California Tower speakers before and after
Photos of the California Tower before (left) and after the change in loudspeakers. Courtesy Friends of Balboa Park

Friends of Balboa Park announced Wednesday it has replaced the unsightly 1940s-era bullhorn loudspeakers that amplify the chimes atop the historic California Tower.

“Friends of Balboa Park is extremely proud to have contributed yet another meaningful improvement to the park, to enhance the California Tower to its original splendor from the 1915 Exposition,” said John Bolthouse, executive director of the nonprofit.

The cathedral-inspired bell tower, part of the San Diego Museum of Man, has never had any actual bells, but instead small chimes that are amplified by loudspeakers.

“The old speakers — the same type used in high school football stadiums — were old and unsightly amid the ornate, Spanish-style archways, and lead to the misconception that the chimes are somehow ‘fake’,” said David Marshall, a local architect and Friends of Balboa Park board member who was instrumental in the project.

The new speakers are set back in the arches and partially hidden while significantly improving the sound.

The $32,000 project was funded by individual philanthropists, foundations and corporate donors.

Chris Jennewein is Editor & Publisher of Times of San Diego.