The year was 1910. William Howard Taft was president, the Panama Canal was near completion, and the country was enjoying the carefree years of la belle époque. In the small town of San Diego, a burst of architectural creativity produced noteworthy buildings, such as those in Horton Plaza and the U.S. Grant Hotel. In fashionable "Uptown," horticulturist Kate Sessions was planting trees that would soon shade glorious Balboa Park. On the fringe of this newborn landscape, master architect Norman Foote Marsh unveiled the Park Place Methodist Episcopal Church, an acclaimed structure that would eventually become "The Abbey." This striking embodiment of Spanish Colonial Revival architecture boasts a dozen stained glass windows, and is topped with a triumphant statue of Gabriel blowing his horn. Over the years the church underwent several incarnations, and in 1984, an award-winning renovation transformed it into a popular restaurant, christened "The Abbey." The statue of Gabriel was coated in gleaming gold leaf, but with the exception of a little wood refinishing and the replacement of some light fixtures and stained glass, nothing was done to alter the facility's vintage beauty. The Abbey renovations won several awards including the Presidential Design Award sponsored by the National Endowment for the Arts. At the dawn of the 21st century, this historic building celebrated its 90th birthday, and is believed to be the only classical-revival structure still standing in San Diego. The Abbey is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, an enormous honor reserved for only a limited amount of places throughout the nation.
Today, The Abbey on Fifth is a private special event facility managed by Hornblower Cruises & Events, two-time recipients of the prestigious "Finest Service Award." They invite you to stage your party, wedding, or corporate event amid the Abbey's dramatic classic décor. Two enormous domed, stained glass skylights bathe the room in a pale yellow glow, while the twelve luminous stained glass windows cast their own heavenly light. Standing in the middle of this former church, you feel as if you're in a Renaissance cathedral: dark, polished redwood molding and woodwork is everywhere—framing doors, railings, walls and in curved balconies. Stunning fixtures made of hand-blown, orange-yellow glass are suspended from 50-foot ceilings.
Wedding ceremonies take place where the pulpit used to be, and no matter where guests are seated—on the ground floor or up on the mezzanine—they can easily see the goings-on. Add a few candelabras and you have the perfect place for a Renaissance celebration (one wedding party actually wore tights!). The Abbey is a full-service facility, so after a ceremony up to 300 guests are treated to an elegant reception. Gourmet cuisine is prepared on-site in the Abbey's commissary, where bread has been broken and wine has been shared for the past nine decades. The services of a full-time wedding coordinator are also available to help you make the most of this unique location.
The Abbey, a cherished San Diego landmark, is sure to appeal to any couple feeling a kinship with tradition and romance.