Rayne writes: Dear Cosmos, I’ve been following your blog since you were still using piddle pads, and if there’s one thing I’ve learned about Balboa Park from you, there’s always something great going on. So what’s all this fuss about 2015? Why should it be different from any other year?
Cosmos: And what makes you think I don’t use piddle pads anymore? When I’m on a deadline, I find them awfully convenient.
Your question does bring up an interesting point, however. There’s certainly no shortage of activities in the Park any time of the year. So in order to understand why 2015 and its many events are so important, we need to look back 100 years when San Diego itself was still using piddle pads.
In 1915, the entire population of San Diego was around 40,000 residents and could easily fit inside today’s Petco Park. Seeing plenty of room for growth, top dog business and community leaders seized on the recent opening of the Panama Canal, which greatly reduced travel time by boat from the East Coast, as an opportunity to raise San Diego’s national profile and attract more visitors, transplants, strays, and businesses.
They conceived of an exposition on the scale of a World’s Fair with Balboa Park as its focal point. Back then, Balboa Park wasn’t much more than a 1,200-acre leash-free dog park, i.e., a big open space.
The Panama-California Exposition plan provided the impetus to undertake a massive building campaign that gave birth to many of the landmark structures we sniff today: the Cabrillo Bridge, Spreckels Organ Pavilion, Museum of Man, Casa del Prado, Casa de Balboa, House of Charm, and the Botanical Building and Lily Pond. And what good are a bunch of new fancy buildings without surrounding walkways, gardens, fountains, and trees (glorious trees)?
So in a nutshell, the 2015 Centennial activities celebrate a history-making event (the 1915 Expo) that not only had folks barking about San Diego all over the world, but also established Balboa Park as the city’s cultural heart and laid the foundation for the Park’s unique Spanish Colonial style of architecture.