Progress at Old Town’s new Kumeyaay park.

I walked around Old Town San Diego this afternoon looking for anything interesting or new. As I passed the area that is being developed into a new outdoor park with Kumeyaay interpretive displays, I noticed great progress has been made. I last blogged about this spacious new park in early May, and provided much more information about it here.

Today, as I walked along the west side of this new park, I took some photos over the construction fence. I saw that many native trees have been planted!

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!

The doors, gates and windows of Old Town.

This afternoon I walked through Old Town San Diego State Historic Park, wondering if I might find any Fourth of July decorations. There were only a few. All of the museums and perhaps half of the shops are closed due to the coronavirus pandemic.

But I did find lots of picturesque doors, gates and windows! Which gave me a unique photographic opportunity. On a typical weekend afternoon, some of these colorful wooden doors and rustic gates would be wide open, and taking such photographs would be impossible.

But not today!

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!

Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

Last year, at Old Town San Diego State Historic Park’s annual Fourth of July celebration, diverse people from our community joined together on stage to read parts of the Declaration of Independence.

People from all walks of life, converging from different places, each with their own unique struggles, ambitions and experiences, remembered some of the enduring principles that underlie a free society.

During the event, anyone in the crowd was invited to come up onto the stage to read, and many did.

Of all the photos I took at the event, the above photograph to me is the most powerful.

Even with all of our human differences–the millions of unique personal beliefs and desires that frequently conflict–there are high ideals that are cherished by one and all.

We all want to live. We all want to be free. We all seek happiness.

Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

Mystery disappearance of historical tombstone?

Armchair detectives and San Diego history buffs, here’s a possible mystery to solve!

In January of 2017 I was walking by the west side of a long parking lot along Anna Avenue near the old location of the San Diego Humane Society, when I spotted a wooden tombstone. On it were the words: “Juan Mendoza. Feb. 6, 1865. Shot in the back while running away.”

Here’s my photo from back then…

Mysterious wooden tombstone with name of Juan Mendoza, who was shot by Cave Couts in the back with a double-barreled shotgun in Old Town San Diego, February 6, 1865.
Mysterious wooden tombstone with name of Juan Mendoza, who was shot by Cave Couts in the back with a double-barreled shotgun in Old Town San Diego, February 6, 1865.

Juan Mendoza was a person who figured in the early history of Old Town, which is located just south of this spot across the San Diego River.

At the time I couldn’t help but wonder about the mysterious wooden grave marker. Was it real? A prop? A prank? You can read about my strange discovery several years ago by checking out my old blog post here.

As I wrote in that original post: “Cave Couts built the wood-frame hotel called the Colorado House in 1851 and became an influential resident of early San Diego. But by some accounts he was a sketchy character. On February 6, 1865 he shot a disgruntled former employee (who worked on one of Cave Couts’ ranches) in the back with a shotgun. This violated the unspoken “Code of the West”. The unfortunate victim who died was Juan Mendoza.”

Well, look what I saw today. The wooden tombstone is gone. There’s some sort of covering and efforts at erosion control around the place where it stood. Was there a grave? Nearby I also observed objects that might be related to the Mid-Coast Trolley extension construction over Friars Road, and possible homeless activity.

Okay, maybe it’s nothing. I see nothing on the internet. I don’t claim to be an expert when it comes to our city’s history. But I do know there are readers following this blog who are far more informed than me.

Is there an explanation?

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!

Sometimes I make seemingly mysterious discoveries!

Historical marker near Midway and Rosecrans.

Historical marker recalls early San Diego's La Playa Trail. This plaque can be found on Rosecrans Street near Midway Drive.
Historical marker recalls early San Diego’s La Playa Trail. This plaque can be found on Rosecrans Street near Midway Drive.

While walking around Point Loma this weekend, I came upon another historical marker with a plaque that commemorates San Diego’s famous old La Playa Trail. This marker stands in front of a shopping center near the corner of Midway Drive and Rosecrans Street. It features one of six similar plaques created back in the 1930s.

You can see a photo of another such plaque at the east end of the La Playa Trail, near Mission San Diego de Alcala, by clicking here. You can see a third plaque at the base of Presidio Hill and learn about the remaining three plaques (which I have yet to photograph) here.

According to Wikipedia: “The La Playa Trail was a historic bayside trail in San Diego, connecting the settled inland areas to the commercial anchorage at Old La Playa on San Diego Bay…The trail was used during the Pre-Hispanic (Native American), Spanish, Mexican and American periods of San Diego history. Much of the length of the original trail corresponds to the current Rosecrans Street in the San Diego neighborhood of Point Loma…The trail was already established by the time the Spanish settlers arrived in 1769; the first inhabitants of the area, including the Kumeyaay tribe, used it to access the beaches of San Diego Bay. It was improved and extended during the Spanish colonization of the region, reaching Old Town San Diego and Mission San Diego de Alcalá in Mission Valley by the 1770s. Cargo which had been unloaded by ship at Ballast Point in Old La Playa was transported along the trail several miles inland to Old Town…”

US Boundary Survey of 1850 shows the La Playa Trail along San Diego Bay and the San Diego River. Public domain image from Wikimedia Commons.
US Boundary Survey of 1850 shows the La Playa Trail along San Diego Bay and the San Diego River. (New San Diego is where downtown is today.) Public domain image from Wikimedia Commons.

Have you read the classic of American Literature, Two Years Before the Mast? It’s one of my all-time favorite books. Richard Henry Dana Jr. wrote an account of a sailor’s life on the coast of California in the mid-1830s, and a good portion of his fascinating narrative describes San Diego.

La Playa (then a beach on Point Loma just inside San Diego Bay) is where merchant ship Pilgrim unloaded cattle hides that had been gathered by Dana and his shipmates up and down the California coast. When Dana rode on horseback from the hide houses on the beach to Old Town, or farther east to Mission San Diego, he followed the La Playa Trail!

La Playa Trail. Oldest commercial trail in western United States. Erected by San Diego Historical Society. 1938.
La Playa Trail. Oldest commercial trail in western United States. Erected by San Diego Historical Society. 1938.

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!

Construction of new Kumeyaay park in Old Town.

In late 2018 I took some photos of the old Caltrans building being demolished in Old Town. I wrote that the land where it stood was to be converted into an outdoor park-like space with interpretative exhibits concerning the Native American Kumeyaay, who lived here long before Spanish missionaries arrived and established the nearby Presidio.

I posted a few photos of the Caltrans building demolition here.

Yesterday I walked around the construction site and observed that this new outdoor space of Old Town San Diego State Historic Park, near the corner of Taylor Street and Juan Street, is taking shape!

According to the California State Parks web page concerning this project, the new area is to include:

  • Interpretive elements such as a Native American interpretive public gathering area, a stage, displays and features, lighting, power, and benches.
  • Basic landscaping such as native trees, shrubs and ground covering, and detention and/or retention bio-swale.
  • Enhanced pedestrian circulation system with stabilized accessible pathways, seating, bollards and fencing, and signage.
  • Shaded ramadas with seating below.
  • Parking area with stabilized surface to accommodate 20 to 40 spaces including accessible spaces.

As you can see from my photos, various paths through the park have been laid out, and native trees appear ready for planting. You might also notice a few small concrete foundations have been poured.

I’ll continue to watch this expansion of Old Town San Diego State Historic Park as it develops!

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!

Cool photo memories from May 2015.

Well, May is here already. Hard to believe. The coronavirus pandemic continues, as do the government mandated lockdowns, which makes it difficult for a photo blogger who explores the city to find fresh material. Nearly all events are cancelled, many places are closed.

So what is one to do? I thought now would be a good time to once again go back five years!

What was happening on Cool San Diego Sights back in May 2015? Lot’s of amazing stuff! One thing you might notice is that Balboa Park’s big year-long Centennial Celebration was underway!

Click the following links to enjoy lots of photos…

Art made of coins helps Rady Children’s Hospital!

Photos of Old Town’s folklorico dance competition!

Pics of Garden Party of the Century in Balboa Park!

Fun sculptures debut at San Diego waterfront park!

Crossing the cool Spruce Street Suspension Bridge.

Fun photos of Explore Mission Trails Day!

Cool Corvette car show benefits San Diego USO.

An amazing walk from Point La Jolla to Cuvier Park.

World War II vets honored on USS Midway.

San Diego walking superheroes fight brain tumors!

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 to Old Town during the pandemic.

A familiar sign as drivers enter Old Town from Interstate 5. Welcome to Old Town. Birthplace of California.
A familiar sign as drivers enter Old Town from Interstate 5. Welcome to Old Town. Birthplace of California.

I have more photos to post from my long walk yesterday. But first I’m going to share pics that I took during today’s walk from downtown San Diego to Old Town!

I didn’t pull out my camera until I was well past the airport, heading up Hancock Street. I passed very few people. My mind was far away. As you can see, I did capture a few amusing images!

After a brief detour to explore Witherby Street and the semi-decayed old bridges and underpasses leading to an entrance of the Marine Corps Recruit Depot, I passed over Interstate 5 and entered Old Town.

I took a look around the quiet streets as I headed up Jefferson Street and Congress Street. Making sure there were no signs posted saying I couldn’t enter, I quickly passed through Old Town San Diego State Historic Park, which was almost deserted. Then I headed back south down San Diego Avenue.

Most of the shops and restaurants in Old Town were closed due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. A few restaurants were offering take-out, but very few potential customers were anywhere to be seen…

If NOT is not NOT, can one park here?
I’m heading up Hancock Street. If that’s not a NOT, can one legally park here?
This might be the coolest little free library I've come across!
This might be the coolest little free library I’ve come across!
A superhero who resembles Superman flies from what might be San Diego's last phone booth.
A superhero who resembles Superman flies from what might be San Diego’s last phone booth.
These pigeons regarded me as I walked under the Witherby Street train bridge.
These pigeons regarded me as I walked along a gritty walkway under the Witherby Street train bridge.
Now I've entered Old Town. Check out this cool sculpture in someone's front yard!
Now I’ve entered Old Town. Check out this cool sculpture in someone’s front yard!
Flowers through a white fence.
Flowers through a white fence.
The African Latin Museum was closed. It's on my list of things to do.
The African Latin Museum was closed. It’s on my list of things to do.
This was part of the 1890 Ballast Point Light Station on Point Loma!
This was part of the 1890 Ballast Point Light Station on Point Loma!

To learn more about the history of this lighthouse, and why part of it is now sitting on a sidewalk in Old Town, click here!

Mural in front of a couple businesses on Congress Street depicts the early days of San Diego.
Mural in front of some small businesses on Congress Street depicts the early days of San Diego.
Right part of the mural.
Right part of the mural.
Signs by the parking lot of Rockin' Baja point to different distant destinations.
Signs by the parking lot of Rockin’ Baja point to different distant destinations.
On the island beneath the signs I spotted this plaque.
On the small island beneath the signs I spotted this plaque.
In Memory of Joe Flynn. 1902 - 1963. Joe loved Old Town and helped re-create Casa de Lopez. Old Town Chamber of Commerce.
In Memory of Joe Flynn. 1902 – 1963. Joe loved Old Town and helped re-create Casa de Lopez. Old Town Chamber of Commerce.
Mexican themed outdoor decor but no customers at this eatery during the coronavirus pandemic.
Mexican themed outdoor decor, but no customers at this eatery during the coronavirus pandemic.
Voted best pizza in America! I gotta try some one day.
Voted best pizza in America! I gotta try a slice one day.
The plaza in the middle of Old Town San Diego State Historic Park is deserted. But the grass is long and green!
The plaza in the middle of Old Town San Diego State Historic Park is deserted. But the grass is long and green!
The many Old Town museums and attractions are all closed due to COVID-19.
The many Old Town museums and attractions are all closed due to COVID-19.
On an ordinary Sunday, this photo would be filled with people.
On an ordinary Sunday, this photo would be filled with people.
Now I'm heading down San Diego Avenue. Another popular restaurant is temporarily closed.
Now I’m heading down San Diego Avenue. Another popular restaurant is temporarily closed.
But Cafe Coyote is open for take out! And I got two yummy handmade fresh tortillas!
But Cafe Coyote is open for take out! And I got two yummy handmade fresh tortillas to munch on as I walked!

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!

Finishing a 19th century quilt in Old Town.

Today, when I stepped into Threads of the Past in Old Town San Diego State Historic Park, I found several ladies working on quilts. One beautiful quilt in particular was spread out before them, and on top of it was a small very old photograph showing two sisters from a century ago.

I asked a question or two and jotted a few quick notes. I didn’t really achieve a perfect understanding, and some of what I’m about to write might be incorrect!

I believe the spread quilt and another folded beside it had been pieced in the late 19th century by two sisters, Gertrude and Mabel Raymond, who were school teachers in National City, and who are now buried in Greenwood Memorial Park. The old quilts had been found by a family in their attic, and brought to Threads of the Past to be completed.

One of the quilters I spoke to was working on a modern “Sanitary Commission” quilt, which will be auctioned off on the Fourth of July. The fabric squares were designed by local school children. (You can glimpse a bit of their artwork in the second-to-last photograph.) I learned that there are only six authentic United States Sanitary Commission quilts from the Civil War known to exist, and was told that if you see those words on an old quilt at a rummage sale or swap meet, buy it!

Walk into Threads of the Past and not only will you see historic quilts hanging on the walls, but you’ll learn something new about that big colorful quilt known as History, and you might find skilled quilters working to preserve it!

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!

Making beautiful candles in Old Town.

Today I watched as a father and his son made beautiful candles in Old Town San Diego State Historic Park.

The father, Paul, is the owner of Toby’s Candle and Soap Shop. His son is a super friendly young man named KC.

This talented family has been making candles by hand for three generations. I learned their business has been operating for about 38 years (including a period at Knott’s Berry Farm) and has been located in Old Town now for about 24 years.

For a few minutes I watched as Paul used a special carving tool to cut and curl back soft wax as he made an elaborate, very beautiful, multicolored candle. He told me he had about 8 minutes to complete the task, before the wax cooled and hardened. After carving a well at the top of the candle, he dipped his finished creation in clear wax, then a hard glaze.

Sometimes he’ll add shells or figurines to these decorative candles, to make them even more fantastic. I also learned that these fancy many-layered candles, which begin modestly as a solid mold, can take anywhere from 6 to 10 hours to create!

Outside the shop, tourists and curious passersby were watching KC dip taper candles. He’d dip each group of wicks, which are suspended vertically in a circle, about 30 to 35 times, depending on the outdoor temperature. He was careful not to leave the forming candles in the hot wax for too long. After the candles grew in girth to the correct size, he removed the excess wax for future use, and used scissors to cut the candles free, as you can see in my last photo!

Toby’s Candle and Soap Shop is located in the historically and architecturally important Sessions Building, which was designed by renowned San Diego architect Richard Requa. Learn more about it 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!