A colorful 19th century Fourth of July!

The Westwind Brass Ensemble plays on stage in Old Town San Diego's plaza during an 1800's Fourth of July.
The Westwind Brass Ensemble plays in Old Town’s plaza during an 1800’s Fourth of July.

Today a good crowd turned out for a festive 4th of July in Old Town San Diego State Historic Park!

Every year this event provides a taste of what Independence Day would have been like in the 19th century. Fourth of July celebrations in San Diego would have officially commenced in 1848 when the small town became part of the United States.

If you remember some photographs that I posted three years ago, you might notice the event hasn’t changed much. But I love the color and history and the public participation so much I decided to go once again!

Many came out to Old Town San Diego State Historic Park to enjoy an old-fashioned Independence Day.
Many came out to Old Town San Diego State Historic Park to enjoy an old-fashioned Independence Day.
The Old Town 4th of July offered entertainments that would have been common in the 19th century, after San Diego became part of the United States.
The Old Town 4th of July offered entertainments that would have been common in the 19th century, after San Diego became part of the United States.
Boosters of Old Town San Diego Historic Park raise money by selling sliced watermelon and pies.
Boosters of Old Town San Diego Historic Park raise money by selling sliced watermelon and pies.
Members of the San Pasqual Battlefield Volunteer Association had a tent with historical displays.
Members of the San Pasqual Battlefield Volunteer Association had a tent with historical displays.
Photos or reenacted history near San Diego, including the Battle of San Pasqual during the Mexican–American War.
Photos or reenacted history near San Diego, including the Battle of San Pasqual during the Mexican–American War.
A family at Old Town's Fourth of July event learns all about spinning yarn.
A family at Old Town’s Fourth of July event learns all about spinning yarn.
Members of the Historic Quilt Guild had some of their beautiful handiwork on display.
Members of the Historic Quilt Guild had some of their beautiful handiwork on display.
These kids were making stuff with beads.
These kids were making stuff with beads.
Kids have fun with hoops on the grass. Simple play from an age long past.
Kids have fun with hoops on the grass. Simple play from an age long past.
A sack race has everyone laughing.
A sack race has everyone laughing.
This friendly guy near the blacksmith shop was making an axe handle.
This friendly guy near the blacksmith shop was making an ax handle.
Families were peering into the active blacksmith shop.
Families were peering into the active blacksmith shop.
Talking about how iron was shaped in Old Town San Diego in the 19th century.
Talking about how iron was shaped in Old Town San Diego in the 19th century.
All sorts of nostalgic music and dances entertained the crowd.
All sorts of nostalgic music and dances and contests entertained the crowd.
Handing out small American flags to those in the audience.
Handing out small American flags to those in the audience.
The keynote address reminds everyone of the meaning of Independence Day.
The keynote address reminds everyone of the meaning of Independence Day.
Old Glory readied to be raised on the plaza flagpole.
Old Glory readied to be raised on the plaza flagpole.

Diverse people in period costume read segments of the Declaration of Independence.
Diverse people in period costume read segments of the Declaration of Independence. Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.
Volunteers from the crowd also went on stage to read portions of the Declaration of Independence.
Several people attending the event also volunteered to go on stage to read portions of the Declaration of Independence.
A patriotic parade for the Fourth of July commences around Old Town San Diego's historic plaza.
A patriotic parade for the Fourth of July commences around Old Town San Diego’s historic plaza.

Ordinary Americans are invited to join the parade.
Everyday ordinary Americans are invited to join the parade.

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A free walking tour of Old Town San Diego.

A small group on a free walking tour learns about the history of Old Town San Diego.
A small group on a free walking tour learns about the history of Old Town San Diego.

A free walking tour of Old Town San Diego State Historic Park is available every day at 11 am and 2 pm. The tours meet in front of the Robinson-Rose House Visitor Center, at the northwest end of Old Town’s large grassy plaza.

When I visit Old Town San Diego, I’ll sometimes join the walking tour while it’s in progress. Last weekend I happened to be in front of the Robinson-Rose House right at eleven o’clock, so I decided to enjoy the full one hour tour!

During this easy walk a guide in period costume provides fascinating information about San Diego’s early history. Several different periods are covered, from the Spanish mission period, to the Mexican rancho period, to the early American period. The main interpretive period is 1821 to 1872.

Among the following photos are a few interesting bits of history…

Free walking tours begin daily at 11 and 2 in front of the Robinson-Rose House Visitor Center at Old Town San Diego State Historic Park.
Free walking tours begin daily at 11 and 2 in front of the Robinson-Rose House Visitor Center at Old Town San Diego State Historic Park.
Inside the Robinson-Rose House visitors can see a large model behind glass. It shows what Old Town San Diego looked like in 1872.
Inside the Robinson-Rose House visitors can see a large model behind glass. It shows what Old Town San Diego looked like in 1872.
The tour guide leads our group out into Old Town's historic Plaza de las Armas.
The tour guide leads our group out into Old Town’s historic Plaza de las Armas.
We learn that the Native American Kumeyaay village of Cosoy was located right here, long before Old Town was established.
We learn that the Native American Kumeyaay village of Cosoy was located right here, long before Old Town was established.

The Native American Kumeyaay village of Cosoy was located where Old Town San Diego’s plaza was established. Before the San Diego River was diverted in 1877, its water ran very close to Old Town and was an integral part of the life of early people in our desert-like Southern California coastal region.

Our tour now heads toward restored buildings that stand on the southwest side of the plaza.
Our tour now heads toward restored buildings that stand on the southwest side of the plaza.
We enter Casa de Machado y Silvas, where today visitors can view the small Commercial Restaurant museum.
We enter Casa de Machado y Silvas, where today visitors can view the small Commercial Restaurant museum.
Our tour guide talks about tiny San Diego during the Mexican rancho period. Trade goods were acquired from merchant ships in exchange for cattle hides, which were called California Banknotes.
Our tour guide talks about tiny San Diego during the Mexican rancho period. Trade goods were acquired from merchant ships in exchange for cattle hides, which were called California Banknotes.

When Mexico won its independence from Spain in 1821, the Spanish soldiers of the nearby San Diego Presidio switched their allegiance to Mexico, which couldn’t afford to pay them. For their service, they were given land at the foot of Presidio Hill, where many soldiers and their families built houses. That is how Old Town started.

You can learn more about La Casa de Machado y Silvas and the fascinating Commercial Restaurant museum here.

We head back outside into the plaza.
We head back outside into the plaza.
We learn more about Old Town by the unusual, tall flagpole.
We learn more about the history of Old Town by the unusual, tall flagpole.
Old Town's flagpole resembles a ship's mast!
Old Town’s flagpole resembles a ship’s mast!

You might notice the flagpole at the center of Old Town’s Plaza looks a lot like a ship’s mast. Because originally it was!

When an American force under Captain Samuel F. DuPont sailed into San Diego Bay in 1846 to take control of Old Town unopposed, the plaza had no flagpole, because most of the independent-minded Californios who lived here didn’t feel a strong attachment to Mexico. So a ship’s mast was used to raise the flag of the United States.

You can see a bronze plaque commemorating the event here.

You can learn more about the old Spanish cannon that sits in the middle of Old Town’s plaza near the flagpole here.

We head toward a tree that stands near the Colorado House.
We head toward a tree that stands near the Colorado House.
This is where the Franklin House hotel once stood.
This is where the Franklin House hotel once stood.

A vacant area of ground beside the Colorado House (now home of the Wells Fargo Museum) is where the Franklin House hotel used to stand. It was Old Town’s only three story building, notable for its relative elegance and its baths.

The Franklin House was destroyed during the great fire of 1872 along with several adjacent buildings including Old Town’s courthouse, ensuring that San Diego’s future would be located in Alonzo Horton’s New Town, which was then called Horton’s Addition.

To learn more about San Diego’s first courthouse, click here.

To learn more about Colorado House and the Wells Fargo Museum, click here.

We head toward a beautifully restored adobe house that stands alone behind the plaza buildings.
We head toward a beautifully restored adobe house that stands alone behind the plaza buildings.
Entering the grounds of La Casa de Machado y Stewart Museum.
Entering the grounds of La Casa de Machado y Stewart Museum.
Many artifacts are displayed in the main living room of La Casa de Machado y Stewart. An adjacent bedroom is where parents and daughters slept. The sons slept outside in San Diego's temperate climate.
Many artifacts are displayed in the main living room of La Casa de Machado y Stewart. An adjacent bedroom is where parents and daughters slept. The sons slept outside in San Diego’s temperate climate.

Our tour group then walked over to Casa de Machado y Stewart. We learned many things, including the fact that the fancier china seen on the dining table came by merchant ships that crossed the Pacific from Asia.

The more simple items like candlesticks were made by local blacksmiths. Because iron was rare in San Diego, harpoons from a brief period of whaling in San Diego Bay were used to make a variety of furnishings and household utensils.

You can learn more about the Casa de Machado y Stewart here.

You can learn about Old Town’s blacksmith shop here.

We also learned that the art of brick-making was introduced to Old Town by members of the Mormon Battalion, whose arrival in San Diego you can learn about here.

The outdoor oven was made of clay and adobe bricks. Cow manure provided fuel!
The outdoor oven was made of clay and adobe bricks. Cow manure provided fuel!
The garden outside La Casa de Machado y Stewart not only provided vegetables for eating, but native herbs used for medicine.
The garden outside La Casa de Machado y Stewart not only provided vegetables for eating, but native herbs used for medicine.
Our tour guide explains the uses of prickly pear. The cochineal beetle found on prickly pears is used to make red dye. That plant you see is about 150 years old!
Our tour guide explains the uses of prickly pear. The cochineal beetle found on prickly pears is used to make red dye. That plant you see is about 150 years old!
Finally, we head over to the beautiful, iconic Casa de Estudillo.
Finally, we head over to the beautiful, iconic Casa de Estudillo.
The courtyard of the U-shaped Casa de Estudillo includes a simple fountain at the center.
The courtyard of the U-shaped Casa de Estudillo includes a simple fountain at the center.
Sitting on wooden benches, learning more about San Diego's unique early history.
Sitting on wooden benches, learning more about San Diego’s unique early history.

The walking tour concluded inside the courtyard of La Casa de Estudillo. In many respects, this beautiful house is the centerpiece of Old Town San Diego. Two past blog posts provide a great deal of information about La Casa de Estudillo.

You can peer into the house’s restored rooms and learn about their history here.

You can learn how a wildly popular novel saved this historic building from destruction here!

The walking tour is over. Now visitors to Old Town can roam wherever they fancy, and visit the numerous free museums around the plaza.
The walking tour is over. Now visitors to Old Town San Diego can roam wherever they fancy, and visit numerous free museums scattered around the plaza.

Finally, to enjoy a good overview of San Diego’s early history, I recommend a visit to Old Town’s excellent McCoy House Museum. You can check out my blog post featuring its many exhibits by clicking 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!

Fun photos of Cinco de Mayo in Old Town!

This afternoon I strolled through Old Town and captured photos of the big 10th Annual Cinco de Mayo celebration. I began in Old Town San Diego State Historic Park, headed south along San Diego Avenue, then turned to make my way back to the State Park.

According to a Park Ranger, Cinco de Mayo is by far the most popular event in Old Town San Diego. I saw many families strolling about enjoying the colorful sights, Mexican food and cultural entertainment.

There was a folklorico competition and lucha libre demonstrations (which I missed), giant puppets, Aztec dancers, kids’ crafts, mariachi music, and authentic Mexican food at every turn. There were many people in traditional Mexican dress and others in period costume from the early days of San Diego. I enjoyed checking out a bunch of sweet lowrider cars and a row of shiny, customized kids’ bikes that were definitely super cool. I paused to visit the donkeys near Seeley Stable, guys hammering red hot iron in the blacksmith shop, a silly street performer with a plunger on his head, and a gentleman in La Casa de Estudillo who was playing frontier games of chance against all comers. As I walked about I even spotted some chalk art.

There was so much to see, I didn’t know where to turn next!

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!

Earth Day at Old Town’s Native Plant Garden.

Many volunteers improve the Native Plant Garden near the McCoy House Museum in Old Town San Diego.
Many volunteers improve the Native Plant Garden near the McCoy House Museum in Old Town San Diego.

I was pleased to stumble upon an Earth Day event today as I walked into Old Town San Diego State Historic Park. A variety of organizations had gathered along the path leading to the McCoy House Museum, and many volunteers were working in the nearby Native Plant Garden.

What did I see?

Sign welcomes visitors to Old Town San Diego State Historic Park's weekend Earth Day Open House!
Sign welcomes visitors to Old Town San Diego State Historic Park’s cool Earth Day Open House!
Volunteers work with a State Park Ranger in Old Town's native garden for Earth Day. The Old Town Transit Center is visible in the background.
Volunteers work with a State Park Ranger in Old Town’s native garden for Earth Day. The Old Town Transit Center is visible in the background.
A row of tents near the McCoy House Museum welcomes curious visitors during the Earth Day Open House event.
A row of tents near the McCoy House Museum welcomes curious visitors during the Earth Day Open House event.
These guys represent Green Love, an environmental organization of the Associated Students at San Diego State University.
These guys represent Green Love, an environmental organization of the Associated Students at San Diego State University.
Green Love's endeavors include campus outreach, environmental justice, sustainable transportation, and even a community garden.
Green Love’s endeavors include campus outreach, environmental justice, sustainable transportation, and even a community garden.
Friendly ladies of the Old Town Basketry Guild demonstrate their craft.
Friendly ladies of the Old Town Basketry Guild demonstrate their ancient craft.
Sheet details how to become a member of the Old Town San Diego State Historic Park Basketry Guild.
Sheet details how to become a member of the Old Town San Diego State Historic Park Basketry Guild.
Participants in Old Town's Earth Day hang out by the McCoy House, which today serves as a museum of San Diego's early history.
Participants in Old Town’s Earth Day hang out by the McCoy House, which today serves as a museum of San Diego’s early history.
At this table, the California State Parks Foundation celebrates Earth Day!
At this table, the California State Parks Foundation celebrates Earth Day!
This sheet shows upcoming volunteer opportunities in California State Parks!
This sheet shows upcoming volunteer opportunities in several regional California State Parks!
An expert showed me examples of native San Diego flowers, like the California golden poppy, our state's official flower.
A knowledgeable expert showed me examples of native San Diego flowers, including the richly golden California poppy, our state’s official flower.
Flyer provides info concerning the California Native Plant Society's San Diego Garden Tour 2019.
Flyer provides info concerning the California Native Plant Society’s San Diego Garden Tour 2019.
I declined to plant a seed today, but I did get some smiles.
I declined to plant a seed today, but I did get some smiles.
Guys with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife answered questions at their table. I believe that's a coyote.
Guys with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife answered questions at their table. I believe that’s a coyote.
Hard-working volunteers could be seen all around the Native Plant Garden.
Hard-working volunteers could be seen all around the Native Plant Garden.
These generous Target employee volunteers were repairing the fence around the McCoy House. Thank you!
These generous Target employee volunteers were repairing the fence around the McCoy House. Thank you!
Caring for our planet during a cool Earth Day event.
Caring for our planet during a cool Earth Day event.

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!

Learning one’s letters in Old Town San Diego.

In the one room Mason Street School in Old Town San Diego, younger and older children sat together before the teacher and learned their letters.
In the one room Mason Street School in Old Town San Diego, younger and older children sat together before the teacher and learned their letters.

A cool theme developed during my walk through Old Town San Diego State Historic Park yesterday. First I wandered into the 1868 San Diego Union Building and observed ladies in 19th century dress practicing calligraphy. A short time later, as my eyes scanned the walls of the one room 1865 Mason Street Schoolhouse, I noticed a sheet on the wall titled First Lessons in Penmanship.

Turns out it was a great day to relearn the alphabet!

A super nice gentleman in the old print shop provided all sorts of tidbits of information concerning printing, publishing and life in early San Diego. I learned the original Washington hand press that was used by the San Diego Union newspaper is now in the collection of the Henry Ford Museum of American Innovation. And that setting up the tiny type for a single page of the newspaper took a keen-eyed person about 12 hours!

I posted photos of the old print shop and editor’s office four years ago. I also wrote a little about the San Diego Union’s history. You can revisit that blog post by clicking here.

You can see much more inside the old Mason Street School building and learn more about San Diego’s first school teacher, Mary Chase Walker, by clicking here!

Additional information that I learned yesterday is in my photo captions!

A sheet on the schoolhouse wall contains First Lessons in Penmanship. THE ALPHABET.
A sheet on the schoolhouse wall contains First Lessons in Penmanship. THE ALPHABET.
I'm given a small tour of the print shop inside the historic San Diego Union Building.
I’m given a small tour of the print shop inside the historic San Diego Union Building.
Like wet laundry, hundreds of newspaper sheets would be strung up all around the print shop so that the freshly impressed ink would dry!
Like wet laundry, hundreds of newspaper sheets would be strung up all around the print shop so that the freshly impressed ink would dry!
A demonstration of assembled type and the finished impression.
A demonstration of assembled type and a finished impression.
Part of a large plate in the Washington hand press. Today school students often visit the historic print shop to learn about publishing long before the digital age.
Part of a large plate in the massive Washington hand press. Today school students often visit the historic print shop to learn about publishing long before the digital age.
Those students can rearrange these letters to spell words like SUPER.
Those students can rearrange these letters to spell words like SUPER.
To proof newspaper sheets as type was assembled, this huge heavy roll would be used to make a quick impression.
To proof newspaper sheets as type was assembled, this huge heavy roll would be used to make a quick impression.
In the entrance of the San Diego Union Building, ladies sat at a desk practicing their penmanship.
In the entrance of the San Diego Union Building, ladies sat at a desk practicing their penmanship.
A sample of elegant Copperplate Calligraphy.
A sample of elegant Copperplate Calligraphy.
This beautifully penned text is from Lewis Carroll's humorous Lobster Quadrille in Alice's Adventures in Wonderland.
This beautifully penned text is from Lewis Carroll’s humorous Lobster Quadrille in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.
Showing how to write fancy letters with a quill and inkwell!
Showing how to write fancy letters with an old-fashioned pen and inkwell.

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!

Do you love to read?

You can find small, thought-provoking works of fiction at my website Short Stories by Richard.

Magical light transforms Old Town backyards.

After work I got off the trolley at Old Town, crossed Congress Street, and headed into the State Historic Park. With the recent return to Daylight Saving Time, there’s an extra hour of light for a leisurely walk.

At first I wasn’t sure what I would photograph. Then, minutes before the sun might disappear behind the horizon, I found myself lingering near the backyards of several very early San Diego houses.

It was the golden, almost dreamlike light that caught my eyes.

I walked along a quiet pathway that passes behind a row of historic structures, including Colorado House, La Casa de Machado y Silvas, U.S. House and San Diego House.

These backyards, back porches and gardens always appear a bit timeworn and scraggly, but the late light magically turned them into something wholly new.

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 State Park expansion coming!

The old Caltrans building at Taylor Street and Juan Street is being torn down, to make room for the expansion of the adjacent Old Town San Diego State Historic Park.
The former Caltrans building at Taylor Street and Juan Street is being torn down, to make room for the expansion of Old Town San Diego State Historic Park.

One of the most visited state parks in California will soon undergo a major expansion!

I noticed during a recent walk that the old Caltrans building, located at the corner of Taylor Street and Juan Street, is being demolished. A banner hanging at the construction site informs passersby that this land will be added to Old Town San Diego State Historic Park, and will open to the public in Fall 2019!

I spoke to a state park employee and learned that initially the expansion will feature trees and benches. There are plans to eventually have interpretive exhibits or structures in this area that help visitors understand what life was like for the Native American Kumeyaay people, who inhabited this area for thousands of years before European explorers arrived. According to this informative web page, California State Parks is now working with tribal members representing the Kumeyaay Nation to “interpret their culture and their connections to the San Diego River and Old Town San Diego”.

I can’t wait to see the completed expansion!

Banner at demolition site. The former Caltrans District Office will be replaced with a new outdoor public space at Old Town San Diego State Historic Park in Fall 2019.
Banner at demolition site. The former Caltrans District Office will be replaced with a new outdoor public space for Old Town San Diego State Historic Park in Fall 2019.

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!