History of the House of Hospitality Building in Balboa Park
by Richard Amero
George W. Marston put the case for the preservation of the temporary Exposition buildings in Balboa Park most compellingly in 1922 when he wrote
You may prove what you will in facts and figures about the shaky old buildings; the only answer is “They shall not pass.” Somehow, without knowing how to explain it, we are instinctively, subconsciously, incurably in love with them and will not give them up. It’s the grand emotion and is founded, I think, on something real and vital.
Marston was not saying that the Exposition buildings were great architecture nor that they represented great history. Instead they were surrogates for great architecture and great history.
San Diegans were in a quagmire. Though they knew the buildings were ephemeral, they wanted to keep them. They realized they had something potent and different. And they were proud of what they had.
G. Aubrey Davidson president of the Panama-California Exposition Corporation, expressed the common thought regarding the buildings when at the inauguration of the Exposition, January 1, 1915, he said
Here is pictured in this happy combination of splendid temples, the story of the friars, the thrilling tale of the pioneers, the orderly conquest of commerce, coupled with the hopes of an El Dorado where life can expand in this fragrant land of opportunity. It is indeed a permanent city and every building fits into the picture.
Professor of decorative design Eugen Neuhaus, like architects Bertram Goodhue, Carleton Winslow and Frank P. Allen, Jr., was critical of the temporary buildings. Unlike the architects, he thought most of them should be preserved.
One by one I hope to see such buildings as the Sacramento Valley Building replaced just as they stand today, in permanent material, to satisfy the growing need for Museum Buildings. One by one I hope to see many of them replaced to demonstrate the permanent value of the art of the city planner, which is so convincing here in its practical and aesthetic aspects alike.
The rebuilding in 1997 of the 1915 Foreign Arts Building (also known as the Foreign Liberal Arts Building and in 1935 the House of Hospitality) represents the latest success story in preserving Exposition structures. In a technical sense, the building was not actually preserved as the building was demolished and a new one created to take the place of the old. San Diegans in general are elated that a semblance of the old building again stands in Balboa Park.
Since architect Carleton M. Winslow, on his own and under Bertram Goodhue’s direction, designed the building in a Spanish-Renaissance (more accurately Plateresque) style, it has been said that the style of the building is its most original feature. This was never entirely true as Spanish-Renaissance buildings were put up for the Pan-American Exposition of 1901 in Buffalo and the Panama-Pacific International Exposition of 1915 in San Francisco.
The exterior was decorated with real and imagined coats of arms of the countries of Latin America in anticipation that these countries would send exhibits. The anticipation did not come about, as the countries were poor and the rival San Francisco Exposition, where many of these countries exhibited, was an international exposition whereas the San Diego Exposition was a regional fair.
In the casual atmosphere that prevailed in San Diego, Winslow worked quickly with the aim of producing a temporary scenic illusion rather than with the concentration and thought that more serious and lasting pieces of architecture would require.
The building’s principal facade, on the southeast side of the Plaza de Panama, borrowed details from the sixteenth century Plateresque-style facade of the Hospital of Santa Cruz in Toledo, Spain. As most San Diegans had never seen the Hospital of Santa Cruz, they did not know how its details were transmuted into the building in Balboa Park. At any rate, the most evocative detail — a sculpture above the portal showing the Adoration of the Cross — was not on the Foreign Arts Building as it conveyed a somber religious message not in keeping with the zestful atmosphere of an Exposition.
An exquisitely ornamented Plateresque-style tower with delicate low relief and graceful finials was set back from a ground-level arcade. Winslow designed the tower as a foil for a similar tower, copied from the Palace of the Count of Monterrey in Salamanca, Spain, on the Home Economy Building located on the northeast side of the Plaza de Panama. The Home Economy Building’s center entrance, copied from the Palace of the Count of Heras in Mexico City, and its asymmetrical massing were different enough from the elevation of the Foreign Arts Building to dispel what might have been a static balance.
The Prado section of the Foreign Arts Building consisted of a first floor arcade surmounted by what seemed to be three stories that were only two. The arcade was duplicated by the arcade on the Home Economy Building. Upper levels on the Prado side of the Foreign Arts Building continued the shield and emblem motifs on the main facade. A squat compact tower at the northeast end of the building balanced a tower with grotesque finials on the Commerce and Industries Building a short distance to the east.
Neuhaus limited his remarks about the Foreign Arts Building to brief comments about the finials on the tower and a favorable comment about the decorative treatment of windows on an upper story. Architect Winslow wished he had exercised more restraint in the application of ornament and had left the cornices undecorated.
The Foreign Arts Building cost the Panama-California Exposition Corporation $54,682.73. Director of Works Frank P. Allen, Jr. supervised construction. Plasterers directed by H. R. Schmohl executed the ornament after drawings prepared by Winslow. Winslow probably left details on the cornices to Schmohl’s special care.
Watanabe and Shibada, importers from San Francisco, mounted the largest exhibit in the building, an array of commercial products from Japan and China. Italian and Russian importers also displayed arts and crafts from their respective countries.
Planting around the Foreign Arts Building in 1915 was no different from planting around other temporary buildings along El Prado. It consisted of orderly rows of Blackwood acacias groomed to look like candles that were interrupted at strategic points by Italian cypresses. Grass and flowers grew in front of the trees. Behind them a hedge of Coprosma covered the railing between the posts of the arcades and Bignonia and Bougainvillea hung down from the pergolas or clamored up the walls of the arcades. Unlike monochrome palaces in Spain and Mexico, color from the plants gave the building a sprightly air.
U.S. Navy sailors used the Foreign Arts Building as sleeping quarters during World War I and the Museum of Natural History occupied the building in 1920-22. As the defects of the building were obvious, it was unoccupied most of the time. While the Natural History Museum occupied the building, San Diego artist Charles A. Fries painted a background of mountains and forests on a broad expanse of the walls.
Aware of the inadequacies of the building, San Diego city inspectors called for its demolition. After each condemnation, officials appointed committees to show how the building could be preserved.
Matters came to a head when Marston made his appeal for funds for temporary repairs in 1922. After the Southern California Counties Building burned down on November 25, 1925, it was replaced by the Natural History Museum. Deciding to continue in a restored Foreign Arts Building, the Women’s Committee, that ran the Southern California Counties Building, hired San Diego architect Richard Requa to oversee restoration of the building.Records get hazy because the City of San Diego decided to hold the California-Pacific International Exposition in 1934 as the restoration was getting started. The women surrendered the building so the Exposition could use it.
Officials renamed the Foreign Arts Building the House of Hospitality so it could serve in 1935-36 as the reception center for the California-Pacific International Exposition. Requa shortened the building by chopping off a southern section that was about to collapse, using glass salvaged from skylights to repair broken windows on other park buildings. He replaced wood foundations with concrete at strategic locations, repaired roofs, waterproofed the exterior, and remodeled and replaced exterior plaster decorations. His major achievement was to design a garden based on the Garden of the Casa del Rey Moro in Ronda, Spain to replace the section he had demolished. The Balboa Park garden was smaller than its prototype in Spain. It consisted of three terraces leading to a fountain shaded by a pepper tree on the edge of a canyon that was a mere drop compared to the steep declivity at Ronda.
Opinions differ over whether Requa or Sam Hamill, an architect who worked for him, executed the central patio in the House of Hospitality that had been hollowed out of a large enclosed hall. It is likely that Requa supplied Hamill with photographs he had taken of the patio of the State Museum in Guadalajara Mexico, which Hamill used as his model. As supervising architect of the Exposition, Requa could not have executed all its details.
Juan Larrinaga, a Hollywood set artist and architectural renderer, helped Hamill by designing lanterns and chandeliers for the interior of the House of Hospitality. He used Upson board, a type of cardboard used in Hollywood set designs, to suggest more substantial materials. Hamill suggested appointing sculptor Donal Hord to execute the Woman of Tehuantepec, which he then placed in the center of the patio and surrounded with banana and other subtropical plants.
Night lighting in 1935 was different from lighting in 1915 which was used primarily to orient visitors, to subdue and to create shadows, and to highlight the deep relief. H. O. Davis supervised lighting in 1935. He gave Maxfield Parrish, a painter of fantasy images in luminous bold colors, as his inspiration. Rather than directing lights on the buildings, which in the Palisades had plain walls and on El Prado walls encrusted with ornament, Davis directed the lights on plants in front of buildings. Instead of using the blacks and whites of 1915, he used a variety of tinted colors. The presence of long reflecting pools in the Plaza de Panama which captured and inverted the images of nearby buildings must have played a role in Davis’s choice of lighting for the House of Hospitality.
In late 1935 Requa recommended that lighting on the House of Hospitality and other buildings along El Prado be focused on main entrances and on entrances behind arcades. Violet, blue and green colors from the lower end of the spectrum would be directed to the right and left of entrances, presumably not to overwhelm brighter lights at the entrances.
Extant black and white photographs do not show the extent of the lighting on the Plaza de Panama. Similarly, colored postcards are more glamorous than conditions allowed.
Exact costs of rehabilitating the House of Hospitality for the California-Pacific International Exposition cannot be determined, as funds came from many sources including the Women’s Committee, the City of San Diego, the State of California, and federal work relief agencies. Costs must have exceeded $115, 965 as this was the amount known to have been contributed by auxiliary organizations.
The House of Hospitality had many rooms on its two floors. Principal rooms on the first level were the auditorium seating 600, the Casa del Rey Moro Cafe and the Sala de Oro. A small auditorium, a reception loggia, the Flamingo Room, a men’s lounge, studios, and rooms used by the Federation of State Societies occupied the second level.
Who did what is uncertain as the Women’s Committee appointed decorators and artists to furnish the building. In 1935, Katherine Morrison Kahle chose gold draperies and gold rugs and contrasting light and dark peach and blue-green upholstery for the Sala de Oro on the first floor. She also designed a reception room in blue-green, gold and faded reds and a men’s lounge in browns, tans and lacquer red on the second floor. The women called the reception room the “Mexican loggia” because plants growing in glazed pottery jars reproduced similar features in wealthy Mexican homes.
Julia Gethman Andrews, in the San Diego Union, February 24, 1935, claimed the ceiling in the Cafe del Rey Moro was “an exact copy of the Gothic decoration in the cloister of Montesia, a Dominican convent which stood from the end of the 14th century until recently in the heart of Barcelona.” This writer has not been able to confirm the accuracy of this description; he has, however, found that the polychrome wood cross beams and ceiling of the 14th century Sala de Cent in La Casa de la Ciutat, Barcelona, share a family likeness to the stenciled, highly decorated ceiling in the Casa del Rey Moro Cafe.
For the second season of the Exposition in 1936, workers enclosed the arcades facing the patio in the upstairs loggia with windows and artists Alice Klauber and Esther Barney designed and placed images of pink flamingoes on two wall hangings in the Flamingo Room on the second floor. Barney also painted a screen with formalized patterns of the banana plant for the upstairs loggia and a screen with a vine bearing blossoms in the shape of cups of gold for the downstairs Sala de Oro. Artists Malcolm McDowell, Christopher Hobbs and Daniel Dickey assisted Barney in the decoration of the Casa del Rey Moro Cafe, to the east of the Sala de Oro. They stenciled a palm motif in a niche on the west wall and painted semitropical fruits against a background of banana leaves on window panels and three murals of orange trees (also described in the San Diego Union, March 29, 1936, as golden apple trees) between glass doors on the south wall.
The discovery of the orange trees posed a problem as money for their conservation had not been included in the contract for reconstructing the House of Hospitality. Accordingly, the Engineering and Capital Projects office, under the direction of the Park and Recreation Department, ruled against their replication. Photographs of the murals were taken, but sections that had been cut out were thrown away when it was found that the Historical Society had no room to keep them.
The Park Department in late 1935 decided to get rid of Blackwood acacias along El Prado. Park superintendent John Morley wanted to replace them with Queen Palms. He did this sporadically. For some reason, Morley thought the trunks of palms could be improved if they were covered with vines. The effect was as disconcerting as painting a moustache on the Mona Lisa. At this point, El Prado planting got chaotic. Photographs are skimpy, but, from empirical evidence, eucalyptuses, conifers, palms, cycads, ferns, vines, and fruit trees were planted indiscriminately. Growing fast and wild, the trees prevented people from seeing the buildings behind them and undermined the buildings’ foundations. The City was in a bind. It either admired the architectural detail or it did not. Requa talked as if the planting were an improvement over the florid ornament as it represented the real thing!
“Thanks to our sunshine and benign climate, we have the opportunity here to supply color and adornments with living plants instead of academic decoration, such as perhaps could not be accomplished in any other portion of the globe.”
(“Exposition” by William Hamilton, The Architect & Engineer, March, 1935, 11)
The most important event that took place in the House of Hospitality during the two-year run of the California-Pacific International Exposition was the visit of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt and first lady Eleanor Roosevelt on October 2, 1935. The presidential party, consisting of the President, California Governor Frank Merriam, San Diego Mayor Percy J. Benbaugh, and Admiral William T. Tarrant, entered through the West Gate, stopped in front of the California Building; then went on to the House of Hospitality, where the San Diego Union claimed the presidential car was driven “right into the House of Hospitality” (how this was done has never been explained). Secret Service men, deputy sheriffs, policemen and U.S. marines and sailors protected the President and his wife while they were on the grounds.
The President dined in the Sala de Oro. The President’s friend and aide Harry L. Hopkins, Exposition president Frank Belcher, Exposition vice-president G. Aubrey Davidson, and Representative George Burnham were among those who dined with the President. The Casa del Rey Moro Cafe and other rooms on the ground floor were used to accommodate about 100 newspaper men and women and other guests who could not fit into the Sala de Oro. Newspapers said nothing about the President’s lunch. Contrariwise, they described in detail the lunch for Eleanor Roosevelt. Eleanor had arrived on the grounds three hours before her husband. She took a roller chair tour of the Exposition and bought gifts in shops on El Prado and the Midway for her male and female friends. At the lunch in the Mexican loggia hosted by the Women’s Executive Committee, she praised the table decor and commented on the pineapple ice-box cake and the troubadours who played in the patio during the meal. President Roosevelt also noticed the troubadours and, on leaving the Sala de Oro, he thanked them for their playing.
The Women’s Executive Committee provided two hostesses daily for the Sala de Oro and held teas from time to time in the Mexican loggia for the wives of visiting celebrities. The Federation of State Societies, Exhibits, Inc., Hollinger’s Fabric Studio, Jones Decorating Co., Los Angeles Scenic Studio, and Modern Art studio occupied rooms on the second floor. While the second floor was not easy of access, presumably enough people signed the register of states and counties maintained by the Federation and bought works from the studios to justify the expense of keeping these establishments.
Newspapers did not give much attention to the Casa del Rey Moro Cafe during the Exposition as other cafes and restaurants on the grounds offered space for meetings, entertainment and dancing in larger, more informal surroundings.
Free and therefore much attended shows were held in the auditorium on the first floor of the House of Hospitality. Most of these were put on by states during their Exposition name days or by public and private schools and by churches. The shows consisted mainly of dance and music revues. A lecturer gave the same illustrated travel talk one or two times daily. The Exposition band, Exposition junior chorus, and Exposition Negro chorus gave concerts in the auditorium and elsewhere on the grounds The Spanish troubadours, noticed by Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt, performed in the patio every afternoon. Free dances for military personnel and for civilians were given intermittently in the evening with music by the Exposition orchestra.
The Balboa Auditorium Association, composed of former members of the Women’s Executive Committee of the Exposition, resumed operation of the House of Hospitality after the Exposition. The Association rented out the auditorium for lectures and rooms and facilities to clubs and operated a restaurant in the dining room and on the terraces. Unpaid members of the Association paid a secretary $150 a month and a janitor, who lived in the building $100 a month.
The United States Navy occupied the House of Hospitality during World War II. Newspapers claimed the nurses quartered there did not make many changes. The nurses may not have done so, but the U.S. Navy did, as Naval personnel converted the auditorium into cubicles containing double-deck single beds and into a lounge that saw double duty as a place for dancing. They closed archways on the upper balcony turning the space into a beauty shop and put partitions in the lower level Sala de Oro so that it could be used by administrative staff. Most distracting of all, they extended a maze of pipes and electrical wiring throughout the building.
After the war the Women’s Committee came back. In 1947, City Manager Fred A. Rhodes recommended demolishing the House of Hospitality and replacing it with a new building. The City chose, instead, to use $75,000 received from the U.S. Navy to patch up the outside and to make repairs to the interior. Saying that they were restoring the building to its prewar beauty, architect William Templeton Johnson and contractors Hazard and Slaughter put plaster board on ceilings, covering up their stenciled wood beams and coffered detailing. In the mid-1950’s, architect George Hatch made major changes to the Cafe del Rey Moro, its patio entrance and its south exit to the garden. Apart from excisions and extensions in the Cafe del Rey Moro, most changes were decorative rather than structural until 1967, when the Junior League decided to redo the building. While Junior Leaguers were undoubtedly eager, their changes were mild compared to changes that Sue Cox, an owner-operator of the Cafe del Rey Moro, did to the tune of $40,000 in 1975. At this juncture the design of the interior was farthest away from its 1935-36 appearance.
People considered the Casa del Rey Moro Cafe to be the main occupant of the building. The restaurant, commonly referred to as the Cafe del Rey Moro, and its attached garden have been the scenes of many weddings. After 1937, management shifted from the Women’s Committee to the House of Hospitality Association. A professional manager leased office and banquet space and secured volunteer staffing for an Information Center according to regulations set by the Park Department and the City Manager.
Having played a pivotal role in the preservation of the Casa del Prado (1915 Varied Industries and Food Products Building), the Casa de Balboa (1915 Commerce and Industries Building), and the House of Charm (1915 Indian Arts Building), the Committee of 100 was concerned about the deterioration of the House of Hospitality. In 1983, the Committee hired architect Wayne Donaldson to oversee repairs. He in turn hired Architectural Ornamentation Association to strip off 12 coats of paint on the west entrance of the building, to repair crumbling plaster, and to replace termite-ridden beams. He used “hydrocal,” a cement-based plaster, to fabricate missing flags, torches, lances and shields. The project, which cost the Committee $31,000, was not realistic as the building was living on borrowed time.
In 1987 San Diego voters turned down bond issues for Mission Bay and Balboa Park that included $11.5 million to renovate the House of Hospitality and sums augmenting to $20.0 million for the renovation of the House of Charm, the Balboa Park Club, the Museum of Man, the Casa de Balboa, the Old Globe Theater complex, the Federal Building, and the Palisades Building.
The House of Hospitality continued to deteriorate. Ornaments dropping from cornices and facades were so hazardous that a pergola had to be built to keep them from injuring passers by.
A Precise Plan for the Central Mesa completed in 1991 gave top priority to the restoration of the House of Hospitality. Knowing that it could not get voters to approve a bond, the San Diego City Council in 1991 agreed to dedicate one-cent of a nine-cent hotel-motel room tax to Balboa Park. The tax revenues would be used to amortize the certificates of participation by which money was borrowed to finance the work.
The San Diego City Council in 1993 hired Architect Milford Wayne Donaldson, FAIA, Inc. to draw up plans for reconstructing the House of Hospitality. The project cost the city approximately $15.5 million with the money coming from a series of revenue bonds to be repaid with part of the proceeds of the hotel-motel room tax. Historic preservationists in San Diego and representatives from the United States Department of the Interior began debating the merits of restoring versus rebuilding the structure, though it should have been obvious to them that the only alternative was reconstruction.
With help from art historian Will Chandler, restoration experts Dan Tarnoveanu of Renaissance Art and Restoration and Gene Quintana of Dimensional Building Concepts, the lighting firm of Gibson and Gibson, contractor Soltek of San Diego, landscape architects Garbini and Garbini, and project architect David Marshall, Donaldson attempted to rebuild the House of Hospitality as it looked in 1935, with the addition of elevators, heating, ventilating, fire sprinklers, and air conditioning.
While accepting 1935 as the target year for reconstruction, Park Department officials said exterior ornament should be reproduced in Fiber-Reinforced-Plastic, in spite of the poor showing of details in this material on the Casa de Balboa. Replicas on this building, as well as fiberglass replacements of 60 concrete lanterns on the California Building (Museum of Man), put up during a renovation in 1975 (San Diego Union, June 22, 1975), were frayed and discolored and were so slick that they did not adhere to walls. Donaldson insisted on using Glass-Fiber-Reinforced-Concrete (GFRC) because it rendered details with greater precision, lasted indefinitely, has the look and feel of stone that the original staff plaster was trying to emulate, can be integrally colored, won’t warp of deform, is easily patched and sealed, is fire-resistant, and when knocked on doesn’t sound like an object made of fiberglass. Ornamentation expert Gene Quintana and State Historic Preservation Officer Steade R. Craigo concurred. Donaldson did not consider relief in cast concrete a viable option because the weight of the material required a costly, heavy and superfluous superstructure. Ninteman Construction Company, who re-created ornament in cast concrete for the Casa del Prado, could not substitute other materials as fiberglass-plastic and glass-fiber reinforced-concrete technologies did not exist in 1970-71, when the Casa del Prado was reconstructed.
After the City Council appropriated an extra $1.4 million and the Committee of 100 donated $50,000, Donaldson got the Park Department’s okay to reproduce those details that people could see in Glass-Fiber-Reinforced-Concrete. To keep the project below a $15.5 million ceiling, items such as audio-visual equipment were not purchased.
Unlike the House of Charm where restorers chose colors in a cursory manner, project architect David Marshall and art historian Will Chandler were methodical in their efforts to find the 1915 and 1935 colors. While there were variations in the window and door colors between 1915 and 1935, they concluded that the wall colors were the same for both years and that they corresponded with Carleton Winslow’s description on page 66 of The Architecture and Gardens of the San Diego Exposition: “The walls are of plaster, colored with a pale, warm gray containing a suggestion of pink.”
Because of the difference in the way restorers of the House of Charm and the House of Hospitality went about finding the 1935 colors, the colors of the two buildings are a study in opposites. The House of Charm is dark and somber. The House of Hospitality glistens. In the interests of authenticity and color harmony, former “temporary” Exposition buildings on El Prado should be repainted to match the colors of the House of Hospitality.
After Marshall and Chandler had determined proper building material and colors, the next step was reconstructing the exterior of the House of Hospitality. Duplicating interiors required research and guesswork as designs on walls, ceilings and beams had been painted over, covered or damaged. Some of the ceramic tiles and light fixtures had fallen apart or were missing. From fragments and photographs, Marshall and Chandler extrapolated the look of missing parts. They then ordered the fabrication of new custom-glazed tiles, door hardware and light fixtures made from cast aluminum painted with a wrought-iron-like finish to match Larrinaga’s original fixtures. Relying on computer projections and techniques developed by archaeologists and antique art restorers, specialists from Renaissance Art and Restoration re-created the colors and patterns of incomplete stencil designs.
Marshall and Chandler found blacksmith shops’ drawings for twelve lanterns for the 1915 Panama-California Exposition in the basement of the San Diego Central Public Library. The lanterns had been placed in the small garden between the House of Hospitality and the 1915 Commerce and Industries Building (present-day Casa de Balboa). The researchers gave the drawings to Gibson and Gibson Antique Lighting who used them as models to make replicas of the lost lanterns.
Five replicated lamps on the terrace of the Cafe del Rey Moro, reputed to have been donated by a German-American club for the 1935 Exposition, became controversial when observers in June 1998 discovered that they contained swastikas. The swastikas were emblems of the German Nazi party and they had been intended as such when they were donated. Ironically, a lamp that fabricators used as a model to make the five lamps had survived on the terrace in full view for 60 years, including the World War II years when U.S. Navy nurses occupied the House of Hospitality. After the lamps had been replicated, they were installed so that the swastikas face the wall. The concealment being ineffectual, the Park Department directed that the swastikas be covered.
Unlike the building in 1915 and in 1935, structural steel rather than wooden trusses supported the new 57,511 square foot building. Also, the new building contained a 24,435 square foot basement, equipped with a boiler, maintenance offices, storage facilities, lockers, and an employee lounge, toilet and shower. When the restaurant is reopened, it will comprise approximately 7,196 square feet on the first floor and 2,283 square feet on the second, plus outdoor terraces on the south side of the first floor and an open balcony on the second.
The City of San Diego has not learned the lessons taught by its history. For the most part, eucalyptuses have been removed from El Prado, but palms, cypresses, cedars, twisted junipers, cycads, and ornamental fruit trees have taken their places. Palm trees at the northwest corner of the House of Hospitality deprive the tower of its drama and brilliance. Faced with the problem of damages to the arcade caused by two eucalyptus and three palm trees in this area, the Park and Recreation Board, July 20, 1976, directed that six to twelve inches be removed from the eastern face of the arcade, that the upper limbs of the eucalyptus be trimmed, that ivy be removed from the Date palm tree, and that consideration be given to moving the Dracaena palm [sic] and Ti tree (Cordyline terminalis) to “a more appropriate site.” (Park & Recreation Board Minutes, July 20, 1976).
This writer is satisfied that eucalyptus were present in front of the north facade of the House of Hospitality in 1935-36, but, until such time as evidence can support a contrary conclusion, he doubts that palms were present at the locations given. A line of Blackwood acacias, which Garbini and Garbini, landscape architects, claimed were present in 1936 were not re-planted as, among other factors, this would have meant replacing plants on the entire El Prado with 1935-36 plants.
San Diegans old enough to remember the California Pacific International Exposition are being treated to a case of deja vu. The adage “you can’t go home again” is, however, applicable for not only are memories faulty but attempts to re-create a past decor with 100 percent accuracy are futile. Black and white photographs of the interiors of the Sala de Oro, the Flamingo Room, upstairs loggias, and downstairs salons give only glimpses of their furnishings and say nothing about the colors. Newspaper descriptions of drapes, rugs, upholstery, and furniture are also unreliable. Considering then the logical and practical impossibility of turning the clock back, Wayne Donaldson’s architectural firm has accomplished wonders in approximating past conditions. In recognition of the firm’s efforts, it has received many accolades, among which awards from the Governor of California, the California Council of the American Institute of Architects, and the National Trust for Historic Preservation testified to the firm’s professionalism, on-site inspections, and attention to detail.
George W. Marston saw great romance in the Exposition structures along El Prado. Since he had been in Spain, he must have known how intriguing and significant, the real castles and gardens were. He also knew that the Spanish and Spanish Colonial appearance of El Prado afforded people escape from unpleasant realities. It is this vision of beauty, romance and mystery that San Diego citizens and architects have sought to preserve.
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