United States: 619-330-9430

Tower Bar San Diego

Tower Bar

The Tower has been a San Diego landmark since 1932.

City Beat Best Dive Bar – 2011

San Diego Magazine -Best of San Diego August, 2010

City Beat Best Dive Bar 2007.. “One of the 10 best dive bars in San Diego”, The San Diego Union Tribune’s Sign On San Diego.
Bartender of the Month for July 2005,and October 2006
Monday nights at The Tower with Lady Dottie & The Diamonds was one of SPIN Magazine’s top 101 things to do, June 2006.

The Tower Bar was the first in San Diego to re-introduce Pabst Blue Ribbon on tap, and is the home of the PABST-SMEAR (1/2 Guinness/1/2 Pabst). We also have the largest selection of genuine Absinthe in town.

The Tower Building is located at 4757 University Avenue, lot thirty four block one of the Fairmont Addition Re-subdivision. The Contractor was David H. Ryan. The architect is unknown. Originally designed as part of a theater, The Tower was built as a drive-in soda fountain in the fall of 1932. As first built, The Tower was an octagonal structure. It was glassed-in, and had swinging double doors on five sides. It contained a central kitchen and a circular counter. The second floor was a glassed-in observation deck.

The support of the Tower comes from four 16″ by 16″ white spruce pillars originally intended for use in an asphalt plant. These pillars were pulled into position by Mr. Ryan’s Lincoln Roadster. They are anchored in place by strap iron which is sunk into ten concrete piers which for the building’s foundation. The flooring is slab concrete. The roof is composition. The parking lot was bricked, but these were removed in 1946 and used to make the low wall which runs along the eastern edge of the property.

The most distinctive feature of the Tower is the 110′ hollow monumental pylon which crowns the top of the building. The pylon is a wooden dental extension which resembles a model of the Empire State Building. The pylon has since been shortened by four to six feet in order to make it more easily accessible for maintenance. It originally had a clock on each of its sides, but these were removed because children repeatedly shot out the plate glass on the clocks’ faces with pellet guns and slingshots.

The architectural style of the Tower is Zigzag Moderne, sometimes called Art Deco. Zigzag Moderne developed from the classical-inspired designs of Bertram B Goodhue, the vertical Gothic schemes of Eliel Saarinen, the forms of the Paris Exposition des Arts Decoratif of 1925, and the early twenties designs of Frank Lloyd Wright. It was also influenced by the developing International style. The principal characteristics of Zigzag Moderne are: smooth surfaced volumes; windows arranged in sunken vertical panels; frequent use of central tower, whose summit recedes in a stepped pattern; a flat roof; symmetry and balance for each elevation; tendency for buildings to be monumental, formal and heavy; ornamentation of zigzags, chevrons, sunbursts, spirals and stylized plant and animal motifs. The land on which the Tower is situated was occupied during the early part of the century by a small frame house, This house was moved to 4762 when the Tower was built. In the twenties and early thirties the house was used as an office by Adamson Realty Co. The property was owned by a series of speculators including Edward Summers, who was a realtor known as “The Bungalow King”.

The Tower has remain in the David H. Ryan family since it was built. The Ground floor has always been some sort of eating establishment, and the upper floor used at times as a beauty shop. The 32′ long rectangular east side addition was constructed in 1948. At that time the octagonal part of the Tower was enclosed with frame stucco. The flooring of the new addition was asphalt tile. Booths were installed along the walls and the restaurant was located there. The octagonal part of the building was used as a bar.

This arrangement was reversed during a remodeling in 1964. The remodeling was necessary because a car went out of control and crashed through the front section of the building. In 1973 the upstairs was converted to the restaurant kitchen. Access to the restaurant is by means of a dumbwaiter.

The Tower is structurally sound and in quite good condition, except for peeling exterior paint. The present lessee and proprietor of the restaurant, Mr. Jerry Davis, hopes to convert the section of the roof above the east side addition into an outside dining patio by the summer of 1979.

Featured Events Nearby

Photo galleries

Switched Saturday 2006
Tower Bar, San Diego