Walk Through History at Liberty Station
San Diego’s Liberty Station is well-known for its boutique shopping, art spectating, and tasty restaurants—but it’s also deeply rooted in naval history that goes beyond leisurely weekends. Originally a Naval Training Center (NTC) that opened in 1923, Liberty Station has transitioned into a cultural hub of art, leisure and history—creating a timeless destination. To this day, the history of the neighborhood remains—in its buildings, plazas, corridors and more.
Here’s how to walk through the history at Liberty Station, at just a few of the neighborhood’s historical hot spots:
Sellers Plaza and Gate One
Start your adventure at the grand entrance of Liberty Station off Barnett Avenue. The anchor of flowers and main gate were seen as the Naval Training Center (NTC)’s front door and are the oldest landmark on the property. The memorable landmark seen by all visitors and recruits was named for the base’s first commander, Sellers Plaza. When you enter Liberty Station today, you’ll also see the twin guard buildings on either side of the gate with the steel arch added in 1932. Fun fact, Gate One was the only entrance left open past a certain hour so if sailors stayed out past curfew, they were busted on their way back to base.
Sail Ho Golf Course
As you make your way down Truxton Road, there is a grassy area on the right between Perry Road and Sims Road. This used to be the Sail Ho Golf Course. The base couldn’t be all fun and no play, so NTC’s first lieutenant, G.T. Campbell, drummed up the idea to include recreational fun into the lives of the enlisted personnel and officers. In the early years, the golf course was a 4-hole link course and eventually grew to include an 18-hole putting course.
Commissary and Mess Hall, Building 1
The commissary was a giant market where sailors on shore duty and officers’ wives would pick up goods. As part of the military perks, on-base goods were tax-free and prices were 20 percent less than civilian stores.
Next to Central Promenade is the old center of the base, the Dick Laub NTC Command Center. It was built next to Preble Field in 1941,which the sailors used as one of the marching plazas. The Command Center was a place for the highest-ranking officers to hold meetings with visiting dignitaries in the elite conference rooms.
Check out THE LOT luxury movie theatre, which was once the Luce Auditorium, a theater that held the stage for iconic performers and made for the ultimate place for sailors to take their dates. Crowds would gather at the Luce Auditorium to listen to famous bands, performers and comedians for only 25 cents a ticket—and that included popcorn! Fun fact, the 2,200-seat theater was one of the first military theaters equipped with CinemaScope.
Kitty corner from THE LOT is North Chapel, the only white building at the Naval Training Center, so you can’t miss it! A gorgeous venue for officer weddings and modern-day matrimonies, this place remains a destination for making lasting memories. Back in the day there were clergy members of all religions to conduct services. Look closely and in the stained-glass windows when you visit and you will see designs that depict the various training schools at the NTC.
Make your way to the southern tip of the neighborhood to the USS Recruit, the only commissioned ship that never set sail. More than 50,000 recruits used this stationary ship to learn basic naval procedure. better known as the “USS Neversail!”