This 1,400 acre urban cultural park was placed in reserve by Alta California authorities in 1835. Nothing further was done until an 1845 survey by Henry D. Fitch. Three years later Mexico ceded Alta California to the U.S. who took no further planning action until 1868.
From 1872 to 1909, the park remained mostly open space, with no flowers or trees and was home to bobcats, coyotes, rattlesnakes and other wildlife. Finally in 1902, a plan was established for the development of the park lands.
Some buildings were constructed, an orphanage, a women’s shelter that later burned down, Russ High School and San Diego High School. Several private gardens and a nursery run by Kate Sessions (the Mother of Balboa Park) also operated here. Sessions donated trees and plants to the city for its beautification and under her lease agreement with the city, opened the 36 acre garden to the public Other developments included two reservoirs, an animal pound in Pound Canyon (now Cabrillo Canyon) and a gunpowder magazine in Florida Canyon.
From 1910-1914, numerous Spanish Colonial Revival style buildings were constructed to prepare for the 1915-16 Panama-California Exposition. Construction included the Cabrillo Bridge, California State Building and Quadrangle, Administration Building (now offices of the Museum of Man), Botanical Building, California Bell Tower, New Mexico Building (now Balboa Park Club) and Spreckels Organ Pavilion. 3.7 million visitors attended the 2 year exposition.
The park also played host to the 1935-36 California Pacific International Exposition. Buildings constructed for this expo and that remain today are the Globe Theatre, the International Cottages and the Spanish Village. 6.7 million visitors attended this expo.
Today, the park is home to 16 museums, 17 gardens and 15 attractions including the San Diego Zoo. Whew! What a grand public space.
We must admit we had no idea what all was located within park boundaries, but because it was such a beautiful day, we confined our visit to outdoor activities and because we were being thrifty, we chose the free attractions.
Here are photos of our day
The walk into the park on Laurel Street
The Alcazar Garden
Beside the Palm Garden
The Spreckels Organ House
The California Building
The Japanese Garden. We did not enter due to the admission price. We have been in numerous Japanese Gardens in Japan for free.
El Cid statue and Mingei International Museum
The Balboa Park Visitor Center
the Botanical Building and contents
Moreton Bay Fig Tree
the Spanish Village Art Center
The Cactus Garden
the Rose Garden
Bea Evenson Fountain and Fleet Science Center
purple poppies while we were waiting for the bus