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1915 expo

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picture of the food and beverage building before its demolition

Picture of the Food and Beverage building before its demolition. (Los Angeles Times, September 6, 1968, B7)

The temporary construction of the expositions' decaying buildings created a problem for San Diegans during the 1950s. An article in the Los Angeles Times from 1959 typifies the extent of neglect to the buildings. The article discusses the problem the city was having with the Ford Building from the 1935 exposition. The building did not meet safety requirements and the city deliberated whether it should be razed or renovated. The Ford building was not alone as the poor condition of the majority of the buildings became such a problem for the city that an architectural firm was hired to assess the feasibility of maintaining them.

In 1960, Harland Bartholomew & Associates submitted a proposed master plan of Balboa Park for the ensuing fifteen years. The comprehensive plan was commissioned by the Balboa Park Citizens' Committee, whose members consisted mostly of San Diegan elites, and addressed the dilapidation of the aging buildings and concerns of land use. Many of the structures from the expositions had aged poorly due to their shortsighted construction combined with their use by the Navy during the Second World War. The master plan also suggested destroying many of the exposition buildings due to the cost of maintenance and retrofits needed in order to meet contemporary safety regulations. One of the most affected was the Palisades area of the Park, where many of the 1935 exposition buildings were located. It was suggested that, "Existing temporary buildings in the area would be removed including the Ford Building, the Balboa Park Club, the Palisades Buildings and the Municipal Gymnasium." If approved, virtually no trace of the second exposition would have survived. In all, thirteen existing buildings were slated for demolition and would cost the city $21.5 million.

The master plan also voiced concern regarding land encroachment into Balboa Park's land. According to Bartholomew & Associates, this intrusion into the park by the freeways, the Naval Hospital and schools on its periphery created "problems of noise, unsightliness and traffic generation." Blame and criticism was placed squarely on the shoulders of the city government's incompetence in preserving the boundaries of the Park. This issue was expressed in the first page of the master plan. It read, "The central location of Balboa Park has made it the victim of a series of encroachments... The park area has been reduced from 1400 to 1110 acres by these actions, the great foresight and vision of San Diego's pioneers not being so notable in their successors."

Bartholomew & Associates' master plan sparked the city's interest to begin restoring and preserving Balboa Park's buildings. However, unlike previous revitalization efforts for the two expositions, which were organized and controlled by a few, issues arose that involved the public as a whole. Money needed to be appropriated through the city council and personal opinions regarding the aesthetic of the Park created conflict. One example is in late 1961 when the City Council approved the Fine Arts' new wing and construction of the Timken museum, the latter completely breaking with the architecture of the 1915 exposition.

crews finishing construction of the fine arts new wing

Crews finishing construction of the Fine Arts' new wing. (Los Angeles Times, May 14, 1966, B1)

Artifacts saved from the original 1915 Exposition buildings:

The Committee of 100 has been actively pursuing the preservation of Balboa Park's historic buildings since the early 1960s. They have been successful in either renovating or restoring many from the 1915 Panama-California Exposition. One example of their success was raising funds to rebuild the Food and Beverage building, now called the Casa del Prado.

These artifacts are from the 1915 exposition and are on display in the Casa del Prado.

artifacts from the 1915 exposition buildings

artifact from the original 1915 exposition

artifact from the 1915 exposition