|The bandstand across from the Horton House Hotel, Circa 1872.|
HORTON’S NEW WHO--Alonzo Horton, pioneer developer of the New San Diego and emperor of all things possible, left a small plot of his land across the street from his 1870-built Horton House Hotel as an unofficial gathering spot for San Diegans. The dusty plot shown here circa 1872 is reported to be a gathering place for interested citizens, who surrounded the small bandstand while awaiting news of various railroad projects that were pending legislative approval.
Often at these meetings, the band might have played the hits of the day like “The Daring Young Man on the Flying Trapeze” or the jaunty-less “Silver Threads Among the Gray.” It is believed this photo was taken in the early to mid 1870s as a newspaper article pointed out a white picket fence surrounded the bandstand hedge in the late 1870s. No fence is evident in this photo.
|Artist Joe Cordelle's rendering of new Horton Plaza|
In August 1895, Horton turned over the bandstand located on D Street (now Broadway) between third and fourth avenues over to the City in order that a more fitting park be constructed. But it wasn’t until May 1909 that architect Irving Gill’s Horton Plaza Park and Fountain was actually completed. The new park was in place when architect Harrison Albright’s U.S. Grant Hotel was dedicated across the street in the Fall of 1910.
By mid-20th century, pawnshops, tawdry theatres and more bars than the local jail surrounded Gill’s pocket park and fountain. It wasn’t until 1985 when architect Jon Jerde’s brilliant Horton Plaza Shopping Center was unveiled that the park had a new burst of attention. Even then, the colorful shopping plaza easily overshadowed the park because Gill’s fountain and park hit the skids after the millennium when the fountain’s water was shut off and the fountain was fenced off while grass and benches were removed to deter loiterers.
|Completion set for 2014|
But hope springs eternal. Just before the recent holidays, the City and Westfield Group, owners of the shopping mall, acted on a 2011 agreement to improve the Horton Park area by bulldozing the dormant Robinson’s Department store and devote the cleared land to construct a $14 million 1.4-acre public plaza incorporating the old fountain.
Set your crystal ball for early 2014, when the jazzy new Horton Plaza will be relustered as Westfield promises to stage upwards of 200 holiday events, concerts, urban fests a year.
Additional research by Cole Christy, San Diego Home/Garden Lifestyles intern.