The early years of Tom Tucker's superintendency were spent, for the most part, seeing to the completion of projects begun in the previous administration. The most important of these projects was the visitor center and administration building. Having struggled through many years in temporary quarters under fairly primitive conditions, Tucker admitted that the staff would have been happy with a large tent, as long as it had restroom facilities.  Plans for the center as envisioned by the Regional design office were considerably more elaborate, however. So elaborate, in fact, that they were to run into objections from San Diego officials.
The project construction proposal, submitted in February 1963, called for a multi-story structure that would house a bookstore, interpretive facilities, a library and administrative offices. In addition, space was to have been provided in an adjoining building for a museum and an auditorium.  Initial plans, prepared by an architect in the Regional Office for a site he had never seen, contained a serious design flaw, according to then park historian Ross Holland. The plans showed two buildings on separate mounds of land and connected by a passageway. Said Holland:
The plans ran into other problems as well. According to Tom Tucker, Under Secretary of the Interior James Carr had also seen the drawings.  A friend of Mayor Frank Curran and frequent visitor to San Diego, Carr thought the building's massive fort-like appearance completely inappropriate to the landscape of Point Loma. Sure that city officials would object to the design of structure, he requested that a meeting be set up between representatives of the Western Office of Design (WOD) and city and county officials to review the plans.  A meeting was held on December 11, 1963 in the city manager's chambers and was attended by the chief architect of WOD, the city manager of San Diego, representatives of the mayor, the city planning department, county officials, and the chamber of commerce as well as the city lobbyist in Sacramento and members of the press. The group was presented with a model of the proposed structure and, as Carr had anticipated, officials were concerned with its massive appearance and the lack of sensitivity to San Diego's Spanish heritage and mission architecture.  As a result of the meeting the plans were scrapped and in February 1964, Frank L. Hope and Associates, a San Diego architectural firm, was given a contract to provide final plans and specifications for the building. 
These plans were presented on April 30th to a much smaller audience than had been present at the original meeting. This time participants were limited to San Diego city councilman Walter Hahn, Richard Pourade of the Copley Press and Lucile Mortimore, representing the San Diego Chamber of Commerce. Though the plans were notably lacking in the Spanish arches and red tile roofs that the local representatives had envisioned, architect Hope pointed out that the use of stone on the facade of the building and copper roofing would echo features already present in the monument area. Apparently satisfied with what Hope called the "Spanish Fort influence," the plans were approved by those present.  Ironically, it would be these stone and copper details that were later eliminated because of the cost. As finally revealed to the public, the plans called for three one-story buildings: the first containing the visitor center, the second an auditorium and exhibit area; and a third administrative offices. The three were to be connected by covered walkways supported by large fir columns. 
Having moved rather quickly through the design problem, Tucker announced in late May that bids for construction of the new center would be opened on June 17th. The winning bid of $250,550 was submitted by the Gussa Construction of El Cajon. Groundbreaking ceremonies for the project were held on July 19th with Mayor Frank Curran, Chairman of the Board of Supervisors Frank Gibson and Tony Codina, representing the Portuguese community as the key participants. 
The buildings were completed and official occupancy occurred on March 17, 1966. Original plans called for the dedication to take place on August 25th to correspond to the National Park Service 50th anniversary. Due to the fact that landscaping of the site could not be completed by that date, however, the ceremonies were postponed until late October.  Secretary of the Interior Stewart L. Udall served as keynote speaker at the dedication with James K. Carr, now the Director of Public Utilities in San Francisco, as Master of Ceremonies.  Udall dedicated the the Cabrillo National Monument Visitor Center "to the memory of Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo and those of all lands who will come here in search of history." In his remarks, the Secretary emphasized the "million dollar view." "And now," he said, "we have a splendid million-dollar Visitor Center to go with it." 
The Cabrillo Festival
Secretary Udall's comment on the view at Cabrillo emphasized one of the major problems that had often faced administrators at the monument. As former Superintendent Tucker has said on more than one occasion, "Cabrillo is one of those rare National Park Service areas whose significance is overwhelmed by the totality of its surroundings."  Keeping the purpose of the monument, which is the commemoration of Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo, before the public had been an issue that oftentimes caused disagreement between local administrators and those on the regional level. When a custodian or superintendent placed what the Region believed was too much emphasis on the lighthouse or the whale migration, he was quickly reminded of why the area was established. The Tucker administration attempted to address this problem by creating a focus for the monument's primary commemorative function. This was done by initiating the Cabrillo Festival in 1964. 
Ceremonies honoring Cabrillo were certainly not new for the populace of San Diego. The first Cabrillo celebration in 1892 was created in the hopes of promoting the city as the birthplace of Southern California, and the establishment of the monument itself in 1913 was part of a bid to "perpetuate the deeds of the Spanish."  Until 1934 when the Park Service became responsible for the monument, the explorer Cabrillo usually had been grouped together with other Spanish historical figures such as Balboa and Father Junipero Serra. The change of emphasis from Spanish to Portuguese received a great deal of impetus when John R. White, the first administrator of Cabrillo, became aware that while there was virtually no Spanish community in San Diego, there were a sizable number of Portuguese. In addition, the Grand Council of Cabrillo Civic Clubs had been formed in San Francisco during this time to "recognize Portuguese contribution to California and to civilization in general."  Manuel Sylva, the group's president, took an active interest in assuring that the monument acknowledge Cabrillo as a Portuguese hero. 
From the dedication ceremony in 1935 onward, the monument routinely participated in the community's annual Cabrillo Day celebrations on September 28th and the superintendent was often chosen as principal speaker at events sponsored by Portuguese civic groups. In 1964, however, Tucker and his staff made plans to extend its traditional wreath laying ceremony into a more comprehensive event.
Monument historian Ross Holland suggested that the various groups planning Cabrillo Day activities join efforts and create a nine day celebration. Organized under the the auspices of the San Diego Junior Chamber of Commerce, a program was designed to combine the Cabrillo celebration with the Junior Chamber's Harbor Days.  Although originally planned to have some fifty events, due to "financial and planning difficulties," the first celebration fell somewhat short of expectations.  In 1965, there was some doubt as to whether the Festival was to continue.  However, a less ambitious program under the auspices of the Peninsula Chamber of Commerce and the Portuguese organizations was staged with considerable success.
Over the years, the Festival has featured traditional Portuguese dances, a re-enactment of Cabrillo's landing and seminars on related historical subjects sponsored by the Cabrillo Historical Association. The event has also hosted dignitaries representing the Portuguese government, officials from the Park Service and the Department of the Interior, as well as state and local representatives. Though it began as primarily a Portuguese-sponsored celebration, efforts have been made in recent years to include elements of Mexican and Spanish cultures. A representative of the President of Mexico was included in the 1978 Festival and, in the following year, Spain, Mexico, Portugal and the United States were all represented for the first time. 
According to John G. Rebelo, Jr., a former president of the Cabrillo Festival, the activity has become a focal point for community pride among the Portuguese of San Diego. Rebelo credited the efforts of the monument for the longevity of the Festival:
Rebelo stressed the importance of continuing to include other communities in the festivities and voiced some concern that young people would not be as dedicated as their elders to the ethnic traditions represented by the festival. The difficulties in keeping this interest alive is the greatest challenge he saw for the Cabrillo Festival in the future. For the present, according to the monument's 1985 Statement for Interpretation and Visitor Services: "It [the Cabrillo Festival] is one of the major mediums through which the park tells Cabrillo's story to the local community." 
Relations With the Community and Special Programs
One of the main priorities of his administration, according to Superintendent Tucker, was the forging of strong ties with the people of San Diego.  When in 1967, separate headquarters were established for Channel Islands in Oxnard, the staff of Cabrillo was freed to concentrate on specific programs for the San Diego facility. 
Tucker regarded one such project as a pioneer program in public relations. Although Superintendent Robinson and Clifton Rock before him often spoke to community organizations about the monument, Tucker wished to formalize these presentations into a program he called "Parks to the People." The talks began with service clubs, schools, women's groups, "anyone who would listen to us,"  but the emphasis later changed. In July 1975, with additional funding available for bicentennial activities, Parks to the People became an outreach program that offered presentations about Cabrillo and other national parks, to "senior citizens, hospitalized servicemen and children in back-country schools."  Though highly successful and well-received, the program had to be discontinued when money was no longer available.
The vagaries of funding coupled with ever-increasing tourist visitation have, over the years, placed a burden on Park Service personnel in their efforts to provide continuing services and programs.  Because of this, volunteers in the Service have always been an important part of the system. In 1970 the Volunteers in the Park Act formalized many volunteer activities by authorizing the Service to pay for transportation, meals, uniforms and other expenses for those individuals who worked in the parks and monuments without pay.  Cabrillo took advantage of this program at its inception and volunteers soon became an active part of the interpretive activities. In addition to assisting at the information desk and conducting tours, they performed living history demonstrations that were staged for visitors at the lighthouse.  The V.I.P. program still plays a large and important part in extending interpretive services to monument visitors.
Besides encouraging volunteers to offer service to the monument, Superintendent Tucker became himself a volunteer in the community. In order to counter the virtual collapse of the aircraft industry in the 1960's, the mayor of San Diego began an active campaign to strengthen tourism in the city. Gathering together business leaders involved in the tourist industry, Mayor Frank Curran inaugurated the Hospitality Oriented Services and Trades or HOST committee. The aim of the group was to provide informational programs for those most likely to have direct contact with visitors such as waiters, taxidrivers and bartenders. They in turn could then pass information about local activities to their customers. Through the efforts of Tucker, a member of the committee, rangers at the monument were also included in the program. They thus became, according to Tucker, members of the public relations system for the community as well as for the Park Service. 
As part of the HOST program, an attempt was made to coordinate whale watching activities at the monument with those of fishing boat operators, motel owners and scientific institutions to provide for those who came to the area to observe the migration.  Such programs had a positive effect on both tourism in the city and at the monument.
Increased visitation was not, unfortunately, followed by additional funding. Although the facility attracted 87,000 tourists in the month of November 1968, Tucker announced in December of that year that Cabrillo would cut its schedule from a seven day to a five day program. The reduction in services were necessitated by the Revenue and Expenditure Control Act passed by Congress the preceding June which placed curbs on the number of vacant government positions that could be filled.  The resulting shortage of staff caused reduced hours. As in the past, the monument administration was put in the difficult position of encouraging visitors while at the same time being unable to provide for their needs.
The Mayor's Committee for the Statue That Never Was
The monument, with its close proximity to downtown San Diego, had always enjoyed a close and cordial relationship with the City. The proprietary interest that local officials always had for the monument had worked to its benefit, both in acquiring land from the military and applying political pressure to maintain and increase its programs. In 1967, however, a plan inaugurated by the Mayor Frank Curran was clearly at odds with Park Service policy for Cabrillo and the situation required the utmost in tact from every level in the administration.
In May 1967, Superintendent Tucker informed the Regional Director that Mayor Curran had announced a plan to build at the monument, a 150 foot statue of Cabrillo "overlooking San Diego Bay and facing northward as symbolic of the explorer's northward trek and lighted up at this vantage point so as to command attention of the visitors to San Diego, as well as those at sea."  Tucker had hoped that due to the tremendous amount of money involved in the project, the idea would fade away, but it appeared that this was not to be the case. On the contrary, support seemed to be growing and Tucker pointed out to his superiors that "because of the prominent forces behind the proposal, a delicate situation is created."  Due to the sensitive nature of the problem, he asked for guidance in stating the Service position. Wrote Tucker: "I am sure that Director Hartzog will be involved through our Congress people, and no doubt through the Secretary; and I am equally sure that is not a matter that can be dispensed with by hiding behind a number of glib explanations having to do with Service policy." 
The initial response from the Region was surprisingly mild considering the enormity of the project. Because "the natural scene on Point Loma...has been so disturbed by various existing and proposed developments that there seems little point in attempting to guard it from one more development,"  the Regional Director agreed to recommend the project to the Director with certain provisions. First of all, the lighthouse, in view of its popularity with the public, should "not be overwhelmed by a huge statue." With this in mind, the new statue would be permitted only if located in the present visitor center area and not "in the general vicinity of, or at the same elevation as the lighthouse." Secondly, the government of Portugal must be satisfied with the proposed memorial since the existing Cabrillo statue was a gift from the Portuguese people. Thirdly, no funds could be appropriated from the Service for any part of the project including lighting, and permanent private funding must be provided for future maintenance and repair of the statue. Last of all, the Service had to approve both the structure and design of the project and this decision must be approved by the Director. 
The mayor considered this an endorsement to proceed with his plans and named August Felando, president of the American Tunaboat Association, to head the committee on the project. The first order of business for the group was to enlist the aid of Congressman Bob Wilson and contact other agencies in regard to the projectin particular, the Navy and the Federal Aviation Administration. Plans were also made for committee member Mario T. Ribeiro to approach the Portuguese government.  The mayor chose the Cabrillo Festival to bring the project to public attention for the first time and personally asked the Portuguese Ambassador for support in his plan to create a "Maritime Pacific Monument which will identify the momentous historical explorations which resulted in the discovery of the Bay of San Diego in 1542 by the famous Portuguese explorer and navigator, Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo." 
In the interest of historical continuity (and, no doubt, in the hopes of assuring government approval), the committee made much of the fact that Cabrillo National Monument had been created in 1913 to allow the Order of Panama to erect "a heroic statue of Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo."  Though the Order of Panama no longer existed, the Native Sons of the Golden West, named in a subsequent proclamation in 1926, was still an active organization in the state. Since the Native Sons had never exercised their option to create a suitable monument, the Mayor's Committee gave them a second chance. August Felando became a member of the local parlor (chapter) of the organization and received encouragement from its president, Clyde H. McMorrow: "If you can line up a little new life blood to give the Parlor a transfusion," he wrote, "maybe we can get it going to fulfill some to these purposes for which it was intended."  As their first act of involvement, the Native Sons submitted a proposal for the project to the Federal Aviation Administration in October 1967.  Permission was necessary from this agency because of the height of the proposed statue.
As plans for the monument became more concrete, the Regional Office began to offer specific objections to the proposed project. Committee member, Carl Reupsch contacted the Director in Washington outlining a proposal for an elevator and an observation platform to be located at the top of the statue, likening the structure to the Statue of Liberty.  Almost simultaneously, the Regional Director was registering his objections to the very same features.  In spite of growing alarm within the Service at the enormity of the project, no indication of its disapproval was presented to San Diego authorities.
The project reached front page status when Mayor Curran announced it to the public during his State of the City message on January 15, 1968. Revealing an architectural rendering the mayor said, "A city that wishes to maintain its position in the sun must think in terms of bold new concepts...[the monument] lighted at night, would be visible for miles in every direction from sea and air and would set San Diego apart from most other port cities of the world."  The new memorial, as he envisioned it, would be part of the city's 200th anniversary to be celebrated in 1969, with the Portuguese government taking an active part in the bicentennial festivities. Having revealed his grand plan, the mayor then announced that while members of his committee were travelling to Portugal to enlist the support of that government, he would pay a personal visit to Interior Secretary Udall to secure his support 
With the enormous amount of publicity generated by the announcement, not only in the local media but statewide as well, the Acting Regional Director admitted that in spite of his office's reservations about the idea, it would be politically unwise to protest too strenuously. Writing to Director Hartzog's office, he said, "...in view of the international goodwill aspects of the situation which will be involved if the Portuguese government should contribute substantially to the financing of the statue, we believe the Service has no alternative but to cooperate gracefully and cheerfully in the project."  The Director, however, was considerably less willing to be cheerful. In attempting to explain the situation to the Under Secretary of the Interior, he wrote:
Although a complete rejection of the project seemed out of the question at the moment, the Director hoped that it would be possible to "negotiate for a smaller structure without an elevator although we would accept a viewing platform at some reasonable height to be reached only by a stairway."  To head off any misinterpretation of the Park Service's position, Superintendent Tucker spelled it out for the Peninsula Chamber of Commerce. No part of the construction, design or maintenance of the statue, he said, could be paid for with government funds. The new project could not distract from the lighthouse, the monument's principal landmark. The monument was a free tourist attraction on Point Loma and was therefore not in competition with Sea World, the San Diego Zoo or Disneyland. The general feeling concerning the proposal was summed up by Tucker's statement, "Cabrillo has already been memorialized by the monument, but if it is the will of the people [to construct a new one] so be it." 
For the next few months, plans gained momentum as the Mayor's committee produced a feasibility report and cost estimates on the project.  Park Service objections raised at the Regional level continued to center on the elevator and became even more strenuous when it became obvious that the committee planned to charge the public for its use as the chief source of income for maintenance. 
While the mayor reiterated the importance of securing approval for his project from the Secretary of the Interior as soon as possible, not all the public reaction was positive. Besides the usual letters to the editor in the local papers deploring the use of millions of dollars while children went hungry, more powerful opposition grew as well. The San Diego Chapter of the Sierra Club passed a formal resolution disapproving the proposal saying, "it would be a distracting invasion upon the total esthetic values of the Monument, whose apex of interest is the completely charming old lighthouse."  Hamilton Marston, a member of one of San Diego's oldest and most influential families, wrote the Mayor a personal letter concerning the statue. In it, he questioned whether a city of the future should be represented by an idea so firmly rooted in the past:
In a later press conference, the Mayor referred to the letter without revealing the source. He said, however, that such a view was in the minority and reaction to the project was predominantly favorable.
Several months before the Mayor had gone public with his idea, committee member Mario T. Ribeiro had been dispatched to Portugal to discuss the project with government officials, since the inclusion of the Portuguese government was an integral part of the plan. After meeting with the a representative of the minister of Foreign Affairs and the Department of National Information, Ribeiro seemed satisfied that his "mission [had] been of definite value and [had] served the final purpose."  On the advice of the Portuguese ambassador, the committee made a formal application for funding to the Foundation Calouste Gulbenkian, a multi-million dollar private foundation. 
Although the committee had been led to believe that the foundation was enthusiastic about the project, translating enthusiasm to cash proved to be impossible. On April 9, 1968, the committee received final word from the foundation that due to political involvement in Africa, neither the Portuguese government nor the foundation were in a position to contribute funds. In a letter explaining the situation, Ambassador Pedro Theotonio Pereira, a trustee of the foundation, wrote: "Portugal is making a gigantic effort in Africa to save what belongs to her. That effort is being made exclusively by the Portuguese people at its own cost...the contribution of the Portuguese to the second centennial of the foundation of San Diego will not be one million dollars to make a reality of such a project." 
With no monetary assistance forthcoming from the Portuguese government, the committee designed a plan to obtain local donors, the names of whom would be engraved on a brass plaque to be displayed at the statue. This proposal immediately brought objections of the Park Service which had specific prohibitions against such plaques in national parks. 
Though no mention is made in official correspondence about the Portuguese rejection of financial support for the project, a reversal of policy on the matter by the Director's office occurred soon after. Up until this time, objections had been made to specific elements of the proposal but the idea of completely disallowing it had never been seriously considered. On May 2, 1968, however, in a terse memorandum to the Secretary of the Interior, the Acting Director rejected the proposed design for the project and the disapproval was endorsed by Secretary of the Interior Udall. Basing his rejection on the "relatively unimpaired condition," of Point Loma, Acting Director Harthon Bill wrote: "We are convinced that what we build, or allow to be built, in national parks or on such scenic heights as Point Loma, should stand as examples to the Nationexamples, not 'bigger is better' but of structures truly appropriate to the environment in which they are placed." 
The matter appeared settled at the Washington level. However, it was up to Superintendent Tucker to inform the Mayor of the apparent collapse of his project. In a memo to the California Coordinating Officer of the Park Service, Tucker wrote of the consequences of the action taken by Washington:
The Mayor's reaction to the rejection was one of surprise and confusion since he had not been privy to any of the Park Service's interoffice discussions of the past year. According to Tucker, Curran entertained a strong belief "that perhaps our Service generally disapproved of the project [from the beginning] and was utilizing less than candid means to discourage further progress."  Hoping to discover the specific objections of the Park Service to his idea, the Mayor dispatched the chairman of the committee to Washington to meet personally with the Director, Vice President Humphrey's liaison officer with the nation's mayors and congressmen Bob Wilson and Lionel Van Deerlin.  As a result of these meetings, the Director agreed to make a personal visit to San Diego to confer with the Mayor. The outcome of the visit was a promise by the Director that he would appoint a special subcommittee to the Secretary of the Interior's Advisory Board on National Parks, Historic Sites, Buildings and Monuments to review the matter.  Chosen to serve on the committee were: Joe B. Frantz, Chairman of the Department of History, University of Texas; Nathaniel A. Owings, architect of Skidmore, Owings and Merrill, San Francisco; and Dr. Melvin Payne, President, National Geographic Society.  In addressing the subcommittee as to their purpose, the Deputy Director wrote:
Unfortunately for the Mayor's plan, the special committee was no more impressed with the enormous statue than the Director had been. When asked by August Felando whether there was any way to design an acceptable statue at the proposed height, Nathaniel Owings replied that he felt it was indeed impossible. Joe B. Franz, the chairman of the team stressed, however, that it was not the group's mission to express a negative spirit but to be constructive and find a solution. This "solution" was suggested by Owings' architectural firm and involved a complete redesign of the project. Using the existing statue as a "precious jewel to be placed in a proper setting,"  the new plan called for the sculpture to be set in an amphitheater. The backing would be a masonry wall 30 feet high which would contain an enormous battery of floodlights creating a shaft of light 400 feet above the structure. To complete the image, a reflecting pool was to be constructed at the foot of the statue with an avenue of flags leading to it. 
As part of his contribution to the project, Owings agreed to provide the preliminary sketches and to present them to the Mayor and his committee. The project was "agreed to in principle by the National Park Service"  with the exception of the flags and the fountain, and the revised plan shown to the Mayor at a meeting of the Cabrillo Historical Association on July 18, 1969.  After a polite but somewhat tepid approval by the Mayor's Committee, Owings made a formal presentation of the revised plan at the Cabrillo Festival Banquet. In attendance were 500 guests including government officials from Portugal. After the event, the Regional Office wrote to the Director: "Our obligations have been discharged as we see them. A design has been created which is acceptable to both the National Park Service and the City of San Diego." 
Though politely accepted by the Mayor's Committee, the new plan did not engender the enthusiasm of the old, and the entire project was allowed to die. Although "obligations had been discharged," by the Park Service, an acceptable design produced and all the formalities observed, Mayor Curran had no illusions about what had been done to his idea to create a memorial on the order of the Statue of Liberty. Said he in a later interview: "It got squashed by the National Park Service." 
As long as it appeared that the Portuguese government might play a large role in the promotion and financing of the project, the Park Service was willing to consider it, within certain guidelines. It would seem that when this was no longer the case, the concept of an enormous statue on Park Service land came to a swift end. In an attempt to help Superintendent Tucker deal with local consequences of the rejection, the Director appointed a committee of distinguished men to come up with an acceptable alternative. In the view of the Mayor, however, their solution lacked the romantic grandeur of the original.
Considering the enormity of the project, the fact that it would have changed the nature of the monument irrevocably, and the delicacy necessary to deal with the high level of officials involved, the Park Service managed the situation with admirable tact. Although the result was indeed to "squash" the Mayor's idea, there is no indication that the incident provoked any lasting enmity between the monument and the city of San Diego. Lest anyone think that the matter is permanently settled, however, it should be noted that the idea of an enormous statue for Point Loma appears to resurface in some mutated form every few decades. The April 1986 issue of California Magazine carried an item which described the plan of a Spring Valley man for, "a West Coast version of the Statue of Liberty featuring a 150 foot male in briefs standing on a 150 foot concrete base that would house a revolving restaurant, gift shop and theater."  It might well be that some future superintendent of Cabrillo will again face the Colossus of San Diego.
Last Updated: 02-Mar-2005