Saturday, March 7, 2009

San Diego 1916: The Panama-California International Exposition

During the final months of 1915, a decision was made to continue the Panama-California Exposition for a second year. Prior to the closing of San Francisco's Panama-Pacific International Exposition, on December 4th, plans were finalized to transfer many of the international exhibits to San Diego. The World War made it difficult to return a majority of European exhibits to their home countries, and the exposition in San Diego provided a temporary safe-haven for these displays, a number of which were art treasures. The first 2-1/2 months of 1916 were spent extensively re-arranging building interiors to accommodate the new exhibits, and the completely revised Panama-California International Exposition was dedicated on March 18th. The California State Building, being of permanent fire-proof construction, was utilized for the valuable art exhibits from France and Luxembourg; and many of the building's archaeological exhibits were relocated to the nearby Science and Education Building. The Indian Arts Building was re-named the Russia and Brazil Building, and contained the displays from those two countries. U.S. Forestry, Army, and Navy exhibits were placed in the former Sacramento Valley Counties Building, re-named the United States Government Building; and the adjacent Home Economy Building became the Pan-Pacific Building, and housed displays from Hawaii, New Zealand, Australia, Alaska, and the Philippine Islands. The former Foreign and Domestic Arts Building was re-named the Foreign Arts Building, and contained the exhibits of Germany, Italy, Spain, Greece, India, Persia, Turkey, Egypt, and Japan. The spacious Commerce and Industries Building was cleared of its many domestic exhibits, and transformed into the Canadian Building; one feature of which was a flowing mountain stream stocked with fish and live beaver. Across from the Canadian Building, the former Varied Industries and Food Products Building became the Foreign and Domestic Industries Building, and contained displays from Holland, Switzerland, and several Central American countries, in addition to numerous exhibits from United States manufacturers. The Kansas State Building was converted into an educational center for the Theosophical Institute; and a new Spanish-Colonial style structure was built near the entrance to "The Isthmus", to house the United States Fisheries Exhibit. The former Open-Air Theatre and Tractor Exhibit Building, located at the north end of the Alameda, were replaced with an automobile exhibit and demonstration course; and the Nevada State Building became the U.S. Agricultural and Horticultural Building. Decorative fringed-arches were added along the length of "The Isthmus", in addition to several new attractions such as "Elizabeth - The Living Doll" (a midget), Grizzly Gulch (a revised version of the Forty-Nine Camp), Sultan's Harem (a risqué belly-dancing attraction), "Captain" (an educated horse), Alligator Farm (featuring live alligators), Ice Skating Rink (in the former Alhambra Cafeteria building), and the Exposition Zoo (a menagerie of caged wild-animals; which soon became the nucleus of the future San Diego Zoo, formed in late 1916).

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