Photos of historical plaques on Presidio Hill.

View of the Serra Museum through trees atop Presidio Hill, near the spot where European civilization first took root in California in 1769.
View of the Serra Museum through trees atop Presidio Hill, near the spot where European civilization first took root in California in 1769.

A few years ago I walked from Old Town San Diego up to the top of Presidio Hill and wrote a simple blog about what I saw. You can revisit that post here.

What I failed to do at the time was photograph many of the historically important plaques that can be found around various sites and monuments, so I thought it would be proper to finally correct that omission.

I’ve included one informative sign which stands near the ruins of the old Spanish presidio’s chapel, and a variety of plaques. One of the plaques is at the base of the Padre Cross; two are near The Padre sculpture; one is on an observation structure near the Junipero Serra Museum parking lot; and several others are found at Fort Stockton, where the Mormon Battalion camped after their 2000-mile march from Iowa to San Diego.

Click the photos and they will enlarge for easier reading.

Sign marks the Old Presidio Historic Trail. Grassy mounds on the hill below the Serra Museum are the ruins of the old presidio chapel.
Sign marks the Old Presidio Historic Trail. Grassy mounds on the hill below the Serra Museum are the ruins of the old presidio chapel. It was built for the garrison’s soldiers after the original Spanish mission was relocated up the valley.
A large cross marks the location of the first Spanish mission in Alta California, established by Junipero Serra.
The large Padre Cross, made in 1913 of tiles from the Presidio ruins, marks the location of the first Spanish mission in Alta California, established in 1769 by Junipero Serra.
Plaque at base of cross remembers the Indian village of Cosoy, named San Miguel by Cabrillo in 1542, then San Diego de Alcala by Vizcaino in 1602.
Plaque at base of the Padre Cross remembers the Indian village of Cosoy, named San Miguel by Cabrillo in 1542, then San Diego de Alcala by Vizcaino in 1602.
Near the Padre Cross, a plaque covers a time capsule that was created two centuries after the establishment of Mission San Diego de Alcala. It is to be opened on July 16, 2069.
Between the Padre Cross and The Padre sculpture, a plaque covers a time capsule that was created two centuries after the establishment of Mission San Diego de Alcala. It is to be opened on July 16, 2069.
A plaque behind The Padre sculpture, placed on December 29, 1981 by the Presidio Hill Society Children of the American Revolution.
A plaque in the ground behind The Padre sculpture, placed on December 29, 1981 by the Presidio Hill Society Children of the American Revolution.
Photo taken behind The Padre on Presidio Hill. The 1908 bronze sculpture is by Arthur Putnam.
Photo taken behind The Padre on Presidio Hill. The 1908 bronze sculpture is by Arthur Putnam.
A plaque can be seen on the observation structure near one corner of the Serra Museum parking lot.
A plaque can be seen on the observation structure near one corner of the Serra Museum parking lot.
The plaque begins: Sylvester Pattie, pathfinder, leader of the first party of Americans into Alta California over Southern trails. Arrived at San Diego Presidio March 27, 1828.
The plaque begins: Sylvester Pattie, pathfinder, leader of the first party of Americans into Alta California over Southern trails. Arrived at San Diego Presidio March 27, 1828.
Mural at Fort Stockton depicts the long march of the Mormon Battalion.
Mural at Fort Stockton depicts the long march of the Mormon Battalion.
California Historical Landmark plaque at Fort Stockton. The top of Presidio Hill was fortified by Carlos Carrillo in 1838. From July to November 1846 the fortification was called Fort Dupont when American forces temporarily held Old Town.
California Historical Landmark plaque at Fort Stockton. The top of Presidio Hill was first fortified by Carlos Carrillo in 1838. From July to November 1846 the site was called Fort Dupont when American forces temporarily held Old Town.

 

Plaque by mural, commemorating the heroic sacrifice and history-making achievements of the Mormon Battalion.
Plaque by mural, commemorating the heroic sacrifice and history-making achievements of the Mormon Battalion.
More plaques nearby explain the history of the Mormon Battalion, which blazed the first wagon trail to the Pacific over the southern route.
More plaques nearby explain the history of the Mormon Battalion, which blazed the first wagon trail to the Pacific over the southern route.
Members of the Mormon Battalion worked to improve San Diego by making the first kiln in California, the first pumps to draw water, and the first blacksmith shop and bakery.
Members of the Mormon Battalion worked to improve San Diego by making the first kiln in California, the first pumps to draw water, and the first blacksmith shop and bakery.
The two plaques depicted above are near the Mormon Battalion Monument, a bronze sculpture by Edward J. Fraughton.
The two plaques described above can be found near the Mormon Battalion Monument, a bronze sculpture created by Edward J. Fraughton.
Another nearby plaque explains the history of the sculpture. It was a gift to the City of San Diego in 1969 by the National Society of the Sons of Utah Pioneers.
Another nearby plaque explains the history of the statue. It was a gift to the City of San Diego in 1969 by the National Society of the Sons of Utah Pioneers.
A plaque by the Daughters of Utah Pioneers also stands at the site of old Fort Stockton.
A plaque by the Daughters of Utah Pioneers also stands at the site of old Fort Stockton.
Women of the Mormon Battalion. Almost eighty women and children accompanied the soldiers during the long march. Four wives traveled the entire distance to San Diego.
Women of the Mormon Battalion. Almost eighty women and children accompanied the soldiers during the long march. Four wives traveled the entire distance to San Diego.
Flags of the United States, Spain and Mexico fly atop Presidio Hill, birthplace of California. Here many chapters of history are remembered.
Flags of the United States, Spain and Mexico fly atop Presidio Hill, birthplace of California. Here many chapters of history are remembered.

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Walk from Old Town to the San Diego Presidio.

Old Presidio Historic Trail leads up hill from Old Town.
The Old Presidio Trail leads up a steep hill from San Diego’s historic Old Town.

Please join me as I walk from San Diego’s Old Town up a short but very steep trail to Presidio Park. We’ll see all sorts of interesting monuments, views, and of course, the location of the old Spanish presidio, whose ruins are no longer visible. The top of Presidio Hill is now home to the Junipero Serra Museum. Follow me!

We begin near the trailhead, beside the small Presidio Hills Golf Course, on the east edge of historic Old Town.

One of several signs along the Old Presidio Historic Trail. This one explains that soldiers and families used to walk down from the Spanish presidio to tend gardens and livestock near the Casa de Carrillo, around the location of the present-day Presidio Hills Golf Course.
One of several signs along the Old Presidio Historic Trail. This one explains that soldiers and families used to walk down from the Spanish presidio to tend gardens and livestock near the Casa de Carrillo, which is now the pro shop at Presidio Hills Golf Course.
The Indian sculpture by Arthur Putnam in Presidio Park.
The Indian sculpture by Arthur Putnam in Presidio Park.

The first interesting thing we see is this sculpture, titled The Indian.  It was created by famous American artist Arthur Putnam in 1905 and placed at the site of an ancient Indian village.  The small village was discovered and named San Miguel by the explorer Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo in 1542.

Cross marks where Junipero Serra established California's first mission.
The Padre Cross was erected near the spot where Junipero Serra established California’s first mission.

Up the hill from The Indian stands the Padre Cross. It was raised in 1913 by the Order of Panama and is made up of tiles from the Presidio ruins.  The cross marks the strategic location overlooking San Diego Bay where Franciscan friar Junipero Serra chose to establish a Spanish Catholic mission in 1769. (The mission was moved several miles up the San Diego River 5 years later.)

Bronze statue titled The Padre by Arthur Putnam.
Bronze statue titled The Padre by Arthur Putnam.

Nearby among some trees we find a memorial to the mission’s friars. It’s a bronze statue titled The Padre, completed in 1908 by renowned sculptor Arthur Putnam.

The old presidio rises beyond billowing Spanish flag.
The Serra Museum rises beyond billowing Spanish flag.

Our legs are starting to feel the climb as we reach three flagpoles overlooking Mission Valley.

Looking down at a red trolley in Mission Valley.
Looking down at a red trolley in Mission Valley.

Turning north for a moment, we see the trolley!

View of the old Spanish presidio in San Diego.
View of the Serra Museum on Presidio Hill in San Diego.

Now we’re getting close to the Serra Museum, which was built in 1928 on this historically very important hill. The museum was built, and the land containing Presidio Park was purchased and preserved for posterity, by philanthropist George Marston.

San Diego was born in 1769 at the old Presidio, a Spanish fort in a desert-like wilderness very far from European civilization.  It was located just below the Serra Museum.

Serra Museum employee watches as I approach old presidio.
Serra Museum employee looks down the grassy hill.

Not many people are about at the moment.  Most tourists never venture up this way.

The Serra Museum is packed with numerous historical exhibits.  You can climb the tower for views of San Diego Bay, the San Diego River and Mission Valley.

Row of Spanish Colonial style arches.
Row of Mission Revival style arches.
Large wine press outside the old San Diego presidio.
Large wine press outside San Diego’s fascinating Junipero Serra Museum.
Looking downhill from atop grassy Presidio Park.
Looking downhill from atop grassy Presidio Park.

Now we’ll wander along the hilltop to nearby Fort Stockton, the short-lived camp of the famous Mormon Battalion.

Where a cannon once overlooked Old Town at Fort Stockton.
Where a cannon once overlooked Old Town at Fort Stockton.

Decades ago, when I was a young man, I remember seeing a cannon set in this concrete overlooking Old Town.  I believe that same cannon is now on display in the nearby Serra Museum. Given the name El Jupiter, it was one of ten cannons that originally protected the old Spanish Fort Guijarros on San Diego Bay at Ballast Point.

(A second surviving cannon from the fort is named El Capitan. Today it can be found near the center of Old Town San Diego’s Plaza de las Armas.)

Mural at Fort Stockton of the Mormon Battalion.
Mural at Fort Stockton of the Mormon Battalion.

In 1846, President James K. Polk asked Brigham Young of the Mormons to send a few hundred men to San Diego to help in the Mexican-American war effort.  On January 29, 1847 five hundred men and about eighty women and children arrived at Fort Stockton after a very difficult 2,000-mile march from Council Bluffs, Iowa.

Mormon Battalion Monument by Edward J. Fraughton.
Mormon Battalion Monument by Edward J. Fraughton.

I hope you enjoyed our walk!

Cannon in San Diego’s Old Town plaza.

cannon in san diego's old town plaza

One of my favorite areas in San Diego is Old Town. There’s so much to see and enjoy wherever you turn. For lovers of history, it’s a treasure trove of discoveries.

Here’s a photo taken inside the central Plaza de las Armas, the heart of Old Town San Diego State Historic Park. This old Spanish cannon is called El Capitan. It was one of ten cannons that long ago protected Fort Guijarros near the entrance to San Diego Bay. The Spanish fort was built in 1797 on Ballast Point out of adobe.

El Capitan was likely fired during the Battle of San Diego in 1803, when the Spanish attacked the American brig Lelia Byrd which was smuggling otter skins. This cannon was likely fired again at the American smuggler ship Franklin in 1828, when the fort was under Mexican control. The only other surviving cannon from Fort Guijarros is called El Jupiter, and can be seen in the Serra Museum atop nearby Presidio Hill.

Old Town is all about history. The grassy plaza, containing the cannon, historical plaques, a high flagpole and picnic benches, is surrounded by old adobe buildings preserved and recreated from the early 1800’s. San Diego originated right here, at the base of a bluff where a Spanish military outpost stood. The outpost, called the Presidio, was built by Gaspar de Portola in 1769. That same year, Mission San Diego de Alcala was founded on Presidio Hill by the ambitious Spanish Franciscan friar, Father Junipero Serra. This made Old Town the site of the very first European settlement in California.

Around the Plaza de las Armas visitors can check out numerous interesting small museums, including the original one-room schoolhouse, an old blacksmith shop, San Diego’s very first newspaper office, an early courthouse, and a stable with a large collection of antique wagons and stagecoaches. Tourists can find gifts and souvenirs in a smattering of craft-filled shops. Families can dine at several colorful restaurants. Plus, there are many additional historical and commercial attractions along San Diego Avenue to the south of the plaza.

Can you guess another thing I like? Admission to Old Town San Diego State Historic Park and all of its museums is free!

Girl walks past cannon in Old Town San Diego State Historic Park.
Girl walks past a cannon named El Capitan in Old Town San Diego State Historic Park.