In 1868, civic leaders set aside 1,400 acres of scrub-filled mesas and arroyos to become "City Park." Philanthropist George Marston hired landscape architect Samuel Parsons, Jr., who, with his partner George Cooke and horticulturists Kate Sessions and T.S. Brandage developed the master plan for the Picturesque design, presented in 1903. It was renamed Balboa Park in anticipation of the 1915-1916 Panama-California Exposition, which was included within the park against considerable public opposition. Architect Bertram Goodhue designed the Exposition’s centerpiece, the House of Hospitality, now a National Historic Landmark.
In 1921, the 150-acre zoo was built within the park, followed by the construction of the San Diego Museum of Art in 1926. Landscape architect John Nolen developed a second master plan for the park in 1927. Over the years Balboa Park has become home to many cultural and recreational resources, the park hosts 15 major museums and has been the site of three major expositions, including Expo 2000, San Diego’s millennium celebration.
One of more than a dozen horticultural resources, the Alcazar Garden was designed in 1935 for the California Pacific International Exposition by architect Richard Requa, patterned after the gardens of Alcazar Castle in Seville, Spain. It hosts a shady pergola, ornate fountains, and Moorish tiles, all bordered by boxwood hedges. A cultural and horticultural oasis in the heart of San Diego, Balboa Park is historically and topographically unique among large urban parks. It was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1977.