Fun things to do in Old Town San Diego State Historical Park

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Most Viewed Things to Do in Old Town San Diego State Historical Park

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    Take A Walk Through Presidio Park

    by lmkluque Updated May 1, 2012

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    There is a lovely expanse of park area in Old Town just behind Fiesta de Reyes. Most tourists miss it, but if you are traveling with children who need to run off some excess energy or if you'd rather a picnic on the lawn, this is a place to be.

    There are little surprises hidden throughout the park, this is one of several statues placed in various spots. The Morman Memorial is up here, a lovely pergola stands waiting for the wedding party and here, also is where you'll find the Presidio.

    Rewards of Exploring in the park!
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    Visitor's Center

    by lmkluque Updated May 1, 2012

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    Headquarters for the park is located in the Robinson-Rose House at the north/west corner of the town square.

    The house was built in the Spring of 1850 by a Texas lawyer, James Robinson. The San Diego Herald, the San Diego and Gila Railroad offices were not the only offices James and his family shared their home with. When James died his wife sold the building to Louis Rose in 1857. Seventeen years later the roof was destroyed by fire and the building fell into ruins. What you see today is a reconstructed version which is home to the Park's headquarters. Inside there is a crude, but interesting model of the Old Town plan as it was in 1872.

    Admission is free, it's open daily 10-5 and there are Park Rangers who are helpful and happy to answer questions.

    View from Visitor Center Free Daily Tours at  11:00 a.m.
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    Where It All Ends!!

    by lmkluque Updated May 1, 2012

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    El Campo Santo Cemetery in Old Town began in 1849. This Roman Catholic cemetery had over 400 buried. It is a small place now, but part of the original cemetery is located underneath the street and sidewalks of San Diego Avenue! Thousands of stories have been told of feeling icy chills, cars not starting once parked in front of the walls, and actual visions of people dressed in period costume have been reported. So, it's worth a visit, especially for the possibilities of ghost sitings.

    Entrance is free, but for hard-core ghost lovers, there is a night time tour given by Old Town Trolley Ghosts and Gravestone Tours, that will take you, in the evening, to El Campo Santo Cemetery, as well as to many other places that are believed to be haunted and give a thrill.

    Bodies on both sides of the wall
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    La Casa De Estudillo

    by lmkluque Updated May 1, 2012

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    As a school girl, third grade I think it was, I came to this place and was told it was "Ramona's Marriage Place." Helen Hunt Jackson had written a novel called "Ramona" and it was believed that the chapal in Casa de Estudillo was the location Ramona said her vows. Since that time it was discovered that the chaple mentioned in the book was located a few blocks away.

    California State Parks took over this building--as with all the others--and we learn the real story of this mansion, through the recreation of each room in the compound.

    Construction of this home began in 1827 for Capitan Jose Maria Estudillo, retired comandante at the Presidio. Each room has been recreated in the style of that time, though no one is sure exactly how the Estudillo family furnished their home.

    Centered in the living room (sala) is a portrait of Captain Jose Maria Estudillo painted from descriptions of the man by family members. This room was used for formal dinners, dancing and receiving dignitaries.

    There are thirteen rooms to see and a peaceful herb garden with bubbling water fountain in the inner courtyard.

    La Sala La Sala
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    Commercial Restaurant

    by lmkluque Updated May 1, 2012

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    This was originally the home of Jose Antonio Nicasio Silvas, his wife Maria Antonia Juliana Machado and their six children. Though the family moved to El Rosario, their ranch in Baja California, the house remained in family hands until 1933.

    The building survived the 1872 fire and over the years was used for several different purposes including serving as a restaruant which it represents today. The dining room has only one table set as an example, and the original was most likely not quite so formal.

    Casa Machado y Slivas
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    Plaza Del Pasado

    by lmkluque Updated May 1, 2012

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    Bazaar del Mundo has been replaced by Plaza del Pasado and I went there to see the changes.

    The difference was so shocking that I just stood there, staring, mouth open and even I forgot to take a picture! A lady standing near me must have recognized my reaction because she said, "I don't like it!"

    Guess, I was standing at the entrance too long in my shocked state as three other strangers had about the same reaction and felt the need to express it to me, without any effort on my part.

    Plaza del Posada looked as barren as your house might if a stranger had removed everything that belonged to you.

    Imagine this photo without the gazebo in the center--replacing it a brown patch of dirt. Imagine every flower cut from the bushes. Imagine everything with any color on it removed. Thank God they left the grass!

    I'll go back later to see the finished product as many of the proposed shops were still empty.

    In all fairness, Plaza del Posada now looks more like the rest of the park. However, one of the biggest draws to the park was the festive atmosphere Bazar del Mundo brought to it. There is nothing special added by Plaza del Posada.

    I will leave the Bazar del Mundo tips in place for those who have been here before and might want to know what happened to their favorite part of the park.

    Update:

    It seems that it was not only my opinion that something was missing from the new Plaza Del Pasado. There was a marked decline and a new company took it over and it is called, "Fiesta de Reyes." This time they did it right and things are picking up in a good way! Though I see a difference, I doubt that even return visitors will. Happy Days are here again!

    Bazar Del Mundo Has Moved!
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    A bit of Color!

    by lmkluque Updated May 1, 2012

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    Either this is something new or it had just blended in with the Bazar del Mundo look so, I hadn't noticed it before.

    At the entrance of Old Town San Diego State Historic Park three of these colorful kiosks stand. The items offered for sale are not quite unique and can also be found in many of the shops in Old Town. However, it is near the "Old Town Trolley Tours" stand so convenient for those waiting to take the tour.

    Colorful Kiosk
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    Junipero Serra Museum ~Presidio Park 1769-1820

    by Yaqui Written Nov 19, 2011

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    It was here in 1769 that a Spanish Franciscan missionary, Father Junípero Serra, with a group of soldiers led by Gaspar de Portolá, established Alta California’s first mission and presidio (fort).

    On July 16, 1769, near the site where the museum now stands, Fr. Serra founded the Mission San Diego de Alcalá. Often confused for the Mission, the Serra Museum was built between 1928-1929 for the purpose of housing and showcasing the collection of the San Diego History Center, which was founded in 1928. The structure was designed by architect, William Templeton Johnson, using Spanish Revival architecture, to resemble the early missions that once dominated the landscape of Southern California.

    Open:
    Saturday and Sunday, 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m, April 1 - November 5.

    Saturday and Sunday, 10:00 a.m. to 4:00pm, November 6 - March 31.

    Sunday Tours of the Serra Museum:
    Docent led guided tours of the museum and/or grounds of the presidio available with paid admission on Sundays. Ask for details at the admission's desk.

    Admission:
    $6 Adults
    $4 Seniors, Students and Military (I.D. required)
    $2 Children ages 6-17
    Free Children under 6
    San Diego History Center members receive unlimited free admission

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    Heritage Park Victorian Village

    by Yaqui Written Nov 19, 2011

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    County park adjacent to Old Town with several restored Victorian homes and San Diego's first synagogue, which now hosts weddings, receptions, bar mitzvahs. All were moved here from their original locations. Two of the houses currently serve as bed and breakfast inns.
    Senlis Cottage ~ 1896 ~ 19th century vernacular ~ This modest cottage was built for Eugene Senlis, an employee of San Diego pioneer horticulturist Kate Sessions.

    Sherman-Gilbert House ~ 1887 ~ Stick Eastlake ~ John Sherman, cousin of Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman, hired architects Nelson Comstock and Carl Trotsche to build this house. From 1892, sisters Bess and Gertrude Gilbert, patrons of art and music, brought internationally famous entertainers to receptions in their home. Anna Pavlova danced in the music room and Artur Rubinstein played piano here.

    Bushyhead House ~ 1887 ~ Italianate ~ Edward Wilkerson Bushyhead, early San Diego sheriff, chief of police and San Diego Union newspaper owner, built this house as a rental. Rooms for rent by Heritage Park Inn (619) 299-6832.

    Christian House ~ 1889 ~ Queen Anne ~ This graceful residence was constructed by Harfield Timberlake Christian, founder of an early San Diego abstract company. Rooms for rent by Heritage Park Inn (619) 299-6832.

    McConaughy House ~ 1887 ~ Stick Eastlake ~ Original owner John McConaughy founded the first scheduled passenger and freight service in San Diego County.

    Burton House ~ 1893 ~ Classic revival ~ Henry Guild Burton, retired Army physician, built this home during a trend that, by the turn of the century, began to eliminate decration.

    Temple Beth Israel ~ Classic revival ~ Built by the Congregation Beth Israel, this building served as temporary quarters for many religious sects before they established churches of their own. First services were held here in 1889.

    Old Town San Diego
    Chamber of Commerce
    2415 San Diego Avenue, Suite 107
    San Diego CA 92110

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    San Diego Mormon Battlion Historic Site

    by Yaqui Written Nov 19, 2011

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    This wonderfully center has been totally remodeled. They give interactive free tour of the history of why and what the Mormon Battalion endured to travel to California.

    Open daily 9:00am to 9:00pm

    The United States, at war with Mexico, began calling up troops in 1846. In addition to the regular Army there were volunteers, citizen soldiers who served for one year, led by their own officers plus officers from the regulars. When Congress authorized funds for 50,000 volunteers, Brigham Young arraned for the enlistment of 500 men in order to help finance the Church's exodus to the west.

    Captain james B. Allen recruited five companies at Council Bluffs, Iowa, which became known as the Mormon Battalion, part of the army of the West. Thier main assignment was to establish a wagon road through the Southwest. They left Council Bluffs on July 20, 1846, encumbered by some 37 women and 53 children. After captain Allen became ill and died at Fort Leavenworth, Lt. Colonel Philip St. George Cooke assumed command on October 13. In order to speed up the march, Cooke sent the sick and most of the women and children with a detachment of men to Pueblo, Colorado.

    The Mormon Battalion marched about 2,000 miles, one of the longest continuous marches in U.S. military history. Their challenges increased during the last 700 miles as they made a wagon road through the scorching, wild terrain. By the time they arrived in California, the war there was basically over. The troops never fought in any battle. Upon arriving in San Diego on Jan 29, 1847, Cooke, wrote "The Lt Colonel, commanding, congratulates the Battalion ontheir safe arrival on the shore of the Pacific Ocean, and the conclusion of the march of over two thousand miles. History may be search in vain for an equal march of infantry. With crowbar and pick and ax in hand we have worked our way over mountain and hewed a passage through a chasm of living rock more narrow than our wagons.....Thus marching half naked and half fed, and living upon wild animals, we have discovered and made a road of great value to our country."

    The Butterfield Stage and pioneer travelers used their road. The Southern Pacific Railroad vollowed their route when they opened the great Southwest for travel and commerce.

    In San Diego they rendered much service as they white washed homes, dug wells, built a gristmill and in general befriended the Californios. In Los Angeles they built Fort Moore for the U.S. Army, where they were mustered out on July 16, 1847. Some 82 men relisted, serving an additional eight months as the "Mormon Volunteers."

    The Mormon Battalion is the only military unit in U.S. history recruited from a single religion and known by that religions's nickname. The men enlisted because of religious duty and to help fund their trek across the plains. They sent their military pay to their families, whom they had left in dire circumstances.

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    Church Of The Immaculate Conception

    by Yaqui Written Nov 19, 2011

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    The cornerstone for this church was laid by the Right Reverend Thaddeus Amat, C. M., Bishop of Monterey, on July 10, 1868; ninety-nine years after Father Serra planted the Cross on Presidio hill. Construction was later halter that same year. But growth had returned to Old Town and by 1914 Father Mesny began work to carry out Fr. Ubach’s plan. The brick walls raised by Father Ubach had stood exposed to the elements for 67 years. Father Mesny had the walls torn down, the bricks reclaimed and cleaned for reuse in building the present Church.

    On July 22, 1917 Immaculate Conception Church was opened for divine worship. The Solemn Dedication took place on July 16, 1919 at the hands of Right Reverend John C. Cantwell, D.D., Bishop of Los Angeles and San Diego.

    The Church has been in continuous operation since that time and the ties to the Founding Fathers remain strong. In fact, two of the original bells of the San Diego Mission still summon the faithful to worship: one in the Mission San Diego de Alcala in Mission Valley, the other one, here in the bell tower of Immaculate Conception Church in Old Town. And here, upon completion of the Church renovation in July 1997, the Mission Bell began ringing again in Old Town.

    Serra Gifts Shop Hours:
    Monday - Saturday: 10 A.M. - 5 P.M.
    Now Open Sundays: 9:30 A.M. – 5 P.M.

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    Verna House 1887

    by Yaqui Written Nov 19, 2011

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    This lovely house is the Whaley House Museum Shop. The house has a sad history. Once owned by a recluse Maddalena Daniele Verna. She was always seen collecting odds and ends in her cart. Sadley in 1963 around Christmas time she became ill and before she died, she put a note on the outside of her door saying she was sick. Put her cats outside and then sat in her kitchen chair and passed away. She was found on the 26 Dec from pneumonia. Her obituary stated she might have been related to Frank Capra. The little house sat boarded up and was on the list to be demolished until it was saved and restored by the County of San Diego's Historical Society.

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    Old Adobe Chapel 1858

    by Yaqui Updated Nov 19, 2011

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    Don Jose Aguirre purchased the home of John Brown on Conde Street in Old Town in 1858. The home was made into a chapel. The Adobe Chapel was the first parochial church in the first parish of California after the secularization of the missions in 1832. Father Juan Molliner served as the resident priest for San Diego from 1857 until 1863. In the 1889s the church was covered with wood siding and a shingle roof replaced the tile one. The chapel continued in use until 1917 and was used for a kindergarten until 1922, when it was boarded up until being restored in 1937.

    Open
    Saturday & Sunday 11am-5pm & by appointment
    Closed Christmas day

    Old Town San Diego
    Chamber of Commerce
    2415 San Diego Avenue, Suite 107
    San Diego CA 92110

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    Whaley House Museum 1856

    by Yaqui Written Nov 19, 2011

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    The oldest brick structure in San Diego, with authentic period furnishings, was built in 1856 by Thomas Whaley, who established the first brickyard in San Diego for its construction. The North room, originally a granary, was remodeled and became the County Courthouse in 1869. County court records were surreptitiously transfered to "New Town" in 1871.

    Hours: 10-4:30 daily; closed Tuesday; 10 to 7 pm Friday and Saturday during Summer. Admission charge. Group tours available.

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    Dodson Building 1869

    by Yaqui Written Nov 19, 2011

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    Iowa native, Nelson H. Dodson, came to San Diego in 1869. In September 1869, he bought a lot on San Diego Avenue for his future residence. An 1872 photograph shows a gabled, single-story wood-frame building. he later moved to New Town, the county’s new commercial and civic seat.

    Old Town San Diego
    Chamber of Commerce
    2415 San Diego Avenue, Suite 107
    San Diego CA 92110

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