Tuesday, September 4, 2012

The Ford Exposition Building ... a Balboa Park Treasure

I was born on the south side of the tracks...in fact, in a paper bag, in the middle of Highway 395. Well, not really, but Highway 395 does run past what this post is about. The Ford Building in San Diego's Balboa Park, now known as the home of the Air and Space Museum.

The Ford Building was originally built for the Ford Motor Company, one of a few buildings built around the country to showcase their cars, this one was built for San Diego's California Pacific  International Exposition held during 1935 and 1936. Throughout the Exposition, Ford was assembling automobiles along the outer rings and used the courtyard area as a showroom to display the latest models. The newly assembled vehicles were rolled out the large doors on the west side. There was also a test track called "Roads To The Pacific" set up down the hill behind the building which overlooks Highway 395 where visitors could take one of the latest models for a test drive.

Streamlined Moderne architectural style of the 1930s. Of the five exposition buildings built specifically for the Ford Motor Company, the San Diego site is the last remaining and perhaps the only important exposition building of that style in the nation.

In the interior of the building the wall of the outer ring has a mural painted by, Blackburn, Blane, and Reveles depicting the history of transportation from the times of hunters and gatherers through 1935. The last panel of the mural can still be seen where the artists depicted their vision of the future of transportation. Being a local San Diegan and visiting the San Diego Automotive Museum, which is located next to the Ford Building, the thought hearkens back to the days when people came to see and hear the latest in Fords V-8 machinery 

The Ford Building after completion, note the test drive road in the upper left.

The interior courtyard had a fountain to highlight their V-8 Flathead engine.

The latest models on display in the courtyard along with the lights which are shaped like valves.

The front of the Ford Tower. The Ford exhibit had over 2.5 million visitors.

Ford Tower under construction. Richard Requa, was the noted architect.

The "Starlight Bowl" sits in the foreground, built to seat 4,300.

Construction of the "Starlight" and Ford Building, both still remain.

How they built back in the day.

Inside the front doors offered displays of transportion.

"Roads Of The Pacific" test drive.

Map as it looks today. Only a 600 ft. portion of the "Test Drive" remains.

Thanks to one of my blogging buddies, Mike Satterfield at Morgan's and Phillip's Speed Apparel for bringing this to my attention. They have a very cool blog, here.

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  1. Great article John. My wife and I just explored all around there on our mountain bikes. I didn't realize at the time we rode what remains of the "roads of the Pacific"! Cheers, Leigh

  2. The architect was Walter Dorwin Teague though, one of the nation’s greatest industrial designers.