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…

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!

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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!

Making adobe blocks in Old Town.

Today I spent a couple of hours exploring Old Town San Diego State Historic Park and a small section of nearby Presidio Park. As I walked through Old Town’s historic plaza near the Cosmopolitan Hotel, I noticed some people in period attire were demonstrating how to create adobe blocks.

At the very beginning of San Diego, in the early days of Spanish and Mexican settlers, adobe was the small town’s primary building material. Primitive bricks–or blocks–were made by simply mixing mud and straw together. The mixture was then shaped using wooden forms, then left to dry in the sun for a month or so. The resulting adobe blocks were used to build walls that in our arid climate were remarkably sturdy and insulating.

During past visits to Old Town, I’ve seen people working in this same spot demonstrating the making of adobe. Over time, that wall in a couple of my photos has slowly grown.

I was told by one friendly gentleman that eventually this grassy spot will be used for a Native American Kumeyaay exhibit, and a more permanent demonstration adobe structure will be built inside the fenced area near Old Town’s Blacksmith Shop.

Here’s a pic I took a couple months ago which shows how the adobe wall is slowly being built, layer by layer…

IMG_9847z

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!

Photos of Gaslamp history on Fifth Avenue.

Should you walk down Fifth Avenue through the Gaslamp Quarter, you might notice electrical boxes on street corners that feature photos from San Diego history. I believe these graphics debuted a few months ago.

The San Diego History Center and Gaslamp Quarter Historical Foundation have furnished old photos and bits of fascinating information for curious people passing down the sidewalk.

In 1885 Wyatt Earp came to San Diego, where he operated three gambling halls, organized gambling excursions in Mexico, and prospected copper and gold.
In 1885 Wyatt Earp came to San Diego, where he operated three gambling halls, organized gambling excursions in Mexico, and prospected copper and gold.

The Louis Bank of Commerce building was the location of Madam Cora's infamous Golden Poppy Hotel. It was also San Diego's first downtown ice cream shop.
The Louis Bank of Commerce building was the location of Madam Cora’s infamous Golden Poppy Hotel. It was also San Diego’s first downtown ice cream shop.

The Old City Hall building housed police headquarters. The Gaslamp during much of its early history was a red-light district known as the Stingaree.
The Old City Hall building housed police headquarters. The Gaslamp during much of its early history was a red-light district known as the Stingaree.

The Yuma Building was one of downtown San Diego's first brick structures. The bottom floor contains the only original interior from the 1880s in the Gaslamp Quarter.
The Yuma Building was one of downtown San Diego’s first brick structures. The bottom floor contains the only original interior from the 1880’s in the Gaslamp Quarter.

In the 1970s a redevelopment and preservation program began aimed at establishing the historic Gaslamp Quarter.
In the 1970’s a redevelopment and preservation program began aimed at establishing the historic Gaslamp Quarter.

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!

Marigolds add meaning to El Campo Santo.

Most of the traditional Día de los Muertos decorations have been put away.

In the small El Campo Santo cemetery, marigolds are all that remain.

According to Mexican tradition, marigolds, with their color and scent, guide spirits back to the living.

El Campo Santo (The Holy Field) is where many of San Diego’s earliest residents were buried. Marigolds on graves remind the living that those who founded our city are still with us.

To learn more about some of the people laid to rest in Old Town’s historic El Campo Santo cemetery, click 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!

The Pioneers sculpture at Old Poway Park.

Last weekend I walked all around Old Poway Park. During my visit I took a look at the park’s many historic structures and interesting sights. When I approached the front of the 1886 Templars Hall, I noticed a large bronze sculpture standing near the foot of the front steps.

The Pioneers is a seven-foot-tall bronze sculpture by renowned local artist Richard Becker. It was commissioned in 2006 by the City of Poway. The gentle figures of a mother, child and faithful dog provide a beautiful tribute to Poway’s early pioneer founders.

Plaque reads: The Pioneers. Sculptor Richard Becker, 2007. Mother and child welcoming families to Poway. A tribute to the pioneers who settled in Poway at the turn of the 19th century.
Plaque reads: The Pioneers. Sculptor Richard Becker, 2007. Mother and child welcoming families to Poway. A tribute to the pioneers who settled in Poway at the turn of the 19th century.

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!