A surprising, historical La Mesa building!

At first glance, you might not believe this building is almost 130 years old. That’s because it appears much different today than it did originally.

During my last walk around La Mesa, I learned this is La Mesa’s oldest standing commercial building!

It’s interesting to compare the old photograph on the La Mesa Historical Society plaque with the building one sees today.

The La Mesa Lemon Company Store building is located at the corner of La Mesa Boulevard and Nebo Drive.

La Mesa Lemon Company Store, circa 1895

Opened adjacent to the La Mesa Springs rail station in 1895, the Lemon Company’s impressive building was the first to supply local settlers and ranchers. La Mesa’s oldest standing commercial building, it was expanded south in 1912. Charter La Mesa Rotary Club member Lawrence Washburn remodeled the building for the city’s first Ford automobile dealership in 1923.

Take a close look at the signs in the photos. “Dealers in everything used on a ranch” is now ballet and clothing!

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Old Town home of Squibob, who inspired Mark Twain.

One of San Diego’s most famous houses stands in Old Town at 4015 Harney Street. It’s a modest little structure that you might easily pass by without a second glance.

For a couple of years, 1853-1854, the Derby-Pendleton House was the home of Lieutenant George Horatio Derby, an American humorist who wrote articles for California newspapers, including the San Diego Herald, under the pseudonyms Squibob and John Phoenix. It is said his style of writing, employing absurdity, exaggeration, irreverence and good fun, inspired Mark Twain, Artemus Ward, Bret Harte and others.

Derby’s Wikipedia page states: According to the newly (2010) published Autobiography of Mark Twain, Vol. One, Ulysses S. Grant was a classmate of “Squibob’s” and the General told Twain some stories of Squibob at West Point.

In 1856 Derby’s immensely popular book Phoenixiana was published. It contains many of his humorous pieces, including articles he wrote concerning San Diego. I like the gentle humor of his description of Old Town’s Fourth of July in 1854. It is found on page 123: At 9 A.M. precisely, the San Diego Light Infantry, in full uniform, consisting of Brown’s little boy, in his shirt-tail, fired a national salute with a large bunch of fire-crackers. This part of the celebration went off admirably; with the exception of the young gentleman having set fire to his shirt tail, which was fortunately immediately extinguished without incident.

Why was Lt. George H. Derby, a West Point graduate and engineer of the United States Topographical Corps, in San Diego? To survey the San Diego River and build a dike that would divert its water into False Bay–now Mission Bay.

While in San Diego, he and his wife rented a prefabricated house that was originally brought by ship around Cape Horn. Learn all about the Derby-Pendleton House’s complex history here. It has had many owners, including William Heath Davis and Don Juan Bandini, and has been moved repeatedly.

You can see an historical marker concerning Derby Dike here. You might note that the marker was placed by Squibob Chapter, E Clampus Vitus.

The San Diego chapter of E Clampus Vitus, “a fraternal organization dedicated to the preservation of the heritage of the American West,” is named after Derby’s pseudonym, Squibob. The motto of Clampers is Credo Quia Absurdum, which purportedly means “I believe it because it is absurd.”

In 1962 an historical plaque was placed on The Derby-Pendleton House by the San Diego chapters of the Sons of the American Revolution and Daughters of the American Revolution. I took a photo of it yesterday.

Public domain photo of Lieutenant George Horatio Derby.
From the book cover of Phoenixiana.

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La Mesa’s famous movie history remembered!

In the early 20th century, La Mesa was home to the American Film Manufacturing Company. Some of the most popular movies of the time were filmed around San Diego!

The historic Wolf Building, at 8360 La Mesa Boulevard, has a plaque that recalls how the city was a pioneer in early motion pictures. The American Film Manufacturing Company made this new building and adjacent lot its home from August 1911 to July 1912. They created over one hundred “Flying A” Western “one-reelers” while in La Mesa…

According to this Wikipedia article, Flying “A” made over 150 films in San Diego County. The films were usually western adventures, comedies or an occasional local documentary…

The popular movie actors would make appearances at La Mesa parades and public events.

I’ve photographed the Wolf Building as it appears today. The Corner Store shoppers who haven’t read the nearby plaque probably don’t realize they’re experiencing a bit of motion picture history!

Also, I’ve posted two public domain images. The advertisements from the American Film Manufacturing Company are dated a few years after the studio departed La Mesa for Santa Barbara.

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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A look inside the historic Warner-Carrillo Ranch House.

One of San Diego County’s most important historical sites can be visited in Warner Springs. The Warner-Carrillo Ranch House, built in 1857, is a National Historic Landmark maintained by SOHO, the San Diego-based Save Our Heritage Organisation.

The “Ranch House at Warner’s” preserves centuries of history. You can read a bit about the site and see some old photographs at this SOHO web page.

The adobe ranch house “represents Mexican and American culture contact during the Mexican Republic; the Frontier period of the westward migration; and the Gold Rush and the cattle ranching industry from 19th century Californio to 20th century to today.” Built beside the emigrant trail, many early settlers wrote about their experiences here.

Last weekend I visited the restored adobe. I went for a special reason. One day every year at Warner’s Ranch, visitors can ride an authentic Concord stagecoach down a short stretch of the old Overland Trail. For several years, from 1858 to 1861, the ranch house served as a Butterfield Overland Stage Station. Thousands of passengers stopped for a few minutes at this swing station as they travelled through the region. If you’d like to see photos from my fun stagecoach ride, click here!

The present structure, maintained today as a museum, was built by Doña Vicenta Sepúlveda de Carrillo, an early Californio woman rancher. It consists of two main rooms and several adjacent smaller rooms that were added in later years. One of the main rooms was the sala, or living room. The other served as a trading post–a small store where travelers could purchase necessities during their brief stopover.

Some of the smaller rooms include bedrooms and a kitchen, which featured a family bathtub, as you’ll see in my photos! The adobe walls are 18 inches thick, providing a cool inside temperature on a hot day. There’s also a pleasant veranda, where musicians were playing the day I visited. The veranda was built at the front of the ranch house, which faced the old stage route. As I understand it, the nearby barn, which SOHO also plans to restore, was for ranch horses and carriages.

Please enjoy these photos. I took few notes, and I’m no expert, so please don’t rely on anything I’ve written here as absolute fact. Do your own research. The history of the ranch is complex. Over the years it had many different owners.

One more interesting thing. The original Warner’s Ranch was established on a Mexican land grant given to Johnathan Trumbull Warner, an American-Mexican citizen and former California State Senator who changed his name to Juan José Warner. His ranch, a camping stop on the Gila Overland Trail to California, was attacked during the Garra Uprising of 1851. I photographed the burial site of Antonio Garra in Old Town San Diego and provided a brief description of the Native American Cupeño revolt due to unfair taxation here.

The Warner-Carrillo Ranch House is open year-round on Saturday and Sundays from 12 to 4 pm. If you’re ever in the area, make sure to stop by. Not only will you learn much, but you’ll feel the rich history!

Approaching the restored Warner-Carrillo Ranch House. (Interesting note: that brown modern structure to the left of the old ranch house contains visitor restrooms. I learned from Christopher Pro of SOHO that the restroom building design was copied from the historic Stein Family Farm in National City!)

The historical plaque near the museum entrance reads:




A major restoration of the Warner-Carrillo Ranch House was completed in 2011. The ranch stands on land owned by the Vista Irrigation District.

The Vista Irrigation District has a really good web page concerning the ranch house and its history here.

Inside the sala, or living room, with its dining table. Some of the elegant furniture was obtained from William Heath Davis, who helped to establish “New Town” (present day downtown) San Diego.
A quilt being made in one corner of the sala.
The sala in later years became a ranch bunkhouse, which explains why the wood floor is branded!
A work room between the sala and veranda.
A bedroom.
A look inside the kitchen.
How’d you like to take a bath here?!
A look inside the children’s bedroom.
The trading post offered goods to stagecoach travelers, who’d enter from a side door, which is located opposite the old barn.
Soap, a bonnet, and other useful items.
One small room contains information displays and archaeological artifacts from the ranch.
A look at the old barn, which is presently in a state of arrested decay.
On this special once-a-year stagecoach riding day, musicians were out on the veranda playing popular tunes from the Old West. The group is called Jugless Jug Band.
Some visitors enjoying a short ride on the authentic Concord stage.

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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Stagecoach ride at the Warner-Carrillo Ranch House!

Today I had the opportunity to experience something amazing in Warner Springs.

Once a year, at the Warner-Carrillo Ranch House, people can ride an authentic stagecoach a short distance down an actual, historic stage line route!

Such a ride can be experienced nowhere else in the entire country!

I purchased a ticket for a stagecoach ride a couple weeks ago before it sold out, then drove up to the Warner-Carrillo Ranch House in Warner Springs this morning to enjoy the short but memorable adventure!

Warner’s Ranch back in the 19th century was a swing stop for the Butterfield Overland Mail stage line. According to the event website, “The Butterfield Overland stage transported thousands of passengers across the United States years prior to the Civil War as California’s first regular overland stage connection with St. Louis.

Travelers, packed elbow to elbow in solidly-built, relatively “elegant” Concord Coaches, would stop at the ranch house to rest and stretch their legs and sore bodies for a few minutes while new horses were brought up from the nearby barn. Passengers could buy useful items in the ranch’s one-room trading post before resuming their dusty, bumpy journey.

This afternoon I and other excited passengers got to actually experience a few minutes of that dusty, very bumpy overland journey!

If you live in Southern California, or plan to visit, I highly recommend going on this once-every-year stagecoach ride. You’ll also enjoy an in-depth tour of the Warner-Carrillo Ranch House, which is operated by the Save Our Heritage Organisation. SOHO’s mission in San Diego County is the “preservation of architecturally and historically significant structures, sites, and cultural landscapes.”

Okay! You want to see what the ride is like? Here we go!

Approaching the entrance of the historic Carrillo Ranch House at Warner’s Ranch, a National Historic Landmark.
I arrived early and will be on the first ride of the day. But no horses yet.
Here they come!
Two beautiful horses will pull the genuine Concord Coach, which is owned by the Save Our Heritage Organisation. I believe I heard the horses are Clydesdales. (UPDATE! I see on the SOHO website these were Belgian Draft horses.)
Another passenger waits as the horses are hooked up.
I’m pretty sure they didn’t have aluminum ladders like this a century and a half ago!
American eagle on side of the historic red Concord Coach, with E. Pluribus Unum.
Four passengers will sit inside the coach for this short journey.
Here’s my ticket!
We managed to squeeze into the small coach and here we go!
Looking at the countryside beyond an outside stagecoach lantern.
Looking out the other window at oak trees.
Were going down the actual historic stage route. It’s dusty and bumpy! A few sudden lurches took me by surprise–like some sort of amusement park ride!
Mountains and cattle in the distance.
I did say dusty!
What’s this? Armed robbers!
The stagecoach driver threw down the Army payroll. The passengers got off easy.
We are allowed to continue back to our stage stop.
Yes, the experience is fun!
It’s over far too soon.
Another group of passengers is ready to go!
There they go!

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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.

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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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!

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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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!