Century old photos of Casa de Estudillo.

I came upon photographs of San Diego’s historic Casa de Estudillo that are nearly a century old. I thought you might enjoy them.

These images of the Jose Antonio Estudillo House were captured in 1936 and 1937 by architectural photographer Henry F. Withey for the Historic American Buildings Survey. A product of the Heritage Documentation Program of the U.S. National Park Service, the photos are in the public domain.

It’s interesting to see that long ago streets intersected near one corner of the house: Mason Street and San Diego Avenue. Today the Casa de Estudillo museum stands in the middle of Old Town San Diego State Historic Park, and the streets you see in these photographs have become wide walkways filled with tourists.

The Casa de Estudillo was built in 1827. Back in the 1930s tourists were visiting the large old adobe casa, just as they do today. The painted Ramona’s Marriage Place sign you see in the above photo was meant to attract those motoring by. Ramona in the late 19th and early 20th centuries was an immensely popular novel.

You can read why Casa de Estudillo was called Ramona’s Marriage Place by clicking here. You can also see the present-day interior of Casa de Estudillo here and here!

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Holiday floral beauty inside the Marston House!

For this 2022 Holiday Season, the Marston House in Balboa Park is doing something very special. The interior of the historic home has been decorated with many beautiful flower arrangements!

I learned today that the gorgeous floral displays, which can be found in most rooms, are new for the holidays this year. The flowers will dazzle Marston House visitors through the end of the year. If you’ve never been inside the Marston House, you need to go on a tour. Learn more by clicking here.

I once went on an informative tour and blogged about it here.

Today I learned that George W. Marston‘s wife, Anna, was active with the San Diego Floral Association, and the beautiful displays in the sitting room, brimming with lighter colors, were inspired by her love of flowers. (See above photo.)

I also learned George Marston considered yellow and gold the colors of California. The arrangements in the Marston library (the following two photos) reflect this.

The interior of the old house isn’t brightly lit, which poses a problem with my camera. I’ve adjusted the images to bring out the beauty as best I can.

Thanks for visiting Cool San Diego Sights!

I post new blogs pretty often. If you like discovering new things, bookmark coolsandiegosights.com and swing on by occasionally!

It’s easy to explore Cool San Diego Sights by using the search box on this website’s sidebar. Or click a tag. There’s a lot of stuff to share and enjoy!

I live in downtown San Diego and love to walk around with my camera! You can follow Cool San Diego Sights via Facebook or Twitter!

Photos outside La Mesa’s historic McKinney House.

I took the trolley to La Mesa yesterday, eager to check out the La Mesa Historical Society’s McKinney House Museum.

I arrived at the McKinney House right at one o’clock, when it is said to open on Saturdays. After walking up and down the sidewalk taking outside photographs, it became apparent the museum wouldn’t be opening on time. So in this blog post I can only provide exterior photos of the 1908 house built by Rev. Henry A. McKinney, back when La Mesa was known as Allison Springs.

You can see an old historical photograph of the house here.

I look forward seeing the interior on a future visit. I’ve read it contains furnishings from the 1908-1920 period. I believe there are exhibits concerning La Mesa’s history, too.

Not sure why the museum sign was on the ground.

Thank you for visiting Cool San Diego Sights!

I post new blogs pretty often, so you might want to bookmark coolsandiegosights.com and check back from time to time.

You can explore Cool San Diego Sights by using the search box on this website’s sidebar. Or click a tag! There’s a lot of stuff to share and enjoy!

I live in downtown San Diego and love to walk around with my camera! You can follow Cool San Diego Sights via Facebook or Twitter!

Day of the Dead altar at a most haunted house!

The Whaley House in Old Town San Diego is said to be the most haunted house in America. It has been featured in numerous articles, books and television shows.

Some believe that multiple ghosts haunt the historic building, including Whaley family members who once lived there. A few of those family members died tragically.

For the upcoming Day of the Dead celebration (Día de los Muertos), a traditional Mexican altar has been erected in the courtyard behind the Whaley House. These altars are created to entice the spirits of departed loved ones back to the world of the living.

Will the many ghosts of the Whaley House be summoned?

There are a number of portraits on the Day of the Dead altar. I recognize some of the Whaley family members. Fear not–these photos were taken respectfully from behind the rope.

I recognize Thomas Whaley, Jr., who died inside the house of scarlet fever, a baby of eighteen months. I also recognize the portrait of Violet Eloise Whaley, who committed suicide. She died by self-inflicted gunshot to the chest.

I spoke to a Old Town Trolley Tours guide, and she claimed all the ghosts who haunt the place rise up on Halloween.

Day of the Dead and Halloween!

It seems early next week might be an auspicious time to hunt for Whaley House ghosts, if you’re so inclined!

Thank you for visiting Cool San Diego Sights!

I post new blogs pretty often, so you might want to bookmark coolsandiegosights.com and check back from time to time.

You can explore Cool San Diego Sights by using the search box on this website’s sidebar. Or click a tag! There’s a lot of stuff to share and enjoy!

I live in downtown San Diego and love to walk around with my camera! You can follow Cool San Diego Sights via Facebook or Twitter!

Día de los Muertos altars in Old Town.

Many beautiful Día de los Muertos altars can now be viewed in Old Town San Diego State Historic Park. They were built for Mexico’s traditional Día de los Muertos celebration, which begins in a little over a week. The holiday stretches from November 1st to 2nd.

Several of the beautiful altars you are about to see have been installed in historical buildings that operate in the State Park as free museums. These altars pay tribute to people who lived in early San Diego.

Today I and several other visitors enjoyed an educational tour of four particular altars. Our friendly and knowledgeable guide was Aaron, whom I’d seen a few minutes prior to the tour hammering away in Old Town’s Blacksmith Shop!

Our group began in front of the Robinson-Rose Visitor Information Center, where we learned about the history of Día de los Muertos, its origin, meaning, and the rich symbolism contained in the traditional altars. You can learn all about the Day of the Dead by checking out this Wikipedia page here.

Our group began by looking at a small altar set up on a cart by the Visitor Center’s front door. The touching altar honored and remembered Old Town State Park volunteers who had passed on from this life.

Over 4 million visitors come to this State Park every year, including many school children. Without dedicated volunteers, maintaining the vibrancy of this very special place wouldn’t be possible.

We then proceeded across a corner of Old Town’s grassy plaza to La Casa de Machado y Silvas, which is now the Commercial Restaurant museum. Inside, we learned about this old adobe’s history.

In one room of the historic adobe a large, beautiful altar paid tribute to many notable residents of San Diego in the mid-1800s.

Some photographs in the altar showed relatives of María Antonia and her husband, José Antonio Nicasio Silvas. The newly married couple was gifted this house by María’s father José Manuel Machado, who commanded the military guards at nearby Mission San Diego.

Next came an altar inside La Casa de Machado y Stewart. The images in this altar are of José Manuel Machado and his wife María Serafina Valdez de Machado.

The two raised eleven children. Their daughter, Rosa Machado, married a New Englander named John “Jack” Collins Stewart and thereby inherited this house. Stewart was a shipmate of famous author Richard Henry Dana, Jr., who described a visit to the house in Two Years Before the Mast.

It was interesting to see that the ofrendas (offerings) on the floor in front of this altar include playing cards, a pipe and liquor!

Food and objects that brought pleasure in life are meant to entice souls back to our world–at least during Día de los Muertos.

Our group finally headed to the small historic San Diego Union Building, where an altar remembered two figures in the early history of our city’s major newspaper.

The photos are of Edward “Ned” Bushyhead and José Narciso Briseño. Bushyhead was not only a Cherokee miner and lawman, but he was the newspaper’s first publisher. Briseño, a native of Chile, was the printer.

This altar is quite unusual in that it contains a pile of sorts–small typesetting pieces used to assemble words, that were subsequently printed in columns on sheets of paper using a hand press.

The next two altars that I photographed today were not part of the tour.

The following example on a cart can be found in Wallach & Goldman Square, among many shops. I know nothing specific about it…

And finally, probably the most impressive of all the Old Town altars is the one inside the sala (living room) of La Casa de Estudillo.

The sprawling adobe and its beautiful courtyard, built by Presidio comandante José María Estudillo and his son, lieutenant José Antonio Estudillo, became San Diego’s social and religious center during the Mexican and early American periods.

Most Californio families, like the Estudillos, were Roman Catholic…traveling priests performed weddings, baptisms, and memorial services here in the Sala for the people of San Diego.

I encourage those visiting Old Town San Diego State Historic Park this week to sign up for the daily 3 pm Día de los Muertos altar tour. A limited number of people can participate. The guided tour lasts a little less than an hour.

You can sign up at the counter inside the Robinson-Rose Visitor Information Center!

Thank you for visiting Cool San Diego Sights!

I post new blogs pretty often, so you might want to bookmark coolsandiegosights.com and check back from time to time.

You can explore Cool San Diego Sights by using the search box on this website’s sidebar. Or click a tag! There’s a lot of stuff to share and enjoy!

I live in downtown San Diego and love to walk around with my camera! You can follow Cool San Diego Sights via Facebook or Twitter!

Sweet memories of Top Gun in Oceanside!

Fans of the original Top Gun movie would love visiting the recently restored Top Gun House near the foot of the Oceanside Pier.

The historic old Victorian beach house, an 1887 Queen Anne Cottage that was featured in the popular movie, has been turned into an ice cream shop filled with sweet Top Gun memories!

The first thing visitors to the Top Gun House might see is a motorcycle by the front porch steps. It’s a replica of the motorcycle ridden by Maverick when he visited his love interest Charlie at the house.

A plaque a few steps away describes the house’s history in Oceanside, its architectural importance, and its role in the movie.

Step inside the beautiful little cottage and you’ll discover movie posters, photographs and other memories from Top Gun. I thought you might enjoy a look…

The 1887 Top Gun House was built by Dr. Henry Graves as a vacation home. Scenes from Top Gun were filmed around the house in 1985. In 2022 the house was fully restored.

The Kawasaki Ninja ZX900 is a replica of the motorcycle made famous in the movie Top Gun. Actor Tom Cruise, playing lead character Maverick, rode it to this house.

It was cool to see the work of an artist I often encounter while walking. Paul Strahm has a painting inside the Top Gun House!

Memories of Goose, Maverick and Iceman.

A sweet smile!

I live in downtown San Diego and love to walk around with my camera! You can follow Cool San Diego Sights via Facebook or Twitter!

Coronado’s Spreckels Mansion: then and now.

John D. Spreckels and his family owned the Hotel del Coronado during the first half of the 20th century.

In 1906 Spreckels began construction of a palatial home in Coronado. His mansion would stand at 1630 Glorietta Boulevard, across from his extraordinarily elegant Hotel del Coronado.

The Italian Renaissance style Spreckels Mansion, designed by renowned architect Harrison Albright (who also designed the Spreckels Organ Pavilion in Balboa Park), would be completed in 1908.

The above photograph was taken in 1915. The description of this public domain photo on Wikimedia Commons is: Promotional image of John D. Spreckels’ home on Coronado for marketing the 1915 Panama-California Exposition in Balboa Park, San Diego, California.

If the building appears familiar, that’s because much of it was incorporated into today’s Glorietta Bay Inn

Coronado Historical Landmark – J.D. Spreckels House – 1908. Dedicated 1977 Coronado Historical Association.

When I visited Coronado a couple months ago, the friendly Glorietta Bay Inn receptionists behind the front counter allowed me to take a few interior photos. What I found most interesting was one framed image on a wall.

The following is described as: a photograph of an original 1911 postcard of the Spreckels home, just after completion and before the addition of the music room in 1913…

Here are two more outside photos taken by my camera for comparison…

To learn more about John D. Spreckels, one of early San Diego’s most influential entrepreneurs, developers and philanthropists, read his Wikipedia article here.

You’ll learn his Coronado mansion included six bedrooms, three baths, a parlor, dining room and library at the cost of $35,000. At that time, Spreckels’ Mansion featured a brass cage elevator, a marble staircase with leather-padded handrails, skylights, marble floors and some of the Island’s most spectacular gardens. The home was built with reinforced steel and concrete, an earthquake precaution Spreckels insisted upon after living through the 1906 San Francisco earthquake. Spreckels lived in the Glorietta Boulevard mansion until his death in 1926.

I live in downtown San Diego and love to walk around with my camera! You can follow Cool San Diego Sights via Facebook or Twitter!

History inside Carlsbad’s Shipley-Magee House.

The 1887 Shipley-Magee House, home of the Carlsbad Historical Society, contains a museum that history lovers must visit. I walked through its doors earlier this year to discover a treasure trove of artifacts, documents and old photographs from Carlsbad’s earliest days.

The rooms of this historical Craftsman-style house are not only filled with fascinating exhibits, but with furnishings that represent how life must have been like for many in the late 19th century.

Enjoy the following photographs. Better yet, go visit yourself!

The Carlsbad Historical Society’s website is here, with the hours and location of the Shipley-Magee House and its museum.

The society’s website contains pages and pages detailing Carlsbad’s history: from the first settlers, to the construction of the Magee House by Samuel Church Smith (one of the founders of the Carlsbad Land and Water Company), to the layout of downtown Carlsbad in 1925.

If you’d like to see photos of Magee Park, where the house is located, along with several other historic structures and a beautiful rose garden, you can check out an old blog post here.

You can also enjoy photographs of several historical buildings in Carlsbad here, and for more on Carlsbad’s famous Twin Inns, click here and here!

I live in downtown San Diego and love to walk around with my camera! You can follow Cool San Diego Sights via Facebook or Twitter!

You can easily explore Cool San Diego Sights by using the search box on my blog’s sidebar. Or click a tag! There are thousands upon thousands of photos for you to enjoy!

A strange California Historical Landmark . . . parking lot?

At the north corner of Congress Street and Twiggs Street, in San Diego’s Old Town, you’ll find a large parking lot.

In a strip of landscaping between the parking lot and sidewalk stands a mysterious sign. The sign reads: SITE OF CASA DE COTA – HISTORICAL LANDMARK NO. 75.

That’s strange! The only thing visible is the parking lot! So, where is Casa de Cota?

According to this page of the San Diego History Center: Built in the mid-1830’s by Juan or Ramón Cota, this house stood for over a century on the corner of Twiggs and Congress Streets, before being destroyed by United States Army bulldozers during World War II.

You can see two old photographs of the historical structure here and here.

It appears to have been built of adobe blocks.

Visitor maps posted around Old Town San Diego State Historic Park show Parking Lot B, where the house once stood. I’ve included the following photo. I marked a red X at the mysterious sign’s location.

Do you happen to know more about the long-vanished Casa de Cota? If you do, please leave a comment!

I live in downtown San Diego and love to walk around with my camera! You can follow Cool San Diego Sights via Facebook or Twitter!

Tour of the Marston House Museum in Balboa Park.

An extraordinary house is located at the northwest corner of Balboa Park. It is one of the most architecturally and historically important structures in San Diego.

The George Marston House Museum and Gardens preserves the home that was built by San Diego civic leader George Marston in 1905. The 8,500 square foot house is one of the finest examples of Arts and Crafts style architecture in California, designed by internationally famous architects William Sterling Hebbard and Irving Gill.

Guided tours of the house are offered by the Save Our Heritage Organization. Learn more here. You can purchase tickets in the fine museum gift shop, which occupies the nearby carriage house. If you simply want to stroll about the beautiful garden, or walk around the perimeter of the house, that’s free.

I went on the tour recently and took a few photos, where the indoor lighting permitted.

The George Marston house is the sort of place that feels like a true home. The rooms are warm and functional and contain many windows, some of which were enlarged during the history of the house to bring in even more outdoor light. Book shelves and storage nooks are built into the walls, allowing an active family ample room to move about and entertain guests. Although the layout of the house is entirely practical, every room and hallway is tastefully designed and furnished.

George Marston, a very successful businessman of his day, employed numerous servants. During the tour, we saw various devices that would summon them, including a wooden box mounted on a wall with a bell and mechanical pointers, and a concealed button under the dining room rug that the family could touch without their guests noticing.

The tour explores nearly all of the historic home. At the tour’s end visitors can peer into glass display cases filled with artifacts and ephemera from George Marston’s famous department store, which was located in downtown San Diego.

I highly recommend going on this tour!

Because the Marston House Museum and Gardens is not located in the central, most popular part of Balboa Park, it’s likely your tour group will be small and relaxed, and you’ll be able to ask many questions.

View of the distinctive Marston House from its rose-filled formal garden, a popular wedding venue.
Photo from the Marston House driveway near the front entrance.
Sign describes George Marston. San Diego’s Renaissance Man. He was a successful merchant, civic leader, parks and neighborhoods builder, museum and institutions founder, historic preservationist and conservationist, a city statesman, creator of great schools, and an activist for arts, culture and social issues…

You can learn more about George White Marston here.

In the past I’ve photographed various things related to Marston, from his statue at Sefton Plaza in Balboa Park, to his gravestone at Mount Hope Cemetery.

Architectural drawing for the George W. Marston residence.
When first built in 1905, no landscaping could be seen around the George Marston house! Today the surrounding area is lush, with many nearby homes. Some neighboring houses were also designed by Irving Gill for Marston’s friends and extended family. SOHO offers a walking tour of the neighborhood.
Looking out at the formal garden from a second floor window.
George Marston’s stores in San Diego kept growing. Over the years, he operated at five different locations, and ended up building the large, famous 1912 department store on the north side of C Street between Fifth and Sixth Streets.
At the end of the tour we could look at artifacts and photographs recalling Marston’s elegant department store, where many fond memories were created.

I live in downtown San Diego and love to walk around with my camera! You can follow Cool San Diego Sights via Facebook or Twitter!

You can easily explore Cool San Diego Sights by using the search box on my blog’s sidebar. Or click a tag! There are thousands upon thousands of photos for you to enjoy!