OLD TOWN SAN DIEGO STATE HISTORIC PARK
Settled by pensioned soldiers from the presidio and their families, Old Town grew into a cluster of adobe houses and garden plots in the early 1800s. By 1835, ‘it was composed of about 40 dark brown looking huts.’ The Stars and Stripes was first raised over the plaza in 1846 by Marines from the U.S.S. Cyane.
STATE DESIGNTED HISTORIC LANDMARKS
Chapel of Immaculate Concepcion
Congress Hall Site
El Campo Santo Cemetery
La Casa de Bandini
La Casa de Carrillo
La Casa de Estudillo
La Casa de Lopez
La Casa de Machado
La Casa de Machado y Stewart
La Casa de Pedrorena y Altamirano
Mason Street Schoolhouse
Old Town Plaza
Site of Casa de Cota
The Exchange Hotel
Originally a hotel, now houses the Wells Fargo Museum. The building is a reconstruction of the 1860 original. The Wells Fargo Museum is a historically furnished Wells Fargo agent’s office, including one of the famous 30 Coaches shipped to Wells Fargo in 1867, a panoramic painting of San Diego in 1855, and a gold watch given as reward for care of San Diego treasure on a stagecoach.
END OF THE KEARNY TRAIL
The End of the Kearney Trail, December 12, 1846
CASA DE AGUIRRE
Casa de Aguirre is an important landmark within the Old Town Market as it displays the life and traditions of the settlers of Old Town, San Diego’s first city. The home of Don Jose Aguirre and his family, the original adobe was built in 1853. Don Jose later gave the building and all his land to the Catholic Church. Father Antonio Ubach used the home as a site for an industrial school for Indians.
CASA DE ALVARADO
LA CASA DE MACHADO Y SILVAS
Built in the early 1840s, this rectangular adobe on the plaza was a wedding present from José Manuel Machado to his daughter, María Antonia, and her husband, José Antonio Nicasio Silvas. It had four rooms and three doorways that opened onto the plaza. María Antonia converted the casa into the Commercial restaurant in the early 1850s. The Machado y Silvas family owned the property until the early 1930s. It was a rooming-house, café, art studio, souvenir shop, and community chapel before becoming part of California State Parks in 1968. It is one of the five historic adobes in the park.
LA CASA DE MACHADO Y WRIGHTINGTON
Thomas Wrightington and his wife built their house on the plaza in the mid 1840’s. After his death in 1853, his widow Juana Machado Alipaz de Wrightington remained in the house until the late 1890s. Dr. George McKinstry, Jr. used a room in her house for his personal residence and office for almost thirty years. He and Juana Wrightington (who was trilingual) provided medical care for Native Americans in San Diego County.
LA CASA DE RODRIGUEZ
(Racine and Laramie)
Juan Rodriguez, a Mexican soldier who had received the land as compensation for his service, probably built his home here in the 1830s. It burned in the Old Town fire of 1872 and has been reconstructed and furnished with period pieces to recreate the Racine and Laramie store, which sold cigars, tobacco and stationery, as it was in 1869.
MAY’S SADDLE AND HARNESS SHOP
The site of this building may have been part of the original Kumeyaay Indian village of Kosa’aay. While serving as sheriff in 1866, McCoy purchased a lot in San Diego on the north side of Garden Street. In 1869, he married Miss Winifred (Winnie) Kearney and began building his home. D.B. Kurtz and Company, builders of several houses in San Diego, rushed to complete McCoy’s home. The two-story house proved to be one of the larger and more impressive structures in Old Town. The San Diego Union wrote at the time that the McCoy home, “…loomed up over the rest of the houses in the neighborhood in about the same proportion that its owner did over his late competitor in the race for sheriff.”
MILTON P. SESSIONS NURSERY
In 1828, Sara Snyder eloped with her future husband, James Robinson, after a prayer meeting in Ohio. Because he was her schoolteacher, and already married with several children, they fled at night and broke most ties with their respective families for number of years. James, a self-taught attorney, became acting governor of Texas in 1836 and a judge after resigning that position. Mexican authorities captured him in 1844 and his negotiated release to propose a settlement of the Texas problem created a great deal of resentment among his fellow Texans, despite his efforts for the admission of Texas to the United States. The Robinsons removed themselves to San Diego, California in 1850. Sarah was abducted by Indians along the way, possibly in the Cuyamaca Mountains and returned to her family under mysterious circumstances. Judge Robinson became a deeply respected investor, promoter, and citizen of San Diego. He set himself up in law practice with a focus and expertise on litigating Mexican land grants in American courts. He built a grand house on the Plaza, established the San Diego and Gila Railroad, and served as district attorney and trustee of the school board. He died in 1857, leaving behind Sarah and their 17-year-old son, William. He went on to serve the Confederacy during the Civil War, but returned to San Diego and was elected to the California Assembly. After losing an election by a mere 14 votes he had a mental breakdown and died just a few years later, leaving his mother alone in 1878. In 1890, Sarah decided to return to Ohio where many of her secrets were uncovered and litigation ensued over real property transactions in San Diego. Judge Benjamin Hayes described her as “witty and intelligent.” Some of her letters are still extant and make tart reading about the doings of small town San Diego in the 1850s and 1860s.
SAN DIEGO UNION BUILDING
The building is believed to have been erected about 1850 on land owned by Miguel Pedrorena or a member of his family. Col. William J. Gatewood, the proprietor of the San Diego Union, rented the building from Manuel de Pedrorena, Jr. This may be the first frame building constructed in San Diego. Some of the framework was probably shipped from New England around Cape Horn–a common practice at the time. San Diego’s first newspaper, the weekly San Diego Herald ceased operations in 1860. San Diego was without a newspaper until publication of the San Diego Union in 1868.
SAN DIEGO’S FIRST COURT HOUSE
The Mormon Battalion arrived in San Diego in January of 1847 to support the U.S. military garrison in the pueblo during the war with Mexico. When not engaged in military duties, the Mormon soldiers assisted the community by building new brick-lined wells, laying out walkways, and building the first fired-brick structure in San Diego. Originally designed as a town hall, the 16’x27′ brick building stood on the corner of the plaza facing San Diego Avenue. It had a moderately sloped roof, and the brick walls were whitewashed. Mexican and U.S. members of the Boundary Commission used the building as their headquarters in 1849. On March 27, 1850, the state legislature incorporated the town of San Diego. From that time until 1869, the building served as the city and county courthouse. It was also used as a meeting place, church, school, and polling place during elections. The courthouse was destroyed in the 1872 fire. The First San Diego Courthouse Association reconstructed it in 1992 and oversees its operation.