Remembering Balboa Park’s Nudist Colony at the Zoro Garden
One of my favorite places in San Diego is Balboa Park. The sprawling park features fanciful architecture housing a plethora of museums, plus multiple gardens. One such garden is the Zoro Garden, which is tucked away behind a leaf covered wall, and shaded beneath massive trees. When I first gazed upon it I wouldn’t have been half surprised to see winged sprites jump from behind trees as it looked like a fairyland. Today it is indeed home to small winged creatures, butterflies to be exact, but from 1935 to 1936 this sunken garden designed by Richard Requa was home to a nudist colony.
Balboa Park started out as simply a city park, but expanded greatly in 1915 when Panama-California Exposition arrived. Twenty years later it experienced another expansion, as it hosted yet another fair, the California Pacific International Exposition. It is with this fair that the Zoro Garden was built and featured a nudist colony as one of the Exposition’s exhibits.
Visitors paid 25 cents to watch nude men and women frolic, play volleyball, lounge, or perform their 20 minute skit “Sacrifice to the Sun God” performed five times daily! However, while it said “nude” no one was actually fully nude. Women were topless, and wore small G-strings, and men wore loincloths. But despite no full nudity it was a popular attraction. Some tried to sneak a peek at the colony, without paying the 25 cents, through slim cracks or knotholes in the wooden fence.
The garden did boast some amenities for the nudists, including a “Mayan style” building, which housed a kitchen and bathroom. Sadly, the building does not exist any more.
At some point Alpha the Robot found his way to the Zoro Garden from the Palace of Science and was photographed with Yvonne Stacey, aka Zorine: Queen of the Nudists.
In 1936 Stacey was replaced by Florence Cubitt, who was known as Queen Tanya. Also, the price tripled to 75 cents for viewing what is noted as perhaps the only nudist colony to charge admission for spectators. When the California Pacific International Exposition closed up at the end of 1936, as did the nudists. In 1997, with the nudists long gone, the area was transformed into a butterfly garden, although we didn’t spy any during our visit.
Frolic in the Zoro Garden (but with your clothes on, please!) in Balboa Park at 1549 El Prado in San Diego.
California Pacific International Exposition and the Zoro Garden Nudist Colony. Cilo. Accessed 18 July 2019.
Showley, Roger. “Zoro Gardens – a nudist colony in Balboa Park.” The San Diego Tribune, 28 May 2012. Accessed 18 July 2019.
Showley, Roger. “Balboa Park: Nudist haven in 1935-6.” The San Diego Tribune, 20 May 2015. Accessed 20 July 2019.
Zoro (or Zorro) Garden Nudist Colony – Anonymous Real Photos. San Diego History Center. Accessed 18 July 2019.
Jeans: Freddies of Pinewood
Turquoise Jewelry: Here and there…
Tooled Leather Purse: Buffalo Exchange
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4 comments on “Remembering Balboa Park’s Nudist Colony at the Zoro Garden”
What, no nude poses?
I need to visit this park some day! What a beautiful place. Thanks for sharing!
I always wondered what that garden used to be, since it looks like a theater a bit. We love walking around there and the kids play around and sometimes we’re lucky and see butterflies
What a trip to find out there were nudist once at the zoo they look happy n nice too