Repairing the historic Old Adobe Chapel.

I recently learned that the historic Old Adobe Chapel in Old Town is being repaired and restored by the City of San Diego. I was told the roof leaks and a long, very serious crack was discovered along one wall. (I believe you can see it in one upcoming photo.)

I happened to be walking through Old Town yesterday when I remembered being told this. So I walked to 3963 Conde Street to see for myself.

The Adobe Chapel (also known as the Chapel of the Immaculate Conception) is designated California Historical Landmark No. 49. It was originally built in 1850. Initially the structure served as a home, then in 1858 it was turned into a church that would become a center for activity in early San Diego.

The old chapel has a rich history. It was said to be the wedding place of the character Ramona in Helen Hunt Jackson’s wildly popular 1884 novel of the same name. The Adobe Chapel would later be bulldozed and rebuilt in the 1930’s. To learn more about its history, visit the Save Our Heritage Organisation (SOHO) website here and here. To enjoy a fascinating gallery of images, click here.

The Adobe Chapel is presently operated by SOHO. It is both a museum and special event venue. According to their website, it should be reopening, after repairs, sometime in 2022.

I see a long crack!
Photo of historical plaques and sign taken from a nearby parking lot.

ADOBE CHAPEL OF THE IMMACULATE CONCEPTION

ORIGINALLY BUILT AS THE HOME OF SAN DIEGO’S JOHN BROWN IN 1850, THE HOUSE WAS CONVERTED TO A CHURCH BY DON JOSE AGUIRRE IN 1858. FATHER ANTONIO D. UBACH, FORMERLY A MISSIONARY AMONG THE INDIANS, WAS PARISH PRIEST HERE FROM 1866 TO 1907. IT IS SAID THAT HE WAS THE MODEL FOR “FATHER GASPARA” IN HELEN HUNT JACKSON’S RAMONA. IN 1937 THE WPA REBUILT THE ADOBE CHAPEL CLOSE TO ITS ORIGINAL SITE.

Old Adobe Chapel

BUILT IN 1850 AS A PRIVATE RESIDENCE. DEDICATED A PARISH CHURCH NOVEMBER 21, 1858 by FATHER JOHN MOLINER.

IN 1866, FATHER ANTONIO UBACH, THE PARISH PRIEST, WAS “FATHER GASPARA” OF HELEN HUNT JACKSON’S FAMOUS NOVEL “Ramona”

REBUILT BY UNITED STATES WORKS PROGRESS ADMINISTRATION 1937

A view of the Old Adobe Chapel from Conde Street in Old Town San Diego.

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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!

An enormous soap factory rises downtown!

A huge soap factory in downtown San Diego?

Yes!

Back in 1921, the Citrus/Pacific Soap Factory building was erected in San Diego’s small but growing downtown. Locally produced lemon juice would be a major ingredient in the manufacture of soap!

The architect responsible for this stately factory made of brick was William Wheeler. He also designed downtown’s Balboa Theater and other notable structures around the city.

You can see a cool historical photo of the old Citrus Soap Company of California factory standing near railroad tracks here.

According to this 1988 SOHO (Save Our Heritage Organisation) newsletter, the site at 301 West Market Street gained historical designation partly based on its association with three different soap companies dating back to 1892. Apparently, the factory also helped San Diego through a national soap crisis!

Today, the old factory building has been repurposed. It’s a unique part of the CityFront Terrace Condos.

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Photos of the historic Old Scripps Building.

Enjoy a few photographs of the historic Old Scripps Building, at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in La Jolla.

Today the building is referred to as the George H. Scripps Memorial Marine Biological Laboratory. Located on the oceanfront campus a short distance south of the Ellen Browning Scripps Memorial Pier, it stands next to a grassy area called Pawka Green.

Built 1909-1910, the Old Scripps Building was the original home of the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, which back then was called the Marine Biological Laboratory. The rather modest building (in which founder and director William Emerson Ritter and his wife also lived) contained research laboratories, offices, and even a public aquarium.

Today, the Scripps Institution of Oceanography has grown into a world-famous campus overlooking the Pacific Ocean, and is part of the University of California, San Diego.

The two-story Old Scripps Building might appear plain at first glance, but look again. The simple, elegant building was designed by none other than renowned architect Irving Gill. His pioneering Modernist designs often integrated simple lines and pure forms. In Southern California’s brilliant sunshine, his spaces are light-filled and welcoming. He also pioneered the use of reinforced concrete. This building is one such example.

In 1982 the Old Scripps Building, due to its historical importance, was designated a National Historic Landmark.

The adjacent Pawka green is dedicated to Steven Sitter Pawka, Ph.D., Scripps Institution of Oceanography coastal oceanographer and waterman. His sophisticated observations and numerical models improved prediction of coastal waves throughout the world.

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A look inside the historic Warner-Carrillo Ranch House.

One of San Diego County’s most important historical sites can be visited in Warner Springs. The Warner-Carrillo Ranch House, built in 1857, is a National Historic Landmark maintained by SOHO, the San Diego-based Save Our Heritage Organisation.

The “Ranch House at Warner’s” preserves centuries of history. You can read a bit about the site and see some old photographs at this SOHO web page.

The adobe ranch house “represents Mexican and American culture contact during the Mexican Republic; the Frontier period of the westward migration; and the Gold Rush and the cattle ranching industry from 19th century Californio to 20th century to today.” Built beside the emigrant trail, many early settlers wrote about their experiences here.

Last weekend I visited the restored adobe. I went for a special reason. One day every year at Warner’s Ranch, visitors can ride an authentic Concord stagecoach down a short stretch of the old Overland Trail. For several years, from 1858 to 1861, the ranch house served as a Butterfield Overland Stage Station. Thousands of passengers stopped for a few minutes at this swing station as they travelled through the region. If you’d like to see photos from my fun stagecoach ride, click here!

The present structure, maintained today as a museum, was built by Doña Vicenta Sepúlveda de Carrillo, an early Californio woman rancher. It consists of two main rooms and several adjacent smaller rooms that were added in later years. One of the main rooms was the sala, or living room. The other served as a trading post–a small store where travelers could purchase necessities during their brief stopover.

Some of the smaller rooms include bedrooms and a kitchen, which featured a family bathtub, as you’ll see in my photos! The adobe walls are 18 inches thick, providing a cool inside temperature on a hot day. There’s also a pleasant veranda, where musicians were playing the day I visited. The veranda was built at the front of the ranch house, which faced the old stage route. As I understand it, the nearby barn, which SOHO also plans to restore, was for ranch horses and carriages.

Please enjoy these photos. I took few notes, and I’m no expert, so please don’t rely on anything I’ve written here as absolute fact. Do your own research. The history of the ranch is complex. Over the years it had many different owners.

One more interesting thing. The original Warner’s Ranch was established on a Mexican land grant given to Johnathan Trumbull Warner, an American-Mexican citizen and former California State Senator who changed his name to Juan José Warner. His ranch, a camping stop on the Gila Overland Trail to California, was attacked during the Garra Uprising of 1851. I photographed the burial site of Antonio Garra in Old Town San Diego and provided a brief description of the Native American Cupeño revolt due to unfair taxation here.

The Warner-Carrillo Ranch House is open year-round on Saturday and Sundays from 12 to 4 pm. If you’re ever in the area, make sure to stop by. Not only will you learn much, but you’ll feel the rich history!

Approaching the restored Warner-Carrillo Ranch House. (Interesting note: that brown modern structure to the left of the old ranch house contains visitor restrooms. I learned from Christopher Pro of SOHO that the restroom building design was copied from the historic Stein Family Farm in National City!)

The historical plaque near the museum entrance reads:

WARNER RANCH HOUSE

IN 1844, GOV. MANUEL MICHELTORENA GRANTED 44,322 ACRES TO JUAN JOSE WARNER WHO BUILT THIS HOUSE. GEN. KEARNY PASSED HERE IN 1846; MORMON BATTALION IN 1847. FIRST BUTTERFIELD STAGE STOPPED AT THIS RANCH ON OCT. 6, 1858 ENROUTE FROM TIPTON, MO. TO SAN FRANCISCO; 2600 MILES, TIME 24 DAYS. THIS WAS THE SOUTHERN OVERLAND ROUTE INTO CALIFORNIA.

STATE REGISTERED LANDMARK NO. 311

A major restoration of the Warner-Carrillo Ranch House was completed in 2011. The ranch stands on land owned by the Vista Irrigation District.

The Vista Irrigation District has a really good web page concerning the ranch house and its history here.

Inside the sala, or living room, with its dining table. Some of the elegant furniture was obtained from William Heath Davis, who helped to establish “New Town” (present day downtown) San Diego.
A quilt being made in one corner of the sala.
The sala in later years became a ranch bunkhouse, which explains why the wood floor is branded!
A work room between the sala and veranda.
A bedroom.
A look inside the kitchen.
How’d you like to take a bath here?!
A look inside the children’s bedroom.
The trading post offered goods to stagecoach travelers, who’d enter from a side door, which is located opposite the old barn.
Soap, a bonnet, and other useful items.
One small room contains information displays and archaeological artifacts from the ranch.
A look at the old barn, which is presently in a state of arrested decay.
On this special once-a-year stagecoach riding day, musicians were out on the veranda playing popular tunes from the Old West. The group is called Jugless Jug Band.
Some visitors enjoying a short ride on the authentic Concord stage.

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Unique architecture at the Solana Beach train station!

From any angle, the Solana Beach train station appears unusual and interesting. The architecture of this Coaster and Amtrak station makes it one of the most intriguing landmarks in San Diego’s North County.

The Solana Beach station opened in 1994. The building was designed by Rob Wellington Quigley, who is also known for the San Diego Central Library and its iconic dome, The New Children’s Museum, the Ocean Discovery Institute in City Heights, Bayside Fire Station No. 2, and the Beaumont Building in Little Italy. It seems all of his architectural work is just as surprising and visually stimulating.

The last time I rode the Coaster to Solana Beach I walked around the train station, taking these photographs. To my eye, there’s something undefinably attractive about the building’s sharp lines and simple curved shape, and its singular symmetry.

I particularly like the passenger waiting room. Those artfully arranged windows on either side are bright with outdoor sunlight, as if beckoning travelers to venture out into a magical, multi-faceted, welcoming big world.

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Photographs of the SDSU Clay Gateway.

I recently rode a bus to the SDSU Transit Center on my way to another destination. I had plenty of time, so I walked a couple of blocks south to the corner of Montezuma Road and Campanile Drive to have a good look at the Clay Gateway.

The Clay Gateway opened in 2016. Rising simply but elegantly, decorated with patterned tiles, the gateway serves as a formal campus entrance to San Diego State University. Shining plaques on either side of the entrance state: THROUGH THESE GATES WILL PASS OUR FUTURE LEADERS.

You can learn more about the Clay Gateway, named after SDSU supporters Ben and Nikki Clay, by clicking here.

Here are my photos…

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!

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Two unusual water towers in North Park!

Strange to say, but one of the most iconic landmarks in San Diego’s North Park neighborhood is a gigantic water tower.

Even stranger, should you wander around North Park, you’ll discover not one water tower, but two! The one is absolutely enormous, but the other is much smaller–and in fact isn’t a genuine water tower at all!

I took photos of the mini-water tower several weeks back. Drivers coming down Interstate 805 might glimpse it by looking up as they pass north of El Cajon Boulevard. It’s located at the intersection of Meade Avenue and Boundary Street.

The smaller tower is actually an AT&T cell tower that was erected several years ago. North Park signs on the disguised antenna greet alert travelers coming in either direction down the freeway. I was surprised to find a small, somewhat neglected garden beside the unique cell tower.

The genuine, gigantic, historic North Park Water Tower is over 140 feet tall. It stands near North Park Community Park just south of El Cajon Boulevard and was built in 1924.

According to this article, there were claims that it was “largest elevated tank in the world” when constructed, and held more than one million gallons of water but now is decommissioned and empty since the 1990s.

Today the tall North Park Water Tower is an iconic landmark that can be seen from many city blocks in every direction. Its unique design and historical importance has been recognized by the American Society of Civil Engineers.

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!

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The historic William Clayton House in Bankers Hill.

Those entering Balboa Park from Bankers Hill might notice this beautiful old house at the corner of Sixth Avenue and Laurel Street. During my walks I’ve often wondered about it.

After doing a little research, I discovered it’s called the William Clayton House. It was designed in 1907 by San Diego’s first female architect, Hazel Wood Waterman.

Hazel Wood Waterman got her start as one of renowned architect Irving J. Gill’s two chief draftspeople. With a particular love for the Arts and Crafts style, she would eventually design a number of houses and buildings around San Diego. Her most famous work was the 1910 restoration of the Casa de Estudillo in Old Town, a commission that came from John D. Spreckels.

You can learn more about Hazel Wood Waterman here.

The William Clayton House barely avoided demolition almost thirty years ago. You can read about that here. Today it is San Diego Historic Landmark #270 and location of the Vista Balboa Crisis Center.

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!

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Hotel San Diego sign at Liberty Station.

If you’ve ever entered Liberty Station by turning down Dewey Road from Rosecrans Street, you might’ve glimpsed a very unusual sight. On the left, beyond some trees, an enormous sign is lying on the ground!

Last weekend I walked down a footpath behind Officer’s Quarters D of the old Naval Training Center San Diego for a better look. Quarters D until recently was the home of SCOUT. It is now home of Banyan Tree Educational Services.

The huge sign lying strangely on the ground once belonged to the Hotel San Diego. For many decades the neon sign was an iconic sight on Broadway in downtown San Diego. The large hotel was demolished in 2006 to make way for a new federal courthouse.

I myself stayed in the hotel a little over twenty years ago, when I moved to San Diego, and I remember seeing this landmark sign on the historic building.

The Hotel San Diego was built in 1914 by John D. Spreckels to accommodate visitors arriving for the 1915 Panama-California Exposition in Balboa Park. Learn more about it and see historical photos here.

Why is this large, rusting sign now lying on some grass at Liberty Station? It was preserved with the intention of restoring it for display in the garden behind Officer’s Quarters D. Read more about that 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!