In 1769 Spanish settlers what’s now Presido Hill as the site of the first of California’s missions. After the Spanish soldiers began to leave the mission and the presido(fortress) the settlers moved to the foot of the hill. This area became the birthplace of San Diego. The area is now preserved as the Old TownSan Diego State Historic Park. It is now a mixture of museums, shops and restaurants that try to capture the energy of the Old Town between 1821 and 1872, although we were not sure that expresso was around at the time!
In the early 1820s sun-dried brick was the traditional building material, since wood was scarce. There are two of the original adobe structures which were began in 1827 still standing. In 1846, when the United States declared war on Mexico the San Diego families were divided. Some remained loyal to Mexico, whilst others supported the United States. The town was occupied and won back several times finally being permanently captured by the US in 1846. The war between Mexico and the US ended in 1848, establishing a new boundry between the two countries.
In 1848 gold was discovered at Coloma. San Diego became an important stopover en-route to the gold fields and immigrants crowded into the available housing. Adobe structures were remodled and new structures were built. By 1856 with the gold boom over the town turned into a small insular community.
From 1867 Alonzo Horton began building nearby New Town. With gold being discovered in Julian in 1869 there was a need for supplies, services and housing. Hence the New Town over time eclipsed the old settlement.
The restoration of the Old Town began 1907 when sugar magnate John D Speckels purchased the remains of Casa de Estudillo and began the first efforts to revive OLD Town. Over time several buildings were constructed to enhance its appearance as a ‘Spanish Village”. In 1968 it became a State Historic Park.
As we wandered around the Old Town and explored a number of the museums we got a real feel of the history and of course enjoyed the sunshine.