The North Park Historical Society (NPHS) gives guided walking tours “on demand” of different parts of North Park. Note that tours of the residential historic districts are exteriors only. We do not go inside any homes and do not have access to any public restrooms during the tour except for the Morley Field tour. Some tours have a minimal fee. There is no set fee for the Morley Field tour but donations are accepted. Current tours include:
Burlingame Historic District: Initially designated as a Historic District by the City’s Historical Resources Board (HRB) in 2002, Burlingame has 170 homes. About 90% of those homes were built during the District’s 1912 to 1952 period of significance and contribute to its historic character. The Tract was subdivided in 1912 and is located several blocks east of Balboa Park, adjacent to the recently extended streetcar service on 30th Street. 34 lots were sold during the first weekend that lots were on the market in January 1912; 28 homes were completed by the end of the 2012. One of the houses completed in 1913 was built for Dr. Harry Wegeforth, a founder of the San Diego Zoo. William Wheeler, designer of several buildings in the 1915 Balboa Park Exposition, was the architect of three early homes in the District.
North Park Dryden Historic District: This tour encompasses a neighborhood of 136 homes, of which 104 are considered to contribute to this Historic District that is located immediately north of Balboa Park. The 7-block District was designated historic by the HRB in 2011. Master builder David Owen Dryden designed and built 20 Craftsman style homes in the district. Master builder Edward F. Bryans designed and built 12 homes in the District and more than 150 homes and apartment buildings in San Diego. Early residents of the neighborhood included business leaders in North Park, as well as businessmen who commuted into downtown San Diego by streetcar or by car on Pershing Drive, once it was paved in 1923.
Morley Field: Balboa Park was dedicated as a 1,400-acre city park in 1886, with its northeastern section identified as a recreation area in a 1920s park master plan. The athletic facility was named for John Morley, superintendent of City Parks from 1911 through 1938. He was responsible for the development of the initial Master Plan, as well as much of the planning for 1915 and 1935 Expositions. The original athletic facilities were dedicated on January 1, 1933 and were financed using local depression-era bonds. The pool house was designed by H. Louis Bodmer who held California State architectural license #68, granted in 1931. The more recent tennis stadium is named for Maureen Connolly Brinker, an internationally known tennis champion who grew up in North Park.
Commercial Core: Beginning in 1911, North Park’s commercial district focused at the corner of 30th Street and University Avenue, where two streetcar lines connecting into downtown San Diego crossed. At the “Busy Corner,” the District’s founding family built the 3-story Stevens and Hartley building in 1912. A large pharmacy was located on the first floor for several decades, initially with a counter that served as the community’s post office. The commercial district grew as North Park’s commercial center from the 1920s until WWII, with the construction of the North Park Theater in 1928 and the Art Deco style Masonic Temple in 1931. Numerous commercial buildings from this period survive. Following the war, the area became one of San Diego’s first regional centers outside of downtown San Diego. The multi-floor JC Penney Store (now a Target) and a Woolworth Store were built in a modern architectural style during this period.
Hamilton Street at University: The neighborhood around University Avenue and Hamilton Street became a major streetcar suburb in the 1920s. The transit stop attracted multi-story mixed-use commercial, office and residential buildings. Several early bungalow courts are located on adjacent streets. Even after streetcar service was terminated in 1949, garden apartments and simple apartment complexes were added to the residential housing mix. The tour identifies the mix of uses in streetcar suburbs and the changes made in the post WWII period.
Pauly’s Addition: Located north of Balboa Park, this 80-acre tract was subdivided in 1873, but the first house was not built until 1908 when streetcars served the area and water service was expanded. Development started at the northern blocks of the tract, closest to the streetcar line. Houses closer to the Park were built beginning in the mid-1920s, with the neighborhood nearly built out before WWII. Following the war, most blocks were zoned for apartments and a significant amount of redevelopment occurred. Many of the historic homes remain, particularly in the southern blocks. Pauly’s Addition is not proposed as a historic district, but its homes have a range of architectural styles and several blocks on the tour are nearly unchanged from before the depression.
NPHS would be pleased to conduct a tour for your private group or educational group upon request. Contact NPHS at 619-294-8990 or firstname.lastname@example.org for more information on setting up a tour.