Exciting debut of San Diego’s new Civic Organist!

Raúl Prieto Ramírez, San Diego's new Civic Organist, raises his arms in greeting.
Raúl Prieto Ramírez, San Diego’s new Civic Organist, raises his arms in greeting.

I’m still in a state of elation after experiencing the exciting debut this afternoon of San Diego’s new Civic Organist!

The first appearance of Raúl Prieto Ramírez as official organist for the city of San Diego was nothing less than phenomenal. He performed in Balboa Park’s Spreckels Organ Pavilion, where the public will now enjoy his free performances every Sunday at two o’clock.

His great love of music, his energy, his vivaciousness and his extraordinary skill were apparent from the start. An enormous audience filled the Spreckels Organ Pavilion and welcomed him warmly. At the conclusion of the exciting concert, he received a well-deserved standing ovation.

San Diego is so fortunate. The shoes of previous Civic Organist, Dr. Carol Williams, would be difficult for anyone to fill, but Raúl Prieto Ramírez seems definitely up to the task. His playing is crisp, nimble, precise, and full of expression. His smile is enormous. His mission in life, he told the audience, was to bring to the world great music. That makes him happy.

Raúl Prieto Ramírez comes to San Diego from Barcelona, Spain. He is internationally acclaimed, the founder of the Barcelona-Mataró International Organ Festival. Now he will perform his magic in Balboa Park as Civic Organist and Artistic Director of the Spreckels Organ Society. I can tell you right now the future of the 103-year-old Spreckels Organ is incredibly bright.

My photos of today’s concert captures a true artist’s unbounded passion. That passion translates into musical gold.

Jack Lasher, President of the Spreckels Organ Society, welcomes new San Diego Civic Organist Raúl Prieto Ramírez to the world's largest outdoor organ in Balboa Park.
Jack Lasher, President of the Spreckels Organ Society, welcomes new San Diego Civic Organist Raúl Prieto Ramírez to the world’s largest outdoor organ in Balboa Park.
A sparkling debut concert is about to begin.
A sparkling debut concert is about to begin.
A tradition for the Sunday organ concerts in Balboa Park, Raúl Prieto Ramírez plays America to get things started.
A tradition for the Sunday organ concerts in Balboa Park, Raúl Prieto Ramírez plays America to get things started.
The San Diego audience loved our new Civic Organist from the word go.
The San Diego audience loved our new Civic Organist from the word go.
Raúl Prieto Ramírez talks about coming to San Diego, before his brilliant performance of Johann Sebastian Bach's famous Toccata and Fugue in D minor.
Raúl Prieto Ramírez talks about coming to San Diego, before his brilliant performance of Johann Sebastian Bach’s famous Toccata and Fugue in D minor.
Playing the Spreckels Organ with style and passion.
Playing the Spreckels Organ with style and passion.
There were many smiles throughout the large audience at the Spreckels Organ Pavilion. Every bench was full.
There were many smiles throughout the large audience at the Spreckels Organ Pavilion. Every bench was full.
Finishing a difficult Classical piece with a triumphant flourish.
Finishing a difficult Classical piece with a triumphant flourish.
With theatrical flair, Raúl Prieto Ramírez talks about the next piece, Danse Macabre.
With theatrical flair, Raúl Prieto Ramírez talks about the next piece, Danse Macabre.
Concentration.
Concentration.
Feeling.
Feeling.
Intensity.
Intensity.
More smiles.
More smiles.
After a great organ rendition of Bohemian Rhapsody, Spreckels Organ Society's Executive Director Ross Porter announces kids are needed for the next number.
After a great organ rendition of Bohemian Rhapsody, Spreckels Organ Society’s Executive Director Ross Porter announces kids are needed for the next number.
Kids from the audience take the stage right next to the Spreckels Organ console.
Kids from the audience take the stage right next to the Spreckels Organ console.
Here comes a fifth kid.
Here comes a fifth kid.
Instructions are secretly given.
Instructions are secretly given.
While Raúl Prieto Ramírez plays Batalla Famosa, the kids read a short sentence that introduces each part of the music.
While Raúl Prieto Ramírez plays Batalla Famosa, the kids read a short dramatic sentence that introduces each part of the music.
Too much fun!
Too much fun!
Meet the new San Diego Civic Organist, Raúl Prieto Ramírez!
Meet the new San Diego Civic Organist, Raúl Prieto Ramírez!

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Festive culture and tradition at Fiestas Patrias!

Every year, Fiestas Patrias, which celebrates Mexican independence from Spain in 1821, includes traditional entertainment for the entire family.
Every year, Fiestas Patrias, which celebrates Mexican independence from Spain in 1821, includes traditional entertainment for the entire family.

This morning I missed a bus to Ocean Beach at the Old Town Transit Center, so to pass the time I walked the short distance over to the State Park to see if anything was going on. And I discovered that Fiestas Patrias was being celebrated today!

I lingered for a few minutes and took some photos, headed over to OB (as you will see), then returned to Old Town a couple hours later to really soak in the event. Fiestas Patrias is a yearly celebration of Mexican independence from Spain in 1821. San Diego, a small town founded near a Spanish presidio in Alta California, thereafter became a part of Mexico until 1848.

Many diverse traditions have intermingled during San Diego’s history to make our city what it is today. The rich and colorful culture of Mexico has remained an essential part of life in San Diego!

A mariachi welcomes visitors to the historic Casa de Estudillo in Old Town San Diego.
A mariachi welcomes visitors to the historic Casa de Estudillo in Old Town San Diego State Historic Park.
A friendly horse came for a visit as I took some photos outside the Casa de Estudillo during Fiestas Patrias.
A friendly horse came for a visit as I took some photos outside the Casa de Estudillo during Fiestas Patrias.
Traditional dances were being performed on the central plaza's main stage. Las damas y los caballeros took turns being el toro and el matador!
Traditional dances were being performed on the central plaza’s main stage. Las damas y los caballeros took turns being el toro and el matador!
The annual event features authentic costumes from a time when San Diego was a small Mexican town in Alta California.
The annual event features authentic costumes from a time when San Diego was a small Mexican town in Alta California.
Kids were decorating traditional cascarones eggshells.
Kids were decorating traditional cascarones eggshells.
A demonstration inside the Casa de Estudillo of yarn being spun. During the Spanish period, sheep were first introduced along with cattle and horses at the Mission San Diego de Alcalá.
A demonstration inside the Casa de Estudillo of yarn being spun. During the Spanish period, sheep were first introduced along with cattle and horses at the Mission San Diego de Alcalá.
Nearby, ladies were demonstrating Colcha Spanish Colonial embroidery, which was typical in San Diego in the early 1800s.
Nearby, ladies were demonstrating Colcha Spanish Colonial embroidery, which was typical in San Diego in the early 1800s.
At the same table, another lady was cutting out festive Mexican papel picado.
At the same table, another lady was cutting out festive Mexican papel picado.
The historically authentic musical group Los Californios wait for their turn on the stage at Fiestas Patrias in Old Town San Diego!
The historically authentic musical group Los Californios wait for their turn on the stage at Fiestas Patrias in Old Town San Diego!

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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Photos of historical plaques on Presidio Hill.

View of the Serra Museum through trees atop Presidio Hill, near the spot where European civilization first took root in California in 1769.
View of the Serra Museum through trees atop Presidio Hill, near the spot where European civilization first took root in California in 1769.

A few years ago I walked from Old Town San Diego up to the top of Presidio Hill and wrote a simple blog about what I saw. You can revisit that post here.

What I failed to do at the time was photograph many of the historically important plaques that can be found around a number of sites and monuments, so I thought it would be proper to finally correct that omission.

Here are plaques (and a sign) that I photographed some months ago. One is near the spot where the old Spanish presidio was built; one is at the cross that marks the establishment of the first mission in Alta California; and the others are found at Fort Stockton, where the Mormon Battalion camped after their 2000-mile march from Iowa to San Diego.

Click the photos and they will enlarge for easier reading.

Sign marks the Old Presidio Historic Trail. Grassy mounds on the hill below the Serra Museum are the ruins of the old presidio chapel.
Sign marks the Old Presidio Historic Trail. Grassy mounds on the hill below the Serra Museum are the ruins of the old presidio chapel. It was built for the garrison’s soldiers after the original Spanish mission was relocated up the valley.
A large cross marks the location of the first Spanish mission in Alta California, established by Junipero Serra.
A large brick cross marks the location of the first Spanish mission in Alta California, established in 1769 by Junipero Serra.
Plaque at base of cross remembers the Indian village of Cosoy, named San Miguel by Cabrillo in 1542, then San Diego de Alcala by Vizcaino in 1602.
Plaque at base of cross remembers the Indian village of Cosoy, named San Miguel by Cabrillo in 1542, then San Diego de Alcala by Vizcaino in 1602.
California Historical Landmark plaque at Fort Stockton. The top of Presidio Hill was fortified by Carlos Carrillo in 1838. From July to November 1846 the fortification was called Fort Dupont when American forces temporarily held Old Town.
California Historical Landmark plaque at Fort Stockton. The top of Presidio Hill was first fortified by Carlos Carrillo in 1838. From July to November 1846 the site was called Fort Dupont when American forces temporarily held Old Town.
Mural at Fort Stockton depicts the long march of the Mormon Battalion.
Mural at Fort Stockton depicts the long march of the Mormon Battalion.
Plaque by mural, commemorating the heroic sacrifice and history-making achievements of the Mormon Battalion.
Plaque by mural, commemorating the heroic sacrifice and history-making achievements of the Mormon Battalion.
More plaques nearby explain the history of the Mormon Battalion, which blazed the first wagon trail to the Pacific over the southern route.
More plaques nearby explain the history of the Mormon Battalion, which blazed the first wagon trail to the Pacific over the southern route.
Members of the Mormon Battalion worked to improve San Diego by making the first kiln in California, the first pumps to draw water, and the first blacksmith shop and bakery.
Members of the Mormon Battalion worked to improve San Diego by making the first kiln in California, the first pumps to draw water, and the first blacksmith shop and bakery.
The two plaques depicted above are near the Mormon Battalion Monument, a bronze sculpture by Edward J. Fraughton.
The two plaques described above can be found near the Mormon Battalion Monument, a bronze sculpture created by Edward J. Fraughton.
Another nearby plaque explains the history of the sculpture. It was a gift to the City of San Diego in 1969 by the National Society of the Sons of Utah Pioneers.
Another nearby plaque explains the history of the statue. It was a gift to the City of San Diego in 1969 by the National Society of the Sons of Utah Pioneers.
A plaque by the Daughters of Utah Pioneers also stands at the site of old Fort Stockton.
A plaque by the Daughters of Utah Pioneers also stands at the site of old Fort Stockton.
Women of the Mormon Battalion. Almost eighty women and children accompanied the soldiers during the long march. Four wives traveled the entire distance to San Diego.
Women of the Mormon Battalion. Almost eighty women and children accompanied the soldiers during the long march. Four wives traveled the entire distance to San Diego.
Flags of the United States, Spain and Mexico fly atop Presidio Hill, birthplace of California. Here many chapters of history are remembered.
Flags of the United States, Spain and Mexico fly atop Presidio Hill, birthplace of California. Here many chapters of history are remembered.

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The oldest building in San Diego is a golf Pro Shop!

The Pro Shop at Presidio Hill Golf Course can be found inside San Diego's oldest building, La Casa de Carrillo.
The Presidio Hills Golf Course Pro Shop can be found inside San Diego’s oldest building, La Casa de Carrillo.

Believe it or not, the oldest structure that still exists in San Diego (outside of the walls of the Mission Basilica San Diego de Alcalá) contains a golf Pro Shop!

The two-century-old Casa de Carrillo, located near the base of historic Presidio Hill, was built in 1817, according to the Save Our Heritage Organisation.  (Plaques at the location provide two different years.)  It was built by the Spanish presidio’s commander, Francisco Maria Ruiz, for Joaquin Carrillo, a relative and fellow soldier stationed in San Diego. The adobe house stood beside the Comandante’s pear garden. Today the rather simple building, which was restored in 1931, is the home of the Presidio Hills Golf Course Pro Shop!

The small Presidio Hills Golf Course has its own unique history. Occupying what was once a scrubby plot of land at the foot of Presidio Hill, just east of Old Town, the pitch-and-putt golf course was developed in the early 1930s by George Marston, a visionary San Diego businessman and philanthropist who also worked to develop Balboa Park, the San Diego Public Library, and the San Diego Historical Society. Marston created the Junipero Serra Museum which rises today just above the site of the original 1769 Spanish presidio, so-called birthplace of California.

Over the years, the Presidio Hills Golf Course has hosted several world famous golfers, most notably Phil Mickelson, a resident of San Diego. When they were kids, Phil and his sister Tina would play all day at the small golf course. I was told by the super friendly young gentleman working in the pro shop that Phil Mickelson returns to visit every few years, just for old time’s sake.

A young Tiger Woods also won two Junior World trophies at Presidio Hills Golf Course!

Read the photo captions for a bit more information . . .

Photo of the small, historic adobe across the parking lot of the Presidio Hills Golf Course. Built around 1810, it's the oldest structure that is still standing in San Diego.
A photo of the small, historic adobe taken from the parking lot of the Presidio Hills Golf Course. Casa de Carrillo is the oldest structure that is still standing in San Diego.
A portion of La Casa De Carrillo - Pear Garden House. A center of social life and romance in early Spanish days. Here lived Senorita Josefa Carrillo. One of the oldest adobe dwellings in San Diego. Built about the year 1810. Restored in October 1931.
Bronze plaque near the front door reads:  A portion of La Casa De Carrillo – Pear Garden House. A center of social life and romance in early Spanish days. Here lived Senorita Josefa Carrillo. One of the oldest adobe dwellings in San Diego. Built about the year 1810. Restored in October 1931.
Photo of La Casa de Carrillo taken from a golf green just east of the structure.
Photo of La Casa de Carrillo taken from a golf green just east of the structure.
Sign near historical marker for Casa de Carrillo points to the golf course clubhouse and first hole.
Sign near historical marker for Casa de Carrillo points to the golf course clubhouse and first hole.
Presidio Comandante Francisco Maria Ruiz built this house next to his 1808 pear garden late in 1821 for his close relative and fellow soldier, Joaquin Carrillo, and his large family.
Presidio Comandante Francisco Maria Ruiz built this house next to his 1808 pear garden late in 1821 for his close relative and fellow soldier, Joaquin Carrillo, and his large family.
The easy Presidio Hills Golf Course is a great place to learn golf--ideal for families and kids. And one gets a history lesson, too!
Enter the old adobe and you will find the Pro Shop.  The easy Presidio Hills Golf Course is a great place to learn golf–ideal for families and kids. And one gets a history lesson, too!
A look inside the restored adobe. I'm not sure which parts of the historically important building are original.
Another look inside the restored adobe. I’m not sure which parts of the historically important building are original.
An old newspaper article displayed in the pro shop includes a photo of 8-year-old Tiger Woods. He is showing off his Junior World trophy captured at Presidio Hills, where he won two titles.
An old newspaper article displayed in the pro shop includes a photo of 8-year-old Tiger Woods. He is showing off a Junior World trophy captured at Presidio Hills, where he won two titles.
San Diego Union September 1, 1931. Old Town Links Well Under Way On Marston Land.
San Diego Union September 1, 1931. Old Town Links Well Under Way On Marston Land.
Various photos of Presidio Hills Golf Course history inside the Pro Shop. Phil Mickelson and Craig Stadler are two notable golfers from San Diego.
Various photos of Presidio Hills Golf Course history inside the Pro Shop. Phil Mickelson and Craig Stadler are two notable golfers from San Diego.
Old photo shows Don and Al Abrego Presidio Hills Tiny Tots Golf School. The school has faded into history.
Another photo shows Don and Al Abrego Presidio Hills Tiny Tots Golf School. The defunct school has faded into history.
The modest Presidio Hills Golf Course is Par 3, 18 Holes. It's located at the east edge of San Diego's Old Town.
The modest Presidio Hills Golf Course is Par 3, 18 Holes. It’s located at the east edge of San Diego’s Old Town.
Another look across the small, easy golf course. The course appears to be a bit neglected. Regrettably, I saw no players out on a Sunday afternoon.
Another look across the small, easy golf course. It appears to be a bit neglected. Regrettably, I saw no players out on a Sunday afternoon.
Historical photograph in the Presidio Hills Golf Course Pro Shop. La Casa de Carillo before it was restored in 1929.
Old black-and-white photograph inside the Presidio Hills Golf Course Pro Shop shows La Casa de Carillo (note the different spelling) before it was restored in 1929.

I live in downtown San Diego and love to walk! I also love history! You can follow Cool San Diego Sights via Facebook or Twitter!

A sunny walk from the airport to Spanish Landing.

Playing catch with a dog on the small beach at Spanish Landing Park. A sailboat moves through Harbor Island's West Basin, heading out to San Diego Bay.
Playing catch with a dog on the small beach at Spanish Landing Park. A sailboat moves through Harbor Island’s West Basin, heading out to San Diego Bay.

A wide path for walkers and bicyclists runs from San Diego’s Embarcadero to Spanish Landing. While the portion between the Coast Guard station and Harbor Island Drive isn’t terribly scenic (it’s located right next to Harbor Drive and a lot of airport traffic), the section that meanders through Spanish Landing Park provides a peaceful, pleasant stroll. And a chance to learn a bit about San Diego’s history!

Today I took a long walk up the sunny path. Here are some photos. I pulled out my camera near Lindbergh Field and kept snapping pics all the way to the west end of Spanish Landing Park. (And beyond, as you’ll see in coming blog posts!)

As usual, please refer to the captions. You might note that Spanish Landing received its name because the 1769 expedition by Spanish explorer Gaspar de Portolá anchored in San Diego Bay near this place. The bay was much different back then–in modern times it has been extensively dredged and expanded. Indeed, Harbor Island, which you see in some photos, was originally a sandbank! Harbor Island today is composed of dredge spoils.

A long path along Harbor Drive runs from the Embarcadero in downtown San Diego to Spanish Landing. Bicyclists head up the path on a sunny weekend.
A long path along Harbor Drive runs from the Embarcadero in downtown San Diego to Spanish Landing. Bicyclists head up the path on a sunny weekend.
This mural can be spotted across Harbor Drive as one approaches Lindbergh Field. Painted on the commuter terminal, it spells SAN, the code for San Diego International Airport.
This mural can be spotted across Harbor Drive as one approaches Lindbergh Field. Painted on the commuter terminal, it spells SAN, the code for San Diego International Airport.
The path, at the edge of San Diego Bay, is part of the California Coastal Trail. It's ideal for walking or biking from downtown to Spanish Landing Park, and beyond.
The path, near the edge of San Diego Bay, is part of the California Coastal Trail. It’s ideal for walking or biking from downtown to Spanish Landing Park, and beyond.
A photo with my camera lifted toward the sky on a fine Saturday in mid-October.
A photo with my camera lifted toward the sky on a fine Saturday in mid-October.
A quick photo of Cancer Survivors Park, on the east end of Spanish Landing Park. I've blogged about this special place a couple of times.
A quick photo of Cancer Survivors Park, on the east end of Spanish Landing Park. I’ve blogged about this special place a couple of times.
Kayak heads across the water toward boats docked at a Harbor Island marina.
Kayak heads across the water toward boats docked at a Harbor Island marina.  Hotels on Harbor Island are resting on soil dredged up from the bay.
I remember hearing the Callaway Carillon bell tower near the center of Spanish Landing Park when I was a child. I believe it no longer works. I hope I'm wrong.
I remember hearing the Callaway Carillon bell tower near the center of Spanish Landing Park when I was a child. I believe it no longer works. I hope I’m wrong.
Plaque near base of the electronic bell tower. The Callaway Carillon is presented to the Port of San Diego by Thearle Music Company Associates . . . 1973
Plaque near base of the electronic bell tower. The Callaway Carillon is presented to the Port of San Diego by Thearle Music Company Associates . . . 1973
Walkers pause on the path through Spanish Landing to read a California Historical Landmark plaque near the water.
Walkers pause on the path through Spanish Landing to read a California Historical Landmark plaque near the water.
Spanish Landing. Near this point, sea and land parties of the Portola-Serra Expedition met. Two ships, the San Antonio and San Carlos, anchored on May 4-5, 1769.
Spanish Landing. Near this point, sea and land parties of the Portola-Serra Expedition met. Two ships, the San Antonio and San Carlos, anchored on May 4-5, 1769.
A bit further up the path is a playground and a popular spot for parties and celebrations on the nearby grass.
A bit further up the path is a playground and a popular spot for parties and celebrations on the nearby grass.
Bronze artwork near the path through Spanish Landing honors those who lost their lives, during the sea journey by Gaspar de Portolá up the coast.
Bronze artwork near the path through Spanish Landing honors those who lost their lives, during the sea journey by Gaspar de Portolá up the coast, two and a half centuries ago.
Dedicated to the heroic Spaniards who gave their lives and were buried near this site in 1769-70, after accompanying Gaspar de Portolá, the first Governor of California, in the exploration of California from San Diego to San Francisco.
Dedicated to the heroic Spaniards who gave their lives and were buried near this site in 1769-70, after accompanying Gaspar de Portolá, the first Governor of California, in the exploration of California from San Diego to San Francisco.
Many benches along Spanish Landing Park provide views of the peaceful water and Harbor Island.
Many benches along Spanish Landing Park provide views of the peaceful water and nearby Harbor Island.
Bicyclists near the west end of Spanish Landing Park. By crossing the North Harbor Drive Bridge, one can enter Point Loma.
Bicyclists near the west end of Spanish Landing Park. By crossing the North Harbor Drive Bridge, one can enter Point Loma.
The North Harbor Drive Bridge was dedicated in June 1980.
The North Harbor Drive Bridge was dedicated in June 1980.
Paddleboarders float down the boat channel between North Harbor Drive Bridge and the adjacent Nimitz Bridge, which is now used by pedestrians. The grass in the distance is part of the Liberty Station Esplanade.
Paddleboarders float down the boat channel, between North Harbor Drive Bridge and the adjacent Nimitz Bridge, which is now used by pedestrians. The grass in the distance is part of the Liberty Station Esplanade.
Resting on a bench at the west end of Spanish Landing Park, just gazing out at a beautiful scene.
People rest on a bench at the west end of Spanish Landing Park, gazing out at a beautiful scene.
Sailboats, paddleboards and boats of every type out on blue San Diego Bay. The Pacific Ocean lies just beyond the peninsula of Point Loma, in the distance.
Sailboats, paddleboards and boats of every type out on blue San Diego Bay. The Pacific Ocean lies just beyond the peninsula of Point Loma, in the distance.

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San Diego history in Old Town’s McCoy House.

The McCoy House Museum, in Old Town San Diego State Historic Park, is a reconstruction of a home built in 1869 for Sheriff James McCoy.
The McCoy House Museum, in Old Town San Diego State Historic Park, is a reconstruction of a home built in 1869 for Sheriff James McCoy.

While there are many small museums and historical attractions that visitors can enjoy in Old Town San Diego State Historic Park, the McCoy House Museum is the best place to see an extensive series of interpretive displays that describe the complete history of early San Diego.

The McCoy House, standing on the north end of Old Town, is a reconstruction of a home built in 1869 for Sheriff James McCoy and his family. James McCoy, who lived from 1821 to 1895, like many early San Diego residents was an ambitious man, working diverse jobs, filling many roles. At the age of 21 he sailed from Ireland to America seeking opportunity. He became a soldier, then a stagehand, then San Diego county assessor, then county sheriff in 1861. He acquired substantial real estate holdings and finally won election to the state senate in 1871.

The interpretive displays in the McCoy House Museum provide a good look back at San Diego’s formative years. They detail the life of the Native American Kumeyaay who’ve lived in the region for thousands of years, the first Spanish explorers, the establishment of the Spanish mission, the Mexican period and the subsequent American period.

If you’d like to read the displays, click my photographs to enlarge them.

This blog post covers the first floor of the museum. I’ll cover the second floor exhibits in a later post. After heading up some stairs, one can find information about the more prominent residents of Old Town, plus the town’s later history as it competed with New Town, which eventually rose to become downtown San Diego as we know it today.

Anyone who is a history buff must visit the McCoy House Museum. You’ll be transported back in time and see how life was exciting, difficult, and altogether different many, many years ago in San Diego.

Sign lists important dates concerning the McCoy House. Today it's a museum containing exhibits that depict the fascinating history of Old Town San Diego.
Sign lists important dates concerning the McCoy House. Today it’s a museum containing exhibits that explain the fascinating history of Old Town San Diego.
Just inside the front door, this might have resembled the parlor of the original McCoy House, occupied by an upper middle class family in San Diego's Old Town.
Just inside the front door, this might have resembled the parlor of the original McCoy House, occupied by an upper middle class family in San Diego’s Old Town.
Framed photo on one wall from the San Diego Historical Society shows the original McCoy House.
Framed photo on one wall from the San Diego Historical Society shows the original McCoy House.
Interpretive exhibits inside the McCoy House Museum begin with the Spanish period of San Diego, from 1769 to 1821.
Interpretive exhibits inside the McCoy House Museum begin with the Spanish period of San Diego, from 1769 to 1821.
Quotes from the journeys of Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo, Sebastian Vizcaino and Gaspar de Portola.
Quotes from the journeys of Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo, Sebastian Vizcaino and Gaspar de Portola.
A string of missions was created by Spain in California to secure its claim to new territory. The first mission, in San Diego, was on Presidio Hill near the native Kumeyaay village of Cosoy.
A string of missions was created by Spain in California to secure its claim to new territory. The first mission, in San Diego, was originally established on Presidio Hill near the native Kumeyaay village of Cosoy.
An artistic representation of life among the Kumeyaay people. They often visited the nearby coast to hunt and gather food.
An artistic representation of life among the Kumeyaay people. They often visited the nearby coast to hunt and gather food.
For thousands of years, the Kumeyaay lived along the coast and interior valleys of what is now San Diego County. They moved with the seasons to take advantage of available resources.
For thousands of years, the Kumeyaay lived along the coast and interior valleys of what is now San Diego County. They moved with the seasons to take advantage of available resources.
The Kumeyaay built dome-shaped houses from oak, willow or sycamore branches. The simple structures were called ee-wahs.
The Kumeyaay built dome-shaped houses from oak, willow or sycamore branches. The simple structures were called ee-wahs.
The Kumeyaay saw the physical and spiritual world as one and the same.
The Kumeyaay saw the physical and spiritual world as one and the same.
Exhibit in the McCoy House Museum shows artifacts associated with the Kumeyaay, including a bark skirt, arrows, rabbit stick, child's sandals, gourd rattle and war club.
Exhibit in the McCoy House Museum shows artifacts associated with the Kumeyaay, including a bark skirt, arrows, rabbit stick, child’s sandals, gourd rattle and war club.
The Kumeyaay revolted against the Spanish missionaries in 1775, a year after the San Diego mission was relocated inland very close to a large Kumeyaay village.
The Kumeyaay revolted against the Spanish missionaries in 1775, a year after the San Diego mission was relocated inland very close to a large Kumeyaay village.
Once baptized, converted Kumeyaay followed a strict life. Mission bells signaled the day's activities, including the singing of hymns, Mass, meals and work assignments.
Once baptized, converted Kumeyaay followed a strict life. Mission bells signaled the day’s activities, including the singing of hymns, Mass, meals and work assignments.
Mexico gained its independence from Spain in 1821 after a decade of bloodshed. Changes included a decline in support for the presidio and freedom from Spain's trade regulations.
Mexico gained its independence from Spain in 1821 after a decade of bloodshed. Changes included a decline in support for the presidio and freedom from Spain’s trade regulations.
After the breakup of the Spanish missions, the era of the great ranchos began. Californios were often racially mixed descendants of soldier-settler families.
After the breakup of the Spanish missions, the era of the great ranchos began. Californios were often racially mixed descendants of soldier-settler families.
Vaqueros were the original cowboys. They worked on the extensive ranches and handled the large herds of stock.
Vaqueros were the original cowboys. They worked on the extensive ranches and handled the large herds of stock.
A fanciful picture of life on a rancho, with vaqueros at work and children at play.
A fanciful picture of life on a rancho, with vaqueros at work and children at play.
The Californios loved to celebrate feast days, weddings and religious festivals.
The Californios loved to celebrate feast days, weddings and religious festivals.
Cattle by the thousands roamed San Diego's hills. Their dried hides were used in trade and were sometimes referred to as California banknotes.
Cattle by the thousands roamed San Diego’s hills. Their dried hides were used in trade and were sometimes referred to as California banknotes.
Illustration of loading cow hides onto a carreta. Hides were gathered by ships along the coast to be transported around Cape Horn to the eastern United States.
Illustration of loading cow hides onto a carreta. Hides were gathered by ships along the coast to be transported around Cape Horn to the eastern United States.
Exhibit inside the McCoy House Museum recreates the small shop of a Boston trader. The brig Pilgrim of Two Years Before the Mast brought people aboard to buy wares and finished goods that weren't available in San Diego.
Exhibit inside the McCoy House Museum recreates the small shop of a Boston trader. The brig Pilgrim of Two Years Before the Mast brought people aboard to buy wares and finished goods that weren’t available in San Diego.
Illustrations of cow hides being cured. This activity took place at La Playa, a point on San Diego Bay near Ballast Point in Point Loma.
Illustrations of cow hides being cured. This activity took place at La Playa, a point on San Diego Bay near Ballast Point in Point Loma.
Diagram of the brig Pilgrim, made famous in Richard Henry Dana Jr.'s classic Two Years Before the Mast. Dana collected cattle hides up and down the California coast.
Diagram of the brig Pilgrim, made famous in Richard Henry Dana Jr.’s classic Two Years Before the Mast. As an ordinary seaman, Dana collected cattle hides up and down the California coast.
Exhibit in the McCoy House Museum details local history during the Mexican–American War from 1846 to 1848.
Exhibit in the McCoy House Museum details local history during the Mexican–American War from 1846 to 1848.
During the war, U.S. occupation of San Diego divided the loyalty of the Californios. The two sides fought briefly at the Battle of San Pasqual.
During the war, U.S. occupation of San Diego divided the loyalty of the Californios. The two sides fought briefly at the Battle of San Pasqual.
Around the time of the Gold Rush, San Diego saw an influx of emigrants from all over, including New England, the American South, Mexico, South America, Ireland, Great Britain and Germany.
Around the time of the Gold Rush, San Diego saw an influx of emigrants from all over, including New England, the American South, Mexico, South America, Ireland, Great Britain and Germany.
Old Town tales include the construction of the first jail in 1850. The walls were so poorly made, the first prisoner, Roy Bean, easily dug himself out, then celebrated at a nearby saloon!
Old Town tales include the construction of the first jail in 1850. The walls were so poorly made, the first prisoner, Roy Bean, easily dug himself out, then celebrated at a nearby saloon!
Grog shops became popular gathering places. They were a social hub of San Diego life, providing customers with news and provisions.
Grog shops became popular gathering places. They were a social hub of San Diego life, providing customers with news and provisions.
A recreated Old Town grog shop can be found inside the McCoy House Museum.
A recreated Old Town grog shop can be found inside the McCoy House Museum.
After the California Gold Rush of 1849, San Diego became more developed. A courthouse and newspaper were established. Transportation included clipper ships, stage lines and steamships.
After the California Gold Rush of 1849, San Diego became more developed. A courthouse and newspaper were established. Transportation included clipper ships, stage lines and steamships.
Poster advertises a new clipper ship route. A very quick trip may be relied upon!
Poster advertises a new clipper ship route. A very quick trip may be relied upon!
Between 1865 and 1872, Old Town San Diego continued to grow. The first public school opened, and the town welcomed its first theatrical company in the Whaley house.
Between 1865 and 1872, Old Town San Diego continued to grow. The first public school opened, and the town welcomed its first theatrical company in the Whaley house.
The first overland coach to San Diego began service in 1854. Additional stage lines came into existence, allowing for the delivery of mail, express packages and passengers.
The first overland coach to San Diego began service in 1854. Additional stage lines came into existence, allowing for the delivery of mail, express packages and passengers.
Visitors to the McCoy House Museum can step into a replica stage stop and see what life was like in Old Town during San Diego's early history.
Visitors to the McCoy House Museum can step into a replica stage stop and see what life was like in Old Town during San Diego’s rugged early history.

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History comes alive during tour of Spanish Village.

Tour guide Jeff explains that today's Studio 36 Sculpture Guild was an outdoor theatre in the early years of Spanish Village. The front was a lobby and ticket booth. Writers, actors and set designers would act out plays on the inner patio.
Tour guide Jeff explains that today’s Studio 36 Sculpture Guild was an outdoor theatre in the early years of Spanish Village. The front was a lobby and ticket booth. Writers, actors and set designers would act out plays on the inner patio.

Spanish Village Art Center, in beautiful Balboa Park, is where you’ll find the colorful studios of many fine San Diego artists. Last year I blogged about the history of this fascinating place. A small exhibit in Gallery 21 recounted how Spanish Village was created for the 1935 California Pacific International Exposition, and traced the village’s evolution over subsequent decades. Unfortunately, that exhibit no longer exists. But I did record much of it. To enjoy an overview of the history, you can revisit my old blog post by clicking here.

Last Saturday I was given a terrific tour of Spanish Village by a super friendly guy named Jeff. During the tour, Jeff showed me some unusual, unexpected features of Spanish Village and delved into its often surprising history.

(Fortunately, Jeff gave me some notes that I will reference in this blog. Should you enjoy a tour yourself, you can probably obtain your own copy!)

Please read the photo captions where I provide descriptions and very short explanations. As you’ll see, many interesting changes in Spanish Village have taken place over the years. And I’ve barely begun to scratch the surface!

If something I’ve written is inaccurate, or needs some elaboration, leave a comment! What memories do you have?

Click here to check out the Spanish Village Art Center blog! Support these great artists!

An old photograph of how Spanish Village appeared around the time of the California Pacific International Exposition of 1935.
An old photograph of how Spanish Village appeared around the time of the California Pacific International Exposition of 1935.

In 1935, when Spanish Village opened, visitors strolled down simulated Old World streets, which featured restaurants and shops in picturesque, open-arched buildings. The architecture was inspired by the Andalusian region of southern Spain. In addition to wine shops, a cocktail lounge and a Chinese Bazaar, one could buy flowers and enjoy music, art . . . and even a high wire trapeze act!

You can see in the above old photograph a no-longer-existing building at the center of today’s large patio. It separated Spanish Village into two “streets” that visitors could enjoy.

Over the years, resident artists have built out the small open air shops to create practical but unique enclosed spaces. Some of the open arches have been filled in, or can now be seen inside certain studios.

A current map of Spanish Village shows how it appears today. You can find this wonderful part of Balboa Park between the Natural History Museum and the San Diego Zoo.
A current map of Spanish Village shows how it appears today. You can find this wonderful part of Balboa Park between the Natural History Museum and the San Diego Zoo.
Jeff shows me Studios 34 A and 34 B, which were originally one space featuring a puppet show.
Jeff shows me Studios 34 A and 34 B, which were originally one space featuring a puppet show.
Studios 24 through 28 surround a small inner courtyard. This area in Spanish Village originally contained a wishing well and actual horse stalls!
Studios 24 through 28 surround a small inner courtyard. This area in Spanish Village originally contained a wishing well and actual horse stalls!
Studio 6 has a sliding barn door! Two other studios dating from the 1935 California Pacific International Exposition have similar doors.
Studio 6 has a sliding barn door! Two other studios dating from the 1935 California Pacific International Exposition have similar doors.
Studio 8, like many others in Spanish Village, was built out from the original open archway to provide more space for the artists. The words The SHANGHAI are from 1935. It evidently used to be a bar.
Studio 8, like many others in Spanish Village, was built out from the original open archway to provide more space for the artists. The words The SHANGHAI are from 1935. It evidently used to be a bar.
Near Studio 8's entrance are two amazing works of art. Here's one. It was created by John Novy, a potter who was a member of Spanish Village from 1969 to 1977.
Near Studio 8’s entrance are two amazing works of art. Here’s one. It was created by John Novy, a potter who was a member of Spanish Village from 1969 to 1977.
Second amazing installation of ceramic tiles on exterior of Studio 8 in Spanish Village. This art was created by professional potter John Novy.
Second installation of ceramic tiles on exterior of Studio 8 in Spanish Village. This art was created by professional potter John Novy.
This used to be the east entrance into Spanish Village. Today you'll find outdoor glassblowers creating amazing glass art while visitors gather around to watch.
This used to be the east entrance into Spanish Village. Today you’ll find outdoor glassblowers creating amazing glass pieces while visitors gather around to watch.
The old east entrance (under the tiles) is now blocked off. Much of the grassy area used by today's Balboa Park Miniature Railroad used to be a parking lot.
The old east entrance (under the tiles) is now blocked off. Much of the grassy area occupied by today’s Balboa Park Miniature Railroad used to be a parking lot.
Studio 18 is now the office of Spanish Village Art Center. In the early years a caretaker lived here. That rooster weather vane can be seen in many old photographs.
Studio 18 is now the office of Spanish Village Art Center. In the early years a caretaker lived here. That rooster weather vane can be seen in many old photographs.
The south end of the San Diego Mineral and Gem Society building used to extend a bit into today's patio area. You can see an old wooden beam on the present-day exterior.
The south end of the San Diego Mineral and Gem Society building used to extend a bit into today’s large patio area. You can see an old wooden beam on the present-day exterior.
This quaint little street, during the 1935 California Pacific International Exposition, led into the Fun Zone! Now it leads to a small parking lot.
This quaint little street, during the 1935 California Pacific International Exposition, led into the Fun Zone! Now it leads to a small parking lot.
Gazing back south from the parking lot at today's Spanish Village in Balboa Park.
Gazing back south from the parking lot at today’s Spanish Village artist co-op in Balboa Park.
This west side of the San Diego Mineral and Gem Society building was built sometime after the 1935 Expo.
The extended west side of the San Diego Mineral and Gem Society building was built sometime after the 1935 Expo.
Originally, the building terminated where you see the arches.
Originally, the building terminated where you see the column.
Walking along the west edge of Spanish Village. Many historic columns and arches provide this artist's co-op with unique character.
Walking along the west edge of Spanish Village. Many decorative columns and arches provide this artist’s co-op with unique character.
Looking through the west archway toward a shrub elephant, which stands on a nearby, newly improved walkway the heads north to the San Diego Zoo.
Looking through the west archway toward a shrub elephant, which stands on a nearby, newly improved walkway the heads north to the San Diego Zoo.
This large dance floor (and the area where I'm standing) at the center of the colorful Spanish Village patio was once occupied by a large building. It seems there is some debate what that building was, exactly.
This large dance floor (and the area where I’m standing) at the center of the colorful Spanish Village patio was once occupied by a large building. It seems there is some debate as to what that building was, exactly.
Studio 3 is occupied by artist Don Knapp. He arrived at Spanish Village as a child! His grandmother was a founding member in the 1930s.
Studio 3 is occupied by artist Don Knapp. He arrived at Spanish Village as a child! His grandmother was a founding member in the 1930s.
Loads of fun, creative stuff is going on in Spanish Village Art Center in 2016. Please click the image to enlarge it and then mark your calendar!
Loads of fun, creative stuff is going on in Spanish Village Art Center in 2016. Please click the image to enlarge it, and then mark your calendar!
Jeff provides a really interesting tour. Look for his friendly smile if you happen to find yourself in wonderful Spanish Village!
Jeff provides a really interesting tour. Look for his friendly smile if you happen to find yourself in wonderful, historic Spanish Village!

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