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The Abbey (on Fifth)

The year was 1910. William Howard Taft was president, the Panama Canal was near completion and the country was enjoying the carefree years of la belle époque. In the small town of San Diego, a burst of architectural creativity produced noteworthy buildings, such as those in Horton Plaza and the U.S. Grant Hotel. In fashionable "Uptown," horticulturist Kate Sessions was planting trees that would soon shade glorious Balboa Park. On the fringe of this newborn landscape, master architect Norman Foote Marsh unveiled the Park Place Methodist Episcopal Church, an acclaimed structure that would eventually become "The Abbey."

This striking embodiment of Spanish Colonial Revival architecture boasts a dozen stained glass windows, and is topped with a triumphant statue of Gabriel blowing his horn. Over the years the church underwent several incarnations, and in 1984, an award-winning renovation transformed it into a popular restaurant, christened "The Abbey." The statue of Gabriel was coated in gleaming gold leaf, but with the exception of a little wood refinishing and the replacement of some light fixtures and stained glass, nothing was done to alter the facility's vintage beauty.

The Abbey renovations won several awards including the Presidential Design Award sponsored by the National Endowment for the Arts. At the dawn of the 21st century, this historic building celebrated its 90th birthday, and is believed to be the only classical-revival structure still standing in San Diego. The Abbey is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, an enormous honor reserved for only a limited amount of places throughout the nation.

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