From the history of world EXPO: San-Diego 1915

Dec 07. Kazpravda

By foreign media

From the history of world EXPO: San-Diego 1915The Panama–California Exposition was an exposition held in San Diego, California, between March 9, 1915, and January 1, 1917. The exposition celebrated the opening of the Panama canal, and was meant to tout San Diego as the first U.S. port of call for ships traveling north after passing westward through the canal.

The fair was held in San Diego’s large urban BalboaPark. Real estate developer David Collier, at the time often referred to as San Diego’s greatest asset, was made General Director of the exposition. He was responsible for selecting both the location in the city park and the Pueblo Revival and Mission Revival architectural styles. Collier was tasked with steering the exposition in ‘the proper direction,’ ensuring that every decision made reflected his vision of what the exposition could accomplish. Collier once stated «The purpose of the Panama-California Exposition is to illustrate the progress and possibility of the human race, not for the exposition only, but for a permanent contribution to the world’s progress».[2] The city received no federal support to host the Expo, because the U.S. government had decided to support the rival of Panama-Pacific International Exposition in San Francisco instead.

Fair officials first sought architect John Galen Howard as their supervisory architect. With Howard unavailable, on January 27, 1911, they chose New York architect Bertram Goodhue in that role, also appointing Irving Gill to assist Goodhue. By September 1911 Gill had resigned and was replaced by Carleton Winslow of Goodhue’s office, just as the original landscape architects, the Olmsted Brothers had left and were replaced in their role by fair official Frank Allen.

Goodhue and Winslow advocated a design that turned away from the more modest, indigenous, horizontally oriented Pueblo Revival and Mission Revival, towards a more ornate and urban Spanish Baroque. Contrasting with bare walls, rich Mexican and Spanish Churrigueresque decoration would be used, with influences from the Islamic and Persian styles in Moorish Revival architecture.

For American world’s fairs, this was a novelty. The design was intentionally in contrast to most previous Eastern U.S. and European expositions, which had been done in neoclassical and Beaux –Arts styles, with large formal buildings around large symmetric spaces.

Goodhue personally designed the largest and most ornate building on the site, the California Building, with its historical iconography; he sketched two other buildings, provided Winslow and Allen with his photographs and drawings from examples in Spain and Mexico, and reviewed their developed designs. The original ensemble of buildings featured various stylistic and period references. Taken together, they comprised something like a recapitulated history of Spanish colonial in North America, from Renaissance Europe sources, to Spanish colonial, to Mexican Baroque, to the vernacular styles adopted by the Franciscan missions up the California coast.

This mix of influences at San Diego proved popular enough to earn its own name: Spanish Colonial Revival.

The temporary installations, decoration, and landscapes of BalboaPark were created with some large spaces and numerous paths, small spaces, and courtyard Spanish gardens. The location was also moved from a small hillock to a larger and more open area, most of which was intended to be reclaimed by the park as gardens.

CabrilloCanyon (formerly known as PoundCanyon) forms a deep separation between the exposition site and the park entrance from downtown San Diego. The elegant CabrilloBridge was built to span the canyon, and the appearance of its long horizontal stretch ending in a great upright pile of fantasy buildings would be the crux of the whole composition. This design composition and the bridge were designed to remain as a permanent focal point of the city, while many of the exhibit buildings were intended to be temporary.

Upon arrival, the focus of the fair was the Plaza de California, an arcaded enclosure often containing Spanish dancers and singers, where both the approach bridge and El Prado terminate. The CaliforniaStateBuilding and the FineArtsBuilding framed the plaza, which was surrounded on three sides by exhibition halls set behind an arcade on the lower story. Those three sides, following the heavy massiveness and crude simplicity of the California mission adobe style, were without ornamentation. This contrasted with the front facade of the CaliforniaStateBuilding, ‘wild’ with Churrigueresque complex lines of mouldings and dense ornamentation. Next to the frontispiece, at one corner of the dome, rose the 200 feet (61 m) tower of the CaliforniaBuilding, which was echoed in the less prominent turrets of the Southern California counties and the Science and Education buildings. The style of the frontispiece was repeated around the fair.

There were three entrances to the Expo site, on the west, north, and east The East Gateway was approached by drive and trolley car winding up from the city through the southern portion of the Park. From the west, the long bridge’s entrance was marked with blooming giant century plants and led straight to the dramatic West Gate (or City Gate), with the city’s coat-of-arms at its crown. The archway was flanked by engaged Doric orders supporting an entablature, with figures symbolizing the Atlantic and Pacific oceans joining waters together, in commemoration of the opening of the Panama Canal. These figures were the work of Furio Piccirilli. While the west gateway was part of the Fine Arts Building, the east gateway was designed to be the formal entrance for the CaliforniaStateBuilding. The East or State Gateway carried the California state coat-of-arms over the arch. The spandrels over the arch were filled with glazed colored tile commemorating the 1769 arrival of Spain and the 1846 State Constitutional Convention at Monterey.

On December 31, 1914, President Woodrow Wilson ceremoniously pushed a button in Washington, D.C. to open the expo by turning on the power at the park. The fair was decorated with over two million plants of 1,200 different types. The event had been successful in attracting national attention. Even Pennsylvania’s Liberty Bell made a brief three-day appearance in November 1915. The attempt to «put San Diego on the map» was successful. The event’s original 1915 run was so well-attended that the fair was extended through 1916. Over the two years more than 3.7 million visitors were in attendance and a slight profit was earned over the total cost of organizing and hosting the expo.

The Exposition’s permanent buildings, still standing, include:

BotanicalBuilding, one of the largest lath -covered structures then in existence, contained a rare collection of tropical and semitropical plants;

CabrilloBridge (completed April 12, 1914);

California Bell Tower, completed 1914, 198 feet (60 m) feet tall to the top of the iron weathervane, which is in the form of a Spanish ship; one of the most recognizable sights in San Diego as «San Diego’s Icon»;

California state building, completed October 2, 1914, which now houses the San Diego Museum of Man;

Chapel of St. Francis of Assisi (south side of FineArtsBuilding); now the Saint Francis Chapel operated by the Museum of Man.

FineArtsBuilding (on south side of Plaza of California), now part of the Museum of Man.