Hidden History of Balboa Park

At Balboa Park, there is always something to learn about, from the objects on display at the museums to the bricks below your feet. Today, we will be tackling the interesting facts and histories behind some of the iconic gardens, fountains, and other Park places.

We start off with the Spanish Village Arts Center, which serves as studio space for over 200 local artists. This location was built in 1935 for the second California Pacific International exposition. In 1937, local artists turned it into an art destination and, with a few exceptions, it has been such ever since.

These two gardens, the Desert Garden and the Inez Grant Memorial Rose Garden, are located right next to each other, across the Park Boulevard pedestrian bridge. Together, the two gardens house around 2,900 plants in 5.5 acres. Just be sure to not prick yourself on the thorns or spines!

Next is one of the trademark landmarks of Balboa Park: The Bea Evenson Fountain. Bea Evenson is known for heading a committee to raise funds to restore Balboa Park. She died in 1981, and the fountain in the Plaza was dedicated in her memory, to honor the work she did for the park.

The Zoro Garden is currently a butterfly garden to the side of the main path, housing both larvae and nectar plants, allowing butterflies to complete their life cycle. But did you know that the site of the garden was originally a nudist colony during the 1935 California Pacific Exposition?

The Lily Pond, located in the front of the Botanical Building, is incredibly picturesque, and is often home to ducks, koi, and turtles. Both the building and the nearby pond and lagoon were built for the 1915 Panama-California Exposition, and have been maintained ever since.

Now we have reached about the halfway point in this tour, at the Plaza de Panama. It was constructed in 1915 for the Panama-California Exposition, but it, along with many of the spaces constructed, was designed to be temporary, and deteriorated over the years. Recently, it has been restored and turned into a pedestrian only area, giving you all the more reason to visit.

The Alcazar Garden is always a peaceful place to visit. It was originally designed for the 1935 Exposition, and was inspired and named after the Alcazar Castle gardens in Spain, and shares many similarities with it. For a long time, it slowly deteriorated, but has been restored to it’s 1935 design.

This massive bridge is another one of the iconic locations in Balboa Park. Dedicated by then-Assistant Secretary to the Navy Franklin D. Roosevelt, when he made the inaugural crossing with the mayor at the time. He later made a second crossing for the 1935 Exposition, as the President of the United States.

And now, we have reached the end of our walk. While this may be where the playlist ends, don’t think that means you have to stop. Don’t just stick to established routes Go out, explore, and cut your own path.