Celebrating San Diego history at Festival of the Bells.

Five church bells hang in the distinctive facade of the historic Mission San Diego de Alcalá, founded by Junipero Serra on July 16, 1769.
Five church bells hang in the distinctive facade of the historic Mission San Diego de Alcalá, founded by Junipero Serra.

Sometimes it’s easy to forget that our lives will soon become history. And that the lives of people, no matter how imperfect, create a rich, varied tapestry that reaches centuries back in time, and forward into the future.

Young and old–representatives from several generations–came together this weekend in San Diego to again celebrate the Festival of the Bells. The annual event is held at Mission San Diego de Alcalá, the first Spanish mission to be built in California. Food, song and dancing accompanied colorful religious rituals such as the Blessing of the Bells and the Blessing of the Animals. Everyone was welcome to enjoy the free festival.

The original San Diego del Alcala was founded in 1769–almost 250 years ago–at the site of the old Spanish presidio, near the edge of San Diego Bay.  The current mission building was erected by Father Serra in 1774, a few miles up the San Diego River where the land was more fertile.

The distinctive facade and bells of this historical landmark are often used as a symbol for our city, and the ringing of the bells are like echoes from a complex, often strife-filled, but fascinating past. The youngest generation, seeing this old world with fresh, optimistic eyes, jumping free and loving life in the festival’s bounce house, will remember today decades in the future as just another small moment in the journey of history. Hopefully that memory is good.

The Festival of the Bells is an annual event which celebrates the establishment and long history of California's first Spanish mission.
The Festival of the Bells is an annual celebration which memorializes the establishment and long history of California’s first Spanish mission.
Young people provide free family entertainment for the public at the 2015 Festival of the Bells.
Young people provide family entertainment free to the public at the 2015 Festival of the Bells.
A large audience had gathered in the mission's spacious courtyard, even as rain threatened on Sunday afternoon.
A large audience had gathered in the mission’s spacious courtyard-like quadrangle, even as rain threatened on Sunday afternoon.
Folks hang out around the central fountain, eating yummy food and taking in sights, smells and sounds during a lively San Diego tradition.
Folks hang out around the central fountain, eating food and taking in sights, smells and sounds during a lively San Diego tradition.
Proceeds from sales of food, crafts and gifts benefited Mission Basilica San Diego de Alcala, which is an active Catholic church.
Proceeds from sales of food, crafts and gifts benefited Mission Basilica San Diego de Alcala, which is an active Catholic church.
Who can resist root beer floats?
Who can resist root beer floats?
Put a friend in the mission jailhouse to raise some money!
Put a friend in the jailhouse to raise some money!
San Diego de Alcalá was the first of 21 Spanish mission in California, established by Father Junipero Serra in 1769.
San Diego de Alcalá was the first of 21 Spanish missions in California, established by Father Junipero Serra in 1769.
Small statues along walkway at front of San Diego de Alcala depict Saints who inspired California mission names. This is Mission Santa Clara de Asis, founded 1777.
Small statues along walkway at front of San Diego de Alcala depict Saints who inspired California mission names. This is for Mission Santa Clara de Asis, founded 1777.
Sign in the mission's garden explains The Campanario. (Click to enlarge.)
Sign in the mission’s garden explains The Campanario. (Click to enlarge.)

The campanario is 46 feet high and holds the Mission bells. The crown-topped bell on the lower right is named Ave Maria Purisima–Immaculate Mary. It weights 805 pounds and was cast in 1802 . . . The bells played an important role in the everyday life of the Mission . . . They were used to announce times for Mass, work, meals and siestas. The bells signaled danger, rang solemnly to honor the dead, and pealed joyously to celebrate feast days, weddings and fiestas.

Of the five church bells, one original bell dates back to 1802.
Of the five church bells, one original bell dates back to 1802.

San Diego is an endlessly interesting place!  You can enjoy photos from many varied walks by following on Facebook or Twitter.

Artists paint live Flamenco dancing in Spanish Village!

Guitar music propels Flamenco dancers in Balboa Park's Spanish Village.
Guitar music propels Flamenco dancers in Balboa Park’s Spanish Village.

This afternoon I enjoyed watching some amazing Flamenco dancing. Balboa Park’s colorful Spanish Village, the home to many artist studios, hosted the special event. As beautifully dressed lady Flamenco dancers performed for the public, local artists at easels painted away!

Flamenco dancing is fiery, stately and proud. Each dance and dancer glowed with unabashed human emotion. The audience learned a little about the nature of this Spanish folk dance, but I was so mesmerized I failed to jot down many notes. I remember that one dance was said to represent defiant joy, another a representation of pure, carefree womanhood.

The public was invited to watch local artists painting a performance by the La Paloma Flamenco Dance Company.
The public was invited to watch local San Diego artists painting a performance by the La Paloma Flamenco Dance Company.
Crowd shouts and claps as the whirling ladies move their limbs and tap feet with graceful, fluid, precise abandon.
Crowd shouts and claps as the whirling ladies move their limbs and tap feet with graceful, fluid, joyful abandon.
The energetic Spanish folk dancing causes colorful fabric to fly and twirl like a gauzy dream.
The energetic Spanish folk dancing causes colorful fabric to fly and twirl like a gauzy dream.
A range of powerful human emotion is transmitted to the audience during each fantastic Flamenco dance.
A range of powerful human emotion is transmitted to the audience during each fantastic Flamenco dance.
A carefully watching artist has made a few sketches during the performance in Spanish Village.
A carefully watching artist has made a few sketches during the performance in Spanish Village.
I don't know how an artist can begin to capture the dynamism and detail of the colorful, kinetic dance!
I don’t know how an artist can begin to capture the dynamism and detail of the colorful, kinetic dance!
A local artist from Spanish Village in Balboa Park streaks color across a canvas. A skilled hand and eye produces the same bold living essence expressed by the dance.
A local artist from Spanish Village in Balboa Park streaks color across a canvas. A skilled hand and eye produces the same bold living essence expressed by the dance.

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Photos: amazing tour of Spanish galleon build site!

Sign at entrance to San Salvador build site. You have a couple more weeks to visit before the replica galleon's historic launch into San Diego Bay.
Sign at entrance to San Salvador build site. You have a couple more weeks to visit before the replica galleon’s historic launch into San Diego Bay.

Yesterday I enjoyed a tour of something so unbelievably cool it almost defies description. Along with my photographs I took some notes, but what I’m about to write might not be perfectly accurate. I’m relying to an extent on memory, which with my advancing age isn’t quite what it used to be. So if anyone reading my captions spots an error, PLEASE write a comment at the bottom of this blog post!

Later this month, the Maritime Museum of San Diego will be launching its absolutely fantastic, historically accurate, seaworthy replica of the galleon San Salvador. The original San Salvador was the ship that Portuguese explorer Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo sailed in during his voyage of discovery up the California coast on behalf of Spain. The famous galleon entered San Diego Bay in 1542, making Cabrillo the first European to visit the large, natural harbor. What we call San Diego today he named San Miguel.

Today, the full-size working replica of Cabrillo’s ship is being built at the west end of Spanish Landing, in an area called San Salvador Village, between Harbor Island and San Diego International Airport. The finished ship will be 92 feet long with a beam of 24 feet. As I understand it, construction has been underway for about four years, and for a variety of reasons has taken a couple years longer than originally projected. But once the decks are re-caulked, the shrouds tarred, and a few other things finished, the ship’s exterior will finally be ready for its imminent introduction into San Diego Bay!

The galleon, which without ballast weighs about 130 tons, will be slowly towed to the Broadway Pier downtown, then lifted by a huge crane into the bay. While docked beside the other ships of the Maritime Museum, the interior will be finished, about 60 more tons of lead ballast added, and the vessel’s ability to remain upright thoroughly tested by the Coast Guard.

(Don’t quote me on the 130 tons and 60 tons. Those figures came entirely from my leaky memory.)

There’s simply too much awesome stuff to describe in a few paragraphs, so let me now show you my photographs and I’ll include in the captions some of the cool stuff I learned or observed…

Shipbuilding was the first industrial activity of the New World. Gift shop at site entrance includes Spanish conquistador helmets and breastplate.
Shipbuilding was the first industrial activity of the New World. Gift shop at site entrance includes Spanish conquistador helmets and breastplate.
Poster shows personal arms and protective clothing used by the men who sailed with Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo five centuries ago.
Poster shows personal arms and protective clothing used by the men who sailed with Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo five centuries ago.
A small museum and gift shop includes many interesting sights, including a shirt of chainmail and flag of the Spanish Empire.
A small museum and gift shop includes many interesting sights, including a shirt of chain mail and flag of the Spanish Empire.
Diagram shows the sail plan for historic galleon San Salvador.
Diagram shows the sail plan for historic galleon San Salvador.
Various items on display include lantern, candle, bottle, ship's food and native Kumeyaay artifacts.
Various items on display include lantern, candle, bottle, ship’s food and native Kumeyaay artifacts.
Outside, at the build site, there are many more exhibits. This reproduction of found rock art seems to be of sailing ships. The native Kumeyaay people often visited San Diego Bay.
Outside, at the build site, there are many more exhibits. This reproduction of found rock art seems to show sailing ships. The native Kumeyaay people often visited San Diego Bay.
First Contact. If this rock art is a Kumeyaay depiction of Cabrillo's expedition, it might be the oldest graphic representation of a recorded event in American history.
First Contact. If this rock art is a Kumeyaay depiction of Cabrillo’s expedition, it might be the oldest graphic representation of a recorded event in American history.
Here's a huge anchor! I didn't ask, but I assume it will be used by the San Salvador.
Here’s a huge anchor! I didn’t ask, but I assume it will be used by the San Salvador.
San Salvador carries six sails totaling a little less than 5000 square feet. The sails are not only used to propel the ship, but exert a larger influence on steering than the rudder.
San Salvador carries six sails totaling a little less than 5000 square feet. The sails are not only used to propel the ship, but exert a larger influence on steering than the rudder.
View of a small sail suspended from a yard, with Harbor Drive in background beyond the build site.
View of a small sail suspended from a yard, with Harbor Drive in the background north of the build site.
Suspended from a crane is a shroud (rigging that helps hold a mast) that's being tarred. The bow of the galleon comes to a sharp point at its beak.
Suspended from a crane is a shroud (rigging that helps hold a mast) that’s being tarred. The bow of the galleon comes to a sharp point at its beak.
Iron in an undeveloped region of the New World was a precious commodity. Imported ingots were often used to forge various fittings and hardware.
Iron in an undeveloped region of the New World was a precious commodity. Imported ingots were often used to forge various fittings and hardware.
Hooks, chain links and other iron instruments were crucial to sail and maintain a large ship.
Hooks, chain links and other iron instruments were crucial to sail and maintain a large ship.
The San Salvador carried armament to defend the expedition from potential threats. The cannon-like bombard and swivel gun could be fired from the deck.
The San Salvador carried armament to defend the expedition from potential threats. The cannon-like bombard and swivel gun could be fired from the deck.
Two bombards on display at the San Salvador build site. They could fire shot about five pounds in weight and were mounted on wheels.
Two bombards on display at the San Salvador build site. They could fire shot about five pounds in weight and were mounted on wheels.
Detailed map of Cabrillo's route up the California coast. He found neither treasure, nor a passage to the Atlantic.
Detailed map of Cabrillo’s route up the California coast. He found neither treasure, nor a passage to the Atlantic.
There are no blueprints for the galleon San Salvador. To reconstruct the 16th century ship, the Maritime Museum of San Diego used scarce historical clues.
There are no blueprints for the galleon San Salvador. To reconstruct the 16th century ship, the Maritime Museum of San Diego used scarce historical clues.
It was difficult to find the right kinds of wood for different parts of the vessel. Both old and modern shipbuilding techniques were used.
It was difficult to find the right kinds of wood for different parts of the vessel. Both old and modern shipbuilding techniques were used.
Wood mast segments and yards are coasted with linseed oil, I believe. They'll be installed once the ship is afloat in San Diego Bay.
Wood mast segments and yards are coasted with linseed oil, I believe. They’ll be installed once the ship is afloat in San Diego Bay.
Approaching the impressive reproduction of the historic galleon. Just imagine going for an ocean sail in this!
Approaching the impressive reproduction of the historic galleon. Just imagine going for an ocean sail in this!
Detailed schematic shows framework and beams that support decking and hull.
Detailed schematic shows framework and beams that support decking and hull.
The master builder sets up keel, stem, sternpost and deadwood, locked together with long iron drifts. The master frame is then built.
The master builder sets up keel, stem, sternpost and deadwood, locked together with long iron drifts. The master frame is then built.
I believe these are the lower halves of two masts (main and fore), each ending in a crow's nest.
I believe these are the lower halves of two masts (main and fore), each ending in a crow’s nest.
A look at the hard wood hull of the galleon San Salvador at Spanish Landing.
A look at the super hard wood hull of the galleon San Salvador at Spanish Landing.
Volunteer tour guide shows how six segments of heavy lead are attached to the keel.
Volunteer tour guide shows how six segments of heavy lead are attached to the keel.
Each piece of lead weighs over 6000 pounds. The lead was originally used for the drop hammers of Rohr Industries in Chula Vista to form aircraft parts.
Each piece of lead weighs over 6000 pounds. The lead was originally used for the drop hammers of Rohr Industries in Chula Vista to form aircraft parts.
A small tour group investigates the amazing galleon on a sunny San Diego day!
A small tour group investigates the amazing galleon on a sunny San Diego day!
The high stern of San Salvador. The rudder is attached to a tiller. That propeller below (and eventual engine) is a modern convenience, unknown by Cabrillo!
The high stern of San Salvador. The rudder is attached to a tiller. That propeller below (and an eventual engine) is a modern convenience unknown by Cabrillo!
Our group climbed the steps of scaffolding to check out the hull, upper deck and aftcastle.
Our group climbed the steps of scaffolding to check out the hull, upper deck and aftcastle.
We're shown where the shrouds connect to the ship's side. The darker looking lower portion of the hull is made of hard wood, which is heavier than water.
We’re shown where a shroud connects to the ship’s side. The darker looking lower portion of the hull is made of hard wood, which is heavier than water.
We're almost on top!
We’re almost on top!
View of the San Salvador galleon while standing atop the aftcastle. Work to finish the vessel's deck and interior is underway.
View of the San Salvador galleon while standing atop the aftcastle. Work to finish the vessel’s deck and interior is underway.
This deck will be re-caulked this week using cotton, hemp rope and synthetic tar. Earlier caulking with less modern materials was unsuccessful, if I recall correctly.
This deck will be re-caulked soon using cotton, hemp rope and synthetic tar. Earlier caulking with less modern materials was unsuccessful, if I recall correctly.
Sketch of helmsman steering the galleon with a vertical lever attached to the rudder's tiller. He had a window to look through in the aftcastle.
Sketch of helmsman steering the galleon with a vertical lever attached to the rudder’s tiller. He had a window to look through in the aftcastle.
Looking back at the aftcastle and rearmost poop deck from the center of the upper deck. You can see the window through which the helmsman peered.
Looking back at the aftcastle and rearmost poop deck from the center of the upper deck. You can see the window through which the helmsman peered.
Capstan is a vertical timber that projects through the deck. Bars will be inserted and used by sailors to turn the capstan, hauling ropes or chains.
Capstan is a revolving vertical timber that projects through the deck. Bars will be inserted and used by sailors to turn the capstan, hauling ropes or chains.
This is one of five separate water-tight compartments being worked on below. Bunks will be contained here, for journeys out to the Channel Islands eventually.
This is one of five separate water-tight compartments being worked on below. Bunks will be contained here, for journeys out to the Channel Islands eventually.
Under the forecastle, looking toward the bow's beak. The two holes beside the rectangular chain locker are hawseholes, through which the anchor chain is lifted or lowered.
Under the forecastle, looking toward the bow’s beak. The two holes beside the rectangular chain locker are hawseholes, through which the anchor chain is lifted or lowered.
Looking straight down here you can see where the foremast and bowsprit are seated.
Looking straight down here you can see where the foremast and bowsprit are seated.
Wow! Is this cool! How often does one get to walk around an actual honest-to-goodness working galleon!
Wow! Is this cool! How often does one get to walk around an actual honest-to-goodness working galleon!

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A small Moorish garden of outstanding beauty.

The Casa del Rey Moro garden is a small gem in Balboa Park.
The Casa del Rey Moro garden is a small gem in Balboa Park.

In the 1920s, prominent San Diego architect Richard Requa visited Europe. During his extensive tour, he carefully observed a Moorish king’s garden in Ronda, Spain. A book that he later authored stated: “In my travels about the world, I had found three gardens of outstanding interest and beauty… The finest of these is in a small town in southern Spain called Ronda. Viewing it for the first time, there came instantly to mind the spontaneous exclamation, ‘I hope to die before I see anything more lovely.'”

Inspired by what he’d seen, Requa designed the Casa del Rey Moro garden (House of the Moorish King) for the 1935 California Pacific International Exposition in San Diego’s Balboa Park. In 1997 the garden and adjacent House of Hospitality were rededicated after a major renovation. The garden, today a popular wedding spot, includes a replica of the wishing well in the Guadalajara Museum of Gardens.

Balboa Park is an enormous place full of competing attractions. It’s strange how I always feel compelled to walk through the Casa del Rey Moro garden!

View from House of Hospitality balcony of The Prado restaurant's outdoor seating near the garden.
View from a House of Hospitality balcony of The Prado restaurant’s outdoor seating near the garden.
A wishing well frames two elegant, classic fountains.
A wishing well frames two elegant, classic fountains.
The garden is a reproduction of the Moorish gardens in Ronda, Spain.
Beautiful elements are reproduced from a Moorish garden in Ronda, Spain.
A close up photo of one picturesque fountain.
A close up photo of one picturesque fountain.
Visitors read about the history of the Casa del Rey Moro garden.
Visitors read about the interesting history of the Casa del Rey Moro garden.
In my travels about the world, I have found three gardens of outstanding interest and beauty...
“In my travels about the world, I have found three gardens of outstanding interest and beauty…”
One can see why this venue is extremely popular for weddings.
One can see why this venue is extremely popular for weddings.

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Festival recreates landing of explorer Cabrillo.

Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo discovered San Diego Bay for Spain in 1542.
Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo discovered San Diego Bay for Spain in 1542.

San Diego’s 51st Annual Cabrillo Festival was held today. Taking place at Ballast Point near the south end of Naval Base Point Loma, the event allowed the public to view a reenactment of Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo’s entrance into San Diego Bay in 1542. Cabrillo, born in Portugal, commanded his voyage of discovery on behalf of Spain, sailing the galleon San Salvador up the west coast of America.

In addition to the colorful reenactment, the festival included a short ceremony, speeches, costumes, National Park exhibits, food and dance provided by various cultural groups, and just a lot of interesting local history. I took some photographs. Here they are!

Visitors to the 51st Annual Cabrillo Festival await recreation of historic event.
Visitors to the 51st Annual Cabrillo Festival await reenactment of historic event.
People gather above the small beach at Ballast Point on Naval Base Point Loma.
People gather above the small beach at Ballast Point on Naval Base Point Loma.
As people await a rowboat full of reenactors, event commentary is provided.
As people await a rowboat full of reenactors, event commentary is provided.

A short walk out to a point beside the bay provided a view of the San Diego Maritime Museum’s tall ship Californian, which portrayed Cabrillo’s galleon San Salvador.

Tall ship Californian, in the distance, serves as Cabrillo's galleon San Salvador.
Tall ship Californian, in the distance, serves during event as Cabrillo’s galleon San Salvador.

I took pictures of two signs by the above fenced archeological site…

Sign at Ballast Point tells about archeological site of old Spanish whaling station.
Sign at Ballast Point tells about archeological site of old Spanish whaling station.
Stones and tiles are remains of an old tryworks oven where whale oil was boiled.
Stones and tiles are remains of an old tryworks oven where whale oil was boiled.

I headed back to the gathered crowd to await the main event…

Here comes the row boat containing explorer Cabrillo, a priest and crew members.
Here comes the rowboat containing explorer Cabrillo, a priest and crew members.
People watching the historical recreation are snapping photos like crazy now.
People watching this recreation of history are snapping photos like crazy.
Cabrillo leaps from the galleon's small boat onto the shore!
Cabrillo leaps from the galleon’s small boat onto the shore!
Cabrillo in armor raises his sword, while priest with cross stands behind him.
Cabrillo in armor raises his sword, while priest with cross stands behind him.
Cabrillo now plants a Spanish Cross of Burgundy flag on soil of New World.
Cabrillo now plants a Spanish Cross of Burgundy flag on soil of New World.
A proclamation is read on behalf of Spain by Portuguese explorer Cabrillo.
A proclamation is read on behalf of Spain by Portuguese explorer Cabrillo.
Actors depart the narrow beach and head up to join the onlookers.
Actors depart the narrow beach and head up to join the onlookers.
Kids pose with a modern day version of Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo.
Kids pose with a modern day version of Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo.
Many folks in costume were in the big crowd!
Many folks in costume were in the big crowd!
Navy honor guard prepares for anthems of four nations and a moment of silence.
Navy honor guard prepares for anthems of four nations and a moment of silence.
Making an adjustment to costume from the Old World centuries ago.
Making an adjustment to costume from the Old World centuries ago.
Anthems were played for Spain, Portugal, Mexico and the United States.
Anthems were played for Spain, Portugal, Mexico and the United States.

In addition to the four national anthems, a moment of silence honored the Native American Kumeyaay, who lived in this area long before Europeans arrived. Cabrillo spent a few days anchored in today’s San Diego Bay, a place he originally named San Miguel. He took on fresh water and traded with the native Kumeyaay people that he met.

People watch with interest during the short ceremony that included several speeches.
People watch with interest during the short ceremony that included several speeches.
Several beauty queens appear on stage and smile for everyone.
Several beauty queens appear on stage and smile for everyone.
Exhibits included various parts of Spanish conquistador armor.
Exhibits included various parts of Spanish conquistador armor.
Small boy tries on a surprisingly heavy steel helmet.
Small boy tries on a surprisingly heavy steel helmet.
Chainmail was being twisted with an apparatus at the end of this table.
Chainmail was being twisted with an apparatus at the end of this table.
Biscuits, nuts and an astrolabe are typical items carried on a Spanish galleon.
Biscuits, nuts and an astrolabe are typical items carried on a Spanish galleon.
Scouts demonstrate rope making with an interesting machine.
Scouts demonstrate rope making with an interesting machine.
Friendly lady was making woolen caps to be worn under those heavy steel helmets!
Friendly lady was making woolen caps to be worn under those heavy steel helmets!

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Walk from Old Town to the San Diego Presidio.

Old Presidio Historic Trail leads up hill from Old Town.
The Old Presidio Trail leads up a steep hill from San Diego’s historic Old Town.

Please join me as I walk from San Diego’s Old Town up a short but very steep trail to Presidio Park. We’ll see all sorts of interesting monuments, views, and of course, the location of the old Spanish presidio, whose ruins are no longer visible. The top of Presidio Hill is now home to the Junipero Serra Museum. Follow me!

We begin near the trailhead, beside the small Presidio Hills Golf Course, on the east edge of historic Old Town.

One of several signs along the Old Presidio Historic Trail. This one explains that soldiers and families used to walk down from the Spanish presidio to tend gardens and livestock near the Casa de Carrillo, around the location of the present-day Presidio Hills Golf Course.
One of several signs along the Old Presidio Historic Trail. This one explains that soldiers and families used to walk down from the Spanish presidio to tend gardens and livestock near the Casa de Carrillo, which is now the pro shop at Presidio Hills Golf Course.
The Indian sculpture by Arthur Putnam in Presidio Park.
The Indian sculpture by Arthur Putnam in Presidio Park.

The first interesting thing we see is this sculpture, titled The Indian.  It was created by famous American artist Arthur Putnam in 1905 and placed at the site of an ancient Indian village.  The small village was discovered and named San Miguel by the explorer Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo in 1542.

Cross marks where Junipero Serra established California's first mission.
The Padre Cross was erected near the spot where Junipero Serra established California’s first mission.

Up the hill from The Indian stands the Padre Cross. It was raised in 1913 by the Order of Panama and is made up of tiles from the Presidio ruins.  The cross marks the strategic location overlooking San Diego Bay where Franciscan friar Junipero Serra chose to establish a Spanish Catholic mission in 1769. (The mission was moved several miles up the San Diego River 5 years later.)

Bronze statue titled The Padre by Arthur Putnam.
Bronze statue titled The Padre by Arthur Putnam.

Nearby among some trees we find a memorial to the mission’s friars. It’s a bronze statue titled The Padre, completed in 1908 by renowned sculptor Arthur Putnam.

The old presidio rises beyond billowing Spanish flag.
The Serra Museum rises beyond billowing Spanish flag.

Our legs are starting to feel the climb as we reach three flagpoles overlooking Mission Valley.

Looking down at a red trolley in Mission Valley.
Looking down at a red trolley in Mission Valley.

Turning north for a moment, we see the trolley!

View of the old Spanish presidio in San Diego.
View of the Serra Museum on Presidio Hill in San Diego.

Now we’re getting close to the Serra Museum, which was built in 1928 on this historically very important hill. The museum was built, and the land containing Presidio Park was purchased and preserved for posterity, by philanthropist George Marston.

San Diego was born in 1769 at the old Presidio, a Spanish fort in a desert-like wilderness very far from European civilization.  It was located just below the Serra Museum.

Serra Museum employee watches as I approach old presidio.
Serra Museum employee looks down the grassy hill.

Not many people are about at the moment.  Most tourists never venture up this way.

The Serra Museum is packed with numerous historical exhibits.  You can climb the tower for views of San Diego Bay, the San Diego River and Mission Valley.

Row of Spanish Colonial style arches.
Row of Mission Revival style arches.
Large wine press outside the old San Diego presidio.
Large wine press outside San Diego’s fascinating Junipero Serra Museum.
Looking downhill from atop grassy Presidio Park.
Looking downhill from atop grassy Presidio Park.

Now we’ll wander along the hilltop to nearby Fort Stockton, the short-lived camp of the famous Mormon Battalion.

Where a cannon once overlooked Old Town at Fort Stockton.
Where a cannon once overlooked Old Town at Fort Stockton.

Decades ago, when I was a young man, I remember seeing a cannon set in this concrete overlooking Old Town.  I believe that same cannon is now on display in the nearby Serra Museum. Given the name El Jupiter, it was one of ten cannons that originally protected the old Spanish Fort Guijarros on San Diego Bay at Ballast Point.

(A second surviving cannon from the fort is named El Capitan. Today it can be found near the center of Old Town San Diego’s Plaza de las Armas.)

Mural at Fort Stockton of the Mormon Battalion.
Mural at Fort Stockton of the Mormon Battalion.

In 1846, President James K. Polk asked Brigham Young of the Mormons to send a few hundred men to San Diego to help in the Mexican-American war effort.  On January 29, 1847 five hundred men and about eighty women and children arrived at Fort Stockton after a very difficult 2,000-mile march from Council Bluffs, Iowa.

Mormon Battalion Monument by Edward J. Fraughton.
Mormon Battalion Monument by Edward J. Fraughton.

I hope you enjoyed our walk!