Sunday, February 8, 2009

San Diego 1915: Plaza de Panama.....

The Plaza de Panama was the center of the Panama-California Exposition's daily activities and entertainment, and was designed after the manner of the central town plazas found throughout Spain and Mexico. The large asphalt-paved space was bisected by El Prado, and opened on the south side to the Esplanade and the Plaza de los Estados. Surrounded by buildings on its three other sides, the Plaza de Panama was flanked on the west by the Science and Education and Indian Arts Buildings; and on the east by the Home Economy and Foreign and Domestic Arts Buildings. At the plaza's north end was located the Sacramento Valley Counties Building, fronted by a broad flight of stairs and two tall flagstaffs. Heavy wooden benches, backed by Blackwood acacia trees and ornate bronze-green light-standards, lined the curbs; and ornate entrance pavilions gave access to the arcades surrounding the plaza. The main attraction of the Plaza de Panama were the hundreds of tame pigeons, which could be hand-fed with bird-seed sold by Spanish-garbed vendors; and visitors could also pose for postcard photographs, seated in a Electriquette, surrounded by pigeons. The woven-wicker Electriquettes were battery-powered electric vehicles, which could be rented by the hour, enabling visitors to ride in comfort around the exposition grounds. Also wandering the plaza were various entertainers and minstrels. The Exposition Band gave daily performances on the steps of the Sacramento Valley Counties Building, and a large colorfully-dressed group of Spanish troubadours performed throughout the plaza with song and dance. Colorful canvas hangings were placed on the balconies surrounding the plaza; and a decorative blue & yellow striped canvas awning was occasionally raised over the steps of the Sacramento Valley Counties Building for special performances. The famous Liberty Bell was also displayed for three days in the Plaza de Panama, during November of 1915, on its return trip to Philadelphia from the Panama-Pacific International Exposition in San Francisco.

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