Thursday, May 31, 2012

Traveling Thursdays: Old Town in San Diego

Before you think that Disneyland has expanded Frontierland, I should tell you that these photos are from Old Town in San Diego. Considered the “birthplace” of California, it was established at the base of a hill in 1820’s as a small Mexican community of adobe buildings. In 1968, the State of California Department of Parks and Recreation established Old Town State Historic Park to preserve the history of the 1821—1872 period. The park includes a main plaza, exhibits, museums, and living history demonstrations. On September 3, 1971, it was added to the National Register of Historic Places as Old Town San Diego Historic District.

Historic buildings include La Casa de Estudillo, La Casa de Bandini, La Casa de Altamirno Pedrorena and the Mason Street School, San Diego’s first one room schoolhouse. In 2005 and 2006, California State Parks listed Old Town San Diego as the most visited state park in California.

Here’s Racine and Laramie Store, a reconstructed mid 19th century period general store:

A wooden indian, made of real wood!

For more than 30 years, the contractor for the retail stores/restaurants was Bazaar del Mundo (“bazaar of the world”), run by San Diego businesswoman Diane Powers. In 2005, the state park agency didn't renew her contract and awarded it to Plaza del Pasado (run by Delaware North Companies) instead, telling the public that they wanted to create a more authentic and historically correct Old Town.

When Powers left, she also took the town's anchor restaurant, Casa Bandini. Bandini may not have been “authentic,” but for the typical San Diego tourist, the bright costumes of the staff, the gorgeous courtyard with bougainvillea, fountains, and the zesty margaritas made it one of the most popular restaurants around. “Reservations? We don't take no stinkin’ reservations!” The staff didn't actually say that, but it's true. The place was so popular you just had to wait in line. And people did.

Casa Bandini was usually the first stop for me when I had guests that flew in to visit San Diego, as it was only minutes from the airport.

Bandini was replaced by a bland restaurant (The Cosmopolitan) with “authentic” food of the period in an equally bland but historically authentic “restored” building. Despite their good intentions, revenue plunged under the new management. Typical annual revenue with Powers was $18 million; for Delaware North, they struggled to hit $8 million. One local resident wrote:

The original Bazaar produced $27 million in annual gross sales and was the hub of the most profitable California State Park. Those resources are now lost to the state as a result of Ruth Coleman’s ineptitude. Ms. Coleman, the state director of Parks and Recreation, stated on numerous occasions that the Delaware operation was unquestionably the better choice. All actions and petitions from thousands of locals were denied. As a member of the California State Park Foundation, I suggest she should be held accountable for her actions, or lack thereof, and be fired.

In an article from the local San Diego Union Tribune:

Dave McGuire, co-owner of Bailey & McGuire Pottery, a retail shop within the state park, said the era the park is trying to recreate was not an especially romantic time. "If you read all the history books, it was not that appealing," he said. "It was dusty and dirty."...It is unclear whether people want a history lesson or just a tasty margarita when they visit Old Town.

In spring 2009, Delaware North withdrew from its contract with the state and management changed hands to the Old Town Family Hospitality Corporation, headed by local restaurateur Chuck Ross. The commercial area is now called Fiesta de Reyes ("festival of the kings").

Here are some photos of the "new" Cosmoplitan Hotel/Restaurant. The first floor adobe structure, built between 1827 and 1829, was once the family home of Juan Bandini, a colorful and important player in San Diego's early development. In 1869, under the ownership of Albert Seeley, the operator of the only stagecoach run from San Diego to Los Angeles, it was expanded with the 2nd floor to become The Cosmopolitan Hotel.

The Casa de Estudillo, also known as the Estudillo House, is a historic adobe house constructed in 1827 by José María Estudillo and his son José Antonio Estudillo, early settlers of San Diego, and was considered one of the finest houses in Mexican California.

UPDATE: In July 2012 Ruth Coleman “resigned,” according to The Mercury News:

The director of California’s state parks system resigned Friday after officials discovered that her department had $54 million of unspent money in its accounts that it had not reported to the Department of Finance, even while the state said parks were so short of money that many needed to be closed. Ruth Coleman, who had led the agency since 2003, stepped down, and the department’s second-in-command, Acting Chief Deputy Director Michael Harris, was fired.

See more Old Town photos on my Old Town web page.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

TPE: The Big Finish

When a reader emailed me and asked me what TPE stood for, and I had to look at an old post to remember, I knew it was time to wrap up this series! So without further adieu, my Two-Thousand Post Extravaganza comes to a finish. Continuing in Tomorrowland, there are a number of things I would love to experience with my Time Machine, starting off with Adventure Thru Inner Space (or ATIS for those who don't like to type!)

As a youngster, I remember being amazed at how Disney miniaturized the guests!

As I got older and wiser, I realized that the amazing part was that the guests all looked alike! Hmmmm....something fishy going on in that shrinking tube!

I'd also love to visit some of the hokey fair-type exhibits that populated Tomorrowland when it first opened, like the Dairy Bag.

Whatever happened to home milk delivery? That concept never quite made it into the future.

I'd also love to play with the color wheels of the Dutch Boy Paint Gallery.

I'm not much of a scientist, but visiting the Hall of Chemistry surely would have helped my high school GPA!

Daveland reader Larry Gould submitted this way cool photo of he and his mother from the July 18, 1955, the first day that Disneyland was open to the public. Kaiser Alumninum was one of the many sponsored attractions guests could marvel over in Tomorrowland. As Larry recalls, "I was at Disneyland the first day it was open to the general public, July 18th 1955. The photo below is my mom and me from July 18th 1955. There must have been a professional photographer over in Tomorrowland taking pictures. I remember that my mom was holding a newspaper or magazine over my head standing in line for the Autopia. A kid with red hair and a short haircut was prone to sunburn."

The Moonliner/Rocket to the Moon attraction held the hope of space travel, and was a symbol of our innovation and forward-thinking nature.

How cool it must have been to experience this simulated flight. I have very vague memories of riding this attraction, trying to figure out if what I saw on the monitor was real or not.

Being a huge 20K fan, I would have loved to have walked through the sets of the movie when they were on display.

And that, dear readers, is the end of the TPE series. Before heading back to the present, I'd want to get a shot of the now defunct Tomorrowland Skyway station...

and then I'd want to ride a Blue Monorail back to the Disneyland Hotel.

So many cool things to see along the way.

And here we are...right where we started, back at the Disneyland Hotel.

When next you visit my blog, I'll be back to my regularly scheduled posts!

See more vintage & current Disneyland photos on my Disneyland web pages.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Another May Trip Report, Pt. 4

After an action-packed day, I decided to stay overnight and get a few early morning shots before heading home.

Views like this of Main Street, devoid of guests, made it worth getting up so early in the morning!

Alice Davis' window is next to her husband's Marc. All I can say's about time!

There were more cast members than guests!

I love these little hitching posts, which can be found all over Main Street:

Breakfast at The Plaza Inn gave me an opportunity to shoot more light fixtures:

Kudos to Disneyland for turning The Pavillion back into a vibrant space:

How often do you get to shoot the entrance of a land, devoid of guests?

I decided to attempt to ride Nemo, as it had been at least a year or more since the last time.

A pleasant journey...

But overall, my feelings about it were the same.

Loud...disjointed...and full of special effects that weren't so special.

See you in another year or so!

The Monorail had an overlay celebrating the imminent opening of Cars Land:

The Carnation Plaza Gardens is already under the wrecking ball:

and The Carnation Cafe is getting closer to being finished:

My last bit of fun for this weekend was at The Opera House, where I decided to take in Mr. Lincoln.

The lobby display is worth viewing.

It makes the perfect preamble to the Lincoln show.

What a gorgeous tableau. If this scene doesn't make you feel patriotic, I don't know what will!

Back to my TPE series tomorrow!

See more vintage & current Disneyland photos on my Disneyland web page.