Friday, December 3, 2010

Gaslamp Quarter Architecture

We are becoming pretty knowledgeable about using the trolley to get to many of the major attractions in San Diego. Our most recent excursion took us to the Gaslamp Quarter.

The historic Quarter extends from Broadway to Harbor Drive, and from 4th to 6th Avenue, covering 16½ blocks. It includes 94 historic buildings, most of which were constructed in the Victorian Era. Many of these buildings are still in use with active tenants including restaurants, shops and nightclubs.

The Quarter traces its history back to 1850 when William Heath Davis bought 160 acres of land in what would eventually become the Gaslamp District.

However, development of the area did not begin until the 1860s, when Alonzo Horton purchased 800 acres of land for $265 in "New Town" (in contrast to Old Town, which was the original Spanish colonial settlement of San Diego).

The development was followed by a period of saloons, gambling halls, and bordellos (1880s to 1900s) and an eventual decaying district known as a "Sailor's Entertainment" district with a high concen-tration of porno-graphic theaters, bookshops and massage parlors (1950s-1970s).

In 1901, about 13 years after its construction, the offices of the Yuma Building (left) were converted into sleeping rooms and was known as a brothel. It has the dubious distinction of being the first to be closed down during the City's efforts to "clean up" the Stingaree District in 1915.

The 1970s marked the start of the public interest in preserving buildings downtown, especially in the Gaslamp Quarter.

In 1976, the city adopted the Gaslamp Quarter Urban Design and Develop-ment Manual, aimed at preserving buildings in the area, and the redevelopment of Gaslamp Quarter as a national historic district began.

Our walk through the Gaslamp Quarter revealed the results of downtown redeve-lopment projects that began in 1982.

Architectural details caught our attention in building after building. The buildings have beautiful details, like stained glass windows, corbels, moldings, carvings, casements, columns, railings, etc. and are painted with vibrant colors.

The Louis Bank of Commerce (right) was an example of many of these details. The 1888 Bank Building, named for Isador Louis, an enterprising German who rose from cobbler to capitalist, was the first granite building in San Diego. In 1893, Louis opened an oyster bar that became a favorite haunt of Wyatt Earp.

The juxtaposition of the old and new architecture was interesting. The tall, sleek modern buildings seemed much less interesting.

Ingrid Croce, widow of music legend Jim Croce, first opened a restau-rant on the ground floor of the Keating Building in the mid-1970's. She later changed the name to Croce's and expanded the operation to include most of the ground floor.

The mural on the facade of a hostel introduced a bit of modern day art into the historic architecture of the Quarter.

San Diego's oldest Victorian hotel, originally called the Grand Hotel, was renamed the Hotel Horton in 1907. In 1981 the Horton and the nearby Kahle Saddlery hotels were slated for demolition to make way for the Horton Plaza Shopping Mall. There was a public outcry, and the two old buildings were disassembled, moved to the new location and completely restored. In 1986, in time for their 100th birthday, the two reopened side-by-side as one magnificent hotel.

It has been called Rabbitville. Flea Town. New Town San Diego. Davis' Folly. Stingaree. Chinatown. S.O.B. (South of Broadway). Finally, and fortunately, The Gaslamp Quarter.

No comments: