If you are like me, you love to immerse yourself in the culture and history of every place you visit during your travels. I had one such experience when we visited Monterey, California earlier last year.
Once the Spanish capitol of old California, Monterey is home to some of California’s most historic homes and buildings that comprise the Monterey State Historic Park. A two-mile path named the Monterey Walking Path of History leads visitors to 55 landmark structures and gardens.
Among these structures, you will find California’s First Theatre, and the Monterey Custom House, the oldest government building in California. Built around 1821 by the Mexican government, it was here that the American flag was first raised on July 7, 1846, declaring California a part of the United States.
California’s First Theatre was constructed in 1844 by Jack Swan (1817-1896), an English sailor of Scottish ancestry who settled in Monterey. The building located on the corner of Scott and Pacific Streets originally served as a saloon and a boarding house for sailors before it began to present minstrel shows and dramatic performances in 1847.
Casa del Oro which translates to “House of Gold” from Spanish is located in the Custom House Plaza. Built in 1849 as an army barracks it later served as a hospital run by Thomas Larkin. Later the building was used as general store run by Joseph Boston in the 1850s. The origin of the name could be attributed to a period of time when the building was used as a gold dust exchange for miners.
Thomas Larkin’s two-story mud adobe brick home is located at 464 Calle Principa. It was built in 1835 and is known as the “prototype” for Monterey Colonial architecture. Larkin was an American merchant who operated a store out of his home. He was the first and only United States Consul to Alta California under Mexican rule, serving during President Polk’s administration.
The Cooper-Molera Adobe was built by John Rogers Cooper, the half-brother of Thomas Larkin and American Consul to Monterey. The restored adobe complex includes two upper-class homes; one Californian and the other American Victorian, two barns, a garden and a museum. The complex is located on the corner of Polk Street and Munras.
The Pacific House was constructed in 1847 during the U.S. occupation of California. Over the years, this adobe was used as storage by the U.S. Army, a hotel, a court house, and a tavern. Today, it serves as a museum which feature exhibits that tell the story of Monterey when it was the capital of Spanish and Mexican California. The Monterey Museum of the American Indian is located upstairs and offers a collection of baskets, pottery and other Native American artifacts.
The Perry House located on 201 Van Buren Street is a Victorian style home built in 1860 by whaling Captain Manuel Perry. Restored in 1967, it currently serves as a private events venue.
It was very interesting to visit Old Monterey and view the houses and buildings that displayed the cultural diversity that guided California’s transition from a remote Spanish outpost, to an agricultural Mexican Alta California territory, to U.S statehood. These influential adobe houses made up California’s earliest capital and were the site of the state’s first constitutional convention!
If you too would like to tour the Monterey State Historic Park, contact their office at (831) 649-7118. The office is located at 20 Custom House Plaza.