Tuesday, October 28, 2014

GREAT DOWNTOWN SAN DIEGO PLACES & SPACES



ORIGINAL MOSAIC TILE FLOOR
BALBOA THEATER
      This is the first year for a locally organized event called the San Diego Architecture and Design Month or “Archtoberfest.” As part of the program, “Great Downtown San Diego Places & Spaces” was offered on October 19. This included free on-site tours of several historic buildings. With a perfect 70 degree sunny day and free parking, Ron and I decided to head downtown for a good walk and a chance to visit some places that we might not have an opportunity to see again.

     Here are the highlights:

-- A visit to an old bank vault with a 47,000 pound door, and walls covered with the original safe deposit boxes. This room is in the basement of the historic San Diego Trust & Savings Bank that was built in 1928. It is now used for private dinner functions. In 2002, the bank was converted into the Courtyard by Marriott (530 Broadway) with much of its original design intact. The hand-painted stenciled ceilings and 19 types of marble from around the world were meticulously preserved.
47,000 POUND DOOR
SAN DIEGO TRUST & SAVINGS BANK

BALBOA THEATER

--A chance to hear the Balboa Theater (868 Fourth Ave.) House Organist, Russ Peck, play popular American tunes like “Thanks for the Memory” on the 1928 Wonder Morton Organ. We were also given a backstage tour. The music and historic theater reminded me of my visits to Radio City Music Hall in New York. Fortunately, the Balboa Theater avoided demolition, and after 20 years of being closed, it reopened for live theater and concerts in 2008. The original mosaic tile floor which depicts Balboa's sailing ship and “1513,” the year he reached the Pacific Ocean, still graces the entrance.

1886 JOHN GINTY HOUSE

--A self-guided tour of the the John Ginty House (1568 9th Avenue) which was built in 1886. The Queen Anne style family residence has a wrap-around veranda, turret, five fireplaces and original fir flooring. One of the many unusual touches is a faux bookcase that serves as a door to the guest bathroom. After a major renovation, it is currently on the market for $2.2 million.

STAINED GLASS DOME
HARD ROCK CAFE SAN DIEGO

--Ye Golden Lion Tavern, built in 1906, and one of the best restaurants in the West at the time, is now the Hard Rock Cafe (801 4th Ave). We enjoyed a lunch directly under the remarkable stained-glass dome from Milan, Italy, that was shipped here in pieces from it previous home at the Elks Lodge in Stockton, CA.


BUMBLE BEE SEAFOODS
--A great tour of the original 1924 Showley Brothers Candy Factory, that has been newly renovated and opened as the Bumble Bee Seafoods headquarters (280 Tenth Ave). Old photos of the candy factory and San Diego's fishing industry hang on the walls as a reminder of the past. With a view of the adjacent Petco Park from the third floor and its open office design I found the place fascinating.
US GRANT HOTEL

--Finally, a walk through the US Grant Hotel (326 Broadway) which is always open to the public and a recommended stop for anyone on a downtown tour. It was built as a hotel in 1910 by Ulysses S. Grant,Jr., to honor his father, President Ulysses S. Grant. The $1.9 million cost was staggering at that time. The second floor gallery has photos of its many famous guests like Albert Einstein, Charles Lindbergh, and over a dozen US Presidents. The hotel was purchased by the Sycuan Band of the Kumeyaay Nation in 2003, returning the land “full circle” to its original ancestors. It was reopened in 2006 after a $52 million restoration, with every effort made to return it to its original splendor. Old postcards were used for reference in the renovation, and they are currently framed for viewing in the gallery.

Fourteen thousand steps later, we were ready to head home. You might question the number of steps; however, if you knew my husband and his attachment to numbers and gadgets, you would understand. He religiously records his daily steps using an app on his android called S Health/Walking Mate. (Sorry Doc, he is not getting the 10,000 steps in every day that you recommended.)


US GRANT HOTEL

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