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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Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

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4 thoughts on “San Diego Historical Landmarks—#14C: Casa de Bandini

    1. Russel Ray Photos Post author

      When I went to the Leo Carrillo Ranch a couple of years ago, I had no idea who Leo Carrillo was because his film and TV career were before I was born. Now he shows up in another post of mine!

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