Tag Archives: casa de estudillo san diego

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

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San Diego Historical Landmarks—#14: Old Town San Diego State Historic Park

San Diego Historical Landmarks

Old Town San Diego State Historic Park was designated a San Diego Historical Landmark on November 6, 1970.

Old Town San Diego State Historic Park

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

I will have to break #14 into parts 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9 & 10

(That was fun! Normally I would have written 1-10.)

because along with the State Historic Park itself, there are nine buildings in the park that are state historical landmarks.

Presidio in San DiegoThe first European settlement on the West Coast of the present-day United States was the San Diego Presidio (picture ►), a military outpost of Spanish California located on the hilltop overlooking what is now Old Town.

The hill, now known as Presidio Hill, was the primary settlement for several decades because it could be defended easily against attack by European enemies or hostile Indians. As settlers streamed into the area, they preferred to live at the base of the bluffs for safety and convenience, and in the 1820s the town of San Diego grew at the base of the bluff at the site commemorated by Old Town San Diego State Historic Park.

The Old Town area was the center of government and commerce for the region, and in 1834 the Mexican government granted San Diego the status of a pueblo or chartered town, a status that was revoked in 1838 because of declining population. The main problem limiting San Diego’s growth was its location inland, far from navigable waters.

Old Town San Diego State Historic ParkWhen California was admitted to the United States in 1850, San Diego was made the county seat of San Diego County, even though its population was only 650. The Old Town area remained the heart of San Diego until the 1860s when Alonzo Horton, a newcomer to San Diego, 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. Government records were moved in 1871 from Old Town to a new county courthouse in New Town. It was at that point that New Town 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 1869.

Old Town San Diego State Historic ParkOld Town is a popular tourist destination known particularly for its Mexican restaurants. Throughout the Park, as well as the surrounding area, are museums, superb eating establishments, and your typical gift shops and other tourist traps.

As far back as 1992, and as recently as 2006, Old Town State Historic Park was the most visited California state park. Attendance dropped dramatically in the following years due to the State’s miscalculation in firing Diane Powers, a local designer and the major commercial contractor since 1969, and replacing her with Delaware North Companies. The intent was to create a more authentic and historically correct understanding and appreciation of life and commerce in San Diego as it was from 1821 to 1872. Didn’t work.

Delaware North withdrew from its management contract in early 2009 but the damage was done, and attendance was not recovered to the pre-Delaware North levels.

In the next nine blog posts in my San Diego Historical Landmarks series, we’ll explore more about the historical structures located within in Old Town State Historic Park:

  • Casa de Estudillo—an 1827 adobe house and a National Historic Land
  • Casa de Cota site—site of an adobe built in 1835 and destroyed by United States Army bulldozers during World War II.
  • Casa de Bandini—an 1829 adobe
  • Casa de Pedrorena—home built in 1869
  • Casa de Machada-Silvas (de la Bandera)—an 1840s adobe
  • Congress Hall site—Built in 1867 and destroyed in 1939, Congress Hall served at various times as a wild west saloon and gambling hall, a rooming house, a post office, a bakery, and a Pony Express office.
  • Casa de Machada-Stewart—a restored 1830s adobe
  • Mason Street School—the first public schoolhouse in San Diego, built in 1865
  • The Exchange Hotel site—no known pictures, drawings, or description of this hotel exist. It was first mentioned in a local newspaper advertisement of May 29, 1851, as a “hotel and billiard saloon.”

Of course, there is more history behind the adobes, and its fascinating history, too!

Mason Street schoohouse

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.

Photographic Art logo

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

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

Old Town San Diego State Historic Park

Old Town San Diego State Historic Park

Out & About

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

One of California’s most-visted state parks is right here in San Diego:

Old Town San Diego State Historic Park

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Old Town San Diego

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Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Old Town San Diego State Historic ParkOld Town San Diego actually was the most-visited State Park in 2005 and 2006. Regretfully that wasn’t good enough for the State, so they fired Diane Powers, the woman who had run the commercial side of the park for thirty years, making it a great place to visit, stroll, eat, enjoy….

Control of the commercial enterprises was handed over to Delaware North, located in — you guessed it — Delaware. How a company in Delaware was going to manage a southwestern park 2,800 miles away was beyond the comprehension of most of us. Indeed, Delaware North failed. The number of visitors and revenue both plunged, eventually causing Delaware North to quit. Sadly, the damage was done, and Old Town San Diego is a mere shell of its former self. I used to go monthly. Now I go maybe once a year simply to see if it’s still there.

Located in the Park are many historic structures saved from the wrecking ball, two of the most significant of which are:

  • Casa de EstudilloCasa de Estudillo — An adobe house built in 1827 and one of the oldest surviving examples of Spanish architecture. It is listed as a California Historic Landmark (#53) and a National Historic Landmark.
  • Whaley House — Over the years the Whaley House served not only as the home of Thomas Whaley but also as San Diego’s second county courthouse and the first commercial theater. It was built in 1857 in the Greek Revival style. It also is haunted, designated as an official Haunted House by the United States Commerce Department in the 1960s. The Travel Channel show, America’s Most Haunted, named it the number one most haunted. The site was a gallows before Thomas Whaley purchased it, and the first ghost to be reported was the ghost of James “Yankee Jim” Robinson who was hanged in 1852.

Additional structures include the first San Diego courthouse; the first public school house; and a general store, newspaper office and print shop, and stables, all from the mid-19th century. There are several other historic buildings, gift shorts, restaurants, and local events. Give Old Town San Diego a try if you’ve never been there.

Casa de Estudillo

Casa de Estudillo

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

First San Diego Courthouse

First San Diego Courthouse

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Ye Olde Soap Shoppe

Ye Olde Soap Shoppe

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McCoy House, Old Town San Diego

McCoy House

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Fiesta de Reyes

Fiesta de Reyes

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Old Town San Diego

Old Town San Diego

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

First San Diego public schoolhouse

First San Diego public schoolhouse

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Cosmopolitan Hotel

Cosmopolitan Hotel

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Whaley House

Whaley House

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

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

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