincial of the Franciscan order, before a raised open-air altar. Bishop Thomas James Conaty of Los Angeles gave the sermon in which he praised Father Serra and predicted a golden future for San Diego.
The afternoon program began with a military parade along D Street (today’s Broadway) and on to the site of the morning mass. Here, after an introduction by exposition president U. S. Grant, Jr., Reverend Edward F. Hallenbeck of the First Presbyterian Church gave the invocation. A triple quartette sang the Exposition Ode.
Joseph W. Sefton, Jr. welcomed the guests. Lee C. Gates, representing Governor Hiram Johnson, extolled the glories of California. John Barrett spoke for President Taft. Then Sefton loosened the earth with a silver spade and passed the spade to Barrett, who turned the first sod. Guests and officials took turns with the spade before it was returned to Sefton, who turned the last sod.
Barrett, this time representing the Pan-American Union, gave the principal address, in which he stressed the cultural and economic importance of Latin America to San Diego and to the United States.
After Barrett’s talk, attendants unfurled the flag of the United States while the band played the National Anthem. President Taft, in Washington, D.C., pressed a button which unfurled the flag of the President of the United States while the band played “Hail Columbia.” Then attendants unfurled the flags of the South American countries while the band played a medley of their national airs.
In the evening, King Cabrillo (in real life Morley Stayton) arrived on his caravel at the Santa Fe wharf, accompanied by a fleet of decorated boats and barges and the shooting of skyrockets. Officials escorted him to the front of the San Diego County Courthouse where newly-crowned Queen Ramona (in real life Helene Richards) awaited him. King Cabrillo and Queen Ramona continued to the Isthmus, or fun zone, in an area south of D Street between Front and State Streets and encompassing E and F Streets. Here they and the jubilant throng that followed them enjoyed shows featuring oriental dancers, bronco busters from the Wild West, Mexican rebels from the May-June military engagement at Tijuana, trapeze artists, and a trained moose, horse and orangutan.
On the morning of the second day, floats representing the Women’s Christian Temperance Union, the Equal Suffrage Movement, the American Women’s League, and trucks and automobiles covered with flowers paraded down D Street. In the afternoon, athletes, sponsored by the San Diego Rowing Club, swam, rowed, and raced tub-boats in the harbor, and the San Diego Aero Club began an aviation meet at the Coronado polo grounds.
In the evening, floats representing ten historic scenes followed the same route as the morning’s parade. The floats included Aztec priests sacrificing to the god of war; Balboa taking possession of the Pacific for the King of Spain; the downfall of Montezuma and the triumph of Cortes; Cabrillo’s caravel; Father Serra planting the cross at the Presidio in San Diego; King Neptune presiding at the wedding of the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans; and San Diego – Past, Present and Future.
The evening concluded with a banquet at the U. S. Grant Hotel in honor of John Barrett, attended by 150 of the city’s foremost male citizens.
On the morning of the third day, representatives of the City and industries put on a parade with fire department wagons and equipment, the first horse-drawn street railway car used in San Diego, and floats from the Longshoremen’s Union, the Moose Lodge, the Ladies of the Grand Army of the Republic, and other fraternal organizations.
In the afternoon, Queen Ramona received guests in the Palm Room of the U. S. Grant Hotel. Motor boat races in the harbor and a Lipton Cup yacht race off the coast thrilled onlookers. In Coronado, aviator Glenn L. Martin, who had not yet qualified for a pilot’s license, took two falls, damaging a Curtiss-type biplane he had made himself and equipped with a 60-horsepower engine. Suspecting that public transportation could not handle crowds expected Saturday at Tent City and the aviation meet, sponsors of the meet canceled the last day’s show.
A grand ball at the U. S. Grant Hotel rounded out the third day’s activities.
On the morning of the last day, citizens outdid themselves by producing a stunning mission pageant under the direction of Henry Kabierske of Chicago and of Edwin H. Clough of San Diego. Floats depicted the 21 California missions in their actual decrepit condition. Saints preceded floats of missions named after them. Boys held canopies over the saints’ heads and girls scattered flowers in their paths. The pageant had some of the awe-inspiring quality of the famous Semana Santa of Seville, Spain. Nearly 1,000 volunteers impersonated saints, friars, soldiers and Indians.
In the afternoon, the Southern California Yacht Association closed its first regatta off San Diego. The Aeolus, piloted by Frank Wyatt, led the fleet to win a solid gold Exposition Cup, made by Joseph Jessop & Sons, the premier trophy of the regatta.
In the evening, a masked street ball in a fenced-off section of the Isthmus on Union Street, between D and E Streets, concluded the four-day carnival. About 300 people paid the one-dollar admission price to waltz and two-step on the asphalt. Outside the dance enclosure a wilder spirit prevailed. Police threw confetti. Pranksters worked feather ticklers, slapsticks, cowbells and canes. A woman did the hootchy-kootchy on a table in Sargent’s Palace Grill, located at 4th Avenue at the southwest corner abutting the Plaza (today Horton Plaza Park), causing fun-seekers outside to stampede the restaurant.
A reporter for the San Diego Union estimated that 60,000 persons had passed through the Isthmus gates at D and Union Streets during the four days, 15,000 of these on the last night.
Following U. S. Grant, Jr’s. resignation as Exposition president, November 22, 1911, directors appointed Colonel D. C. Collier president and Joseph W. Sefton, Jr. director-general.
In January 1913, the Exposition officers consisted of D. C. Collier, president; John D. Spreckels, first vice president; G. A. Davidson, second vice president; L. S. McLure, third vice president; George Burnham, fourth vice president; and Frank P. Allen, Jr., director-general.
In July 1913, directors elected H. O. Davis director-general. Davis, a rancher from Yuba City, had visited San Diego to arrange for an exhibit for Sutter County. Exposition backers immediately recognized him as a fellow-booster.
As spokesperson for the exposition, Davis used a barrage of statistics to show how easily farms could be operated in the virgin southwest. He proved to his satisfaction that goods could be shipped to and from Southern California, Utah, and Nevada, all of Arizona, the western half of New Mexico, and the southwest corner of Colorado cheaper via the Panama Canal and San Diego than by rail from the east. He estimated the potential farmland in the region at 44 million acres, which would make 700,000 possible farms with a probable revenue of more than $800 million per year. International Harvester Company was impressed enough by Davis’ reasoning to set up a five-acre exhibit.
The staging of “Carnival Cabrillo” from September 24 to September 27, 1913 borrowed from features for the groundbreaking celebration for the Panama-California Exposition, July 19 to July 22, 1911, but did not match it in color and excitement. Some of the floats and costumes left over from the previous celebration were reused. Like the promises that were never fulfilled, the event was suffused with blarney. Despite its specious claims, the chief purpose of the carnival was to have fun.
Daytime ceremonies were held at Point Loma, Balboa Park and Presidio Hill and evening celebrations at Wonderland Park, Ocean Beach. At these places, streets were decorated with pennants and Spanish flags. The awkward episode of the Spanish-American War of 1898 was conveniently put aside. Dignitaries dedicated a monument to Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo at the tip of Point Loma on September 25, the day the principal activities began and three days before the anniversary of Cabrillo’s actual landing in San Diego, September 28, 1542. The monument would be ready for a second “Cabrillo Carnival” the following year. Money to pay for the monument was to come from the same place where the undiscovered bones of Cabrillo lay on San Miguel Island that were to be buried in a crypt beneath the monument. A Lord of Misrule if there ever was one, Senator John D. Works of California disrupted the festive spirit by declaring the United States should intervene in Mexico where “our men are daily murdered and our women outraged.”
Organizers of the carnival named the third day “Balboa Day” in honor of Vasco Nunez de Balboa, the first European to see the Pacific Ocean from the Western Hemisphere supposedly on September 27, 1513 (the date is problematic) and as an acknowledgement of the Panama-California Exposition which was to be held in Balboa Park, San Diego, beginning January 1, 1915. San Diego citizens were to erect a monument to Balboa costing $15,000 at the east end of El Prado that would be surrounded by a semi-circle of columns. Believing that mentioning the sum needed would produce the reality, promoters of the monument considered it unnecessary to specify a source.
In the prevailing spirit of make-believe, Congressman R. L. Henry, representing President Woodrow Wilson, sprinkled dirt from the Culebra cut in Panama and water from the Pacific Ocean on the site where the monument was to be built, the Attorney General from Arizona said the State might vote $75,000 for the San Diego Exposition, and Senator Works said he didn’t really mean that the United States should “intervene” in Mexico, a landing of American troops to protect lives and property would be enough.
Implementing a suggestion of Colonel “Charlie” D. Collier’s, a cross, made of tiles from an abandoned Spanish fort, was actually placed on Presidio Hill on the last date of the carnival as the fulcrum for a mass celebrated by Catholic bishop James Conaty. The cross still stands on Presidio Hill, overlooking San Diego’s Old Town.
Collier was named president-general of the Carnival though he did not attend as he was busy promoting the Exposition on the East Coast. Members of the Order of Panama dressed in plumes, helmets, capes, swords, and bucklers, added pageantry and humor to the parades, ceremonies, banquets, and escapades.
A masked ball and confetti battle took place at Wonderland Park on Saturday evening to close the festivities. An estimated 30,000 people passed through the gates of the park, an attendance that, if accurate, was twice the number that participated in the July 22, 1911 close of the groundbreaking gala. Not all the people attending competed for awards by dancing to ragtime music at the dance pavilion. Carnival policemen made mock arrests, forcing their victims to empty their pockets before hustling them outside. Fittingly red lights at street corners led motorists to the attractions that lay ahead.
On March 5, 1914, while on the East Coast, Collier discovered his money had run out and resigned as president. Directors, on March 20, elected G. Aubrey Davidson president, Frank J. Belcher, Jr second vice president, and Henry H. Jones third vice president. They continued John D. Spreckels as first vice president and George Burnham as fourth vice president.
Allen soon discovered that getting the 614-acre central site he and Goodhue had chosen ready for an exposition was not going to be easy. Scrub had to be scraped off the surface, irregularities of contour smoothed, and more than 100,000 holes drilled or blasted in the hardpan for planting of saplings.
Between 1904 and 1909 landscape architect Samuel Parsons, Jr., engineer George Cooke, and gardener John McLean had cleared of scrub, graded, blasted holes and planted Pound (Cabrillo) Canyon and the central (Viscaino) mesa and had mapped winding paths throughout. To prepare this area for a bridge, straight roads and buildings, Allen had to undo much of the work done by his predecessors.
A plant-propagating yard, built in 1910, covered 23 acres on the former Howard Tract, north of the high school, and contained more than a million plants. A mill, located midway on the exposition grounds, turned out plant boxes and lumber used in construction.
Park superintendent John Morley (hired November 17, 1911) directed grading and planting in the canyons at the fringes of the Exposition. Under Morley’s supervision, Park Avenue (today’s Sixth Avenue) was extended from Date Street to Juniper; West Park Boulevard (today’s Balboa Drive) was planted; Pound or Cabrillo Canyon Road (today’s Cabrillo Freeway) was regraded and a sewer system installed; and Midland Drive (today’s Park Boulevard) was relocated. A $10,000 bond issue for City Park roads, approved by the voters March 12, 1907, and a $50,000 assessment in 1912 against owners of business property on Sixth Avenue and north of the park made these improvements possible.
A powder magazine, Water Department buildings, the City Pound, and machine shops were moved from the park.
An aviary, holding the collection of Joseph W. Sefton, Sr., built in 1909, extended from Juniper Street and Park Avenue to West Park Boulevard. In 1914, crews built a new aviary and pens for deer, bear, buffalo, and goats on the west slopes of Cabrillo Canyon and converted a canyon south of the Howard Tract into an elk enclosure.
Morley set out the first rose garden in the park on the west slopes of Cabrillo Canyon. Some 6,500 roses grew in beds closed off at the south by a 180-ft. pergola and surrounded by lawns, palms, and poinsettias. From this garden, the visitor saw the white walls, gleaming domes, and varied towers of the distant exposition.
Allen oversaw the planting of Cabrillo, Palm and Spanish Canyons. He approved planting Blackwood acacias along El Prado, the main esplanade, and flowering and trellised plants on arcades and faces of buildings. Guided by photographs in Sylvester Baxter’s book on Spanish-Colonial architecture, Allen brought the plants, flowers and vines rich people in Spain and Mexico used to decorate their patios out to the streets where everyone might enjoy their beauty. Nursery superintendent Paul Thiene chose the plantings in the botanic gardens.
In 1912, crews laid building foundations, smoothed rough spots, and planted walkways. They erected a wire fence around the grounds and planted vines at its base; seeded lawns and put in sprinkler systems; and planted about 50,000 trees, including 700 orange, lemon and grapefruit trees in the citrus orchards. By January 1914, they had laid 20 miles of iron pipe, 10 miles of storm drain, and about 10 miles of sewer connections and electric conduit.
Spanish Canyon began near today’s Reuben H. Fleet Space Theater and angled southwesterly toward Cabrillo Canyon. John C. Olmsted named both canyons. In 1912, Allen planned to fill Spanish Canyon and its branches with 50 million gallons of water. The water would be used by the city fire department, the exposition as an aquatic setting, and seaplanes as a landing place. When foreign governments failed to put up buildings, Allen scaled down his plan and planted the canyon with acacias and quick-growing grasses.
Proving that his reputation as an efficiency engineer was justified, Allen staggered building schedules so that scaffolds and equipment could be used on several projects. He used the same floor and roof schemes on many buildings. Crews built frames on the grounds, fitted them together, swung them into place with electric crane swings, and bolted them home.
The Administration Building, on the east slope of Cabrillo Canyon in line with Laurel Street, was the first to go up. It was begun on November 6, 1911 and completed in March 1912. A mill and lumber yard near the building provided materials. Carleton Winslow stated he designed the Administration Building with help in its “practical requirements” from Allen. Those who claim the building is the work of Irving Gill base this claim on a resemblance to Gill’s flat roof, planar wall, straightedge buildings. Nonetheless, blueprints and newspaper articles point to Winslow as the creator of the building.
To keep a workforce that would stay on the job, 100 small bunk houses for four persons each were put up east of Midland Drive. A hospital for 26 patients, near the Pepper Grove, opened December 5, 1912. Blueprints showing Goodhue as architect meant that an anonymous draftsman working for him or for Allen may have drawn the design. A manufacturing company donated equipment for the surgery room and paid for its shipment to San Diego.
Goodhue designed a bridge to span Cabrillo Canyon with three gigantic arches, similar to the Alcantara Bridge at Toledo, Spain. As Allen and Goodhue had undercut John C. Olmsted, so now Allen undercut Goodhue. He persuaded San Diego Park Commissioners that Goodhue’s design was too costly and prepared plans for a seven-arch, aqueduct bridge, with the assistance of Thomas B. Hunter, which he said was cheaper and, no doubt, better. Goodhue was outraged by Allen’s meddling, but since Allen was on site and could plead the necessity of economy, he inevitably won the support of the holders of the purse strings.
Work on the bridge commenced in September 1912 and ended on April 12, 1914, when the first car was driven across with Franklin D. Roosevelt, Assistant Secretary of the Navy, G. Aubrey Davidson, and Mayor Charles F. O’Neall as passengers. Allen used 7,700 cubic yards of concrete and 450 tons of steel to construct the bridge. It was held up by steel T-frames and reinforced concrete piers. The Cabrillo bridge was 40-ft. wide, 450 ft. long, and 120 ft. high at its highest point. It cost $225,154.89, which was $75,154 over Allen’s estimate of $150,000.00 and $52,154.89 over the lowest bid of $173,000.00 received for Goodhue’s bridge.
The main exposition entrance was at Laurel Street and West Park Boulevard. Buildings rose east of Cabrillo Bridge: Administration, California State, Fine Arts, Science and Education, Indian Arts, Sacramento Valley, Home Economy, Foreign Arts, Botanical, Varied Industries and Food Products, Commerce and Industries, and Southern California Counties Buildings followed one another along El Prado to the East Gate. “Prado” is usually translated as “meadow” or “lawn”; however, in Madrid, Spain (and in Balboa Park), it has the secondary meaning of city walk as in “Paseo del Prado” in Madrid or, in reference to the famous museum that borders the Paseo, “El Prado.”
Governor Hiram Johnson, on March 31, 1911, signed a $250,000 appropriation bill for construction of a state building for the Panama-California Exposition. On July 1, 1912, $50,000 would be available for plans and foundation work. Johnson, on June 7, 1913, signed a second bill releasing the additional $200,000. He appointed Thomas O’Hallaran, George W. Marston and Louis J. Wilde to the building committee. After Wilde resigned, he appointed Russel C. Allen. Marston was president of the committee and O’Hallaran secretary.
In November 1911, exposition directors adopted Goodhue’s plans for the California State Building and Quadrangle. Lt. Governor J. A. Wallace laid the cornerstone, September 12, 1913. An unsuccessful attempt was made in 1990 to locate the cornerstone, which contains some original architectural drawings for the Exposition.
The California Quadrangle marked the entrance into the Exposition after passing through the West Gate. A San Diego Union reporter hailed the California Building as second only to the State Capitol in Sacramento in beauty. It had a Greek-cross plan, with a rotunda and dome at the crossing and minor domes and half-domes at the side. A tower at the southeast corner rose 180 ft. Walter Nordhoff of National City fired the tiles used on the domes and tower. F. Wurster Construction Company of San Diego put up the building, using reinforced concrete and hollow (Guastavino) tiles in domes and vaults.
In late 1913, as an offshoot of his squabbles with Allen, Goodhue instructed Winslow to devote his time exclusively to the execution of the California and Fine Arts Buildings, projects for which he was personally responsible.
The Piccirilli Brothers of New York City created casts of ornament on the tower and facade of the California Building and on the two gates framing the Quadrangle. These they sent to Tracy Art and Brick Stone Company of Chula Vista for final execution.
Figures on the facade constitute a hall of fame. They are Fathers Junipero Serra, Luis Jayme, and Antonio de la Ascencion, explorers Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo and Sebastian Viscaino, and busts of Governor Gaspar de Portola, explorer George Vancouver, and Kings Charles V and Philip III of Spain.
By setting idealized — if vacuous — depictions of past notables in three-quarters life size, dressed in swirling clothes, against a background of wriggling ornament and broken entablatures, Goodhue and the Piccirillis created a Spanish-Revival facade rich in texture and effect. The tower, with its slender, graceful profile and modulated levels, is more impressive than the facade, so much so that today the building is commonly called the California Tower. Both facade and tower have been copied often by American architects. Competing for attention with facade and tower, the colorful central dome, with its starburst design, is patterned after the great dome of the Church of Santa Prisca and San Sebastian at Taxco, Mexico. Other structural and design features were taken freely from many sources.
On October 2, 1914, the State of California presented the California Building to the exposition. Meant to be permanent, the building was one of four intended to remain after the temporary structures had been torn down. The others were the Fine Arts and Botanical Buildings and the Organ Pavilion. Goodhue was under the delusion (shared by no one except himself) that after the Exposition the central mesa was to become a system of formal gardens and parterres without buildings after the manner of Vaux-le-Vicomte and Versailles.
Brown and De Cew Construction Company of San Diego built the Fine Arts Building, on the south side of the California Quadrangle, after Goodhue’s designs. It cost the City of San Diego $104,243.95. As with the bridge, exposition officials — principally D. C. Collier — rejected Goodhue’s first $150,000 plan as too expensive. The side facing the Quadrangle has an arcaded corridor, a wood-beam ceiling, and a tile roof. Arches spring from square shafts with simply-molded capitals. Richard Pourade gave their source as an arcade adjoining the Church of El Carmen in Celaya, Mexico. A blank wall at the back of the arcade was left for fresco decoration. The plain walls and long, low- lying lines of the Fine Arts Building act as a foil for the richly decorated, sky-piercing California Building.
The interior of the Fine Arts Building was more assertive than its exterior. Four-part groin vaulting, enclosing clerestory windows, lent spaciousness to the main gallery. Cherubs, representing music, painting, sculpture and ceramics, stood in front of a balcony on the east end.
Goodhue had a bronze wall fountain, designed by the Piccirillis, set in a niche lined with blue and white glazed tiles in a staircase hall below the east balcony.
At the opposite end of the gallery, beneath a circular balcony supported by a corbel bearing the Seal of the City of San Diego, a door opened into the main entrance hall. Here a wrought- iron and brass lantern hung from a coffered ceiling. At the rear of the hall, a narrow door led to a balcony from which visitors looked down into the St. Francis Chapel, dedicated to St. Francis of Assisi. The saint was represented showing the stigmata on a bas-relief to the right of the altar and by an inscription on the main beam supporting the balcony:
“SCTE FRANCISCE, PATER SERAPHICE MISSIONUM ALTAE CALIFORNIA PATRONE, ORA PRO NOBIS (“Holy Francis, Seraphic Father, Patron of the Missions in Upper California, pray for us.”)”
For the chapel Goodhue designed and Mack, Jenny and Tyler, decorators of New York City, assembled a painted reredos standing in a shallow, vaulted chancel. Statues of San Diego de Alcala and St. Francis Xavier, on the right and left, flank a statue of Mary and Child in the center. Heads above the side statues depict Santa Clara of Assisi and Santa Ysabel of Hungary. Farther to the right and left, heads depict Bishops San Luis of Tolosa and San Buenaventura of Albano. To make sense, the right side should have been given to Franciscans and the left to Jesuits, of whom St. Francis Xavier was the sole representative.
An “Ecce Homo” painting, donated to the chapel by Goodhue, a crucifix, candlesticks, a wrought-iron lectern holding a Bible in German, a wooden statue of San Antonio de Padua, and a pulpit conveyed the impression of a private chapel assembled from disparate elements for a Spanish nobleman of eclectic tastes. The City of San Diego owns the chapel and furnishings. As the chapel is within its compound, the Museum of Man is supposed to keep it open during normal museum hours, but does not do so. No inventory was ever made of the objects installed in 1915 and many have since disappeared.
A belfry above the chancel on the outside contains a bell from Granada, Spain. It is not used. Moorish buttresses on Mission San Gabriel in Los Angeles are reproduced on the sturdy buttresses on the outside south walls of the chapel and Fine Arts Building. They were much photographed in 1915. Today eucalyptus and cyclone fencing hide them from view.
Despite Allen’s assertions, Goodhue had from the beginning planned the major and minor axes of the central site plan and the unfolding of open spaces beyond long, shaded corridors. Clarence Stein, Goodhue’s draftsman, thought the charm and variety of the San Diego Exposition stemmed from this contrast of narrow streets and great plazas. Goodhue and Stein were so captivated by the interplay of enclosed and open spaces at the San Diego Exposition that they used the same idea in their layout for the mining town of Tyrone, New Mexico. Goodhue also used arcades, surprise vistas, and alternating spaces in his plans for the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena.
Goodhue’s first central site plan called for a music pavilion on the north side of the Plaza de Panama. Hoping to put a Motor Transportation Building on this choice site, officials decided to put the organ John D. and his brother Adolph B. Spreckels had offered to the City in 1913 north of the California Building, facing south. After Brazil reneged on its building at the southern end of the esplanade connecting to the Plaza de Panama, officials moved the Organ Pavilion to this site, where it is today and where the sun shines directly in the faces of spectators.
The Spreckels brothers paid the Austin Organ Company $33,500 for the electric-pneumatic organ, and F. Wurster Construction Company $66,500 for construction of the pavilion.
The long, flamboyant San Joaquin Valley Building on the east and the plain, blockish Kern and Tulare Counties Building on the west faced the esplanade. At the foot of the esplanade, a Neo-Classical Style Salt Lake and Union Pacific Building on the east and a Mission-style Alameda and Santa Clara Counties Building on the west flanked the Organ Pavilion.
The Botanical Building, at the north end of a cross-axis between the Home Economy and the Varied Industries Building and Food Products Building, faced a long reflecting pool and a sightline framed by the Foreign Arts Building and the Commerce and Industries Building.
The building has an interesting genesis.
In September 1911, Alfred D. Robinson, president of the San Diego Floral Society, conceived the idea of a giant lath palace in the center of an enormous botanic garden. It was to be similar to lath enclosures in Point Loma and Coronado, only bigger. Irving Gill wrote approvingly of these plans, but Carleton Winslow thought differently. In early 1912, Winslow drew up plans for a massive, Spanish-Renaissance greenhouse.
As finally designed by Winslow, with help from Frank P. Allen, Jr. and Thomas B. Hunter, the Botanical Building was more lath house than Spanish palace. It consisted of a narrow rectangle with dominant central dome and with two short barrel vaults on each side. Steel frames, bridging the vaults, held up stained and bent redwood lath.
Palms, bamboo, banana trees, and aralia grew in the main building. Vitis, isolepsis, crotons, dracaenas, philodendrons, and anthuriums grew inside a glass wing in the back.
In his designs for the Botanical Building and its two lagoons, Winslow adopted Spanish and Persian models to produce a placid, pleasing scene.
Carol Greentree has pointed out that the Botanical Building has features in common with the Umbracle in Barcelona, Spain, designed by Josep Fontsere in 1884 as a conservatory. The building was remodeled as a pavilion for the 1888 International Exhibition and restored to its original function after the exhibition. Located in the Parc de la Ciutadella, the Umbracle consists of a tunnel-like structure made up of five bays. The bays, formed by cast-iron half arches, are in two stories which lead up to a crowning arch or nave. Horizontal louvers, joining the arcades, provide shade for ferns and palms. Brick arches at the north-south ends, topped by severe rectilinear turrets, allow ingress.
The Balboa Park building has only one interior arched space that is shaded by vertical rather than horizontal laths. Its entrances, set within a stucco and concrete arcade of Persian character, are in the center or longitudinal side of the building. A sweeping dome surmounted by a cupola and finials above the arcade contrasts with barrel vaulting on either side and provides a focus for lily ponds in front of the building. There is no evidence to support the contention that Winslow, Allen and Hunter were aware of the Barcelona building.
Allen’s original estimate for constructing the Botanical Building was $30,000.00. Final costs came to $53,386.23 or an overrun of $22,386.23.
The Japanese Tea Association erected a tea garden and pavilion in a corner a few steps to the northwest of the Botanical Building. Gardeners from Japan planted bamboo and wisteria and bonsai, cedar and ginkgo trees in the garden. Winding paths led to a moon bridge whose semicircular shape was reflected in a stream beneath. Carved folo birds on the gable ends of the tea house, carp in the stream, pebbles on the paths, and lanterns placed strategically to light the way conveyed the charm of Old Japan.
K. Tamai, a Japanese architect, used ornate temples in Kyoto as the source for the tea pavilion. It has nothing in common with small, rustic tea houses. Japanese workers assembled the sections in San Diego without nails. The pavilion was the only building on the grounds to represent a foreign country.
People debarking from electric railway cars at a station opposite the Plaza de Balboa, or eastern end of El Prado, hastened to exhibit buildings to the west or to amusement attractions to the north. If the statue of Balboa that Goodhue had wanted had been set up on the Plaza, perhaps incoming people would have lingered. For reasons of economy, the statue was omitted. Unlike other expositions, San Diego’s was noticeably lacking in figure sculpture.
Two parallel north-south roads on the east side led to the north or Isthmus Gate. They were joined by a short strip called Calle Colon on the south and another called Calle Ancon on the north. One road, the Alameda, was bordered by agricultural exhibits and by the International Harvester, Lipton Tea, Nevada, and Standard Oil pavilions. The other road, the Isthmus, to the east of the Alameda, was bordered by amusement stands.
The Santa Fe Railway put up an Indian Village on a five-acre mesa between the Alameda and the Isthmus, at the north end of the exposition. As Indian Villages had been built at expositions in Chicago, Buffalo, and Saint Louis, the idea of having one in Balboa Park was not novel. The Santa Fe Railway’s participating in the project was, however, unusual. Executives probably thought the sight of Indians from New Mexico and Arizona living in replicas of their homes would induce tourists to visit the real thing.
Indians from San Ildefonso Pueblo in New Mexico created the exhibit, using cholla, sagebrush, yucca, cedar posts, and sandstone. Jesse L. Nusbaum supervised construction. Two large, stepped-back, simulated adobe buildings on the eastern side of a mesa faced ritual kivas. On the western side, hogans and dwellings resembling rock formations in Arizona’s Painted Desert faced a courtyard and corrals for animals. The exhibit cost about $150,000.00.
Except for Nevada, the state buildings were put up on a plateau southwest of the Organ Pavilion. These were Kansas, Utah, Washington, Montana, and New Mexico.
Mrs. Jesse C. Knox operated a potpourri rose garden a short distance from the state buildings.
On December 15, 1914, the Second Battalion of the Fourth Regiment, U.S. Marines, set up a tent city and parade ground adjoining the rose garden at the exposition’s south end.
At the invitation of exposition president G. Aubrey Davidson, Colonel Joseph H. Pendleton, commander of the U.S. Marine Corps, Fourth Regiment, established his headquarters on the balcony floor of the Science and Education Building.
Home Economy, Indian Arts, Science and Education, Botanical, Varied Industries and Food Products, and Southern California Counties Buildings were under construction in 1913. Work on other buildings began in 1914.
After construction was under way, onlookers were allowed to enter the grounds and watch building progress on payment of a 25-cent admission.
All buildings were ready one month before the opening. Allen’s estimate for their erection had been $2,000,000. In November 1914, he reported his total outlay as $1,800,000. In addition, he estimated the value of his free services outside the Work Department at $350,000.
An audit of pre-Exposition operations, concluded by Palethorpe, McBride and Probert of Los Angeles, March 29, 1915, gave the total charges for construction of the Division of Works as $1,937,445.03.
In 1909, William Clayton, manager of the Spreckels-owned San Diego Electric Railway Company, said the company would “at a time not too far distant take steps to run a line through the City Park.” To speed up this plan, the company in 1914 began a double-track to the exposition, starting at 12th and Ash Streets. The line stopped before a multi-arched station at the east gate. In 1917, the Company extended the line to Upas Street. Skeptics think Spreckels, rather than Collier, chose the central mesa for the exposition because it provided him with an excuse to extend his railroad line through the park.
In the last week of 1914, troops A. B, D and M of the First Cavalry, U.S. Army, occupied a model camp on the west slope of Switzer (today Florida) canyon, to the east of the North or Isthmus Gate.
Shortly after nine o’clock p.m., December 31, 1914, John D. Spreckels, standing on the stage of the Organ Pavilion, said to John F. Forward, Jr., president of the Park Commission, “I beg you to accept this gift on behalf of the people of San Diego.” Forward replied: “In the name of the people of San Diego and of those untold multitudes who in all the coming years shall stand before this glorious organ and be moved by its infinite voices, I thank you.” Next, Samuel M. Shortridge, of San Francisco, extolled the power of music and the generosity of John D. and Adolph B. Spreckels. The San Diego Popular Orchestra of 50, conducted by Chesley Mills, presented the overture of Offenbach’s Orpheus in the Underworld and a People’s Chorus of 250, led by Willibald Lehmann, sang selections from Haydn’s oratorio The Creation. Then Dr. Humphrey J. Stewart, who had been engaged at Spreckels’ expense, gave the first of many organ recitals. He began with a processional march from Montezuma, which he had composed, and ended with “Unfold Ye Portals” from Gounod’s Redemption, with the chorus and orchestra joining in.
At 11:00 p.m., exposition bandsmen, in uniforms of blue, red and yellow, played dance tunes in front of the Sacramento Valley Building, facing the Plaza de Panama. They concluded with a rendition of the National Anthem, with U.S. Army and Navy men joining in the singing, while the flags of the United States and of Spain were unfurled. Afterwards, Colonel Collier, as master-of-ceremonies, told those assembled:
“Our hopes never wavered, our efforts did not lessen. We have stood together like one people should. We encountered all the trials and tribulations ever before those who attempt to blaze a new trail or attempt what seems impossible. That which five years ago was a hazy dream is today a reality, and San Diego keeps her promise to the world.”
Collier was followed by Carl D. Ferris of the Park Commission, Mayor Charles F. O’Neall, George W. Marston, Governor Hiram Johnson, and G. Aubrey Davidson.
Marston praised the California Building and the state it represented:
“On this rise of Balboa Park we here today dedicate the California Building to noble uses — the study of life, the history of man, the sciences and the arts, the high things of the mind and spirit. Through the genius of a great architect, Bertram Goodhue, a temple of such nobility and beauty has arisen from this ground that one might ascribe upon its door, “Let only the reverent and thoughtful enter here.”
“Behold the spreading dome, catching the light of the rising and setting sun. Look upward to the glorious tower rising so serenely in the sky; observe with quiet thoughtfulness the figures of saints and heroes which adorn the southern front. Do they not set forth the past and present of California life? Are they not the true symbols of her glowing history and her wonderful today?”
At the stroke of midnight, Pacific Time (3:00 a.m. Eastern Time), President Woodrow Wilson pressed a telegraph button in Washington, D.C. fashioned of the first five-dollar gold piece contributed toward the exposition The flash, captured by a wire at the Western Union Office in the Science and Education Building, turned on the electric power at the exposition. Instantly, a light, attached to a balloon 1,500 ft. above the Plaza de Panama, came on, illuminating a three-mile area in the sky and casting a ruddy glow over the gleaming white exposition buildings. Lights blared on in full intensity, revealing the silhouettes of buildings. Mortar men about the grounds began firing missiles that spent themselves in white clouds of dropping smoke. Red carbide fires sprang from 7,000 sticks concealed in the shrubbery around the buildings. Eight powerful searchlights from the cruiser USS San Diego, flagship of the Pacific fleet, anchored off the foot of Market Street, threw their beams on the tower of the California Building, while thousands of incandescent lights outlined the ship, from bow to stern. Bonfires on summits of hills in San Diego and farther away, on summits in the Cuyamacas, Palomar and San Miguel burst into flames. About 1,000 mines on the exposition grounds exploded as guns at Fort Rosecrans and on the USS San Diego, nine torpedo destroyers, two submarines, and a repair ship in the harbor saluted. Gatesmen threw the gates open as sirens wailed, steam pipes shrieked, whistles blew, cowbells rang, rattles shook, confetti streamed down, silk and straw hats went up, and cheers arose from an official turnstile count of 31,386 to an unofficial estimate of 42,486 people on the grounds.
Atop the Spreckels Organ Pavilion, making use of the power that turned on the lights, the gates of the Panama Canal swung open in a fireworks display. A ship ‘1915’ started through the canal, waves breaking before her bow. Before the fireworks had dimmed, letters broke forth through the shooting flame which read, “The land divided — the world united — San Diego — the first port of call.”
San Diego had kept its promise to itself and to the world.
Return to Amero Collection.
Ch. 1 The Making of the Exposition
Ch. 2 The Exposition Gets Under Way
Ch. 3 Native Americans Come to Balboa Park
Ch. 4 East Meets West in Balboa Park
Ch. 5 1915 – San Diego Has Its Year of Glory
Ch. 6 1916 – The Exposition Goes International
Ch. 7 1917 – The Exposition Mop-Up
Ch. 8 Sources and Attributions