Image source: Liberty Station
Liberty Station Highlights
Liberty Station is located in Point Loma on the waterfront, just west of San Diego Airport. The area started out as a Navy Training Center, but was re-purposed when the Navy shut it down in the 90s.
Today, Liberty Station is 361 acres of, well, everything. It’s so large, it’s broken up into districts: retail/commercial, educational, residential, hotel, and office districts; there’s also a non-profit promenade and open-space areas. There are restaurants, shops, hotels, offices, art galleries and performance centers, a church, parks — if you can name it, you can find it at Liberty Station in Point Loma. This place is huge and among it’s varied districts there’s also a lot of history.
San Diego wasn’t always the huge hub of the U.S. Navy like it is today. In fact, it wasn’t until 1915 that the Assistant Secretary of the Navy surveyed the area and decided it was the perfect place to build a naval training facility. You may have heard of this Assistant Secretary; his name was Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Yes, the Franklin Delano Roosevelt. FDR was able to convince some prominent San Diego families to donate the necessary land for free — a small task when compared to convincing the majority of Americans to elect him president.
Construction of the facilities began in 1921, and the first recruits arrived in 1923. The first buildings were the mess hall, four barracks, a dispensary, fire station, and guard’s quarters. The first schools were preliminary radio, yeoman, bugler, and band. That was it. The 1930s brought some new additions, and the Navy Training Center in San Diego became crucial to operations for both world wars, mostly for training new recruits. By September of 1942, the NTCSD had a population of 33,000, 25,000 of which were young recruits. By this time, the center offered 41 schools, and the station was triple its original size.
Over the next 50 years, NTCSD remained an important resource for the Navy, with around one-sixth of the entire U.S. Navy’s fleet stationed in San Diego. The training center closed in 1997, due to other available training resources, and the City of San Diego began renovations to turn the former NTCSD into the largest historical preservation and arts and cultural project in the history of San Diego: Liberty Station.
Today, Liberty Station is home to both live and fine arts. The NTC at Liberty Station runs the non-profit district, and is one of San Diego’s flagship arts centers. It’s home to four dance groups. Malashock Dance and San Diego Dance Theater work with local organizations to produce quality dance pieces; Malashock also offers dance classes for all ages. The San Diego Ballet Company and the only studio dedicated specifically to Brazilian Capoeira are also located in Liberty Station.
Many of the old barracks at Liberty Station now serve as museums, studios, and art galleries, such as Anneville Studio, home of a professional metal smith; Laurie Kmen, a mixed media artist; Pachis, an art studio for kids; and the San Diego Fine Art Society Pulse Gallery. There are several sculptures around the station, so keep a look out for “She Dances,” “Archimage,” and “Sol Searching” as you explore Liberty Station.
NTC hosts some great events at Liberty Station. One of the best events is Friday Night Liberty, which features free, open artist studios where you can show off your own creativity and see what other San Diegans are doing with their art. Recent exhibits at Liberty Station have included “Let’s Dance,” a study of movement by Julie Warren, “Art from the Hands of Helpers,” featuring the works of art therapists, and the works and life of Frida Kahlo.
…And Everything Else Imaginable
The history and arts at Liberty Station are just some of the area’s highlights, but there’s a lot of other cool stuff here too. The Rock Church, one of the largest churches in San Diego, offers tons of community and Christian events. There are also several schools (that’s right, schools) in Liberty Station, like High Tech High School, The Liberty School, and Explorer Elementary Charter School.
Think there’s anything missing? How about a golf course? The Sail Ho Golf Club has that covered. How about some grub? Try Ikiru Sushi, Los Primos Mexican Food, Luna Grill, or Stone Brewing Company World Bistro and Gardens. There are even quite a few fitness spots, like San Diego Gymnastics, Bar Method, and Yoga Six. You could literally live at Liberty Station and never leave. There are several hotels at the station, and even some residential areas.
Like the army base it once was, Liberty Station is almost its own city. Discussing all of the great things to do and see at the station would fill a small book, so head to the Liberty Station and NTC websites to check it all out. Or, for a spontaneous adventure, just show up and wing it!