Category Archives: Halls of History

San Diego Historical Landmarks—#14D: Casa de Pedrorena

San Diego Historical Landmarks

Old Town San Diego State Historic ParkWithin Old Town San Diego State Historic Park (San Diego Historical Landmark #14) are many historic buildings and rebuilds. We’ll explore nine of them since they also have been designated San Diego Historical Landmarks.

The fourth one, San Diego Historical Landmark #14C, is Casa de Pedrorena.

Casa de Pedrorena

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Miguel de Pedrorena JrCasa de Pedrorena was built in 1869 by Miguel de Pedrorena Jr (picture ►), a wealthy stockman. His dad, a native of Madrid, Spain, living in Peru had come to San Diego as a ship’s agent, marrying into the prominent Estudillo family in 1842. Although he claimed the lot adjacent to the Estudillo home in Old Town, the historic Casa de Estudillo, he died in 1850 before he could build a home.

One online source states that the structure was built in 1850 by Miguel Sr. Since he died on March 21, 1850, I’m going to go with it being built in 1869 by Miguel Jr. I just don’t believe an adobe or framed home could be built in San Diego at that time in a mere 2½ months.

A plaque on the grounds (lower right corner of picture above) states that Casa de Pedrorena was the final adobe built in Old Town, and one online source states that its thick adobe and mud-plastered, whitewashed walls were typical of Mexican adobes in the area. However, the shingled roof, as well as the mill-sawn, wood-columned front porch, reflected American building practices.

Other online sources state categorically that Casa de Pedrorena was “one of” the first frame houses in Old Town.” Several sources state that it was “the first frame house” built in Old Town. Here is a picture taken around 1920:

Casa de Pedrorena

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

I looked closely at the building exterior but could not determine whether it was a wood-frame building or an adobe. I guess I’ll just leave it at that. As my wise old grandmother said, “It is what it is.”

Miguel Sr. came from one of the best families in Madrid, being educated there and at Oxford University. He served as a captain in the United States Cavalry during the Mexican-American War. He was in the forefront of the attack against Fort Stockton when it was finally captured.

El Jupiter cannon in the Junipero Serra Museum in San DiegoDuring the early part of the war, he had buried under his house (or the patio behind it, one source says) El Jupiter (picture ►), the old bronze cannon now on display at the Junipero Serra Museum (see my post here) in order to prevent its being used against the Americans.

Miguel Sr. was a member of the California Constitutional Convention which met in Monterey, California, in 1849. He was a member of the group headed by William Heath Davis which attempted to found New Town in 1850, an attempt that failed because of the lack of fresh water.

Miguel Jr. gave Casa de Pedrorena to his sister, Isabel de Altamirano, in January 1871, a gift that joined together two pioneer California families. Isabel and her husband, José Antonio Altamirano, raised their family in the home.

Although some sources call the home “Casa de Pedrorena y Altamirano,” Altamirano also owned the little frame house next door where the San Diego Union newspaper was first published in 1868. The newspaper building is more traditionally connected with Altamirano’s name rather than Casa de Pedrorena.

Casa de Pedrorena remained a family residence until 1907, although one source says “until the 1890s.” It was restored in 1996 by California State Parks and is said to be one of five historic 19th century adobes in Old Town State Historic Park. Currently it is a gem, jewelry, and rock shop, open daily from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. There are two old railroad mining cars located on the property:

Railroad mining car at Casa de Pedrorena in Old Town San Diego State Historic Park

Railroad mining car at Casa de Pedrorena in Old Town San Diego State Historic Park

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

For the introductory blog post
to San Diego’s historical landmarks,
click on San Diego’s Historical Landmarks.

For previous posts in the
San Diego Historical Landmarks series,
go here.

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

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Anniversary? Birthday? Graduation? Marriage?
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San Diego Historical Landmarks—#14C: Casa de Bandini

San Diego Historical Landmarks

Old Town San Diego State Historic ParkWithin Old Town San Diego State Historic Park (San Diego Historical Landmark #14) are many historic buildings and rebuilds. We’ll explore nine of them since they also have been designated San Diego Historical Landmarks.

The third one, San Diego Historical Landmark #14C, Casa de Bandini, was one of San Diego’s great Mexican restaurants when I came to San Diego in April 1993. It had been for about thirty years, but that all came to a crashing end around 2006 when the State of California did not renew the lease of the restaurant, now located about 30 miles north of San Diego, in Carlsbad. I have not been to it because I don’t frequent Carlsbad often enough or long enough to eat at a fine dining establishment. I do remember that they had the biggest margaritas in the world, the 32-oz “Bird Bath” margarita. Sadly, I lost all of my pre-2006 pictures in The Great Hard Drive Crash of August 2005.

Here is the Cosmopolitan Hotel in June 2012:

Cosmopolitan Hotel

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

And here it is a century ago, ca. 1913:

Cosmopolitan Hotel

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

In addition to being a historic structure, Casa de Bandini also has to be explored in terms of the Bandini family itself. First, let’s explore the history of Casa de Bandini.

Juan BandiniDon Juan Bandini (1800-1859; picture ►) built Casa de Bandini from 1827 to 1829, originally a one-story structure with a thatched roof (probably palm fronds!), seven rooms, an entrance way, enclosed courtyard, corral, and several sheds. The house included Spanish Colonial features usually found only in the California missions. Enhancements to the home were done in the 1840s, including pane-glass windows, a brick-lined patio with well, and a small bathhouse to encourage his daughters to visit more frequently.

Financial losses forced Bandini to sell his house in 1859, and he died in November 1859. Part of the building was converted at that time into a store.

In 1869, Albert Seeley, a stage master, acquired the building and converted it into a Greek Revival hotel, the Cosmopolitan. The first story was renovated, and a wood framed second story and balconies were added.

Albert Seeley sold the Cosmopolitan in 1888, and in the years that followed, it was used first as a rooming house and then converted for use as an olive packing factory.

Cosmopolitan HotelIn 1928, Cave J. Couts Jr., Don Juan Bandini’s grandson, bought the property and restored it as a memorial to his mother, Ysidora Bandini de Couts. Couts remodeled the residence in Steamboat Revival architecture style, and by 1930 it had been wired for electricity and plumbed gas. Couts renamed the building The Miramar Hotel and Restaurant.

James and Nora Cardwell bought the Bandini property in 1945. Their son, Frank, renovated the building in the 1950s into an upscale tourist motel. The Cardwells sold the property to the State of California in 1968, the same year Old Town became a state historic park.

Cosmopolitan Hotel

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Now let’s look at Don Juan Bandini and who he was. He was born into a revolutionary Italian family dating back to at least 1478 when an ancestor assassinated the brother of Lorenzo Medici, the ruler of Florence.

Juan had been born in 1800 in San Marcos de Arica, Peru. Juan’s father, a native of Spain and a lieutenant on the Spanish ship “Nymphia” at the Battle of Trafalgar, found his way in 1818 to Monterey, then the capital of Mexican California, to defend the city against pirates.

In 1831, Juan denounced his allegiance to Victoria, the Mexican governor of California, his pronunciamiento stating:

“Let the rights of the citizens be born anew; let liberty spring up from the ashes of oppression, and perish the despotism that has suffocated our security.”

With that, Bandini and fourteen other San Diegans seized the Presidio of San Diego and arrested the Mexican authorities. Governor Victoria tried to end the uprising (the “Revolt of 1831”), but when Victoria’s army and the Bandini-led rebels met near the Cahuenga Pass on December 6, 1831, Victoria was wounded and his forces defeated. Following the battle, Victoria resigned as governor and, on January 17, 1832, sailed back to Mexico.

Mission San Diego de AlcalaJuan Bandini was a significant influence behind the secularization of the California missions, eventually earning the title “Destroyer of the California Missions.”

Juan Bandini supported the Americans during the Mexican-American War. His three daughters are credited with making the first American flag that was raised in the Old Town Plaza on July 29, 1846.

Following the war, Juan entered the business world, but all he did there was bring his family to the brink of bankruptcy with his wild and crazy ventures. The fact that he and his wife were early socialites, often spending as much as $1,000 on galas and fiestas, didn’t help. Bandini is credited with introducing the waltz to California in 1820.

Juan and his first wife, Dolores, had two sons, Alejandro Felix, who died at the age of 14, and Jose Maria, and three daughters, Josefa, Arcadia, and Isidora. When Josefa married Pedro Carrillo, the Mexican governor, Pio Pico, gave the new bride the Peninsula de San Diego Rancho, which included Coronado and North Island, as his personal wedding present.

Pedro and Josefa had one son, Juan José, who had two sons, Leo and Jack, who became quite famous in modern America. One source says that Jack became a world famous engineer, the builder of Idlewild Airport in New York City, now known as JFK International Airport. However, I could find no other corroborating sources.

Leo CarrilloLeo Carrillo (1881-1961; picture ►) was a film star from 1929 to 1950. In 1950, he took the television role of Pancho in “The Cisco Kid,” arguably the role that made him most famous.

Right here in San Diego County is the Leo Carrillo Ranch, a fascinating place to visit and where I saw my first white peacock!

For more on the Leo Carrillo Ranch, see my post here: Where are the colors, mommy?

White peacock at Leo Carrillo Historic Ranch in Carlsbad, California

White peacock at Leo Carrillo Historic Ranch in Carlsbad, California

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

For the introductory blog post
to San Diego’s historical landmarks,
click on San Diego’s Historical Landmarks.

For previous posts in the
San Diego Historical Landmarks series,
go here.

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

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Anniversary? Birthday? Graduation? Marriage?
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Out & About—Homes and 100 acres abandoned!

Out & About

I’m always on the lookout for anything abandoned. Even when I find something, though, it’s often not accessible, guarded by a high fence topped with barbed wire with NO TRESPASSING sign posted every five feet.

Last Thursday, on my way to a new (for me) elementary school to teach chess to 14 aspiring world champions, I came across not one, not two, not even three, but many abandoned homes, buildings, and what were obviously agricultural structures of some sort.

Pete Verboom Dairy Farms San Diego

Pete Verboom Dairy Farms San Diego

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

I was traveling a winding rural highway where the speed limit was 35 mph. Since there is a huge casino at the end of the road in the city of my destination, traffic was heavy and slow. It took me another mile before I found a place to make a safe U turn and go back to do a little exploring.

I found an extensive article online, dated December 7, 2000, a date that is relevant to this whole story.

The two office buildings were for two dairy farms, Pete Verboom Dairy Farm No. 1 and Pete Verboom Dairy Farm No. 2. The homes were for his family and employees. The dairy farms were opened in 1966 and closed in 2000. The homes were built from 1966 to 1974, and there are 100 acres of land comprising the two dairy farms.

Pete Verboom Dairy Farms San Diego

Pete Verboom Dairy Farms San Diego

Pete Verboom Dairy Farms San Diego

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

But why are 14 buildings and 100 acres of land duly abandoned? Who has that kind of money, to just abandon valuable buildings and land in Southern California where real estate is so expensive?

It’s a long story, which I shall endeavour (the U is for my Canadian and Australian friends) to make short.

First, I guess we have to discuss the dairy industry, or any industry that involves animals and such which produce manure, flies, odors, etc. In the olden days of 1966, there wasn’t too much in this area. Now, with the Pala Casino and Resort, which opened on April 3, 2001, the area is quite popular. Note that if this huge casino and resort opened in April 2001, there’s a high probability that construction started in 2000, the year the dairy farms closed. There IS a connection.

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

During the 34 years that the Verboom dairy farms were in operation, more than 100 dairies ceased operations in San Diego County. With the construction of the casino and resort, CalTrans obtained an easement through the dairy farms to straighten and expand the winding, two-lane rural highway from I-15 to the casino. The homes and buildings were built close to the road, so an easement to straighten and expand the road probably would have meant tearing down all of the buildings.

Pete and his wife, Lani, raised four children on the property. The children were interested in remaining in the dairy industry, but their location was not conducive to doing that, and San Diego County itself was not friendly to the dairy industry; the last dairy that opened in the County was in 1971.

Pete Verboom Dairy Farms San Diego

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Verboom closed the two dairy farms and bought five hundred acres in Orland, California, about one hundred miles north of Sacramento where agriculture and farming is a way of life. The dairy farm in Orland opened in 2001, and that’s where Verboom lives, with his children close by and working the dairy.

Least Bell's VireoVerboom’s dairy farms ran afoul of the San Luis Rey River Habitat Formation Committee, created to develop and preserve habitat for the endangered Least Bell’s Vireo (picture ►). The vireos live in willows along the river, and during drought years (common in Southern California), Verboom was prohibited from pumping extra water out of the ground lest the willows die back, which would also cause a dieback of the vireos.

Brown-headed CowbirdThe Brown-headed Cowbird (picture ►) also presented a problem. The name “cowbird” pretty much tells you that they like to be near cows where they eat lots of bugs and flies which are part and parcel of a dairy farm. Cowbirds, though, are thieves and invaders, laying their eggs in the same nest as the vireo. The cowbird chicks are bigger, so the vireo chicks die off from lack of food, as well as a problem called “blood parasitism.”

The Highway 76 corridor also played a major factor in closing the dairies. There are 19 Indian tribes located in San Diego County, more than any other county in the nation. Eight of them have casinos, and four of them are located along the Highway 76 corridor. I-15 is the main feeder to Highway 76 and those casinos. The dairy farms are on Highway 76 just a couple of miles from I-15.

Location of abandoned dairy farms

See location on Google Maps

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Traffic is a nightmare because the winding two-lane road has never been straightened or expanded. So much for planning, and possibly a good case study for traffic in other areas that are trying to building Indian gaming casinos and resorts. Plans don’t always come to fruition!

Pete Verboom Dairy Farms San Diego

Pete Verboom Dairy Farms San Diego

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Verboom was fortunate to sell the land before he moved. So if he sold it, why is it vacant and abandoned? Who would buy land in Southern California and just abandon it?

Ah, it gets more interesting, involving the Gregory Canyon Landfill.

Back in 1986, the County began looking for a North County site for a new landfill that would be able to accept one million tons of solid waste each year for thirty years. The Gregory Canyon site was not on the official 1986 list of possibilities; it was added in 1988. Without getting into the pros and cons of the Gregory Canyon site—and there are many!—suffice it to note that the Gregory Canyon Landfill still has not been built, although there still are plans to do so. And therein lies the reason why the property remains vacant and abandoned.

Pete Verboom Dairy Farms San Diego

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

According to the 2000 article that I used as the basis for this post, Gregory Canyon Ltd bought the dairy farms to provide a natural buffer around the landfill; by the time of the sale, the land already had been rezoned for open space. Gregory Canyon Ltd. paid $5,000 per acre for the land and threw in additional compensation for the facilities—the milking barns, houses, etc. Land in Orland cost only $2,500 per acre, providing Verboom with a nice profit and many fewer worries and headaches.

One final paragraph in the article reminded me that there is another abandoned property here, a former chicken ranch that I need to visit again. I used to live just a mile from it while it was operational. It closed in the early 2000s because of complaints of dust, flies, etc.—typical things one would expect to be connected to a chicken ranch—from many in the 1% neighborhoods surrounding the ranch (yes, at one time I really did live in a 1% neighborhood!).

Glenn County, where Orland is, has an ordinance stating that if you’re outside of the city limits of the cities in Glenn County, then the county, being an agricultural county, does not consider dust, flies, spraying, and other agricultural activities as being a nuisance. It’s part of business. Pro agriculture….

Pete Verboom Dairy Farms San Diego

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

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Out & About—Hail Satan

Out & About

I recently commented to a photographer friend on Facebook that finding abandoned buildings in San Diego doesn’t happen often because real estate is so expensive here.

If anyone abandons buildings or—gasp!—land, some developer comes in, swoops it up, and redevelops it, creating a subdivision of cookie cutter homes, condos, a mall, or a parking lot.

So imagine my surprise yesterday when I passed a collection of abandoned homes and (obviously) agricultural buildings along a one-mile stretch of winding rural highway.

Pala CasinoI was on my way to an elementary school that is part of the San Antonio de Pala Mission on the Pala Indian Reservation. A huge Casino (picture ►) also resides on the reservation, so traffic on the rural highway was heavy and slow, speed limit 35 mph.

Abandoned buildings make great pictures, so I went back to explore, although I had to drive another mile before finding a safe place to do a U turn.

I only found one building with a NO TRESPASSING sign, so I skipped that building but explored all the others. I’ll have more about these abandoned homes and buildings—and an abandoned 100 acres of real estate as well!—in tomorrow’s post. It’s quite interesting.

Meanwhile, three pictures to whet your appetite:

Abandoned building

Abandoned home

Hail Satan

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

I'm Zoey the Cool Cat, and I approve this post

History Through Philately—U.S. Patent #200,521

History Through Philately stamp

On this date in 1878, Thomas Alva Edison was awarded U.S. Patent #200,521.

Scott #945 Thomas Edison

Scott #945, Thomas A. Edison
Issued February 11, 1947

Thomas Edison and his second phonograph, April 1878Without that neat little device that Edison invented, I would never have discovered my wise old grandmother’s 78 RPM collection of Big Band music. That neat little device was the phonograph (picture ►).

I was forbidden from playing my wise old grandmother’s records on the stereo but, being the little juvenile delinquent that I was, being forbidden from doing something certainly didn’t stop me. I never got caught, but I suspect my wise old grandmother knew since I usually did my chores and homework while humming new tunes that I had listened to on her records. Whenever she confronted me about a tune, I always told her that I had heard it in music class, chorus class, or orchestra, to which I got “the look.” Yeah. She knew. Wise old grandmothers are like that…. They know.

While researching this post, I discovered that a guy from France, Édouard-Léon Scott de Martinville, invented a device in 1857 that recorded sound, but Edison’s was the first to both record and reproduce sound.

Dual turntablePhonographs were the prevailing way to listen to music in the 20th century, but that began to change in the 1980s with the advent of commercially available digital music. Vinyl record sales of both LP and 45 peaked in 1976, which happens to be the year that I bought my first cassette player. Once alternate methods of listening to music arrived, I was pretty quick to leave vinyl records behind. I absolutely hated coming home from the music store to put on a brand new record that was warped, skipped, was already scratched, or had clicks and pops that were just flat-out annoying.

CassetteStore-bought cassettes solved that problem; self-recorded cassettes did not since I was recording from vinyl records. When digital music and the compact disk (CD) arrived, though, I was forever hooked—no skipping, no clicks and pops, no warping, no melting when left in the car in the hot Texas sun….

52nd StreetThe first CD was pressed in 1979, and the first album to be released on CD was Billy Joel’s “52nd Street,” released on October 1, 1982. I do not know the story of why “52nd Street” was chosen to be the first CD release because the album itself had been released in October 1978. I would have thought that in 1982 someone like Michael Jackson or Paul McCartney would have had the first CD release.

I already had the vinyl record of “52nd Street” in my music collection so I did not buy the CD since it was pretty expensive. It wasn’t until February 26, 1987, that I left vinyl records and cassette tapes behind forever. That was the date when the first four Beatles LPs were released on CD. I was first in line at the store to buy my copies—almost $75 on four CDs of music that I already had. The new CD sound, though, was so beautiful and clean, whereas my LPs had been bought almost 20 years earlier, and sounded like it.

78 rpm Big Band musicWe’ve come a long way from the phonograph to the digital music downloads of today. The first 78 RPM records had a maximum of four minutes of music per side. Vinyl LPs from the late ’60s could hold up to about 24 minutes per side; cassette tapes, up to 60 minutes per side; CDs, up to 80 minutes.

All of those are gone from my music collection, which, as of this morning, contains 1,679 hours, 44 minutes, and 55 seconds in my non-classical collection (my classical music collection is even larger). I listen to an average of 11½ hours of music, and since I listen to my music in chronological order, it takes me 146½ days to listen to my non-classical collection.

I no longer have a room full of vinyl records, cassette tapes, or CDs, either. My non-classical collection is stored on an external hard drive capable of holding 500 GB of files; it’s only half full. When I venture out and about, I take music with me on a little MP3 player that holds 7.85 GB of files, or about one hundred hours of music.

I’m never without music!

500 GB external hard drive

7.8 GB MP3 player

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

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San Diego Historical Landmarks—#14B: Casa de Cota site

San Diego Historical Landmarks

Old Town San Diego State Historic ParkWithin Old Town San Diego State Historic Park (San Diego Historical Landmark #14) are many historic buildings and rebuilds. We’ll explore nine of them since they also have been designated San Diego Historical Landmarks.

The second one, San Diego Historical Landmark #14B, Casa de Cota site, remind me of the song by The Eagles where they paved over paradise and put up a parking lot. Here is what the Casa de Cota site looked like a couple of days ago:

Casa de Cote site

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Sadly, that’s it, and I have proof:

Casa de Cote site

Casa de Cote site

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Lots of nagging questions….

The sign is a California Historical Landmark sign, indicating that the Casa de Cota site was historic enough to make it onto their list, too, at #75.

I walked around the parking lot but didn’t find a plaque to tell me more about the Casa de Cota site. So we’re left with research online, at the San Diego History Center, and at the library.

Here is what the San Diego History Center has:

“Built in the mid-1830’s by Juan or Ramón Cota, this house stood for over a century on the corner of Twiggs and Congress Streets, before being destroyed by United States Army bulldozers during World War II.”

The California Parks web site isn’t of any additional help:

“This adobe is said to have been built about 1835 by Juan or Ramon Cota.”

Hey! At least we have something to go on!

A book found online titled “San Diego in the 1930s” tells us that ca. 1937 the Casa de Cota was “a two-room fragment of an adobe house which is rapidly falling into ruin. Above an interior doorway is the date 1852, approximately the year of construction.”

I found three old pictures but, sadly, they are owned by the San Diego History Center, and since they want a minimum of $95 per picture to use them, well, that ain’t happening in this century or the next, so here are links to the three pictures:

Casa de Cota 1

Casa de Cota 2

Casa de Cota 3

I could not find any information on Juan or Ramón Cota so I don’t know if the adobe was historic because it was old or because of who Juan or Ramón Cota were.

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

For the introductory blog post
to San Diego’s historical landmarks,
click on San Diego’s Historical Landmarks.

For previous posts in the
San Diego Historical Landmarks series,
go here.

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Need a unique gift?
Anniversary? Birthday? Graduation? Marriage?
Choose Photographic Art by Russel Ray Photos at Fine Art America.

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San Diego Historical Landmarks—#14A: Casa de Estudillo

San Diego Historical Landmarks

Old Town San Diego State Historic ParkWithin Old Town San Diego State Historic Park (San Diego Historical Landmark #14) are many historic buildings and rebuilds. We’ll explore nine of them since they also have been designated San Diego Historical Landmarks.

The first one is San Diego Historical Landmark #14A, Casa de Estudillo:

Casa de Estudillo Museum in Old Town San Diego State Historic Park

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Casa de Estudillo is a large adobe-block house, one of the best remaining examples of a Mexican California mansion. Located at 4000 Mason Street within the boundaries of Old Town San Diego State Historic Park, it is a U-shaped, one-story house built around a large courtyard. It originally contained 13 rooms in three sections, with the center section measuring 116’9″ long, and the two wings measuring 96½’ (north wing) and 98½’ (south wing).

Casa de Estudillo Museum in Old Town San Diego State Historic Park

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

The adobe walls, plastered and whitewashed inside and out, average three feet in thickness. A one-story veranda extends around the three inner sides of the house, with all rooms in the house opening directly onto the veranda. The large rectangular windows originally contained no glass, yet there were no fireplaces in the house. Might have something to do with pretty good weather year round. Two fireplaces were added in the north wing but the date of the additions is not known.

Various sources say that Casa de Estudillo was built in 1827 (Wikipedia), 1828 (City of San Diego Historical Landmarks list), or 1829 (sign located outside the house). However, Casa de Estudillo also is a registered California Historic Landmark and on the National Register of Historic Places. I found several documents online at the National Park Service concerning Casa de Estudillo, one of which, from 1979, states that the house was built from 1827 to 1829. Now the dates make more sense.

In the original construction, the main entrance was a wide hallway with heavy double doors. To the left were the chapel and a bedroom, and to the right the schoolroom and a bedroom. In the 1910 restoration, the partition walls separating the two bedrooms from the adjacent rooms were removed, thus enlarging the chapel and school room. Casa de Estudillo Museum in Old Town San Diego State Historic ParkThe north wing contains two bedrooms, a living room, a later kitchen, and the servants’ dining room. The south wing has three bedrooms and the large family dining room. The house was also once topped by a small round wooden cupola from which the family and guests could watch the bullfights and festivals staged on the adjacent town plaza. The cupola was removed sometime after Ramona was published and not restored until a 1968 renovation.

Casa de Estudillo was built by Don Jose Antonio Estudillo, a captain in the presidial garrison. He later served as mayor and justice of the peace of San Diego, and by 1829, he had acquired three ranches and become a wealthy man. Casa de Estudillo was considered at the time to be one of the finest in Mexican California. A large hall in the house served from the early 1830s until 1856 as the town chapel and as a school. In times of revolution and war, the women and children of San Diego also took refuge behind the thick walls of the house.

Occupied by the Estudillo family until 1887, it was abandoned and allowed to fall into ruin. Don Jose raised his children in the home, and three generations of Estudillos lived there. Jose Guadalupe Estudillo was elected to a number of high positions, including state treasurer, while living there.

img_8812 casa de estudillo stamp

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

In 1905, Casa de Estudillo was bought by John D. Spreckles, a significant figure in San Diego, who financed its 1910 restoration under the supervision of Architect Hazel Waterman.

According to a credible source, in 1908, it was deeded to the State of California by Mr. Legler Benbough, then the owner, and another restoration begun under the supervision of Architect Clyde Trudell. The restoration work was finished in 1969. The house was furnished in time for San Diego’s Bicentennial celebration.

Note: I believe the 1908 date is wrong because it doesn’t make sense that Spreckles bought the house in 1905 and financed a 1910 restoration, while another source says that a different person, Benbough, was the owner in 1908 and deeded the house to the State, and that a restoration was begun in 1908 (or shortly thereafter) but not completed until 1969. I know that there were two restorations, one in 1910 and one in 1969, so believing that the 1908 renovation included the 1910 renovation and wasn’t complete until 1969 appears to be wrong.

What I found most interesting about Casa de Estudillo is its connection to the book Ramona, written by Helen Hunt Jackson and published in 1884. Casa de Estudillo was where Ramona, the Indian heroine of the novel, got married!

Ramona, by Helen Hunt Jackson

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

For the introductory blog post
to San Diego’s historical landmarks,
click on San Diego’s Historical Landmarks.

For previous posts in the
San Diego Historical Landmarks series,
go here.

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Need a unique gift?
Anniversary? Birthday? Graduation? Marriage?
Choose Photographic Art by Russel Ray Photos at Fine Art America.

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