“Wanted: A Drive Through the Park”

That was the headline of an item on page 3 of the San Diego Union on November 1, 1871. The park they were talking about was what we today call Balboa Park. However, it was then known as “City Park” and had been set aside as a park just a few years earlier. But it was already a popular place that people wanted to visit and enjoy, and drive through. This piece offers some historical perspective on the evolution of transportation, not to mention the evolution of road construction bonds:

“Several of our citizens who own horses and buggies suggest the propriety of opening a “drive” through the park. Certainly there is no finer piece of ground for this purpose in Southern California, and the expense of making suitable roads for fast (or slow) teams would be trifling. Two or three hundred dollars would add wonderfully in the attractiveness of our Park reserve in this respect. We hope the city fathers will take counsel together on this subject. We have a big Park, and by all means let the people have the benefit of it.”

It would be into the 1890s before some roads were built to better allow citizen enjoyment of the park. In 1910 the park would get a new name in honor of the planned Panama California Exposition commemorating the completion of the Panama Canal. That exposition, which opened in 1915, also created the buildings that helped make Balboa Park the civic gem it continues to be.

Sources for this post included historic San Diego newspapers and The Journal of San Diego History.

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