For this month's Calbiotech Local, we feature Old Town, a popular tourist destination, known especially for its Mexican restaurants, numerous museums and America's Most Haunted House.
Old Town San Diego, State Historic Park, is located in the Old Town neighborhood of San Diego, California. The historical park commemorates the early days of San Diego and includes many historic buildings from the period from 1820 to 1870. In 1968 the area was established as a park and in 2005 and 2006 the park was listed as the most visited state park in California.
A little bit of history: The first European settlement on the West Coast of the present-day United States was the San Diego Presidio, a military outpost of Spanish California, founded by Gaspar de Portolà in 1769. Mission San Diego de Alcalá was founded by Father Junípero Serra the same year. The Presidio and Mission were originally built on a bluff, Presidio Hill, which is now the site of the city-owned Presidio Park and which is immediately adjacent to Old Town State Historic Park. After 5 years the Mission moved to a location several miles upriver at the present site of Mission San Diego de Alcalá. Presidio Hill remained the primary settlement for several decades because it was defensible against attack by European enemies or hostile Indians. As the need for defense decreased, settlers preferred to live at the base of the hill because of greater convenience. In the 1820s the town of San Diego grew up at the base of the bluff, at the site commemorated by Old Town San Diego State Historic Park. The Presidio was abandoned and fell into disrepair.
During the pueblo period following Mexican independence, the Old Town area was the commercial and governmental hub of the region, even though its population was never more than a few hundred. San Diego during this period is vividly described by Richard Henry Dana, Jr. in his classic book Two Years Before the Mast. In 1834 the Mexican government granted San Diego the status of a pueblo or chartered town; however, its pueblo status was revoked in 1838 due to declining population. One problem limiting the town's growth was its location far from navigable water. All imports and exports had to be brought ashore in Point Loma and carried several miles over the La Playa Trail to the town.
When California was admitted to the United States in 1850, San Diego (still largely limited to the Old Town area) was made the county seat of San Diego County, even though the town's population was only 650. The Old Town area remained the heart of the city of San Diego until the 1860s, when a newcomer to San Diego named Alonzo Horton began to promote development at the site of present-day Downtown San Diego. Residents and businesses quickly abandoned "Old Town" for Horton's "New Town" because of New Town's proximity to shipping. In 1871 government records were moved from Old Town to a new county courthouse in New Town, and Downtown permanently eclipsed Old Town as the focal point of San Diego.
Old Town San Diego State Historic Park preserves and recreates Old Town as it existed during the Mexican and early American periods, from its settlement in 1821, through 1872 when it lost its dominant position to Downtown. The Old Town area is a popular tourist destination, known especially for its Mexican restaurants. The state park itself hosts several eating establishments, and other restaurants and gift shops are found in the surrounding neighborhood. Five original adobes are part of the complex, which includes shops, restaurants and museums. Other historic buildings include a schoolhouse, a blacksmith shop, San Diego's first newspaper office, a cigar and pipe store, houses and gardens, and a stable with a carriage collection. There are also stores, with local artisans demonstrating their craft. There is no charge to enter the state park or any of its museums.
The Whaley House: Haunted or not?
According to the Travel Channel's America's Most Haunted, the house is the number one most haunted house in the United States. The alleged hauntings of the Whaley House have been reported on numerous other television programs and been written up in countless publications and books since the house first opened as a museum in 1960. Although we cannot state positively that the Whaley House is really haunted, the voluminous documentation of paranormal occurances at the site makes a compelling case. To learn more about the Whaley House, plase visit it's official website: www.whaleyhouse.org