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Historic Restoration in Our Own Backyard

October 29, 2021
Historic Restoration in Our Own Backyard

The House of Hospitality has long been a central feature in San Diego’s Balboa Park Historical District and is a registered National Landmark. Originally constructed in 1914 as a temporary structure for the 1915-1916 California Panama Exposition, it was again redesigned for the 1935 California Pacific Exposition and is the park’s most heavily ornamented building. This $13.4 million project completed in 1997 involved an historical replication of the 1935-period Spanish Colonial Revival style museum with courtyard.

Preserving History

Different from reconstruction, authentic replication is the re-creation of the original building by creating an exact match of original building components and by re-using as many original components as possible. Each building component and room was methodically and precisely measured, and each of the more than 4,000 historical features was extensively surveyed and photographically documented. Craftspeople capable of restoring, replicating and reconstructing the artistic elements within the building were selected for implementing the replication. Exterior plaster ornamentation was replicated through the use of cast molds and glass-fiber reinforced concrete (GFRC).

Project Scope

To meet current health and safety codes, the 67,300-square-foot, two-story wood structure was demolished and replaced with a structural frame consisting of cast-in-place concrete foundation walls with structural steel and steel decking. Subsequent work involved the building reconstruction and the addition of a subterranean basement. The project incorporated the use of original wood doors, windows and trim, imported window glass, decorative painting, and stenciling on doors and ceiling beams. Restoration also included a historic Persian carpet fountain, wishing wells, sculptures, bas-relief murals, china paint stenciling, rococo fountain, and reflection pool. The construction team took great pains to ensure accuracy in the replication, as consultants and artists were used to research, redesign, and implement such features as lighting fixtures, tiles, concrete features, beam restoration, canopies, and handrails. New paint and wood finishes were applied, and drywall, plumbing, HVAC, and electrical systems were installed. The project was completed on time and within budget, receiving accolades from the City of San Diego and awards from the industry for the excellence of effort. The House of Hospitality has received several awards, including the Associated General Contractors of America’s 1998 Build America Award for a Building Renovation Project; the California Preservation Foundation’s 1998 Historic Preservation Outstanding Achievement & Design Award; and the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s 1998 National Preservation Honor Award.

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