Las Posadas procession at Heritage County Park.

The 64th Annual Las Posadas procession was held this evening at Heritage County Park, in San Diego’s Old Town neighborhood.

At seven o’clock, Mary astride a donkey and Joseph began to slowly move up Heritage Park Row, followed by members of the public who held simulated candles.

It was the traditional Mexican reenactment of Mary and Joseph’s search for lodging in Bethlehem, shortly before the birth of Jesus.

There was a brief narration followed by short call–and–response verses at six stations, representing different inns in Bethlehem. The stations were located in front of the historic houses that stand preserved in Heritage County Park.

I had never experienced a Las Posadas procession before. I was surprised to see so many participants–young and old–on a very chilly December evening.

In the darkness my camera managed to capture these photos.

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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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Christmas decorations appear around San Diego!

Putting up the Christmas tree at 600 B Street in downtown San Diego.

Happy Thanksgiving!

As one might expect, Christmas decorations are now going up all around San Diego!

During my walks in the past few days, I’ve taken photographs of the Holiday Season getting underway….

A worker puts up a holiday wreath in Seaport Village.

Poinsettias encircle the Homecoming sculpture at the Greatest Generation Walk near the USS Midway.

A big Christmas tree at The Headquarters.

Santa Claus has arrived in Old Town!

One of several wreaths decorating the Cosmopolitan Hotel in Old Town.

Gorgeous Christmas trees and decorations inside the Timken Museum of Art in Balboa Park.

Wreath on a fantastic car at the San Diego Automotive Museum.

Jingle and Mingle in the Gaslamp.

Santa is asked to stop at this shop.

Festive holiday decorations at the Gaslamp Museum.

A bright Christmas tree at downtown’s Donut Bar.

San Diego’s City Center is getting ready for Christmas and the Holiday Season!

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A look inside Old Town’s Wood Shop!

The working Blacksmith Shop is one of Old Town San Diego State Historic Park’s most popular attractions. At one end of the blacksmith shop is a small wood shop, where I seldom see any activity. But that wasn’t the case today!

Gary, a California State Parks volunteer, was busy working on some projects inside the Wood Shop. He was nice enough to describe the elegant Mediterranean chair that he is creating, plus a beautiful wooden cabinet and stand!

He then demonstrated some of the old-fashioned tools one can see in the wood shop. Many of the historical tools hanging on the walls are so old they are no longer very functional. But they do provide an idea of what a wood shop might have held in the early days of San Diego, around the mid-19th century.

I asked him about Old Town’s cannon carriage project that I blogged about over a year ago. He has the materials ready, but he’s awaiting word concerning it!

Gary explained that the above tool is an antique drill press. (Sort of looks like a massive mousetrap!)

By pulling a cord, this rather primitive lathe smoothly rotates a length of wood around a horizontal axis. I forgot to ask Gary, but I believe this might be an old bow lathe.

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Día de los Muertos at El Campo Santo.

At sundown this evening there will be a Día de los Muertos candlelight procession through Old Town. Those participating will end at San Diego’s old El Campo Santo cemetery, where many of our city’s earliest residents are buried.

This afternoon the small cemetery had already been decorated for Día de los Muertos.

A colorful altar stands near the entrance, just beyond the El Campo Santo historical marker. According to one sign I noticed, the Community Altar is by the Descendants of Old Town San Diego.

Marigolds and paper sugar skulls decorate gravesites, and the names of deceased loved ones have been scrawled in chalk on the cemetery wall along San Diego Avenue.

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Sugar skull face painting in Old Town!

Today San Diego is celebrating Día de los Muertos!

By mid-afternoon, people were streaming into Old Town. Many will participate in this evening’s candlelight procession down San Diego Avenue from the Immaculate Conception Church to El Campo Santo cemetery.

In preparation, some were having their faces traditionally painted as sugar skulls. Face painting artists had tables set up at several points along the sidewalk.

As I passed through Old Town San Diego State Historic Park, then down San Diego Avenue, this is what my camera encountered!

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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 an 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!

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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!

Massing of the Colors in Old Town honors service.

This morning a unique ceremony was held in San Diego. The 66th Massing of the Colors and Service of Remembrance honored the flag of our country and those who’ve served to protect it–and the Freedom it represents.

The annual Massing of the Colors is presented by the San Diego Chapter of The Military Order of the World Wars. The organization is made up of officers from the uniformed services, their spouses and descendants.

This year about 25 color guards from all around the city came together for the ceremony at the U.S. Army of the West Mormon Battalion Historic Site, which is located in Old Town. The MCRD Marine Band provided patriotic music.

I watched as the many color guards arrived, streaming in from nearby parking lots and down sidewalks. There were youth belonging to the ROTC and Junior ROTC programs. There were proud Veterans who’d fought for their country. There were descendants of those who’d served.

Before the ceremony began, the color guards paraded single file through the grassy area where the audience would watch, forming a line of flags to one side. Then several color guards brought more flags forward before an Invocation, Pledge of Allegiance, and singing of the National Anthem. Coming to the podium, Anaeya Baez, from Girl Scout Troop 6116, read My Name is Old Glory.

A guest speaker, the Honorable M. Janet Chin, reminded everyone of the sacrifices many have made. She expressed hope that present and future generations will remember that history, and will continue the tradition of service.

The motto of the Military Order of the World Wars is: It is nobler to serve than to be served.

The ceremony ended with Taps, a Benediction, and the Retiring of the Colors.

As you can see in the following photographs, I arrived and took my seat very early…

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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!

Famous head pokes above freeway wall!

Driving north on Interstate 5 near Old Town, have you glimpsed the top of a huge head poking over the freeway wall? Just past the Courtyard by Marriott?

It’s the curly-haired head of Michelangelo’s famous sculpture David!

The Head of David mural was painted on the side of an apartment building back in 1984 by San Diego Mesa College physics student Jeff Sale. The entire mural used to be visible from the freeway, until a wall was built by Caltrans that conceals much of it. You can read an old article concerning the artist and his creation here.

Yesterday I walked through Old Town to see if it’s possible to get photographs of the two story high Head of David from a spot away from the freeway. By standing in the cul-de-sac just north of the Marriott, I took these pics.

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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