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Balboa Park: Lily Pond

Balboa Park: Lily Pond

Lily Pond


The Lily Pond in 1915
Several years before the Panama-California Exposition opened, Balboa Park was desert-like with hard soil and little to no vegetation. Sage, cactus, and chaparral dominated the scene. The groundbreaking ceremonies took place over four days, July 19-22, 1911, and between then and December 31, 1914, the entire Panama-California Exposition was created — buildings, bridges, gardens, and all. Like much of Balboa Park, the Lily Pond is a lasting legacy of that fair. Certainly, it is a favorite of visitors. An oblong pool, it enables onlookers to view beautiful images reflected in its waters. Bertram Goodhue appreciated the reflections and the plant life at the Lily Pond’s upper end, where lilies and lotus flowers are seen on the surface. The balustrade bridge separates the pond into two parts, a larger one at the southern end and a smaller one at the northern end.   DARLENE G. DAVIES

When Sailors Replaced Koi Fish

The Botanical Building’s Lily Pond is Balboa Park’s only sizable body of water. Few realize that it was a stand-in for the world’s oceans when the U.S. Navy trained in the park during WWI. The former exposition grounds became San Diegos first Naval Training Station in 1917. Recruits learned to row, sail, and swim in the shallow lagoon. Interestingly, it was Balboa Park’s lack of a large body of water that saved the 1915 exposition buildings. If the Navy had stayed, the temporary buildings would have been replaced by new training structures. Thankfully the Navy created a permanent Naval Training Center in Point Loma in 1923, complete with a boat channel.   DAVID MARSHALL, AIA

The Squirt Gun Debacle of 2012
A squirt-gun flash mob trashed Balboa Park’s Lily Pond around midnight Sunday, August 12, 2012, leaving evidence at the scene. Water guns and pieces of exploded balloons lay strewn about the area. Reportedly, there were also empty bottles and flip-flops. The south end of the pond sustained heavy damage. A Park and Recreation crew came upon the scene of wrecked lily boxes and trampled plants in the early morning hours, leading to widespread public outrage. Balboa Park is proudly referred to as the Jewel of San Diego and the lack of respect for the Lily Pond was a strike at the heart of that jewel. Citizens stepped forward to help with the restoration. Using materials donated by Lowe, volunteers, including the Friends of Balboa Park and Girl Scouts, worked with Park and Recreation staff to repair the lily boxes to return the Lily Pond to its former pristine state. Altogether, 27 new lily boxes were constructed, into which the staff transplanted lily and lotus plants. The concrete coping and sidewalls were repaired, and the drain pipe was relocated and upgraded. During construction, the aquatic life was also temporarily relocated for safety.   DARLENE G. DAVIES

Historical 1915 Postcard: Courtesy of Darlene G. Davies | Naval Training Postcards: Courtesy of David Marshall, AIA | Lily Pond Restoration: Photo by Marlene Williams




The Great Panama-California Exposition

1915 Panama California Exposition

Plaza de Panama

Spreckels Outdoor Organ Pavilion

Gardens of the Panama-California Exposition

Legacy of the Foreign Arts Building

Botanical Building

Preserving the Past

Tales of the 1915 Exposition

Japanese Teahouse & Garden

Return of the Electriquette

The Painted Desert

Panama-California Sculpture Court

The Isthmus

New Mexico State Building

Commerce and Industries Building

Tales of the Panama-California Exposition

The Legacy of the Panama-California Exposition



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