A historically accurate restoration of the San Diego Automotive Museum building in Balboa Park has begun while the venue is closed for the coronavirus pandemic.
The work will include the recreation of four elaborate murals that once graced the entrance to what was originally the California State Building, built for the 1935-36 California Pacific International Exposition.
The colorful murals by Hollywood set designer Juan Larrinaga depicted the scenic beauty, agriculture, industry and transportation of the Golden State.
Also coming are recreations of Central American-inspired ornamental features and two statues of California grizzly bears, resembling those that peered over Pan-American Plaza from the roof in 1935.
The work is expected to be completed by Labor Day.
The park’s oldest support group, the Committee of 100, was instrumental in raising funds for the restoration, which will be completed by the city’s Parks and Recreation Department.
“At this time of severe budget shortfalls, generous donors have made it possible for the Committee of 100 to help the city bring this key building back to its original, stately look,” said committee President Roger Showley.
The city previously removed several invasive trees that were undermining the two-story, 35,000-square-foot building, and is currently turning the southern half of the plaza into a pedestrian-only space with replacement parking spaces created elsewhere in the park.
“The San Diego Automotive Museum is excited to have the murals home and the building restored,” said Lenny Leszczynski, executive director of the institution.
Opened in 1988, the museum houses dozens of vehicles representing more than a century of car culture and design.
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