Monterey State Historic Park

Last updated
Monterey Old Town Historic District
Freemont Adobe Pacific Street Monterey.JPG
Fremont Adobe
Location map Monterey Peninsula.png
Red pog.svg
Location in the Monterey Peninsula
Location Monterey, California
Coordinates 36°35′59″N121°53′37″W / 36.59972°N 121.89361°W / 36.59972; -121.89361 Coordinates: 36°35′59″N121°53′37″W / 36.59972°N 121.89361°W / 36.59972; -121.89361
Area80.3 acres (32.5 ha)
Architect Thomas O. Larkin
Architectural styleColonial
NRHP reference No. 70000137
Significant dates
Added to NRHPApril 15, 1970 [1]
Designated NHLDApril 15, 1970 [2]

Monterey State Historic Park is a historic state park in Monterey, California. It includes part or all of the Monterey Old Town Historic District, a historic district that includes 17 contributing buildings and was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1970. [2] [1] The grounds include California's first theatre, and the Monterey Custom House, where the American flag was first raised over California.


The park is a group of restored historic buildings: the Custom House, the Larkin House, California's First Brick House, Colton Hall (City Hall of Monterey), Old Whaling Company, the Stevenson House, the First Theater, the Pacific House Museum, the Interpretive House, Casa del Oro, and Casa Soberanes. These houses display the cultural diversity that guided California's transition from a remote Spanish outpost in Las Californias province, 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.

Today the historic buildings retain their rich heritage, preserving an important part of Californian as well as Spanish, Mexican, and American history. [3] Added to the adobe houses is the park's Interpretive Center and the Pacific House Museum. The park provides tours of the historic houses and museums for the general public. The 'Secret Gardens of Old Monterey' are part of the open-air museum for visitors. [4] The Monterey State Historic Park Association (MSHPA) is the non-profit association that works to support the park.

The park

Custom House

Custom House, 1936 Custom House, Custom House Plaza, Monterey (Monterey County, California).jpg
Custom House, 1936

The Custom House, built around 1821 by the Mexican government, is California's first historic landmark and its oldest public building. It is where the first American Flag was raised on July 7, 1846, declaring California part of the United States. It is a National Historic Landmark (#66000217). It is also a California Historical Landmark (#1). [5]

Cooper-Molera Adobe

Cooper-Molera Adobe Cooper-Molera Adobe.JPG
Cooper-Molera Adobe

The Cooper-Molera is no longer a part of the Monterey State Historic Park.

The property is owned and managed by the National Trust for Historic Preservation


The Cooper-Molera Adobe was built by John Bautista Rogers Cooper, a sailor, in 1823. He became a merchant and a prominent landowner in Monterey. Cooper's daughter Amelia married Eusebio Joseph Molera in 1875. The adobe house is a leading example of Spanish building style combined with New England architecture. [7]

The Cooper-Molera Adobe was featured in Bob Vila's A&E Network production Guide to Historic Homes of America. [8] In 2015, the exhibits and collections were reassessed in order to better illuminate the lives of the family who lived there. Through the historical collections inventory, the Cooper-Molera Adobe's holdings were identified and grouped in various categories. This process illuminated 2 activities that were of particular interest to the family: animal husbandry and farming (specifically artichoke growing). [9]

Larkin House

Larkin House, 1959 Larkin House, 464 Calle Principal, Monterey (Monterey County, California).jpg
Larkin House, 1959

The Larkin House, itself designated a National Historic Landmark, combined Spanish building methods with New England architectural features. This created a pattern for the popular "Monterey Colonial" style of architecture. [10] This building is a California Historical Landmark (#106). [11]

First Brick House

California's first brick house First Brick House.JPG
California's first brick house

California's first brick house was built in 1847 by Gallant Dickenson. He was the first person to introduce American building techniques to Monterey's architectural mix. Previously, Spanish and Mexican construction relied on unfired adobe blocks, which required extremely thick walls to support upper stories and plaster coatings to repel water. In contrast brick could make walls that were much thinner yet far more durable. Dickinson planned to make the house bigger, but left for the California gold fields with only the extant structure completed. It later housed a restaurant. [12]

Colton Hall

Colton Hall Colton hall.jpg
Colton Hall

In 1849, the California constitution was drafted in both English and Spanish in this building. In 1850 California became the thirty-first state of America. San Jose was then elected as the seat of California state government, ending Monterey's years as California's capital. (The state's capital changed several times, and Sacramento finally was chosen in 1854.) Reenactments of the state constitutional convention are held every year in Colton Hall during History Week. This building is a California Historical Landmark (#126). [13]

Old Whaling Station

Old Whaling Station Old Whaling Station.JPG
Old Whaling Station

The Old Whaling Station was built as a private home in 1847, but in 1855 became the headquarters and employee housing for the Old Monterey Whaling Company. This building was used to support the shore whaling operations. The unique feature of this establishment is the front walkway, which is made up of whale vertebrae, one of several buildings in the area that prominently feature whalebone. The Old Whaling Station is a reminder of the economic activity in California's history. [14]

First Theater

California's First Theater FIRST THEATER, MONTEREY, CALIFORNIA.jpg
California's First Theater

This adobe, California's First Theater, was built by English seaman Jack Swan in 1846-47 as a lodging house and tavern for sailors. He built the wood portion of the building in about 1845. He added the adobe portion in 1847, as the actual theater. It was used as a theatre in 1850 when U.S. Army officers stationed in Monterey, i.e., Lt. Alfred Sully, and others, produced plays under the direction of Actor/Manager Charles Bingham, and named it "The Union Theatre for the production of Melodramas". Swan built a small stage and provided benches, whale-oil lamps, candles for footlights and blankets as curtains. In later years, the First Theatre was used as a lodging house for whalers, but fell into disrepair after Swan's death in 1896. It was purchased in 1906 by California Historic Landmarks League and donated to the State of California. In 1937 and until recently, the Troupers of the Gold Coast staged the first melodramas since the 1850s. Because of structural issues, the building is closed to the public except for the Christmas in the Adobes event in December. [15] This building is a California Historical Landmark (#136). [16]

Stevenson House

Stevenson House Stevenson House Monterey.JPG
Stevenson House

In 1879, Scottish novelist Robert Louis Stevenson stayed at the French Hotel at 530 Houston Street, now called the Stevenson House after him and dedicated to his memory. Stevenson lived there while recovering his health as he was crossing the United States to court his future wife Fanny Osbourne. While there, he often dined "on the cuff," as he said, at a nearby restaurant run by Frenchman Jules Simoneau which stood at what is now Simoneau Plaza. Several years later, Stevenson sent Simoneau an inscribed copy of his novel Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde (1886), writing that it would be a stranger case still if Robert Louis Stevenson ever forgot Jules Simoneau. Stevenson wrote some articles for the local Monterey newspaper, including one that beautifully evoked "the Old Pacific Capital."

The Stevenson House features a bas relief depicting the sickly author writing in bed, [17] and is California Historical Landmark #352. [18]

Pacific House Museum

Pacific House Pacific House Museum.JPG
Pacific House

The Pacific House was constructed in 1847 during the U.S. occupation of California. This adobe was used by the U.S. Army as storage, a hotel, a court house, a tavern, and in later years as offices. The gardens outside were used for bullfights and bear fights. The Pacific House Museum tells the story of Monterey when it was the capital of Spanish and Mexican California, and also contains the Monterey Museum of the American Indian. [19] This building is a California Historical Landmark (#354). [20]

Casa Soberanes

Casa Soberanes Casa Soberanes 2013.JPG
Casa Soberanes

Rafael Estrada constructed the Casa Soberanes, an adobe brick home on a hillside overlooking the bay, during the 1840s. His family lived there until it was sold to the Soberanes family in 1860, who lived there until 1922. The Serranos later purchased and restored the house in the 1920s and 1930s. The house contains furnishings that are a blend of early New England and China trade pieces mixed in with modern Mexican folk art. Casa Soberanes received its nickname—The House of the Blue Gate—from the blue gate at its garden entrance on Pacific Street. Wine bottles, whale bones, and abalone shells border paths meandering through the sheltered garden. [21] This building is a California Historical Landmark (#712). [22]

Casa del Oro

Casa del Oro Casa del Oro.JPG
Casa del Oro

The Casa del Oro—or "House of Gold" in Spanish—is in the Custom House Plaza. Built in 1849 as an army barracks, then as a hospital for sailors 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 saloon and later as a gold dust exchange for miners. [23] [ failed verification ] This building is a California Historical Landmark (#532). [24]

Sherman Quarters

Sherman Quarters Sherman Quarters.JPG
Sherman Quarters

The Sherman Quarters were built in 1834 by Thomas Larkin. This small stone building was the quarters for Lieutenant William Tecumseh Sherman in 1847. Sherman later became famous as a Union general during the American Civil War. [25] Later the artist Percy Gray, a California Impressionist, lived there with his new wife from 1923 to 1939. [26]

See also

Related Research Articles

Monterey, California City in California, United States

Monterey is a city located in Monterey County on the southern edge of Monterey Bay on the U.S. state of California's Central Coast. Founded on June 3, 1770, it functioned as the capital of Alta California under both Spain and Mexico. During this period, Monterey hosted California's first theater, public building, public library, publicly-funded school, printing-press, and newspaper. It was originally the only port of entry for all taxable goods in California. In 1846, during the Mexican–American War of 1846–1848, the United States Flag was raised over the Customs House. After Mexico ceded California to the U.S. at the end of the war, Monterey hosted California's first constitutional convention in 1849.

Native Sons of the Golden West Fraternal service organization in California, United States

The Native Sons of the Golden West is a fraternal service organization founded in the U.S. state of California in 1875, dedicated to historic preservation, documentation of historic structures and places in the state, the placement of historic plaques and other charitable functions within California. In 1890 they placed the first historical marker in the state to honor the discovery of gold, which gave rise to the state nickname "Golden State" and "Golden West." Former U.S. President Richard M. Nixon and former Chief Justice Earl Warren were both past presidents of the NSGW.

Old Town San Diego State Historic Park United States historic place

Old Town San Diego State Historic Park, located in the Old Town neighborhood of San Diego, California, is a state protected historical park in San Diego. It commemorates the early days of the City of San Diego and includes many historic buildings from the period 1820 to 1870. The park was established in 1968. In 2005 and 2006, California State Parks listed Old Town San Diego as the most visited state park in California.

Rancho Petaluma Adobe

Rancho Petaluma Adobe is a historic ranch house in Sonoma County, California. It was built from adobe bricks in 1836 by order of Mariano Guadalupe Vallejo. It was the largest privately owned adobe structure built in California and is the largest example of the Monterey Colonial style of architecture in the United States. A section of the former ranch has been preserved by the Petaluma Adobe State Historic Park and it is both a California Historic Landmark and a National Historic Landmark. The Rancho Petaluma Adobe State Historic Park is located on Adobe Road on the east side of the present-day town of Petaluma, California.

Sonoma State Historic Park

Sonoma State Historic Park is a California State Park located in the center of Sonoma, California. The park consists of six sites: the Mission San Francisco Solano, the Sonoma Barracks, the Blue Wing Inn, La Casa Grande, Lachryma Montis, and the Toscano Hotel.

Dana Adobe United States historic place

The Dana Adobe & Cultural Center or "Casa de Dana" is a historic landmark in Nipomo, California. It was the home of Boston sea captain William Dana, who in 1837 was granted the 37,888-acre (153.33 km2) Rancho Nipomo in Southern California. Captain Dana hosted figures such as Henry Tefft and John C. Fremont in his Nipomo home, which also served as an important exchange point on California's first official mail route between Monterey and Los Angeles.

José Castro House United States historic place

The José Castro House, sometimes known as the Castro-Breen Adobe, is a historic adobe home in San Juan Bautista, California, facing the Plaza de San Juan. The Monterey Colonial style house was built 1838-41 by General José Antonio Castro, a former Governor of Alta California. It was later sold to the Breen family, who lived there until 1933, when the house became a museum as part of San Juan Bautista State Historic Park.

Casa de Estudillo Historic house museum in San Diego, California

The Casa de Estudillo, also known as the Estudillo House, is a historic adobe house in San Diego, California, United States. It was constructed in 1827 by José María Estudillo and his son José Antonio Estudillo, early settlers of San Diego and members of the prominent Estudillo family of California, and was considered one of the finest houses in Mexican California. It is located in Old Town San Diego State Historic Park, and is designated as both a National and a California Historical Landmark in its own right.

Monterey County attractions

Monterey County is a county on the Pacific coast of the U.S. state of California, its northwestern section forming the southern half of Monterey Bay. As of 2000, the population was 401,762. The coastline includes Big Sur, State Route 1, and the 17 Mile Drive on the Monterey Peninsula. The city of Monterey was the capital of California under Spanish and Mexican rule. The economy is primarily based upon tourism in the coastal regions, and agriculture in the Salinas Valley. Monterey County was home to writer and Nobel prize laureate John Steinbeck, writer Robert Louis Stevenson, and California poet Robinson Jeffers.

Larkin House United States historic place

The Larkin House is a historic house at 464 Calle Principal in Monterey, California. Built in 1835 by Thomas O. Larkin, it is claimed to be the first two-story house in all of California, with a design combining Spanish Colonial building methods with New England architectural features to create the popular Monterey Colonial style of architecture. The Larkin House is both a National and a California Historical Landmark, and is a featured property of Monterey State Historic Park.

Monterey Colonial architecture

Monterey Colonial is an architectural style developed in Alta California. Although usually categorized as a sub-style of Spanish Colonial style, the Monterey style is native to the post-colonial Mexican era of Alta California. Creators of the Monterey style were mostly recent immigrants from New England states of the US, who brought familiar vernacular building styles and methods with them to California.

Old Custom House (Monterey, California) United States historic place

The Old Custom House is the oldest surviving government building in California, built in 1827 by Mexican authorities in Monterey, then the capital of Alta California. The former custom house is the first designated California Historical Landmark, marking the site where U.S. Commodore John Drake Sloat raised the American flag and declared California part of the United States in 1846 during the American Conquest of California.

National Register of Historic Places listings in Monterey County, California

This is a list of the National Register of Historic Places listings in Monterey County, California.

Rancho Buena Vista was a 8,446-acre (34.18 km2) Spanish land concession in the Salinas Valley, in present day Monterey County, California given in 1795 to Jose Maria Soberanes and Joaquin Castro. The grant was just south of Spreckels.

Rancho Los Coches (Soberanes) United States historic place

Rancho Los Coches was a 8,794-acre (35.59 km2) Mexican land grant in present day Monterey County, California given in 1841 by Governor Juan Alvarado to María Josefa Soberanes. The name means "the pigs". The grant was south of Soledad and extended along the Arroyo Seco.

Rancho El Sur

Rancho El Sur was a 8,949.06-acre (36.22 km2) Mexican land grant in present-day Monterey County, California on the Big Sur coast given in 1834 by Governor José Figueroa to Juan Bautista Alvarado. The grant extended from the mouth of Little Sur River inland about 2.5 miles (4.0 km) over the coastal mountains and south along the coast past the mouth of the Big Sur River to Cooper's Point. In about 1892, the rancho land plus an additional 3,000 acres (1,200 ha) of resale homestead land was divided into two major parcels. The southern 4,800 acres (1,900 ha) became the Molera Ranch, later the foundation of Andrew Molera State Park. The northern 7,100 acres (2,900 ha) formed the El Sur Ranch.

Jose Eusebio Boronda Adobe United States historic place

The Jose Eusebio Boronda Adobe is a Monterey Colonial style building from 1846, located in Salinas, Monterey County, California.

Casa Navarro State Historic Site historic site in San Antonio, Texas, USA

Casa Navarro is a historic site in San Antonio, Bexar County, in the U.S. state of Texas. The original house complex was the residence of Texas patriot José Antonio Navarro (1795–1871), a rancher, merchant, leading advocate for Tejano rights, and one of only two native-born Texans to sign the Texas Declaration of Independence. Navarro first bought the property, about 1.5 acres, in 1832. The limestone, caliche block, and adobe structures were built c. 1832–1855, and Navarro moved onto the property soon after.

Blue Wing Inn

The Blue Wing Inn in Sonoma, California, was one of the first hotels built in the state north of San Francisco. What began as the first property transfer in the new Pueblo de Sonoma and a simple adobe residence transformed with time and the addition of more rooms into a storied landmark. During the California Gold Rush it was used by miners going to and from the gold fields and by the U.S. Army soldiers stationed in Sonoma. After many years, owners and uses - the Blue Wing Inn was purchased by the State of California in 1968 and is currently under study for its best use as part of Sonoma State Historic Park.


  1. 1 2 "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places . National Park Service. April 15, 2008.
  2. 1 2 "Monterey Old Town Historic District". National Historic Landmark summary listing. National Park Service. Archived from the original on 2013-08-02. Retrieved 2009-09-09.
  3. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2005-09-08. Retrieved 2005-09-10.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link) Monterey SHP. accessed 8/20/2010
  4. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2010-07-25. Retrieved 2010-08-23.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link) Secret Gardens of Old Monterey. accessed 8/20/2010
  5. "Custom House". Office of Historic Preservation, California State Parks.
  6. "Cooper-Molera Adobe". California Department of Parks and Recreation. Retrieved 2020-01-01.
  7. "Cooper-Molera Adobe". California Department of Parks and Recreation. Retrieved 2010-08-20.
  8. Bob Vila (1996). "Guide to Historic Homes of America". A&E Network .
  9. "It's In the Details: Discovering the Full Potential of a Historic Site's Museum Collections". Preservation Leadership Forum. 2015-08-31. Retrieved 2016-02-01.
  10. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2010-07-25. Retrieved 2010-08-23.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link) Larkin House . accessed 8/20/2010
  11. "Larkin House". Office of Historic Preservation, California State Parks.
  12. "First Brick House". California Department of Parks and Recreation. Retrieved 2014-01-05.
  13. "Colton Hall". Office of Historic Preservation, California State Parks.
  14. "Old Whaling Station". California Department of Parks and Recreation. Retrieved 2014-01-04.
  15. "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2010-07-25. Retrieved 2010-08-23.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link) California's First Theater . accessed 8/20/2010
  16. "First Theater in California". Office of Historic Preservation, California State Parks.
  17. "Stevenson House". California Department of Parks and Recreation. Retrieved 2014-01-03.
  18. "Robert Louis Stevenson House". Office of Historic Preservation, California State Parks.
  19. "Pacific House". California Department of Parks and Recreation. Retrieved 2014-01-04.
  20. "Old Pacific House". Office of Historic Preservation, California State Parks.
  21. "Casa Soberanes". California Department of Parks and Recreation. Retrieved 2010-08-20.
  22. "Soberanes Adobe". Office of Historic Preservation, California State Parks.
  23. "Casa del Oro". California Department of Parks and Recreation. Retrieved 2010-08-20.
  24. "Casa del Oro". Office of Historic Preservation, California State Parks.
  25. "Sherman Quarters". California Department of Parks and Recreation. Retrieved 2014-01-03.
  26. "Percy Gray Biography and Paintings". William A. Karges Fine Art. Archived from the original on 2017-07-29. Retrieved 2014-01-23.