You would be wrong to think the first Spanish settlement on the west coast is a popular attraction in San Diego
As the biggest travel advisor online, TripAdvisor has 490 million monthly active users and they rank as number 1 in the Travel and Tourism category in the US. And with their partner site, Viator, when people are looking for things to do, these are the sites they visit. The San Diego Presidio Park ranks as #143 of 468 things to do in San Diego as of September 2022 and it sits between Seely Stables in Old Town and Museum of Photographic Arts in Balboa Park. On the other hand, Old Town Park is #24, Balboa Park #5 and Cabrillo National Monument is #16.
Presidio Park is not only one of the most important historic landmarks in the City but also in the state and the country. This is where it’s listed as an important historic place:
- U.S. National Register of Historic Places
- U.S. National Historic Landmark
- San Diego Historic Landmark No. 4
- California Historical Landmark No. 59
You can trace the steps of early European settlers in California to Presidio Park. where Gaspar de Portola and Junipero Serra built the San Diego Presidio (the fort that protected the mission and settlement) and the Mission San Diego de Alcala in 1769. This earliest of European settlements in California consisted of this fort and church, as well as the neighborhood that sprang up around them. The fort served as the seat of government for Baja California while Mexico ruled the region, even though the mission would subsequently relocate further inland to Mission Valley.
At the time of the settlement at Presidio Park in 1769 these events were taking place elsewhere in the world. On the east side of the Mississippi, frontiersman Daniel Boone first begins to explore modern-day Kentucky and in Europe, Napoleon Bonaparte is born. A Kumeyaay insurrection took place less than a month after the mission was founded and a number of casualties occurred.. The Spanish constructed a stockade after the attack, which was completed in March 1770 that had two bronze cannons, one aimed at the bay and the other at the Indian town close by. El Jupiter, one of the guns, is presently on display at the Serra Museum located in the park.
Establishment of the settlement occurred 227 years after Cabrillo landed on today’s Point Loma and 167 years after Vizcaino landed in there and named San Diego after his feast day. When Mexico gained its independence in 1821, the Presidio passed into Mexican hands. On April 20, 1822, the Spanish formally handed it over to Mexico and it served as the house of the Mexican governor from 1825 and 1829. Because people opted to reside in the more accessible town that grew up at the foot of Presidio Hill, the presidio was abandoned by 1835 and left in ruins. Today’s old settlement in San Diego is known as Old Town State Historic Park and is just a few blocks away from the Presidio.
Presidio Park, which has 40 acres of green open space, picnic sites, and memorials, is located on a hill above Old Town San Diego. From here, visitors may enjoy stunning views of the surrounding area, including the San Diego River Valley and the Pacific Ocean. The park was named a National Historic Landmark in 1960 even though none of the original structures are still there.
The Presidio has a number of beautiful sites including the Arbor that is a picturesque area of lawn with Corinthian columns and a promenade that is partially covered. It’s a well-liked location for outside wedding celebrations. An area of mounds that represent a portion of the old fort’s foundation is enclosed by a small wall. The Kumeyaay, the region’s original inhabitants, are honored by artwork by Arthur Putnam that depicts a Native American. Using components from the demolished stronghold, the Padre Cross monument was built in 1913. Near the priest’s statue, a time capsule is buried. The park also has a series of nature trails that lead to scenic overlooks. If you drive through the park, consider visiting these sites:
Presidio Park is a historical treasure of San Diego that doesn’t receive the attention it deserves but if you are looking for a great place to have a quiet picnic at a park with great beauty and rich history going back to the time of our country’s founding, the Presidio is the perfect choice.