California Pacific Exposition

The California Pacific International Exposition

Balboa Park was revived and expanded to host the 1935–1936 California Pacific International Exposition. The purpose of the Exhibition was to lift the spirits of the San Diegans disheartened by the conditions of the Great Depression. Local Richard S. Requa was hired as the master architect to reconfigure the design and oversee the construction of many new buildings, such as the Ford Building and the Old Globe Theater.

Portrait of Richard Requa (From the San Diego History Archive, http://www.sandiegohistory.org/journal/85fall/images/p283a.jpg).
Portrait of Richard Requa (From the San Diego History Archive, http://www.sandiegohistory.org/journal/85fall/images/p283a.jpg).

Requa encouraged the City Council and the Chamber of Commerce to restore the buildings from the 1915–1916 Exposition instead of demolishing the structures. Requa worked with renowned Hollywood artist–designer Juan Larrinaga to restore the old exposition buildings and design new buildings. Prior to the Exhibition, Larrinaga gained fame for his artistic designs and effects in the movie King Kong. He undertook several ambitious projects for the 1935–1936 Exposition, including the March of Transportation mural, a 20' by 450' painting that depicts all forms of human transportation from cavemen to spacecraft, which is currently in SDASM.

March of Transportation (Property of SDASM).
March of Transportation (Property of SDASM).

Requa wanted to imitate styles used during the Spanish period in the Americas, as well as Indian architecture found in southwest United States and Central America. Requa's focus was on the development of the Pan–American Plaza, which is the area the San Diego Air & Space Museum occupies today.

Aerial photograph of the Pan–American Plaza (Property of the Library & Archives, SDASM).
Aerial photograph of the Pan–American Plaza (Property of the Library & Archives, SDASM).

Many new structures were added to the Park, including the famous Old Globe Shakespearean Theater and a Spanish plaza with small houses that turned into the current House of Pacific Relations, International Cottages.

Spanish Village (Marshall, David
Spanish Village (Marshall, David "San Diego's Balboa Park," Postcard History Series).
Old Globe Theater (Marshall, David
Old Globe Theater (Marshall, David "San Diego's Balboa Park," Postcard History Series).

President Franklin D. Roosevelt commenced the opening of the Exposition with a gold telegraph key from the White House in May, and personally visited the Park in October of 1935. The 1935–1936 Exposition enjoyed a turnout of about seven million visitors, and one of the Exposition's newest and most popular attractions was the Ford Building.

San Diego Air & Space Museum

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