There are reallly three parts to what I consider to be Old Town. One is the Heritage Park with the painted Victorians pictured in some of my other tips. Second is the Bazaar Del Mundo where all the shops and entertainment is...pictured on my other tips. Third is the Old Town San Diego State Historic Park which has several reproduction buildings outfitted in original furnishings. These buildings really tell the story of Old Town San Diego more authentically. I will include several tips with photos and info about these original sites.
Maybe it was the time of day or the way the sun streamed in the window....but this kitchen in the Old Town restaurant really enchanted me. The manequin stood with her back to the visitor....so that you actually thought it was a live person putting something on the shelf. Interesting bowls, jugs, baskets, utensils all around. The simplicity of the structure and the furnishings were very appealing.
Notice the old stenciling on the upper walls.
The cigar store, amongst the reproduction buildings of Old Town, is a fascinating place to browse. You can find pipes, cigars, cigarettes, cigarette lighters....and the like. In fact, my husband spotted an old ZIPPO lighter which was priced at $80 and $90...depending on the age and the insignias. Wow...just in his lifetime! There was a costumed clerk at the desk, however, he barely raised his head when I spoke to him. Quite unlilke the costumed guides and clerks at Williamsburg, Plimoth Plantation, or Sturbridge Village.
The Old Town San Diego State HIstoric Park is run by the California State Parks system. The Visitors Center is a reproduction building..along with the rest in this row...made to look like the originals which were lost to fire many years ago. Here you can get the lay of the land...see what the original territory looked like...how it was all laid out as a town.
Noone was there when we visited...perhaps the impression would have been different if there were a guide.
We walked through the center of the bazaar where the greenery is so lush...you are hardly aware of all the signs and commercialism of the shops around you. Entertainment is sometimes provided in this little central area. If you love to shop and want it to be a pleasant experience...try this. Plenty of benches around for the husbands to sit and relax watching the crowds...with a bit of a breeze and perhaps a cold drink.
LaCasa de Machado y Silvas (The Machado-Silvas House) or The Commercial Restaurant...was originally built for a family of modest means. Jose' Manuel Machado had a ranch across the border in Baja California, but his wife, Maria preferred to stay in Old Town near family and friends.
The original house was adobe with a thatched or tile roof. Adobe (composed of clay, water, cow manure, and sand) was a highly regarded building material. Kept the interior cool in summer, warm in winter. Whitewash (a composition of sea shells) was used on the interior to brighten the rooms.
The building served as a home until 1920 when it became a restaurant. The exhibit within the building shows it as its life as a restaurant of the 20's.
A familiar sight to all of us who have watched cowboy movies over the years. Wells Fargo....about as American as apple pie. The stagecoach was in perfect condition...but I still don't want to travel over the bumpy, dusty roads in one of them....worrying about outlaws all the way across New Mexico!!
The Old Town conservers have tried to create an informative display within these reproduction buildings...and they have done an admirable job. I felt saddened by the fact that very few people visited these spaces, however. The more popular place was the bazaar and all the shopping. Far more activity and colorful things to look at....lots of lush plantings and pleasant spaces. Perhaps if there were costumed guides or activities centered in the historic buildings, the public might be more inspired to visit.
Little did I know that in December of 1960 when I went to the western most end of Shelter Island to watch a bell rung that I would become part of history. Let me backtrack. During the fall of 1960 while I was driving around Shelter Island to get to the marina, I noticed construction of a Japanese style roof on poles and wondered what it was for. I found out that a huge bell weighting in at 2 1/2 tons and was named the "Friendship Bell" that was a gift from the City of Yokahama, Japan to the City of San Diego to honor the Sister City Program in 1958 was to be erected at this site. No clapper inside the bell, but a large wooden pole was to swing into the bell to make it ring. It intrigued me so, that I showed up for the dedication ceremony. The bell is rung for good luck by the Buddist and on New Year's Eve at midnight, it is tolled 18 times. I even rang the bell by pulling on a rope to get the wood pole to swing into the bell. Not sure that you can do it today, some try, and sometimes it rings.
Since I left San Diego, in 1961, but visit often, I return to the bell to remember the sound of good luck. You can get up close and personal with the "Friendship Bell" and enjoy the view of San Diego Bay as well, on Shelter Island. One of these years I may even be there for New Year's Eve. Anyone up for a New Year's Eve VT meet on Shelter Island to be part of the "for whom the bell tolls" lucky ones.
J. Jessop and Son's is an old, established jewelers, has a lovely shop in Horton Plaza and it's street clock has become a landmark of San Diego.
In 1907 it was first located at 952 Fifth Avenue, twenty years later, it was moved to 1041 Fifth Avenue and in 1984 it found it's home in Horton Plaza. The clock's history began as an idea thought out in England and not until Joseph Jessop settled in San Diego did it become a reality.
Stories and legends have been told about it, a poem has been written about it and San Diegans have, for nearly 100 years, known the time by it's accuracy. There are 21 dials, marking hours, minutes, seconds, date, week and month and 12 of the dials tell the time of major cities around the world. It has stopped only three times.
1. Mysteriously, the moment it's creator died.
2. When a carriage drawn by horses ran into it.
3. Not surprisingly during an earthquake.
Throughout San Diego such treasures have been honored in such a way to preserve our history. The lovely buildings of the Gaslamp as well are testimony to the active efforts of the San Diego Historical Society and the interest people of San Diego show to remind us of days past.
Jessop's Clock has been removed from Horton Plaza. It has not found another home yet but I'll let you know where it has found a new home.
I happen to be enchanted with the stucco buildings with tiled roof....the shape of the bell towers...the history connected with them. I am told that this building had a small private chapel for the family's use.
Outside the William Heath Davis House in the Gaslamp Quarter, there are two statues devoted to man's best friend. Greyfriars Bobby was there 1st, if you've been to Edinburgh you may recognize the statue, there is a similar one in Edinburgh memorializing the devoted Skye Terrier who maintained a vigil for 14 years at the burial site of his owner at Greyfriars Church. San Diego and Edinburgh are sister cities which is how the statue came to be in San Diego, installed in 1998.
The other canine statue is of a San Diego resident, a St. Bernard-spaniel mix named Bum who became the city's official town dog after arriving as a stowaway from San Francisco. The local children collected pennies for a proper funeral when he died at the age of 12 on Nov. 10, 1898.
See a play in Balboa at the Old Globe Theatre. One of the coolest things there is the burned sculpture of Shakespeare, recovered from the original burned down Globe Theatre in London. Balboa Park also has a few museums, concert venues, and culture.
Here is a view of an unimportant alley along the way in Old Town. It's just so western and authentic...it begged me to take the picture.