A tour inside the San Diego Convention Center!

Beautiful.

To me, that’s the one word that best describes the San Diego Convention Center.

Yesterday I enjoyed a fantastic inside tour of our city’s world-class convention center, thanks to the annual Open House event put on by the San Diego Architectural Foundation.

During the whirlwind tour our group saw many areas throughout the convention center, in both the iconic original structure and the later Phase 2 addition. We poked our noses into a vast hall where a new technology convention was being set up (no photos allowed), headed up an escalator one level, walked through the Sails Pavilion and a large ballroom, then took a freight elevator down to one of two huge loading docks. We walked through service corridors, got to see the convention center’s kitchen, and we learned about the logistics required to smoothly run such a mind-boggling operation.

During the tour we learned about the San Diego Convention Center’s new carpeting, the new digital signage, the emphasis on sustainability with LED lighting and a comprehensive recycling program, and so much more!

The problem is, as we turned each new corner, my eyes were always busy looking for photographic opportunities and I took few notes. I was dazzled by the sheer beauty of the public spaces. I can’t imagine a more beautiful convention center exists anywhere in the world. There is abundant sunlight, complex, jewel-like patterns of glass, and stunning views of San Diego Bay and downtown.

I won’t even try to caption these upcoming photos. To those who follow Cool San Diego Sights due to my coverage of Comic-Con, here’s what the San Diego Convention Center looks like without swarming crowds!

I live in downtown San Diego and love to walk around with my camera! You can follow Cool San Diego Sights via Facebook or Twitter!

You can easily explore Cool San Diego Sights by using the search box on my blog’s sidebar. Or click a tag! There are thousands upon thousands of photos for you to enjoy!

Photos inside the San Diego Civic Theatre.

Looking up at the impressive chandelier in the Grand Salon of the San Diego Civic Theatre.
Looking up at the impressive chandelier in the Grand Salon of the San Diego Civic Theatre.

I’ve lived in downtown San Diego for nearly 20 years. It’s sad to admit, but there are places of great interest within easy walking distance that I still haven’t visited. Until today, one of those places was the San Diego Civic Theatre.

This morning I took a guided tour behind the scenes at the San Diego Civic Theatre, courtesy of the San Diego Architectural Foundation’s big annual Open House event!

According to the event website: “The 2,967 seat San Diego Civic Theatre is the region’s largest and most attended performing arts venue. Owned by the City of San Diego, the theater hosts performances in opera, classical and contemporary music, dance and Broadway shows, in addition to serving as a community gathering place for inaugurations, governmental addresses and public meetings. Built at a cost of $4.1 million, the Grand Salon features back lit Italian onyx panels and an iconic $35,000 chandelier made of Bavarian crystal.”

Our group entered the lobby from Civic Center Plaza, ascended stairs and stood with heads tilted back as we took in the awesome beauty of the Grand Salon. Overhead, the impressive 2800 pound chandelier sparkled with its 186 lights and 52,000 crystals, casting magic about the elegant gathering place.

We then walked into the enormous theatre and stood for a moment “atop” the orchestra pit, the floor of which can be raised or lowered like an elevator. Then we went backstage to see the positively enormous space that is utilized to produce major shows of all sorts. In one corner of the dark stage, out of sight of the audience, there’s a very cool shrine to Elvis Presley!

It’s hard to describe the immense grandeur of this venerable theatre. The world’s biggest stars have performed here over the years, including Frank Sinatra, Bob Hope, Johnny Cash, Diana Ross, Tony Bennett, Bruce Springsteen, Bob Dylan and many others. Several United States Presidents have also attended events in the building. Today, the venue is the home of San Diego Opera, Broadway San Diego and California Ballet Company.

The lighting inside the building wasn’t ideal for my poor little camera, but during the tour I did manage to capture a few photos.

An outside view of the architecturally interesting San Diego Civic Theatre as I approached from the east down B Street.
An outside view of the architecturally interesting San Diego Civic Theatre as I approached from the east down B Street.
A poster outside the lobby entrance. The San Diego Civic Theatre is celebrating its 55 year anniversary.
A poster outside the lobby entrance. The San Diego Civic Theatre is celebrating its 55 year anniversary.
Waiting outside in Civic Center Plaza for the tour to begin.
Waiting outside in Civic Center Plaza for the tour to begin.
We enter the lobby, which as you can see is dimly lit.
We enter the building lobby, which as you can see is dimly lit.
Graphic shows the Civic Theatre under construction, before opening in 1965. It was designed by Lloyd Ruocco, one of San Diego’s most influential architects.
Graphic shows the Civic Theatre under construction, before opening in 1965. It was designed by Lloyd Ruocco, one of San Diego’s most influential architects.
Looking up inside the gorgeous Grand Salon, which is located on the building's second floor. The original design had the salon at ground level.
Looking up inside the gorgeous Grand Salon, which is located on the building’s second floor. The original design had the salon at ground level.
The sunbursts decorating the edges of each level were removed years ago.
The sunbursts decorating the edges of each level were removed years ago.
The amazing chandelier is the centerpiece of the Grand Salon.
The amazing chandelier is the centerpiece of the Grand Salon.
I believe this bust in the Grand Salon is of Giuseppe Verdi.
I believe this bust in the Grand Salon is of Giuseppe Verdi.
A glimpse of the gritty inner workings of a major theatre, tucked between the audience and the stage.
A glimpse of the gritty inner workings of a major theatre, tucked between the audience and the stage.
Now we are backstage, looking at dozens of ropes that might be used to lift or manipulate props, lighting, drop curtains--and perhaps even actors!
Now we are backstage, looking at dozens of ropes that might be used to lift or manipulate props, lighting, drop curtains–and perhaps even actors!
Looking up!
Looking up!
Here's the shrine to Elvis in a corner of backstage. I didn't catch the story behind it.
Here’s the shrine to Elvis in a corner of backstage. I didn’t catch the story behind it.
Old black and white photograph shows a packed house.
Old black and white photograph shows a packed house.
Looking out from the stage upon thousands of empty red seats!
Looking out from the stage upon thousands of empty red seats!

I live in downtown San Diego and love to walk around with my camera! You can follow Cool San Diego Sights via Facebook or Twitter!

You can easily explore Cool San Diego Sights by using the search box on my blog’s sidebar. Or click a tag! There are thousands upon thousands of photos for you to enjoy!

Magic inside the San Diego Law Library!

Plaque outside the San Diego County Law Library, dedicated October 7, 1958. The building was renovated in 2011 with technological updates and multi-use spaces.
Plaque outside the San Diego County Law Library, dedicated October 7, 1958. The building was renovated in 2011 with technological updates and multi-use spaces.

Today I enjoyed guided tours of three notable downtown buildings. That’s because this is the weekend of the annual Open House event organized by the San Diego Architectural Foundation!

I’ve walked past the San Diego Law Library at Front Street and C Street numerous times over the years. The front of the building with its polished black granite and glass windows is attractive, but the effect is overshadowed by nearby buildings and a bit lost in the urban clutter. I always assumed the facility was for lawyers and people in the legal profession, so it never occurred to me to venture inside. When I stepped through the front door, I had no idea what to expect.

What I found was an inviting, spacious, light-filled law research library that is open free to the public!

During the tour I saw many functional spaces, including a reading room, a computer center, the jam-packed stacks, and a high tech meeting room–all designed to give the public access to vital legal information. For those who can’t make it downtown, educational programming and legal assistance are often beamed from a meeting room into far-flung San Diego County libraries.

Most of the spaces I saw are enlivened by displays of artwork. As you’ll see, at the end of the tour I was led through a surprising, magical door!

According to the Open House San Diego website: “When it was built in 1958, the county’s public law library was a state-of-the-art resource for people needing legal assistance. Over 50 years later, the building was completely renovated to bring back its original clean sight lines and mid-century modern design aesthetic. The building boasts an iconic floating staircase, black Escondido granite facings, floor-to-ceiling west-facing windows, white Carrara marble floors, a buried peek-a-boo time capsule, and one-of-a-kind spaces including a permanent hand-painted labyrinth and a Hogwarts-inspired lounge.”

Here are a few random photos that provide an idea of what you’ll find when you visit the San Diego Law Library. I was told anybody can use the library commons seating area, even if it’s simply to converse with friends or relax and read something you brought. They do ask that the limited computers are used exclusively for law related research.

A look at the comfy commons area, where anyone can lounge (and perhaps play chess) near the library's large front windows.
A look at the comfy commons area, where anyone can lounge (and perhaps play chess) near the library’s large front windows.
One display includes artwork concerning the Law Library's Topic of the Year: Tribal Law.
One display includes artwork concerning the Law Library’s Topic of the Year: Tribal Law.
The San Diego Law Library offers many sources of information, including their new Federal Indian Law and Tribal Law research guide.
The San Diego Law Library offers many sources of information, including their new Federal Indian Law and Tribal Law research guide.
Colorful art near the ceiling as I walk up some beautiful stairs.
Colorful art near the ceiling as I walk up some beautiful stairs.
Looking down at the commons lounge area and the adjacent computer center.
Looking down at the commons lounge area and the adjacent computer center.
Even this upstairs hallway is like an art gallery.
Even this upstairs hallway is like an art gallery.
Modern meeting rooms offer wi-fi and other technological capabilities.
Modern meeting rooms offer Wi-Fi and other technological capabilities.
What's that I see on the Break Room door? Flying books? Does this lead to Platform 9 3/4?
What’s that I see on the break room door? Are those flying books? Does this doorway lead to Platform 9 3/4?
The amazing break room offers those who work hard at the Law Library a welcoming retreat. It looks a lot like a student common room in the Harry Potter series!
The amazing break room offers those who work at the San Diego Law Library a welcoming retreat. It looks like a student common room in the Harry Potter series!
The Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry can be seen from a window inside the San Diego Law Library!
The Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry can be seen from a window inside the break room of the San Diego Law Library!

I live in downtown San Diego and love to walk around with my camera! You can follow Cool San Diego Sights via Facebook or Twitter!

You can easily explore Cool San Diego Sights by using the search box on my blog’s sidebar. Or click a tag! There are thousands upon thousands of photos for you to enjoy!

A cool mural walk in Pacific Beach!

One of many cool works of art a group learns about during a guided mural walk in Pacific Beach.
One of many great works of art a group learns about during a guided mural walk in Pacific Beach.

Today I was lucky to go on a really cool guided mural walk in Pacific Beach! The tour was led by Leslie Dufour of beautifulPB, which is a volunteer organization formed by PB residents and businesses who are working to create a sustainably beautiful Pacific Beach. You can learn more about beautifulPB by visiting their website here.

During the walk, I learned that the folks of beautifulPB have a PB Murals program, and they’re looking to add even more public art to their already colorful community.

The murals we saw today were all fantastic, and there were many that I hadn’t seen during my various Pacific Beach walks over the years. We even got to meet one the artists, Kathleen King. She painted an iconic PB mural that you will see in my upcoming photographs, plus the landmark America’s Finest City mural in downtown San Diego!

Today’s amazing tour began in a small courtyard area behind Randall’s Sandals on Garnet Avenue, where we learned from Leslie Dufour about the history of murals, particularly their early 20th century renaissance in Mexico led by artists Diego Rivera, José Clemente Orozco and David Alfaro Siqueiros. That movement continues to influence muralists today.

After the fascinating presentation our group embarked on a looping walk of perhaps a mile or less. Future walks featuring additional murals are planned!

Thank you to Yerba Mate Bar & Empanadas, where we paused to enjoy some vegan treats that were really delicious! They intend to turn their outdoor courtyard space into a Pacific Beach arts center. Very cool!

Okay, let’s see some photos! Read the captions!

Our group heads through the beautifully painted walkway of Randall's Sandals, where the long mural opens up for all to see.
Our group heads through the beautifully painted walkway of Randall’s Sandals, where the long mural opens up for all to see.
We learn about the history of murals beside the work of muralist Jared Blake Lazar.
We learn about the history of murals beside the work of muralist Jared Blake Lazar.
Mural by @MatthewMillington depicts a very colorful Quetzalcoatl, the feathered serpent diety of ancient Mesoamerican people.
Mural by @MatthewMillington depicts a very colorful Quetzalcoatl, the feathered serpent diety of ancient Mesoamerican people.
A mermaid mural by @LovePaperPaint (Katie Gaines) is inspired by the traditional La Sirena image in Mexican Lotería.
A mermaid mural by @LovePaperPaint (Katie Gaines) is inspired by the traditional La Sirena image in Mexican Lotería.
This female superhero mural was painted by artist MDMN (John Moody) during a past San Diego Comic-Con.
This female superhero mural was painted by artist MDMN (John Moody) during a past San Diego Comic-Con.
Our group meets muralist Kathleen King, whose 1988 mural was painted from a 1943 photo of Garnet Avenue, looking west toward Crystal Pier.
Our group meets prolific artist Kathleen King, whose 1988 mural was painted from a 1943 photo of Garnet Avenue, looking west toward Crystal Pier.
Plaque explains the mural depicts the corner of Cass Street and Garnet Avenue as it was in 1943.
Nearby plaque explains this mural depicts the corner of Cass Street and Garnet Avenue as it was in 1943.
The historic brick building in this iconic PB mural still stands at the nearby corner.
The historic brick building in this iconic PB mural still stands on the street corner.
And here is that building!
And here is that building!
A cool John Lennon mural on the side of Five Guys was painted in 2006 by Steve Gorrow, Creative Director of Insight Clothing.
John Lennon with a daisy in his eye. A cool mural on the side of Five Guys that was painted in 2006 by Steve Gorrow, Creative Director of Insight Clothing.
Left part of fantastic shark mural at Even Keel Tattoo, by artists Nate Banuelos and Kyle Walker.
Left side of fantastic shark mural at Even Keel Tattoo, by artists Nate Banuelos and Kyle Walker.
Right side of mural, with many fantastic, romantic, sea-themed elements.
Right side of the same mural, which contains romantic, sea-themed elements.
Learning about one of Pacific Beach's many amazing, colorful murals during a guided walk!
Learning about one of Pacific Beach’s many beautiful, creative murals during a guided walk!

This blog now features thousands of photos around San Diego! Are you curious? There’s lots of cool stuff to check out!

Here’s the Cool San Diego Sights main page, where you can read the most current blog posts.  If you’re using a phone or small mobile device, click those three parallel lines up at the top–that opens up my website’s sidebar, where you’ll see the most popular posts, a search box, and more!

To enjoy future posts, you can also “like” Cool San Diego Sights on Facebook or follow me on Twitter.

Photos of Gaslamp history on Fifth Avenue.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I live in downtown San Diego and love to walk around with my camera! You can follow Cool San Diego Sights via Facebook or Twitter!

You can easily explore Cool San Diego Sights by using the search box on my blog’s sidebar. Or click a tag! There are thousands upon thousands of photos for you to enjoy!

Behind the scenes look at the City Archives!

Old books contain important records in the cold vault of the San Diego City Clerk's Archives Center.
Stacks of old books contain important records in the cold vault of the San Diego City Clerk’s Archives Center.

Yesterday I stepped into City Hall to enjoy an educational event open to the public during the City Clerk’s 3rd Annual Archives Month. When I entered the Archives Center in the basement of the San Diego City Administration Building, I didn’t really know what I might experience.

I saw and learned more from this behind the scenes tour than I expected!

I and a few others were led into a small lecture room and introduced to City of San Diego Archivist Jerry Handfield. He’s an energetic historian and professional archivist who in the past has served as State Archivist for both Indiana and Washington.

Jerry Handfield presented an overview of his job and explained the critical importance of maintaining genuine, reliable, trustworthy public records.

We learned that good governance depends on maintaining accurate records. Trustworthy public records protect the rights of citizens and promotes public trust in government. A healthy democracy relies on trust in its institutions.

Archives play such an important role that in 1850, when San Diego was a tiny town with very limited resources, the city’s newly created common council directed that a very expensive iron safe be appropriated to the clerk for the safekeeping of city records.

As an archivist, Jerry Handfield provided a list of reasons why records matter: they protect life (medical records), protect the public from disasters (maps and floor plans), protect property rights (deeds), and include all sorts of other critical information. He mentioned insurance and bank records, marriage licenses, work licenses and business records.

We learned that for an archivist preservation is a constant war. It’s a war against time, negligence, disasters like floods and mold, decay caused by acids in paper, and other often unpredictable factors. Some media that store records, such as floppy disks and magnetic tape, degrade over time, become corrupted or technologically obsolete.

Some of the City Archive’s older paper documents are given a special chemical treatment to help preserve them. Many are placed in acid-free sleeves or boxes and placed in a temperature and humidity controlled cold vault.

The City Clerk Archives is continuously working to digitize its many hard copy records–to preserve them for all time and make them readily available to the public via the internet. But there remain thousands upon thousands of documents and photos to be scanned and classified.

After the lecture we stepped into the cold vault and saw shelves stacked high with archival material. Then we stepped into a room where photos and negatives are scanned and digitized.

Ranged all around the main room of the Archives Center are additional interesting displays. I saw many Mayoral Artifacts that were presented as gifts to the city from all over the globe. Among these are an assortment of beautiful decorative plates.

Enough of my inadequate written description. Let’s look at a few photos and you’ll get a better idea of what I experienced!

San Diego City Archivist Jerry Handfield describes the importance of accurately recording and carefully preserving critical information.
San Diego City Archivist Jerry Handfield describes the importance of accurately recording and carefully preserving critical information.
Stacks of special boxes containing official records fill the temperature and humidity controlled cold vault at the City Archives.
Stacks of boxes containing official records fill the temperature and humidity controlled cold vault at the City Archives.
Archivist Jerry Handfield shows visitors shelves of old canvas and leather-bound books, including some that contain City Council Resolutions.
Archivist Jerry Handfield shows visitors shelves of old canvas and leather-bound books, including many that contain past City Council Resolutions.
In one room at the Archives Center, old photographs are scanned and categorized in order to be digitized for easy public access.
In one room at the Archives Center, old photographs are scanned and categorized by trained volunteers, in order to be digitized for easy public access.
Many cool historical photos of San Diego cover the walls!
Many cool historical photos of San Diego cover the walls of this room!
Man and Children in Halloween costumes, circa 1960.
Man and Children in Halloween costumes, circa 1960.
First Official Map of San Diego, June 1867.
First Official Map of San Diego, June 1867.
A treasure trove of San Diego history at one's fingertips!
A treasure trove of San Diego history at one’s fingertips!
Mayoral artifacts displayed at the San Diego City Clerk's Archives Center include many gifts from around the world.
Mayoral artifacts displayed in the main room of the San Diego City Clerk’s Archives Center include gifts from other cities and people around the world.
Armetale plate with Seal of City of San Diego.
Armetale plate with Seal of City of San Diego.
Paper mache oni mask from Mizusawa, Japan.
Paper mache oni mask from Mizusawa, Japan.
Filner Mayoral Artifact RF-4. Ballast Point Whaling Station, San Diego, California (1820's).
Filner Mayoral Artifact RF-4. Ballast Point Whaling Station, San Diego, California (1820’s).
While walking about the City Archives I spied the cover of an Official Views San Diego Panama-California Exposition souvenir book.
While walking about the main room of the City Archives I spied this cover of an Official Views San Diego Panama-California Exposition souvenir book.
Boxes upon boxes hold tons of paper records in the basement of City Hall!
Boxes upon boxes hold tons of paper records in the basement of City Hall!

I live in downtown San Diego and love to walk around with my camera! You can follow Cool San Diego Sights via Facebook or Twitter!

You might say this blog is a sort of digital archive. You can easily explore Cool San Diego Sights by using the search box on my blog’s sidebar. Or click a tag! There are thousands upon thousands of photos for you to enjoy!

Fascinating photos behind the scenes in San Diego.

Over the years I’ve taken photos “behind the scenes” at various interesting and historic places in San Diego. I thought it would be fun to revisit some of those blog posts, in case you’ve missed them.

Here are ten guided tours and curious walks that provided fascinating views of San Diego that many do not see.

Click the following links:

A tour inside the historic Spreckels Theatre.

A very cool tour of Petco Park in San Diego!

Get out of jail free at old police headquarters!

Photos behind the scenes at Copley Symphony Hall!

Photos aboard new Scripps research vessel Sally Ride!

Behind the scenes look at the Spreckels Organ.

Photos from Port of San Diego’s harbor tour.

History comes alive during tour of Spanish Village.

Photos: amazing tour of Spanish galleon build site!

Photos inside a World War II bunker on Point Loma.

I live in downtown San Diego and love to walk around with my camera! You can follow Cool San Diego Sights via Facebook or Twitter!

You can easily explore Cool San Diego Sights by using the search box on my blog’s sidebar. Or click a tag! There are thousands upon thousands of photos for you to enjoy!

Help students learn about San Diego history!

Help our students discover the past.
Help our students discover the past.

Do you love San Diego? Your help is needed!

The Old Town San Diego Foundation is raising funds so that Fourth Grade students across San Diego County can continue taking educational field trips to Old Town San Diego State Historic Park. The San Diego History Program helps kids learn about San Diego’s unique, culturally diverse early history. But financial assistance is urgently needed!

I found out about this program today while walking about Old Town’s Founders Day event. I learned thousands of students have been fortunate to enjoy these field trips in past years. Fourth graders visit Old Town’s interactive museums and enjoy special docent led tours.

The nice folks of the Old Town San Diego Foundation explained that without this program, many young people would probably never visit the birthplace of San Diego and California.

Often kids who participate are so amazed by what they discover, they bring their families back to Old Town! How cool is that?

But funds are now needed to continue this program.

Please visit the Old Town San Diego Foundation website here to learn more.

And please visit the “4th Graders Need Your Help” GoFundMe page here to make your contribution! Donations are 100% tax deductible.

(I know that some educators follow this blog. Spread the word!)

I live in downtown San Diego and love to walk around with my camera! You can follow Cool San Diego Sights via Facebook or Twitter!

A free walking tour of Old Town San Diego.

A small group on a free walking tour learns about the history of Old Town San Diego.
A small group on a free walking tour learns about the history of Old Town San Diego.

A free walking tour of Old Town San Diego State Historic Park is available every day at 11 am and 2 pm. The tours meet in front of the Robinson-Rose House Visitor Center, at the northwest end of Old Town’s large grassy plaza.

When I visit Old Town San Diego, I’ll sometimes join the walking tour while it’s in progress. Last weekend I happened to be in front of the Robinson-Rose House right at eleven o’clock, so I decided to enjoy the full one hour tour!

During this easy walk a guide in period costume provides fascinating information about San Diego’s early history. Several different periods are covered, from the Spanish mission period, to the Mexican rancho period, to the early American period. The main interpretive period is 1821 to 1872.

Among the following photos are a few interesting bits of history…

Free walking tours begin daily at 11 and 2 in front of the Robinson-Rose House Visitor Center at Old Town San Diego State Historic Park.
Free walking tours begin daily at 11 and 2 in front of the Robinson-Rose House Visitor Center at Old Town San Diego State Historic Park.
Inside the Robinson-Rose House visitors can view a large model behind glass. It shows what Old Town San Diego looked like in 1872.
Inside the Robinson-Rose House visitors can view a large model behind glass. It shows what Old Town San Diego looked like in 1872.
The tour guide leads our group out into Old Town's historic Plaza de las Armas.
The tour guide leads our group out into Old Town’s historic Plaza de las Armas.
We learn that the Native American Kumeyaay village of Cosoy was located right here, long before Old Town was established.
We learn that the Native American Kumeyaay village of Cosoy was located right here, long before Old Town was established.

The Native American Kumeyaay village of Cosoy was located where Old Town San Diego’s plaza was established. Before the San Diego River was diverted in 1877, its water ran very close to Old Town and was an integral part of the life of early people in our desert-like Southern California coastal region.

Our tour now heads toward restored buildings that stand on the southwest side of the plaza.
Our tour now heads toward restored buildings that stand on the southwest side of the plaza.
We enter Casa de Machado y Silvas, where today visitors can view the small Commercial Restaurant museum.
We enter Casa de Machado y Silvas, where today visitors can view the small Commercial Restaurant museum.
Our tour guide talks about tiny San Diego during the Mexican rancho period. Trade goods were acquired from merchant ships in exchange for cattle hides, which were called California Banknotes.
Our tour guide talks about tiny San Diego during the Mexican rancho period. Trade goods were acquired from merchant ships in exchange for cattle hides, which were called California Banknotes.

When Mexico won its independence from Spain in 1821, the Spanish soldiers of the nearby San Diego Presidio switched their allegiance to Mexico, which couldn’t afford to pay them. For their service, they were given land at the foot of Presidio Hill, where many soldiers and their families built houses. That is how Old Town started.

You can learn more about La Casa de Machado y Silvas and the fascinating Commercial Restaurant museum here.

We head back outside into the plaza.
We head back outside into the plaza.
We learn more about Old Town by the unusual, tall flagpole.
We learn more about the history of Old Town by the unusual, tall flagpole.
Old Town's flagpole resembles a ship's mast!
Old Town’s flagpole resembles a ship’s mast!

You might notice the flagpole at the center of Old Town’s Plaza looks a lot like a ship’s mast. Because originally it was!

When an American force under Captain Samuel F. DuPont sailed into San Diego Bay in 1846 to take control of Old Town unopposed, the plaza had no flagpole, because most of the independent-minded Californios who lived here didn’t feel a strong attachment to Mexico. So a ship’s mast was used to raise the flag of the United States.

You can see a bronze plaque commemorating the event here.

You can learn more about the old Spanish cannon that sits in the middle of Old Town’s plaza near the flagpole here.

We head toward a tree that stands near the Colorado House.
We head toward a tree that stands near the Colorado House.
This is where the Franklin House hotel once stood.
This is where the Franklin House hotel once stood.

A vacant area of ground beside the Colorado House (now home of the Wells Fargo Museum) is where the Franklin House hotel used to stand. It was Old Town’s only three story building, notable for its relative elegance and its baths.

The Franklin House was destroyed during the great fire of 1872 along with several adjacent buildings including Old Town’s courthouse, ensuring that San Diego’s future would be located in Alonzo Horton’s New Town, which was then called Horton’s Addition.

To learn more about San Diego’s first courthouse, click here.

To learn more about Colorado House and the Wells Fargo Museum, click here.

We head toward a beautifully restored adobe house that stands alone behind the plaza buildings.
We head toward a beautifully restored adobe house that stands alone behind the plaza buildings.
Entering the grounds of La Casa de Machado y Stewart Museum.
Entering the grounds of La Casa de Machado y Stewart Museum.
Many artifacts are displayed in the main living room of La Casa de Machado y Stewart. An adjacent bedroom is where parents and daughters slept. The sons slept outside in San Diego's temperate climate.
Many artifacts are displayed in the main living room of La Casa de Machado y Stewart. An adjacent bedroom is where parents and daughters slept. The sons slept outside in San Diego’s temperate climate.

Our tour group then walked over to Casa de Machado y Stewart. We learned many things, including the fact that the fancier china seen on the dining table came by merchant ships that crossed the Pacific from Asia.

The more simple items like candlesticks were made by local blacksmiths. Because iron was rare in San Diego, harpoons from a brief period of whaling in San Diego Bay were used to make a variety of furnishings and household utensils.

You can learn more about the Casa de Machado y Stewart here.

You can learn about Old Town’s blacksmith shop here.

We also learned that the art of brick-making was introduced to Old Town by members of the Mormon Battalion, whose arrival in San Diego you can learn about here.

The outdoor oven was made of clay and adobe bricks. Cow manure provided fuel!
The outdoor oven was made of clay and adobe bricks. Cow manure provided fuel!
The garden outside La Casa de Machado y Stewart not only provided vegetables for eating, but native herbs used for medicine.
The garden outside La Casa de Machado y Stewart not only provided vegetables for eating, but native herbs used for medicine.
Our tour guide explains the uses of prickly pear. The cochineal beetle found on prickly pears is used to make red dye. That plant you see is about 150 years old!
Our tour guide explains the uses of prickly pear. The cochineal beetle found on prickly pears is used to make red dye. That plant you see is about 150 years old!
Finally, we head over to the beautiful, iconic Casa de Estudillo.
Finally, we head over to the beautiful, iconic Casa de Estudillo.
The courtyard of the U-shaped Casa de Estudillo includes a simple fountain at the center.
The courtyard of the U-shaped Casa de Estudillo includes a simple fountain at the center.
Sitting on wooden benches, learning more about San Diego's unique early history.
Sitting on wooden benches, learning more about San Diego’s unique early history.

The walking tour concluded inside the courtyard of La Casa de Estudillo. In many respects, this beautiful house is the centerpiece of Old Town San Diego. Two past blog posts provide a great deal of information about La Casa de Estudillo.

You can peer into the house’s restored rooms and learn about their history here.

You can learn how a wildly popular novel saved this historic building from destruction here!

The walking tour is over. Now visitors to Old Town can roam wherever they fancy, and visit the numerous free museums around the plaza.
The walking tour is over. Now visitors to Old Town San Diego can roam wherever they fancy, and visit numerous free museums scattered around the plaza.

Finally, to enjoy a good overview of San Diego’s early history, I recommend a visit to Old Town’s excellent McCoy House Museum. You can check out my blog post featuring its many exhibits by clicking here!

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Take a tour aboard a new Coast Guard cutter!

This weekend the general public has the rare opportunity to take a free tour aboard a brand new United States Coast Guard cutter! The USCGC Benjamin Bottoms, which is scheduled to be commissioned in San Diego this week, is presently docked on the Embarcadero just north of the Maritime Museum.

USCGC Benjamin Bottoms (WPC-1132) is a Sentinel-class or Fast Response cutter that has very advanced capabilities. The vessel will be based in San Pedro and will spend most of its time off the coast of Southern California engaging in maritime rescues, drug interdiction, and a variety of other missions.

I stepped aboard today and was greeted by smiling crew members, heroes who have saved the lives of many. I was permitted to take photos everywhere but inside the pilothouse, which contains the latest technology. I was told that almost everything on the cutter is computerized, with sensors and controls just about everywhere. This type of cutter is unique in that it is equipped with a bow thruster which allows for very nimble maneuvering.

After checking out the pilothouse, our tour headed to the rear of the cutter where a small Cutterboat – Over the Horizon inflatable boat can be quickly released into the ocean or pulled back aboard. With its jet drive, the cutterboat has the ability to pursue and overtake very fast vessels.

We then went inside the Benjamin Bottoms to see its galley, a central dining and meeting area, and some officer quarters.

When you take a tour of the vessel, a friendly crew member will also tell you how the ship got her name. To summarize, using the words of Wikipedia: “Benjamin Bottoms was a United States Coast Guard radio operator who died while attempting to rescue the crew of a USAAF bomber that had crashed-landed in Greenland in November 1942.”

Head down to the Embarcadero tomorrow between 9 am and 2 pm and enjoy a fascinating tour and say Thank You to some genuine heroes!

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!