Things to See and Do in Historic Monterey California

Everything about Monterey, California has to do with scenery, historic sites and the relaxation of visiting a seaside town. Located about a 2 hour drive south of the San Francisco Bay Area, Monterey is just the place to visit for those wishing to escape the big city hustle and bustle.

Monterey as a Spanish and Mexican Port and Capital

monterey ca historic sites

Historic Custom House

Monterey was the most important settlement and was the seat of government when the Spaniards ruled what is now California. Monterey was also the capital when the Mexicans ousted the Spaniards during the early 1820’s.

The city is located about a two hour drive south of San Francisco and a one hour and fifteen minute drive south of San Jose. Monterey can be either a day trip for those visiting from the San Francisco Bay Area or a fun overnight or weekend visit.

The Historic Custom House Plaza is located between the Portola Plaza Hotel and Fisherman’s Wharf

The Custom House in Monterey California is known as the oldest government building in California. This structure was built by the Spaniards who chose the Monterey as their capital of what was named Alta California. The Custom House was in existence by 1827 but deteriorated and was replaced by a larger structure in 1841. Monterey was at one time the only port of entry in what was then called Alta California.  
The Monterey Custom House  also has great historical significance by the fact that the United States flag was raised over it by Commodore John Drake Sloat on July 7,1846 thus claiming the territory of Alta California for the U.S. as a result of the Mexican-American War.

Whale Watching Off Monterey California

california whale watching trips

Whale watching excursions

The area in and around Monterey, California offers spots along the shoreline where whales can be observed. The following explains why the Monterey region is so popular for whale watching…

The Pacific Ocean off Monterey California and Monterey Bay is a natural marine habitat. In fact, the water is so deep just off the coast at this location that the area is often referred to as the Grand Canyon of the Pacific Ocean. The depth reaches close to 5,800 feet. These submarine canyons, and there are several within this larger one, extend from shallow waters of the continental shelf to the deep sea and contain a very wide range of habitats and because of this an incredible diversity of organisms.Among these are the Pacific gray whale.

There are also opportunities to go out in the Pacific Ocean for whale watching expeditions off Monterey. There are several excellent whale watching cruise tours offered from Monterey harbor and they are worth taking.

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Enjoy Historic Mission San Juan Bautista

The Historic Santa Cruz Boardwalk

Cannery Row

cannery row monterey

Cannery Row

Cannery Row in Monterey takes you back to the days when Monterey’s main industry was seafood fishing and canning. The Chinese actually began fishing the waters of Monterey Bay during the 1850’s soon after California became a state.

At first the catches would include abalone and later several varieties of fish including cod, halibut, flounder, yellowtail, sardines, squid, shark, oysters and mussels. Later in the 1800’s Italian fisherman migrated to the area and competed with the Chinese.

Monterey, California is a Must Travel Stop

Above are just a few of the many things to see and do in Monterey. The Pacific Coast in the Monterey area is absolutely beautiful. No matter how many times you may have visited the area, the scenery never gets old.

things to do in monterey california

Monterey Harbor

In addition to the attractions explored in this article is a terrific line up of restaurants both in Monterey and nearby Carmel-By-The-Sea. Carmel is just a few miles from Monterey and most visitors take in Carmel and Monterey together.

The beaches and coastal terrain gives you some of the best scenery in California. The entire  area also has hotels that can accommodate most travel budgets.

The beautiful scenery along with a small town feel is what brings many people back to Monterey on a regular basis.

(Article and photos copyright Trips Into History)


Your La Jolla, California Getaway / Scenic and Much More

The Land of Today’s La Jolla Dates Way back

What today is a beautiful tourist destination was at one time home to Native Americans. Artifacts found in and around La Jolla, California tell us that Native Americans settled along the Pacific shoreline nearly 10,000 years ago. Archaeologists have found stone utensils and other Indian artifacts for many years.

la jolla photosWhat happened to the native Americans who called this area home is an unanswered question. Did they migrate nearby? Did they move further south perhaps into Mexico? Answers to these questions still remain a mystery.

La Jolla Becomes Part of San Diego

The area around La Jolla was made part of San Diego in 1850. This would have been about 80 years after Father Junipero Serra built his mission in San Diego which was the first Spanish mission built in California, then called Alta California.  At the time San Diego took over La Jolla there were no permanent settlers in this section of land. It wasn’t until 19 years later  when two brothers, Daniel and Samuel Sizer, each bought a plot here. The plots sold were 80 acres in size and cost $1.25 per acre. This was quite a long time ago but regardless who would have imagined that an acre today in La Jolla would be priced in the millions?

la jolla coastline

Sea birds gather along the La Jolla coastline

Railroads Mean Growth

The railroad made it’s way to La Jolla, California in the 1880’s. This represented a milestone for La Jolla. Whenever the railroad laid tracks to a town the result was growth and typically large growth. The railroad was the catalyst for aggressive development including that of sea side resorts that would lure travelers from San Diego and inland communities. As an example, La Jolla Park Hotel opened its doors in 1893 and cottage-style homes were built along Prospect Street and Girard Avenue.

In 1900 La Jolla, California counted about 350 permanent residents. For the next twenty years La Jolla solidified it’s tourism appeal and tourism became it’s number one economic driver and remains so today.

La Jolla became known as an artist colony during this early 20th century period. The community was also fortunate to have newspaper heiress Ellen Browning Scripps settle there. Scripps used her wealth to help further La Jolla’s cultural base. In La Jolla, San Diego proper and in parts of southern California in general, her name is on numerous landmarks and institutions. One such well known institution is the Scripps Institute of Oceanography and Ellen Browning Scripps Park.

Today’s La Jolla Attractions

Many refer to La Jolla as the jewel of San Diego. This is probably a pretty accurate description. La Jolla rests atop the bluffs that overlook the Pacific Ocean. This world famous tourist destination and jewel of San Diego has attracted millions over the years, and continues to do so to this very day.

What to expect with La Jolla is a small town feel, some of the finest ocean and coastal mountain views anywhere in southern California and an easy to access coastline. Put these all together and you have one magnificent attraction.

Beaches, Restaurants and Shopping / Something For Everyone

The three main areas of interest for La Jolla visitors is the beautiful beach, the variety of unique restaurants, and the top notch shopping. Home to some of the best coastline in southern California, La Jolla offers beach goers the opportunity to play, relax, and just enjoy the sun on some of the finest beaches that even rival those found in Hawaii for their seclusion and serenity.

la jolla california coastlineFrom the long white sand of La Jolla Shores to the quiet and relaxing beach off Marine Street, you’ll have plenty of space to find your very own piece of southern California paradise.

La Jolla restaurants are world class and boast of having some of the finest chefs and up coming chefs in the U.S. Because La Jolla enjoys a year round growing season, these chefs have easy access to some of the finest food products found anywhere and that translates to some of the best meals you’ll ever enjoy.

You may enjoy these additional San Diego articles from our Western Trips website…

Coronado Island and the Historic Hotel del Coronado

The Oldest Building in San Diego Located in Old Town

For those who want to check out the shopping, many say that La Jolla offers some of the most unique shopping found anywhere. It’s been said that La Jolla shopping is the choice of celebrities and bargain-hunters alike. From the world’s most luxurious brands to everyday values.

la jolla attractions

La Jolla street leading to the coastline

La Jolla is a community to visit for a vacation, a great weekend getaway or if need be, just for a fun and relaxing day.  If you have to pick a season in an area that has four excellent seasons, summer is probably the best time to visit, as the beaches there are truly beautiful. Looking for a trip destination out of the ordinary and one with great photo opportunities, you may want to consider La Jolla, California. For more details of dining choices and shopping see website…

(Article and photos copyright 2015 Trips Into History)

Why We Need To Save Our Historic Post Office Buildings

While traveling around the U.S. many historic sites include old post office buildings. The historic appeal of some of these structures has to do with their architectural style, the era in which they were constructed and some of the unique artwork found on their walls and ceilings.

bronx post office

Bronx Post Office Bldg

While these buildings were built to handle mail, some indeed are more like living museums and are important to a communities history. Some are in historic districts and are visited by tourists.

The USPS idea of selling off post office buildings has met with solid opposition from preservation groups from coast to coast. The sales were going to go ahead without adequate time for public comment and fortunately this opposition has had some positive effect.

The Need For Money Meets the Need For Historic Preservation

The USPS has been putting post office buildings, many quite historic, on the selling block  along with an effort to cut back mail delivery to five days a week to help save an estimated $20 billion over the next several years. Their plan to sell some of the larger buildings raises cash faster but the downside of course is that many of the larger facilities have a lot of history attached to them.

old philadelphia post office

Old Philadelphia Main Post Office Building

Architecture Heritage At Risk

Local post office buildings have traditionally played an essential role in the lives of millions of Americans. Many are architecturally distinctive, prominently located, and cherished as civic icons in communities across the country.

Unless the U.S. Postal Service establishes a clear, consistent process that follows federal preservation law when considering disposal of these buildings, a large part of the nation’s architectural heritage will be at risk.

What is key in this controversy are the historic buildings planned for sale and the fact that some are planned for sale to developers. The U.S. Postal Service is required to take several steps before actually selling a building. After announcing their intent to sell a property, it is required to hold a public meeting and a comment period for feedback.

houma louisiana post office

Houma Louisiana Post Office constructed in 1935

Only after this is completed is the USPS allowed to make a final decision about selling. In this respect, some in the opposition feel that due process has been worked around. Others protest the dual roles that developers have had in the actual sale of buildings. On the flip side of this and a major concern for the USPS, holding on to an old building no matter how historic it might be requires a lot of funds for it’s upkeep.

Bronx General Post Office

One very historic structure is the Bronx General Post Office, and it’s beautiful murals  by artists Ben Shahn and Bernarda Bryson Shahn which, was built during the Great Depression as part of President Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal. The USPS believes that the Bronx Post Office has a value of around $14 million. The building went on the market in January 2014.

It was announced in September 2014 that Youngwoo & Associates has purchased the historic Bronx General Post Office.

Berkeley California Post Office Building

The Berkeley Post Office building is located within the city’s Civic Center Historic District and was built in 1914-1915 in the Renaissance Revival-style. The historic post office lobby has a mural by Suzanne Scheuer depicting Berkeley’s history and a limestone bas-relief by David Slivka on the exterior arcade wall are two examples of New Deal-era works of art.

In regards to the building’s sale, Berkeley residents have shown up in droves to city council meetings and hearings with the postal service to voice their concerns. Some city officials, including Mayor Tom Bates, have thrown their support behind efforts to fight the sale of this iconic Berkeley California structure.

As of September 9, 2014, The Berkeley City Council passed a Zoning Overlay.  After a second reading at the next Council meeting, the Zoning Overlay Ordinance will become law. The Berkeley Zoning Overlay provides protections for the Post Office, Old City Hall, and our historic Civic Center against commercial development.

Philadelphia Main Post Office

This very historic post office building in Philadelphia was sold to the University of Pennsylvania for $50.6 million.  now is planning to sell the iconic building to Brandywine Realty Trust, owner of the nearby Cira Centre, for $20 million.

Brandywine Realty Trust completed a $252 million renovation of Philadelphia’s 30th Street Main Post Office, converting the building into office space. While taking on one of the largest historic rehabilitation projects in the nation, Brandywine modernized and retrofitted the building while maintaining its designation as a national historic site.

Brandywine also built a $90 million parking garage to support the new office space, and serve future development.

berkely california historic post office

Beautiful architecture of the Berkeley Post Office Bldg constructed in 1914-15

The National Trust For Historic Preservation

The National Trust For Historic Preservation has outlined goals regarding the sale of post office buildings. These are as follows…

  • Work directly with the U.S. Postal Service and other federal agencies to develop a consistent,  public process that follows established federal preservation law and protects those historic post office buildings identified for closure or sale.
  • Promote and support successful advocacy campaigns for saving post offices around the country.
  • Identify and encourage sensitive and appropriate reuses for post office buildings.
  • Support policy and legal solutions that encourage the preservation and reuse of post offices nationwide.

For more information on the status of post office building sales, see website

You may also enjoy our Trips Into History articles on the links below…

The Historic Carnegie Libraries

Barrio de Analco and America’s Oldest House

While the USPS has an urgent need to cut losses and raise money, we believe that the sale of old post office buildings, particularly one’s that have high historic value, must be approached with preservation concerns high on the list.

(Article copyright 2014 Trips Into History. Photos in the public domain)


Pacific Coast Lighthouses / Point Pinos

Historic Point Pinos Lighthouse

If your travels take you to the beautiful Monterey Peninsula in California, you’ll want to add a visit to the Point Pinos Lighthouse to your west coast trip planner.

This area of California is uniquely scenic and draws tourists from the world over. Monterey California and the Monterey Peninsula offers some of the best golf found anywhere in the world, a tremendous selection of restaurants, whale watching and historic sites and a Spanish mission. To be sure there’s plenty to see and do there and a visit to Point Pinos is one of those attractions.

point pinos lighthouse

Point Pinos Lighthouse

Point Pinos has the distinction of being the oldest continuously operating lighthouse on the West Coast. The lighthouse was built with a round concrete tower rising from the roof of a 1-1/2 story stone Cape Cod type house.The beacon began operating on February 1, 1855.

The California coast is rocky and the Point Pinos Lighthouse beacon has flashed for well over 150 years giving warning to shipping off those rocky shores. In  2006, ownership of the lighthouse was transferred from the Coast Guard to the City of Pacific Grove.The lighthouse has been beautifully restored and is now maintained by the Pacific Grove Historical Society.

The Pacific Coast Lighthouses

The United States took possession of California from Mexico as the result of the Mexican-American War during the 1840’s. It’s interesting to note just how relatively soon after the takeover that Point Pinos was established. Alcatraz actually was the first California lighthouse established in 1852. The lighthouse, also built in a Cape Cod style, was damaged during the 1906 earthquake, rebuilt as a tower, and today is an automated beacon.

fresnel third degree lens

The third order Fresnel lens on the Point Pinos Light.

Shipping of course increased dramatically due to the California Golf Rush. The only way to reach the gold fields from the east coast was either an overland journey that could prove quite lethal for many reasons or by ship either around Cape Horn or to Panama and through the dangerous jungles to a port on the Pacific side. From there it was a journey up the western coastline.

This influx of shipping and the general growth of California made it clear that lighthouses were needed.

A Series of California Coast Lighthouses

The California coast lighthouses were built at the most dangerous points along the coast. Lighthouses actually evolved from single lights in homeowners’ windows to fully-automated, independent structures on prominent peninsulas and sea cliffs.

Below is a list of just a few of the magnificent California lighthouses you can still visit today.

In addition to Alcatraz and Point Pinos, another California lighthouse of note is Battery Point near Crescent City and the Oregon border. Built in 1856, Battery Point was important to protect lumber shipping destined to San Francisco from the northwest forests.

point pinos pacific grove california

An old buoy exhibit at the Point Pinos Lighthouse

Another California lighthouse on the coast north of San Francisco is Point Arena. Point Arena Light was built in 1870 and is located on a narrow strip of land that juts out into a portion of the Pacific Ocean filled with dangerous reefs. Point Arena light was automated in 1977. Today you can visit Point Arena Lighthouse which is privately owned and tour the light and enjoy their historical museum. The address is 45500 Lighthouse Road
Point Arena, CA.

The Point Reyes Lighthouse is located on the Point Reyes headlands which jut out into the Pacific Ocean about ten miles. This site is considered to be one of the windiest points on the California coast. Point Reyes is just north of San Francisco which meant that many vessels had to navigate around this headland. Reportedly there have been some eighty shipwrecks off the point which had been very dangerous to mariners for over 100 years. Before the Point Reyes lighthouse could even be built, a suitable flat site was blasted out of the rock about 300 feet below the cliff. The Point Reyes Lighthouse is located within the Point Reyes National Seashore.

According to the National Park Service, Point Reyes is the windiest place on the Pacific Coast and the second foggiest place on the North American continent.

See More Historic California Travel articles from our Western Trips site on the links below…

Point Reyes National Seashore

Mission San Juan Bautista on the Old Spanish Trail

A Visit to Carmel-By-The-Sea

A Visit to the Gatekeeper’s Museum / Tahoe City CA

point lobos shoreline

A look at the rocky Pacific coast shoreline from Point Lobos

The Los Pinos Fresnel Lens and Light Sources

The lens at the Point Pinos Lighthouse was manufactured in France in 1853 and is a third order Fresnel. A larger, second order light had been planned, but delay in shipment caused the present light, originally destined for the Fort Point Lighthouse in San Francisco, to be installed instead. The first light source was a whale oil lantern in which the oil was forced up from a tank by a gravity-operated piston. Lard oil soon replaced whale oil and then the light source became kerosene in 1880. Electric lights appeared there in 1915.

The Point Pinos light is 89 feet above sea level. The present 1000 watt bulb is amplified by the lenses and prisms to produce a 50,000 candlepower beam. Reportedly the light can be seen up to 15 miles under good conditions. In addition, a Class D radio beacon operated continuously which had a range of up to 20 miles. The light also had a fog horn which could be turned on manually. In 1993, when GPS navigation came about, the radio beacon and the foghorn were deactivated.

(Article and photos copyright 2014 Trips Into History)

Unique San Francisco Bay Area Attractions

Unique San Francisco Bay Area Attractions

fort point california

Fort Point

Fort Point

If you’re making a list of things to do in San Francisco California area you’ll make a good choice by adding a stop at Fort Point to your itinerary. Fort Point is one of the most unique historical sites the the United States. The Fort has been called “the pride of the Pacific,” “the Gibraltar of the West Coast,” and “one of the most perfect models of masonry in America.”

Where this fort is located could not be more unique. The site of Fort Point is directly under the south end of the Golden Gate Bridge and in the Golden Gate National Parks area. While visiting Fort Point just look up and you’ll see the bottom of the bridge’s south end. Probably one of the most unique views you’ll ever have.

To drive to Fort Point from the city or from points south, take Highway 101 north and exit right at the Golden Gate Bridge toll plaza before getting on bridge. Turn right at end of exit ramp and then left onto Lincoln Boulevard. Take the first left onto Long Avenue and follow onto Marine Drive. Fort Point is at its end.

ford plant richmond ca

Ford plant display section, Richmond CA

Historic Richmond California Ford Plant

San Francisco things to do also include a visit to the old Ford Motor Company Richmond California plant. This is quite a significant historical venue. Richmond is located northeast and across the bay from San Francisco.

The area where the factory building still stands is at Point Richmond right on San Francisco Bay. This assembly plant, designed by Detroit architect Albert Kahn, produced some 49,000 jeeps and 91,000 additional military vehicles to aid America’s war effort during World War Two. The factory measured 500,000 square feet.

When the plant was built in 1930, the plan was to produce about 400 vehicles in an eight hour work shift. Total employment at the assembly plant was planned for 2,600. During the war years the plant’s activity was constant, twenty four hours a day and seven days a week. Since war time work shifts were scheduled one after the other the Ford plant and the Kaiser Shipyard meant that area roads had heavy traffic no matter what time of day.

When the war ended Richmond’s economy took a big hit. First the Kaiser Shipyard closed and then eventually the Ford Motor plant. Ford kept operating the Richmond facility after the war to help satisfy the pent up demand for civilian vehicles. Even so, the last Ford car built at this plant was in 1953 and the Ford plant closed for good in 1956. This of course was another hit to the Richmond economy.

rosie the riveter historic park

Rosie the Riveter

When you visit the old Ford plant today you’ll see that it is located at the Rosie the Riveter WW II Home Front National Historical Park. see the exhibits at the old Ford plant and tour the museum located adjacent to the old Ford plant. The museum has an excellent presentation with numerous exhibits that show and explain how the war effort was handled on the home front by the people who built the vehicles and ships.

Directions to the Rosie the Riveter Visitor Education Center from the San Francisco or Oakland area is as follows. Take I-80 East, then take the I-580 West split after the Gilman St. off ramp. EXIT Harbour Way South, then turn Right onto Cutting Blvd, now make a right at the next stop light onto Harbour Way South and continue for 0.8 miles. Make a left into the gated parking lot passing the guard shack. Follow signs from there ending at Suite #3000. The entrance is on the south side of the building by the water.

mission dolores san francisco

Mission Dolores in San Francisco

Mission Dolores

The settling of California by the Spanish had everything to do with their mission system. From San Diego in the south to Sonoma in the north, the Spanish missions were essential in settling what was then called Alta California.

The building of Mission Dolores in San Francisco came shortly after the Juan Bautista de Anza Expedition of 1776 came to the Bay Area from Mexico with the direct intention of bringing settlers to the area.

De Anza’s expedition essentially first settled what is now the city of San Francisco. When de Anza arrived, his first two tasks were to find a suitable place for both a mission and for a presidio.

There are many interesting facts to know about Mission Dolores San Francisco. The site that de Anza had chosen for the mission was on the banks of a very small rivulet that he named Arroyo de los Dolores. This small stream emptied into a small lake.

Father Francisco Palou who was with the expedition held the first mass in a thatched hut. Later, Father Palou moved the mission to a better site a few blocks away to where it stands today.

The Dolores Mission, where it resides today, was formally dedicated in 1791 and hasn’t changed much since. The quadrangle of the mission was finally completed in 1798, twenty years after the missions founding. The small lake where the stream led was eventually  covered up. Interestingly enough, the lake that was filled in and covered was eventually used for settlement with homes being built upon the land fill. This small section received considerable damage during the 1906 Earthquake.

See the Trips Into History articles on the links below…

Tour the WW II Submarine USS Pampanito

The Last Days of the California Stagecoach

Visit the Cable Car Museum

san francisco maritime park

A Tall ship at the San Francisco Maritime Historical Park

San Francisco National Maritime Historical Park

Today, we’re fortunate to have a great place to visit at San Francisco’s Fishermans Wharf. It’s a place to see both steamboats and old sailing vessels from an earlier era.

The San Francisco National Maritime Historical Park is a very unique site and would be a good addition to your San Francisco vacation or weekend trip.

This maritime park is located in what is perhaps one of the most picturesque part of the United States. The park consists of a fleet of historic vessels, a visitor center, a very interesting maritime museum as well as a library/research facility. The park is located nearby where Hyde Street ends at Fishermans Wharf. The cable car and electric streetcars make it very convenient to get to.

One such early vessel permanently docked at the park is the sidewheeler “Eureka“.  Like many old steamboats the Eureka has a rich history. The Eureka was built in Tiburon in Marin County in 1890. The vessel was first named the “Ukiah” to showcase the San Francisco and North Pacific Railway’s recent extension into the City of Ukiah on California’s north Pacific coast.

The first route for the Eureka was between San Francisco and Tiburon. An interesting construction fact regarding the Eureka was that it was built with a double-end design. This means that cars and people could embark or disembark from either end of the vessel.

Take a glance at the Eureka and you’ll notice that the front and back of the steamboat are identical. This includes pilot house. This new design may have been one of the most revolutionary of the time and certainly made the vessel more versatile.

This vessel which was then name the Ukiah carried troops and rail cars filled with munitions in aiding the World War One effort. Her war service however came with a big price. Transporting the extremely heavy rail cars stressed her hull and she had to be extensively repaired at government expense. During this era the Ukiah was the largest double ended designed vessel in the world. She could carry 2,300 passengers and about 120 cars.

Plenty of very unique and interesting things to do in the San Francisco Bay Area and we wanted to highlight a few of these in this article. We hope you enjoyed the article and had a chance to see the linked articles above which highlight even more good trip stops.

(Article and photos copyright 2014 Trips Into History)