Getting into the Details of the County Building


We’re marking the 75th anniversary of the building now known as the County Administration Center. The waterfront landmark is striking at a distance, but you need a closer look at the structure’s numerous intricate details to get a full appreciation of its design. If you can’t make it by 1600 Pacific Highway, here’s a look at a few highlights.

Learn the full history of the County Administration Center with more information about the design in Bridging the Centuries: The Jewel on the Bay (Flash | PDF) or in the video San Diego’s First Skyscraper.

The mosaics on the east and west entrances include a center tableau that pays tribute to the region’s history. A plane bisects the year 1936, when construction began on the building. Beneath are Balboa Park’s California Tower, ships, fish and 1542, the year Cabrillo entered San Diego Bay.


Here’s a closer look at the upper portion.


The building began as the Civic Center, a combined home for offices of the City and County. The City occupied the southern half, the County the northern side. Though the City left in the 1960s, the building still bears marks of its former resident, as seen in this entrance to the south wing.


In the previous picture, you can just barely see a tile-covered dome crowning the entrance. Here’s a much closer look at the dome on the north wing.


The designs of the east and west entrances are by and large the same. One little difference is in the cement figures of ships. The west features a clipper ship.


The east entrance has a battleship.


The main entrances feature the County and City seals in relief.


Eagles abound as decoration, such as in this concrete cast that faces out from the southern and northern wings.


This light hanging inside the west entrance is one of several original brass and glass fixtures.


At the center of the building’s first story, an inlay in the terrazzo floor incorporates the County and City seals.


An emblem facing outward on the north and south wings again recognizes the region’s maritime history.


A section of mosaic that fills the space between two upstairs windows.


Mosaic in the ceiling of the building’s west entrance.


Though begun as a separate project, Donal Hord’s “Guardian of Water” sculpture fountain is an integral feature of the building’s grounds. The mosaic at the base depicts kneeling nudes, which symbolize clouds, pouring water that flows over a dam and into surrounding orchards. Video of sculpture’s history


Check out vintage postcards of the building collected by a County employee.

The property around the building is in the middle of a transformation to a waterfront park Learn more (video)

Tegan Glasheen is a communications manager with the County of San Diego Communications Office. Contact