Another year and you’ll be able to read here
I’m a reader. Always have been. My first research paper was about Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky which I did when I was six…. for my mother….
Mom was a pianist and organist. One granddad was a violinist, and his wife was a flutist (or flautist, for purists).
I started playing piano when I was two. We children had to take up a second instrument when we were old enough for grade school. By that time we were reading quite well, and playing piano quite well, too. We had to do a research paper on the second instrument that we wanted to play. Being the young rebel, I chose to do my paper on a composer of violin music rather than the instrument itself. To this day I don’t know if my mom was happy about how I circumvented the rules, but I did get to take up the violin.
I have always thought that a city needs two things to be a great city: a library full of books for posterity to read, and a symphony orchestra.
San Diego has been calling itself America’s Finest City since around 1972. More about that in a moment. It has a very good symphony, made better when Joan and Irwin Jacobs singlehandedly brought the symphony back from its 1998 bankruptcy by donating $120 million in 2002. Irwin Jacobs is the founder of Qualcomm, makers of the software that makes a great supermajority of cell phones do what they do.
Sometime in 2013 San Diego will have a great library, one that might even be called America’s Finest Library. Maybe not in terms of books yet, but certainly in terms of architecture. A couple of weeks ago the building was topped off, and this is what it looks like:
The brown building in the center of the picture is a condominium residence. The massive dome belongs to the new main library building to the condo building’s right, due to be completed in 2013. I’ve been watching it being built and have pictures beginning shortly after groundbreaking. Should make a great time-lapse story of construction.
Now, about that America’s Finest City moniker.
Back in 1972, San Diego was set to host the Republican National Convention. The Republican National Committee (RNC) had made the announcement a year earlier. Then, early in 1972, the RNC announced that it was rescinding its decision and would be having its National Convention in Miami Beach instead.
The announcement was devastating to San Diego’s business, civic, and Republican leadership. They had raised millions of dollars for the convention and, perhaps more importantly, the hotel industry throughout San Diego had already cleared rooms in mid-August, August being San Diego’s busiest tourist month.
With the declassification of government documents, we now know that President Nixon was concerned about massive protests against him. The physical layout of Miami Beach was superior to San Diego for limiting access to the convention area.
A young Peter Wilson, then mayor of San Diego (he would go on to be a United States Senator and Governor of California) was infuriated. In his announcement decrying the change of venue, Mayor Wilson said, “We are America’s Finest City!”
While the Republican National Convention was happening across the country in Miami Beach, San Diego was having hundreds of civic events celebrating its status as America’s Finest City — a huge parade downtown, an “America’s Finest City” half-marathon, an All States Picnic in Balboa Park for those from different states who were now living in San Diego, an outdoor civic concert, ethnic festivals, Navy demonstrations, even a “Go Fly a Kite and Sail a Boat” event. Many events that started in 1972 survive to this day.
The library faces San Diego Harbor and is located in East Village, a formerly blighted downtown area of warehouses that has experienced rejuvenation with the opening of Petco Park in the East Village in 2004. As an aside, Petco Park is where the San Diego Padres supposedly play major league baseball — they are off to a sparkling 11-22 record in 2012. Obviously America’s Finest City doesn’t need a finest football or baseball team; we won’t even mention basketball (we don’t have a professional basketball team).
I took the last picture on January 28, 2012, the day they announced that they were ready to begin construction on the dome itself. The dome will cover a reading room; I’ll be able to read under natural light since the dome will be mostly glass. I question whether I’ll get any reading done while I’m sitting there admiring the view of Petco Park, downtown San Diego, the dozens of ships at the Navy’s many terminals just south of the library……………..
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