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Vintage San Diego: Neighborhood in Training

We're throwing it back to Liberty Station before it was a bustling arts and culinary hotspot


Liberty Station circa 1928

Even then, it had such potential. This photo shows the historical beginnings of what San Diegans now know as NTC Liberty Station, a bustling arts and culinary hotspot tucked on the edge of San Diego Bay and Point Loma.

In October 1923, the Naval Training Center officially welcomed its first class of recruits. The opening ceremony celebrated the efforts of local Congressman William Kettner, who had fought alongside then Assistant Secretary of the Navy Franklin Delano Roosevelt to get the project approved and funded. FDR had long been an advocate of expanding Navy efforts in San Diego.

Today the grand flagpole still stands, welcoming guests and residents as they enter off Barnett Avenue. That road now runs past the nine-hole Loma Club golf course on the right, eventually leading to the Arts District and grocery stores beyond. That first cluster of buildings in the center is the approximate location of Stone Brewing World Bistro and Gardens and the new Liberty Public Market.

Fifty-two of the original buildings have been preserved for modern-day use, making it one of the largest historical districts in San Diego. The market is just one addition among a wave of newbies in the neighborhood, including The Lot, an upscale movie theater, and Moniker General store and tap/coffee house. Developers also recently announced plans to convert some of the remaining barracks and officers’ quarters into a hotel. The new $20-million accommodations, slated to open in late 2018, are sure to be comfier than the old barracks, where the recruits slept in hammocks until 1933.

By the Numbers

1997 - Year NTC officially closed

52 - Buildings have been historically preserved for use in the modern Liberty Station

2 million - Recruits trained at NTC from 1923 to 1997

$280,000 - Sum paid by the Navy for 135 acres in Point Loma to build the training center

143 - Additional acres donated by the city council for the project

1943 - First year women were admitted as recruits

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