Sunday Apr 16, 2006

Hotel San Diego Implosion

Hotel San diego, NE corner
Before: Hotel San Diego, Northeast corner, May 2002

Yesterday, the historic Hotel San Diego was demolished. The seven-story hotel lived on 339 W. Broadway in downtown San Diego, California. The hotel was built in 1914 by John D. Spreckels, who made his riches from Spreckels Sugar and shipping. Spreckels moved out of San Francisco after the 1906 San Francisco earthquake (100 years ago today) to someplace safer and nicer.

The hotel was built by architect Harrison Albright and is one of only three that remain (now zero of two). In recent years, before the Hotel was closed in 2002 Hotel San Diego became a ran-down, dirty residential hotel, occupied mainly by elderly and low-income residents on a weekly or monthly basis.

The hotel was demolished for a Federal Courthouse annex. The Federal Courthouse is on overload to take care of all the drug smugglers and illegal immigrant smugglers being hauled into court—we are on the Mexican border after all.

Hotel San Diego demolition, April 15, 2006
After: Hotel San Diego after demolition, Northeast corner, April 15, 2006

Historic preservationists wanted the hotel exterior preserved. The interior could have been gutted, earthquake retrofitted, and renovated for courthouse space. That way, we would have kept an historic and attractive building, yet still be functional. However, Federal rules require a large setback from the street to keep terrorists (both domestic and foreign) from blowing up the building. The new courthouse annex will be a 22-story (and probably sterile) building. I see their thinking about a setback, but isn't it ironic that we're blowing up a building in the name of homeland security?

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Wednesday Apr 27, 2005

Glacier National Park

Grinnell Glacier Trail Here's my wife, Helen Gunn, on the trail to Grinnell Glacier last summer, out of Many Glacier, Glacier National Park, Montana. We liked it so much we're going back again. Usually the trail is dry, but there was a temporary waterfall on the way. The days before there were these wonderful, loud thunderstorms at night. Grinnell Glacier is melting away, due to global warming, but it's still huge. There's a giant part above a cliff and another below the cliff behind a glacier lake. The water is a pretty milky blue. One giant piece of the glacier broke off and is floating in the lake. The rangers call it the "Lucitania," and will probably have the same fate as the original in 1915.

Many Glacier has this great hotel the Park Service is renovating. I love those old turn-of-the-century hotels (previous century turn, of course). It has a great dining room with large picture window views. Also a nice diner with pasta and other stuff.

The first day we spent on the Going To The Sun Road. It's a dramatic road cut into the cliffs. Very scenic, but go early as it's prettier and more wildlife is about, and the road gets crowded later on. We saw lots of mountain goats and bighorn sheep. Later in the trip we say black bear and grizzly bear, but that was early in the morning. The rangers say "bear bells" are ineffective for scaring bears--you should just use normal conversation to keep them away. We spent other days hiking to waterfalls around western St. Mary Lake and Two Medicine.

The western part of the park is drier and not as pretty, I think. Apgar has a small country diner with good pancakes. Don't order their so-called "broiled chicken" though--it's just deep-fried chicken with lots of breading. I recommend the diner or hotel restaurant at MacDonald instead. The diner at Rising Sun on St. Mary Lake is not great either--just a burger joint, and real slow. Try St. Mary's outside the park.

We also spent some time across the border in Waterton National Park in Alberta, Canada. For one hike, a morning van shuttle takes you to Cameron Lake and you hike back to town (Waterton) one way. Beautiful alpine countryside. We also hiked to Crypt Lake on the US/Canadian border, taking a boat across Waterton.Lake. The town of Waterton has several restaurants. One to avoid is full of tobacco smoke, but the others are non-smoking. The prices seem higher in Canada, but don't forget the Canadian dollar is only 75-80 cents US.

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