History Center visits San Diego legend Nathan Harrison.

Most of the museums in Balboa Park have reopened now that the COVID-19 pandemic is subsiding. Yesterday I visited the San Diego History Center and enjoyed viewing one of their current exhibits.

Born a Slave, Died a San Diego Legend concerns freed slave Nathan Harrison, who lived in a small cabin on Palomar Mountain in the late 19th and early 20th century.

Perhaps you’ve driven up to Palomar Mountain State Park and the world-famous Palomar Observatory via Nate Harrison Road. The road is named in honor of this legendary homesteader who provided water and stories to tourists who made the precipitous trek to the mountain top. Nathan Harrison was once the most photographed person in San Diego!

Born a Slave, Died a San Diego Legend shows what it would have been like to journey up to Harrison’s cabin on Palomar Mountain. It also examines what San Diego State University archaeologists have discovered about his life and interactions with his visitors, who offered him gifts of all types. To learn more about the Department of Anthropology’s fascinating Nathan “Nate” Harrison Historical Archaeology Project, click here.

One interesting thing I learned was that Harrison had a sister-in-law named Ramona Wolf. She was the namesake for Helen Hunt Jackson’s novel Ramona, one of the most popular American novels ever written. (You might recall that, to draw tourists and increase the number of riders on his San Diego Electric Railway, entrepreneur and philanthropist John D. Spreckels once claimed the dilapidated Casa de Estudillo in Old Town was the marriage place of the novel’s character Ramona, and thereby preserved an historic building.)

Nathan Harrison’s life is an integral part of San Diego history. His story spans the Antebellum South, the California Gold Rush and Wild West, and the early part of the 20th century.

His many personal adventures, his independent life on a mountain, and his friendship inspired countless San Diegans. When you visit the exhibit at the San Diego History Center, you will also be inspired at how, in his own unique way, a freed slave achieved the American Dream.

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!

A walk around the Rancho Guajome Adobe in Vista.

The Rancho Guajome Adobe is an architecturally and historically important 19th century ranch house located in Vista, California. I visited it a little over a week ago and walked around the grounds, learning about the fascinating history of the place while taking a few photographs.

I approached the Guajome Ranch House from the Santa Fe Trail to its south, then circled counterclockwise around the complex, viewing the beautiful arcaded veranda, several cisterns fed by wells, the chapel, and other outbuildings. I spotted various signs and plaques relating the history of the ranch, which was once the home of prominent early San Diego resident Cave Johnson Couts and his wife Maria Ysidora Barbara Bandini.

As you can see, I also stepped into a small museum. That’s where you can purchase tickets to guided and self-guided house tours.

According to Wikipedia: “The adobe was built in 1852 and served as the headquarters of Rancho Guajome, a Mexican land grant. Abel Stearns had given the rancho to Ysidora Bandini (sister of his wife Arcadia Bandini), as a wedding gift when she married Lieutenant Cave Johnson Couts in 1851. It was built with the profits from the cattle boom of the 1850s, when many California ranchos supplied the Gold Rush miners and associated new American immigrants with meat and leather. Couts was appointed sub-agent for the native Luiseño people (San Luis Rey Mission Indians) in 1853. He used their labor to improve his properties in the area, including this one and nearby Rancho Buena Vista and Rancho Vallecitos de San Marcos…”

I didn’t venture inside the 22-room hacienda, but I most likely will at some future time. The old ranch house is located in Rancho Guajome Adobe County Park. Check out the parks website here to learn more.

The following photos provide a taste of what you’ll see should you visit this historic place.

Peering from the veranda through an open door…

The sign reads:

The Carriage Courtyard.

Imagine the activity here where Couts quartered his many servants. The ranch foreman lived next to the gate. Horse and equipment stalls, blacksmith shop, tack room, winery, olive vats and a jail made up the ranch service yard. 300 Indian laborers made the thousands of adobe brick to build the walls, and other materials came from the abandoned San Luis Rey Mission with permission of the Diocesan Bishop.

Guajome Ranch House has been designated a National Historic Landmark

This site possesses national significance commemorating the history of the United States of America

1970

National Park Service

United States Department of the Interior

Rancho Guajome

Formerly attached to Mission San Luis Rey, the 2,219 acre ranch passed through brief ownership by two mission Indians, then Don Abel Stearns, and into possession of Ysidora Bandini upon marriage to Col. Cave Johnson Couts. The adobe ranch house built in 1852-53, is one of the finest extant examples of the traditional Spanish-Mexican one-story hacienda with an inner-outer courtyard plan. It was acquired by San Diego County in 1973 for the Guajome Regional Park.

California registered Historical Landmark No. 940

Plaque placed by the State Department of Parks and Recreation in cooperation with the San Diego County Department of Parks and Recreation and Squibob Chapter, E Clampus Vitus, April 26, 1981.

This El Camino Real Bell commemorates the trail of California missions established by the padres and honors the bell’s designer: Harrie Rebbecca Piper Smith Forbes

Dedicated by the Woman’s Club of Vista

9/21/96

At its beginning, Rancho Guajome was a working cattle ranch. Because the West was dry, cattle owners like Cave Couts would turn their cattle out on unfenced pastures. However, during this “open range” period, sometimes cattle from different ranchos intermixed, making it difficult to determine which cattleman owned which cattle. The branding iron was invented as a solution…

Cave Johnson Couts was born in 1821 in Springfield, Tennessee, and died in 1874 in San Diego at the Horton House. His wife Maria Ysidora Barbara Bandini was born in 1828 in San Diego, was married in 1851 at the Casa de Bandini in Old Town (now the Cosmopolitan Hotel), and died in 1897 in Los Angeles.

Included in the museum display are Native work baskets, Southern California style, circa 19th century.

Rancho Guajome Adobe farm equipment included a farm wagon, breaking carts for training horses, a broadcast seeder, a sulky used for racing horses, and a four-bottom Stockton plow used to turn soil to prepare fields for planting.

In the past I blogged about the Colorado House, a two-story hotel that was built in Old Town San Diego in 1851 by the very same Cave Couts. Today it serves as the Wells Fargo History Museum. Read that here.

I’ve also blogged about the El Campo Santo cemetery grave of Juan Mendoza, who was shot in the back by Cave Couts. See that here. (During one walk I spotted another mysterious wooden tombstone with the name Juan Mendoza by a parking lot, across the San Diego River from Old Town. Read 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!

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 walk around El Cajon’s Knox House Museum.

A few weeks ago, during my adventure in El Cajon, I walked around the Knox House Museum, which was closed at the time. I took a number of photographs of the historic structure, and the gazebo in small, grassy Judson Park to the north.

The Knox House Museum is operated by the El Cajon Historical Society. The building is a restoration of Amaziah Lord Knox’s original two-story, seven room El Cajon Hotel, which was built in 1876 near the present day corner of Main Street and Magnolia Avenue. The building also served as the Knox residence. In later years the hotel was altered in various ways and greatly enlarged. In 1972 the City of El Cajon purchased the original building and moved it to its present location, at the corner of Magnolia and Park Avenue.

To learn much, much more about the old hotel, the present day museum, and the history of El Cajon, which began in earnest with the discovery of gold in Julian in 1870, visit the El Cajon Historical Society’s website here! Among other things, you’ll learn why the Knox House Museum is painted in such unusual colors!

I spotted this old gazebo in Judson Park, across Park Avenue…

The plaque on the gazebo includes: In 1875 the bustling commerce of ore wagons, stage coaches and other traffic of the times passed this spot on route to and from San Diego and the gold mines of Julian. This land was later granted to the City of El Cajon by the C.S. Judson family…The gazebo was constructed by the El Cajon Historical Society…Dedicated July 26, 1992…This rose garden was presented to the people of El Cajon by the East County Rose Society…Dedicated November 2002…

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House of Charm’s bell tower restored!

I couldn’t believe my eyes this afternoon!

I had just entered Balboa Park’s Alcazar Garden when I noticed something unusually colorful up in the sky. It was the bell tower of the House of Charm–appearing brand new!

Look at these photos! The restoration of the bell tower’s exterior has been so remarkable, my photos almost look like perfect, flawless paintings!

The Mingei International Museum, which occupies most of the House of Charm, is currently undergoing their big expansion and renovation, which, among other improvements, will provide visitors access to the bell tower.

The original building and its tower, created for the 1915 Panama-California Exposition, were designed by architect Carleton Winslow. During the exposition the building was called the Indian Arts Building. The colorful bell tower was modeled after the tower on the Church of Santa Catarina in Puebla, Mexico. It was meant to complement Balboa Park’s iconic California Tower that rises across from what was then called the Montezuma Gardens.

Once the Mingei International Museum’s renovation is complete, the bell tower will feature a new inside staircase and skylight. It will also contain a hanging glass sculpture by acclaimed artist Dale Chihuly.

I’ve included an old black-and-white photograph from 1915 so you can see the original tower and building. The photo below was taken from the Plaza de Panama. Although the building was completely reconstructed in 1996, you’ll notice the bell tower today appears much as it did back during the Panama-California Exposition, over a century ago.

Front of Indian Arts Building during the 1915 Panama-California Exposition in Balboa Park. (Public domain photo from Wikimedia Commons.)
The beautifully restored House of Charm tower, seen from the Alcazar Garden.
Photo of restored House of Charm bell tower taken at a distance, from the rear of the Spreckels Organ Pavilion. (As you can see, work is also being done on the Mingei International Museum’s roof.)

UPDATE!

Here are some pics that I took a couple days later…

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!

Photos outside the historic Stein Family Farm.

The other day I walked down a National City sidewalk past the historic Stein Family Farm. It was closed at the time, because of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, so I took these outside photographs!

I spoke over the fence briefly to a couple of nice ladies near the farmhouse and a gentleman volunteer. I vowed that one day I’d return and take a tour!

The Stein Family Farm was once home to Charles Stein, an immigrant German farmer, his wife Bertha and five children. The construction of the Otay Dam in 1897 caused flooding to the Stein’s original property near Mexico, so the family moved to this National City location in 1900.

The 2-acre Stein Family Farm Museum includes their house, barn containing many antique farm implements and vehicles, and other structures, as well as farm animals (from around the world!) and an orchard containing a variety of fruit trees, which you can see in the last two photos.

I learned that second house you see in my photos, a 19th century Queen Anne Victorian, was recently relocated to the museum grounds. It awaits restoration.

Check out the Stein Family Farm’s website for more information 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!

Art museum to use new antiviral technology!

I learned of another improvement to Balboa Park this afternoon!

I was walking through the Plaza de Panama when I noticed several banners on a construction fence in front of the Timken Museum of Art.

One banner states the Timken will be the first museum in the world to install revolutionary antiviral and dehumidification technology. According to a museum web page, here, this new technology “originally engineered in conjunction with the United States Department of Defense” is considerably more effective at eliminating airborne pathogens than systems presently used in hospital operating rooms!

They hope to demonstrate this technology can be used in other museums, and for common everyday use. (Air that’s much safer than a hospital operating room? Sign me up!)

Other banners on the fence direct interested people to the Timken Museum of Art’s website, where they will find online educational experiences, including virtual tours and art tutorials, plus lots of other activities.

The museum, presently closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, is scheduled to reopen in Summer 2021 with this revolutionary antiviral system installed and ready to go!

If you’d like to learn a more about the Timken Museum of Art, you might enjoy viewing an old blog post here. It includes photographs and notes that I took during a special architectural tour of the Timken’s uniquely beautiful building.

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 sculptural monolith made for shady sitting.

During my visit to Liberty Station in Point Loma yesterday I noted several works of public art that I hadn’t seen before.

The one I liked best is titled Tessellation #1. It’s a sculptural monolith with a bench for sitting in the shade of magnolia trees. This beautiful work of art, made of hand-cast tessellated concrete and wood timber, was created in September 2019 by local artist Jason X. Lane.

Tessellation #1 was installed in Liberty Station’s ARTS DISTRICT by the NTC Foundation in partnership with the Mingei International Museum in Balboa Park. You can find it on the west side of the Dick Laub NTC Command Center building. (It’s located across from some sheltered seats where people are encouraged to interact with each other–more intriguing art brought to Liberty Station by Mingei that I blogged about here.)

I particularly love how Tessellation #1 fits within its surroundings. It’s like some sort of ancient throne or monument, discovered unexpectedly among living trees. To me the entire effect is strangely pleasing.

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!

Major projects in Balboa Park near completion!

To make room for pumpkin pie, today I took a brisk walk through Balboa Park. And I noticed some of the major projects that have been underway this year appear to be nearing completion!

In June I took photos of early construction throughout Balboa Park and posted them here. In August I took more photos documenting the progress of these projects and posted them here and here. (The three links will lead you to more information concerning various changes in the park.)

Now its already late November. What did I see during this walk?

First, the observation platform underneath the gigantic Moreton Bay Fig tree by the Natural History Museum is almost finished! It features some cool log benches. Take a look…

Next, I walked around the House of Charm, which is being renovated to accommodate a completely redesigned, enlarged Mingei International Museum.

The building’s iconic façade behind a fence and trees has a fresh coat of paint, but I failed to take a photograph of it from the Plaza de Panama. The scaffolding has been removed from both the front and back of the building. The House of Charm’s newly painted tower, which overlooks the Alcazar Garden, is more beautiful than ever.

The first photo coming up shows some of the museum’s expansion.

I can’t wait to visit the Mingei once everything is completed!

Next I walked completely around the International Cottages.

Nine member nations of the House of Pacific Relations International Cottages will eventually move into five new structures that are being built.

And the new cottages look like they’re almost done!

Finally, I arrived at the South Palisades’ brand new Pan American Plaza. The yellow tape around it is gone. Colorful umbrellas over tables are open! On a quiet Thanksgiving afternoon, a few people were already enjoying the spacious plaza!

You can see how the San Diego Automotive Museum also has a new paint job. Once amazing new murals appear over the front entrance, and cool vehicles are placed in the display areas in front, the museum will be more inviting than ever!

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!

Riding trains, streetcars, and San Diego history.

Like many American cities, San Diego’s dynamic past is filled with all sorts of fascinating trains and streetcars.

Over the years, while exploring San Diego County, I’ve learned much about the local history of rail transportation. I’ve taken photographs while riding an old train through the mountains east of San Diego, while riding a restored streetcar downtown, while visiting several historic stations and depots, and at amazing railroad museums. I even attended the big centennial event of the San Diego and Arizona Railway!

If you love old trains and streetcars, be sure to check out the following blog posts! They contain all sorts of unique photos, and you’ll find a fair amount of interesting historical information.

Click the following links to see many past photographs!

A ride on the San Diego and Arizona Railway!

Photos of San Diego and Arizona Railway centennial!

Cool pics of old La Mesa railroad depot and train!

A short architectural tour of the Santa Fe Depot.

Historical exhibit inside San Diego’s Santa Fe Depot.

Hundred year old photos of Santa Fe Depot.

Photos of National City Depot museum and streetcars!

A peek inside National City’s Historic Railcar Plaza.

Take a cool ride on an old, restored streetcar!

Art and history at Lemon Grove Trolley Depot!

A walk around the Escondido History Center.

Beauty and history in Carlsbad Village.

This blog now features thousands of photos around San Diego! Are you curious? There’s lots of cool stuff to check out!

Here’s the Cool San Diego Sights main page, where you can read the most current blog posts.  If you’re using a phone or small mobile device, click those three parallel lines up at the top–that opens up my website’s sidebar, where you’ll see the most popular posts, a search box, and more!

To enjoy future posts, you can also “like” Cool San Diego Sights on Facebook or follow me on Twitter.

A walk up Maine Avenue in historic Lakeside.

Last weekend I enjoyed a leisurely walk up Maine Avenue in Lakeside, California.

I started at Woodside Avenue and proceeded north to Mapleview Street (just south of the Lakeside Rodeo Arena). This part of town is referred to as the Lakeside Historic District.

Apart from a few articles I’ve read, I really don’t know much about the history of Lakeside. This community in San Diego’s East County is best known for its annual rodeo, but over a century ago it was famous for it’s large, opulent Lakeside Inn (originally called the Lakeside Hotel) which was built in 1887 near the edge of Lindo Lake.

(I posted photos of a nostalgic mural at the corner of Maine and Woodside which depicts the old hotel and an early auto racetrack that circled Lindo Lake. See that wonderful mural by clicking here.)

It appears to me little remains from Lakeside’s very earliest days. Apart from a few houses that are scattered along Maine Avenue and adjacent River Street, the one notable building that still stands is the Olde Community Church. When it was completed in 1896, the First Presbyterian Church of Lakeside became the prominent center of the scarcely populated town.

The beautiful old church now houses the Lakeside History Center and Museum of the Lakeside Historical Society. The museum was closed when I happened to walk by it. I’ll have to visit at some future time.

These photographs represent my walk north up Maine from Woodside to Mapleview. I’ve included captions with a little information I’ve found.

The three old black and white photos are from an interesting San Diego County publication that details the history of Lakeside, which you can read here.

Lakeside, California,1904.
Lakeside, California, 1910.
Photo of old Lakeside Inn, originally called Lakeside Hotel, often referred to as the Coronado of the Hills. Its splendid Victorian architecture was similar to that of the Hotel del Coronado.
The Lakeside Post Office and an adjacent strip mall at Maine and Woodson, where the famous old Lakeside Inn used to stand.
Looking north up Maine Avenue from Woodside Avenue.
I’ve arrived at Parkside Street.
The picturesque Olde Community Church.
Sign near entrance to the Lakeside History Center’s museum at the Olde Community Church.
Looking to the left.
Words engraved in a boulder. El Capitan Dam Site discovered and purchased by Ed Fletcher in 1911.
Continuing north up Maine, passing the front of Olde Community Church.

The above plaque in front of the Olde Community Church recalls the Lakeside Auto Speedway that was built around Lindo Lake by John H. Gay, owner of the Lakeside Inn.

It was considered the first purpose-built auto racing facility in the United States. On its opening day in 1907, famed racecar driver Barney Oldfield set a world automotive speed record of 69.49 miles per hour. The feat was performed in his Peerless Green Dragon car as he accelerated down the 2 mile long packed clay oval track.

Sculpture of cowboy on bucking horse on grounds of Lakeside Historical Society’s old church. In Memory of Mr. Lakeside Rodeo, Ben Bruton. (As you can see, I walked by around Halloween!)
Looking back as I continue north up Maine Avenue.
Western cattle drive mural on a parking lot wall in Lakeside. By artist David Ybarra, 2016.
Cool shop owner in cowboy garb poses with his guitar in front of Hazel’s Music.
Rodeo celebrated in Lakeside Historic District mural on side of Lakeside Liquor store.
A happy autumn scarecrow on the street corner. To the right is the 1912 Rocchio Rexal Drug Store building, restored in 2015.
Colorful public art mosaic on the old drug store building’s wall depicts people on horseback.
What became the facade of Kursave’s Lakeside Theatre was originally the front of Lakeside Town Hall, built in 1911. It has housed various businesses more recently.
A classic Western scene in front of a small office building.
Lakeside landmark sign seen beyond Mary’s Donuts.
Lakeside landmark sign rises above Maine Avenue.
Sign rising from patch of cacti welcomes motorists to the Lakeside Historic District.

This blog now features thousands of photos around San Diego! Are you curious? There’s lots of cool stuff to check out!

Here’s the Cool San Diego Sights main page, where you can read the most current blog posts.  If you’re using a phone or small mobile device, click those three parallel lines up at the top–that opens up my website’s sidebar, where you’ll see the most popular posts, a search box, and more!

To enjoy future posts, you can also “like” Cool San Diego Sights on Facebook or follow me on Twitter.