Just east of Old Town San Diego State Historic Park one can find the Mormon Battalion Historic Site, an attraction created by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The location itself seems a bit arbitrary, as the Mormon Battalion manned Fort Stockton up on the hill by the old, abandoned Presidio when they arrived in San Diego in 1847.
Young lady missionaries guide visitors through a series of rooms and outdoor areas which are designed to tell a sympathetic version of the Mormon Battalion’s difficult 2000 mile march from Iowa. The ulterior motive is to promote their beliefs, and there are frequent religious references, but there is no hard sell and the tour guides are warm and friendly. One can absorb a little bit of history while experiencing a good-humored, Disney-like presentation.
Much of the tour is spent watching professionally produced dramatic videos. Several real historical artifacts can be found near the tour’s end.
A lot of families and kids were smiling and enjoying the tour. Many appeared to be members of the LDS Church.
Perhaps my favorite part of Old Town San Diego State Historic Park is the Seeley Stable Museum.
The huge old barn and surrounding area were once owned by Albert Seeley, who ran the San Diego-Los Angeles Stage Line from 1868 to 1877. His Concord stagecoaches left San Diego at 5 am, stopped overnight at San Juan Capistrano, and arrived in Los Angeles at 4 pm the next day. Eventually competition with the railroad put him out of business.
Behind the Seeley Stable is a cool blacksmith shop, where tourists can watch skilled hobbyists demonstrate the shaping of red hot iron. The hammers ring loudly and the sparks fly! Unfortunately it wasn’t open the day I took these photos.
Across from the blacksmith you’ll find this. Very cool!
On the south side of the stable you’ll find a couple of donkeys, which are used by park rangers to teach children about life in the Old West.
Finally, we’re inside the museum! You can see many different wagons and stagecoaches inside the dark old barn, plus other artifacts from life one and a half centuries ago.
The Seeley Stable Museum is free!
Here are a few more interesting and informative photos that I took inside the museum in August 2017…
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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.
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.
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.)
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.
Our legs are starting to feel the climb as we reach three flagpoles overlooking Mission Valley.
Turning north for a moment, we see the trolley!
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.
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.
Now we’ll wander along the hilltop to nearby Fort Stockton, the short-lived camp of the famous Mormon Battalion.
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.)
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.
I could happily spend many hours at the San Diego Model Railroad Museum. Not only is it the largest such museum in North America, but it features some of the coolest, most realistic model train layouts you’ll ever see!
Located in Balboa Park, the model train museum contains five huge sections. The Cabrillo Southwestern exhibit is in O Scale, the same size as Lionel toy trains. The San Diego and Arizona Eastern, and the Southwestern Pacific-Santa Fe Tehachapi Pass exhibits are both in the popular HO Scale. The Pacific Desert Lines exhibit is in tiny N Scale. Finally, there’s a toy train gallery crammed with Lionel-type trains and many amazing moving accessories, including cars and people. One train is mounted with a Choo-Choo cam which provides an engineer’s moving view of the dazzling layout.
I took lots of pics yesterday afternoon. Many of the shots taken through glass or in darkness didn’t come out so great. But I did get some fairly good ones. Enjoy!
Almost every day this blog post is receiving visitors from Pinterest.
I decided to visit the museum again in May 2017 to get more photos!
The layouts are so huge and detailed it would take some time to describe exactly what the photos depict and from what position they were taken. So I’m just going to insert a bunch of random photos for you all to enjoy.
Feel free to share any of these photos if you’d like. It’s all for fun! And if you ever have a chance, make sure to visit the San Diego Model Railroad Museum in Balboa Park. The place is truly incredible!
Are you a railroad or streetcar enthusiast? Do you love railway history?
Here are some pics I took Sunday during the second day of Cabrillo National Monument’s centennial celebration.
Cabrillo National Monument is located at the tip of the Point Loma peninsula. The hilly peninsula helps to enclose San Diego Bay and is a perfect lookout over both the ocean and harbor. The park includes most notably the historic Old Point Loma Lighthouse and a statue of Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo that was commissioned by the Portuguese government in 1939. It also includes military bunkers that were used to protect the bay during World War II, and a very popular whale-watching lookout.
The park this year turned one hundred years old. In 1913 Woodrow Wilson reserved a portion of Fort Rosecrans on the Point Loma peninsula for a statue of Cabrillo. Unfortunately, a statue was not immediately forthcoming, and the park’s development became the work of many decades.
The work in progress continues today. My last visit was a few years ago, and this time I noticed many big changes and improvements!
The first photo shows a bunch of people near the Visitor Center, on the walkway that leads out to the Cabrillo statue.
For the centennial event, many community and government organizations had exhibits near the entrance to the Visitor Center. This pic shows what appeared to be the most popular table. The friendly lady had numerous snakes that fascinated young and old alike.
Everybody enjoyed a small slice of birthday cake!
Here’s the iconic statue of Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo, the Portuguese explorer who sailed into San Diego Bay on behalf of Spain nearly five hundred years ago. It stands not far from the Visitor Center overlooking both the bay and Pacific Ocean.
As I walked up the hill to observe a reenacted air raid drill from World War II, I looked back at this beautiful view. Great views can be had at Cabrillo National Monument looking in almost any direction!
These tents and some nearby vehicles were on display for the centennial. During World War II, after the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, many feared an attack on San Diego. So defenses were quickly erected. In addition to a number of observation bunkers, a few gun emplacements were situated along the end of Point Loma to defend the mainland and bay.
A small museum nearby includes many photographs, recordings and artifacts from that period in San Diego’s history.
At eleven o’clock, a mock air raid was staged! An aircraft from nearby Naval Air Station North Island swept over the bluffs as World War II veterans and enthusiasts looked on from the hilltop near some old bunkers.
After the air raid, we all took turns going down into Battery E.
We were surprised at what we found! The flash of my camera illuminated the small semi-dark bunker, capturing this instrument used to scan the horizon for Japanese warships during World War II.
Down a nearby ladder was a second small room containing beds for those who stood watch at all hours.
A short distance from Battery E is the historic Old Point Loma Lighthouse. From 1855 to 1891 it stood as a beacon for those entering San Diego Bay, before being replaced by an automated lighthouse down near the water. This old lighthouse is one of San Diego’s most well-known sights!
A small museum near the lighthouse’s entrance is worth a quick look. It includes an amazing Fresnel lens that magnified light to help sailors out at sea.
A large flat area in front of the lighthouse was used by the keeper and his family to capture rainwater. Back then this lighthouse stood isolated, far from the small town across the water that grew into metropolitan San Diego.
Several furnished rooms in the lighthouse are on display behind glass. Very little space was available to accommodate the keeper and his family. In addition to this main room, there’s a kitchen area, closet, and two bedrooms up the winding stairs.
Speaking of the stairs, I couldn’t resist taking this pic!
Another great look.
Interesting sculptures, artwork and signs can be found at the Pacific Ocean overlook. During the winter months, you can see gray whales spouting as they travel between the Arctic and Baja California.
You can see where the tidepools are below. I didn’t go down to the water on this trip, but it’s a fun place to see all sorts of sea creatures!
At noon there was a guided hike down the Bayside Trail. We walked down a short road to the trailhead, where an old military truck waited with some folks dressed in historic uniforms. They would show us some interesting stuff down the trail.
Here we go down the Bayside Trail. The lady park ranger showed us a large number of native plants, including Coastal Sage, Lemonade Berry, Prickly Pear and more. The flora you see here is what is natural to the area. San Diego is located in a semi-arid zone, with very little precipitation. Most of the trees and other plants you see around town are not native.
We’ve come to a small structure built into the hillside that houses an old electric spotlight. The huge lamp was used to watch the San Diego Bay’s entrance during World War II. It rolled out on a pair of tracks and plugged into an outlet that you can see by the trail.
My camera’s flash brightly illuminated the old spotlight inside.
Now we’ve walked down to the electrical generator building–really just two small empty rooms. Usually these structures are closed to the public.
The group turned back, but I walked on…
And I was rewarded with this view. Having lived in San Diego a good many years, I recognized the large sailboat leaving San Diego Bay. It’s the Abracadabra, a boat used in a past America’s Cup. I also spotted the Stars and Stripes, just out of this picture.
Beyond downtown San Diego I could see numerous mountains, from Cuyamaca on down to Otay. When it snows in the mountains, San Diego has a snow-capped backdrop viewed from here!
Every so often a new plane is added to the Midway Museum collection. The historic aircraft carrier USS Midway, active from 1945 to 1992, now has a couple dozen restored airplanes among its exhibits. Today the latest addition was hoisted up onto the dockside elevator by crane from the pier below! I was there to snap a few cool pics!
The last time I saw an airplane brought over from North Island, where the restorations take place, it was by barge. So I was surprised this time when a plane arrived on the back of a truck. This F4F Wildcat is a specimen of the small carrier-based fighter that helped to win the Battle of Midway during World War II. This particular plane was salvaged from the bottom of Lake Michigan. Restoration in a special hangar at Naval Air Station North Island, across San Diego Bay, took three years. You’ll notice the wings are missing from the fuselage. They came in on a second truck!
The first photo shows the Wildcat arriving on the opposite side of Navy pier.
The truck has pulled alongside USS Midway’s dockside elevator, which is lowered and ready to receive the new exhibit.
A small crane waits off to the left to lift the airplane. Here we see some preliminary preparations.
Up it goes! Everybody was extremely careful that no mishaps occurred!
And finally the F4F Wildcat is aboard its new home! This plane will be part of a three dimensional theater exhibit called Battle of Midway Experience. I can’t wait to see it!