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Balboa Park Facilities S-Z

San Diego Natural History Museum

The permanent home since 1933 of one of the oldest scientific institutions in the western United States, the San Diego Society of Natural History recently celebrated its 125th anniversary of collecting and displaying artifacts gathered across a vast spectrum of both time and geography. The museum interprets the natural history of an area from the tip of Baja California to Point Conception, from the dawn of time to the present day. This William Templeton Johnson-designed building has undergone a massive renovation which has enlarged the facility as well as added new amenities. The San Diego Natural History Museum now includes a greatly enhanced exhibit space, classrooms, a large format movie theater; and a spectacular glass-walled atrium.

San Diego Zoo (Entrance)

The world-famous San Diego Zoo was the inspiration of Dr. Harry Wegeforth, a surgeon at the 1915 Panama-California Exposition. Hearing the roar of a lion left behind by one of the fair's exhibitors, he gathered up various other members of the abandoned menagerie, and spearheaded a drive to create a zoological garden. The zoo's architecture, in particular the elimination of the traditional iron-barred cages, influenced zoo design throughout the world. The zoo also instituted the practice of performing necropsies on all deceased animals in their care, thus pioneering the new field of zoological pathology. This early scientific research led to the current cutting-edge endeavors such as the Center for Reproduction of Endangered Species which seeks to reverse the alarming trend of species extinction throughout the globe. Not commonly known is the fact that within Zoo's 150-plus acres of land exists a horticultural treasure of incalculable value and unsurpassed beauty. This fully accredited botanical garden is home to numerous species of endangered plants which are being saved along with the animals. Officially owned by the City of San Diego, the property is managed by the Zoological Society of San Diego, which has the largest membership of any such group in the world.

Sefton Plaza

Photo of Kate Sessions Statue

Located near the west entrance to the park, Sefton Plaza is host to a statue of Kate Sessions, a world-recognized horticulturalist who introduced many of the plant species currently in Balboa Park. Across from this statue is Founder's Plaza, which is home to sculptures of Alonzo Horton, George Marston and Ephraim Morse, who were also instrumental in the creation of Balboa Park.

Spanish Village Art Center

Built to house shops and restaurants during the second exposition, the Spanish Village Art Center was one of the few areas of the Park taken over by the Army, rather than the Navy, during World War II. Today these buildings are home to more than 30 artists' ateliers. On many weekends, ancillary members of the Spanish Village Artist's Guild display their artwork in the open-air plaza located at the center of the studio spaces.

Spreckels Organ Pavilion

The Spreckels Organ Pavilion is available for special events.

Starlight Bowl

Originally dubbed the Ford Bowl because of the auto manufacturer's sponsorship of groups such as the Mormon Tabernacle Choir and the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra at the venue, a 4,300-seat open-air amphitheater is now known as the Starlight Bowl. The Starlight Musical Theatre currently provides summer productions which feature a unique twist, never imagined in Stanislavsky's method classes. Actors must periodically freeze in mid-action, while planes fly into Lindbergh Field, resuming after the noise has abated.

Timken Museum of Art

Designed by architect Frank Hope Jr., in a style decidedly not Spanish Colonial Revival, this sometimes overlooked jewel box contains a small, but outstanding collection of Old Master Painting from the Spanish, French, Venetian and Flemish schools. An extensive collection of gold leaf on board Russian Icons and several outstanding American landscape paintings also grace the collection. The Timken Museum of Art has recently increased its educational outreach programs and has presented a variety of joint exhibitions with other local art institutions.

United Nations Building

Originally the headquarters for the Christian Science Monitor exhibit during the second exposition, this building has been the headquarters for the United Nations Association of San Diego since 1960. Inside the UN Building are several colorful murals created by artists Claudia Fernety and Lydia Richez Boman along with an international gift shop featuring items from around the world. It also contains the Eleanor Roosevelt Global Classroom where programs and seminars are routinely conducted.

Veterans Museum and Memorial Center

Photo of Veterans Memorial Center and Museum

Occupying the former chapel of the old Naval Hospital Complex, this multipurpose facility provides programs and presents displays featuring all branches of the American armed services. The building also provides meeting space for a variety of veterans groups of auxiliaries. Located just to the east of Veterans Museum and Memorial Center is the Vietnam Veterans Peace Memorial, which was relocated to this site from Old Town San Diego in the 1990s.

War Memorial Building

The War Memorial Building is available for special events.

West Gate

Considered the "Gateway to Balboa Park," the two reclining figures represent the Atlantic and Pacific oceans and the decoration of the arch commemorates the linkage of the two oceans by the completion of the Panama Canal.

WorldBeat Cultural Center

Originally an auxiliary water tank constructed during World War II for the Naval Hospital, the World Beat Center like the adjacent Centro Cultural de la Raza, has been reconfigured in order to present visual and performing arts programs. This Cultural Center is dedicated to African music, arts, dance, sculpture and education representative of the variety of different cultures present among the multitude of African nations.

Zoro Garden

The Zoro Garden is available for special events.

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