city park link

1915 expo

1935 expo

world war 2

1950's to the 1960s

1970s to the 1980s

visual essay link


works cited link


aerial view of camp kidd

Aerial View of Camp Kidd in 1943, which was renamed Balboa Park after WWII. (NARA Laguna Nigel)

There has always been a strong Navy presence in San Diego. Both expositions hosted the Navy and Balboa Park also allowed use of its facilities during World War I.

soldiers at balboa park

Sailors doing their drills in 1947. (NARA Laguna Nigel)

By March 29, 1942, the Navy took possession of Balboa Park and renamed it Camp Kidd, after an admiral who was killed during the attack on Pearl Harbor. The entire Park was off limits to civilians and the Navy forced all organizations in the Park to vacate. The buildings and facilities were then used to accommodate the Navy's needs, expansion of the Naval Hospital, education, and quarters for troops. After the war, San Diego faced the difficult task of restoring the damages caused by the Navy and returning to civilian use.

The occupation by the Navy would mark the last time in the Park's history that a top down authority controlled the use of this public space. The two expositions and the use of the Park by the military all left a mark, both physically and through the transformation of memory, on Balboa Park. Boosters and designers of the 1915 exposition created a mythic history that initially attracted visitors and brought national attention to the region, elaborating on a created Spanish past. The exposition marked a transition in democratizing the space through its inclusion of corporate interests, but in each of these three cases control of the Park was limited to relatively few people. Among those in control were San Diego civic leaders, the architects and designers they hired, military officials, and government and corporate interests. The ensuing post-war decades experienced a shift in this paradigm. Balboa Park was relinquished to appointed committees, the mayor and city council, private interests and most importantly, the people of San Diego. This democratization would lead to an inclusive, urban landscape with a diversity that better represents the needs and diverse cultures of a contemporary San Diego.

Oral History and Pictures

Ida Lemler Roseland's oral history of her time working in San Diego and taking classes at Balboa Park

military band at camp derby in 1935

Military band in Camp Derby during the 1935 Exposition. (San Diego Historical Society)

sailors at attention in balboa park 1942

Camp Kidd, sailors preparing for the day. (Los Angeles Times, March 4, 1942, 20)

highway 163

Construction of Highway 163 through Balboa Park occurred in 1948.

roads to romance video

(Roads to Romance: San Diego courtesy of Prelinger Archives)