MCASD Downtown: The Gateway to the Panama-California Exposition of 1915


All images coutesy of the San Diego History Center

In the summer of 2016, MCASD will present the exhibitions John D. Spreckels and The Impossible Railroad and Pond Lily Over Mushroom Cloud: Byron Kim Adapts the Black on Black Cosmology of Maria Martinez to celebrate the Centennial of the Balboa Park 1915 Panama-California Exposition.

The Exposition served as San Diego’s celebratory response to being positioned as the first U.S. port for ships traveling north after passing through the recently opened Panama Canal. To attract the masses to the burgeoning city, Balboa Park—a formerly open space—was developed into a vast Mission Revival-style venue. These buildings were programmed with performances and exhibitis from various states, cities, and cultural groups. These elaborate structures form the iconic and beloved Balboa Park today.

Santa Fe Depot was the first San Diego experience for hundreds of thousands of Exposition attendees as they arrived from around the world. The train station was built in the same style as the buildings in Balboa Park, replacing an older Victorian structure that housed the 1845 station. MCASD’s downtown location (1100 Kettner Blvd.) is located in the former baggage claim building of Santa Fe Depot, sharing a roof with the historic train station that is still active today.