San Diego

Friends of Balboa Park Restore Park’s Historic ‘Gate Houses’

The two small structures, now restored to their 1915 glory, stand on the west side of the Cabrillo Bridge

After an 18-month restoration project, a couple of small structures that have stood at San Diego’s Balboa Park for more than a century have now been returned to their original glory.

The historic structures – known as the park’s “gate houses” – are each located on both sides of El Prado, as visitors approach the Cabrillo Bridge at the intersection of El Prado and Balboa Drive.

The gate houses were installed 102 years ago – meant to serve as ticket booths for the 1915 Panama-California World Exposition, and designed to welcome visitors into Balboa Park. At the time, they flanked a grand entryway that also included a gate.

After the year-long exposition, the gate was removed but the small structures were left in place. As decades passed, they fell into disrepair.

In 2014, Friends of Balboa Park – a nonprofit organization that helps preserve Balboa Park for future generations – took on the project to help restore the gate houses. The City of San Diego Park and Recreation Department partnered on the project, and the efforts were led by board member Jim Hughes, who saw the project through from beginning to end.

After 18 months, the gate houses were completed in December 2016. On Wednesday, the official ribbon cutting ceremony took place.

“The gate houses have been restored to their original splendor from the 1915 Exposition, thanks to donors, volunteers and local preservation experts,” Friends of Balboa Park Executive Director John Bolthouse said. “Beautiful structures now welcome visitors to the west end of the park, just as was intended more than a century ago.”

Bolthouse said the work falls in line with Friends of Balboa Park’s continued mission to work with the City of San Diego to “help maintain the ‘Jewel of San Diego’ for people from around the world to enjoy.”

According to the nonprofit, the project cost approximately $140,000.

Friends of Balboa Park funds these types of initiatives through donations and park programs. Since 1999, the group – comprised of philanthropists, community leaders and San Diegans – has spearheaded projects like the restoration of Balboa Park’s iconic lily pond, bench tributes, tree dedications and information kiosks.

To learn about other projects in the works, click here.

Learn more about the the beautiful trees at the Japanese Friendship Garden.
Contact Us