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Balboa Park, site of the California Pacific International Exposition, in San Diego
BIE-classUnrecognized exposition
NameCalifornia Pacific International Exposition
Specialized expositions

The California Pacific International Exposition was an exposition held in San Diego, California during May 29, 1935–November 11, 1935 and February 12, 1936–September 9, 1936. The exposition was held in Balboa Park, San Diego's large central urban park, which had also been the site of the earlier Panama-California Exposition in 1915.

The Exposition was held to promote San Diego and support its economy, which had slowed with the country's Great Depression. The first year was such a financial and attendance success that it was held over for a second year. The exposition had hundreds of exhibits on history, the arts, horticulture, ethnic cultures, science, and industry. Some concessions and exhibits were unusual, such as the Gold Gulch, Lost Continent of Mu, Zoro Garden Nudist Colony, and the "One Ton Mechanical Man."


The idea for an exposition came from Frank Drugan, a newcomer to San Diego, California, who arrived in 1933. He recognized the potential of the buildings in Balboa Park left over from the 1915–16 exposition; the buildings had been designed to be temporary, but had been refurbished and upgraded several times and were available for use. In addition, Chicago's "Century of Progress" fair was just ending, and many of its exhibits could be transported for use in another fair. That exposition had paid for itself, and he was sure a San Diego exposition could do so as well. He promoted the idea of a new exposition, using the existing buildings and adding new ones, as a way of boosting San Diego's economy. He convinced local business people to support the idea.

The Exposition incorporated in August 1934. Construction of new buildings began in January 1935. The project was rushed through for a May opening. The foundations of some structures, such as the Electric Building and the Ford Building, were laid even before the final plans for the buildings had been drawn up. During March and April, 2,700 people worked around the clock on the Exposition. Approximately 65% of them were relief workers whose wages were paid by the federal government; the remainder were employees of private contractors.[1]

The Motion Picture Hall of Fame exhibit

The Hollywood Motion Picture Hall of Fame exhibit,[2][3][4][5][6] at the now-called [7] in 1935-36, had a stock company of actors that signed with the Screen Actors Guild and The Dominos Club of Hollywood (social organization for actresses, including: Carole Lombard, Thelma Todd, and ZaSu Pitts).[8][9][10][11][12][13][14][15]


The buildings from the 1915 fair were in Spanish Colonial Revival architecture style, designed by Bertram Goodhue and Carleton Winslow. Architect Richard Requa designed the new permanent buildings to be added for the 1935 fair. He wrote that his goal was to relate pre-Columbian Indian buildings and temples, like those found in the Southwest and Mexico, to the modern era; his model was the 1915 New Mexico Building, which he remodeled into a Palace of Education. Many of the new large buildings were in this style, including the California State Building (now the San Diego Automotive Museum), Palace of Electricity (now a gymnasium), and Palace of Water and Transportation (no longer existent).[16]

Other new buildings included:

While some of the extensive gardens from the 1915 Panama California Exposition remained, they were redesigned from formal gardens to gardens overflowing with lush abundance of exotic plants. Many were reimagined by renowned architect Richard Requa who was influenced by the gardens he had seen traveling in Spain. Today's Alcazar garden, Zoro Garden, and the garden at Cafe del Rey Moro are all Requa designs.[20]

Commemorative coins and stamps

Obverse of the 1935-36 commemorative California Pacific International Exposition half dollar

In honor of the California Pacific International Exposition, the federal government released a commemorative silver half dollar.

A three-cent postage stamp (Scott catalog 773) was also issued. It presents a view of the Exposition grounds, and has the same wording as the reverse of the half dollar, plus the dates "1535 1935". Over 100 million were printed, making this a very common issue.


The Exposition took ten months to build. It attracted 7,220,000 visitors during its 377 days of operation. Visitors brought US$37.7 million to San Diego. The cost was US$20 million. Admission was 50 cents for adults and 25 cents for children 2–11. Four restaurants provided meals: Cafe of the World, Palisades Cafe, Spanish Kitchens, and the Pioneer Days Restaurant. Twenty-one nations participated: Argentina, British Empire, Chile, China, Czechoslovakia, Denmark, Germany, Honduras, Irish Free State, Italy, Japan, Nicaragua, Norway, Panama, Paraguay, Portugal, Sweden, Uruguay, United States and Yugoslavia.


Park improvements amounted to US$6 million. The exposition was so popular that some buildings were rebuilt to be made more permanent. Many buildings or reconstructed versions remain in use today, and are used by several museums and theatres in Balboa Park.

In the early 1960s destruction of a few of the buildings and their replacement by aesthetically clashing modern architecture style of the new buildings "created an uproar" in San Diego's community. A 'Committee of One Hundred' was formed by citizens to protect the park buildings. The Committee convinced the City Council to enact resolutions that now require any new buildings to be designed and constructed in the Spanish Colonial Revival Style. The Committee also worked with various government agencies for the remaining original buildings to be declared a National Historic Landmark, which was awarded in 1978. In the latter 1990s the buildings most deteriorated or that had burned were carefully rebuilt to restore the original style and scale of the park's public spaces.

In October 2010, the National Building Museum in Washington, D.C. opened an exhibition titled Designing Tomorrow: America's World's Fairs of the 1930s.[21] This exhibition, which was available for view until September 2011, prominently featured the California Pacific International Exposition.


  1. ^ Amero, Richard. "Chapter 1: Planning and Preparation". California Pacific Exposition San Diego 1935-36. San Diego History Center. Archived from the original on 2012-09-22. Retrieved 2013-03-24.
  2. ^ "1935-36 California Pacific Exposition, Motion Picture Hall of Fame". City of San Diego. Retrieved 9 March 2022.
  3. ^ "Hollywood Motion Picture Hall of Fame". calisphere. 1935. Retrieved 9 March 2022.
  4. ^ "History". Marie Hitchcock Puppet Store. Retrieved 9 March 2022.
  5. ^ "California Pacific International Exposition (Newsreel) (Universal Studios, 1935)". The Bela Lugosi Blog. 30 May 2016. Retrieved 9 March 2022.
  6. ^ "Hollywood Motion Picture Hall of Fame, Exposition, 1935". SDSUnbound. Retrieved 9 March 2022.
  7. ^ "The Enchanted Cottage, a 1924 Miracle Romance". Classic Film Aficionados. 20 August 2016. Retrieved 9 March 2022.
  8. ^ Romain, Theresa St (2008). Margarita Fischer: A Biography of the Silent Film Star. McFarland. ISBN 978-0-7864-3552-4. 1933, Margarita occupied herself by becoming involved with the Dominos Club, a social organization for actresses that put out a breezy monthly bulletin of gossip and news about acting jobs.
  9. ^ Morgan, Michelle (5 October 2016). Carole Lombard: Twentieth-Century Star. The History Press. ISBN 978-0-7509-6939-0. The Dominos Club, an acting organisation with actresses such as Thelma Todd and ZaSu Pitts as members, put on a play called Ladies of the Masque, while others recited nursery rhymes and Shakespeare sonnets.
  10. ^ Arts & Architecture, Volumes 41-42. San Francisco: American Institute of Architects. San Francisco Chapter. 1932. ...presented at the Dominos Club, 1248 North Crescent Heights Boulevard, Hollywood
  11. ^ Harnisch, Larry (9 January 2008). "Ebay mystery". The Daily Mirror. LA Times. Retrieved 9 March 2022. Pat Collins, left, Edward G. Robinson and Julian Eltinge for a performance by the Dominos Club, Nov. 25, 1935.
  12. ^ American Cinematographer. Los Angeles: American Society of Cinematographers. 1935. Retrieved 9 March 2022.
  13. ^ The Hollywood Low Down (1934-1936). Hollywood: The Hollywood Low Down. 1936. Retrieved 9 March 2022.
  14. ^ "Hollywood Filmograph (Jan-Dec 1932)". Hollywood Filmograph, inc. January 1932. Retrieved 9 March 2022.
  15. ^ Theisen, Earl. "Film Frame Collection Overview". Seaver Center for Western History Research, Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County. Online Archive of California. Retrieved 9 March 2022. While serving as curator at the museum, Theisen became active as the Executive Secretary of the Motion Picture Hall of Fame at the California-Pacific International Exposition (1935-1936) at San Diego, California. He organized a motion picture gallery at the exposition using his contacts in the hectic film industry to acquire props and materials within a matter of five weeks.
  16. ^ Amero, Richard. "Chapter 2: Exposition Architecture". California Pacific Exposition San Diego 1935-36. San Diego History Center. Archived from the original on 2016-04-03. Retrieved 2013-03-24.
  17. ^ Mohr, Beth (Spring 1985). "The Old Globe Theatre". Journal of San Diego History. 31 (2).
  18. ^ "International Cottages in Balboa Park". House of Pacific Relations. Retrieved 24 March 2013.
  19. ^ "Welcome to The Art Studios at Spanish Village". Spanish Village Art Center. Retrieved 24 March 2013.
  20. ^ "California Pacific Exposition San Diego 1935-1936". Archived from the original on 2016-04-03. Retrieved 2013-03-24.
  21. ^ "Designing Tomorrow: America's World's Fairs of the 1930s". Archived from the original on 2014-07-02. Retrieved 2014-07-23.

Further reading