Mojave Cross

One will encounter a number of sites and markers on the trek through the Mojave National Preserve.

One is the Mojave Cross. It is officially known as the White Cross World War I Memorial.

The cross stands on Sunrise Rock, a granite outcropping adjacent to Cima Road about 12 miles south of Interstate 15.

In a story that parallels the Mount Soledad Cross story in La Jolla, there was a decades long battle over the Mojave Cross.

In April 2012, a settlement was reached to allow the cross to remain at the Mojave Land Preserve via a land swap. Five acres of private land given to the federal government in exchange for the one acre of land surrounding Sunset Rock. Ownership of that site was transferred to the local Veterans of Foreign War post.

The site is fenced, with entrances for visitors. There are benches and picnic tables. And ample signage explaining that the cross is on private land and noting it is a memorial for war veterans

Kelso, Luck Of The Draw

Seemingly out in the middle of “nowhere” along Cima Road in the Mojave Desert, this jewel of a train station suddenly appears as a desert oasis. It’s the 1923 Kelso Train Station. Unlike the ghost town relics surrounding it, this beautiful building is in nearly pristine condition.

While the station is from 1923 the importance of the site as a railroad rest stop goes back to at least 1905 when Kelso was founded. The name was chosen purely by chance. Name rights were submitted on pieces of paper and placed into a hat. Upon draw, all at once John H. Kelso had a town named after him.

This Mission Revival and Spanish Colonial Revival design comes from the drawing boards of John and Donald Parkinson. If you don’t know their names, you certainly know their portfolio. They designed the USC Master Plan, LA Coliseum, LA City Hall, Bullocks Wilshire, Union Station, and Grand Central Market – to name a few.

The train station survives today by the sheer will of concerned citizens who stepped up to save the building from demolition when it closed as a train station in 1985. Key to this preservation effort was The National Park Service gaining control of the site in 1994 .

The building reopened to the public in 2005 as the visitor center for the Mojave National Preserve. There are interpretive displays, both inside and out, providing a valuable understanding to the historical significance of the station’s location.

 It is explained why a fancy train station is in the middle of “nowhere.” One reason is an abundant supply of ground water for steam engines.

It was a “helper” station. Because of the severity of the long steep Cima Grade, helper engines were needed to assist trains on that grade. Kelso was home of those helper engines, and there was a big roundhouse there to direct, turn around, and utilize them. Kelso was the helper station in regards to fuel and water as well.

A beautifully designed building that was well used and well loved for a long time. It became affectionately known as the Kelso Club House. More than a train and ticket station it was telegraph office, restaurant, reading room, and dormitory rooms for railroad employees.

The interior has been restored and preserved as well, including the lunch room. Nice they didn’t forget to save the neon sign. However it appears it has suffered some wind damage, as the power cable was pulled out of the wall.

The focus of my photo essay is the exterior. Visitors wanting to see the Kelso Train Station inside and out – be advised they are closed Tuesdays and Wednesdays.

In addition to the historic translation, visitors may also view the Kelso Jail. These human cages were utilized from the mid 1940’s all the way to 1985. To lock up, for a night or two, the town drunks who became unruly. Neither the heat or the cold of the Mojave made these cages very comfortable.

But by all accounts, this sort of imprisonment hasn’t gone away. Only from here.

You know you’re in downtown Kelso when…you see the Post Office. Open from 1905, through Kelso’s boom years during WW2, and finally closing in 1962.

Ghost Town…ghost sign.

Kelso 90920

Foundation and Fireplace, Kelso Ghost Town

The warmth and comfort once provided, now a ghost town ruin.

Mental and Physical Wellness Via Design – The Lovell…

There’s a whole realm of study, philosophy, and psychology that went into Richard Neutra’s 1927 -1929 Lovell Health House.

Called the Health house for a reason. It was meant to be a place to practice physical fitness, dietary discipline, sunbathing, and outdoor sleeping.

Neutra believed that a thorough study of psychology and science of the mind, and creating design practices from that, an architect could establish a profound and direct relationship between architecture and psychology.

Upon completion it stirred enormous interest in Los Angeles. Truly nothing like this steel constructed house existed there before. And the health spa aspect of it was of great interest as well. Upon its completion an organized tour of the house attracted some 15,000 visitors.

While Neutra intensely pursued his psycho-physical architectural theories, it’s doubtful living in any of his great designs ever cured psychosis.

But there’s no question creating a beautiful environment in which to live enhances one’s quality of life. We as humans are stimulated, inspired, and thrilled by great design and creation, whether it be architecture, music, theater, or dance.

Guggenheim Turns 60

Wright was hired to design the museum in 1943. He wanted to break all convention with this signature work of his, but it took 16 difficult years to bring his ideas to fruition. Wright passed-on before opening day but still saw most of his work to completion.

Santa Fe Depot, San Diego, 1969

1969 was a different time, and San Diego was a different city. Often called laid back or sleepy – even as City officials touted it as “City In Motion.”

It is very likely plans were on the drawing board as early as 1969 to get rid of the Santa Fe Depot. By 1972 a full pitch battle was on to save the depot from demolition.

It was Save Our Heritage Organisation (SOHO) that stepped in to save the Depot from demolition. It was a call to action the preservation group had to put out, not once, but twice.

The depot opened in 1915, approximately coinciding with the biggest of events in San Diego History, the opening of the 1915  Panama-California Exposition 

As with the domed towers at the Panama-California Exposition, the Santa Fe Depot tower domes have a Spanish style zig-zag pattern of yellow blue tiles.

The Mission Style architecture was designed by the firm Bakewell and Brown, out of San Francisco. They built San Francisco City Hall the same year.


The 55 foot wood beam ceiling shelters travelers entering and exiting the depot.

The YMCA building in the distance remains. MTS buses look different. And the Art Deco bowling alley across the street is long gone.

Originally the front arch was entered through a forecourt lined with arches. As so often the case, the demand for parking ruled the day in 1954 when the forecourt structure was demolished.

There had been interest in rebuilding this structure in recent years. But the current alignment and configuration of today’s railroad tracks has been deemed incompatible with such a project. So the old forecourt will remain only a memory or echo from the past.

Old Oak Benches Remain On Duty To This Day


Gone are that style of passenger car as well as the structure beyond it.

An antique luggage cart that no longer sees service.

Private Train Cars were once parked outside, along-side the depot.

They Cyrus K Holliday was once owned by the Sefton Family and their San Diego Trust and Savings Bank. In the following decades San Diego Trust and Savings went away and the Seftons relinquished the train car as well, as it resides somewhere else on tracks far away.

The train yard itself is much different and busier today. There’s the Trolley line, The Coaster line, and Amtrak.

A view towards the south. Police headquarters (now a museum, shopping and restaurant venue) in the distance. The power building is one the left. The Swift Company building, long gone.

And best shot for last. San Diego’s Santa Fe Depot is one of the largest and best loved train depots in California. A jewel that celebrated its 100th Birthday in 2015, and still as beautiful as ever.

The Amy Strong House

In 1909, Amy Strong, a famous San Diego dress designer, hired master builders Emmor Brooke Weaver and John Vawter to build her dream ranch house. They lived and worked on site from tents where they drew renderings and blueprints. 

The home was completed by 1921. The Strong home is just off the road to Ramona at the base of Mount Woodson (Potato Chip Rock). It embodies the vision of this artistic woman, the talents of her architects, and the philosophy of the Craftsman Movement.

Roof tiles are supported on a concrete roof sustained by rock buttresses. The tiles are purportedly from the San Gabriel Mission. Inside and out the home has a truly organic and hand made feel to it.

It’s a split level home with exposed eaves – troughs hewn from unfinished eucalyptus trunks supported by gargoyle figures. 

Eclectic motifs throughout were taken from Persian, Arabic and Oriental rug designs chosen for the home. Interior use of wood included lightly polished redwood planks recycled from vats for many of the doors and mantels, beams, and balustrades of twisted eucalyptus.

Other building materials of the main house included oak, rocks, flagstone, adobe, bricks and tiles, plaster, concrete and stucco.

No chalk lines were used in the construction. There are no perfect corners and neither the roof nor floors are level. 

Eucalyptus was cut from stands that dotted the property. Rocks were individually hand-picked by Mrs. Strong for their shapes and colors from the slopes of Mt. Woodson.

Mrs. Strong, her niece and their cook, did much of the painting and design-work themselves, inspired by Persian, Arabic and Oriental rug designs.

Light fixture and stencil detail

The Zodiac Room. The ideals of this masterpiece emphasized harmony between the individual and the environment, intense involvement of the artists with their materials, and the blending of the primitive with the sophisticated.

The 27-room Emmor Brooke Weaver and John Vawter adobe and stone structure was completed after five years and $50,000 of 1921 currency.

Light Fixture Detail

Upper Level Passage Way

Light and Stencil Detail

“The Castle” is a multi-level, twenty-seven room 12,000 square foot home with eight foot thick walls, a Great Hall with a sixteen foot ceiling, a swing porch, pantry, four fireplaces, a dutch oven, dumb waiter, complete intercom system.

Mrs. Strong left natural, oak, and pine exposed; other woods were painted or polished. Some of the original floors and stairs were flagstone and a few of the floors were oak planks.

Main Entrance Detail

The goal was integrate and unify the rock and tree studded surroundings with both the exterior and interior of the home.

The finished exterior, the stone work, windmill, bricks and tiles, and arches reflect French, Dutch, Spanish, and Medieval styles. Roof tiles are supported on a concrete roof sustained by rock buttresses. Aztec, Greek, Roman, North American, and Oriental crafts, decorate the house inside and out.

The windmill is gasoline-engine-assisted. It pumped water from the springs to redwood storage tanks and the room under the windmill was used to cool meats and vegetables.

The site today in Romona is used for conferences, weddings and other functions spurred by the nearby golf course.




Santa Fe Depot San Diego 1969

May is Historic Preservation Month. A good opportunity to reflect upon San Diego’s beautiful and historic train station. In the years following 1969 the Santa Fe Depot faced demolition not once but twice. Save Our Heritage Organisation had to save it two times from the wrecking ball. Saving our history is a never ending job. Invariably someone will come along again with a plan to demolish it. Therefore we always need to be vigilant.