Western characters in mural at Old Town Saloon.

Several whiskered Western characters pose in a mural on Harney Street in Old Town.
Several whiskered Western characters pose in a mural on Harney Street in Old Town.

There’s a fairly new street mural in Old Town that I really like.  Every time I see it, my imagination travels back in time. Back to the first half of the 19th century.

San Diego for many decades was a tiny town seemingly in the middle of nowhere. Whether it belonged to Spain, or Mexico, or the United States, Old Town San Diego was a place of dusty roads and modest, sun-baked adobe houses, horses and wagons, rugged settlers and ranchers. Characters from that era seem to live again in this mural.

Artist Frank Mando painted this artwork in 2013. I couldn’t capture the entire piece in one shot. Enlivening a building at the corner of San Diego Avenue and Harney Street, the mural is divided in two by a door of the Old Town Saloon. Standing inside that door, as you’ll see, there seems to be a well-known movie star!

Freight wagon hauls a load of barrels in fun art that recalls early San Diego history.
Freight wagon hauls a load of barrels in fun art that recalls early San Diego history.
John Wayne seems to be coming through a door of the Old Town Saloon.
John Wayne seems to be coming through a door of the Old Town Saloon.
Elegant lady and girl from long ago stroll past Ye Old Curiosity Shoppe.
Elegant lady and girl from long ago stroll past Ye Old Curiosity Shoppe.
Old Town mural on building wall was painted in 2013 by artist Frank Mando.
Old Town mural on building wall was painted in 2013 by artist Frank Mando.
Kids standing along sidewalk seem to have materialized from San Diego's past.
Kids standing along sidewalk seem to have materialized from San Diego’s past.
People walk past cool street mural near side entrance to Old Town Saloon.
People walk past nostalgic street mural near side entrance to Old Town Saloon.

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Fall Back Festival recreates history in San Diego.

Blacksmith at Fall Back Festival in San Diego's Gaslamp works the bellows.
Blacksmith at Fall Back Festival in San Diego’s Gaslamp works the bellows.

Today I checked out a great event in downtown San Diego’s Gaslamp Quarter. Called the Fall Back Festival: the Children’s Historical and Cultural Street Faire, this historical reenactment places visitors in a magical time machine, transporting them back to the 1880’s.

Three blocks of fun included a blacksmith, old western storefronts, pony rides, candle dipping and other educational activities. Many participants wore costumes and clothing from this early period in San Diego’s history. There was also an exciting High Noon shootout–which I unfortunately missed. But I did capture a few pics…

Lady in old-fashioned dress walks with her umbrella past Horton Grand Hotel.
Lady in old-fashioned dress walks with her umbrella past Horton Grand Hotel.

I snapped the above photo as I headed toward the festival. The lady was just walking along through modern, shiny downtown San Diego like an image from the past.

These cowboys, the Alpine Outlaws, have a jailhouse downtown and a hanging noose!
These cowboys, the Alpine Outlaws, have a jailhouse downtown and a hanging noose!

Yikes! The first thing I saw was a bunch of crafty outlaws!

Festival celebrates the diverse and fascinating early history of San Diego.
Festival celebrates the diverse and fascinating early history of San Diego.
Wood cabinet at rear of wagon is packed with wares typical in 1880's.
Wood cabinet at rear of wagon is packed with wares typical in 1880’s.
A table full of rusty irons from the Old West!
A table full of rusty irons from the Old West!
Temecula Valley Prospectors had kids panning for gold.
Temecula Valley Prospectors had kids panning for real gold.
Realistic replicas of Native American tools and weapons were on display.
Realistic replicas of Native American tools and weapons were on display.

An interesting guy named Dave, of San Diego Survival History and Fitness, showed me a very cool display. He made all of the above implements and weapons by hand, using materials and techniques that were used by the Kumeyaay and earlier native peoples in the San Diego area. The Spaniards who built their first California Mission in San Diego feared the throwing sticks which you can see in the above photo. Shaped like a boomerang, they had the power to easily bring down a deer!

Historical exhibit has photos of Japanese settlers and community in San Diego.
Historical exhibit has photos of Japanese settlers and community in San Diego.
San Diego Model A Club had a row of old automobiles at the Fall Back Festival.
San Diego Model A Club had a row of old automobiles at the Fall Back Festival.
Of course, there was live country western music for the crowd to enjoy!
Of course, there was live country western music for the crowd to enjoy!

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San Diego’s Mormon Battalion Historic Site.

Sculpture and cannon at entrance to Mormon Battalion Historic Site.
Sculpture and cannon at entrance to the Mormon Battalion Historic Site.

Just east of Old Town San Diego State Historic Park one can find the Mormon Battalion Historic Site, an attraction created by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The location itself seems a bit arbitrary, as the Mormon Battalion manned Fort Stockton up on the hill by the old, abandoned Presidio when they arrived in San Diego in 1847.

Young lady missionaries guide visitors through a series of rooms and outdoor areas which are designed to tell a sympathetic version of the Mormon Battalion’s difficult 2000 mile march from Iowa. The ulterior motive is to promote their beliefs, and there are frequent religious references, but there is no hard sell and the tour guides are warm and friendly. One can absorb a little bit of history while experiencing a good-humored, Disney-like presentation.

Missionary lady comes outside to welcome a new visitor.
A friendly missionary lady comes outside to welcome a new visitor.
Girl in pioneer dress begins tour with talking, moving portraits.
Girl in a pioneer dress begins the tour with talking, moving portraits.

Much of the tour is spent watching professionally produced dramatic videos. Several real historical artifacts can be found near the tour’s end.

Taking pictures of visitors with a large old camera.
Taking pictures of visitors with a large antique camera.
Girls pose for a picture in front of a western scene.
Girls pose for a picture in front of a western scene.

A lot of families and kids were smiling and enjoying the tour. Many appeared to be members of the LDS Church.

Visitors near end of tour pan for iron pyrite--fool's gold.
Young visitors near end of the tour pan for glittery iron pyrite.
Covered wagon in front of Mormon Battalion Historic Site.
Covered wagon in front of the Mormon Battalion Historic Site.

Seeley Stable’s stagecoaches and freight wagons.

Front of the Seeley Stable Museum in Old Town.
Front of the Seeley Stable Museum in Old Town San Diego.

Perhaps my favorite part of Old Town San Diego State Historic Park is the Seeley Stable Museum.

The huge old barn and surrounding area were once owned by Albert Seeley, who ran the San Diego-Los Angeles Stage Line from 1868 to 1877.  His Concord stagecoaches left San Diego at 5 am, stopped overnight at San Juan Capistrano, and arrived in Los Angeles at 4 pm the next day.  Eventually competition with the railroad put him out of business.

Sign on the Blacksmith Shop behind Seeley Stable.
Sign on the Blacksmith Shop behind Seeley Stable.

Behind the Seeley Stable is a cool blacksmith shop, where tourists can watch skilled hobbyists demonstrate the shaping of red hot iron.   The hammers ring loudly and the sparks fly!  Unfortunately it wasn’t open the day I took these photos.

Covered wagon, anvils and relics of the Old West behind Seeley Stable.
Covered wagon, anvils and relics of the Old West behind Seeley Stable.

Across from the blacksmith you’ll find this.  Very cool!

Several unrestored wagons.
Several unrestored wagons.
Peering through old wagon wheels.
Peering through old wagon wheels.
Donkey awaits young visitors to historic Seeley Stable.
Donkey awaits young visitors to historic Seeley Stable.

On the south side of the stable you’ll find a couple of donkeys, which are used by park rangers to teach children about life in the Old West.

Stagecoach from the Los Angeles and San Diego route.
Concord stagecoach from the Los Angeles to San Diego route.

Finally, we’re inside the museum!  You can see many different wagons and stagecoaches inside the dark old barn, plus other artifacts from life one and a half centuries ago.

Museum display with horse and saddles recreates the old stable.
Museum display with horse and saddles recreates the old stable.
Huge freight wagon on display at Seeley Stable.
Huge freight wagon on display at Seeley Stable.
Old Wells Fargo wagon once used to transport the mail.
Old Wells Fargo wagon once used to transport the mail.
Old Town San Diego park ranger chats with ticket window lady.
Old Town San Diego State Historic Park ranger chats with friendly lady at the ticket window.

The Seeley Stable Museum is free!

UPDATE!

Here are a few more interesting and informative photos that I took inside the museum in August 2017…

Roscoe E. "Pappy" Hazard was a developer and rancher who collected stagecoaches, carriages and wagons from the Old West. Many are displayed in Seeley Stable.
Roscoe E. “Pappy” Hazard was a developer and rancher who collected stagecoaches, carriages and wagons from the Old West. Many are displayed today in Old Town’s Seeley Stable Museum.
In 1869, Albert L. Seeley transformed the nearby Bandini adobe into the two-story Cosmopolitan Hotel, which became Old Town's stage depot and social center.
In 1869, Albert L. Seeley transformed the nearby Bandini adobe into the two-story Cosmopolitan Hotel, which became Old Town’s stage depot and social center.
Photo of Seeley Stable's barn and yard taken from Presidio Hill in 1872. The Cosmopolitan Hotel can be seen on the right.
Photo of Seeley Stable’s barn and yard taken from Presidio Hill in 1872. The Cosmopolitan Hotel can be seen on the right.
Map shows important stagecoach routes, including the Butterfield Overland, and the Birch's Line from San Antonio to San Diego.
Map shows important stagecoach routes, including the Butterfield Overland, and the Birch’s Line from San Antonio to San Diego.
Signs and old photos concerning freight wagons in the Old West, which often employed large teams of mules.
Signs and old photos concerning freight wagons in the Old West, which often employed large teams of mules.
Spaniards introduced mules to America along with the horse. Hardy pack mules were used by trappers to haul furs, and by gold miners to move supplies and equipment.
Spaniards introduced mules to America along with the horse. Hardy pack mules were used by trappers to haul furs, and by gold miners to move supplies and equipment.
This delivery wagon was brought to San Diego by Frank Kimball in 1868. It was used to show passengers land that he had for sale in National City.
This delivery wagon was brought to San Diego by Frank Kimball in 1868. It was used to show passengers land that he had for sale in National City.
This old Park Wagon was used by rancher Walter Vail. He owned land in Arizona, Santa Rosa island off the coast of California, and Warner's Ranch northeast of San Diego.
This old Park Wagon was used by cattle rancher Walter Vail. He owned a land in Arizona, Santa Rosa island off the coast of California, and Warner’s Ranch northeast of San Diego.
How part of the stable might have once appeared. Stable hands had many chores, including feeding, watering and grooming animals, and cleaning stalls.
How a corner of the stable might have once appeared. Stable hands had many chores, including feeding, watering and grooming animals, and cleaning stalls.

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Cowboys have gunfight on a San Diego street!

Cowboys have a gun battle in San Diego's Old Town.
Cowboys have a gun battle in San Diego’s Old Town.

Look at these larger-than-life cowboys! They’re shooting it out in Old Town!

This whimsical art can be found on San Diego Avenue, in a courtyard among shops and restaurants catering largely to tourists. I’m not sure whether it represents the Gunfight at the O.K. Corral or just an Old West scene from a typical Western movie.

Is one of the cowboys Wyatt Earp? After his famous gunfight, Wyatt moved to San Diego to participate in a land boom, running saloons, gambling halls and a brothel!

cowboys have gunfight on san diego street

Like the plant beside him, this guy might soon get planted.
Like the plant beside him, this guy might soon get planted.
Wyatt Earp was here.
Wyatt Earp was here.
Stern lawman patrols San Diego Avenue.
Stern lawman patrols San Diego Avenue.