In preparation for the 1915 Panama–California Exposition, San Diego held a celebration for the groundbreaking of the first building built in Balboa Park. The festivities were held July 19–22, 1911, and consisted of historical pageants, parades, sporting competitions, fireworks, and a solemn high mass.
San Diego was planning to be the first port of call in the American territory north of the canal. The exposition would not only boost the local economy but glorify the city to travelers.
Wielding the groundbreaking shovel in the above photo is John Barrett, director general of the Pan American Union and President Taft’s special representative. Just behind him, to his right, is Ulysses S. Grant, Jr., son of the former U.S. president and then part owner of the U.S. Grant Hotel; George Marston is second from the far left of the line, while John D. Spreckels stands at far right. Following the ceremony, the band played “Yankee Doodle.”
San Diego History Center