The people and legacy of Old Town San Diego.

Visitor to the second floor of the McCoy House Museum learns about some notable early residents of Old Town San Diego.
Visitor to the second floor of the McCoy House Museum learns about some notable early residents of Old Town San Diego.

Should you visit the McCoy House Museum in Old Town San Diego State Historic Park, be sure to venture up the stairs to the second floor. There you’ll discover several fascinating exhibits. In addition to old photographs of notable early residents of San Diego, you’ll find an explanation of Old Town’s gradual decline as competing New Town (the site of modern downtown San Diego) grew and became the center of government and commerce. You will also learn about Old Town’s continuing legacy, including the events that led to the creation of Old Town San Diego State Historic Park in 1968.

If you’d like to read the displays, click the images to enlarge them.

(You might recall that I recently blogged about the many interpretive displays on the first floor of the McCoy House Museum. They provide a great deal of detailed information about Old Town’s early history.)

From a window on the museum’s second floor one can also look down upon the scraggly native plant garden just northwest of the McCoy House. A map near the window shows the location of Sycamore, Toyon, Oak, Cottonwood, Elderberry and Willow trees. Other native plants include Yerba Mansa, Datura, Aster, Poppy, Deerweed, Sumac, Lemonadeberry, Manzanita, Monkeyflower, different Sages, Deergrass, Prickly Pear and Yucca. Many of these plants were used by the Native American Kumeyaay in their daily lives long before explorer Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo discovered San Diego Bay in 1542.

Pio Pico settled in San Diego in 1819 after the death of his father, a soldier assigned to the Presidio. Merchant and rancher, he later lived in Los Angeles and became the last governor of Mexican Alta California.
Pio Pico settled in San Diego in 1819 after the death of his father, a soldier assigned to the Presidio. Merchant and rancher, he later lived in Los Angeles and became the last governor of Mexican Alta California.
In 1865, Mary Chase Walker became Old Town's first school teacher. She taught at the one room Mason Street schoolhouse and described early San Diego as a desolate place. She went on to join the suffragette movement.
In 1865, Mary Chase Walker became Old Town’s first school teacher. She taught at the one room Mason Street schoolhouse and described early San Diego as a desolate place. She went on to join the suffragette movement.
Agoston Haraszthy, born in Hungary, led a fascinating life. As an American pioneer, businessman and wine expert, he became San Diego's first town marshal and the first county sheriff.
Agoston Haraszthy, born in Hungary, led a fascinating life. As an American pioneer, businessman and wine expert, he became San Diego’s first town marshal and the first county sheriff.
Fire devastated Old Town in 1872. At the time only one water pump existed, and it was broken. Firefighters watched helplessly. The fire and many other factors helped to bring about the rise of competing New Town.
Fire devastated Old Town in 1872. At the time only one water pump existed, and it was broken. Firefighters watched helplessly. The fire and many other factors helped to bring about the rise of competing New Town.
Various fascinating historical exhibits can be explored on the second floor of the McCoy House Museum in Old Town San Diego State Historic Park.
Various fascinating historical exhibits can be explored on the second floor of the McCoy House Museum in Old Town San Diego State Historic Park.
In the early 20th century, neglected, ruined buildings in Old Town were fixed up and converted into tourist attractions. Entrepreneur John D. Spreckels extended his streetcar line to Old Town.
In the early 20th century, neglected, ruined buildings in Old Town were fixed up and converted into tourist attractions. Entrepreneur John D. Spreckels extended his streetcar line to Old Town.
Artifacts found under the rebuilt McCoy House date from the 1830's to 1850's. They include fragments of daily life from that era
Artifacts found under the rebuilt McCoy House date from the 1830’s to 1850’s. They include fragments of daily life from that era
Archaelogists analyze each find, record every detail. These objects probably came from the time when Eugenia Silvas owned this site. Descendents still live in San Diego and are involved in Old Town's a
Archaeologists analyze each find, record every detail. These objects probably came from the time when Eugenia Silvas owned this site. Family descendants still live in San Diego and are involved in Old Town’s activities.
Archaeologist's tools on display in the McCoy House Museum.
Archaeologist’s tools on display in the McCoy House Museum.
Once again, Old Town became a tourist destination in the 1930's when San Diego Avenue became connected to the new Coast Highway.
Once again, Old Town became a tourist destination in the 1930’s when San Diego Avenue became connected to the new Coast Highway.
Old Town languished during World War II. After the war, some suggested setting aside Old Town as a historic community. In 1968, Old Town became a state historic park.
Old Town languished during World War II. After the war, some suggested setting aside Old Town as a historic community. In 1968, Old Town San Diego became a state historic park.
Photographs in the McCoy House Museum recall Old Town San Diego's colorful past.
Photographs in the McCoy House Museum recall Old Town San Diego’s colorful past.

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Richard Schulte

Downtown San Diego has been my home for many years. My online activities reflect my love for writing, blogging, walking and photography.

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