Museum of Man’s California Tower Opens for Tours January 1


The iconic California Tower is officially opening for tours starting on January 1, 2015. The tower was built in 1915 to mark the entry to the Panama-California Exposition in Balboa Park and has since become a staple in San Diego’s historical and cultural narrative. The reason for its closing in 1935 is still a bit murky, though the museum has been in talks to reopen the tower for decades – and now, just in time for the centennial celebration of the great 1915 Expo, the tower will officially open to the public.

Blending Gothic Influence with Spanish Inspiration

california towerThe Tower was designed in the early 1900s by architect Bertram Goodhue as something of a style cocktail: Plateresque, Baroque, Churrigueresque, and Rococo fused beautifully to create a revolutionary Spanish-Colonial hybrid. The architecture is distinctly Gothic, with subtle hints of the more ornate Spanish-style churches you’ll find in Mexico. The California Building, which is directly attached to the Tower, initially served as a spectacular entry to the 1915 Exposition; both buildings are included in what is now known as The Quadrangle (in addition to Evernham Hall and the St. Francis Chapel on the south side). A large open space, the Plaza de California, lies between them and is linked by cloistered passageways and beautifully arched gateways.

The Panama-California Exposition

The Panama-California Exposition was an exhibition held in San Diego between January 1, 1915, and January 1, 1917 that celebrated the opening of the Panama Canal and was meant to celebrate San Diego as the first U.S. port of call for ships passing westward through the canal. The fair was held throughout Balboa Park, and in preparation for the festivities, several permanent additions to the park were constructed – the Cabrillo Bridge, California Building & Tower, and the Fine Arts Building, the latter of which are now protected and named on the National Register of Historic Places.

SEE ALSO: The Stories Behind 4 Historical Landmarks in La Jolla

The State of California paid a whopping $250,000 to build the California Building and Tower for the 1915 Exposition. The Building was home to the Expo’s main exhibit, an anthropological display titled “The Story of Man Through the Ages” that laid the foundation for something we all know and love currently – after the Expo ended, that particularly exhibit remained on display and eventually expanded to become what is today known as the San Diego Museum of Man.

california tower

View looking east from the California Tower during the Panama-California Exposition.

Touring the Tower in 2015

Beginning on January 1, the museum is planning on conducting 10 tours a day, starting at 10 a.m. and lasting about 45 minutes each. The tours will have a maximum of 12 visitors, and due to the somewhat steep ascent inside (a 125 stair climb), all visitors will have to sign a liability waver before heading up the eight stories. Tour guides will offer commentary on and answer questions regarding the tower and the park’s history during the ascent to the tower’s eighth floor, where visitors will have 10-15 minutes to absorb one of the best views in San Diego – panoramas from Mexico all the way to the Pacific Ocean.

If you are unable to make the climb (sorry no elevator is available), the museum will provide access to an “equivalent facilitation experience,” which features an 80-inch, viewer-controlled HD screen linked to cameras on the tower. Tickets for general admission are $22.50 which includes access to the Museum of Man; members $10; children 6-12 $16; senior (62+) and military $20. To schedule a tour please click here.

What do you think of the Tower’s reopening? Will you be making a reservation on a guided tour?

[source:,] [images:,,]

The following two tabs change content below.
Your go-to resource for everything La Jolla - in print & online.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *