Located at the center of downtown San Diego, this 1.8-acre park is bordered by the grand U.S. Grant Hotel and Balboa Theatre. Originally known as “the town plaza,” the public space has been in use since 1870 when real estate developer Alonzo Horton cleared land around his hotel for public gatherings. Horton deeded the land to the city in 1895, two years before Kate Sessions was hired to plant palm trees in the small fenced-in park. Irving Gill designed new walkways and created the Broadway Fountain in 1910. The fountain, modeled on the Choragic Monument of Lysicrates in Athens, Greece, was one of the first to use colored light to illuminate flowing water. After being restored by the city in 1978, the plaza was the subject of a workshop-based plan developed by landscape architect Lawrence Halprin in 1984 in preparation for the opening of the adjacent Jon Jerde-designed Horton Plaza shopping mall the following year. Halprin’s plan was never implemented, and the park remained unchanged until the 2010s. Designed by landscape architecture firm Walker Macy, a 1.4-acre expansion to the south, on land acquired following the demolition of the Robinsons May building, opened in 2016.
Centered around the restored Broadway Fountain, the original parcel consists of a quadrated arrangement of equally sized lawn panels cut through by linear paths and lined with neoclassical urns. Measuring just 0.4 acres, this historic core is separated from the surrounding streets and the park addition to the south by an allée of queen palm trees. Curving through the middle of the expanded park, a fourteen-foot-tall amphitheater with stepped seating separates the space into upper and lower levels. In the lower section, a small plaza opens to a south-facing entrance. Three pavilions with trellised overhangs are spaced on the edges of the amphitheater, along with eight LED light sculptures. In 2017 a 1926 plaque commemorating Jefferson Davis was removed by city officials.