I grew up coming to San Diego almost every summer. We mostly stayed at the beach, which was fine with me as I spent most of my time fearlessly out on my heavy canvas raft, out beyond the waves. At night I’d sit next to the sea wall and listen to the waves. Occasionally we’d go shopping in Mission Valley, go shopping in La Jolla (Mom loved to shop), go to Balboa park and the zoo, or go to Old Town to eat and look around.
This time I’ve spent in San Diego has taken me all over the county, north and south, east and west, into many neighborhoods and outlying areas. It’s been interesting to delve deeper into this county. I realized early on that it wasn’t my home, I wasn’t here to settle, like I had spent much of my life dreaming about, but rather, I was here for some reason, still undefined.
So, as part of my ongoing exploration of this place, I went to Old Town on Oct. 31st and back again on Nov. 3, to explore the history there. Yes, the area is filled with many restaurants and shops, tourist sites gone crazy, but it is also filled with much history. It provides a place to look into the past and imagine San Diego before tall buildings, shopping malls, freeways, and to see the hopes and dreams of the pioneers that saw the potential here and committed to making it happen.
So……come walk with me through Old Town and let me share with you some of the wonderful old buildings and sights:
Let’s start with the Mormon Battalion. It is on the NW corner of Juan and Harney Streets. This is a very delightful interactive museum staffed with Mormon Missionaries, old artifacts and new technology to give you a visceral experience of the story told. It is like mini-Disneyland. The story tells you of 500 men and 32 Mormon women who joined with the US troops, to travel 2000 miles on foot, the longest march in US Military history, from Council bluffs, Iowa to San Diego. They started on July 16,1846 and arrived in Jan. 1847, without having to engage in any battles, although the mission had been to fight the Mexican/American War.
Next, we head over to the Denby-Pendleton House, walking south on Harney Street. It is a prefabricated wood house, shipped from Maine, around the Horn of South America, to be built in San Diego in 1853. It is one of the oldest wooden homes in San Diego. It is next to a Creole Restaurant I’d like to try, and behind the Whaley house.
Traveling south and turning left at the corner, heading east on San Diego Ave., we walk by the Whaley house, built in 1856, considered the oldest brick building in San Diego. This house is considered haunted and is open for tours. Price is $6 per adult. All the rest of the places I visited are free.
Next we travel east past the intersection of Conde Street and onto the diagonal path of San Diego Ave. to the El Campo Santo Cemetary. This was used in 1850-1880. Many of the graves ended up under San Diego Ave. during it’s paving. Identification of those buried there is still underway. In the pictures you see the plaque at it’s entrance, then the graves. You’ll notice the marigold flower petals left on the graves from the Dio de los Muertos ceremony that took place over the weekend, celebrating the dead.
Crossing the street and heading west on San Diego Ave. we walk past some stores and restaurants and this wonderful old fashioned Zoltar game. Since I loved the movie “Big”, I couldn’t help but take a picture of this. Just standing there, Zoltar invited me to step forward and have my fortune read 🙂 Maybe next time when I go back and tour the Whaley house 🙂
We cross Conde street, heading west and pass the stores and Whaley house again, and now pass the pretty Immaculate Conception Church, which began construction in 1868 and was dedicated in 1919.
Passing the corner of San Diego Ave. and Twiggs street, we enter into the area with more historic buildings, some museums now, some stores. We pass this colorful Dio de los Muertos altar, set up in front of the El Patio restaurant.
Next, as we near the Old Town San Diego Historic Park, we see the Sessions, Building, built in 1929 for Milton P. Sessions, a well known San Diego landscape architect. This is now a candle shop.
May’s Saddle and Harness shop building is next, built in 1869 by Charles E. May. It was moved to New San Diego and another one was built here in 1872. It is a candy shop now.
Still heading west, we come to the Colorado house, now the Wells Fargo Museum, with a stage coach, and other banking and mail artifacts. It was built in 1851 by Cave Couts and used originally as a hotel.
Behind the Colorado house is the La Casa de Machado y Stewart house, built in 1835, considered the oldest adobe home in San Diego. I took two photos of the inside and one of the south side of the home.
Two buildings down from the Colorado House we come to the Machado de Silvas Building built in 1830. One picture is of the home, another is of the Restaurante casa Commercial and another Dio de los Muertos altar that was in the back.
Next is the US house, built in 1850 and used as a general store. It burned in 1872 in a big fire and was restored. It is now a shop filled with various tin items.
We now round the corner, heading north on Wallace Street, passing the Robinson Rose House which is now used as a visitor center, and pass by two more dressed up skeleton mannequins in front of the Barra Barra Saloon.
We round the corner again, heading east on Calhoun Street and come to Casa de Bandina, built in 1829 by Juan Bandina, sold to Alfred Seely in 1869. He added a second story and turned it into the Cosmopolitan Hotel. There are still a few rooms there to rent and a restaurant.
Next to the hotel is the Seely Stables. The photo shows a Concord Stagecoach on the left and a Wells Fargo mud wagon on the right, used to take mail and passengers from San Diego to Julian. It is an Abbot-Downing Celerity Wagon.
And lastly, as we cross the street, we come to La Casa de Estudillo, built in 1827 by Captain Jose Maria de Estudillo. This is the most famous Old Town adobe. This was mistakenly known as “Ramona’s Wedding Place”, from Helen Hunt Jackson’s novel. I loved the lay out of this house with the courtyard in the middle. I suppose I’d get tired of having to walk through various rooms though, to get from one to the other 🙂 One photo is of another Dio de los Muertos altar and the other is of the home.
Well, that concludes our walk and tour. I hope you enjoyed it. You might enjoy reading my other post with various photos of other costumed skeletons and sculptures https://katelontjeffereys.wordpress.com/2014/10/22/colorful-characters-in-old-town-san-diego/. Thanks for joining me today.