In 1542, while the Kumeyaay tribe waited on a beach at Ballast Point, Juan Cabrillo stepped ashore and claimed the land for Spain. In 1803, the “Battle of San Diego Bay” took place here, after Spanish Fort Guijarros fired on an American brig in a smuggling incident.
Mexico won its independence from Spain in 1821, after which retired soldiers and their families moved downhill from the presidio, built homes, and opened businesses. An open trade policy attracted others to settle, and by the end of the decade, 600 people lived in Old Town – San Diego’s commercial and residential center until 1872.
Spain established its presence in California atop this hill, and Saint Serra founded the first California mission here. During the Mexican-American War in 1846, Fort Stockton, made of earthworks on top of the hill, changed hands thrice between Mexican-Californian ranchers, known as Californios.
San Diego International Airport was popularly called Lindbergh Field after Charles Lindbergh, who began the first leg of his transatlantic crossing here in 1927. The US Army Air Corps drained the surrounding marshland, took over the small airport, and enlarged the runways to accommodate the heavy bomber aircraft manufactured in San Diego during World War II.
The discovery of gold in the hills northeast of San Diego in 1870 was the largest strike in Southern California. For five years, miners poured into the town of Julian, which would have become the new county seat if San Diego supporters had not plied the voters of Julian with liquor on election day. The gold eventually ran out, but not until millions of dollars were pumped into San Diego’s economy.
Originally built on Presidio Hill in 1769, this mission (see Mission Basilica San Diego De Alcalá) moved up the valley a few years later. It was the first of 21 missions, as well as the birthplace of Christianity in the state of California. It was the only mission to be attacked by the indigenous peoples of USA. In 1847, the US Cavalry occupied the grounds.
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The Mexican-American War ended with the signing of the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo on February 2, 1848. A US and Mexican Boundary Commission then determined the new international border between the two countries, with California divided into Alta and Baja. A marker placed in 1851 on a bluff in this park shows the farthest western point of the new border.
15808 San Pasqual Valley Rd, Escondido • Open 10am–4pm Sat & Sun
On December 6, 1846, a volunteer army of Californios, defeated the invading American army in one of the bloodiest battles of the Mexican-American War. Though the Californios won the battle, they later lost the war, and California became part of USA.
Nicknamed the “King of Missions” for its size, wealth, and vast agricultural estates, this mission is the largest adobe structure in California. The Franciscan padres Christianized 3,000 Native Americans here. After secularization, the mission fell into disrepair and was used for a time as military barracks. It has since been restored to its former glory.
Filled with late-19th-century Victorian architecture, this historic site (see Gaslamp Quarter) was once the commercial heart of Alonzo Horton’s New Town. When development moved north to Broadway, the area filled with gambling halls and brothels. It was revitalized in the 1970s.