Over the next year downtown San Diego’s bustling Gaslamp Quarter will be celebrating a milestone: it’s 150th anniversary.
The historic heart of downtown San Diego – which spans about 16 blocks, from Broadway to Harbor Drive, and 4th to 6th avenues – was first successfully developed in 1867 by Alonzo Horton. Two years later, Horton built a wharf at the end of 5th Avenue, making this the backbone of his city. The rest, as they say, is history.
On Wednesday, the Gaslamp Quarter Association – along with San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer and other city leaders – gathered to launch what will be a year-long celebration of the settling of Horton’s “New Town.”
On behalf of the City of San Diego, Faulconer officially proclaimed May 24 as the 150th anniversary of the Gaslamp Quarter.
The Gaslamp Quarter Association said the milestone will be marked with a lineup of events over the next several months.
This includes the “Rabbitville” public art installation: six fiberglass rabbit sculptures adorned by local artists and exhibited around San Diego. The name of the exhibit is a nod to William Heath Davis, the man who tried to develop the downtown land before Horton in 1850, but couldn’t quite make it happen. Davis’ town eventually became known as “Rabbitville,” for its principal inhabitants.
“When others saw Gaslamp as a place only for rabbits, Alonzo Horton had the courage and vision to forge ahead, creating the beginnings of one of San Diego’s most vibrant communities,” Kris Michell, President/CEO of Downtown San Diego Partnership said in a press release. “After 150 years, the Gaslamp remains central to San Diego’s identity and his innovative spirit continues to inspire.”
Eventually, the art installation will boast a total of 15 rabbits.
Other upcoming anniversary events include this Saturday’s free Gaslamp Jazz Concert featuring George Ferres and other musicians, happening from 2 p.m. to 7 p.m., and the June 3 San Diego County Fair Cattle Drive, which will bring 300 cattle, 15 cowboys and three dogs herded through the Gaslamp Quarter.
On June 17, the Taste of Gaslamp foodie event (1 p.m. to 4 p.m.) will showcase more than 25 restaurants in the community. On Aug. 24, the Pendry hotel will host the Gaslamp’s 150th anniversary party.
There’s also holding an ongoing cocktail contest in which local mixologists are competing to develop the Gaslamp’s signature 150th anniversary cocktail, to be dubbed the “Dusty Rabbit.” Via engagement on social media and votes, the best cocktail will eventually be chosen.
In honor of the anniversary, the Gaslamp will also offer a $5 flat-rate parking deal Sunday through Thursday, from 6 p.m. to 3 a.m., at the 6th & K Parkade (289 6th Ave.).
San Diego District 3 City Councilman Chris Ward said this anniversary will help highlight just how far downtown’s hub has come.
“You can find the story of San Diego's long history in the Gaslamp, from our earliest aspirations to our emergence as a major city and our vision for bold success into the future,” said Ward. “I hope everyone will join us for the Gaslamp's 150th Anniversary celebration to learn about the journey that's shaped our city and enjoy everything that goes into making the Gaslamp such a special part of San Diego.”
Joe Terzi, of the San Diego Tourism Authority, said the Gaslamp Quarter is considered the gateway for the 8 to 10 million visitors who come to San Diego each year.
Today, the Gaslamp Quarter is home to more than 180 restaurants, bars and clubs.
“It really is the epicenter of San Diego’s nightlife,” Terzi said. “On top of that, the neighborhood has a rich history, Victorian architecture, art galleries and more, so there’s something for everyone.”
If you’re looking for the center of the Gaslamp Quarter, your best bet is to find the big arch sign lined with light fixtures and located at the end of the 200 block of 5th Avenue, across from the San Diego Convention Center. The archway was officially completed and dedicated in 1991, meant to serve as a symbol of the successful redevelopment of the Gaslamp Quarter.