Old farming street art in Nestor.

During my recent adventure in Nestor I was surprised to find an abundance of street art. As I walked west along Tocayo Avenue and north up Hollister Street to Leon Avenue, I kept spotting electrical boxes painted with farm imagery.

Nestor is a quiet residential community in San Diego’s South Bay. Before urban development covered the landscape with asphalt streets lined with houses, Nestor was mostly farmland. I believe this street art is a tribute to those olden days.

As I walked along, it seemed that goats, cows and horses, and wildlife in wide open spaces, had emerged from the brush by the sidewalk.

The only artist signature I could find appears to indicate David Williams, 2009. It was painted on the wall mural at the corner of Hollister and Leon that features a wide view of an old farm.

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Building a cannon carriage and adobe walls in Old Town.

Saturday, on my way to TwainFest, I walked a little around Old Town San Diego State Historic Park to see what I might see.

At the blacksmith shop, wood shop and nearby grounds, I observed some interesting activity!

First, I learned from Todd in the blacksmith shop that a new carriage for Old Town plaza’s historic cannon will soon be built! I blogged about this project back in April here. I detail a little about the cannon’s history in that blog post.

Todd showed me how he had removed some of the original iron fittings from the wooden carriage. All of the iron will be saved, then refitted to a brand new carriage once it’s built. Welds will be hidden to preserve the original appearance.

The carriage will be constructed in the wood shop, a small work room attached to the blacksmith shop.

Here are a few photos of the wood shop…

Then I noticed two people working in the dirt area outside the blacksmith shop, behind Seeley Stable. This is the new spot in the State Park where adobe wall-making is demonstrated.

I’ve been told the old adobe demonstration area, which I blogged about here, will be used in the future for a Kumeyaay interpretive display.

As I watched slimy fingers jam mud mortar between large sun-dried adobe blocks, I took a look at information concerning which structures in Old Town are original adobes, and which ones are reconstructed.

Six original adobe buildings shown are: Casa de Machado y Silvas, c. 1843; Casa de Machado y Stewart, c. 1830; Casa de Estudillo, c. 1827; Casa de Bandini/Cosmopolitan Hotel, c. 1829; Altamirano-Perdrorena House, c. 1869; and the oldest structure in San Diego, Casa de Carrillo (between Old Town San Diego State Historic Park and the Presidio), c. 1817.

Reconstructed adobe buildings are: Robinson-Rose Building, c. 1853; Casa de Wrightington, c. 1804; San Diego House, c. 1841; Casa de Rodriguez, c. 1830; Colorado House (Adobe Annex), c. 1854; Casa de Alvarado, c. 1830; and Alvarado Saloon, c. 1830.

Typical adobe wall construction involved a foundation and a layer of small stones and shards topped by adobe bricks, which are cemented with lime and sand or mud plaster.

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!

Mural at Ramona’s old Pioneer Store recalls history.

The Verlaque Pioneer Store in Ramona might be long gone, but the building, which is the oldest in Ramona, remains. A mural on the building’s side depicts goods that might have been stocked in the Pioneer Store from the late 1800’s to 1911.

The mural, painted by San Diego artist Rik Erickson in 2017, is part of the Ramona H.E.A.R.T. Murals Project. It’s just one of many colorful murals that can be found up and down Main Street!

The Verlaque Store was built around 1883. This community gathering place in Ramona’s early history also served as a stage stop, general store and post office. It was frequented by gold miners traveling from San Diego to Julian during the short-lived gold rush. Today it’s a point of historical interest.

Eleven panels painted by the artist include an image of Jeff Verlaque, who succeeded his brother Amos as the Pioneer Store operator. Another panel depicts the store as it might have looked based on a photograph from the 1800’s. You can see the similarity to the building today, which at 629 Main Street is occupied by the wine bar Reds, Whites & Brews.

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The surprising old Ramona Town Hall.

During my recent visit to Ramona, I walked down Main Street past the old Town Hall building and took a few photos.

Several plaques on the stately building provide a glimpse of its rich history. I was completely surprised to learn that Ramona Town Hall isn’t made of brick, but of adobe made to appear like red bricks!

As you can see for yourself, the appearance is convincing!

According to the Ramona Chamber of Commerce website, which includes a couple of historical photographs: “The Town Hall has served as the town’s first library, first movie theater, first high school, first bank, dance hall, justice court, and the birthplace of several of the communities’ service groups, including the Masonic Lodge, the Chamber of Commerce, and the Volunteer Fire department. Additionally, the Town Hall has hosted a wide variety of events, including Temperance Meetings, Turkey Days, Voting Polls, 4-H Youth Meetings, Miss Ramona Contests, Political Meetings, Community Theater; Silent Film Festivals, Town Hall Days, etc..”

A description on the above plaque begins:

Dedicated on Washington’s birthday, February 22, 1894, this building was given to the townspeople of Nuevo (as Ramona was then known) by rancher and financier Augustus Barnett and his wife Martha. Feeling that the local schoolhouse was not a proper place to hold dances and other social events, Barnett donated $17,000 in gold coin to erect a building that could serve as the social center for the community as well as host a library.

Ramona Town Hall was designed by noted San Diego architect William S. Hebbard. Built of adobe with brick veneer in the Romanesque/Mission Revival style, it is considered one of the largest freestanding adobe structures in the southwest…

Another surprising discovery during an ordinary walk!

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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 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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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.

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!

Colorful photos of historic Old Poway Park!

A couple years ago I headed up to the annual Rendezvous in Poway. The event is held in historic Old Poway Park.

The Rendezvous in Poway is a reenactment that includes many elements of the 19th century Old West, including costumed vaqueros, mountain men, cowboys, pioneers, and soldiers from the Civil War.

I blogged about the event here. I also blogged about a beautiful bronze sculpture that I came across while walking through the park. It’s titled The Pioneers. See it here.

This morning, as I went through some folders in my computer, I found one that I had named Old Poway Park. In it were various photos of the park.

Uh, oh! Yikes!

I had intended to blog those photos a day or two after the event!

My lousy memory being what it is, I thought it would be best to merely share a few photos I took of this very colorful historic park–I don’t recall most of the precise details.

I do remember that there was grass and picnic benches and shady trees, and excited kids waving as they rode along the short, looping track of the Poway-Midland Railroad, and that the Heritage Museum contained a great collection of artifacts and displays concerning Poway’s history. But I’m afraid these almost forgotten photos will simply provide a taste of my visit that day.

If you want to learn more about family-friendly Old Poway Park, its history, museum, fascinating buildings and railroad operations, visit their website here!

One day I’ll return to ride that steam locomotive train you see in the barn. The little kid in me cannot be denied.

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!

Step into El Cajon’s super cool Arts Alley!

At first glance the place might seem unremarkable. Just another alley in downtown El Cajon–north of Main Street, between Magnolia Avenue and Sulzfeld Way. And just south of the Olaf Wieghorst Museum and Western Heritage Center, which is located on Rea Avenue.

But should you step into El Cajon’s surprising Arts Alley, you’ll suddenly find yourself surrounded by delightful murals and fantastic works of imagination! The alley is so full of creativity, some of the super cool artwork has overflowed right out of it at the east end!

And what is an alley without cats?

You’ll also find a few wise quotes written on walls concerning the nature of beauty.

(You might notice in my photos that Arts Alley is located behind a couple of art galleries–plus a variety of other El Cajon shops and eateries that line a historic segment of Main Street.)

Hope For the Flowers, 2019, by @KlineSwonger.

To be accurate, those two large Olaf Wieghorst Museum murals I posted aren’t in Arts Alley, but both can be seen from it! (I believe there’s another Western-themed mural that I failed to photograph. Oops.)

In case you’re curious, Olaf Wieghorst was a popular painter of the American West, whose work once appeared all over, including Zane Grey’s Western Magazine and the open titles sequence of the John Wayne movie El Dorado. He lived in El Cajon, where the museum is located, the second half of his life.

One day I hope to swing by the museum when it’s open and blog about the experience!

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!