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Wednesday, February 20, 2013


The first of three North Park signs was installed in 1935 over the intersection of 30th and University.  The background on the first sign 
was black and the subsequent signs were green—all with white lettering.  If you look closely at the image you can catch a glimpse of the Ramona Theatre (left of white car), one of North Park’s vintage movie houses.  So what's going on in the photo:  Ford Motor Co. in 1935 went on a national tour holding parades in major cities celebrating the 2 millionth Ford to roll off its assembly line. 

Image is courtesy of the San Diego History Center in Balboa Park

DIDJAKNOW?—North Parker Shawn Shaw commented recently on a Pillar to Post trivia item and it got me thinking about other North Park minutiae.  Stuff that every historically minded hipster should know when bantering with the turistas.  Shawn pointed out that two icon architects (two centuries ago) designed the St. Luke’s Chapel at Gunn and 30th Street.  Who were they?  Answer: Irving Gill and William Sterling Hebbard in 1897 designed the chapel, but it wasn’t until 1924 that it was moved to its present location.

So who was Gunn Street named after?  Answer:  While many North Park streets going north and south started out being named after U.S. States, several streets going East and West were named for early 20th century mayors of San Diego such as: Douglas Gunn (1889-1991) and Edwin M. Capps (1899-1901 and 1915-1917).

How many versions of the North Park sign are there?  Answer: Three. Originally installed in 1935, it was taken down in 1949 when the streetcar wires were removed.  At that time it was redesigned and reinstalled.  The second version was taken down in 1967 for cleaning and never reinstalled.  The current North Park sign was installed in October, 1993.

There are a series of historic tablets sunk into the sidewalks around 30th and University—who wrote them?  Answer:  The late Don Covington was asked by community leaders to research and write the historical comments now in place.

Professor Don Covington
Who was Don Covington?  Answer: Donald Covington, a Professor of Design in the Art Department of San Diego State University, teaches courses in the history of architecture and design. He holds an M.A. degree in Art from the University of California, Los Angeles. A Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts, he has studied at the Attingham School, Shropshire, and the Study Centre of Fine and Decorative Arts, London. A member of the Editorial Board of the journal of Interior Design, he currently conducts research in the history of architecture, and the decorative arts.
For an article by Prof. Covington about early North Park master builders go to:

North Park Water Tower
When was the North Park water tower built?  Answer: 1924. Why was it built? Answer: The tank is more than 50 feet high and had a capacity for 1.2 million gallons of water. Sitting on 12 piers, the entire structure is more than 125 feet tall. The water tower was one of the essential building blocks of infrastructure that allowed the Greater North Park area, including University Heights and the development tracts south of University Avenue, to grow after World War I.  Does the tank still have water?  No.  Is it historic?  No, but several local historic groups are chasing down historic status for the tower.  What can you see from the top of the tank?  Answer: The Mission Beach roller coaster, of course.

Where was the Palisades Gardens Roller Rink located?  Answer: at the corner of University and Utah Streets (1946-1985).

What was the last sitting U.S. President to visit North Park?  Answer: John F. Kennedy in the spring of 1963.  He drove in a motorcade along El Cajon Blvd. to San Diego State, where he received an honorary degree and addressed San Diegans.

One architect designed the current Union Bank and Jack-in-the-Box on 30th Street, who was he? Answer: Russell Forester.

1940 Baseball Card
Before Mission Restaurant took over the building at 28th and University, what business was located there?  Answer Zumwalt’s Bicycle Shop.  Bob Zumwalt, Jr. won many national amateur bicycling events.  In 1954 he was the national Junior Spring champion.

When he was growing up what North Park street did Hall of Fame baseball great Ted Williams live on?  Answer: Polk Street, a block east of North Park Recreation Center.

Stern's Gym today
When Ted Williams flew fighter jets in the Korean War, he served in the same U.S. Marine Corps air unit with what U.S. Senator?
 Answer: Astronaut John Glenn.

Who was Leo Stern?   Answer: In 1948, he founded Stern’s Gym on Granada Avenue.  It is still in business and continues to bear his name.

What North Parker co-founded West Coaster craft beer mag and blog?  Answer:  Mike Shess in 2010 while still in college.  A lifelong North Parker, Mike was also circulation director of the North Park News at age 12.  West Coaster co-owner Ryan Lamb and Mike graduated from St. Augustine High School in 2005.

Is there an active gasoline pipeline running under North Park as we speak?  Answer: Yes. The North Park segment runs from the Embarcadero to the gasoline tank farm in Mission Hills via 28th Street and Utah Streets.

Smoke from south facing view of PSA jetliner
crash as seen from Mission Village
What date did PSA Flight 182 crash into North Park after colliding with a private plane?  Answer: September 25, 1978.  Because San Diego was in the midst of a Santa Ana wind condition many of the items that went up in the fireball re-landed west of the Dwight & Nile Sts. crash site.  Many residents as far as  28th Street and other streets found personal items from the victims on lawns and rooftops.  Karon Covington, who lived at 28th and Myrtle Street found several pharmacy vials on her lawn belonging to the tragic victims.   St. Augustine High School gym that day was commandeered by the City as a temporary morgue.

What famed San Diego architect designed the original St. Augustine High School in 1922 on Nutmeg Street?  Answer:  Richard Requa, AIA.

Name two North Park movie theatres?   Answer: North Park Theatre and the Ramona Theatre.  The Ramona theatre was located in the current vacate building on the northwest corner opposite Ray Street along University Ave.  Why did the Ramona Theatre close?  Answer: In the late 1950s during an evening intermission a large chandelier style light snapped a cable and fell into the aisle next to a ten-year-old movie-goer.   It closed soon after as a movie house.  And, I don’t mind telling you that chandelier falling right next to me scared the bee-jesus out of me!  My parents were given free passes to the next flick.  At that time tickets were two adults for 50 cents and kids free.  Thanks, a lot!

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