The Old Town of San Diego

Old Town

Spanish Period
Before the Mexican period, Native Americans and Spaniards occupied the land of present-day Old Town San Diego State Historic Park. Kumeyaay Indians settled in the area, followed by Sebastian Vizcaino’s Spanish forces and Father Junípero Serra’s missions.  Atop of Presidio Hill, the Spanish constructed the Presidio of San Diego and Mission San Diego de Alcala. In 1821, a military barracks was built at the base of the hill, serving as the first permanent structure of present-day Old Town San Diego.

Casa de Estudillo

Mexican Period
The Mexican War of Independence resulted in a resounding Mexican victory. In 1822, the Spanish government surrendered the city to the newly-independent Mexico. San Diego briefly served as the capital for the northern province of Alta California and the southern province of Baja California. By 1834, the San Diego missions were officially secularized and placed under civilian authority.  During the 1820’s and the 1830’s, several residential buildings were constructed in the city. Mexican political figures, business magnates, and even successful immigrants built their own respective adobe houses, including Jose Manual Machado, Jose Maria Estudillo, Henry Delano Fitch and Pío Pico. These residential adobe buildings gradually formed the city’s street patterns, centering around the Plaza de Las Armas. The plaza hosted several cultural and entertainment festivities, such as fiestas, bullfights, and gambling events.


American Period
The Mexican-American War abruptly shifted control of San Diego and California to the United States. Commodore Robert Stockton captured the Port of San Diego in 1846, ending Mexican control of the city. Four years later, San Diego was officially incorporated into the Union after the signage of The Act to Incorporate the City of San Diego.

The prominence of Old Town San Diego declined during the 1870’s. The county Board of Supervisors ordered the transfer of country records from the Old Town courthouse to New San Diego. The Old Town Fire of 1872 destroyed several wooden buildings and damaged La Casa de Estudillo.  The political and economic shift to New San Diego and the destruction of several buildings caused Old Town to fall into disarray.

Old Town San Diego SHP
Early restoration efforts for Old Town San Diego began in 1907. Business magnate John Spreckels funded reconstruction efforts for Jose Maria Estudillo’s adobe house, La Casa de Estudillo. From 1920’s onward, reconstruction efforts began for other buildings, including the La Casa Bendini, La Casa de Corrillo and La Casa de Pico.

Estudillo reconstruction

In 1968, Old Town San Diego achieved classification as a California State Historic Park. Old Town San Diego features original adobe buildings from the Mexican period, including La Casa de Machado y Stewart, La Casa de Machado y Silvas, and La Casa de Estudillo.  Buildings from the American Period include the Mormon Fort Building and the original San Diego Union building. Consisting of 26 buildings, Old Town San Diego recreates the historical atmosphere of the Mexican and early American period.

Old Town