In 1542 the Spanish first came to what is now San Diego, but settlement did not start until 1769. In 1821 Mexico won independence from Spain, and along with it, California. In 1848 the Mexican War saw the annexation of California to the United States.
From about 1868, San Diego's "New Town" began to be built in what is now downtown San Diego. This led to a general decline of Old Town up until 1969 --the 200th anniversary of San Diego-- when the city's Bicentennial celebration returned Old Town to the public eye, and to the heart of San Diego.
The Verna House was built in 1870's in the French Mansard style. It was moved here in 1960 as a temporary fix from keeping her from being demolished. She ended up staying in this spot, but not on a permanent foundation. It started to fall apart till she was refurbished and now she serves as museum of the local area and a gift shop with books.
The first stone was laid by Reverend Thaddeus Amat, C. M., Bishop of Monterey, on July 10, 1868. Yet, the town was being mostly built south of this construction so it was halted even though the walls were already built 15 to 20 feet. This poor church stood uncomplete for over 67 years because of political differences and cost. Finally in 1914 Father Mesny began work to carry out Fr. Ubach’s plan. Finally on July 22, 1917 Immaculate Conception Church was opened for worship. Dedication took place on July 16, 1919 by Reverend John C. Cantwell, D.D., Bishop of Los Angeles and San Diego. It still holds worship today.
Born in Madrid, Spain, Miguel de Pedrorena came to San Diego as agent for a shipping company. He married in 1842 María Antonia Estudillo, daughter of José Antonio Estudillo. He built one of the first framed structures in old town. He was going to build his new home on this site, but died in 1850. Yet, his family built a home in 1869, where the family resided in until 1907.
The building currently houses a gem, jewelry and rock shop.
Hours: Daily 10-4
We arrived at the entrance to Old Town on foot having walked from the Santa Fe train station and one of the first things to catch out attention as we approachd were the beautiful flowers - Bird of Paradise - growing everywhere like weeds as well as in tended gardens.
Old Town is a "walk around the streets museum" and gives a good feel of settlements in 19th Century southern California.
Before starting your wander stop at the Robin Rose House and learn more about the history of the town from old photographs and newspapers. There is also a large scale interactive diarama which provides a 3-D aerial view of the town with all the most important buildings highlighted.
After a while - if time is running short -you may have to decide which buildings to enter and which to skip.
But don't miss the School House and pay particular attention to the Rules not only those for the pupils but specially those for the Teachers!
Established in 1856, it is one of the oldest brick structures in San Diego. Wow, pretty impressive huh? In 1869 it served as a Courthouse for the county. The walls were plaster with crushed seashells made by the Whaley families own klin. It was home of five generations of the Whaley Family and now stands as a voice of San Diegos historical past.
Admission - Charge
Open 10am-4:30pm daily
10am-7pm Friday and Sat
The Whaley House Historical Marker No. 65
I haven't been here since I was pregnant with my Nicholas. Boy has it changed from then. I couldn't believe how commericalized it got. The buildings use to house just artifacts and such and now it seems they all have some sort of merchandise to purchase. Then again, if it gets people to enter and enjoy the facility and appreciate the significance this site has to San Diegians or for all those who live in California. Old Town is where the history begins for San Diego where little shacks where orginally built by soliders and settlers moved in from 1821-1872. All the buildings are symbols of the historical richness San Diego has to offer. I wish buildings could talk, because I am sure these would be screeming with a world of information.
Admission is FREE
Old Town San Diego State Historic Park Historical Marker No.830
We actually stayed in Old Town for 3 nights. It is a surprisingly quiet area for such a touristy type of place. It is a part of the city that looks like it has been frozen in time with authentic old style buildings and architecture. There are plenty of restaurants lining the main street, which are primarily Mexican. We had dinner at 2 of them, see my restaurants section. There is also a marketplace where you can purchase souvenirs, a historical museum and an old cemetery. It’s a great place to just stroll around and enjoy a bit of the history of times gone by.
Great restaurants and shops in a recreated village. Part of the area is a state park with building restored to the original state. This is the core city upon which SD was built. It wasn't till much later that an American built up the area (now downtown) by the harbor.
The Whaley House is located on San Diego Ave. just down the street from the church.
It is the oldest 2-story building in San Diego and is reportedly, one of the most haunted houses in the United States.
I myself did not see any kind of ghostly activity. I did catch some "orbs" on my camera but they are more likely dust particals.
Even if I didn't see any ghosts, I did enjoy the history of the house. It has a courthouse, a general store and a theater that reportedly had 148 people attend its opening production.
You need to buy tickets in the gift shop next door to the House and present your receipt to the person at the door.
$6 for adults
$5 for seniors, age 55 and over
$4 for children, ages 3-12;
Free for children 2 and under
(5-10pm, Thursday-Sunday only)
$10 for adults
$5 for children (3-12)
Free for children 2 and under
Just north of Downtown is the area called Old Town. Old Town is a section which recreated San Diego in the 1800's. You feel like you stepped back in time with old fashioned buildings,
much of them with an emphasis on the spanish heritage of the time. There is also a bizaar or marketplace you can purchase goods in. There are some excellent restaurants here as well. Mainly this is a great place to learn about early culture and history of San Diego in that early time period.
You can't visit San Diego and don't spend at least an afternoon in the Old Town. You can wander around tons of souvenir shops, get into very old "casas" and gardens, eat at a whole bunch of different Mexican restaurants... it's a very nice walk.
If you feel like walking, you can follow the trail up the hill to the Presidio Park and the Junipero Serra Museum... the view from up there is gorgeous!
One word: handmade tortillas (well, ok, thats two ).
There is nothing in this world like fresh out of the oven, hand made tortillas, and if you go to Old Town, you will find them
Also, do not buy souveniers anywhere but Old Town or Ocean Beach, because you will pay too much.
Enjoyed visiting the old part of town of San Diego.
Gives the atmosphere of Zorro where early Californians and Mexicans are putting down their influence that makes California so famous in Wild Wild West movies.
The architecture and exhibitions of what daily instruments and things used in that era was interesting. Instead of parking the car, I can imagine tying one horse. Wonder how to keep a horse from being stolen.
The birthplace of California, Old Town San Diego turns back the pages of time to the Mexican and early American periods of the 19th century. Sometimes also referred to as the Jamestown of the Pacific, Old Town today provides its visitors with an enjoyable historical and cultural experience. With plenty of restaurants, shops, and historic sites, you're sure to enjoy a good day here.