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!

Lakeside history on signs at Lindo Lake.

Lindo Lake in Lakeside has been the center of much interesting history. Should you walk past the restrooms near the southwest corner of Lindo Lake County Park, by the intersection of Woodside Avenue and Chestnut Street, you’ll likely notice information signs describing historical locations that are visible to curious eyes.

I paused to read each sign during my last Lakeside visit, then turned my camera in the direction indicated to capture a little of the history.

The Whitaker House is a stone building at the top of a prominent hill within the Lakeside Linkage County Preserve. Its design was inspired by architect Mary Jane Colter, whose buildings in the Grand Canyon include the Desert View Watchtower and the Hopi House. The style is known as National Park Service rustic architecture.

The Lakeside Inn, built by the El Cajon Valley Land Company in 1887 and demolished in 1920, was located near today’s post office building. This “Coronado of the Hills” boasted grand Victorian architecture, electricity, gaslights and running water.

Between 1906 and 1917, a 60 foot wide, 2 mile racetrack circled Lindo Lake. It was built by John H. Gay, who purchased the Lakeside Inn in 1904.

Famous drivers who raced on this historic track included legendary Barney Oldfield. One of the racetrack’s turns can be seen beyond the baseball field, where Chestnut Street turns to Lindo Lane.

The Lindo Lake Boathouse was built in 1887 on what was then a lagoon–the only natural lake in all of San Diego County. It has been moved several times and now sits on an artificial island.

Lindo Lake was originally fed by mountain streams. When subdividing their 3000-acre Lakeside Town site, the El Cajon Valley Land Company designated the lake and surrounding area as a public park.

In 1919 a court ruled the park, that had been claimed by Lakeside Inn owner John H. Gay, in fact belonged to the public. To celebrate, a blimp landed by the lake on July 5, 1920.

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!

Beautiful renovation at MCASD La Jolla!

The major renovation and expansion of the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego in La Jolla is approaching completion! And it’s looking amazing!

During my long walk yesterday, I photographed the front of the museum and its new outdoor Art Park, which will be open to the public once the construction fence comes down.

To read more about MCASD La Jolla’s major reconstruction project and what visitors can expect when the museum finally reopens this spring, click here.

Meanwhile, enjoy these photos!

The clean, elegant exterior, to me, has been very tastefully handled. Ellen Browning Scripps, newspaper chain founder and philanthropist, commissioned renowned modernist architect Irving Gill to design her La Jolla home. Today it is home of the museum. With some significant changes!

Almost four years ago, I took the following photograph of a rendering that visualized the finished museum. You can revisit that old blog post, which includes images of pieces in the museum’s collection, here!

The upcoming photographs were taken while walking along Prospect Street from the south end of the greatly expanded museum to its new outdoor Art Park.

The limestone egg-like sculpture near the museum’s sleek new entrance is part of Three Cairns. This “West Coast” Cairn is by artist Andy Goldsworthy. The other cairns are in Iowa and New York.

In the Art Park, the motorized black sculpture with wrapping still on its feet is titled Hammering Man at 3,110,527, by artist Jonathan Borofsky.

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 tour of Olivewood Gardens in National City.

Yesterday I enjoyed an awesome tour of Olivewood Gardens and Learning Center in National City.

As you will see in my photographs, Olivewood Gardens is a very special place.

It’s a green paradise in the middle of an urban setting, where students, families and neighbors learn about organic gardening and good nutrition. Olivewood Gardens and Learning Center is the destination of school field trips, where city kids can experience the virtues of a vegetable garden, being active outdoors, and environmental stewardship. There are also classes where parents learn how to prepare healthy meals, and how to become leaders in their community.

Graduates of Olivewood’s Cooking for Salud program are called Kitchenistas. They are integral participants in this non-profit organization’s educational programs. The Kitchenistas, through a Community Engagement Program, proudly work to improve the well-being of families throughout National City!

Patty Corona, the Cooking for Salud Coordinator, showed me all around Olivewood Gardens. We toured most of the grounds and checked out several demonstration gardening areas. We then walked through Olivewood’s historic Victorian house and its kitchen, which serve as the hub for a variety of fun events and educational activities.

In 2006, the beautiful 1896 Queen Anne style house and surrounding gardens were generously donated by the Walton family to the International Community Foundation “with the goal of leveraging the property to engage, grow, and promote healthy communities and dialogue through civic engagement and philanthropy in the San Diego-Baja California border region.” Through their own personal experiences, the Waltons understood the importance of eating healthy foods.

Learn more about the history of ICF and Olivewood Gardens, and the positive programs that are offered to the community, by visiting their website here.

Please enjoy these photographs from my tour! And read the photo captions for much more information.

I was excited to discover this small paradise in San Diego’s South Bay area, where gardens flourish, the sun shines, and nature’s beauty and healthy people thrive!

A view of Olivewood Garden’s beautiful Victorian house from N Avenue in National City.
One of many works of art gracing Olivewood Gardens and Learning Center.
Various signs near the the late 19th century house provide visitors with information.
Oliver H. Noyes, National City postmaster (and retired senator from New Hampshire), built this Victorian house for his family in 1896. They sold it in 1947 to the Newlan family, who sold it to John and Christy Walton in 1985…
In July 2006, Christy Walton donated her former home and garden to the International Community Foundation to increase cross-border dialogue and philanthropy…
An area of the garden north of the house where school students gather, experience and learn.
Beds with growing vegetables, where young hands can work in the earth.
Look at all the healthy veges growing in this organic garden!
When I was young, my family had a large vegetable garden. Simply standing here brought back happy memories.
More surprising artwork in the garden. A stunning mosaic depicts colorful flowers.
Here’s a small succulent garden, demonstrating native plants.
Mural on a garden shed is bright with fruits and vegetables. By artist Brianna Perkins.
Don’t hog the water. Think several generations ahead.
Many butterflies like these, decorated differently, can be found in parks around National City. They were created by artist Roberto Salas, the Kitchenistas, and families from around the community.
As we walked along, I spied these sunlit roses.
A closer look at the beautiful sculpture you saw earlier from the street. It’s titled Reina de los Mares (Queen of the Seas), by artist Rocio Sánchez.
Walking through a lush green world.
We’ve arrived at another larger garden south of the house.

A sign describes Lukas’ garden…

When the Walton family lived here, their son Lukas was diagnosed with cancer at the age of three. When his cancer returned…his parents decided to treat him with herbs, juices, and produce they grew themselves. They made changes to their garden, growing all their food organically (with no chemicals) and biodynamically (by building healthy, living soil).

Lukas graduated from college, cancer-free in 2010.

A funny mural painted by the chicken coop.
Olivewood Gardens is filled with natural beauty.
A nursery on the grounds, overlooking National City Golf Course.
Taking a trail few other visitors travel.
On the hill above the golf course, Olivewood Gardens is growing dragon fruit! These interesting cacti are indigenous to the Americas.
Making our way back to the Victorian house. This is where many classes, events and activities are held at Olivewood Gardens and Learning Center.
A mermaid sculpture beside the house.
Hand prints from the four members of the Walton family.
The kitchen area, where healthy cooking classes for students and parents take place.
Gorgeous stained glass window in the nearby dining room, where presentations to local teachers are also made.

The following few photos provide a taste of the house’s amazing interior decoration.

An old photograph in one room shows the house as it appeared over a century ago. Today the historic house remains in absolutely pristine condition.

Photograph of the Oliver H. Noyes home, circa 1900.
A smile at a very special place in National City!

Feeling inspired?

Do you want to volunteer, become an intern, learn gardening, take a cooking class, request a speaker, book a private event? Would you like to take steps toward becoming a community leader, so that you can create positive change?

Want to learn more?

Visit the Olivewood Gardens and Learning Center website 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!

Sister tree of Balboa Park’s Moreton Bay Fig!

Did you know the huge Moreton Bay Fig tree in Balboa Park, which stands near the San Diego Natural History Museum, has a sister tree in National City?

I was surprised to learn this when I visited Olivewood Gardens and Learning Center today!

According to one sign at Olivewood Gardens, their Moreton Bay Fig, which shades a demonstration vegetable garden, was also planted in Balboa Park for the 1915 Panama California Exposition. But years ago it was transplanted to National City, and now students and families visiting Olivewood Gardens can gather in its ample shade.

Olivewood Gardens and Learning Center is a wonderful place where people from around the community can learn about gardening, preparing healthy food, protecting the environment, and becoming civic leaders. It’s located on the expansive grounds of an historic home that was donated for this cause by its philanthropic former owners. I will be blogging more about Olivewood Gardens shortly.

I was given an incredible tour of wonders all around National City today, and I’ll be sharing lots of inspiring and beautiful photographs, so stay tuned!

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!

Old Town home of Squibob, who inspired Mark Twain.

One of San Diego’s most famous houses stands in Old Town at 4015 Harney Street. It’s a modest little structure that you might easily pass by without a second glance.

For a couple of years, 1853-1854, the Derby-Pendleton House was the home of Lieutenant George Horatio Derby, an American humorist who wrote articles for California newspapers, including the San Diego Herald, under the pseudonyms Squibob and John Phoenix. It is said his style of writing, employing absurdity, exaggeration, irreverence and good fun, inspired Mark Twain, Artemus Ward, Bret Harte and others.

Derby’s Wikipedia page states: According to the newly (2010) published Autobiography of Mark Twain, Vol. One, Ulysses S. Grant was a classmate of “Squibob’s” and the General told Twain some stories of Squibob at West Point.

In 1856 Derby’s immensely popular book Phoenixiana was published. It contains many of his humorous pieces, including articles he wrote concerning San Diego. I like the gentle humor of his description of Old Town’s Fourth of July in 1854. It is found on page 123: At 9 A.M. precisely, the San Diego Light Infantry, in full uniform, consisting of Brown’s little boy, in his shirt-tail, fired a national salute with a large bunch of fire-crackers. This part of the celebration went off admirably; with the exception of the young gentleman having set fire to his shirt tail, which was fortunately immediately extinguished without incident.

Why was Lt. George H. Derby, a West Point graduate and engineer of the United States Topographical Corps, in San Diego? To survey the San Diego River and build a dike that would divert its water into False Bay–now Mission Bay.

While in San Diego, he and his wife rented a prefabricated house that was originally brought by ship around Cape Horn. Learn all about the Derby-Pendleton House’s complex history here. It has had many owners, including William Heath Davis and Don Juan Bandini, and has been moved repeatedly.

You can see an historical marker concerning Derby Dike here. You might note that the marker was placed by Squibob Chapter, E Clampus Vitus.

The San Diego chapter of E Clampus Vitus, “a fraternal organization dedicated to the preservation of the heritage of the American West,” is named after Derby’s pseudonym, Squibob. The motto of Clampers is Credo Quia Absurdum, which purportedly means “I believe it because it is absurd.”

In 1962 an historical plaque was placed on The Derby-Pendleton House by the San Diego chapters of the Sons of the American Revolution and Daughters of the American Revolution. I took a photo of it yesterday.

Public domain photo of Lieutenant George Horatio Derby.
From the book cover of Phoenixiana.

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!

America’s most haunted house is improved!

The Whaley House in San Diego’s historic Old Town is widely considered to be America’s most haunted house.

I found out today that even a world-famous haunted house can be greatly improved!

As I walked around The Whaley House Museum, I noticed workers constructing new outdoor pathways. When I asked, I was told the improved paths will now be ADA compliant. I also learned the historic structure has a new coat of paint and that several of the exhibits inside, including the kitchen, have been recently altered and made even more intriguing! And, yes, that sign in the above photo is new, too!

Sounds like another visit is required!

Over four years ago I took a tour of the Whaley House, whose rich history might actually be more interesting than all the supposed ghost sightings. If you’d like to see inside photos and learn more about the Whaley House, including why it is so famous, check out that old blog post 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!

The stately Leroy Wright House in Golden Hill.

During the late 19th century, Golden Hill was an affluent neighborhood at the east edge of downtown San Diego. Wander its streets today and you’ll encounter countless old Victorian homes and mansions, some a bit decayed, others gloriously restored.

I was walking up B Street recently when my eyes were arrested by one stately building fronted with impressive, two story tall Greek columns. I’d discovered the Leroy Wright House.

The Leroy Wright House was built in 1898. It was designed for California State Senator Leroy Wright by the Quayle Brothers, prominent architects at the time. Its unmistakeable architectural style is Classical Revival.

If you’d like to see more San Diego buildings that were designed by the Quayle Brothers, who are probably most remembered for historic, now vanished Balboa Stadium, you can click 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!

The fantastic Silver Ship house in La Jolla!

Perhaps you’ve seen that very unusual house perched high on a hillside in La Jolla. You can’t miss it when you drive west down Nautilus Street.

It was designed by Eugene Ray, a San Diego State University professor who taught Environmental Design from 1969 to 1996. He found his inspiration from UFOs and natural, organic shapes!

The house is called the Silver Ship.

Back in 1978, five SDSU students set to work building the unique structure. You can read about the project and see photographs of the construction on Eugene Ray’s blog here. For years it was his La Jolla home and studio.

I first learned about the Silver Ship in 2019 at an exhibition of Eugene Ray’s work at the SDSU Downtown Gallery. Like many of his designs, it’s form is simple and symmetric and consequently unusual. He observed a UFO in his youth, and it influenced his architectural concepts throughout his life. See more of his groundbreaking designs, learn more of his unique story, and see blueprints of the fantastic Silver Ship by visiting my old blog post here!

When you compare these to the original photographs, you can see how the Silver Ship appears different today. If I recall correctly, a new owner redesigned the house somewhat. Interesting that now it appears a little more like a . . . silver ship!

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!