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You Can Thank The Panama Canal for Balboa Park’s Eclectic Architecture

Written by Cindy Marie Jenkins on Wednesday, November 15th, 2017 at 12:31pm.

When Nook Sales Experts match a buyer with their dream home, the only thing as important as architectural style is the neighborhood. That’s why we’re bringing you the #NookNeighborhoods series, where every Wednesday you’ll find cool history and culture to make sure you don’t overlook an area that could have the best nook for you.

I’m a sucker for a nook with an active twitter account. You can learn a lot about a neighborhood from a personality-based social media platform, and @BalboaPark does a great job. It’s a trove of both tourist and resident treasures, allowing anyone to drop into Balboa Park for an afternoon or day without much planning. With such a gorgeous area nearly completely covered by trees, it’s easy to just lay back and enjoy the extra oxygen. While that seems like a luxurious and mentally beneficial way to spend your lunch hour, it’s a shame if you spend time in Balboa Park without soaking their culture into your soul as well.

We already told you how Balboa Park got its name thanks to the botanist and businesswoman Kate Sessions; but how did this hilly and undeveloped land transform into such a wonderland by the early twentieth century? It’s all due to the Panama Canal. The city contracted Bertram Goodhue and Frank Allen to design and build the architecture on display for The Panama-California Exposition. Expositions were a recent tradition to celebrate both historical achievements and new industrial milestones. Since San Diego would now be the first port of call on the western coast, it seemed only right to sponsor and host an exposition to celebrate such a feat.

Initially conceived in the Mission style, that idea was scrapped early on after everyone realized, well, that the Missions aren’t very grandiose or extravagant enough for an exposition. Bertram Goodhue had visions of Mexican Baroque styles before a few too many cook-architects were brought into the design, resulting in some mission, some Spanish Renaissance, neoclassical, Roman and Baroque styles. Today, these varieties are celebrated, and historians often point to 1915 Panama-California Exposition as the beginning of what would be known as Southern California’s homegrown Mediterranean-ism.

Many of these buildings are now museums and city attractions. The San Diego Visitors Center offers discounts, such as 14 museums with the Balboa Park Explorer over a period of time, 1-5 museums with a One Day Explorer Pass, or just sign up for their newsletter and learn all the great deals year round. The Mingei International Museum has an ever changing set of exhibits from around the world that will make you feel like you’re traveling in time. The Oregon Pavilion and the Old Globe Theater are some of the most popular cultural destinations in Southern California, and they’re right there in Balboa Park. Top off your time with a day at the San Diego Zoo and the more than 3,700 animals that have made this another leading attraction.

There’s a whole lot more to Balboa Park than just the legacy of greenery that Sessions left behind. Use our geographical feature to Search With Style for your ideal home near Balboa Park



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