Olympic Naitonal Park; The Cabildo.
Discover Our Shared Heritage Travel Itinerary
American Latino Heritage


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Introduction
National Park Service and American Latino Heritage Essay
List of Sites and Descriptions
Maps (print separately)
Learn More (print separately)
Credits (print separately)

Introduction
The National Park Service and the National Conference of State Historic Preservation Officers invite you to visit units of the National Park System and places listed in the National Register of Historic Places, most of which are National Historic Landmarks, that bring alive American Latino stories illuminating the many diverse ways Latino peoples have contributed to the history and development of the United States. The destinations featured in the American Latino Heritage Discover Our Shared Heritage Travel Itinerary reflect hundreds of years of American Latino heritage from the first Spanish expeditions to the New World and the early settlements to later contributions, struggles for civil rights, and much more. The itinerary offers several ways to discover and experience these historic places:

Descriptions of each featured destination on the List of Sites highlight the significance of the places and their stories, photographs and other illustrations, and information on how to visit.

Essays provide background on The National Park Service and American Latino Heritage and on important American Latino Heritage themes that offer context for understanding places featured in the itinerary and others that are worthy of recognition.  Essays in American Latinos and the Making of the United States:A Theme Study eloquently demonstrate how Latino people have been and continue to be important in “Making the Nation,” “Making a Life,” “Making a Living,” and “Making a Democracy.”

Maps help visitors plan what to see and do and get directions to places to visit.

• A Learn More section provides links to relevant tourism, history, preservation, general information, and other relevant websites. This section also provides a bibliography.

View the itinerary online or print it as a guide if you plan to visit in person. The American Latino Heritage Discover Our Shared Heritage Travel Itinerary, the 55th in this ongoing series, is part of the Department of the Interior’s American Latino Heritage Initiative and the National Park Service’s commitment to connect people to history and encourage visits to national parks and other historic places in the nation. The itineraries are created by a partnership of the National Park Service; the National Conference of State Historic Preservation Officers; and Federal, State, and local governments and private organizations in communities, regions, and heritage areas throughout the United States.  The itineraries help people everywhere learn about and plan trips to visit the amazing diversity of this country’s historic places.  The National Park Service and its partners hope you enjoy this itinerary and others in the series. If you have any comments or questions, please just click on “Comments or Questions” at the bottom of each page.

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National Park Service and American Latino Heritage Essay

The National Park Service preserves unimpaired the natural and cultural resources and values of the national park system for the enjoyment, education, and inspiration of this and future generations. The Park Service cooperates with partners to extend the benefits of natural and cultural resource conservation and outdoor recreation throughout this country and the world.
--The Mission of the National Park Service

There are serious gaps and inadequacies which must be remedied while opportunities still exist if the System is to fulfill the peoples need always to see and understand their heritage of history and the natural world. You should continue your studies to identify gaps in the system and recommend to the areas that would fill them. It is my hope that we can make a significant contribution in rounding out more of the National Park System in these next few years.
--George B. Hartzog, Jr., Director of the National Park Service, 1972

National Park Service and American Latino Heritage Over Time

From its early years, the National Park Service was cognizant that in our nation of immigrants there were stories of people who migrated to North America long before the first Englishman set foot on the eastern shores of what is now the United States. By the middle of the 20th century, the National Park Service reconsidered the notion that prehistory ended, thereby casting cultures that predate the arrival of the first European into oblivion when Europeans came to discover, explore, and establish colonial settlements in North America. The National Park Service also acknowledged that, in the process of the western expansion of the United States in the 19th century, the histories of previous colonizing powers and cultures were subsumed and forgotten. In the 21st century, the National Park Service is committed to expand the telling of our national story by examining the broader global implications of our national experience.

The National Park Service initially focused on Spanish colonial history as the main vehicle to present the Latino heritage story, anchoring the story in a number of small parks across the country that emphasized exploration and missionization of native groups by Franciscan friars. While exploration and missionization were common themes of Spanish colonial history, settlement, which represented the basis of Latino heritage, was largely ignored. The first National Park Service area with a Spanish colonial theme was El Morro National Monument (proclaimed 1906), which emphasized exploration at a time in Latino history when the settlement that began in 1598 in New Mexico represented the major Spanish colonial enterprise. Similarly, Salinas Pueblo Culture National Monument (proclaimed 1909; name change 1980) focused on the missionization of pueblos but did not mention the colonial settlement from which the mission effort emanated--Santa Fe, New Mexico, which the Spanish founded in 1610.

By the mid-20th century, the National Park System included three other parks related to the Latino heritage--Cabrillo National Monument (proclaimed 1913), Coronado National Memorial (authorized 1941), and De Soto National Monument (authorized 1948). These all centered on exploration and conflict between explorers and American Indian tribes in the 16th century. Still, the story of the Latino diaspora and settlement patterns of Spanish North America as a part of our national story went untold.

Well into the 20th century, Spanish colonial history was misunderstood and suffered from the propaganda created in an earlier time and sustained for over four centuries. The main contributor to misconceptions was the Spanish Black Legend, which promoted the notion that Spanish colonials came to exterminate Indians and destroy cultures. Therefore, they were unworthy of any divine blessings or human acknowledgement. The Spanish Black Legend contributed to the diminished role of Latinos in our national story. Spawned in the 16th-century Spanish-English rivalry that ended in England winning the war of propaganda, the Black Legend perpetuated negative stereotypical notions about Spain and its people who settled the Americas. Thus, the dichotomy of England as the good empire and Spain as the evil empire emerged in American lore, history, and literature.

Negative beliefs about Spain prevailed and became embedded in U.S. history textbooks. Very little in textbooks revealed much about Spanish colonial enterprises, settlement, and governance other than the role of exploration and conquest in our national story. Textbooks do not mention that the Spanish established the “town meeting,” called the cabildo, as early as 1509 in Puerto Rico and other areas in the Caribbean; Mexico City in 1525; San Agustín, Florida in 1565-1570, and New Mexico in 1598-- long before the House of Burgesses in Virginia or the New England Town Meeting. The Palace of the Governors in Santa Fe, New Mexico's third capital, housed the cabildo from 1610 to the end of the Spanish Period in 1821.

History books influenced a resurgence of the 16th century propaganda in negatively narrating the histories of the Battle of the Alamo (1836), the Mexican War (1846-48), and the Spanish-American War (1898). Such biases are reflected in issues dealing with immigration from Mexico or Latin America. The writing of the history of Spanish colonialism through the lens of Spanish Black Legend stereotypes has had a negative influence on how Latino heritage is viewed. Understanding the underpinnings of negative views of Latino history and heritage in the past contributes to a more positive approach and appreciation of a people who have participated in the local, regional, and national historical process of the development of North America from the earliest European migrations across the Atlantic that began over 500 years ago. Latino heritage and culture are not monolithic. Interpreting the American Latino heritage is ever more challenging when one considers that the Latino culture has many faces basically comprised of five heritages inclusive of Spanish, Indian, African, Asian, and Anglo-American. To make the American Latino heritage national story accessible, relevant, and inclusive, the interpretation of the Latino heritage at National Parks, National Historic Landmarks, National Heritage Areas, and at other historic places requires an understanding of what the Latino identity and experience are in the diverse ethnic and geographical sections of the United States.

In 1992, the commemoration of the 500th anniversary of Christopher Columbus' first voyage evoked both negative and positive responses. The National Park Service responded positively by preparing for the event and creating the Spanish Colonial Research Center at the University of New Mexico campus in Albuquerque, New Mexico, to conduct research in international archives; develop a database of archival materials; produce publications; establish Spanish-language translation services for National Parks, sister agencies, and local entities; and carry out training courses for interpreters and public events. Translations have made National Parks more welcoming and accessible and encouraged the visitor to learn about the American heritage in all of its dimensions. During the 1990s, the Spanish Colonial Research Center nurtured an Hispanic consciousness within the National Park Service. National Parks associated with Spanish colonial themes became more relevant, fair, inclusive, and accessible through the narration of the Spanish colonial legacy as part of our national experience.

That legacy must be expanded to include the rest of the Latino heritage in American history. Of nearly 400 National Parks, 194 have a direct or indirect association with the American Latino heritage experience. At least four National Historic Trails tell the story of Latino settlement along historic routes between Texas and California: the Camino Real de Tierra Adentro (Royal Road of the Interior), Camino Real de los Tejas (Texas), Old Spanish Trail, and the Anza Trail. Many National Parks, National Historic Trails, National Heritage Areas, and National Historic Landmarks carry or potentially could interpret Latino heritage themes. In addition, historic sites in communities throughout the nation illustrate the important role of Latino people in the American story. Some of them already are in our National Register of Historic Places, which the National Park Service expands and maintains for the nation. Many more are worthy of recognition. Visitors to these historic places can experience Latino heritage as a part of our national story running from the Spanish colonial period, through 19th- and 20th-century events to the present.

Today, the National Park Service is exploring the American Latino heritage experience in both the 19th- and 20th-centuries that represents the broad participation and contributions of Latinos in our national story. National Parks that deal with the Spanish colonial period outnumber those that illustrate any other period of the history of the Latino heritage and experience and too few historic sites that illustrate the breadth of Latino heritage are designated as National Historic Landmarks or listed in the National Register. In order to expand the commemoration of the Latino experience as an integral part of our national story, the National Park Service has developed a special American Latino Heritage Theme Study to enhance current approaches taken to tell about the Latino experience in America. The theme study also serves as a plan to sustain new topics related to the nation’s Latino heritage and assists and encourages the identification, recognition, and understanding of historic places that tell the breadth of the Latino heritage story.

The American Latino Theme Study encourages the NPS and other agencies to define a balanced and complete representation of the nation's Latino heritage. Written by a team of noted scholars, the Latino Theme Study serves as an aid to identify "gaps" that presently exist in the units of the National Park System and in the designation of National Historic Landmarks related to Latino heritage. The theme study also helps interested people in identifying other historic places that are worthy of National Register listing in communities throughout the nation. In the long run, areas associated with Latino heritage themes that are presently outside the National Park Service could potentially be added to the National Park Service System, be designated National Historic Landmarks, and be listed in the National Register. To that end, the National Park Service encourages the public to assist in identifying historic places associated with the American Latino heritage that may be eligible for the National Register or for designation as National Historic Landmarks.

The history of the Latino heritage began with the European discovery of the New World by Christopher Columbus, which introduced European cultural traditions including language, law, governance, religion, lore, science, technology, and a literary tradition to the Americas based on values developed throughout the history of western civilization. Beginning with Columbus' journals and correspondence concerning his four voyages, a written tradition quickly grew in the Americas. Literally millions of pages of documents; maps; and artistic sketches of flora, fauna, and Native Americans of North America can be found in the archives and depositories of Spain, Mexico, the Caribbean, and the United States. From Columbus' first voyage to the end of the colonial period, Spanish place names dotted colonial maps of the Western Hemisphere. As towns were established, roads, walls, bridges, and buildings were among the many structures built in the New World. The Spanish Empire extended from Alaska to the Strait of Magellan and from North Africa across the Americas to the Philippines. In North America, particularly the area of present-day United States, the Spanish colonial heritage dates to the earliest exploration of the Atlantic seaboard. The development of the historical patrimony of North America paralleled the successive national expansions by Spain, England, France, and the United States. Spain's pioneering frontier movement in North America grew out of the conquest of Cuba and the islands in the Caribbean in the east and Mexico on the mainland.

The list of States in the United States with Hispanic cultural and historical influence is impressive. The Spanish Empire significantly touched a vast area stretching along the California coast past Oregon, Washington, and Alaska. In the interior Nevada, Utah, Colorado, Oklahoma, Kansas, Nebraska, Missouri, and Louisiana formed a large trade network centered in the Spanish settlements of Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas. Spanish occupation of the Louisiana-Florida frontier influenced trade along the Mississippi River from New Orleans to Arkansas Post and St. Louis. Virginia and the Carolinas are not without their Hispanic past, for explorers and missionaries were among the first Europeans to touch their shores. Similarly, far from the continental United States, the Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, Hawaii, and Guam share varying degrees of the same Hispanic heritage. In many cases, history, ethnic composition, place names, linguistics, and cultural manifestations are a part of the Latino legacy that Spanish colonialism in North America spawned. Because of Spanish colonialism, the United States shares a common heritage with the rest of the Western Hemisphere.

The Caribbean Diaspora in the 15th Century

Among the areas Columbus discovered during his second voyage (1493-96), the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico are the oldest American possessions in the historical patrimony of the United States. Salt River Bay near Christiansted National Historic Site is associated with Columbus' discovery of Isla Santa Cruz (St. Croix) on November 1, 1493. There, a party of Columbus' men returning from explorations ashore attacked a group of Caribs in a canoe. The encounter is believed to be the second armed conflict between Europeans and Native Americans, the first being the battle fought at La Navidad on Española by Columbus' men, who spent a year there after the wreck of the Santa María in December 1492. In that encounter, the natives nearly wiped out the Spaniards. In 1509, Juan Ponce de León, first governor of Puerto Rico, negotiated a treaty with the Caribs on St. Croix with intentions of securing their cooperation in providing agricultural produce. A Spanish ship's crew breached the good will when they attempted to enslave a group of Caribs and triggered a war that spread throughout the Antilles. The Spanish attack on the Caribs on St. Croix began their gradual abandonment of the island by 1600. In the next two centuries, other European powers occupied it.

Before establishing mainland colonies, Spain first settled the larger Caribbean islands--Española, Puerto Rico, Jamaica, and Cuba. In 1508, Juan Ponce de León re-explored Puerto Rico and within a year obtained a patent for the conquest and settlement of the island. In 1511, he laid the foundations for the establishment of San Juan, one of the oldest European cities in the Americas. Two years later, however, relieved of his governorship, Ponce de León embarked on another quest for fame and riches in Florida.

The Spanish formally established San Juan, Puerto Rico in 1521, ten years after establishing themselves on the island. The historic district of San Juan represents one of the longest colonial periods in the Western Hemisphere, for the Spanish claim to the island extended from 1493 to 1898. The Spanish constructed the massive coastal fortifications of San Juan to repel European invaders during the age of sail. In the Spanish-American War of 1898, steam-propelled vessels from the United States captured the island and Puerto Rico became one of its territorial possessions.

The Spanish Claim to Florida, Georgia, and the Carolinas, 1513-1821

Engrossed in home affairs, European rivals were not immediately prepared to embark on colonial enterprises to contest Spain's right of first priority. Spain's effective claim to Florida began with Juan Ponce de León's discovery and naming of the flowery peninsula in 1513. Ponce de León led the first European expedition to the Dry Tortugas, today commemorated at Fort Jefferson.

In the centuries that followed, much shipping passed the Tortugas and a number of Spanish vessels foundered or wrecked in the area. The significant discovery of the Atlantic Gulf Stream by Antonio de Alaminos, who had piloted Columbus' ships on his fourth voyage to Veragua (1502-1504) and later served as pilot major of the fleet under Ponce de León, made Havana a major port of assembly and Florida a strategic stopping place. The current runs through the Florida Strait into the Bahama Channel past the Carolina coast, eastward to the high seas, where it forks in two directions on its way to the Azores and Norway. Once in the Azores, Spanish ships refitted and returned to Spain. Corsairs of Spain's rivals quickly became aware of Spain's richly laden galleons passing through the Florida Strait and moved to occupy the many hideouts in the Bahama Islands. From there they attacked Spanish ships as they toiled through the narrows to pick up the current.  Spain was unable to eliminate the pirate menace in the area, and eventually resorted to using the convoy system to guide the galleons through safely.

As in other parts of the Florida peninsula, Spanish explorers were active along the coast north and south of Cape Canaveral and Biscayne. In the early 16th century, Spanish explorers near Biscayne were unable to dominate the Tequesta tribe. Biscayne National Park interprets Spanish-Tequesta relations, demonstrating that the European presence may have led to political consolidation among them and that Spanish goods, acquired through trade or from coastal shipwrecks or raids against Spanish settlers, were a valuable contribution to their material culture. The Spanish attempt to establish a mission north of the present-day Biscayne in the late 16th century failed because the Tequesta were hostile to it. By the mid-17th century, the Tequesta were experiencing a decline caused by Creek raids and European diseases.

Spain's claim to Florida was long-standing and costly, because the Indians of Florida destroyed nearly every expedition (entrada) between 1513 and 1568. Of approximately 80 men who went with Juan Ponce de León to conquer Florida, nearly all died in battle or from wounds, including the entrada's leader. The 1526 Carolina expedition of Lucas Vázquez de Ayllón, who likewise died at the hands of the Floridians, lost all 220 men to warfare, starvation, and drowning at sea as they sought to escape from Florida. Pánfilo de Narváez lost his life and all but five of his 400 men in the 1528 expedition that spent most of its time escaping from Florida.

In 1539, Hernando de Soto led 1000 men to Florida; fewer than 300 men survived.  Soto himself, nearly beaten to death by an Indian chieftain who had feigned friendship, later died from an unknown sickness, and his men laid him to rest in a watery grave in the Mississippi River. De Soto National Memorial marks the generally accepted landing place of the expedition into what is now the southern United States. This expedition was the first to make contact with many Indian groups and to measure the invaluable resources of the area extending from Florida to the Mississippi River and beyond to eastern Texas. Nearly every missionary who went to Florida during that period achieved martyrdom.  Although meeting with disaster, the first European attempts to expand onto North America represented the first steps leading to the eventual European settlement of the continent.

In 1562 and 1564, the French attempt to establish a colony on the Florida coast likewise failed. Commemorated at Fort Caroline National Memorial in Florida, the French story had a similar ending to that of the many Spanish efforts. When the French constructed their fort among the Timucua Indians, trouble developed between them dooming the French enterprise. Meanwhile, to combat the French threat, Pedro Menéndez de Avilés sailed from Cuba in 1565 and founded the settlement and fort of San Agustín, the oldest colonial city within the limits of the United States. In 1565, Spanish troops from the newly established Castillo de San Marcos marched against Fort Caroline and took it and the surrounding settlements.

The Spanish hold on Florida increased in the next century to such an extent that in the early 1740s, it magnified the strategic importance of San Agustín in the Spanish-English struggle to control the area.  At the site of the fort the Spanish constructed that year south of San Agustín, Fort Matanzas National Monument commemorates the English attempt to overpower the hard fought Spanish control of Florida.  Spanish efforts to consolidate their power also resulted in the sporadic Spanish occupation of Cumberland Island by the middle of the 16th century. Cumberland Island National Seashore interprets the story of Spanish interest in the area, for the island played a role in the contest between the Spanish and English for possession of Georgia before George Oglethorpe established his Georgian "buffer colony" in 1732.

In 1736, Englishmen established themselves along the Georgia coast at Fort Frederica to block Spanish occupation of the region. The English sought to ally themselves with various Indian tribes against the Spanish, who viewed such alliances as a threat. In early 1740, Oglethorpe attempted to capture Florida and unsuccessfully laid siege to San Agustín. In June 1742, the Spanish retaliatory attack on Fort Frederica by sea floundered. At Bloody Marsh, the English forced the Spanish to retreat. Fort Frederica was known as “Gualquini” in Spanish documents. Today, Fort Frederica National Monument tells the story of the Spanish-English struggle for control over North America.

Early Spanish Colonial Interests in the Gulf Coast

The Atlantic coast of Spanish Florida represented only a small but important claim to a vast region. The European related history of the Gulf Coast dates from the Age of Discovery and covers an immense area, for the Spanish claim included the western coast of Florida that ran from the tip of the peninsula around to Tampa Bay, Pensacola, Mobile, the Mississippi Delta, and the Texas coast past Padre Island to the mouth of the Río Grande. In 1519, Alonso de Pineda explored and mapped the Gulf Coast from Texas to Florida. Among the many estuaries he discovered were those of the Río Grande and the Mississippi. Pineda was the first European to see Padre Island, off the Texas coast.

Padre Island National Seashore preserves the story of Europeans and Native Americans within the context of its mandate to conserve the natural beauty of the island inside the park boundary. Members of the shipwrecked expedition of Pánfilo de Narváez, in particular Cabeza de Vaca, were the first Spaniards to live among the Coahuiltecan tribes of Padre Island and the coast. Subsequently, in the 18th century, Spanish missionaries attempted to convert the various Coahuiltecan bands as well as Caddoan and Karankawan tribes in the area through missions established on the mainland.

Although the Spanish designed their mission program to protect the Coahuiltecans from stronger tribes, it also in many ways contributed to their decline. By 1850, the Coahuiltecan bands had all but disappeared from Texas due largely to warfare with the Lipan Apache and Comanche tribes and to Governor Mirabeau Bonaparte Lamar’s extermination policies during the period of the Lone Star Republic. In the end, the survivors of the Coahuiltecan bands chose to live south of the Río Grande.

Padre Island’s history in the 17th and 18th centuries took a peculiar twist. Known as Isla Malaquita in the 17th century and sometimes as Isla Blanca or Santiago in the 18th and 19th centuries, it became known as Isla del Padre or the Padre Island Grant, and finally, Padre Island. Sometime in the late 18th century, Spain granted the extensive island then known as Santiago to a Friar Nicolas Balli, a Franciscan, and his nephew, Juan José Balli, who lived in the lower Río Grande. The grant covered the entire island, the northern half owned by Padre Balli and the southern half by his nephew Juan José Balli. Padre Balli used the grant to raise stock.

During the War for Mexican Independence (1810-1821), Padre Balli fled to Santiago. After the revolution, he requested the new government to validate his grant. Although the governor of Tamaulipas approved the grant in 1829, Padre Balli passed away during the proceedings, which had taken two years. Consequently, his half of the grant went in a bequest to the children of his brother, José María Balli. Meanwhile, the Texas Rebellion of 1836 had taken place and the grant had to be proven anew. In 1850, Padre Balli and his nephew received a certification that they had properly obtained title from Mexican officials. After two years of deliberation, the State of Texas confirmed the Padre Island Grant on November 10, 1852.

The discovery of oil and gas underneath the island sparked litigation over the grant. The State of Texas contended that the heirs did not have a survey and plats drawn up and did not send field notes to the General Land Office in accordance with the Constitution of 1876. As a result, the State of Texas argued that the Ballis' claim "shall be forever barred." Finally, in 1944, after a lengthy court battle, title to the entire Padre Island Grant was awarded to Alberto Balli et al--heirs of Padre Balli and his nephew Juan José Balli. The Ballis were at last free to dispose of the grant as they wished.

There are many histories to be told of the Gulf region. Gulf Islands National Seashore preserves the natural beauty of most of the old Spanish claim and retells the story of the Spanish-French struggle for dominance of the region. In 1698, a French expedition under Pierre Le Moyne, Sieur d' Iberville, left Brest, France, with four ships. Arriving at the mouth of the Mississippi, he sailed eastward and founded a small post at Biloxi. He went back to France to report that the British traders had made tremendous gains among the Indians, who now posed a dangerous threat to French designs on the area.

Returning in 1699, he established Ship Island as a base of operations for exploration of the present-day Louisiana-Mississippi coast. French interest in the area revived Spanish plans to occupy the Louisiana frontier. In the next century, the Bourbon Family Pact between France and Spain made it possible, for Spanish occupation of Louisiana lasted nearly forty years beginning in1763. Aside from interpreting the historic international rivalry between French, English, and Spanish frontiersmen, Gulf Islands National Seashore in Florida and Mississippi preserves Spanish fortifications that were important outposts for Spanish domination of the Caribbean.

The Spanish-Franco-Anglo Struggle for Control of the Mississippi Valley

The history of the interior of Florida, a land stretching from the Georgia-Florida coast to the Mississippi River, formed part of the diplomacy between European powers, the United States, and the American Indians of the area. Although Europeans competed for many frontier areas in North America, the Mississippi River Valley and its adjacent territories became a focal point for control in the late 18th century. Natchez Trace National Parkway preserves the story of an Indian trade route and the many cultures that used it before the contact period and of its later use for Spanish, French, and Anglo-American trade and military ventures. For three decades of early Anglo-American expansion westward in the beginning of the 19th century, it was the main route linking Natchez and Nashville.

Jean Lafitte National Historical Park in New Orleans, Louisiana; Arkansas Post National Memorial in Gillette, Arkansas; and Jefferson National Expansion Memorial in St. Louis, Missouri interpret a broad history of Spanish interest in the Mississippi River and Anglo-American westward expansion. By dint of the Treaty of Paris in 1763, the Spanish took formal possession of New Orleans.

The Spanish tenure at New Orleans was marked with the administration of a multi-ethnic frontier composed of Frenchmen, Cajuns (Acadian refugees from French Canada) and Métis, various Indian tribes, Anglo-Americans, and Black runaway slaves from the United States as well as Spaniards, Canary Islanders, and Caribbean Blacks who served in the Spanish army. The Spanish improved the commercial interests in Louisiana and rebuilt the wooden French Quarter with stone after it burned down in the middle 1790s. The Cathedral, the Cabildo, the Plaza de Armas in present-day Jackson Square and other buildings in New Orleans represent the peak of Spanish colonial administration of the Mississippi Valley. Under provisions of the Louisiana Purchase in 1803, New Orleans became part of the United States. In regard to its Spanish colonial heritage, the multi-cultural theme at Jean Lafitte Historical Park is ironically underscored by the fact that the Battle of New Orleans in 1815, during the War of 1812, took place on Juan Rodríguez's plantation. Rodriguez, a plantation owner, also traded in the Caribbean and, at one time, was an associate of Jean Lafitte.

Likewise, the Spanish occupation of San Luis de los Ilinueses (St. Louis) resulted in a history of diplomacy and commerce as the United States expanded toward the Mississippi. Arkansas Post, too, was part of a large Spanish trade network begun by French coureurs de bois among the many Indian tribes along the Mississippi-Missouri-Arkansas river drainages. Arkansas Post National Memorial commemorates the establishment of the 1686 French trading post near the confluence of the Mississippi and Arkansas rivers. After France transferred Louisiana to Spain, the trading post continued to serve as a point of contact among the many Spanish Indian allies who cooperated to impede the Anglo-Americans and their Indian allies from advancing westward. Jefferson National Expansion Memorial places the historical theme of the territorial advance of the United States west of the Mississippi, inclusive of the Louisiana Purchase, within the context of the early history of St. Louis under French and Spanish influences.

Spain ceded Louisiana to France in the Treaty of San Ildefonso of 1800, and the French sold it to the United States in 1803. The Louisiana Purchase opened the door to a new phase of westward expansion. The westward movement of the United States represented to many Native American groups a new cycle of conquest that would not end until after the disaster at Wounded Knee in 1890, which resulted in the death of over 150 innocent Sioux as they awaited removal by United States troops. Many others died later from wounds they received in the encounter.

The Opening of the California, Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas Frontiers in the 16th Century

Far to the west, another story of European exploration and conquest unfolded. The exploration of North America's interior and Florida have related ties through the ill-fated expedition of 1528 under Pánfilo de Narváez whose surviving men were shipwrecked on the various islands off the Texas coast. Eight years later, four men, led by Cabeza de Vaca, who had wandered for several years through western Texas, southern New Mexico, and northern Chihuahua, reached Corazones, then the northernmost Spanish outpost in Sonora. Once rescued, they told of the many Indian tribes they had seen in their flight to safety.

The upshot was official Spanish interest in what lay in the interior. In 1539, the Spanish sent two reconnaissance parties northward to ascertain the possibilities of finding rich and powerful Indian kingdoms like those of the Aztecs and Incas. Melchior Diaz led one of the scouting parties, which crossed the Colorado River near its confluence with the Gila River into eastern California. The other, under Fray Marcos de Niza, reported on a large Indian district called Cibola, present-day Zuni Pueblo in New Mexico. The two preliminary scouting missions led to a major reconnaissance of the Greater Southwest.

Within a year, the large Francisco Vázquez de Coronado led expedition of 1100 men left Compostela on the west Mexican coast bound for Cibola in New Mexico. Crossing the Sonora River Valley, they entered the present-day United States through southeastern Arizona. Near where the explorers crossed is Coronado National Memorial, a site dedicated to the first expedition to explore the Greater American Southwest that provided Europeans their first glimpse of a six-state area stretching from eastern California to Arizona , New Mexico, Texas, Oklahoma, and central Kansas.

The entrada gave Europeans their first views of the Grand Canyon, as seen by García López de Cárdenas; of the Hopi Pueblos as seen by Pedro de Tovar; of Acoma Pueblo, Pecos Pueblo, the Río Grande, the Pecos River, and the large buffalo herds of the Great Plains as described by Hernando de Alvarado; of the first notice of the Great Divide, the watershed that separates waters flowing toward the Pacific Ocean from those flowing east to the Atlantic or the Gulf of Mexico reported by Juan Jaramillo in his narrative; and many other wonders. The expedition marked the first intensive contact between the Spanish and Pueblo and Great Plains tribes. It provided another first, one that would establish the colonial-native relationship in the area for the next 280 years. In two decisive contests caused by the Spanish intrusion and demands for food and provisions in the cold north country, Pueblo groups fell to the powerful military force of the Spaniards.

Forty-eight years after Columbus' voyage, the men of Vázquez de Coronado stood outside a pueblo fortress called Cicuye (Pecos) near the edge of the Great Plains. Long a center of trade between the pueblos of the Río Grande and Great Plains tribes, Pecos was one of the largest pueblos the Europeans saw in 1540. At Pecos National Historical Park, visitors learn about pre-contact Pecos Pueblo and the post-contact period leading to the 17th and 18th century Spanish colonial development of the pueblo-mission complex. The existing ruins of the churches and pueblo testify to the cultural continuity of Pecos before its abandonment in 1838. Epidemics, Comanche and Apache raiders, and the growth of Hispanic towns in the area that drew trade away from Pecos led to economic decline and abandonment. The Pecoseños departed for other pueblos along the Río Grande as well as Jemez Pueblo west of there.

Simultaneous with the expedition of Vázquez de Coronado in the Southwest and the De Soto expedition in the Southeast, Spanish officials launched a third expedition led by Juan Rodríguez Cabrillo. Hoping to discover a route to China and the Philippines by following the Pacific coast around from California, Rodríguez Cabrillo set sail to prove his theory. Although sound, his plan failed because of the great distance and the lack of knowledge of the extent of the Pacific Ocean. Departing the west Mexican coast, his expedition sailed along the Baja California coast to San Diego Bay, which he named and claimed for Spain. Proceeding northward beyond San Clemente Island, his ships sailed past the Channel Islands and Monterey Bay until they reached Cape Blanco on the Oregon Coast. Rodríguez Cabrillo and his men were the first Europeans to explore, chart, and give place-names to sites along that long stretch of the Pacific Coast.

Cabrillo National Monument at Point Loma in San Diego commemorates the European exploration of the California coast and the pioneering venture that led to the eventual Spanish settlement of Alta California in the 18th century. Aside from the many mission sites in California, the Martínez house in John Muir National Historic Site, Martínez, California commemorates the late Spanish colonial-early Mexican period settlement. Channel Islands National Park near Santa Barbara interprets that first 16th century Spanish expedition to California. A monument at San Miguel Island marks the approximate burial place of Rodríguez Cabrillo, who died on the voyage after an accident at sea.

In time, the Spanish, and later the Anglo-American expansion into California, had a profound impact on the Native American groups of the West. Channel Island tribes like the Chumash, for example, were able to maintain their institutions longer than did some mainland tribes. By 1815, due to drought and a declining aboriginal trade system, most of the Chumash migrated from the islands, and many of them were absorbed into Spanish mission communities. The California Gold Rush of 1849 contributed to greater decline and near extinction of many California tribes.

Meanwhile, Spanish exploration of the interior continued. By 1610, much of the interior between Florida and California was well known. In 1605, Juan de Oñate, who had founded New Mexico in 1598, led an expedition west from there to the Colorado River. He was the first European to leave his name on a sandstone promontory that would become a landmark for Spanish, Mexican, and Anglo-American explorers. El Morro National Monument in New Mexico preserves their stories along with those of Native Americans, who first discovered the waterhole and subsequently established a pueblo (Atsinna) atop the promontory.

Although many later travelers paused at El Morro to drink from its waterhole and carve their names on the rock, others left no a trace. Over 2,000 inscriptions grace the sandstone promontory at El Morro. Over time, many travelers passed by the rock but did not sign it. Among the first Spanish explorers believed to have stopped there were members of the Francisco Vázquez de Coronado expedition (1540-42). Later, Antonio de Espejo and his men stopped there in 1582 and were the first to describe it, calling the waterhole at El Morro, El Estanque del Peñol. Espejo was one of the first to leave a written description of the volcanic terrain east of El Morro, today preserved as El Malpais National Monument.

The early exploration of New Mexico resulted in an encounter between the many Indian cultures of the Southwest and Hispanic frontiersmen. As early as 1581, Spanish explorers had visited every pueblo from Taos in the north to Senecu in the south; and from Pecos on the east to the Hopi pueblos in the far northwest corner of that frontier. In 1581, Francisco Sánchez Chamuscado and a small exploring party reached the southeastern edge of the New Mexico frontier and learned about a number of pueblos associated with large salt beds behind the present-day Manzano Mountains. The salt beds defined the geographic area known as “Salinas” during the Spanish colonial period and today give Salinas Pueblo Missions National Monument its name. Later, in 1598, Juan de Onate visited Quarai and Abo, two of three pueblo sites at present–day Salinas Pueblo Missions National Monument, on his round-about trip to Acoma and Zuni. The third site is San Buenaventura known today as Gran Quivira. In 1600, Vicente de Zaldívar, one of the "discoverers" of Abo two years before, fought a battle behind the Manzano Mountains at Agualagu, a pueblo that has long since disappeared.

The Spanish missionization of New Mexico began in earnest among the Río Grande pueblos in 1598. By 1613, Fray Alonso de Peinado was working to missionize Tajique and Chilili in the Manzano Mountain range. Quarai, Abo, and San Buenaventura de las Humanas (Gran Quivira), were evangelized in the early 1620s. Salinas Pueblo Missions National Monument in New Mexico well represents the long history of the Salinas Pueblos from prehistoric times to their abandonment in the 1670s. Spanish expansion in New Mexico's frontier that included northeastern Arizona was ongoing. By the end of the Spanish period, New Mexican frontiersmen had begun to move westward toward Arizona. In the first decade of the 19th century, a Spanish expedition from New Mexico had visited Canyon de Chelly and seen the beautiful cliff dwelling ruins and pictographs on the soft sandstone canyon walls. In Arizona, Canyon de Chelly National Monument memorializes the precontact as well as historic perspectives of the area.

The Spanish Franciscans directed the missionary work in northeastern Arizona from New Mexico and the Jesuits had the assignment to work in southern Arizona, then known as Pimería Alta. Although the Jesuits had begun their missionary efforts in Florida, they achieved their greatest accomplishments in North America in the Sonora-Arizona frontier. Eusebio Kino, one of the great missionaries of Sonora, led the Spanish advance into Arizona throughout the 1680s and 1690s complementing his missionary efforts among the Pimas and Papagos with his fame as a cartographer of the area. One of his last missions was at Tumacacori in southern Arizona. Tumacacori National Monument commemorates the mission story in the northern end of a chain of missions that led to the Spanish settlement of the Sonora region. Established among the Pima in 1701, Tumacacori also served as a center for Papago settlement. Begun about 1798, the present church held its first service in 1822. After the secularization of the mission, Tumacacori's Papago residents remained until Apache raids forced them to abandon the site in 1848.

The Spanish claim to California, New Mexico, and Arizona began within a generation of Columbus' first voyage, for exploration in the 1530s and 1540s opened the first phase of Spain's assumed title to the area. By the end of the century, Spanish settlers had advanced into Sonora and New Mexico establishing an effective claim by virtue of actual possession. Villas, presidios, mines, ranches, farms, and missions began to grow in both frontiers in the 17th century. Settlement of California would not take place until 1769, when Governor Gaspar de Portola led the founding expedition there.

The Lower Río Grande in the 17th Century

In many ways, the search for mysterious kingdoms inspired early Spanish explorers to move northward along Mexico's central plateau toward and beyond the Río Grande. Later, Franciscan missionaries, Hispanic settlers, and military personnel established missions, settlements, and forts south of and along a rugged frontier that stretched from Mexico City to Santa Fe, New Mexico, and from California to Florida. In the interior, a riverine frontier formed along the Río Grande within an area from El Paso to Big Bend and Eagle Pass. Despite its importance to Spanish colonial expansion, the history of the area has had little study. Yet that region was the scene of much activity in the period from 1580 to 1700, and its history is intriguing partly because it pointed the way to the eventual founding of Texas.

Although Spanish entradas to New Mexico explored the area of La Junta de los Ríos, the confluence of the Río Conchos and the Río Grande, Spanish advances east of the Pecos River at its junction with the Río Grande were slow in developing. In 1535, Cabeza de Vaca and his three companions came through the area. Having made their escape from the Texas coast toward the Balcones Escarpment near San Antonio, Texas, the men headed southwest to the Río Grande in the vicinity of Devil's River near present-day Del Río. Proceeding northwestward, they reached the Pecos River. From there they went toward the Chisos Mountains, and once in the area, they approached Santa Elena Canyon in present Big Bend National Park. Natives led them over fifty leagues of desertscape and rough mountains, probably the Davis Mountains.

Finally, the four castaways walked within sight of present Presidio and marched northwestward toward present El Paso or Las Cruces before leaving the river and making their way to safety in Sonora. However, Spanish officials did not take notice of the importance of that segment of the river until 1590, when Gaspar Castaño de Sosa and his settlers crossed the Río Grande near present Ciudad Acuña in an illegal bid to settle New Mexico. As there had been little activity in the area, their interest was short. Slave runners had crossed north of the river for nearly two decades, however, and had gathered knowledge of the region. Thus, by the 1600s, much was known about the Río Grande.

Renewed interest in the river east of Eagle Pass resulted in rumors that the Dutch had entered the Gulf Coast and threatened the Spanish claim to Texas. In summer of 1638, García de Sepúlveda left Cerralvo (Monterrey) and reaching the Río Grande south of Mier traced it to a point near present Brownsville. Later in 1663, Alonso de León, the elder, explored the Río Grande near its mouth to check for any intrusions by foreigners, but found none.

In the interior, a real threat to Spanish interests existed. After 1600, Indians from the north, beyond the Río Grande, increasingly led raids against Spanish settlements in Coahuila, prompting Spanish officials to send punitive expeditions across the river. In 1663, Juan de la Garza led one of the first expeditions northward and fought a battle with the Cacaxtles near Eagle Pass. Two years later, Fernando de Azcue led a second punitive expedition to Eagle Pass with measured success, bringing temporary peace to the area.

Between the 1660s and the 1690s, the origins of the Camino Real de Los Tejas National Historic Trail evolved from a series of expeditions that explored northward of Saltillo, Mexico, through the San Antonio River Valley to the East Texas missions and Los Adaes, the first capital of Texas. Slowly the frontiers of Chihuahua, Coahuila, Nuevo León, and Tamaulipas moved toward the Río Grande. The history of the Camino Real de los Tejas grew out of Spanish advances into Texas, particularly when Franciscan missionaries advanced the mission frontier beyond the river, and by 1676, the Spanish began to evangelize a tribe known as the Tejas, north of the Río Grande.

The search for foreign intruders contributed to the development of the Camino Real de los Tejas. In 1684, the French under René Robert Cavelier, Sieur de la Salle, established a fort in east Texas. In the course of establishing his fort, La Salle undertook two expeditions into the interior of Texas, one of which reached the Río Grande somewhere between Del Río and Eagle Pass. Unsettled by the threat, the Spaniards quickly began a series of land and sea expeditions to locate and destroy the French position. In the end, the Indians of east Texas beat the Spaniards to the French.

The Spaniards learned that after La Salle’s own men murdered him that the Indians destroyed Fort St. Louis.The French scare prompted a serious Spanish effort to settle Texas before another European power could do so. The Spanish sent missionaries to found mission fields in east Texas as a means of establishing an effective claim. By 1691, they named Domingo Terán de los Ríos governor of the Province of Texas with instructions to establish eight missions among the Tejas and neighboring tribes. His party crossed the Río Grande at Eagle Pass and continued to the Nueces and on to east Texas. That entrada made history as the founding expedition of Texas proper. The Spanish established the first capital of Texas at Los Adaes in present Louisiana and blazed the road for the establishment of San Antonio, and in 1716, founded the Villa de San Antonio de Bexar.

Within the boundaries of Amistad National Recreational Area along the United States-Mexico boundary near Del Río, Texas, are archeological sites representing Native American occupation of the area from approximately 8,000 B.C. to the time of the first Spanish explorations through the region. A number of pictographs depict the historical themes mentioned above of missions, horses, and people wearing European-style clothing. The early and seemingly ephemeral Spanish presence along the Río Grande between El Paso and Eagle Pass had made an impression among the various tribes of the region.

San Antonio Missions and the Texas Frontier in the 18th Century

The French presence in Louisiana and along the Mississippi-Missouri-Arkansas river drainages complicated Spanish-Indian relations in east Texas. By trading horses and guns and intermarrying with natives, the French had upset the balance of power among Plains tribes. By the first decade of the 18th century, the Spaniards had realized the French impact on their positions south of the Río Grande. Unlike the French, the Spaniards had been reluctant to supply their native allies with horses and guns. The Spanish comprehended the impact of the French arms race too late to form military alliances with the tribes north of the Río Grande. The Spanish response was twofold: the establishment of a military presence among the tribes along a line forming the French southernmost advance in east Texas near Louisiana, and the founding of a mission field in east Texas along the river drainages southwest of Los Adaes Presidio, which the Spanish had constructed near Natchitoches, Louisiana.

For two centuries, evangelization worked with sedentary groups. In Texas, the mission system would adapt to the nomadic cultures of the southern Plains with great difficulty. The independent hunter-gatherer nomads who balked at conversion baffled the missionaries. For thousands of years, the Plains tribes had developed sophisticated survival systems and a true warrior caste unparalleled in the European military tradition. Those and other cultural traits the many Plains tribes shared enabled them to hold out against Spanish, French, and Anglo-American expansion for over three centuries. Consequently, Spanish missionaries generally concentrated their efforts on the weaker tribes, namely the so-called Coahuiltecos that stronger tribes had intimidated or defeated. Although missionaries attempted to work among Caddoan, Comanche, and Lipan Apache tribes, their efforts rarely succeeded.

Between 1690 and 1720, the Spanish centered their missionary effort in east Texas. The establishment of the presidio-mission complex at San Antonio in 1716 by Alonso de Alarcón proved to be a brilliant strategic move on Spain's part. During the 1730s and 1740s, the Spanish mission field spread from east Texas to San Antonio and La Bahia. The Spanish partially abandoned the east Texas missions and moved the missions to San Antonio. San Antonio de Valero, San Juan Capistrano, San Francisco de la Espada and Purísima Concepción formed a cluster of missions along the Río San Antonio. Supported by a Spanish population center and presidio at the Villa de San Antonio de Bexar, the area became an important trade center. Unlike east Texas, which depended on the French at Natchitoches for supplies and the presidio-mission at La Bahia, which lacked a population base save for the few dozen presidial soldiers with families and missionaries, San Antonio was comparatively self-sufficient. San Antonio Missions National Historical Park interprets the history of the Spanish missionary-military frontier as part of the national story of the United States. Long before there was an Alamo, Hispanic frontiersmen had forged a settlement that would become one of America's great cities.

The Spanish Claim to the Pacific Northwest, 1595-1795

Meanwhile, on the California coast, Spain advanced its interests. For two centuries after the Rodríguez Cabrillo expedition, Spanish interest in California had been sporadic. After Francis Drake's surprise appearance along the California coast, Spain's need to defend its northern claim received short-lived attention. After a series of explorations along the Pacific coast at the end of the 16th and beginning of the 17th centuries, California lay fallow for over 165 years, except for Manila Galleons, which made landfall there from time to time. In 1595, one of the Manila Galleon ships under Sebastián Rodríguez Cermeño wrecked off Point Reyes. Today, the National Park Service protects and interprets the remains of Rodríguez Cermeño’s shipwreck in Drakes Bay at Point Reyes National Seashore.

In 1788, José Esteban Martínez stopped American intruders in the area of the Pacific Northwest that Spain had claimed. In 1779, James Cook entered the Pacific Northwest and threatened the Spanish isolation in the region. Immediately, Spanish officials sought to strengthen their claim there by researching the earliest Spanish interest in the area and by sending expeditions north to reassert their claims. In 1790, Spain contended that a maritime expedition commanded by Juan de Fuca had reached the northern coast of present-day Washington State in 1590. Spanish maps showed the Strait of Juan de Fuca as the possible entrance to the Northwest Passage sought by Drake, Cartier, Hudson, Champlain, and others.

For the next two years, 1790-92, Spanish ships, almost in tandem, explored the entire coast north of California. During that period, the Spanish explored, mapped, described, and claimed present-day Sitka, Mt. St. Elias, Prince William Sound in the Gulf of Alaska, Kenai Fjords, Cook Inlet, Katmai, and other sites along the Alaska Peninsula. They named places like Valdez and Cordoba after prominent Spanish officials as well as other long since renamed sites. The Spanish also established short-lived settlements on present Vancouver Island, one of which still bears the name of Port Alberni, and Neah Bay, on the northern coast of Washington State, once represented the northernmost, albeit short-lived, Spanish settlement in the continental United States.

The history of the Spanish claim to the California coast and north to Alaska is among the many themes celebrated at Sitka National Historical Park, Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve in Alaska, and at Golden Gate National Recreation Area and Point Reyes National Seashore, Channel Islands National Park, and Fort Point National Historic Site in California.

The Last Years of the Spanish Claim to the Greater Southwest, Louisiana, and Florida

Trade routes crisscrossed the Spanish frontier in North America. Trails like the Natchez Trace, the caminos reales of California, Texas, and New Mexico, Old Spanish Trail in New Mexico, Colorado, Utah, Nevada, and California, as well as the Santa Fe-Chihuahua Trail, represented a growing transportation and commercial development in the late Spanish period. Formed from old Indian trails, some of these routes left a trace in North America that visitors can still see and appreciate in the ruts, rock art, and archeological campsites that remain. They, too, are part of the Spanish colonial patrimony of the United States, born from a colonial period that lasted from 1492 until 1821. Today, the National Park Service administers the Camino Real de Tierra Adentro National Historic Trail, which ran from Mexico City to Santa Fe; the Camino Real de los Tejas National Historic Trail, which ran from Saltillo, Coahuila, Mexico, to Los Adaes in Louisiana via San Antonio, Texas; and Old Spanish National Historic Trail, which ran from Santa Fe to Los Angeles via western Colorado, southern Utah, and eastern California through the Mojave Desert.

By 1790, Mexico City felt the tremors of an independence movement. Already, intellectuals had begun to debate the merits of the American Revolution and the Enlightenment that had produced it. Spanish officials responded by censoring "liberal" literature that had made its way into the Spanish Empire from the United States and Europe. Two decades later, on September 16, 1810, Father Miguel Hidalgo raised the cry for rebellion that would bring down the Spanish Empire and begin a new social order. The frontier, which had been following events in Mexico City during the late 18th century, had been concerned with other affairs, namely the defense of the Empire from foreign incursions and the pacification of a wide Indian frontier that stretched from California to Florida.

In the end, the Spanish Empire fell to revolutionaries, not to any of the many native tribes, nor to Englishmen, Frenchmen or Anglo-Americans who had threatened it for so long. The independence movement (1810-1821) swept the Empire like a wind until only Puerto Rico and Cuba remained in Spanish hands. The rest moved toward the development of independent nation-states. Florida quickly fell into the fold of the United States. Texas, a territory of the newly established Mexico, rebelled against Mexican authority in 1836 and formed the Lone Star Republic. New Mexico likewise rebelled in 1836 and remained more or less independent for twenty-five years. California and Sonora (southern Arizona included) underwent a series of rebellions against Mexico's government that resulted in measured autonomy. Not until May 8 and 9, 1846, when two armies lined up against each other on a flat plain in south Texas called Palo Alto just north of present-day Brownsville, was the fate of the frontier sealed.

Palo Alto was the first major engagement of the United States-Mexico War (1846-48). Today, Palo Alto National Battlefield and Resaca de la Palma Battlefield, near Brownsville, Texas commemorate that battle fought on May 8-9, 1846. With the Treaty of Guadalupe-Hidalgo, 1848, the United States incorporated the vast frontier from California to Texas inclusive of property and population. Pecos National Historical Park expands the theme to include the Civil War battle at Glorieta Pass, sometimes called the “Gettysburg of the West." At Apache Canyon, a Latino unit under Colonel Manuel Chávez, known as the New Mexico Volunteers, routed the Confederate rear guard, which resulted in the defeat of Confederate forces at Glorieta Pass. Pecos National Historical Park interprets the battle and the Confederate invasion of New Mexico. Other sites in the National Park Service tell more stories of Hispanics in the Civil War. Our national story incorporates the Latino Heritage and reflects the richness of our colonial past, particularly in North America.

Enhancing Understanding of the American Latino Experience as an Integral Part of the Story of the United States

The National Park Service is committed to increasing the opportunities for historic places associated with American Latino history to be documented, preserved, and interpreted and for the public to better understand and appreciate the role of Latinos in the development of the United States. The Department of the Interior initiated an American Latino Heritage Initiative in early 2011. The National Park Service’s American Latino Heritage Projects website describes some of what the National Park Service is doing to connect and amplify American Latino stories in communities across the United States.

American Latinos and the Making of the United States: A Theme Study will assist government agencies and the private sector with identifying and evaluating Latino-related places for their historic significance in communities nationwide. Theme studies are research documents that help identify potential new National Historic Landmarks and potential new units of the National Park System, all of which must be of national significance. The theme study also assists in identifying historic properties of state and local significance for listing in the National Register of Historic Places.

The Secretary of the Interior continues to designate new National Historic Landmarks that broaden the telling of the Latino heritage story. The National Park Service is supporting the preparation and consideration of additional nominations with the help of the new American Latino Theme Study. One recently designated National Historic Landmark, the Trujillo Homesteads in Colorado, provides an exceptional representation of the expansion of Hispano-American settlement into the American Southwest following the 1848 Treaty of Guadalupe-Hidalgo and an illustration of the conflict between cattle ranchers, who were primarily Anglo-Americans, and sheepherders, who were mostly Hispano-Americans. Through archeology, the site has a high potential to yield information addressing nationally significant research questions about ethnicity and race on the western frontier.

The National Park Service’s Historic American Buildings Survey is documenting another recent National Historic Landmark with measured drawings, a written historical document, and large format photography. Demonstrating the significance of American Latinos in the 20th century, Forty Acres in California became the headquarters for the United Farm Workers of America (UFW) in 1966, the first permanent agricultural labor union in the United States. Forty Acres is nationally significant for its role in the farm worker movement and for its close association with the influential career of Césario Estrada Chávez (César Chávez).

Many sites outside of the National Park System tell stories that reflect and illustrate the themes related to the Latino heritage. Among them are San Pascual, a battlesite of the Mexican War near San Diego, California, that is forever linked with the story told at Palo Alto National Battlefield near Brownsville, Texas, which was the first battle of the Mexican War. Through the theme study and by working with States, Federal agencies, and American Indian tribes, the National Park Service is encouraging the nomination and listing of more Latino heritage sites in the National Register such as Casa Amadeo, the oldest Latin music store in New York, which played a significant role in the Puerto Rican migration experience. The National Park Service is asking people to look for places of Latino heritage in their communities and elsewhere and to send the name of each significant place, its location, and a few sentences about why it tells an important story via e-mail to American_Latino_Heritage@nps.gov. Over 300 years of Spanish and Mexican influence shaped the cultural landscape of the Northern Rio Grande National Heritage Area in New Mexico. From its earliest Spanish conquistadors to 19th century Hispano-American sheepherders, the Northern Rio Grande Heritage Area preserves and coordinates the rich history of Santa Fe, Rio Arriba, and Taos counties.

Within National Park Service areas, the American Latino experience is evident and the National Park Service is committed to telling Latino heritage stories. At Brown v. The Board of Education of Topeka (1954), for example, threads of court cases leading to the Brown Decision include Latino efforts in their struggle for civil rights. The California case, Mendez v. Westminister (1947), set a precedent in attacking Plessy v. Ferguson (1896) and the separate but equal doctrine that supported open discrimination practices in America's institutions. Following the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo (1848), which ended the Mexican War of 1846, a great number of cases demonstrated how Hispanics in the territories sought to affirm their civil rights and land grant issues through the courts. Many of their arguments, some of which reached the Supreme Court, were based on first, fourth, and fourteenth amendment rights. At Jefferson National Expansion Memorial, which is largely dedicated to interpreting westward expansion, the Latino heritage experience runs a lengthy course through the history of Spain and the United States. The Latino heritage is intertwined with the Louisiana Purchase Treaty of 1803, the Lewis and Clark Expedition, 1806-07, and the U.S. westward movement.

While the 19th and 20th centuries are still being explored for possible new National Historic Landmark and National Register nominations and National Parks, two sites in the National Park Service System reflect the broad spectrum of our national historic patrimony. The first is the Columbus Memorial Fountain in Washington, D.C. sculpted by Lorado Taft and dedicated in 1912. It features a globe atop a shaft, with figures representing the old and new worlds, with a statue of Christopher Columbus set on the prow of a ship with a winged figurehead symbolizing discovery. The second is Chamizal National Memorial in El Paso, Texas, which commemorates the Chamizal Treaty of 1963 and the peaceful resolution to a century-long border dispute. At Chamizal Memorial, Hispanic culture is celebrated through such activities as "Siglo de Oro" and "Zarzuela" programs with participants from the United States, Spain, and all of Latin America. These two areas are symbolic of the National Park Service's determination to commemorate Latino heritage as part of the national story of the United States of America and its rich historical patrimony that began with Christopher Columbus' first voyage. The National Historic Landmark designation of Forty Acres, César Chávez' headquarters for his fight for equal rights for migrant workers, reflects the commitment to tell the breadth of the Latino story. It is a truism that much of our national story abounds with historical events and places tied to the American Latino heritage.

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List of Sites

Alabama
Alaska
Arizona
Arkansas
California
Colorado
District of
Columbia

Florida
Georgia

Idaho
Illinois
Iowa
Kansas
Louisiana
Maryland

Massachusetts
Mississippi
Missouri
Montana
Nevada
New Hampshire
New Mexico
New York

North Carolina
North Dakota
Oklahoma
Oregon
Puerto Rico
Rhode Island
South Carolina

South Dakota
Tennessee
Texas

Utah
Virgin Islands
Virginia
Washington

Alabama
Apalachicola Fort
Natchez Trace Parkway

Alaska
Sitka National Historical Park
Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve

Arizona
Awatovi Ruins
Canyon de Chelly National Monument
Coronado National Memorial
Hubbell Trading Post National Historic Site
Juan Bautista de Anza National Historic Trail
Mission los Santos Angeles de Guevavi
Old Spanish National Historic Trail
San Bernardino Ranch
San Cayetano de Calabazas
San Xavier del Bac Mission
Sierra Bonita Ranch
Tumacácori National Historical Park
Yuma Crossing National Heritage Area

Arkansas
Arkansas Post National Memorial

California
Cabrillo National Monument
California National Historic Trail
Carmel Mission (San Carlos Borroméo de Rio Carmelo)
Channel Islands National Park
Estudillo House
Fort Point National Historic Site
Forty Acres
Golden Gate National Recreational Area
Gonzalez House
Guajome Ranchhouse
John Muir National Historic Site
José Castro House
Juan Bautista de Anza National Historic Trail
Juan de Anza House
La Purísima Mission
Larkin House
Las Flores Adobe
Los Alamos Ranch House
Los Cerritos Ranch House 
Mission San Miguel Arcàngel
Mission Santa Inés
Monterey Old Town Historic District
New Almaden Mining Historic District
Nuestra Señora Reina de la Paz
Old Custom House
Old Mission Dam
Old Spanish National Historic Trail
Petaluma Adobe
Point Reyes National Seashore
Presidio of San Francisco
Rancho Camulos
Royal Presidio Chapel
San Diego Mission Church
San Diego Presidio
San Francisco Bay Discovery Site
San Juan Bautista Plaza Historic District
San Luis Rey Mission Church
Santa Barbara Mission
Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area
U.S. Court House and Post Office
U.S. Immigration Station, Angel Island

Colorado
Old Spanish National Historic Trail
Raton Pass
Sangre de Cristo National Heritage Area
Santa Fe National Historic Trail
Trujillo Homesteads

District of Columbia
National Mall and Memorial Parks

Florida
Biscayne National Park
Canaveral National Seashore
Castillo de San Marcos National Monument
Cathedral of St. Augustine
De Soto National Memorial
Dry Tortugas National Park
El Centro Español de Tampa
Fort Caroline National Memorial
Fort Jefferson
Fort Matanzas National Monument
Fort Mose Site
Fort San Marcos de Apalache
Freedom Tower
Gonzalez-Alvarez House
Gulf Islands National Seashore
Gullah/Geechee Cultural Heritage Corridor
Llambias House
Plaza Ferdinand VII
San Luis de Talimali
St. Augustine Town Plan Historic District
Tampa Bay Hotel
Timucuan Ecological and Historic Preserve
Ybor City Historic District

Georgia
Cumberland Island National Seashore
Fort Frederica National Monument
Gullah/Geechee Cultural Heritage Corridor
St. Catherine's Island

Idaho
Lewis and Clark Expedition

Illinois
Jefferson National Expansion Memorial
Lewis and Clark Expedition

Iowa
Julien Dubuque's Mines
Lewis and Clark Expedition

Kansas

Lewis and Clark Expedition
Santa Fe National Historic Trail

Louisiana

Atchafalya National Heritage Area
The Cabildo
Cane River Creole National Historical Park
Cane River National Heritage Area
El Camino Real de los Tejas National Historic Trail
Jean Lafitte National Historical Park and Preserve
Los Adaes
The Presbytere
Vieux Carré Historic District

Maryland

Assateague Island National Seashore

Massachusetts

Blackstone River Valley National Heritage Corridor

Mississippi

Gulf Islands National Seashore
Natchez National Historical Park
Natchez Trace Parkway

Missouri

Jefferson National Expansion Memorial
Lewis and Clark Expedition
Santa Fe National Historic Trail

Montana

Lewis and Clark Expedition

Nevada

Old Spanish National Historic Trail

New Hampshire

Epic of American Civilization Murals

New Mexico

Abó
Acoma Pueblo
Barrio de Analco Historic District
El Camino Real de Tierra Adentro National Historic Trail
El Malpais National Monument
El Morro National Monument
El Santuario de Chimayo
Fort Union National Monument
Hawikuh Ruins
Kit Carson House
Las Trampas Historic District and the San José de Gracia Church
Mesilla Plaza
Northern Rio Grande National Heritage Area
NPS Region III Headquarters Building
Old Spanish National Historic Trail
Palace of the Governors
Pecos National Historical Park
Petroglyph National Monument
Quarai
Raton Pass
Salinas Pueblo Missions National Monument
San Estevan del Rey Mission Church
San Francisco de Assisi Mission Church
San Gabriel de Yunque-Ouinge
San José de los Jémez Mission and Gíusewa Pueblo Site
San Lazaro
Santa Fe National Historic Trail
Santa Fe Plaza 
Taos Pueblo
Village of Columbus and Camp Furlong
Watrous/La Junta
Zuni-Cibola Complex


New York

Farragut, David Glasglow, Gravesite
Hispanic Society of America

North Carolina

Gullah/Geechee Cultural Heritage Corridor

North Dakota

Lewis and Clark Expedition

Oklahoma

Santa Fe National Historic Trail

Oregon

Lewis and Clark Expedition

Puerto Rico

Caparra Archeological Site
Casa Dra. Concha Meléndez Ramírez
San Juan National Historic Site

Rhode Island

Blackstone River Valley National Heritage Corridor

South Carolina

Charlesfort-Santa Elena
Gullah/Geechee Cultural Heritage Corridor

South Dakota

Lewis and Clark Expedition

Tennessee

Natchez Trace Parkway

Texas

"The Alamo (Mission San Antonio de Valero)"
Amistad National Recreation Area
Big Bend National Park
Chamizal National Memorial
El Camino Real de los Tejas National Historic Trail
El Camino Real de Tierra Adentro National Historic Trail
Fort Brown
Padre Island National Seashore
Palo Alto Battlefield National Historical Park
Presidio Nuestra Señora de Loreto de la Bahia (La Bahia)
Resaca de la Palma Battlefield
Roma Historic District 
San Antonio Missions National Historical Park
San Jacinto Battlefield
Spanish Governor’s Palace
Treviño-Uribe Rancho

Utah

Old Spanish National Historic Trail

Virgin Islands

Christiansted National Historic Site
Salt River Bay National Historical Park and Ecological Preserve

Virginia

Assateague Island National Seashore

Washington

Lewis and Clark Expedition
Olympic National Park
San Juan Island National Historical Park

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Apalachicola Fort, Alabama

In the late 17th century, Spain struggled to hold Florida’s inland borders as the British North American empire pressed farther south and the two imperial powers competed for alliances with indigenous nations. At the height of its power in Florida, Spain’s Catholic missions stretched from the Atlantic Ocean to the Gulf of Mexico, but British colonists in South Carolina and the neighboring Lower Creek Indians threatened Spanish dominance. To defend their settlements in the northern Florida region, Spanish soldiers and Catholic missionaries founded the empire’s northernmost outpost on the Chattahoochee River. Named Apalachicola Fort, this outpost in present-day southeastern Alabama is an important archeological site and a National Historic Landmark.

The fort site sits above the banks of the Chattahoochee River, which is the natural border between Alabama and Georgia. Spain chose this site because it was close to the Lower Creek town of Apalachicola, an important trade center in the region. Throughout the Spanish colonial period, Spain depended on the Catholic mission system to impose authority over its colonial settlements and American Indians. Apalachicola Fort was a small outpost, on the edge of the Spanish frontier. Approximately 20 Spanish soldiers supported only a few missionaries. Between 1689 and 1691, the Catholic friars at Apalachicola Fort tried to convert the nearby Lower Creek Indians to Catholicism and to create trade ties with them. The Spanish believed these ties could strengthen their relationship with the Lower Creek Indians, who were already trading with the British. Despite the Spaniards’ efforts, the Lower Creek and their British allies began to raid Spanish settlements, and the colonists at Apalachicola chose to abandon their post.

Having not built the fort strong enough to withstand a heavy assault, the Spanish destroyed the fort in 1691 rather than trying to hold it against an attack. Apalachicola Fort’s rectangular blockhouse, which was about 61 by 53 feet and had four bastions, was of wattle and daub. This ancient building technique uses woven branches, or wattle, to create a frame that then gets a plaster of daub, made from mixtures of mud, clay, or animal dung. The Spanish brought this technique with them from Europe to Florida and often used it for dwellings, because it created a cooler space than wooden buildings. A clay half-wall, about four feet high, surrounded the blockhouse and an 11-foot-wide moat surrounded the entire fort site.

The site of Apalachicola Fort was lost for centuries after the Spanish abandoned it. In 1956, local historian Mark Fretwell and Brother Finbar of Holy Trinity used documentary evidence to identify the location of the fort’s ruins on a private farm. The area is heavily wooded and grown over, but beneath the brush, the sunken outline of the fort ruins is visible. Several years after the scholars identified the site, archeologists from the Smithsonian Institution and the University of Alabama partnered to excavate Apalachicola Fort. They found evidence of the Spanish structures and blockhouse beneath the topsoil. They also discovered pieces of Majolica, a popular type of glazed ceramic pottery, and olive jar fragments the experts determined were made during the late 17th century. In 1964, just eight years after discovery, Apalachicola Fort became a National Historic Landmark. The Russell County Historic Commission purchased the fort for $1 in 1971 and archeological excavations are ongoing at the site.

Plan your visit

Apalachicola Fort, a National Historic Landmark, is a protected archeological site and closed to the public. For more information, visit the Russell County Historic Commission website or call 334-297-8225.

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Natchez Trace Parkway, Mississippi, Alabama, Tennessee

Winding through historic countryside that has witnessed many years of human settlement, the Natchez Trace Parkway is a 444-mile drive from Natchez, Mississippi to just a few miles south of Nashville, Tennessee. The parkway is a trip through fine scenery and 10,000 years of human history on the Old Trace, which was used by American Indians, Spanish, French, British, “Kaintucks,” Americans, and others who played a role in American history. Spanish explorers were the first Europeans to explore the area and make contact with the native people who were already there. The Old Trace embodies the link between cultures as it evolved into a route inhabited and used by many different civilizations. Today, visitors can learn about America’s first inhabitants and the founding and settlement of this country through the people and places of the Natchez Trace, and also enjoy hiking, biking, horseback riding, and camping.

American Indians settled along animal trails they followed through the forest. The original Natchez Trace connected the Chickasaw, Choctaw, and Natchez tribes. Believed to be the first Europeans to use the Trace, Spanish explorer Hernando De Soto and his expedition travelled the Trace on their 1540 journey across the Southeastern United States in search of riches and gold. They crossed the Natchez Trace in present-day Mississippi and spent the winter of 1540-1541 in the Tupelo area near the trail. The De Soto expedition encountered natives, including the Mississippian mound builders and the Chickasaw Indians with whom they interacted along the Natchez Trace.

Europeans mapped the Trace as early as the 1730s. A narrow ribbon winding along ridgelines through wooded and open areas, the Trace connected neighboring villages with each other and with communities farther away. As European settlements grew, the role of the Trace changed as it became a major north-south trade route. In the 1800s, traders and merchants began to look for opportunities to sell their goods and services to those living on the frontier of the new United States.

The Natchez Trace was part of an expanding Euro-American trade network that served States such as Kentucky, Ohio, and Pennsylvania. Traders called Kaintucks transported agricultural products, coal, and livestock down the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers from the north to the south. When they reached New Orleans or Natchez, they sold the boats that carried the goods for lumber. The Kaintucks then walked or rode back approximately 500 miles on the Natchez Trace to Nashville and on to other cities north. At its peak, more than 10,000 Kaintucks traveled the Natchez Trace annually. By foot, the trip took roughly 35 days.

Crossing lands sometimes called the “Old Southwest,” the Natchez Trace cut through the historic homelands of the Chickasaw and Choctaw. The Chickasaw remained on their land until the 1830s, when a treaty with the U.S. government forced them to move west--along with Cherokees, Choctaws, Creeks, and Seminoles. Approximately 5,000 Chickasaw endured a forced march west to Oklahoma along a series of trails they named the "Trail of Tears" for the hundreds who died during the march. The Choctaw also walked west as part of this migration, though some have returned to the area. With the encroaching white settlements forcing them to abandon their homelands, thousands of American Indians traveled and perished along the Trail of Tears.

The ancestors of today’s American Indians first arrived in the area of the Natchez Trace around 12,000 years ago. Between 2100 years ago and the 1700s, these first peoples constructed mounds. The earliest mounds were burial mounds; later mounds were temple sites or possibly the residences of important persons. Built by the complex societies of the Mississippi area, these mounds were part of a network of settlements throughout the region. Diseases introduced by Europeans in the 1500s wiped out much of the indigenous population, thus ending the mound-building tradition.

The first mound builders lived between 100 B.C. and 200 A.D., a period archeologists call the Middle Woodland. Peoples of this time were primarily semi-nomadic hunter-gatherers. Mounds from this period tended to be the burial places of prominent tribal members. The later mound builders lived between 1000 and 1700 A.D. Unlike earlier mounds, which had rounded domes, the later mounds were flat earth platforms. The society of the later mound builders was significantly more complex.

When Europeans including Spanish explorer Hernando De Soto and his men arrived, they found the mounds and the trails of these first peoples. The ancient routes formed the beginnings of the Natchez Trace. What had once been the paths of animals and hunting trails soon became a major long-distance trade route until new technology, such as the steamboat in the 1820s, made the long journey by foot less necessary.

Today, the parkway offers many opportunities to explore the history, culture, and peoples of the Old Southwest. Miles are measured from zero, beginning at Natchez. Between Natchez and Jackson at mile marker 10.3, visitors can view Emerald Mound, a very large temple mound. Boyd Mounds Site is at mile marker 106.9, Bynum Mound and Village Site at 232.4, Bynum Mound and Village Site at 232.4, Pharr Mounds at 286.7, and Bear Creek Mound and Village Site at mile marker 303.8. The Tupelo Visitor Center provides information on these sites.

Also between Natchez and Jackson, Mount Locust at mile marker 15.5 is the last of approximately 50 inns (also known as “stands”) that once dotted the roadside between Natchez and Nashville. Visitors can walk the grounds of the property, see the house, and tour the graveyard of the family that operated the inn and their slaves. The property is open seasonally, with guided tours available. At mile marker 41.5, visitors can walk along a short trail on the old trace and view a rut worn into the soil by the steady trampling of thousands of feet.

Between Jackson and Tupelo, visitors can explore the natural setting of the trail at sites like Ross Barnett Reservoir (105.6) or Cypress Swamp (122.0). The Bynum Mounds site encompasses two restored mounds and interpretive exhibits on the earliest residents of the area. The Chickasaw Village Site (261.8) is a recreated village. This site also provides access to the Natchez Trace National Scenic Trail. The main visitor center at Tupelo (266.0) offers an orientation film and exhibits highlighting the natural and cultural history of the parkway. From Tupelo, through Alabama, to Tennessee, visitors can walk along the original Trace (Old Trace, (269.4) or visit Pharr Mounds, (286.7)). At the mound site, wayside exhibits describe the lively village life of the site 2,000 years ago. A seasonal visitor center is at the former landing site of the Colbert Ferry (327.3). A bridge now crosses the Tennessee River at this spot.

In Tennessee, visitors can stop at the gravesite of Meriwether Lewis, who, with William Clark, led the first United States expedition (1804–1806) to the Pacific Coast. Lewis died under mysterious circumstances near mile 385.9. A reconstructed cabin at the site is similar in style to the inn where Lewis was staying when he died. The site also has a campground, picnic area, and hiking trails. The Tobacco Farm and Old Trace Drive (401.4) interpret the cultivation and curing of tobacco, an important agricultural crop that continues to support the South. Visitors may also drive along the original Trace route (southbound only).

Plan Your Visit

Natchez Trace Parkway, a unit of the National Park System, runs from Natchez, MS to Nashville, TN. The main park visitor center is located at 2680 Natchez Trace Parkway in Tupelo, MS. The Emerald Mound Site, part of the Natchez Trace Parkway, has been designated a National Historic Landmark. Approximately two dozen sites along the Parkway have been listed in the National Register of Historic Places. There is no fee to visit sites along the Parkway. The main visitor center is open from 8:00am to 5:00pm daily, except for December 25. For more information, visit the National Park Service Natchez Trace Parkway website or call 1-800-305-7417.

The Parkway has been documented by the National Park Service’s Historic American Engineering Record. Natchez Trace Parkway is also featured in the National Park Service travel itineraries, Indian Mounds of Mississippi and Places Reflecting America's Diverse Cultures: Explore their Stories in the National Park System. The Natchez Trace is an All-American Road and a National Scenic Trail. Locations along the parkway are also part of the Lewis and Clark National Historic Trail.

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Sitka National Historical Park, Sitka, Alaska

Known for its great natural beauty and moderate climate, Sitka or Shee Atika—as the aboriginal people called the territory—is one of the most beautiful seaside towns in Southeast Alaska and the home of the State’s oldest federally designated park. Established as a National Monument in 1910, Sitka National Historical Park commemorates those who voyaged to this area throughout its history, including the native Tlingit, and Spanish, Russian, and American settlers. It represents the long history of European rivalry for desired land, as well as European rivalry with natives. The park protects native totems and offers visitors the opportunity to watch Native artists as they work. Spanish claims to the Pacific Northwest date to the Papal Bull “Inter Caetera” of 1493 and the Treaty of Tordesillas of 1494. These decrees gave Spain the right to colonize the west coast of North America. King Charles III of Spain and his successors sent Spanish explorers to the coasts of present-day Washington State, Alaska, and Canada between 1774 and 1793 to investigate Russian and British activities in the region and to strengthen Spain’s claim to the land.

Europeans first encountered present day Alaska on July 15, 1741, when Alexei Chirikov, Russian commander of the ship St. Paul of the second Bering expedition, saw what the sailors assumed to be Lisianski Inlet on the northwest coast of Chichagof Island. He sent 15 men in two boats ashore to explore the harbor and land, but these men were never seen again. On July 27, Chirikov and his officers returned to Kamchatka. After the existence of land in the North Pacific became known, navigators from several other European countries set sail to explore the Northwest Coast. The next to explore this area was Don Francisco de la Bodega y Quadra, a Spanish navigator, who was under orders to explore north to 65 degrees of latitude. In his 36-foot boat Sonora, he sighted Sitka Sound on August 15, 1775 and named it “Bay of Terror.” Sixteen miles west of Sitka, Quadra saw a 3,201 foot snowcaped volcano that dominated the coastline and described that mountain as "the most regular and beautiful form I have ever seen." He named the mountain San Jacinto. Between 1775 and 1784, only four Spanish and two British ships visited the northwest coast of Alaska, and the natives had minimal access to European trade items or contact with Europeans. After 1784, the number of ships reaching the Northwest Coast of Alaska began to increase dramatically and European trade goods, including firearms and ammunition, became increasingly available to the natives.

In the 1790s, the Russians returned to Alaska, now a favored trading spot for Euro American traders, primarily to exploit the fur-bearing animals along the coast. Missionaries from the Russian Orthodox Church also built nearly 90 churches throughout Alaska to convert the Native Alaskans to Christianity. By the early 1800s, they had converted nearly 20,000 natives to the Christian faith. The Russians allowed the people to maintain their native cultures and helped them develop alphabets for written literature, including an Aleut dictionary for hundreds of languages and dialects, based on the Russian alphabet. Today, the park stands as a reminder of the conflict between Europeans and Native Alaskans and tells the greater story of a blending of cultures that shaped and continue to influence Alaska’s history and heritage.

Among the earliest inhabitants to thrive from Sitka’s wealth of resources were the Tlingit people of Southeast Alaska. The Tlingit survived on what they harvested from Sitka’s waters and forests and prospered in the snow and ice free weather the warm waters of the Japanese current helped maintain throughout the year. Because of Sitka’s prime location near the Pacific Ocean, the Tlingit were primarily a maritime people whose diet consisted mostly of salmon, shellfish, halibut, sea mammals, and other fish from the rivers and the open sea. Sitka also provided raw materials they used to create 60 foot long canoes, multi-family dwellings, bowls, and boxes to store food for the winter.

A sociable group with a rich cultural life, the Tlingit clan of Sitka gathered with their kinfolk from neighboring communities to observe weddings, births, and other special occasions, which they celebrated by dancing, eating, and exchanging gifts. Before setting out on fishing and trading expeditions, they performed ritual dances to bring good fortune in their search for food and other valuable resources. Outside of dancing, the most important ceremony was the potlatch, which the Tlingit observed in the winter and that lasted for several days. Customarily, a member of the tribe would host the ritual in his home and would give away his possessions to his guests to elevate his social rank within the Tlingit community. At the potlatch, invited guests brought food for the host, a custom that evolved into the present day potluck, a well-known tradition in American culture.

The gregarious Tlingit traded goods and gathered with surrounding native communities, but when Russian traders reached Sitka in 1799, they were reluctant to extend their hospitality to them. From the beginning, the Russians and the Tlingit uneasily coexisted in Alaska, and over time, the Tlingit in Sitka grew more aggravated with the immigrants, which they named Anooshi. Although they would have benefited from trading goods with the Anooshi, the Tlingit of Shee Atika, otherwise known as the Kiks.ádi clan, were suspicious of the newcomers’ true intentions and feared their people would have to provide free labor to the Russian Trading Company and pledge their allegiance to the tsar. These fears and the hostility intensified as the Russians expanded their territorial claims in Alaska. When Czar Paul I gave the title of colonial governor to Alexander Baranov—the Russian Trading Company’s manager—the Tlingits’ suspicions of the Anooshi immediately turned into violence.

In 1802, the Tlingit attacked the Russian outpost, Redoubt Saint Michael, and killed most of its inhabitants, including the Aleut Indians who had become Anooshi allies. By 1804, the hostility between the Russians and the Tlingit climaxed when Baranov and a party of Russians and Aleut Indians traveled to Shee Atika with the warship Neva to force the Tlingit to surrender. Refusing to give up their land, the Tlingit of Sitka moved to the fortification they built on the mouth of the Indian River and prepared for battle. The Neva warship began firing at the fortress, and as the Tlingit continued to resist, Baranov and his men marched ashore and stormed the fort. The Kiks.ádi chief, K’alyaan, led the Tlingit warriors in the defense against the Russian attack and managed to wound Baranov. After a week of recovery, and seeing no activity at the mouth of the Indian River, Baranov headed ashore again to find that the Tlingit had run out of gunpowder and abandoned Sitka. The Battle of Sitka was over.

When the battle ended, Baranov established the headquarters of the Russian-American Trading Company in Sitka and renamed the territory New Archangel. By 1808, New Archangel developed into one of the busiest ports. Sitka grew as the Russian-American Company continued to lead in the fur trade. By the 1830s, Sitka’s population was at 1,300 and the community had numerous buildings, including schools, Orthodox chapels the Russian clergy built, and living quarters such as Baranov’s home--Baranov Castle. Although most of the inhabitants of New Archangel were of Russian descent, a small population of Tlingits—who had a relationship with the Russian missionaries—continued to live in Sitka, providing the Russians who were not self-sufficient with fresh food and other resources.

In 1867, the United States bought Alaska. Sitka became the capital for the newly acquired U.S. territory, and soon the Americans began building their own Presbyterian missions and schools for Native children. Sitka became a valuable territory for the United States, and in 1890, the government acknowledged its importance by designating the area as a federal reserve. In 1910, the area at the mouth of the Indian River became a National Monument, and in 1972, the National Park Service renamed the site Sitka National Historical Park. In 2010, Sitka National Historical Park marked its 100th anniversary.

In the park today, visitors can see the Russian Bishop’s House, Saint Michaels Cathedral, Baranov Castle, the Kiks.ádi Fort Site, the battle site, the Russian memorial, and a collection of Native totems. Constructed in 1843, the Russian Bishop's House is one of the few buildings left from the Russian colonial period in North America. At the visitor center and Southeast Alaska Indian Cultural Center, onlookers can watch modern Native artists work.

Plan Your Visit

Sitka National Historical Park, a unit of the National Park System, is located at 103 Monastery St. in Sitka, AK. Click here for the National Register of Historic Places file: text and photos. The park visitor center is open from 8:00am to 5:00pm from May to September, and Monday to Saturday from 8:00am to 5:00pm from October to May. The Russian Bishop’s House is open daily from 9:00am to 5:00pm from May to September, and by appointment only from October to May. Park trails are open daily from 6:00am to 10:00pm from May to September, and 7:00am to 8:00pm from October to May. The visitor center, the Bishop’s House, and park trails are closed on Federal holidays during the winter months. There is an admission fee. For more information, visit the National Park Service Sitka National Historical Park website or call 907-747-0110.

Sitka National Historical Park is also featured in the National Park Service Places Reflecting America's Diverse Cultures: Explore their Stories in the National Park System Travel Itinerary. Sitka National Historical Park has been documented by the National Park Service’s Historic American Buildings Survey.

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Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve, Alaska

Spanish claims to the Pacific Northwest date to the Papal Bull “Inter Caetera” of 1493 and the Treaty of Tordesillas of 1494. These decrees gave Spain the right to colonize the west coast of North America. Spain began to colonize this claimed territory in the 18th century, when it created permanent settlements in Alta California. By the late 18th century, Spain launched its first official explorations to the Pacific Northwest, in part because of the encroachment of Russian and British fur traders and explorers to the region. Beginning in 1774 and ending in 1793, Spain sent explorers to Alaska to defend its claim to the land, to document Russian and British activities, and to search for a Northwest Passage. One of the areas that the Spanish explored is today the Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve in Alaska.

King Charles III of Spain and his successors sent Spanish explorers to the coasts of present-day Washington State, Alaska, and Canada between 1774 and 1793 to investigate Russian and British activities in the region and to strengthen Spain’s claim to the land. Juan Josef Pérez Hernández sailed on the Santiago during the first official Spanish voyage from Mexico as far north as Southeast Alaska before turning back in 1774. The next year, Spanish explorer Francisco Bodego y Quadra sailed a bit further to Kruzof and Prince of Wales Island. By 1779, Ignacio de Arteaga y Brazan and Bodega y Quardra made it to Prince William Sound and Elizabeth Island before returning to Mexico.

Nearly ten years later, Esteban Jose Martinez and Gonzalo Lopez de Haro reached the Prince William Sound, Kodiak Island, and the Trinity Islands where they were alarmed by evidence of Russian, British, and American trading in the area. On this expedition, the explorers made contact with a large group of Russian traders and learned that the Russians intended to occupy Nootka Sound on the west coast of what is now Vancouver Island. Martinez recommended that the Spanish occupy this area immediately before the Russians or British could do so themselves.

In 1789, Martinez led an expedition to Nootka Sound and seized the English fur-trading ships he found there; these events led to the Nootka Crisis of 1789. While the contest for Nootka was intense and both nations prepared for war, ultimately it was resolved peacefully through a set of three agreements known collectively as the Nootka Conventions. Under the Nootka Conventions (1790, 1793, and 1794), Spain and Britain agreed that they would not establish any permanent settlements at Nootka Sound, but both would allow citizens and ships from either nation to visit and continue to trade there.

Around the time of the Nootka Crisis and Conventions, Alessandro Malaspina and Jose de Bustamente y Guerra became the last explorers under the Spanish flag to visit Alaska. The King of Spain had sent the explorers on a five-year scientific voyage to observe and document botanical and mineralogy findings and to create updated, precise world maps. The King also ordered the explorers to search for any American, British, or Russian settlements along the Pacific Northwest coast and to investigate a possible Northwest Passage, a waterway that would connect the North Pacific with the Atlantic Ocean.

In late June of 1791, Malaspina and Bustamente anchored their ships, Atrevida and Descubi’erta, in Yakutat Bay, Alaska. From Yakutat Bay, the explorers glimpsed with awe the snow-capped mountains, dense pine forests, and the large ice fields that filled the dramatic coastline. Today, the southern border of Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve is at Yakutat Bay. The Spanish ships spent about a month in Yakutat Bay. During this time, the Spanish investigated the area for the illusive Northwest Passage. They made notes on the ethnographic, geographic, and plant species of the area, measured the height of Mt. St. Elias, and explored one of the largest glaciers in the world – later named Malaspina Glacier. Mt. St. Elias and Malaspina Glacier are within the national park today.

Disenchantment Bay at the park’s southern boundary also received its name because of this expedition. Malaspina and his crew paddled through a channel thought to lead to the Northwest Passage and instead found that the channel ended at a massive wall of ice covered rock. Hence, they named the waterway, Disenchantment Bay.

In addition to their scientific findings, the explorers made contact with the local Tlingit Alaskan Natives. Spanish scholars on the expedition studied the Tlingit and recorded notes on the Tlingit’s social organization, burial practices, language, and methods of warfare. The artists on the expedition, Tomas de Suria and Jose Cardero, drew portraits of Tlingit tribal leaders and scenes from daily life. The Spanish traded their European clothing and metal objects with the Tlingits for fresh fish, furs, and crafted objects. While the Malaspina Expedition’s contact with the Tlingit was not of major significance, for it was only for a short period, it is a reminder that during this time the world’s cultures were entering a phase of rapid change as a direct result of exploration, trade, and colonization. The cultural middle ground that emerged due to exploration and colonization would forever change the world’s cultures.

While the Spanish eventually lost all claim to Alaska and the Pacific Northwest, the Spanish legacy is still evident in the places that take their names from the early Spanish presence in Alaska. In addition to Malaspina Glacier and Lake, Disenchantment Bay, and Icy Bay, two towns near the park - Cordova and Valdez - also received their names from these early explorations. Visitors will find many ways to experience Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve and, like the early Spanish explorers, find themselves in awe of its wonders.

Plan Your Visit

Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve, a unit of the National Park System and a UNESCO World Heritage Site, includes 13 million acres of southeastern Alaska.  The park headquarters is located at Mile 106.8 Richardson Highway, Copper Center, AK and is open Monday through Friday, year-round from 8:00am to 4:30pm. For more information, visit the National Park Service Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve website or call 907-822-5234.

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Awatovi Ruins, Arizona 

The Hopi pueblo of Awatovi was already over 300 years old when Spanish explorers arrived there in 1540. Led by Francisco Vázquez de Coronado, the Spanish were searching for the legendary golden cities with hopes of bringing wealth back to Spain. What they found instead was a harsh, arid country dotted with native towns, a region isolated from the populated Rio Grande Valley. The first of the Hopi settlements the Spanish came across in Arizona was the Awatovi pueblo. Years later, the Spanish returned to Awatovi to establish a mission. Today, the Awatovi Ruins in Keams Canyon is a National Historic Landmark on the Hopi Indian Reservation in northeastern Arizona.

The Coronado expedition left Mexico in 1540 and headed north with a company of over 300 Spaniards, 1,300 Mexicans, and both Native and African slaves. As they trekked through the desert, Coronado ordered one of his men, Pedro de Tovar, to lead a party of seventeen horsemen and several footmen in search of seven Hopi villages. Awatovi was the first of these villages Tovar and his men discovered. Upon contact, the Hopi and Spanish briefly skirmished, and then exchanged gifts before the de Tovar party moved on. The arrival of Coronado’s men in Awatovi marked the first exchange the Spanish had with the Hopi in Arizona. Afterward, contact between the Spanish and the Hopi was sporadic over the next 90 years, until Spain began to establish missions in the region to create a permanent European presence. The Hopi had no food surplus or wealth of gold or silver treasure, and their land was not a strategic place to establish a military presence, so the Spanish had no interest in living among the Hopi for any reason other than religious conversion.

During the Spanish colonial period, Jesuit and Franciscan missionaries brought Catholic and European values to North America on behalf of the Spanish crown. The Roman Catholic Church was charged with spreading Catholicism. The missionaries founded parishes near American Indian villages where they could make Christian converts, attempt to control the culture, and help administer Spanish law. In 1629, the year Spain launched large-scale missionary efforts in the Southwest, Franciscans founded a mission church at Awatovi. The Franciscan fathers at Awatovi named their mission church San Bernard de Aguatubi, after Saint Bernard of Clairvaux.

According to the records of a New Mexico missionary, the Franciscans at Awatovi struggled to persuade the Hopi to convert until a miracle occurred. The Hopi brought a blind boy to Father Francisco Porras and asked the father to heal him. The legend goes that Porras held his cross to the boy’s eyes curing his blindness. Afterward, a large portion of the Hopi at Awatovi converted, but others mistrusted the Catholic fathers and worried that they would not be able to keep their own essential rituals. During the 17th century, Awatovi hosted the largest mission of any Hopi pueblos and was home to a population of roughly 900 Christian Hopi in 1664.

In addition to Catholicism, the Franciscans brought European tools, domesticated animals, new agriculture, and trade opportunities to their southwestern missions. At Awatovi, the fathers gave the Hopi iron knives, axes, mattocks, picks, crowbars, saws, and chisels as well as knowledge of Spanish wood and stone-working techniques. The Hopi also adopted animal husbandry. They acquired and began raising sheep, which provided a new source of protein and wool for making textiles. The Spanish introduced new crops, including peaches and wheat, which the Hopi incorporated into their diet. The Hopi territory also became part of a trade route that a wagon train traveled through three times a year. This wagon train gave the Hopi at Awatovi access to goods from Mexico, Europe, and Asia.

The residents of Awatovi were an anomaly among the Hopi, and the town’s open acceptance of Christianity led to its destruction. Beyond Awatovi, other Hopi villages rejected Spanish culture and Catholicism. Only four missionary outposts existed in the Hopi province beyond Awatovi and they did not have Catholic fathers in residence. The Awatovi Hopi built their new church on top of their kivas, adobe structures Puebloans used in spiritual rituals. Despite the apparent abandonment of pre-contact religious practice, some native residents at Awatovi resisted the missionaries. A Hopi traditionalist poisoned one of the Awatovi mission’s founding fathers in 1633. During the Pueblo Revolt of 1680, the Hopi killed the fathers and razed the church at Awatovi.

Even so, when the Spanish returned to take back Awatovi in 1692, the Hopi welcomed them and invited them to reestablish the mission. Despite the instances of resistance on the inside, the anti-Spanish Hopi sacked the pueblo in 1701. These Hopi wanted to purge their province of Christianity and the Hopi who accepted it to ensure the survival of their own religious practices. They completely destroyed the pueblo and killed all the men at Awatovi during the attack sparing only the unbaptized women and children who had knowledge of Hopi rituals and songs. The survivors were separated and sent to the surrounding Hopi villages. In retaliation, the Spanish attacked the Hopi several times over the decade following the destruction of Awatovi, but were unsuccessful in reclaiming the Hopi province. Since Awatovi, the Hopi have not hosted a Roman Catholic church or parish on their land.

In the 20th century, Awatovi proved to be a valuable archeological resource. During the 1930s, a group of experts from Harvard University carried out the first multidisciplinary study in American archeology at the ruin. Involved in the field study were geologists, surveyors, cartographers, photographers, bone and ceramics experts, artists, and ethno biologists. They excavated over 1,300 rooms, discovered 11,700 stone and bone artifacts, and catalogued 8,500 pottery specimens in addition to recording over half a million potsherds. They also identified three Franciscan churches, two of which were over 100 feet long. In order to preserve Awatovi Ruins for future research and enjoyment, the site is not open to the public.

Plan Your Visit:

Awatovi Ruins, a National Historic Landmark, is located south of Keams Canyon on the Hopi Indian Reservation in northeastern AZ. Awatovi Ruins is closed to the public. The Hopi Reservation welcomes visitors. For more information, visit the Hopi Tribe or the Hopi Cultural Center websites.

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Canyon de Chelly National Monument, Chinle, Arizona

For nearly 5,000 years, people have used the towering sandstone walls of Canyon de Chelly as a place for campsites, shelters, and permanent dwellings. Managed through a partnership between the National Park Service and the Navajo Nation, Canyon de Chelly (pronounced d'’SHAY) National Monument, located on Navajo Trust Land, is one of the longest continuously inhabited landscapes in North America. The name "de Shelly" is a Spanish interpretation of the Navajo word for "rock canyon" testifying to the long history of interaction between the Navajo and Spanish explorers. The National Monument preserves the remains and cultural resources of various American Indian groups who lived within the canyon’s walls. The sites, cliff dwellings, and images on cliff walls, as well as the living community of Navajo people within Canyon de Chelly today, contribute to an understanding of the interaction between the Navaho people and the Spanish and the impact on the region's people and culture.

Canyon de Chelly National Monument preserves the distinct architecture, artifacts, and rock imagery of the Archaic people (2500-200 B.C.), the Basketmakers (200 B.C.-A.D. 750), the Pueblo (750-1300), the Hopi (1300-1600s), the Navajo (1700-present), and the Spanish interactions with these peoples. Archeological evidence suggests that people have lived in Canyon de Chelly for nearly 5,000 years. The original inhabitants were the Archaic people, who lived in seasonal campsites, hunting and gathering rather than building permanent homes. Their history is understood through the remains of their campsites and the images they etched and painted on the canyon walls. By about 200 B.C., a fundamental shift occurred in the way people lived within the canyon. The Basketmakers started to sustain their community through farming, instead of by hunting and gathering. As their agricultural skills improved, the Archaic people's lifestyle became less nomadic and they built communities of dispersed households with large granaries and rudimentary public structures.

Gradually, the Basketmakers’ style of dwelling changed. From c. 750 to 1300, they abandoned their pithouses in dispersed hamlets and built connected rectangular stone houses above ground. From these connected dwellings, the inhabitants eventually formed multi-storied villages that contained small household compounds and kivas with decorated walls. The name Pueblo originated with the Spanish explorers who referred to the compact villages of these people as “pueblos,” meaning “villages” in Spanish. These ancient Puebloan people are the predecessors of today’s Pueblo and Hopi Indians, and they are often referred to as Anasazi, a Navajo word meaning “ancient ones.”

Canyon de Chelly National Monument contains the remains of these ancient Puebloan villages. Built into a sheer 500 foot sandstone cliff, the White House was constructed and occupied between 1060 A.D. and 1275 A.D. The White House takes its name from the white plaster used to coat the long back wall in the upper dwelling. Visitors can view the White House Ruins either from the “White House Overlook” on the South Rim Drive, or by taking a 2.5 mile round-trip trail to the ruins (this is the only trail by which visitors may enter the canyon without a permit or an authorized Navajo guide). The largest ancient Puebloan village preserved in Canyon de Chelly is Mummy Cave. Situated 300 feet above the canyon floor, this village has close to 70 rooms. The east and west alcoves contain living and ceremonial rooms, and the walls are decorated with white and pale green plaster. Mummy Cave was occupied until about 1300. Visitors can view the ruins from the “Mummy Cave Overlook” on the North Rim Drive of the park.

By 1300, the Puebloan life in Canyon de Chelly abruptly ended. A prolonged drought in the 1200’s dried out what is now the Four Corners region of Arizona, Utah, Colorado, and New Mexico; disease; conflict; and the allure of new religious ideas to the south prompted the Puebloan people to disperse. They left the canyon in search of a dependable water supply and eventually established villages along the Little Colorado River and at the southern tip of Black Mesa. The people of these villages, known as the Hopi, continued to occupy the canyon sporadically. The Hopi used the canyon for seasonal farming, ritual pilgrimages, and occasional lengthy stays. Life in Canyon de Chelly for the Hopi also led to interactions with the Navajo and the Spanish as both groups were carried to the canyon for agricultural and land.

While archeological records do not clearly indicate when the Navajo arrived in the canyon, patterns on the landscape indicate that the Navajo quickly adapted to an agricultural lifestyle, contributed to significantly by Spanish influence. The Navajo and Spanish were likely in contact since the 1500s and exchanged goods and skills. The Spanish introduced the Navajo to sheep and goats encouraging pastoral patterns of life for the Navajo. The Navajo used rock shelters in the canyon walls to keep their flocks of sheep, scenes depicted in detail on some canyon pictographs.

All interactions between the Navajo and Spanish were not peaceful, however. By the late 1700s, lengthy warfare erupted between the Navajo, other regional American Indians, and the Spanish colonists of the Rio Grande Valley. A particularly violent battle took place in January of 1805. Lt. Antonio Narbona, a Creole lieutenant, traveled to Canyon de Chelly with Spanish troops and local guides. Narbona was sent to retaliate against the Navajo for their attacks on Cebolletta. At the time, Ceboletta functioned as a Spanish military post at the base of Mount Taylor, a place considered sacred by the Navajo. The Spanish fought a day-long battle with the Navajo who sought protection in a rock shelter in Canyon del Muerto (another canyon located within the Canyon de Chelly National Monument). By the end of the day, Narbona reported killing and capturing numerous Navajos. The shelter where this battle ocurred is referred to today as Massacre Cave and serves as a site of commemoration. Massacre Cave can be viewed at the “Massacre Cave Overlook” on the North Rim Drive of the park

After the Spanish colonial government left, the Navajo continued to resist encroachment by subsequent troops sent by the Mexican and American governments to lands occupied by the Navajo. In 1846, the United States fought battles against the recently-independent Mexican government for control over present-day Arizona and New Mexico. Despite these military advancements, the Navajo attempted to maintain control of some lands and initiated raids against the US government. To indicate they would not tolerate such attacks, the United States military conducted a campaign against the Navajo in 1864. Colonel Kit Carson led an operation against the Navajo, resulting in the forced removal of 8,000 Navajos to a fort in eastern New Mexico. The Navajo people were made to walk the 300 miles from Canyon de Chelly to Fort Sumner in New Mexico. The forced removal was referred to among the Navajo as "the Long Walk." Many died during the Long Walk and with the conditions at Fort Sumner being equally grim, many others perished as well. After four years, the first reservation experiment the U.S. government used to manage the Navajo population proved unsuccessful, and the Navajo were permitted to return to their land in Canyon de Chelly.

Today, Canyon de Chelly sustains a thriving community of Navajo people. A visit to the park provides great insight into the present-day life and rich history of the Navajo community. Visitors to Canyon de Chelly National Monument can observe 1,000 foot sheer sandstone walls and well-preserved Anasazi ruins. Interwoven in these sites are also pieces of the history of Spanish interaction with the American Indians in the United States.

Canyon de Chelly National Monument, a unit of the National Park System that is managed in partnership with the Navajo Nation, is located in Chinle, AZ. The visitor center is 3 miles (4.8 km) from Route 191 in Chinle, AZ. The visitor center is open daily all year from 8:00am to 5:00pm, except for Christmas Day. The North and South Rim Drives and the White House Trail remain open all year. For more information, visit the National Park Service Canyon de Chelly National Monument website or call 928-674-5500.

Plan Your Visit:

Canyon de Chelly National Monument, a unit of the National Park System that is managed in partnership with the Navajo Nation, is located in Chinle, AZ. The visitor center is 3 miles (4.8 km) from Route 191 in Chinle, AZ. The visitor center is open daily all year from 8:00am to 5:00pm, except for Christmas Day. The North and South Rim Drives and the White House Trail remain open all year. For more information, visit the National Park Service
Canyon de Chelly National Monument website or call 928-674-5500.

Canyon de Chelly National Monument has been documented by the National Park Service's Historic American Buildings Survey. The National Park Service Museum Management Program exhibit, A New Lease on Life, includes information on the conservation of artifacts from Canyon de Chelly. Canyon de Chelly is featured in the National Park Service American Southwest Travel Itinerary and in the Places Reflecting America's Diverse Cultures
: Explore their Stories in the National Park System Travel Itinerary.

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Coronado National Memorial, Hereford, Arizona

Attracted by the legend of seven “large cities, with streets lined with goldsmith shops, houses of many stories, and doorways studded with emeralds and turquoise,” Francisco Vazquez de Coronado led an expedition to find the “Seven Cities of Cibola.” What he found instead were small villages inhabited by Pueblo Indians, with streets lined with stone and grass houses, and no emerald studded doorways. The mythical seven golden cities that Coronado did not find are a part of the story that Coronado National Memorial commemorates in Arizona’s Montezuma Canyon. Despite Coronado’s unsuccessful voyage, the Memorial honors the Spanish expedition and the influence Coronado and his men had on the development of the distinctive Hispanic and American Indian culture still present today.

Born in Salamanca, Spain in 1510, Francisco Vazquez de Coronado lived there for 25 years before his journey to the Americas. While in Mexico, Coronado became a prominent figure in Mexico City’s council after developing a close friendship with the first viceroy of New Spain, Antonio de Mendoza. Coronado acquired an enormous estate from his marriage to the daughter of a colonial treasurer and was governor of New Galicia by 1538. Despite his great fortune and status in Mexico, Coronado wanted to follow in the footsteps of other Spanish explorers who attempted to discover the “Seven Cities of Cibola or Gold.” When Mendoza commissioned Coronado to command the expedition to Cibola, he accepted the mission, and on February 23, 1540, Coronado and his crew sailed out from Mexico’s west coast en route to the golden cities.

Although explorers since the early 1500s had failed to find the seven mythical cities, Coronado and Mendoza were convinced they existed upon receiving confirmation from Fray Marcos, a priest who returned from an earlier expedition with reports of the “Seven Cities of Cibola.” Since it was a missionary expedition as opposed to one of conquest, Fray Marcos joined Coronado’s crew, and on July 7, 1540, they reached the first of the seven legendary cities. To his disappointment, Coronado found that the settlement of Hawikuh was not a city made of gold but instead a rocky pueblo inhabited by American Indians. Disregarding Mendoza’s original orders, the Spanish conquered the native village by attacking and forcing the residents out of the pueblo. At the same time Coronado removed the Indians from Hawikuh, the crew sent Fray Marcos back to his home in Mexico.

After establishing their headquarters in the native town, Coronado sent a number of his captains to explore the surrounding territory in present-day Arizona, Colorado, and the Grand Canyon. While Coronado waited in Hawikuh, Captain Hernando de Alvarado reached the Plains Indian tribes on the Pecos River and met an American Indian he named The Turk. The native informed the Spaniard of the existence of the golden city they sought, and on April 23, 1541, Coronado’s army followed The Turk to the mythical city he called Quivira but faced disillusionment when they found a small village made of grass and not of gold. Coronado and his men killed The Turk, when they learned his story was a plot to lure the Spaniards out of Pecos and into the Plains where they would starve to death.

Realizing his mission was a failure, Coronado and his crew -- except the priests who chose to stay and convert the American Indians to Christianity -- returned to Mexico City in 1542. To Mendoza’s disappointment, Coronado did not return with gold, but he did bring back great knowledge of the land and the American Indians they encountered. This information would prove useful to future explorers. Despite his failure, the Spanish viceroy cleared Coronado’s name and allowed him to resume his position as governor of New Galicia, where he would die ten years later at the age of 42. Although Francisco Vazquez de Coronado died in obscurity after his expedition failed to discover the seven golden cities, his voyage is significant today for the cultural influence the Spanish had on the territory and peoples of America’s Southwest.

At Coronado National Memorial, visitors can enjoy the panoramic views of Coronado’s probable route along the San Pedro Valley and other activities such as auto touring, caving, hiking, and birding. The Memorial’s visitor center has a picnic area, and visitors can obtain a map that will guide them to the Nature Trail, Cave Trail, and Montezuma Pass. The Memorial overlooks the border between the United States and Mexico and has two sister parks, Chiricahua National Monument and El Chico National Park, both located in Mexico. These sister parks are reminders of the resources and history the United States and Mexico share and the lasting ties. Nine pre-contact sites belonging to the Cochise Culture surround Coronado National Memorial. The sites have brought information and insights about each of the transitional phases -- Sulphur Springs, Chiricahua, and San Pedro -- the Cochise Culture witnessed from 9000 B.C to 2100 B.C.

Plan Your Visit:

Coronado National Memorial, a unit of the National Park System, is located at 4101 E. Montezuma Canyon Rd. in Hereford, AZ. Click here for the National Register of Historic Places file: text and photos. The Memorial is open all year from dawn until dusk. The visitor center is open daily, excluding Thanksgiving Day and December 25th, from 8:00am to 4:00pm. Admission is free. For more information, visit the National Park Service Coronado National Memorial website or call 520-366-5515.

Coronado National Monument is also featured in the National Park Service American Southwest Travel Itinerary and in the Places Reflecting America's Diverse Cultures: Explore their Stories in the National Park System Travel Itinerary.

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Hubbell Trading Post National Historic Site, Ganado, Arizona

Having first opened its doors to traders in the late 1800s, Hubbell Trading Post on the Navajo Reservation in Arizona is one of the oldest operating trading posts in the American Southwest, where the differing cultures of the Indians, Spanish, and Anglo-Americans have come together for mutual benefit. For almost 90 years, the Hubbell family welcomed traders and notable visitors to trade with the Navajo. The Spanish roots and character of this family not only influenced the lives of the Navajo, but also of the visitors that they encountered. Although the Hubbell family eventually sold the post in the 1960s to the National Park System, the Western Parks Association has continued to operate it as a trading business as if it were still under the management of John Lorenzo Hubbell and his family. Today, visitors can learn about the Navajo’s heritage and their material culture, witness traders negotiating deals with American Indians, learn to weave Navajo rugs, and purchase crafts and art from the Indians at any of the trading post’s shops.

Although John Lorenzo Hubbell established the post in 1878, the story of Hubbell Trading Post begins in the early 1860s, when General James H. Carleton began forcibly removing the Navajo Indians from their homelands in an effort to find gold in the Navajo territory. Leading this gruesome campaign was Colonel Christopher “Kit” Carson who, under the direction of Carleton, instituted a “scorched earth” policy in the Navajo territory. Under this policy, Carson’s troops were to destroy the Navajo’s livelihood by killing their livestock and by burning their homes and crops. To terrorize the Indians into leaving their homelands further, Carson and his men massacred Navajo men, women, and children.

By the winter of 1863, after suffering from starvation and fearing the loss of more people, the Navajo surrendered to Colonel Carson’s troops. The following year, Carson and his troops rounded up the Navajos who survived General Carleton’s vicious campaign, and forced over 8,000 Navajo to walk more than 300 miles from northeast Arizona to Fort Sumner in eastern New Mexico. Known by the Navajo as the Long Walk to the Bosque Redondo, a 40 square mile reservation on the Pecos River, this episode changed the Navajo world and had a significant influence on their material culture and economic pursuits.

While living at the Bosque Redondo reservation, the Navajo attended school, practiced Christianity, and learned to incorporate in their daily lives the products that the mobile trader introduced into their society. They grew highly dependent on these new materials, which the people used to make the crafts that the Navajo exchanged with traders for food and other products that were essential for their way of life. Without the mobile trader, the people would not have survived in the world the white man created, especially after the government allowed the Navajo to return to their homelands in 1868.

Following the return of the Navajo from the Bosque Redondo, traders continued supplying them with the materials they had grown accustomed to using during their four-year exile. Among the traders to establish a successful relationship with the Navajo was John Lorenzo Hubbell. Hubbell not only developed an industry from the Navajo crafts, but also helped the Navajo adapt to their new environment and readjust to reservation life. He had become familiar with the Navajo’s language and traditions while traveling around the Southwest as a Spanish interpreter for the U.S. military. Hubbell was able to use his knowledge of the Navajo culture and language to establish perhaps the most successful trading empire in the American Southwest. He opened the trading post that is now Hubbell Trading Post National Historic Site in 1878, ten years after Navajo returned to their homeland from their Bosque Redondo exile.

Hubbell’s trading empire at one point consisted of 30 trading posts, two wholesale stores, a few curio shops, and some bean and apple farms in Gallup and Farmington, New Mexico. His facilities allowed the Navajo to display their art and crafts, while also providing the Indians with food and the material goods they required to make their crafts. This was also a place where artists and other travelers, including Theodore Roosevelt, could find shelter. Eventually, as his business developed, Hubbell was also able to build freight and mail lines, which he used to transport supplies and to send mail order catalogs that promoted Navajo crafts. Hubbell’s career as a trader served as a link between the Navajo and Anglo cultures.

Known to the Navajo as “Old Mexican,” Hubbell had both Spanish and American ties - his father was a Connecticut Yankee and his mother a Gutierrez Mexican. Hubbell’s empire and his attitudes about the role of land and the way family organization and lifestyle were connected reflected an affinity for Latino values and customs. John Lorenzo Hubbell was born at his mother’s family’s estate in Pajarito. There, he grew up among parents, brothers and sisters, grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins who all supported each other. This “big house” environment allowed them to function as a family institution. As Hubbell developed his own empire, this “big house” attitude remained and was crucial to his success as a trader. The Hubbell Trading Post remained in the family until 1967.

By the late 19th century, the Navajo trading became a family event, rather than an affair that the head males participated in alone. Also, the wealthier Navajo began to make efforts to support the poor Navajo in times of crisis. These supportive relationships strongly resembled the interdependent community that existed at the Hubbell Trading Post.

Hubbell also influenced Navajo silversmithing in a way that is still present to this day. He brought Mexican silversmiths to Ganado to teach the craft of silversmithing to the Navajo men of the area so their work would be more appealing to Anglo-Americans. This increased the demand for Navajo silverwork significantly and created a moneymaking enterprise for the tribe.

The store at Hubbell Trading Post National Historic Site is still in operation. Once inside the masonry post, visitors will find a sales room, a large storage room, and two office rooms that housed all of the trading post’s records from the time of its establishment. Today, these rooms house a unique collection of pioneer artifacts and Navajo art. Behind the trading post stands the Hubbell family home, which also displays a collection of Navajo artwork. Hubbell’s family sold the property to the National Park Service in 1965. The trading post and Hubbell home look much today as they did during Lorenzo Hubbell’s time.

At the Hubbell Trading Post National Historic Site, visitors may begin their tour at the visitor center and learn from a skilled Navajo artist how to weave an authentic Navajo rug. Visitors can also purchase food and other goods at the bullpen; buy a Navajo rug, jewelry, and baskets; attend the “Sheep is Life” workshop to learn about the Navajo lifestyle; and attend a Native American art auction. Beyond the trading post, visitors can take a guided tour of the Hubbell family home and explore the grounds of the Hubbell family homestead with its barn, bunkhouse, guest hogan, historic farm equipment, horses, chickens, and Navajo Churro sheep. They can also view a private collection of Southwestern and Native American arts and crafts.

Plan Your Visit:

Hubbell Trading Post National Historic Site, a unit of the National Park System and a
National Historic Landmark, is located one mile west of Hwy. 191 on U.S Highway 264 in Ganado, AZ. Click for the National Register of Historic Places file: text and photos. Hubbell Trading Post is open daily from 8:00am to 6:00pm during the summer and 8:00am to 5:00pm in the winter. The park is closed on Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Day. There is an admission fee. For more information, visit the National Park Service Hubbell Trading Post National Historic Site website or call 928-755-3475.

Many components of the Hubbell Trading Post National Historic Site have been documented by the National Park Service Historic American Buildings Survey including: Ganado, Storage Building, Navajo Day School, Unfinished Shed, Two-story Barn, Root Cellar, Gazebo, Guest Hogan, the House, HB-1, Bunkhouse, and Bread Oven. The National Park Service Museum Management Program exhibit, Navajo Portraits at Hubbell Trading Post, features artwork from the Hubbell Trading Post National Historic Site museum collections. Hubbell Trading Post National Historic Site is also featured in the National Park Service American South West Travel Itinerary and in the Places Reflecting America’s Diverse Cultures: Explore their Stories in the National Park System Travel Itinerary

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Juan Bautista de Anza National Historic Trail, Arizona and California

Juan Bautista de Anza National Historic Trail traces the route followed in 1775-1776 by Spanish commander Juan Bautista de Anza II, who led almost 300 colonists on an expedition from Mexico to found a presidio and mission near San Francisco Bay. The trail, which is over 1200 miles long and today can be traveled via an auto tour, commemorates, preserves, and invites visitors to explore elements of the Spanish colonization plan for its northern most territory. Visitors can experience key remains of Spanish colonization: the presidio or fort (military), the mission (religious), and the pueblo or town (civilian). Many of the sites along the trail are listed in the National Register of Historic Places.

In 1774, Juan Bautista de Anza, a captain on the Spanish frontier stationed at the Tubac Presidio, requested permission from the viceroy of New Spain, Antonio Maria Bucareli, to prove that a land route from Mexico to Alta (Upper) California was possible. Spain was in need of an overland route to Alta California, because existing sea routes were too dangerous, and the Spanish needed to secure their outposts in this area from Russian and English exploration and colonization. Bucareli granted Anza permission, and with the help of American Indian guides, Anza identified an overland route in 1774. With the success of this first expedition, Anza gained permission to recruit potential settlers for a second colonizing expedition.

By October of 1775, Anza had convinced nearly 300 people to take their chances on a new life. He persuaded people to join him on a colonizing expedition to Alta California by telling them stories of lush resources, plentiful land, and new opportunities. A culturally diverse mix of peoples of American Indian, European, and Afro-Latino ancestry put their trust in Anza and became a part of the expedition. The settlers, their military escorts, and the 1,000 head of livestock included in the expedition traveled to presidios, missions, and through the countryside for about five and a half months until they reached their final destination.

By June 27, 1776, Lt. Moraga, one of the main lieutenants on the expedition, led the settlers into the area that is now San Francisco. Anza had decided on this site as the final destination on March 28, 1776, after exploring while the rest of the group recuperated from the journey in Monterey. Anza made sure that the settlers reached their final destination and that Spain successfully established its outpost in Alta California. Anza’s expedition changed the course of California history, and descendants of the expedition live on today.

Travelers can explore the Juan Bautista de Anza National Historic Trail and experience this historic expedition. Commemorating the trailhead of the United States portion of the Anza Trail from Mexico is the Anza Trailhead Room with its exhibit on the expedition, located on the second floor of the 1904 Nogales Courthouse in Nogales, Arizona, where the National Historic Trail begins. Today, Nogales high school students study the trail's and their community's history through the Anza Trail Ambassadors program, coordinated by the Santa Fe Ranch Foundation in partnership with the national Park Service.

Moving north along the trail from Nogales, historic stops include Tumacácori National Historical Park, the Tubac Presidio State Historic Park, and Mission San Xavier del Bac. On October 17, 1775, as the expedition made its way from Nogales toward the Tubac Presidio, where they planned to make final preparations for their journey, Father Pedro Font held mass for the expedition at the Tumacácori mission. The mission, now preserved in Tumacácori National Historical Park, also contributed a small herd of cattle to the expedition.

Over the next few days, the expedition members prepared for their journey at the Tubac Presidio. Here, the group gathered over 1,000 head of cattle, horses and mules to transport food supplies and tools, to provide food on the journey, and to help establish new herds once the expedition members settled at their new home in Alta California. By October 23, 1775, the Anza Expedition began the journey from Tubac Presidio. Visitors can explore the remains of the presidio and sometimes catch a re-enactment of the expedition’s passage through Tubac at Tubac Presidio State Historic Park.

About 45 miles north of Tubac is the. On the night the group departed the Tubac Presidio, the expedition experienced the only death en route when Maria Ignacia Manuela Pinuelas Feliz died from complications from childbirth. The expedition stopped at Mission San Xavier del Bac to bury her, mourn her death, and to celebrate three marriages of the expedition’s members. Visitors can see the over 200 year old mission church that was started here in 1783.

Continuing north and northwest, the expedition passed through the areas that are now Saguaro National Park and Casa Grande Ruins National Monument. At Saguaro National Park, visitors can experience the desert much as it was at the time of the expedition. The wild vegetation, including cacti, ocotillo, creosote, ponderosa pine, oak, and Douglas fir, provided the raw materials used by the local American Indians and the Anza expedition. Traveling north from the vicinity of Saguaro National Park, the Anza expedition camped about five miles from the Casa Grande ruins. On October 31, 1775, Father Font and Anza took a side trip to visit this 14th century Puebloan ruin and to check the accuracy of previously recorded descriptions and measurements of the site.

Continuing on their journey, the Anza expedition safely crossed the Colorado River with the help of Palma, their American Indian guide, and his Yuma tribe. Yuma Crossing State Historic Park preserves the site of this crossing. After safely fording the river, the expedition continued north into what is now California. Once in California, the expedition moved northwest through what is today the 600,000 acre Anza-Borrego Desert State Park. After crossing the desert, the expedition traveled up Coyote Canyon and made camp along Coyote Creek from December 20 to 22, 1775. With water provided by the creek and a little pasturage close by, the expedition’s animals recovered and the settlers could recuperate. The campsites within the Anza-Borrego Desert State Park are marked with the California Historic Landmark plaques.

Rested and ready to go, the expedition moved on from the desert northwest toward the Pacific coastline. En route to the Monterey area, the expedition passed by Franciscan missions and by the presidio in what is today known as El Presidio de Santa Barbara State Historic Park. Some soldiers of the original garrison were members of the expedition. On January 4, 1776, the expedition reached the Spanish empire in Alta California at the Mission San Gabriel Arcangel. This mission is still a working parish with a museum and gardens. By March 2, 1776, the expedition reached Mission San Luis Obispo de Tolosa, where the travelers rested for a day before continuing north to Mission San Antonia de Padua. Mission San Luis Obispo de Tolosa is now restored and has a museum. Mission San Antonia de Padua is a working parish and informational exhibits can be found on the grounds of Fort Hunger Liggett nearby.

Six months after leaving the Tubac Presidio, the expedition reached the Monterey Presidio on March 10, 1776, where the group rested. The Royal Presidio Chapel, where Anza delivered the expedition travelers, is a National Historic Landmark that has been in continuous service since 1794. The mission is open for tours. As the travelers rested and became familiar with the Monterey area, Anza set off to determine the location of the new San Francisco presidio and mission. By March 28, 1776, he decided on the area that would best suit the new presidio and mission; and by June the settlers moved from Monterey to San Francisco.

These settlers built the beginnings of the Presidio of San Francisco and the Mission de San Francisco de Asis. The site of the Presidio of San Francisco site is now part of Golden Gate National Recreation Area. Visitors can explore Fort Point; the site of the original presidio around Pershing Square; a remnant of the presidio comandante’s house; many trails; and a visitor’s center. Nearby, the Mission de San Francisco de Asis, or Mission Dolores, is the oldest intact building in San Francisco and stands as a lasting testament to the legacy of Anza’s expedition.

Juan Bautista de Anza National Historic Trail covers over 1200 miles of rich and diverse history. The historic sites, stops, and views are plentiful - travel it today to discover and explore an important chapter in American history.

Plan Your Visit:

Juan Bautista de Anza National Historic Trail, a unit of the National Park Service, is a 1200 mile trail through 19 different counties in Arizona and California beginning in Nogales, AZ and ending in San Francisco, CA. For more information, visit the National Park Service Juan Bautista de Anza National Historic Trail website or call 415-623-2344. Use the following links to help plan your visit: Anza Trail Guide and Anza Related Sites.

A number of sites along the trail are listed in the National Register of Historic Places, including many of the sites described above. Click here for more information:

Tumacácori National Historical Park: text and photos
Tubac Presidio State Historic Park
Mission San Xavier del Bac
Saguaro National Park
Casa Grande Ruins National Monument
Yuma Crossing State Historic Park: text and photos
Anza-Borrego Desert State Park
Mission San Gabriel Arcangel
Mission San Luis Obispo de Tolosa
Mission San Antonia de Padua
El Presidio de Santa Barbara State Historic Park
Monterey Presidio (Royal Presidio Chapel): text and photos
Presidio of San Francisco
Mission de San Francisco de Asis (Mission Dolores)
The Juan Bautista de Anza National Historic Trail is also featured in the National Park Service Places Reflecting America's Diverse Cultures: Explore their Stories in the National Park System Travel Itinerary.
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Mission los Santos Angeles de Guevavi, Tumacácori National Historical Park, Arizona

As Spanish colonists and missionaries pushed northward, Jesuit priests settled along the frontier of New Spain to spread Spanish culture and Christianity to the Native Americans. The Mission los Santos Angeles de Guevavi is the site of a Jesuit head church, called a “cabecera,” on the grassy banks of the Santa Cruz River in what is today southern Arizona. The ruin of the mission church is all that is left of this National Historic Landmark, which is part of the Tumacácori National Historic Park located south of Tucson, Arizona. The mission church is the only known extant Jesuit-built Spanish colonial church in the United States and a valuable source of information about Jesuit and native mission communities in New Spain.

To advance both Spain’s and Rome’s interests, Friar Eusebio Francisco Kino, a pioneering Jesuit priest, founded the small rancheria of Guevavi in 1691 and encouraged the local Pima to submit to baptism. Kino created the mission there in 1701 when he brought Father Juan de San Martin to live in residence. Working under Spanish authority, Kino founded more than 20 missions and smaller outposts throughout the arid region, which the Spanish named Pimeria Alta. The site of Mission Guevavi is the location of the first Jesuit head church, a “cabecera,” in the southwestern United States.

The Jesuit missionaries often named missions using a saint’s name coupled with a Hispanicized version of the local native town. Los Santos Angeles de Guevavi was also known as San Gabriel de Guevavi, San Rafael de Guevavi, and San Miguel de Guevavi depending on the Jesuit or later Franciscan priests who presided over the mission. To avoid confusion in the records, it was often simply called “Santos Angeles” de Guevavi. Not a Spanish term, “Guevavi” was derived from the Piman language word “gi vavhia” and means “big spring.” By wedding a Piman word with Catholic belief, the Spanish missionaries began the process of acculturation.

The Pima and Tohono O’odham at the missions adopted hallmarks of Spanish culture and adapted to the Catholic religion. They embraced animal husbandry, learned Spanish, and participated in parish life. Today, many O’odham still speak the Piman language as well as Spanish. The successful acculturation in these areas does not mean all of the O’odham and Pima accommodated the Spanish or submitted passively to the conversion process. Prior to Spanish colonization, the O’odham and other Pima groups moved seasonally and planted crops in various regions along the floodplains by the Santa Cruz River, an area called the Pimería Alta. The Spanish missions ended this lifestyle for many Pima. Even if they rejected mission life, their land was appropriated for livestock or permanent settlement. In 1751, a group of O’odham resisted Spanish occupation, but failed to drive the colonists off their land. Called the Pima Revolt, this conflict was the result of nearly a hundred years of indigenous religious and cultural oppression. During this revolt, the priest at Guevavi, Father Garrucho, abandoned his mission to escape an impending massacre. Mission Guevavi was sacked and the Spanish military soon suppressed the Pima.

Following the dismissal of the Jesuits in 1767, the Franciscan order took control of the Spanish missions in New Spain. During the latter decades of the 18th century, both Spanish power in North America and Mission Guevavi began to fade. Apache raiders increased their attacks on settlements in the region. At Guevavi, the Apache raiders would attack mission residents and steal cattle. The threat forced Franciscans to move the region’s head church from Guevavi to Tumacácori, where they could be closer to the Spanish fort at Tubac. Without a priest, Mission Guevavi was abandoned in 1773.

In the 19th century, Mexican miners used the adobe church and convent as their headquarters and worked the profitable gold mine at Guevavi. Mining continued in the area between 1814 and 1849, after which time Apache raids became too dangerous to keep the mine operational. The local Pima were also forced that year to leave Guevavi and move north to San Xavier del Bac. The United States acquired Guevavi as part of the Gadsden Purchase in 1853, following the Mexican American War, and American business in Arizona reopened the mine in 1864, abandoning it again by 1888.

For nearly 40 years, Guevavi existed in obscurity. In the 1930s, the National Park Service’s Historic American Buildings Survey documented the site. In the 1960s, archeologists from the University of Arizona conducted an in-depth field survey. Dr. William J. Robinson led the archeologists who partially excavated the ruins and carefully avoided damaging the sites of historic burials around the mission. Archeologists determined that the site of Mission Guevavi was not heavily occupied prior to the arrival of the Spanish. The Pima moved there in large numbers after Jesuit settlement commenced.

The ruins at Guevavi are of the church and its attached convent, completed just months prior to the 1751 revolt. Built of simple adobe clay and straw, the ruins of the Mission Guevavi church measure 15 feet wide and 50 feet long. The adobe walls of the church are three feet thick and six feet tall. The church’s interior was plastered then whitewashed. The convent was also made of adobe, 90 feet by 105 feet, and contained several rooms. The perseverance of these Jesuits makes Guevavi’s ruins unique. While other historic mission ruins exist from the Franciscan period, Guevavi is the only standing church that can provide information about Jesuit missionary life and methods of Hispanic acculturation prior to the order’s removal from New Spain.

Today, the ruin of the mission church is a restricted part of the Tumacácori National Historical Park. Ranch owner Ralph Winterford donated the land to the National Park Service in 1990, the same year the ruins became a National Historic Landmark. Visitors interested in seeing Mission Guevavi must make special reservations ahead of their visit during winter months. More information about the mission is available at the park’s Tumacácori Museum. Mission los Santos Angeles de Guevavi is part of the Juan Bautista de Anza Heritage Trail.

Plan Your Visit:

Mission los Santos Angeles de Guevavi is a National Historic Landmark and located in the Tumacácori National Historical Park. The visitor center for the Tumacácori National Historical Park, a unit of the National Park System, is located at 1891 East Frontage Rd., Tumacácori, AZ and is open 9:00am to 5:00pm daily, except Thanksgiving Day and Christmas Day. Mission los Santos Angeles de Guevavi is accessible January through March by reservation. For more information, visit the Tumacácori National Historical Park website including its featured page on Mission los Santos Angeles de Guevavi, or call 520-398-2341.


Mission los Santos Angeles de Guevavi has been documented by the National Park Service’s Historic American Buildings Survey.
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Old Spanish National Historic Trail, New Mexico, Colorado, Utah, Arizona, Nevada, California

After Mexico became independent from Spanish rule in 1821, trade flourished between the eastern part of the United States and the vast western territory. Networks of trails developed as explorers, traders and settlers attempted to find safe passage through the treacherous, dry, and scorching hot interior lands. The Old Spanish Trail developed during this period as westerners sought a way to connect the burgeoning trading post at Santa Fe to the riches of Los Angeles and southern California. First officially established in 1829, the main branch of the trail spanned over 2,700 miles, cutting through the southwestern corner of Colorado, moving north and west through Utah and finally turning south again toward Arizona and lower Nevada, with a terminus in Los Angeles, California.

Today, the National Park Service and the Bureau of Land Management jointly manage the Old Spanish National Historic Trail. The hazardous mule trade route stands as a testament to the epic story of the West, the struggles early frontiers-people faced in the transport of goods, and the critical ties between the international economics and cultures of North America’s opposite coasts in the mid-1800s.

The Old Spanish Trail: History and Use

American Indians who lived in modern-day New Mexico, Colorado, and Utah were the first to devise systems of trails in the region for hunting, trade, and travel. As early as the mid-1700’s, Spanish explorers made amicable contact with native tribes and were guided along these paths as European trapping and trading increased in the area. Further Spanish attempts to connect the southern California coast to the growing trade center of Santa Fe failed due to the extreme terrain and weather.

Interest in finding a passage increased after the 1821 establishment of the Santa Fe Trail, which successfully connected the eastern United States with the New Mexico trading hub at Santa Fe. For centuries, Santa Fe had been a booming trading post between the North American interior and New Spain to the south. El Camino Real de Tierra Adentro, a popular wagon, immigration and trade road, had connected Santa Fe to Mexico City since the late 16th century. Both the Santa Fe Trail and El Camino Real de Tierra Adentro National Historic Trail are also featured in this travel itinerary.

A route connecting Los Angeles and Santa Fe was finally established in 1829. Antonio Armijo, a Mexican merchant and trader, led 60 men and 100 mules across the wide expanse of the Colorado Plateau and forged a route through the Mojave Desert on his way into Southern California. Over the next two decades, Mexican and American traders developed variants of the route that Armijo pioneered, creating the multiple branches that make up the trail today. The trail’s routes allowed for much cultural interaction as peoples of different backgrounds showed interest in the various possibilities the new route provided. Spanish presidios and missions had long been in the area, and the trail between them helped strengthen their influence among native peoples and travelers alike. The trail hosted hardy, adventurous families looking to move westward in search of wealth and fertile farmlands, and also allowed passage for military missions, American Indian guides, and traders, as well as outlaws and raiders looking for vulnerable, weary travelers.

The Old Spanish Trail’s main use, however, was as an extensive trade route between the markets of Los Angeles and Santa Fe. Sheep and high quality woolen goods, such as serapes and blankets, were traded for a surplus supply of horses and mules raised on California’s ranchos. These valued stock animals commanded premium prices in New Mexico and on the western frontier of the United States. With its location on the west coast, Los Angeles also extended the North American markets across the Pacific Ocean, linking the continent’s interior to Asiatic trade for the first time.

Travel along the trail was not easy as the winding path skirted around the Grand Canyon, crossed through the continent’s largest arid sand dunes, and led travelers into the harsh deserts in Death Valley. Mules loaded with goods had to scramble up narrow paths, swim across creeks, and at times drag their handlers across roaring rivers. Despite the long, treacherous journey, the Old Spanish Trail remained an extraordinarily popular trade route until the Mexican-American War in 1848. With the United States’ victory, other wagon-friendly trade routes were developed, and the dangerous mule road was largely abandoned.

The Old Spanish Trail Today

Today, remnant traces of the trail remain where visitors can witness evidence of the route’s important impact on the West. Throughout New Mexico, Utah, and Colorado, expanses of packed and eroded ground still mark the road where hundreds of fast trotting mules and their tired muleteers once traversed the high country on their way to California.

Santa Fe retains much of its historic fabric related to its days of major western trade. The Santa Fe Plaza at the center of town was once a teeming hotspot for trade and social interaction as it is today. The plaza is a National Historic Landmark listed in the National Register of Historic Places. It buildings constructed in the Pueblo, Spanish, and Territorial styles reflect the diverse cultural history of Santa Fe. The Palace of the Governors on the north side of the Plaza is well worth a visit. Built in 1610, it is the oldest continuously occupied governmental building in the United States. Today, the palace is a National Historic Landmark and a museum.

The Old Spanish Trail Association is the main independent partner of the Old Spanish Trail, working with the National Park Service and Bureau of Land Management. The association’s website features extensive information regarding trail visitation, including interactive maps, locations of interpretive plaques, local points of interest, and the answers to frequently asked questions.

Plan your Visit:

The Old Spanish National Historic Trail runs between Santa Fe, New Mexico and Los Angeles, California. Over its years of use, it followed several different routes through New Mexico, Colorado, Utah, Arizona, Nevada, and Southern California. Various segments of the trail are accessible via Route 25 in New Mexico, Interstate 70 in Colorado, Utah, and Nevada and Route 5 in California. A comprehensive, interactive visitor map is available through The Old Spanish Trail Association, the official NPS partner for the Old Spanish National Historic Trail. The trail is part of the National Trails System managed by the National Park Service. For more information, visit the National Park Service Old Spanish National Historic Trail website or call the National Trails Intermountain Region Office at 505-988-6098.

Santa Fe Plaza and the Palace of the Governors are both National Historic Landmarks. Click here for the National Historic Landmark registration files for the Santa Fe Plaza: Text and Photos; and the Palace of the Governors: Text and Photos. Santa Fe was also a terminus for the Santa Fe Trail and El Camino Real de Tierra Adentro, which are also featured in this travel itinerary. The Old Spanish National Historic Trail is also featured in the National Park Service Places Reflecting America's Diverse Cultures: Explore their Stories in the National Park System Travel Itinerary.
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San Bernardino Ranch,
Douglas, Arizona

The San Bernardino Ranch is the site of two historic cattle ranches in southern Arizona’s San Bernardino Valley, a region that did not see permanent European settlement until the late 19th century. Apache Indian raids throughout the region prevented the Spanish from building a garrison there in the 1770s and forced a Mexican rancher to abandon his land in the 1830s, but in the 1880s, an American rancher and “wild west” sheriff – John H. Slaughter – settled San Bernardino with his family and founded a successful cattle ranch. At their borderlands ranch, the prominent Slaughter family experienced the end of the Apache era, New Mexico statehood in 1912, and the tumultuous Mexican Revolution. The

San Bernardino Ranch today is a National Historic Landmark district located about 15 miles east of Douglas, Arizona, near the U.S.-Mexican border.
Mexico secularized the Spanish colonial mission districts after it won its independence from Spain in 1821 and granted large tracts of land to men loyal to the new Republic. In the San Bernardino Valley of southern Arizona, the Mexican government sold Lieutenant Ignacio Pérez over 73,000 acres that included valuable, water-rich lands in present-day Arizona and Sonora, Mexico. The son of a prominent Sonora mine owner, Pérez was a soldier and a veteran of the Mexican War for Independence. He started at the San Bernardino Ranch with 4,000 head of cattle, purchased from Mission San José de Tumacácori. Though it was never completed, Pérez’s payment for the cattle was crucial in funding construction of the San José mission church. Pérez raised cattle at San Bernardino for over a decade, until Apache raids on his ranch forced him to abandon the operation in the mid-1830s.

The land was unoccupied for about 50 years, with the ranch land split between the United States and Mexico according to the terms of the treaties that followed the Mexican-American War. A Texan native and Cochise County, Arizona sheriff, John Slaughter purchased a 99-year lease on 65,000 acres of Pérez’s original grant in 1884. Six years later, a U.S. claims court ruled that only 2,300 acres north of the Arizona-Mexico border belonged to Slaughter, but he eventually controlled nearly 100,000 acres of American and Mexican land around his ranch by leasing public land and purchasing private homesteads. In addition to raising, buying, and selling cattle, Slaughter oversaw the cultivation of over 500 acres with fruits and vegetables. The ranch workers included Hispano, Mexican, Indian, and Chinese American tenants and laborers. During its peak years, about 150 people lived and worked at the San Bernardino Ranch.

The Mexican Revolution upset the peace at San Bernardino Ranch in the 1910s and ‘20s, and General Pancho Villa, one of the revolutionary leaders, led raids on American and Mexican settlements near the border between 1915 and 1916. During those years, Villa’s northern army entered the San Bernardino Valley and took supplies from the Slaughter ranch on its Mexican side. The American side of the ranch never came under attack; the U.S. cavalry kept a garrison at Douglas, Arizona, and held a small outpost at the San Bernardino Ranch to defend American lands. Abandoned in 1933, the cavalry camp was located on a hilltop across from the House Pond. Though the ranch survived the threat, the revolution nearly reached it when the opposing Mexican sides met in 1915 at the battle of Agua Prieta, Sonora, right across the border from Douglas.

The historic Slaughter ranch compound today is composed of late 19th century buildings, built after the 1887 Sonora Earthquake destroyed earlier infrastructure. Historic buildings at the compound include the family ranch house, ice house, wash house, kitchen, water tank, car shed, corrals, and granary. The ranch house is of adobe, a Spanish-Mexican technique that uses mud brick and plaster, and has wooden floors, stone fireplaces, and stone buttress. Other buildings are of stone. Formed by natural springs dammed by Slaughter for irrigation, the large House Pond creates a green oasis for the ranch house compound in an otherwise arid environment. The site of the ruins of the failed 18th century Spanish garrison is unknown, but Ignacio Pérez likely built his ranch hacienda on the garrison. In the 1820s, the Pérez ranch headquarters took up two acres that included an hacienda with a courtyard and adobe wall. South of the border, the Pérez hacienda today appears as adobe mounds beneath desert sand and brush.

Cattle ranching continued for nearly 60 years at San Bernardino after the Slaughters left the property in 1922. After a succession of owners, the ranch house compound became a museum in 1982 when the Johnson Historical Museum of the Southwest purchased the property. The ranch museum, also called the Slaughter Ranch Museum, keeps the adobe ranch house decorated and furnished as it could have been during the Slaughter era. The museum provides visitors with a chance to learn about American ranch life in the southwest inside the ranch house as well as with an outdoor recreational area by the pond, where there are trees for shade, picnic tables, and charcoal grills. Near the historic Slaughter ranch district, over 2,300 acres of the original Mexican land grant are now part of the San Bernardino National Wildlife Refuge, a unit of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, that offers seasonal hunting, hiking, and bird-watching.

Plan your Visit

San Bernardino Ranch, a
National Historic Landmark, and Johnson Historical Museum of the Southwest are located at 6153 Geronimo Trail in Douglas, AZ. Click here for the National Historic Landmark file: text and photos. The San Bernardino Ranch is open Wednesday-Sunday from 10:00am to 3:00pm, except Christmas and New Year’s Day. Adult entrance fee to the museum is $8 and children under 14 are free. For more information visit the Slaughter Ranch Museum website or call 520-558-2474.
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San Cayetano de Calabazas, Tumacácori National Historical Park, Arizona

When the Spanish settled present-day Arizona, the Santa Cruz River valley provided them with fertile land and new potential converts for the Catholic Church. They built a chain of missions, forts, and small outposts along the river to establish a presence in New Spain. The Spanish imported their culture to the region by sending European priests to work with the Pima people, who lived near these settlements. Tumacácori National Historical Park in southern Arizona near the Mexican border manages and preserves evidence of Spanish settlement in the Pimeria Alta mission province. San Cayetano de Calabazas, a National Historic Landmark located within the park, is a significant site of adobe ruins where Spanish culture was introduced to the Pima and which was later occupied by acculturated Pima, Mexicans, Americans, and Mexican-Americans.

Spanish Jesuits founded San Cayetano de Calabazas in 1756 after reorganizing their settlements in the wake of the 1751 Pima Revolt. Though it served many different purposes in the years between its founding and the late 19th century, Calabazas was first intended to be a “visita,” a station for visiting priests to reside as they traveled between missions throughout northern New Spain. As a visita, Calabazas was a satellite outpost associated with larger Mission Guevavi and later with Mission San Jose de Tumacácori, which were part of a string of missions throughout the northeastern Sonoran Desert. It is the most complete extant Spanish colonial mission district and best preserved remains of a visita in the United States.

The Spanish Catholic visita at Calabazas lasted 30 years, between 1756 and 1786. During this time, Catholic priests baptized, married, and buried Piman residents and exposed them to Spanish culture. This acculturation of American Indians at Spanish missions was an essential part of Spain’s colonization strategy. At Calabazas, missionaries gathered together Piman residents and introduced them to European animal husbandry, European crops, the Spanish language, Catholicism, and European social values. The new food sources, like wheat and cattle, allowed the Pima to concentrate their population at water sources where the Spanish established missions and visitas. This increased the food yield for the Pima, but disease spread quickly among the American Indians there. To keep Calabazas running, the missionaries encouraged the neighboring O’odham to join the remaining Pima. However, Western Apache raids in the region forced the Spanish to abandon Calabazas in 1786, and its residents dispersed.

In the 19th century, Spanish and Mexican alliances with accommodating Apache and Pima made Calabazas safe for settlement again. Piman ranchers obtained Calabazas in 1807 for their herds of cattle, horses, goats, and sheep. The mission outpost was also reestablished at that time and Franciscans returned to serve the community for a short time. Calabazas began to decline after the Republic of Mexico expelled the Spanish-born priests in the 1820s.  The Piman mission ranch at Calabazas lasted until January 1830, when it was abandoned after Apache raiders set fire to the buildings. In the 1840s, the governor of Sonora, Manuel Maria Gandara, acquired Calabazas and established a hacienda there where Mexicans, acculturated Pima, and German immigrants managed the ranch. In 1853, the United States acquired Calabazas from Mexico as part of the Gadsden Purchase. The threat of Apache raids and political transition drove the German ranchers out by 1856.

Twice during the 1850s and 1860s the U.S. military settled at Calabazas to help stabilize the region. In 1856 and 1857, the 1st Regiment of Dragoons under Enoch Steen lived in the old adobe buildings and called the base Camp Moore. This regiment fought to protect Americans, Mexicans, and Pimas from Apache raiders. Due to Camp Moore’s protection, civilians in the Calabazas area were able to establish gold mines and ranches. The second military occupation of Calabazas was during the Civil War, in 1864, when volunteer soldiers from California built Fort Mason. The military force at Fort Mason included the only regular Army unit in which all the officers and men were Mexican-Americans. They replaced regular troops who were sent east to fight in the war after the immediate Confederate threat to the Southwest ended. This volunteer company suppressed Western Apache raiders and assisted the Juarista governor of Sonora against the French incursions into Mexico.

Calabazas was also the site of a U.S. Customs office for a short time between the military occupations. William Mercer, the regional deputy customs director, set up the old visita as a U.S. Customs House. Customs agents at the adobe chapel building inspected goods traveling between the United States and Mexico. Mercer stayed at Calabazas until the start of the Civil War, when troops were sent eastward and Apache pressure forced the office to close.

After the War, Calabazas changed hands multiple times as the American government determined the legality of private land claims within the Gadsden Purchase. Ultimately, in 1964, the land was sold to the Gulf-American Corporation. Calabazas was entered into the National Register of Historic places in 1971 and the corporation donated the land to the Arizona Historical Society in 1974. Calabazas was made a National Historic Landmark and incorporated into the Tumacácori National Historical Park in 1990.

The ruins of San Cayetano de Calabazas are located on an elevated terrace east of the Santa Cruz River. Today, two adobe buildings remain standing. One of these adobe buildings is the original Spanish visita chapel, which is surrounded by a stone wall. The other adobe building is a long rowhouse north of the stone enclosure and visita. The rowhouse was built during the mid-19th century and probably used as a ranch barracks at that time. An archeological survey in the 1970s determined that, in addition to the visita structure and barracks, at least eight smaller buildings with stone foundations once stood in the Calabazas district. To preserve this valuable cultural resource, the ruins of Calabazas are restricted and can be visited while on a reserved guided tour with a NPS ranger or volunteer during winter months.

Plan Your Visit

San Cayetano de Calabazas is a
National Historic Landmark and is located in the Tumacácori National Historical Park, a unit of the National Park System. The visitor center for the Tumacácori National Historical Park, a unit of the National Park System, is located at 1891 East Frontage Rd., Tumacácori, AZ and is open 9:00am to 5:00pm daily, except Thanksgiving Day and Christmas Day. Click here for the National Register of Historic Places file: text and photos. San Cayetano de Calabazas is accessible Tuesdays, January-March, by reservation. For more information, visit the National Park Service Tumacácori National Historical Park website including its featured page on San Cayetano de Calabazas, or call 520-398-2341.

San Cayetano de Calabazas has been documented by the National Park Service’s Historic American Buildings Survey.

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San Xavier del Bac Mission, Arizona

As Spanish colonists moved northward from Mexico into present day Arizona claiming more land for New Spain, Jesuits founded a chain of missions along the Sonoran Mountain range. The San Xavier del Bac Mission, a National Historic Landmark, was founded in 1700 by Father Eusebio Kino, a Jesuit explorer who worked to spread Christianity in New Spain. Completed by the Franciscans in 1797, the historic white stucco church stands on the site Father Kino chose. Often called the “white dove of the desert,” the mission is located in the San Xavier Reservation, part of the Tohono O’odham nation, southwest of Tucson in Pima County, Arizona.

During the 17th and 18th centuries, the Catholic missions were an integral part of Spanish colonization. Missions, usually run by Jesuit or Franciscan friars, created European settlements that allowed colonization to expand the boundaries of Spanish culture and influence. The missions intended to Christianize and Hispanicize Native Americans. At San Xavier del Bac, Jesuits first introduced the Tohono O'odham, a Piman-speaking group, to domesticated horses and cattle. The Spanish also brought European crops, like wheat. Missionaries transformed the lives of semi-nomadic Native Americans with animal husbandry and permanent, rather than seasonal, settlement. The settlement of San Xavier del Bac near the Santa Cruz River was a Tohono O'odham town called Wa:k, a Piman word for water. The mission’s name reflects the mixing of Spanish Catholic and O'odham desert cultures.

The mission’s founder, Father Eusebio Kino, was a leader of the mission system in New Spain. Born in Italy and educated in Germany, Father Kino was an explorer and a cartographer as well as a Jesuit missionary. He entered the Jesuit order at Freiburg, Germany, and soon chose a missionary life. He arrived in Mexico in 1681 and worked to spread Catholicism, by way of Spanish colonization, throughout the region. Prior to his death in 1711, Father Kino hoped to take up residency at San Xavier del Bac Mission. At that time, he was the resident priest at Mission Dolores in Magdalena, Sonora. He was still waiting for his replacement to arrive when he passed away. For his work in bringing European culture to southern Arizona, his statue sits in the U.S. Capitol’s National Statuary Hall. Pilgrims still travel each year to Mission Dolores in Sonora, Mexico to celebrate the feast of Father Kino’s patron saint, St. Francis Xavier, and to honor Kino’s contributions to O’odham life and culture.

The mission church that still stands at San Xavier del Bac was completed around the time that the Spanish Empire in North America waned. Construction began in 1783 under the residency of Father Juan Bautista Velderrain, a Franciscan. A loan of 7,000 pesos provided the funds to build the mission. In 1821, Mexico became a Republic after 11 years of revolution, and the new government demanded allegiance from the Franciscan priests. In 1828, San Xavier del Bac’s resident priest, Father Rafael Diaz, refused to align himself with what he believed was an anticlerical regime and left his church. Father Diaz was the last priest to reside at San Xavier del Bac for 36 years.

The middle decades of the 19th century were an unstable period for San Xavier del Bac. In 1853, the Gadsden Purchase land treaty between the United States and New Mexico made the mission a U.S. possession. In 1859, the Catholic Church placed the church under the jurisdiction of the Santa Fe diocese. The diocese, under Bishop Lamy, repaired the church’s exposed adobe brick, and in 1864, Jesuit Father Carolus Evasius Messea resided there for eight months. During Father Messea’s time at San Xavier del Bac, he founded the first public school in Arizona, but the local Pima community lacked interest in the church and limited funding forced the parish to close. In 1874, the U.S. government established the San Xavier Reservation.

At the beginning of the 20th century, Bishop Henry Granjon ordered renovations and new construction on the church and oversaw repairs to the church façade and mortuary wall, which were damaged by an earthquake in 1887. Granjon had the entire church replastered and repainted. He also built a wall along the front of the convent and placed an arch at its east end. Grotto Hill, three hundred feet east of the church, is a small hillock topped by a white cross. On the north side of the hill is a replica of the Grotto of Lourdes. Bishop Granjon oversaw the construction of this shrine to the Virgin Mary in 1908.

The church received its first priest since Father Messea in 1913, a Franciscan and native of Tucson named Father Ferdinand Oritz. Since the arrival of Father Oritz, California Franciscans have run the church and served the San Xavier Reservation. In 1947, they founded a school for local Pima children. In 1949, they installed new floors within the church, repaired the roof and walls, and improved living conditions within the convent.
Unlike many other historic Spanish missions from the era, the architecture of the current church at San Xavier del Bac Mission is entirely European. It has no Piman influence on its Baroque style, a mix of Byzantine and Moorish architecture, aside from the desert materials and aspects of the interior imagery. The main building is in the shape of a Latin cross. Two octagonal towers topped with belfries stand at the front of the building. One large dome covers the transept crossing, and smaller domes flank it to the north and south. The mission property includes the main church, mortuary chapel, dormitory, patio, garden, and convent.

Built by O’odham laborers, the main building is composed of adobe bricks set in lime mortar. The exterior walls are painted white stucco. The interior is decorated with intricately painted and carved religious imagery, which covers the walls and vaulted ceilings. Wooden statues of Saint Xavier and the Virgin are set into a molded background behind the altar, and throughout the church there are carved wooden statues of Native Americans and other saints. Frescoes depicting the lives of Catholic saints decorate the choir loft and main chamber.

The beautiful Spanish colonial church at San Xavier del Bac endures. The Secretary of the Interior designated the mission a National Historic Landmark in 1960. The church continues to serve the residents of the San Xavier Reservation. The church is open to visitors daily, except during special services, and the public is welcome to join the San Xavier community for regular masses.

Plan Your Visit

San Xavier del Bac Mission, a
National Historic Landmark, is located at 1950 W. San Xavier Rd., Tucson, AZ. Click here for the National Historic Landmark file: text and photos. The San Xavier del Bac Mission is an active Catholic mission church open daily from 7:00am to 5:00pm, except when weddings, funerals, or other special church functions are held. The church gift shop is open 8:00am to 5:00pm daily and the museum is open 8:30am to 4:30pm daily. For more information, visit the San Xavier del Bac Mission website or call 520-294-2624. The NPS visitor center at the Tumacácori National Park, a unit of the National Park System provides information about San Xavier del Bac Mission. The visitor center for the Tumacácori National Historical Park is located at 1891 East Frontage Rd., Tumacácori, AZ and is open 9:00am to 5:00pm daily, except Thanksgiving Day and Christmas Day.

San Xavier del Bac Mission is also featured in the National Park Service American Southwest Travel Itinerary. San Xavier del Bac Mission has been documented by the National Park Service’s Historic American Buildings Survey.

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Sierra Bonita Ranch, Bonita, Arizona

After the tumultuous middle decades of the 19th century when the United States fought the Mexican-American and Civil wars, Americans found new challenges and sought new opportunities in the western territories. New England native Colonel Henry Clay Hooker founded the first permanent cattle ranch in the Arizona territory in 1872 on the ruins of an earlier Spanish colonial estate. Hooker’s historic Sierra Bonita Ranch is located in spring-fed Sulphur Valley between the Galiuro and Pinaleño Mountains, which are part of the Coronado National Forest. A National Historic Landmark, the Sierra Bonita Ranch continues to support cattle ranching, and Hooker’s descendants still occupy their ancestor’s adobe house.

Arizona became a U.S. possession after the Mexican-American War in 1848, but civilian American immigration to the new territory was slow at first. During the Spanish Colonial and Mexican Republic eras, Arizona’s Spanish and Mexican settlers were unable to suppress the region’s powerful American Indian nations. After the Civil War, the United States ordered soldiers to occupy Arizona and New Mexico in order to colonize the Southwest, where they fought a series of American-Indian Wars that lasted into the 20th century. The military presence in the western territories provided American ranchers and mine prospectors security to settle the region. The American soldiers also created a demand for resources. In the late 19th century, cattle rancher Henry Hooker (1828-1907) capitalized on these violent conflicts and the growing Arizona economy by founding Sierra Bonita Ranch, the first American cattle ranch in Arizona.

Colonel Hooker, a descendent of Rev. Thomas Hooker who founded the Connecticut colony, moved west as a young man in the 1840s. After working for the Indian Department in Kansas and at a mine in California, Hooker began trading livestock when he herded 500 turkeys between California and Nevada. In 1867, he received a contract with the United States government that made him the leading beef supplier to the American troops and government administrators in the Arizona territory. As he drove his cattle through the Sulphur Valley that year, the rich land so impressed him that he decided to settle there, and he founded the Sierra Bonita Ranch in 1872. During Hooker’s reign, the Sierra Bonita Ranch peaked at 250,000 acres and held up to 30,000 head of cattle. The ranch became famous for Hooker’s hospitality and his organized ranching techniques. Unlike other ranchers who let their herds run free with little oversight, Hooker fenced-off ranges to control breeding, kept a separate herd of milk cows, and provided medical care for sick or injured cattle. He carefully managed his herds to maximize profit and quality.

The historic Sierra Bonita Ranch headquarters is located at the site of an 18th century Spanish estate that Apache Indians destroyed in the early 1800s. Not much is known about this early settlement and it had been long-abandoned when Hooker arrived in Sulphur Valley. The ranch is at an elevation of 4,000 feet and the weather is relatively mild, compared to the extremes in the nearby mountains and the low valleys. Hooker named his ranch “Sierra Bonita” after the beautiful wildflowers that cover the Pinaleño Mountains northeast of the ranch. In the 19th century, Apache Indians used a trail that cut through the valley near the ranch compound to travel between the United States and Mexico, but Hooker worked with the Apache to ensure they rarely troubled his ranch. He designed and built his main ranch house to be a residence for his family as well as a fortress to protect the Hookers and the ranch laborers from local gangs.

The National Historic Landmark is 320 acres at Sierra Bonita Ranch that contain the historic ranch buildings, which are the main house, bunkhouse, adobe corrals, and barns. The main house is in the Spanish Colonial style. Made of adobe (straw and clay) bricks, the house is a three-sided U-shaped building that wraps around a central patio enclosed by a wall. A well and root cellar that was in the patio area was later filled and the patio planted with grass. The exterior walls are made of two rows of adobe bricks, 16 feet high and 20 inches thick. Initially, the house had no doors or windows on its exterior walls with access only from the patio, but the Hooker family added exterior openings after the threat of marauders and the Apache subsided. On the opposite side of the patio wall is a courtyard surrounded by a stable, storerooms, and workroom.

Other historic buildings beyond the main house include the original barn, built mostly of wood, decorated with the words “Sierra Bonita Ranch 1872,” which the family added in 1972 in honor of the ranch’s centennial. North of the main house is an adobe bunkhouse with a tin roof and a large adobe corral for storing hay. Other historic corrals at the ranch are made of adobe and wooden planks.

Sierra Bonita Ranch was the first permanent American cattle ranch in Arizona and, still operational, is one of the oldest ranches in the United States. Descendents of the Hooker family reside in the historic adobe house, the site of an 18th century Spanish colonial settlement, and operate a 39,000-acre ranch at Bonita for grazing cattle and growing alfalfa. In popular culture, Hooker is perhaps best known for his role in the Wyatt Earp saga. In March 1882, Hooker allowed Wyatt Earp and his posse to rest at the Sierra Bonita ranch house during their escape from the Arizona authorities, and even agreed to speak to the governor on their behalf. Cochise County sheriff Johnny Behan stopped at the ranch during his hunt for Earp, but Hooker refused to help him. Notably, Academy Award-winning actor Charlton Heston played the character of Hooker in the movie Tombstone.

Plan Your Visit

Sierra Bonita Ranch, a
National Historic Landmark, is located on W. Ash Creek Rd. in the Sulphur Valley approximately 27 miles north of Willcox, AZ. Click here for the National Historic Landmark file: text and photos. Sierra Bonita Ranch is a working ranch and residence. For more information, call 520-384-2527.

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Tumacácori National Historical Park , Tumacácori, Arizona

Tumacácori National Historical Park in Southern Arizona protects the ruins of three missions founded during the Spanish colonial era. Two of the missions, Los Santos Ángeles de Guevavi and San José de Tumacácori, were among the twenty-four founded by Jesuit Father Eusebio Francisco Kino in the region the Spanish called the “Pimería Álta,” meaning “land of the upper Pimas.” The third, San Cayetano de Calabazas, was founded later by Jesuit father Francisco Pauer. From the establishment of these missions in 1691 and 1756 until the final departure of the residents from Tumacácori, the last remaining mission of the three, in 1848, Kino and the Jesuit and Franciscan missionaries who followed baptized thousands of native people and settlers. Tumacácori National Historical Park preserves the history and tells the stories of these Spanish missions and their influence on the American Indian communities of the Pimería Álta and on the continuing culture of the American southwest.

The native people who lived in the vicinity of Tumacácori called themselves “O’odham,” meaning “people” in their language. The Spanish called the O’odham that they found living along rivers “Pima,” and those that they found living in the desert, “Papago.” Their homeland included the area that is now southern Arizona and the northern part of the Mexican state of Sonora. A peaceful people unless the need arose to defend themselves, the O’odham were farmers, raising corn, beans and squash using flood irrigation. The people called “Papago” by the Spanish are known today as the Tohono O’odham, or “desert people.” Their famous basketry – once necessary for gathering and storing food – is made today using the same material-gathering and weaving techniques as were used by their ancestors.

Founded by Kino in January, 1691, mission San Cayetano de Tumacácori was the first mission to be located in what is now Arizona. Originally located on the east side of the Santa Cruz River, the mission moved – following a nearby rebellion in 1751 – to its present location on the west side of the river, where it was rechristened San José de Tumacácori. By 1757, the community had built a small adobe church. Beginning around 1800 – by this time under the administration of Franciscan missionaries – the community began construction of a larger church. Although in use by the early 1820s, the structure was never entirely completed. The last residents left Tumacácori in 1848.

The ruins of the larger church remain, a landmark in the Santa Cruz Valley. Also still visible are the remains of the priest’s residence and community area known as the convento, the granary where food was stored, the lime kiln where lime was heated to make mortar and plaster, and parts of the orchard and acequia, or irrigation ditch. Behind the church are the ruins of a cemetery and a mortuary chapel. A reproduction of a ki, or traditional O’odham house, is also on the site.

The Calabazas and Guevavi mission churches are in a more degraded state than Tumacácori, and are not open to the public. Visitors can tour these sites as part of reserved tours during winter months, and can learn about their history and stories at the Tumacácori museum. Founded a day after Tumacácori, Guevavi was designated the cabecera, or headquarters mission for the area. The name Guevavi was derived from the O’odham name for the community, Gu waihe, or “big well.” Like Tumacácori, the Guevavi mission church is an adobe structure. The newly arrived Franciscan missionaries moved their headquarters to Tumacácori in 1768, and within a few years the Guevavi mission was abandoned. The ruins of the 15 by 50 foot church built in 1751 are all that remains of the mission today.

Father Pauer founded mission San Cayetano de Calabazas, a few miles north of Guevavi, in 1756. By 1786, primarily due to the continuous danger of attack by Apaches, the mission was abandoned, its residents moving to Tumacácori. It became a ranching outpost for the Tumacácori mission.
Visitors enter Tumacácori National Historical Park through the Tumacácori visitor center. The visitor center offers a 15 minute video, an excellent museum, and a bookstore. A self-guided interpretive tour booklet, “In the Footprints of the Past,” is available for loan or purchase in the bookstore. Guided tours are available at 11:00 and 2:00 January through March, and may be available at other times and seasons. Special tours, such as guided walks to the Santa Cruz River, may also be available. The park website describes tours currently available (nps.gov/tuma).

Tumacácori National Historical Park hosts La Fiesta de Tumacácori each year on the first full weekend in December. This event celebrates the many cultures that have historically been associated with the Santa Cruz Valley with traditional foods, crafts, music, and dance. A mass is held inside the mission church in October in conjunction with Tubac Presidio State Historic Park’s annual Anza Day event. The Juan Bautista de Anza National Historic Trail passes through the park, providing opportunities for walkers, bird watchers, and equestrians.

Plan Your Visit

Tumacácori National Historical Park, a unit of the National Park System and a National Historic Landmark, is located 45 miles south of Tucson, AZ off exit 29 on I-19. The visitor center for the Tumacácori National Historical Park is located at 1891 East Frontage Rd., Tumacácori, AZ and is open 9:00am to 5:00pm daily, except Thanksgiving Day and Christmas Day. Click for the National Register of Historic Places file: text and photos. There is an admission fee. For more information, visit the National Park Service Tumacácori National Historical Park website or call 520-398-2341.

Tumacácori National Historical Park is also featured in the National Park Service Places Reflecting America's Diverse Cultures: Explore their Stories in the National Park System Travel Itinerary.

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Yuma Crossing National Heritage Area , Arizona

Yuma Crossing National Heritage Area is a cultural crossroads offering visitors a diverse and intriguing history. The first National Heritage Area west of the Mississippi covers 21-square miles encompassing the town of Yuma, Arizona, near the Californian and Mexican borders. The history emphasizes three major cultural groups—American Indian, Hispanic, and Anglo-American. The crossing point attracted many over the centuries because of the natural narrowing and calming of the Colorado River. Although bridges now span the river, it is still possible to view the granite outcroppings and significant historic buildings and sites throughout the heritage area. Yuma Crossing was an important transportation and communication gateway between New Spain and Alta California during the Spanish colonial period and between the American Southwest and California during the time of the American westward movement.

As it is today, the Colorado River was the lifeblood of the entire region, yet the rushing water, so vital for life, made it nearly impossible to cross the river safely. Pre-contact American Indian tribes were the first to discover the natural granite outcroppings that settled the mighty Colorado River enough to make crossing feasible. Many peoples, including the ancestors of the modern day Quechan and Cocopah tribes, settled near the river.

The first Europeans to arrive at the crossing were Spanish explorers led by Hernando de Alarcon and Melchior Diaz. In 1540, the expeditions navigated up the Colorado River from the Sea of Cortez and found thriving communities along the riverbanks near the crossing. These Spanish explorers coined the name Yuma. Noticing how the Native Americans’ cooking fires filled the valley with smoke, the Spanish called the Indians the Yumas, stemming from the Spanish word for smoke, humo.

After the first Spanish explorers came, others continued to travel the region. Father Eusebio Kino’s interest was in building missions and converting the native peoples to Christianity around the middle of the 17th century. Then in 1774,
Juan Bautista de Anza traversed the crossing in search of a practical overland route from Mexico to northern California for New Spain. He arrived at Yuma in January and established friendly relations with the Quechans, who controlled the crossing, allowing future Spanish settlers safe passage across the river. Anza’s trail and the Yuma crossing opened the route for further Spanish settlement in Alta (or upper) California. As use of the crossing increased, the Spanish felt it necessary to control the crossing, although this strained the Quechan relations leading to a rebellion in 1781. After the Quechans destroyed the Spanish settlement at the crossing, the Spanish never again tried to control the Quechans or the Yuma Crossing.

The Mexican-American War of the late 1840s forced Mexico to cede most of what is now the American Southwest to the United States, although it was not until the ratification of the Gadsden Purchase in 1854 that the area south of the Gila River of Arizona, including Yuma, officially became part of the United States. The area became popular with Anglo-Americans during the Gold Rush of the mid 1800s. At the time named Colorado City, the town saw over 60,000 travelers in one year crossing the Colorado by rope ferry in pursuit of Californian gold.

With the increase in traffic, the U.S. Army took notice of the importance of the site and in 1852, established Fort Yuma on Indian Hill, overlooking the crossing. In the 1860s, the U.S. Army created the Quartermaster Depot to supply the new American Southwest outposts and shipped freight and supplies by sea and up the Colorado River by steamships to reach the depot. At any one time, the warehouse held a six-month supply of food, clothing, ammunition and other necessities for forts in Arizona, Nevada, Utah, New Mexico, and Texas.

With the coming of the railroad in 1877, which eventually became part of Southern Pacific Railroad running coast to coast, the need for the Depot faded and the Army closed it in 1883. The site then served a variety of purposes, including housing the first office of the U.S. Reclamation Services, now the Bureau of Reclamation. The U.S. Army Quartermaster Depot is listed in the National Register of Historic Places and is now the Yuma Quartermaster Depot State Historic Park displaying five of Arizona’s oldest and best-preserved buildings dating from the beginning of the Depot. Exhibits describe the amazing engineering feats of the Bureau of Reclamation’s irrigation project.

As more people learned of Arizona City, renamed after a flood that destroyed Colorado City in 1862, the town grew becoming one of the busiest and wildest of the Wild West. After the Civil War, Main Street became a 100-foot right of way to accommodate the heavy wagon traffic. Officially incorporated in 1871 as Arizona City, the town had its name changed once again in 1873, this time to Yuma. Shortly thereafter in 1876, the first prisoners chiseled the first seven cells for the infamous Yuma Territorial Prison out of the granite hillside.

Yuma Territorial Prison operated until 1909 when overcrowding forced its closure, but soon after the prison closed the local high school burned and the old prison buildings provided classroom space for area students from 1910 to 1914. The 1920s rerouting of the railroad caused the destruction of half of the original prison. Distressed families and hobos took refuge in the abandoned buildings during the Great Depression. Local volunteers finally saved the prison from deteriorating by creating a city museum, which then became the main attraction of Yuma Territorial Prison State Historic Park. The park is open year round so visitors can experience the prison, which gained considerable fame after it was a feature in the 1957 film and more recent remake of 3:10 to Yuma. Like the Depot, the prison is part of the part of Yuma Crossing and Associated Sites National Historic Landmark.  

At the turn of the 20th century, Yuma’s focus changed from the Wild West to taming the wild Colorado River. The newly formed US Reclamation Services, now the Bureau of Reclamation, took on an irrigation project, called the Yuma Project. Construction of Laguna Dam, which is just 13 miles northeast of Yuma, began in 1905. A massive tunnel was also part of the project. The Yuma Siphon pulled water from the California side of the river into the town of Yuma. An exhibit in the Corral House of the Yuma Quartermaster Depot State Historic Park provides information about the construction of the Laguna Dam and Yuma Project.

Yuma National Heritage Area includes a number of districts and individual properties listed in the National Register of Historic Places. Yuma’s historic downtown, with its Yuma Main Street Historic District and Brinley Avenue Historic District, is an important center for the community. As gold rushers ran for the California hills, Main Street funneled thousands of travelers to the rope ferry crossing the Colorado River. Close proximity to the river caused many floods, sweeping away the town on more than one occasion. The last big flood occurred in 1916, so most of the buildings on Main Street date from the 1920s. Madison Avenue, included in the Brinley Avenue Historic District, was more sheltered from floods, so visitors can see buildings dating from the 1860s there. The buildings range from adobe residential buildings to commercial blocks.

Just out of historic downtown is the Yuma Century Heights Conservancy Residential Historic District, the first suburban development in the area. Developed at the beginning of the 20th century, the neighborhood is an eclectic mix of Victorian architecture. During World War II, the Yuma area teemed with activity. Yuma Army Air Base opened and became one of the busiest flight schools in the nation. Once the war ended, development and growth moved out of the historic downtown, but in the last ten years, the community has been working hard to revitalize the downtown.

Recently, Yuma opened the Pivot Point Interpretive Plaza, an outdoor exhibit area at the exact site where the first railroad entered Yuma in 1877. The exhibit area explains the historic importance of the natural crossing at Yuma. This park preserves the original concrete pivot on which the rail bridge would turn to allow boats to pass. The city is also striving to restore the riverfront. The East Wetlands, an area of 1,400 acres, has been set aside as a nature preserve. Confined by levees for flood control, a buildup of silt and non-native vegetation had clogged the riverbank. So far, the city has restored 400 acres to its natural habitat. A 3-mile hiking trail within the East Wetlands is now open. The West Wetlands is a 110-acre river front park the public can enjoy. The Quechan Indian tribe plays a pivotal role in the heritage area, particularly in relation to the Yuma East Wetlands restoration.

Plan Your Visit

Yuma Crossing National Heritage Area is a unit of the National Park System and a National Historic Landmark. It is located just off Interstate 8, halfway between San Diego, CA and Phoenix, AZ. Click here for National Historic Landmark file: Yuma Crossing and Associated Sites: text and photos. Yuma Quartermasters Depot State Historic Park is located on North 4th Ave and has free admission. It is open 9am to 5pm daily from Oct. 1 – May 31 and closed on Mondays June 1 – Sept. 30. Yuma Territorial Prison State Historic Park is located at Giss Parkway and Prison Hill Rd. It is open daily from 9am to 5pm Oct.1 – May 31. During the summer, June 1 – Sept 30, the park is closed Tuesdays and Wednesdays. Pivot Point Interpretive Park is located where Madison Avenue meets the river. It is a city park and open from 6am to 11pm daily. The East and West Wetlands, located near the Colorado River, also offer outdoor recreation activities. For more information, visit the Yuma Crossing National Heritage Area website or call 928-373-5198.

Yuma Crossing National Heritage Area is also featured in the National Park Service Places Reflecting America's Diverse Cultures: Explore their Stories in the National Park System Travel Itinerary.

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Arkansas Post National Memorial, Gillett, Arkansas

Established by the French in the late 17th century, Arkansas Post became the first European settlement in the lower Mississippi Valley and played a valuable role in the long struggle between Spain, France, and the United States—three nations seeking domination of the lucrative fur trade and control of America’s interior. In southeastern Arkansas on the north bank of the Arkansas River, Arkansas Post National Memorial commemorates America’s Spanish and French heritage and preserves the history of a historic post that now lies half underwater. From a trading post and military stronghold to an American town, Arkansas Post was a critical player in the early history of Arkansas and the development of the United States.

Hoping to establish a trading post with the American Indians in the lower Mississippi Valley, Frenchman Henri de Tonti built the first European settlement along the Arkansas River in 1686. The French settlement began to trade with the Quapaw tribe of Osotouy. The trading post proved unsuccessful, and the French, unable to compete with the British fur trade, abandoned the settlement in 1699. The French reinstated the post as a military garrison in 1720, after King Louis XIV granted land along the river to Scotsman John Law and a group of German settlers. The new inhabitants of the trading post were unable to survive, and John Law’s plans to develop an agricultural colony ultimately failed.

Although settlers sporadically took over the post as time passed, the French did not officially establish another post in the Mississippi Valley until the late 1740s, when the French-Chickasaw war and constant flooding encouraged the settlers to move the post to a better location. In 1751, French Commandant Pelletier de La Houssaye built the new post further up the river near the Quapaw village and away from the Chickasaw to avoid further conflict. Realizing the post’s significance for the defense of French claims in the Mississippi Valley during the Seven Years War, Captain Charles Marie de Reggio moved the post further down the Mississippi River to protect French fleets. When the French and Indian War ended in 1763, the defeated French ceded the Western half of Louisiana, including Arkansas Post, to Spain. Although Spanish troops occupied the Post, resident French traders and settlers remained, far outnumbering the Spanish soldiers.

In 1779, Spain moved the post back to the location of the original French settlement of 1687 to avoid flooding, renamed the post Fort Carlos III after the Spanish King, and used it as a base to develop a successful fur trade with the Quapaw Indians. The trade allowed the Spanish to gain valuable military allies, which proved useful during the American Revolution when British Captain James Colbert led an attack against the Spanish fort on April 17, 1783 with 60 British men, a dozen Chickasaw, and a few African Americans. Captain Jacobo Du Breuil had only 30 Spanish soldiers, 4 Quapaw, and a handful of French settlers to defend the Post. Knowing that the attackers did not fear the Europeans protecting the Post, Du Breuil ordered his men to act like attacking Indians. To give credence to the plan, one of the four Quapaw ran into the midst of the attackers and threateningly planted a tomahawk in the ground. Believing the deception, Colbert’s forces fled. Ultimately a Spanish victory, Colbert’s Raid is significant as one of the last engagements of the Revolutionary War. Following this British invasion, the Spanish post never faced another attack or engaged in battle. In the early 1800s, Spain returned Louisiana to France.

Following the Louisiana Purchase of 1803, the United States gained control of Arkansas Post and soon began to transform the European garrison and trading post into an American frontier community. Initially, the United States attempted to maintain a trading empire in the Mississippi Valley by converting Arkansas Post into a government trading center, but the American government was unsuccessful in competing with private trading companies. By 1810, American families began to populate the Mississippi Valley, and in 1819, Arkansas Post became the capital of the Arkansas Territory. Within three years, the town began publishing its first newspaper, the Arkansas Gazette, which brought greater interest in the territory. In 1821, Little Rock became the capital of the Arkansas Territory, which caused the economy and population of Arkansas Post to decline.

By the 1830s, Arkansas Post had gained new significance, this time for cotton production in the area and its location as a major river port; however, in 1844 the town declined again after Arkansas Post lost its position as a county seat. General Thomas J. Churchill recognized the town’s importance for the defense of Little Rock, and in 1862, the Confederate army erected Fort Hindman at Arkansas Post. Although the fort was in a strategic location along the Arkansas River, its earthen structure could not withstand the force of the Union army’s gunboat attack on January 10, 1863. At the conclusion of the Civil War, the town was unable to recover from the shelling, and as increased railroad usage led to a decline in river traffic, Arkansas Post eventually faded away.

Since 1912, only half of Arkansas Post has been visible because of erosion and changes in the course of the Arkansas River that have left its historic resources underground and underwater. Arkansas Post National Memorial today has a park-like appearance with an overlook where visitors can view the Arkansas River. In 1964, when Arkansas Post became a national memorial, the National Park Service began to restore the visible remains at the site to their original 18th century appearance. The park preserves reminders of the history of America's Spanish and French heritage and restored segments of the 19th-century town, so visitors can experience the overall history of Arkansas Post's transition from a Spanish and French trading and military post to an American community.

Today, visitors can walk along trails, stop at wayside exhibits, participate in activities, attend the historic weapons demonstration, and watch interpretive films at the visitor center and museum.

Plan Your Visit

Arkansas Post National Memorial, a unit of the National Park System and a National Historic Landmark, is located at 1741 Old Post Road in Gillett, AR. Click here for the National Park Service’s National Register of Historic Places file: text and photos. The park grounds are open during daylight hours. The visitor center opens daily from 8:00am to 5:00pm, and is closed on Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Day. Admission is free. Group tours should make reservations a week in advance. For more information, visit the National Park Service Arkansas Post National Memorial website or call 870-548-2207.

Arkansas Post National Memorial is also featured in the Places Reflecting America's Diverse Cultures: Explore their Stories in the National Park System Travel Itinerary.


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Cabrillo National Monument, California

In search of the seven wealthy cities of Cibola and hoping to find the mythical Strait of Anian, a passageway from the North Pacific to the North Atlantic, explorer Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo instead was the first European to discover the west coast of the United States when he landed in 1542 in the harbor of San Diego Bay. Today, Cabrillo National Monument commemorates Cabrillo’s voyage and the cultural interactions that occurred between American Indians and the Spanish and Portuguese explorers. Visitors can also visit the Old Point Loma Lighthouse, learn about how the military used the site, and explore nature.

The place and date of Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo’s birth are uncertain, but the 16th century historian, Antonio de Herrera, believed he was from Portugal. The first documentation of the young conquistador’s existence dates back to 1519, when Cabrillo’s name appeared among the list of officers who served in Hernan Cortes’ army. While in the Americas, Cabrillo gained recognition for his service as captain of crossbowmen during the conquest of the Aztec empire and greater fame after his successful expeditions with Pedro de Alvarado in Guatemala and San Salvador.

By 1530, Cabrillo had settled near Guatemala’s Pacific Coast with his wife and two sons and acquired great wealth through the discovery of gold. He also became a prominent businessman from his shipbuilding and trading companies. He remained in Guatemala until 1542, when an Indian uprising killed Pedro de Alvarado, the governor of Guatemala, who was planning an expedition to explore the Pacific. On June 24, after the viceroy of New Spain, Antonio de Mendoza, placed Cabrillo in command of Alvarado’s vessels -- The San Salvador, La Victoria, and San Miguel -- the conquistador led his men on an expedition along California’s coast.

On September 28, 1542, after setting sail from the port of Navidad in Mexico, Cabrillo’s vessels discovered and entered San Diego Bay. Landing on Saint Michael’s birthday, Cabrillo named the bay Puerto de San Miguel to honor the Spanish archangel. The bay bore that name for 60 years until explorer Sebastian Vizcaino reached Puerto de San Miguel and renamed it San Diego Bay. Once on land, Cabrillo and his crew explored the harbor and the surrounding territory. No evidence remains of Cabrillo and his men having been in the bay area. Historians agree, however, that Cabrillo did make contact with the Kumeyaay Indians.

The American Indians Cabrillo found waiting on shore had long braided hair they adorned with feathers or shells and clothing made of the skin of sea otters, seals or deer. The Kumeyaay Indians were already accustomed to meeting Spaniards from previous invasions that occurred further inland, and they informed Cabrillo how the Spanish army destroyed their homes and murdered their people. Instead of attacking the Kumeyaay Indians, Cabrillo offered them gifts. Cabrillo remained in Puerto de San Miguel until January 1543, when he died from an infection caused by an unfortunate accident that broke his arm during an earlier expedition to the Channel Islands. The location of Cabrillo’s death remains a mystery, and archeologists continue to search for his grave.

In 1852, the United States Congress authorized construction of eight lighthouses along the Pacific Coast. The Federal Government built one of the lighthouses on the highest elevation of Point Loma overlooking the bay to aid navigation to America’s newly acquired territories on the California coast. Completed in 1854, the Old Point Loma Lighthouse became operational the following year after installation of the Fresnel lens. The light shone over the entrance of San Diego Bay until 1891, when keeper Robert Israel extinguished the lamp for one final time. The lighthouse closed because fog and low clouds often obscured its light. Navigators could only see the light on clear nights.

The Point Loma peninsula forms a natural protective barrier at the entrance to San Diego Bay, providing views of the harbor and ocean. In 1852, the Federal Government recognized its importance and designated the area a military reserve. In 1899, the War Department dedicated Fort Rosecrans and built a series of gun batteries over the years. During World War I and II, military facilities on the Point provided vital coastal and harbor defense systems. Between 1918 and 1943, the Army constructed searchlight bunkers, fire control stations, and gun batteries.

Despite its inability to serve as a watchful light over San Diego Bay, Old Point Loma Lighthouse became a favorite tourist destination that continues to illuminate past events that have shaped America’s history. In 1913, recognizing the significance of the San Diego Bay location and the importance of Cabrillo, the first European to discover it, President Woodrow Wilson designated the lighthouse and the surrounding one-half acre as Cabrillo National Monument. Original plans called for demolishing the lighthouse and placing a statue of Cabrillo or plaque in its place that would commemorate the discoverer of San Diego Bay. During World War II, the US Army took over the Old Point Loma Lighthouse, painted it in camouflage colors, and converted it into a signal station. At the end of the war, the Army returned the lighthouse to the National Park Service, which restored it to resemble its 1880s appearance.

The National Park Service also added a visitor center at Cabrillo National Monument and erected a statue of Cabrillo near the lighthouse. The original statue at the site by Portuguese sculptor Alvaro DeBree suffered great damage from the marine air. In the 1980s, the National Park Service hired Portuguese sculptor Joas Chartes Almeida to carve an exact replica of the original statue out of a more resistant stone. The duplicate statue stands on an overlook where it continues to commemorate the voyage of Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo and his discovery of California.

The visitor center offers an "Age of Exploration" exhibit, films, and ranger-guided programs about the history of Cabrillo. Visitors can tour the Old Point Loma Lighthouse and learn about what life was like for light keepers and their families and view interactive exhibits about lighthouses of Point Loma in the nearby Assistant Keeper's Quarters. In a historic military building close by, another exhibit interprets the history of Fort Rosecrans. Visitors can also enjoy the panoramic views of the harbor and explore the natural surroundings and wildlife while walking on the Bayside Trail.

Cabrillo National Monument is the home of a Whale Overlook where visitors can watch gray whales in their natural habitat in January and February. Visitors at the Maritime Museum of San Diego can visit the Spanish Landing Site to watch the construction of a full-size replica of Cabrillo's ship, "San Salvador." Once complete, the National Park Service will use the ship for living history programs.

Plan Your Visit

Cabrillo National Monument, a unit of the National Park System, is located at 1800 Cabrillo Memorial Dr. in San Diego, CA. Click here for the National Register of Historic Places file: text and photos. The monument is open daily, except Christmas Day, December 25th, from 9:00am to 5:00pm. There is an admission fee. For more information, visit the National Park Service Cabrillo National Monument website or call 619-557-5450.

The National Park Service’s Historic American Buildings Surveyhas documented the Point Loma Lighthouse No. 355. Cabrillo National Monument is also featured in the National Park Service Early History of the California Coast Travel Itinerary and in the Places Reflecting America's Diverse Cultures: Explore their Stories in the National Park System Travel Itinerary.

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California National Historic Trail, California, Colorado, Idaho, Kansas, Missouri, , Nevada, Oregon, Utah, Wyoming

During the mid-19th century, the United States, which began as a cluster of States hugging the East Coast, had its sights set to the west like never before. The California Trail was just one of a vast network of wagon roads and footpaths that brought Americans from the country they knew to the unfamiliar frontier – and eventually west to California and the Oregon Territory. This was the greatest mass migration in American history.

Crossing 10 States, the entire California National Historic Trail system spans approximately 5,665 miles. About 1,100 miles of trail still have obvious remains on the ground such as trail ruts and other remnants, many on public lands. More than 320 historic sites are located along the trail system. The California National Historic Trail helps tell the many stories of its diverse travelers: some seeking new farmlands, others seeking gold, all finding a daunting journey across some of the harshest land in the interior of North America. Despite the treacherous route, more than 200,000 people traveled west from Missouri along the California Trail during the 1840s and 1850s. This migration forever changed the cultural, religious, and architectural practices of formerly Spanish-owned territory.

The California Trail reflects a complex and layered story, one of mass emigration, commerce, hope and perseverance, but also of the amalgamation of cultures as Easterners (many of Anglo-descent), met Westerners (of Spanish-descent or American Indians) for the first time. The opening of the West had a profound effect on national policies, international borders in North America, and the eventual admission of California and Oregon as States before 1860.

The California Trail and the other routes that carried people west-- the Oregon, Mormon Pioneer and Pony Express National Historic Trails, offer extensive historic and scenic resources for today’s travelers. Hundreds of historic sites linked via these trails and driving routes that follow them allows modern adventurers to experience the original path of the trails and learn about their contributions to mid-19th century westward expansion.

Placing the California Trail in the context of American landholdings and politics at the time of its creation only underscores its importance. The dawn of the 19th century brought great change to the United States. The Louisiana Purchase of 1803 doubled the country’s land. When the Mexican-American War ended in 1848, a victorious United States gained the large territory of Alta-California fulfilling what many saw as its Manifest Destiny to expand all the way to the Pacific Ocean.

These changes opened up vast amounts of under-populated and unsettled land “out west” that caught the imaginations of Americans further east. Most people had only the vaguest idea of what conditions lay beyond the Mississippi River, but tales of bountiful forests and fertile coastal farmlands tempted thousands. Spanish and later Mexicans, after Mexico gained its independence from Spain, had already colonized much of coastal California. American explorers, trappers and traders had contact with these Californians and brought home stories of expansive cattle ranches and ideal agricultural conditions.

Getting to the riches of California was, of course, the challenge. Though American frontiersmen forged various trails in the 1820s and 30s, none of these earlier trails were suitable for the average family with a wagon in tow – especially through the brutally steep Rocky Mountain region. Luckily, by the early 1840s, travelers discovered that the South Pass through the Rockies was practical for wagon travel. In 1841, the Bartleson-Bidwell party left Independence, Missouri and successfully used the South Pass to make the long journey to California. Thousands of others soon followed.
The 2,400-mile trip was far from easy. At the time, the entire journey took five to six months to complete. Along the route, travelers not only faced the treacherous Rockies, but also the barren deserts of Nevada and the frigid Sierra Nevada Range. Early on, very few supply stations existed and travelers had to be self-sufficient in finding food, water, and shelter. Those who took the trail quickly had to acquire skills such as building fires, chopping wood, capturing clean water, and setting up camp nightly. Extreme temperatures and threats of violence, stealing, mortal accidents, and American Indian raids were all constant concerns. During the late 1840s and early 1850s, cholera outbreaks along the trail killed travelers by the thousands.

Despite the risks, Easterners could not resist the possibility for a new and prosperous life, especially during the California Gold Rush years. In 1848, James Marshall, a young emigrant from New Jersey, discovered gold by accident. Word quickly spread, and by 1849, tens of thousands of people poured into California seeking the precious mineral. Some of these so-called “49ers” traveled via ship around the tip of South America at Cape Horn, and others crossed the Isthmus of Panama via mule train. Those who could not afford these less arduous routes flooded the California Trail.
Prospectors mined an estimated $216 million in gold from the earth during the first five years of the California Gold Rush. The miners quickly depleted the gold supply but moved on to follow gold strikes made elsewhere during the latter half of the century. By the 1860s, the railroad system in the United States vastly changed the way both people and goods traveled throughout the country. The Transcontinental Railroad connected the east and west coasts in 1869, bringing the age of the California Trail to a close.

Congress officially designated the California Trail as a National Historic Trail in 1992, recognizing it as a national treasure. Today the trail commemorates and interprets the rich heritage of the route through hundreds of historic sites, visitor centers, educational programming, and tour options. The trail itself was never a straightforward, singular route. Numerous paths, cutoffs, and detours made up the California Trail during its decades of service, and parts of the trail overlap with the Oregon, Mormon Pioneer and Pony Express National Historic Trails.

Signs mark the route of the former California Trail for those who wish to travel it today. Much of the original trail is now accessible by car. The National Park Service provides self-guided auto-tour information that suggests stopping points for its entire length. Brochures are available on a State-by-State basis and can be found online here or picked up at local tourism centers.

Many visitors along the California Trail enjoy seeing the deeply etched wagon ruts that still exist in many places. These tangible remains are poignant reminders of the numerous wagons that traversed the trail during the mid-1800s. At the Ash Hollow Complex (aka Windless Hill) in Lewellen, Nebraska, visitors can see the wagon ruts clearly. Windless Hill was a popular campsite for travelers along the trail because the area was lush with grass for oxen, lumber for fires, and fresh water. A visitor center offers tours and interpretive exhibits.

Farther down the trail, travelers would excitedly await their first glimpse of Chimney Rock in present-day Bayard, Nebraska. The clay and sandstone column is a natural wonder that once served as an important landmark in measuring travelers’ progress west. Chimney Rock is a National Historic Landmark, and a nearby visitor center welcomes guests interested in learning about its history.

Fort Laramie in Wyoming is another popular stop along the California Trial, just as it was nearly 200 years ago. Originally built to protect the growing fur trade industry of the 1840s, the fort later served as a welcome stopping point and supply station. Indians, trappers, traders, gold seekers, overland pioneers, soldiers, and Pony Express riders stopped there or passed by this important military post.

Sutter’s Fort in present-day Sacramento, California was the site of a Mexican land grant made to John Sutter in 1839. Sutter, a Swiss emigrant, created New Helvetia (New Switzerland), an agricultural empire, which was Sacramento’s earliest settlement, the first settlement in California’s Central Valley not made by American Indians. Sutter was hospitable and his landholdings were lush. Thousands of California Trail emigrants rushed to his community, including gold seekers. All that is there today is a fort, a large Spanish-style adobe reconstruction (based on an 1847 map) that offers exhibits, living history displays, and tours.

The historic resources along the trail are diverse and many, representing various cultures. There are historic buildings and structures in a variety of architectural sites and natural wonders. Museums thus offer exhibits about the California Trail. Visitors can explore the National Oregon/California Trail Center in Montpelier, Idaho or the National Frontier Trails Museum in Independence, Missouri for a one-stop exploration of the trail’s many decades and miles of use.

Plan Your Visit
The California National Historic Trail is a unit of the National Park System that runs through 10 States: CA, CO, ID, KS, MO, NE, NV, OR, UT, and WY. A full map is provided by the National Park Service here and a self-guided auto-tour is available here. For more information, please visit the National Park Service California National Historic Trail website or the Oregon-California Trails Association website.

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Carmel Mission, Carmel, California

By the late 1700s and early 1800s, Spain extended its New World Empire by establishing permanent settlements on the west coast of North America. In order to colonize Alta (Upper) California, the Spanish constructed presidios (forts) and missions. In total, the Spanish established four presidios and 21 missions throughout Alta California. The Carmel Mission (San Carlos Borroméo de Carmelo Mission) was the second of Spain’s missions and is today a National Historic Landmark. As at many of the historic Spanish missions that still exist throughout California, visitors can tour the restored Carmel Mission.

On June 3, 1770, Captain Gaspar de Portola and Franciscan Father Junípero Serra founded the Carmel Mission and the Presidio of Monterey beside Monterey Bay. Over the course of the next year, presidio soldiers often mistreated the local American Indians living in the area. The American Indians, who associated the mission with the presidio, became leery of Father Serra and his attempts at converting them to Christianity.

In August of 1771, Father Serra moved the mission to nearby Carmel because it offered better agricultural land and a safer political environment for the growing mission. In this new location, the mission thrived. It was closer to fresh water and land more suitable for growing crops. Importantly, it was removed from the tense environment surrounding the presidio. While construction progress was slow at first, the mission eventually had temporary structures including dwellings, a storeroom, and a wooden church.

Carmel Mission became the headquarters for Father Serra and Spain’s expanding California mission system. From Carmel Mission, Father Serra directed the building of seven other missions in California. Father Serra passed away at the mission on August 28, 1784. Today, visitors to the restored Carmel Mission can see the room in which Father Serra slept and where he passed away. Father Serra’s grave is below the mission’s present church altar.

During Father Serra’s time at Carmel Mission, the mission buildings were of wood and mud and then eventually of adobe. These first structures were temporary and lasted only as long as their roofs could protect them from the elements. In 1793, Father Lausen, Father Serra’s successor, supervised the construction of a more permanent stone church, which visitors to the mission can see today.

Laborers quarried sandstone from the nearby Santa Lucia Mountains to construct the church on the site of the original adobe church. The church has two dissimilar towers flanking a round-arched portal. The bell tower, which exhibits Spanish-Moorish influence, has a dome surmounted by a wrought iron cross. At the height of its use, the church had as many as seven large-scale side altarpieces, over 20 statues, and a large crucifix flanking statues of Our Lady and St. John. The church’s interior wooden tunnel vault, shaped in a parabolic arch, is unique among the California mission churches. The church is also unique because it was the first of three California mission churches built from stone – the rest of the mission churches are of adobe.

The mission continued to thrive under Father Lausen’s leadership. He directed the construction of additional adobe buildings around the property. Today, the reconstructed mission buildings sit on top of the foundations of those Father Lausen directed to be constructed. Father Lausen passed away in 1803 and rests beside Father Serra.

By the early 1820s, a series of events negatively affected life at the mission. Sickness, death, and depredation by the military overwhelmed the mission throughout this time. In 1821, Mexico gained its independence from Spain and Alta California became a part of Mexico. The Mexican government did not have the necessary financial resources to maintain the mission system as the Spanish had done. By 1834, the Mexican government secularized the mission system and began the process of converting church property to private property. Mexican citizens who were helpful during the war for independence and new settlers coming to California bought most of this property. Due to the secularization of the missions, the American Indian converts and Spanish Fathers left Carmel Mission and the mission’s buildings faced deterioration and decay.

Many of the mission’s adobe buildings returned to the earth, becoming piles of mud, while the church’s roof collapsed leaving the interior exposed to the elements. By 1859, the United States government, which was now in control of California, returned the missions’ lands to the Catholic Church. Carmel Mission lay in ruin. Restoration of the mission began in 1884 when private funds provided a new roof for the church. By 1936, private funds and church funds became available for a full-scale renovation of the property. Over the next two decades the mission’s buildings were rebuilt and restored, and in 1961, it was designated a Basilica. A Basilica is the highest honorary rank for a church and implies great historical and artistic importance.

Today, visitors to the restored and reconstructed Carmel Mission will see the mission, with its complete quadrangle courtyard. Only part of the mission buildings date from the 18th and 19th centuries while others are of more recent construction but still in the California mission style. Many of the church’s interior furnishings are original. In 1851, Monterey Pastor Father Villarasa removed the church’s statues, paintings, and other artifacts when the church’s roof showed signs of collapse. The Old Presidio Chapel in Monterey then used the furnishings until the early part of the 20th century when they returned to Carmel Mission. Visitors to the mission will also see California’s First Library (founded in 1770) that contains Father Serra’s 400 year-old Bible.

Plan Your Visit

Carmel Mission, a National Historic Landmark, is located at 3080 Rio Rd. in Carmel, CA. Click here for the National Historic Landmark file: text and photos. Carmel Mission is open from 9:30am to 5:00pm Monday through Saturday and 10:30am to 5:00pm on Sunday, except Easter Sunday and Monday, Thanksgiving, and from December 24 to December 26. For more information, visit the Carmel Mission website or call 831-624-3600.

Carmel Mission is featured in the National Park Service Early History of the California Coast Travel Itinerary. The National Park Service’s Historic American Buildings Survey has documented Carmel Mission.

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Channel Islands National Park, California

Channel Islands National Park off the coast of southern California protects five special islands – Anacapa, Santa Cruz, Santa Rosa, San Miguel, and Santa Barbara and their surrounding ocean. These isolated islands are a world away from the mainland with their remarkably preserved natural and cultural resources that let visitors experience what it would have been like for the earliest peoples who encountered this unique place. Early Spanish exlorers and Latino settlers have played an important role in the history of the islands and the intermingling of cultures there. Today, the National Park Service preserves the islands and helps to tell the stories of the various historic inhabitants.

Anacapa

The Chumash were the first people to settle the Channel Islands and called their island home
Ennepah, which means “deception” or “mirage.” European inhabitants later named the island Anacapa. According to local legend, the Chumash people originally settled on Anacapa after a civil war on the mainland drove them there; however, they soon moved to the other islands and used Anacapa as a place for seasonal camping and fishing. Anacapa Island is closest to the mainland, and archeological evidence suggests that the Chumash people were visiting this island at least 5,000 years ago. Human artifacts such as bone tools, shell beads, projectile points, and fishhooks document the Chumash occupation of the island.

In 1542, Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo made contact with the natives on the Channel Islands, but perhaps because of the lack of fresh water on Anacapa, he and his crew did not stop there long. During an expedition in 1793, Englishman George Vancouver named the island “Enecapa,” and it was recorded as that in 1854.

Anacapa gained international significance with the discovery of gold in California in 1848. Traffic up and down the Pacific seaboard increased as ships delivered mail, travelers, and resources. In their haste to reach their destination, many ships risked taking a route through the Santa Barbara Channel, and between 1850 and 1900, at least 33 ships wrecked in this area. The SS Winfield Scott was carrying 300 passengers and crew members, as well as bags of mail, and a million dollars in gold, when it struck a large rock and sank on December 2, 1853. Wrecks such as these prompted Congress to approve and provide funds to build a lighthouse on Anacapa Island—the last permanent lighthouse constructed on the west coast. The lighthouse boasted a
Fresnel lens, one of the most advanced lighthouse beacons in the world at the time. Although visitors cannot visit the lighthouse for safety reasons, the National Park Service encourages them to enjoy the spectacular views from the island, dive to explore the SS Winfield Scott shipwreck, and view the original Fresnel lens on display at the Anacapa Island visitor center.

Santa Cruz
Santa Cruz Island is the largest and most diverse of the Channel Islands. Archeological investigations suggest that the Chumash people inhabited Santa Cruz Island for over 9,000 years, and Europeans explored and ranched on the land for more than 150 years. The Chumash took advantage of their lush environment; they called the island Limuw, meaning “in the sea,” and developed a highly complex society that depended on marine harvest, specialized craftwork, and trade with mainland groups. On Santa Cruz, the Chumash mined chert deposits in order to make tools and shell bead money, which they used for trading with tribes throughout California.

Santa Cruz’s incredible landscape includes two rugged mountain ranges, the highest peaks on the islands (rising above 2,000 feet), deep canyons with year-round springs and streams, and 77 miles of craggy coastline cliffs, giant sea caves, pristine tide pools, and expansive beaches. Painted Cave, one of the largest and deepest sea caves in the world, gets its name from the colorful rock types, lichens, and algae; its 160 foot entrance and waterfall make it a spectacular destination. Because of the island’s geographical isolation, plants and animals have adapted to the unique environment there; the island scrub jay and several plant species are found nowhere else in the world except on this island.

When Sebastian Vizcaino led the last Spanish expedition to California in 1602, his map marked the island Isla de Gente Barbuda, or Island of the Bearded People. The next recorded contact came in 1769, when Don Gaspar de la Portola and his missionaries made contact with the Chumash on the island. Father Palou wrote that the missionaries were “well received by the heathen and presented with fish, in return for which the Indians were given some strings of beads.” When the missionaries returned to their ship, they realized they had left their iron staff in the village. Knowing that the Chumash valued iron, the missionaries counted the staff as lost. At daybreak they noticed a small canoe approaching the ship carrying a Chumash who was returning the staff with the holy cross on it. Missionaries named the island Santa Cruz, or Island of the Holy Cross, for these friendly and honest natives. Across the channel on the mainland, the Catholic mission at San Buenaventura dates from 1782. Over the next 40 years, the Chumash slowly converted to Christianity and left the island for mainland California.

After the last members of the Chumash departed, Santa Cruz experienced a variety of diverse visitors and owners. In the 19th century, Santa Cruz served as a base for otter hunters, fishermen, and smugglers. Smugglers Cove was an ideal hideaway for smugglers and bootleggers to store their prohibited goods.

When Mexico gained independence from Spain in 1821, the Mexican government sent a group of 40 convicts to Santa Barbara. The residents there convinced the Mexican government to move them to Santa Cruz.

In 1839, Captain Andres Castillero became the first private owner of Santa Cruz through a land grant from the Mexican government. He owned it until 1857, although his ownership was disputed in 1850 when California became a State. Castillero sold the island to William Barron, co-owner of Barron, Forbes & Co., and an English physician, James B. Shaw, managed the island and built a ranch house in 1855. The Sacramento Daily Union praised his sheep in 1859, writing, “Sheep of a much finer quality can be found in this county, and we doubt if anything superior can be found in the State than those owned by Dr. Shaw, on the island of Santa Cruz.” During the Civil War, the demand for wool increased, and by 1864, 24,000 sheep grazed on the hills and valleys of this island.

Barron sold the island to investors for $150,000. One of the ranchers, Justinian Caire, expanded the products on the island to include wool, beef, wine, fruit, nuts, and products from sustainable gardens, orchards, and fowl. Caire brought French, American, Mexican Californian, and Indian immigrants to work at the ranch as blacksmiths, masons, carpenters, painters, sheep-shearers, team drivers, vintners, butchers, dairymen and sailors. When oilman Edwin Stanton bought a major part of Santa Cruz in 1937, production changed again to beef.

The United States military forces used Santa Cruz and the surrounding islands during World War II as a place to watch for enemy planes and ships. During the Cold War, the government built a communications station on the island, and has since used it as a center for US military strategic installations.

San Miguel
The Chumash used San Miguel’s profoundly beautiful environment for at least 11,000 years before Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo and his crew came upon the island in 1542. Cabrillo claimed the island for the Spanish crown and named it La Posesion, or The Possession. Rumor has it that Cabrillo lived and died on San Miguel Island, and a memorial commemorating him stands on a bluff overlooking Cuyler Harbor.

At San Miguel, visitors can view remains of the island’s rich history. Numerous shipwrecks are reminders of a more recent past, while fossil bones of the Pleistocene pygmy mammoth that stood 4 to 6 feet tall and the caliche forest (sand-castings of ancient vegetation) reveal the island’s ancient history. The island also provides ranger-guided, 16-mile round trip hikes where, during certain seasons, visitors have the chance to see the spectacular wildlife display of over 30,000 seals and sea lions on the beach.

Santa Rosa
Santa Rosa Island is home to a vast array of plant and animal species, some of them extremely rare. The Chumash called this island Wima. Archeological investigators at Arlington Springs found evidence that humans used the island as far back as 13,000 years ago—argued to be the earliest dated human remains in North or South America! Click here to read the story of Arlington Man. Santa Rosa contains thousands of significant federally protected archeological sites, which have helped researchers to gain a better understanding of how the Chumash lived.

In addition to the native Chumash, European explorers, Aleut sea otter hunters, Chinese abalone fishermen, Spanish missionaries, Mexican and American ranchers, and the US military all have left their mark on the Santa Rosa landscape.

Santa Barbara
In 1602, explorer Sebastian Vizcaino named Santa Barbara Island in honor of the saint whose day is December 4th, the day he arrived. Santa Barbara, the smallest of the Channel Islands, may look barren, but it is home to an impressive variety of flora and fauna. Years of extensive ranching and farming led to a decline in habitat and species; however, the National Park Service’s resource management program has led to immense recovery of native plants. After the winter rains, the island comes alive with colorful blossoms from the tree sunflower, cream cups, chicory, and shrubby buckwheat. Seabirds and other nesting land birds have thus returned to the island, and the coast is alive with California sea lions, harbor seals and northern elephant seals. Visitors can explore this island and all it has to offer by hiking along six miles of trails, snorkeling, swimming, or kayaking along the coast.

Hundreds of years ago, the Chumash used tomols, or canoes, to travel between islands and the mainland in order to hunt, fish, and trade. Today, descendants of the Chumash keep their heritage alive by continuing this tradition. Learn more about the Chumash tomol crossing here.

The Channel Islands offer a rich variety of outdoor activities for visitors to enjoy. Visit these islands to discover more about the remarkable contact between different cultures and their natural environment.

Plan Your Visit

Channel Islands National Park, a unit of the National Park System, is located off the coast of Southern California. On the mainland, the Robert J. Lagomarsino Visitor Center at 1901 Spinnaker Dr.,Ventura, CA and the Outdoor Santa Barbara Visitor Center, 113 Harbor Way 4th Floor, Santa Barbara, CA are accessible by car. The park is opened year round; for information on visitor centers click here. The park is free to enter, although there is a $15 fee to camp on the islands. The islands are only accessible by park concessionaire boats and planes or private boat. Advanced planning is highly recommended.To make reservations to visit the islands by plane or boat, please click here. No transportation is available on the islands; visitors reach all areas by foot, kayak, or private boat. For more information, visit the National Park Service Channel Islands National Park website or call 805-658-5730.

Channel Islands National Park is also featured in the National Park Service Places Reflecting America's Diverse Cultures: Explore their Stories in the National Park System Travel Itinerary. Click here for the Anacapa Island Light Station's National Register of Historic Places file: text and photos. The house and light tower at Anacapa’s Lighthouse have also been documented by the Historic American Buildings Survey.

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Estudillo House, San Diego, California

Around the time of Mexican independence from Spain in 1821, soldiers of the Presidio of San Diego began building their homes outside the adobe walls of this fortified settlement. One the finest example of these homes is the Estudillo House, a National Historic Landmark located in the Old Town San Diego State Historic Park. Built between 1827 and 1829, the Estudillo House, or the La Casa de Estudillo, is one of the oldest surviving examples of a typical large Spanish-Mexican one-story town house in California. Since its construction, the house has served as a residence, a town hall, a chapel, a shelter, an early 20th-century tourist attraction, and a museum.

Construction of the house began in 1827 on a land parcel that overlooked the Old Town San Diego plaza and under the direction of Captain José María de Estudillo, a commander of the San Diego Presidio. The great U-shaped one story house is built around three sides of a large patio and originally contained 13 rooms set in a straight line. The rooms are connected only by an external veranda. The adobe walls, averaging three to five feet in thickness, are coated with white plaster and gave protection in heat and cold. Originally a small round wooden cupola, used by the family and guests to watch the bullfights and festivals in the plaza, topped the house. When José María de Estudillo died in 1830, the house passed to his son, José Antonio Estudillo and his son’s wife, María Victoria Dominguez de Estudillo.

The house was to become the social center of life in Old Town San Diego. The building was so central to town life that, from the early 1830s to 1856, a large hall in the house served as the town chapel and as a school. José Antonio and María Victoria fostered within the Estudillo House an atmosphere of social, political, and community involvement in what was considered at the time to be one of the finest houses in Mexican California.

Both José Antonio and his wife María Victoria were active and influential members in their community. By 1829, José Antonio owned three ranches in California, and as his wealth grew, so did his importance in the community. From 1828 until his death in 1852, José Antonio held many public offices in San Diego. He served as revenue collector, treasurer, mayor, justice of the peace, judge of San Diego under Mexican rule, and later as treasurer and assessor of San Diego County under American rule. While José Antonio played an active role in the development of early San Diego, his wife fully participated in the life of the Mexican pueblo and the new American city.

María Victoria lived in the Estudillo House for over 40 years until her death in 1873. Known for her charm, compassion, and hospitality, María Victoria and José Antonio entertained some of the most brilliant and aristocratic citizens of Upper California in the Estudillo House. During the Mexican-American War, instead of joining her husband at one of their homes in El Cajon, María Victoria remained in San Diego. While the “Californians” held the area, María Victoria gave courage and spirit to the women and children of San Diego providing them with refuge behind the thick walls of the house.

In the early 1850’s, when peace had returned to California after the war, unexpected deaths in the Estudillo family left nine children orphaned. María Victoria immediately welcomed these children into her home, and she bore the responsibility of raising this new family alone for José Antonio passed away shortly after in 1852. For the next 21 years, María Victoria continued to live in the Estudillo House, raising her new family, taking care of the sick, and performing acts of charity where she could.

The Estudillo House remained in the Estudillo family until 1887, when family descendants moved to Los Angeles and left the home with a caretaker. Around this time the house gained prominence through its association with Helen Hunt Jackson's popular 1884 novel Ramona. Set in Southern California, the novel painted a romanticized portrait of Mexican colonial life, and it effectively generated a nationwide interest in the region. Publication of Ramona coincided with the opening of railroad lines to the region. This provided interested tourists with the means of transportation to see the locations discussed in the novel. While the novel was a work of fiction, tourists flocked to the Estudillo House nonetheless, because they believed it was likely the location of Ramona’s (the beautiful half-Spanish and half-Indian heroine) marriage. The Estudillo House became known as “Ramona’s Marriage Place” and was converted into a commercial venture.

Due in part to tourist vandalism and the caretaker selling off pieces of the house as Ramona-related relics, the house sat nearly in ruins by 1906. Nat R. Titus purchased the worn-down house and sold it a year later to the San Diego Electric Railway Company, owned by sugar magnate John D. Spreckles. In 1910, Spreckles financed its restoration under the supervision of Architect Hazel Waterman. Restored to a condition closely related to descriptions in the novel, the Estudillo House remained a Ramona-related tourist attraction for many years to come. On one day in 1940, “Ramona’s Marriage Place drew 1,632 visitors.

Donated to the State by Mr. Legler Benbough in 1968, the house became part of the California State Park System. Restored as a house museum identified with the Estudillo family, the museum now features furnished rooms, including a living room, master bedroom, child’s bedroom, workroom, dining room, chapel, a working kitchen, and a large courtyard. Through self-guided or docent lead tours of the Estudillo House and the many other historic sites throughout the Old Town San Diego Historic Park, visitors can experience the transformation of San Diego from a Mexican pueblo to an American settlement.

Plan Your Visit

Estudillo House (La Casa de Estudillo), a National Historic Landmark, is located at 4000 Mason St., San Diego, CA. Click here for the National Historic Landmark file: text and photos. The Estudillo House is open daily from 10:00am to at least 4:00pm, April through March, and 10:00am to 5:00pm, April through September, except on Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Day. Admission is free. For more information, visit the California Department of Parks and Recreation: Old Town San Diego State Historic Park website or call 619-220-5422.

Estudillo House has been documented by the National Park Service’s Historic American Buildings Survey.

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Fort Point National Historic Site, San Francisco, California

Across the centuries, the sheltered waters of San Francisco Bay and the rich, fertile lands that surround it have attracted people of different nations. Fort Point National Historic Site reflects the strategic importance of the area. In 1776, the Spanish established the Presidio of San Francisco to protect Spain’s interests in the San Francisco Bay area. After Mexico became independent from Spain in 1821, it too recognized the importance of fortifying San Francisco against enemy attack. Once the United States gained control of California, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers built the fort that stands today at Fort Point National Historic Site. Constructed between 1853 and 1861 as part of a defense system to protect San Francisco Bay and its important commercial and military installations against foreign attack, this fort has stood guard at the narrows of the Golden Gate for over 150 years.

The Spanish were the first Europeans to set foot where Fort Point National Historic Site is today. In 1776, Captain Juan Bautista de Anza forged an overland route into the area and recognized the strategic location of the site at the mouth of the wide bay. Anza climbed to one of the highest points surrounding the bay, the Punta del Cantil Blanco, and with a single white cross in the earth, claimed the land for Spain. For more information about Spanish exploration throughout California, visit the Juan Bautista de Anza National Historic Trail website.

The Punta del Cantil Blanco was an ideal spot for a defensive fortification. In 1793, the Spanish began work on El Castillo de San Joaquin, a heavily armed land battery. Completed in 1794, El Castillo de San Joaquin was the first fort constructed on the west coast of North America. The Spanish altered and expanded its thick-walled adobe buildings over time to create a large, impressive complex. By the time Mexico gained its independence from Spain and took control of California in 1821, El Castillo was in disrepair. The Mexicans used the fort but by 1835, because of its poor condition, Mexican General Mariano Guadalupe Vallejo relocated his troops north to a new garrison in Sonoma.

After the Bear Flag Revolt of 1846, U.S. General John C. Fremont and his battalion arrived at San Francisco Bay to claim the territory as American soil. They found the old Castillo mostly abandoned and quietly overtook it. Within the year, the Mexican-American War ended, and California became part of the United States and the former fort and complex an American military reservation – the first on the West Coast. Today the remains of the Spanish/Mexican fort lay buried beneath the San Francisco Presidio’s grounds awaiting further archeological exploration.

The United States replaced the decrepit installation with an impressive stronghold. In 1851, the U.S. War Department established a Board of Engineers for the Pacific Coast, which recommended building a new fort on the site the Spanish had recognized as strategically important nearly a century before. In 1853, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers began work on the new fort using the “Third System” fort design that had become the standard in 1820. “Third System” forts featured thick, smooth masonry walls, iron shutters, and multiple tiers of heavy artillery, including many cannons mounted at ocean-level to attack enemy ships at their waterline. Completed in 1861, Fort Point was the only Third System fort ever constructed west of the Mississippi River.

Built during the height of the California Gold Rush and just before the Civil War, Fort Point is a powerful representation of American military prowess during the first years after the United States gained control of its western territory. Although it never experienced an attack or fired a single shot in its defense, Fort Point remained a formidable deterrent. Its size and layout became obsolete by the close of the Civil War era, however, as new advancements in military construction emerged, but the military intermittently used the fort as army barracks in the early 20th century and during World War II.

The plans for the Golden Gate Bridge in the 1930s called for its demolition. Fortunately, the Chief Engineer on the project, Joseph Strauss, recognized Fort Point’s historic significance and redesigned the bridge’s southern footing to arch gracefully over the fort. The only battle ever fought at Fort Point was the one to preserve it after demolition threatened it again during the 1940s and '50s. A group of retired military officers and engineers joined to save the fort and its setting. The officers formed the Fort Point Museum Association and lobbied successfully for its preservation. On October 16, 1970, Fort Point became a National Historic Site. Today the fort is a popular tourist attraction within the Golden Gate National Recreation Area, which celebrates the entire history of the San Francisco Bay area.

Fort Point houses a history museum that touches on many themes such as the early Spanish history of the area, 19th-century weapons and the life of the soldiers, construction of the Golden Gate Bridge, and the experiences of women and African Americans in the military. Several exhibits feature award-winning video documentaries and historic footage of both the fort and the Golden Gate Bridge. Visitors are welcome to browse the museum by themselves with a self-led audio tour, or take a tour of the site with a trained historian. A popular interactive cannon-loading demonstration takes place regularly throughout the day. All activities at the museum are available to the public free of charge. The fort sits within the expansive Golden Gate National Recreation Area, one of the nation’s greatest collections of historic military structures from Spain’s rule through today.

Plan Your Visit

Fort Point National Historic Site, a unit of the National Park System and part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area, is located at Long Avenue and Marine Dr., beneath the south anchorage of the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, CA. Click here for the Fort Point National Historic Site National Register of Historic Places file: text. The fort and its museum are open Friday through Sunday, 10:00am to 5:00pm and are closed on Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Day. Admission is free at all times. For more information, visit the National Park Service Fort Point National Historic Site website or call 415-556-1693.

Fort Point is featured in two other National Park Service travel itineraries: Early History of the California Coast and World War II History in the San Francisco Bay Area.

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The Forty Acres, Delano, California

In 1966, “The Forty Acres,” a parcel of land in Delano, California, became the headquarters for the United Farm Workers of America (UFW), the first permanent agricultural labor union in the United States. The Forty Acres is nationally significant for its role in the farm worker movement and for its close association with the influential career of Césario Estrada Chávez (César Chávez), its most significant leader from 1962 to 1993. At Forty Acres, César Chávez held his first public fast that brought the farm workers movement to national attention and the UFW first successfully bargained contracts protecting the rights of farm workers and ending a five–year table-grape strike.

The Forty Acres preserves the legacy of the farm workers movement and César Chávez and helps tell their story. The buildings, the park, roads, and landscaping features are all intact. A visit to this National Historic Landmark provides visitors with the opportunity to see the buildings and grounds that developed as the UFW grew in importance and strength.

César Chávez was born near Yuma, Arizona in 1927. About ten years later, Chávez and his family were forced to leave Arizona after they lost their land during the Great Depression. They went to California where they moved up and down the State searching for work. In these early years of his life, Chávez experienced the poverty and discrimination that often went hand-in-hand with migratory farm work.

After serving in the United States Navy for two years beginning in 1946, Chávez returned to California and became involved with the Community Service Organization (CSO). The CSO organizers helped people in Mexican-American neighborhoods with the everyday tasks of filling out tax forms, getting children into school, and studying for citizenship exams. The organization promoted the idea that community involvement, support, and togetherness could and would positively affect everyone’s lives. The CSO greatly influenced the way in which Chávez eventually organized the farm workers’ movement and future union.

Between 1962 and 1965, Chávez and a small group of fellow activists traveled throughout California’s agricultural regions talking to workers, helping them with problems, and identifying what they needed and wanted from an organization. Chávez and his group of organizers invited the workers to join their new organization, the National Farm Workers Association (NFWA). They were careful not to call the new organization a labor union for most farm workers associated “unions” with false promises, empty hopes, and lost strikes. All of this changed on September 8, 1965 when a predominantly Filipino farm workers organization, the Agricultural Workers Organizing Committee (AWOC), went on strike against the Californian Delano table-grape growers. Seeing this as a great opportunity to fight for the rights of agricultural workers, within one week the NFWA voted to join the strike.

By the spring of 1966, as the strike gained support and a few months before the two organizations merged to form the United Farm Workers Organizing Committee (later known as the United Farm Workers of America Union (UFW)), the NFWA purchased 40 acres of barren land in Delano, California to develop into a farm workers’ service center. Chávez wanted Forty Acres to be a place where lower-income Spanish-speaking farm workers could find assistance, goods, and services that would positively affect their lives. At the service center, he wished to offer health care, banking, legal services, child care, automobile repair, and reasonably priced gas and groceries. Once a barren landscape featuring alkaline soil where little would grow, the UFW transformed “The Forty Acres” into a regional farm workers’ service center and the headquarters of a national movement that would transform the agricultural industry in the United States and inspire thousands of Latinos and other Americans to social and political activism.

From The Forty Acres, Chávez led the UFW grassroots movement to success during the Delano table-grape strike. Construction began on the first major structure to go up at Forty Acres in August 1967, a cooperative gas station facing Garces Highway. The rectangular single-story adobe was built in the Mission or early California style that César Chávez loved and was simple and functional in design. After touring all of the Spanish Californian Missions on his honeymoon, Chávez fell in love with the missions’ architectural style and associated it with feelings of stability, simplicity, and permanence—all of the things he sought for his movement. Richard Chávez, Cesar’s brother, directed the building of the station using volunteer labor, little modern equipment, and donated material. Construction of the service station exemplifies the farm workers movement’s limited financial resources, but also its resourcefulness. Farm workers bought “Huelga Co-op Gas” (strike gas) at the station, which eventually housed a three-bay mechanics shop to fix broken-down union cars.

Completed in late 1967, the Station saw its first major use when Chávez put his own body on the line to revitalize the movement and to focus his followers on the benefits of non-violent tactics in the fight for the cause. Chávez completed his first public fast of 25 days during February and March of 1968 in a tiny 8x9 windowless room off the service station’s breezeway. The room was so small it hardly had room for a single bed. Chávez took a short walk across the station’s breezeway to a large storeroom to attend Mass every day. Chávez’s fast drew national attention to the movement. Supporters flocked to the station every day–a makeshift tent city of hundreds of followers even grew around the station. At the Service Station, Chávez met U.S. Senator Robert Kennedy before ending that fast at an outdoor Mass in Delano.

The movement grew in momentum as strikers appealed to church groups, student activists, pesticide-conscious consumers, and other labor unions and civil rights groups across the nation. The UFW utilized consumer boycotts, marches, community organizing, and nonviolent resistance, to achieve the goals of better pay and working conditions. Between 1967 and 1968, the movement and union received a considerable amount of media attention and gained in strength after they targeted the Giumarra Brother Fruits Company, the largest table-grape grower in California, and decided to boycott the State’s entire table-grape industry, and after Chávez conducted his first public fast. As the movement expanded, they needed a place with office space and began building an administration building in 1968.

With no real time to focus on elaborate architectural plans, the UFW built the Roy L. Reuther Memorial Hall using a functional design, simple and affordable materials, and volunteer labor. Reuther Hall cost only $9,000 to complete and included offices, a services and utilities area, and a multipurpose space. The “multipurpose” space encompassed the entire southwest portion of the building and served as the hiring hall, boycott organizing space, day care facility, and site of social events.

By 1970, the UFW had succeeded in reaching a collective bargaining agreement with the table-grape growers, affecting more than 70,000 farm workers. The signing of the contracts that ended the strike occurred in Reuther Hall at The Forty Acres. The contracts raised wages, protected farm workers from dangerous pesticides, replaced a labor contracting system with union-run hiring halls, funded health care plans, established grievances procedures, mandated that growers provide fresh water and toilets in the fields, and established a fund for community service projects.
After the signing of the contracts that ended the table-grape strike, union leaders knew that the farm workers would have more money to spend on healthcare and began to build a permanent health clinic at The Forty Acres. Resourceful union leaders acquired two county administrative buildings scheduled for demolition and moved them to The Forty Acres for use as the base of the health clinic. Volunteers offered hours of manual labor, adapting the moved buildings with adobe in the Mission style consistent with the rest of the Forty Acres. While most of the clinic was consistent with modern health care facilities at the time, contractors designed the waiting room with brown brick walls on three sides and rich, brown clay floor tiles. The room had large windows and glass doors, which filled the space with daylight. UFW leaders wanted the farm workers to feel at ease and a part of the landscape while waiting to use the clinic, and this waiting room provided that comfort.

Signing the contracts also helped fund another building project for the Paolo Agbayani Retirement Village. The retirement center was the union leaders’ answer to the plight of elderly and displaced Filipino farm workers. Most of the Filipino farm workers had migrated to the United States as young men during the 1920s and 1930s. Strict immigration laws prevented Filipino women from immigrating to California, and California law prohibited the Filipino male immigrants to marry women outside of their own race. This left the Filipino farm workers to live as single men most of their lives at the labor camps on the farms they worked. During the strike, the grape growers evicted most of these men. Since they had been unable to marry and start families, many of the men had nowhere to go.

The union leaders designed and built the Paolo Agbayani Retirement Village to provide the Filipino farm workers with a decent place to live. Constructed in the Mission style, the village provided 59 single room units, bathrooms, telephone lines, central air conditioning, a central courtyard (landscaped with eucalyptus, Chinese pistache, blackwood acacia, carob, camphor trees, and garden plots) and a lounge and dining area that provided daily meals. The Filipino farm workers who retired here had come full circle; they now lived in a place that provided them with a high quality of life, human dignity, and respect. Chávez performed his last and longest public fast, for 36 days, in a small room at the Village in 1988. This fast was a protest against the pesticide poisoning of farm workers and their children.

Although the union relocated its national headquarters to a newly-acquired property in the Tehachapi Mountains in 1971, The Forty Acres remained the NFW’s model service center. The services offered at Forty Acres were ultimately refined and then offered throughout other regional service centers. Today, visitors to The Forty Acres can readily see the historic connections between the site’s buildings and grounds and the legacies of César Chávez and the farm workers movement.

Plan Your Visit

The Forty Acres, a National Historic Landmark, is located at 30168 Garces Highway in Delano, CA. Click here for the National Historic Landmark Nomination file. Guided tours of The Forty Acres are available by appointment Monday through Friday from 8:30 am until 12:00 pm and from 1:00pm until 5:00 pm. The grounds and roads of The Forty Acres are open 24 hours a day year round. For more information, call 661-725-4347 or email avillage@chavezfoundation.org.

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Golden Gate National Recreation Area , California

Golden Gate National Recreational Area encompasses more than 30 scenic and historic sites that chronicle hundreds of years of San Francisco’s history and invites visitors to explore the area’s American Indian, Spanish, and Mexican cultural heritage. American Indians have occupied the San Francisco Bay area for more than 10,000 years. The Ohlone, or Costanoan, and Coast Miwok American Indians lived throughout the area when the Spanish arrived in 1769.

The story of San Francisco’s Spanish heritage begins on November 4, 1769, when Captain Juan Gaspar de Portola came over Sweeney Ridge and saw “a large arm of the sea or some sort of harbor within the mountains.” Although his intention was to find Monterey Bay, his expedition instead came across San Francisco Bay. Golden Gate National Recreational Area commemorates this moment in history at the Portola Site Acquisition Monument, located within the San Francisco Bay Discovery Site. In 1968, the National Park Service erected a small Serpentine rock at Sweeney Ridge where Portola and Sergeant Juan Ortega first glimpsed the breathtaking sight of San Francisco Bay, one of the world’s greatest harbors and the finest on the Pacific Coast. The San Francisco Bay Discovery Site is a National Historic Landmark.

Following Portola’s expedition and recognizing the value of the bay, the Spanish settled the San Francisco area in 1776. In that year, under the direction of Captain Juan Bautista de Anza, they built the Presidio of San Francisco, a military garrison, to fortify the bay’s entrance and keep an eye on foreign fleets as they entered and exited the bay. Today, just to the east of Pershing Square within the “Main Post” of the Presidio of San Francisco, is the site of the original Spanish Presidio; visitors will see a boulder by the sidewalk that approximates the northwest corner of the original Presidio. A few miles inland, the Spanish constructed the Mission San Francisco de Asís (now Mission Dolores); Mission Dolores is the oldest intact building in San Francisco and stands as a lasting testament to the legacy of Anza’s Expedition. Spanish troops were also responsible for monitoring the American Indians who lived near the Presidio.

Between 1822 and 1846, the Presidio became part of the Mexican Republic. The Coast Miwok, Yokuts, Pomo, Sierra Miwok, and Salinan were all gathered in the area to supply the Presidio with labor and to serve the needs of the Mexican settlement. When Mexico opened its ports in 1821, various trading companies began to arrive. By the 1820s, the Presidio settlement had expanded outside the original walled plaza built by the Spanish. In 1848, after the Mexican American War, California became part of the United States. The Presidio served until 1994 as an important military post, then became part of Golden Gate National Recreation Area. During World War II, the internment of Japanese Americans was commanded from the Presidio and soldiers trained at the Military Intelligence Service located there. Also posted to the Presidio were the Buffalo Soldiers of the 9th Cavalry, who guarded two of the nation's earliest national parks, Sequoia and Yosemite, in the early 1900s. Today, visitors may find some of these soldiers buried in San Francisco National Cemetery.

The National Historic Landmark statement of significance sums up why visitors will want to visit the Presidio for themselves. “The Presidio of San Francisco is the oldest Army installation operating in the American West and one of the longest-garrisoned posts in the country. More than two hundred years of military occupation of the Presidio have resulted in the development of a complex historic district of several overlaid historic landscapes, each composed of buildings, structures, objects, sites and other features representing at least eight distinct phases of development. The breadth and diversity of contributing resources are vast and include a veritable outdoor museum of military and related architecture.”

Many areas within the Presidio are open to the public, such as the variety of historic buildings and avenues found within the Presidio’s Main Post that display a combination of the area’s architectural styles; the Letterman Hospital Complex, which provided care for soldiers through many wars and is now the Letterman Digital Arts Center; and the World War II Memorial that overlooks the Pacific and pays tribute to American soldiers. The Presidio also offers plenty of opportunities for outdoor activities, including a 25-mile hiking trail, a 14-mile cycling trail, rocks and piers for fishing and crabbing, ancient redwood groves, ranger-led tours, and a world-class board-sailing area around Crissy Field. Click here to read more about Crissy Field’s important place in our country’s aviation history.

The Spanish introduction of diseases into the area, forced labor, and missionary efforts to convert the Ohlone/Costanoan people to Christianity and alter their way of life drastically changed the world they knew. Despite the changes over time, their descendants still reside in the San Francisco Bay area and maintain their cultural traditions by restoring their native language, continuing to use traditional plants for medicinal purposes, and practicing the ancient arts of storytelling, dancing, singing, and basket weaving. The National Park Service works with the present day Ohlone and Coast Miwok peoples to preserve and interpret their ancestral sites located throughout the Golden Gate National Recreation Area in places such as the Presidio, Lands End, and Muir Beach.

Lands End offers magnificent views and is San Francisco’s rockiest coast. It is also the location of the Park’s oldest archeological site—Coastal Miwok shell material dated from 150 AD. The remains of the Sutro Baths (which could accommodate 10,000 people at a time) and Cliff House provide a glimpse of Victorian grandeur and leisure at the turn of the 20th century. The rehabilitated Neoclassical style Cliff House still provides entertainment, dining, and dazzling views of the Pacific Ocean. Visitors can also view the remains of three shipwrecks off of Lands End’s rocky shoreline.

The Coast Miwok people densely populated Muir Beach before the Europeans arrived, passing down for millennia a culture rich with knowledge of plants and wildlife. While they had a permanent residence near Muir Beach, they also traveled as the seasons changed to continue hunting, gathering, and fishing. Activities such as hiking have eroded this once pristine ecological setting. In 2009, the National Park Service partnered with the Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy to restore and revive Redwood Creek’s ecological balance and enhance the area’s salmon habitat. Together, they have performed archeological investigations and reintroduced native vegetation to the area. The Federated Indians of Graton Rancheria have provided essential knowledge about the traditional and native ecology. A walk around Muir Beach or a stop at the Muir Beach overlook provides visitors with a glimpse of the sights and sounds that American Indians experienced in this picturesque area for thousands of years.

Visitors can further explore American Indian cultural heritage at Alcatraz Island. Alcatraz Island was the site of an American Indian protest in 1969. The indigenous Ohlone people occupied the island for at least 10,000 years before Juan Manuel de Ayala, a Spanish naval officer, documented it as “La Isla de los Alcatraces” (“The Island of the Pelicans”) in 1775. Before his arrival and the subsequent European, Mexican, and American ownership of the island, the Ohlone may have used the island as refuge from Californian missions, a place to isolate disobedient tribe members, and to gather food.

Americans built a prison on Alcatraz in the mid 19th century to hold military prisoners and notorious criminals, which closed in 1963. On November 9, 1969, Mohawk Richard Oakes led a group of American Indians to Alcatraz to inhabit the island with the hope of building a college, museum, and cultural center there. The Indians remained on Alcatraz for nearly two years, during which they organized an elected council and provided jobs for fellow occupants. Although the Indians did not ultimately reclaim the island, their activism spotlighted their desire for independence and led to changes in the relationship between Native Americans and the United States government. Click here for more details about the American Indian Occupation of Alcatraz.

Visitors can tour Alcatraz Island and see messages that American Indians scrawled on the walls during their stay. Daily tours of the island require reservations and are 2-3 hours long. Every Thanksgiving, thousands of American Indians, activists, and spectators gather on Alcatraz for an “Unthanksgiving” and the Indigenous People’s Sunrise Gathering. This gathering commemorates the American Indian occupation of Alcatraz. No tours of Alcatraz are given on that day.

To visit historic and cultural sites throughout Golden Gate National Recreation Area, tourists are encouraged to obtain a copy from any of the park’s visitor centers of the Guide to the Parks, published by the Golden Gate National Parks Conservatory. Follow this link for a list of historic and cultural sites located in the park.

Plan Your Visit

Golden Gate National Recreation Area, a unit of the National Park System, is located in and around San Francisco, CA. There are multiple entrances to Golden Gate National Recreational Area, and all destinations within the park are free except for Alcatraz and Muir Woods. For a list of events and programs within the park, please view the latest edition of the park’s publication, Golden Gate National Recreation Area's Park Adventures. The park headquarters of Golden Gate National Recreational Area, a unit of the National Park System, is located at Fort Mason, Building 201, in San Francisco, CA. For more information, visit the National Park Service’s Golden Gate National Recreational Area website or call 415-561-4700.

The Presidio is a National Historic Landmark. Click here for the National Register of Historic Places file for the Presidio: text and photos. Alcatraz Island is a National Historic Landmark. Click here for the National Register of Historic Places file for Alcatraz: text and photos.

Several buildings and structures within Golden Gate National Recreational Area have also been documented by the Historic American Buildings Survey. Many sites of the Golden Gate National Recreational Area are also featured in the National Park Service’s Aviation: From Sand Dunes to Sonic Booms Travel Itinerary, The Early History of the California Coast, World War II in the San Francisco Bay Area, and the Places Reflecting America's Diverse Cultures: Explore their Stories in the National Park System Travel Itinerary. Click here to find out more about Golden Gates National Parks Conservancy’s programs for children, youth and family.

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Gonzalez House, Santa Barbara, California
Located in Santa Barbara, California, the Gonzalez House is a National Historic Landmark that is a classic example of a medium sized adobe townhouse from California’s Mexican period. Rafael Gonzalez, a retired Spanish soldier from the Presidio of Santa Barbara, who served as an alcalde (mayor) of Santa Barbara, built the house for his Italian bride around 1825. Gonzalez deeded his home to his daughter, Salome Francisca Ventura Ramirez (married name), and she lived there from 1866 until her death in 1923. A visit to the Gonzalez House is a tangible reminder of the Spanish and Mexican heritage of Santa Barbara, California and of the United States.

By the late 1700s and early 1800s, Spain extended its New World Empire by colonizing the west coast of North America. The Spanish created permanent settlements in Alta California by constructing presidios (forts) and establishing missions throughout the region. Founded on April 21, 1782, the Santa Barbara Royal Presidio was the last in the chain of Spain’s four military fortresses built along the Alta California coast. Other presidios were already in place at San Diego, San Francisco, and Monterey.

Presidios provided settlers and missions with protection, served as military headquarters and governmental centers, and guarded Spanish settlements from foreign invasion. As with other presidios throughout Alta California, local Chumash Indians under the supervision of Spanish soldiers constructed the Santa Barbara Royal Presidio’s buildings. They used sun-dried adobe bricks for the buildings and covered finished walls with whitewash. Laid out around a central parade ground, the presidio had a large outer defense wall that surrounded all of the buildings. Today,
El Presidio de Santa Barbara State Historic Park preserves this original Spanish military outpost.

Following the establishment of the presidio, the Spanish founded the Santa Barbara Mission in 1786 as the 10th mission in Alta California’s 21-mission chain. The mission expanded with the construction of three adobe churches on the grounds, each larger than the one before it. The fourth church that dates from 1820 still stands today. The church is of local sandstone with heavy exterior buttresses for support. Today, visitors are welcome to tour the Santa Barbara Mission, which is also featured in this itinerary.

The presidio and the mission played important roles in Rafael Gonzalez’s life, as they did in the lives of many of the settlers in and around the Spanish settlements in Alta California. On February 20, 1797, Gonzalez was baptized at the Santa Barbara Mission, and in 1816, he enlisted as a soldier in the garrison at the Santa Barbara Royal Presidio. For the next 11 years, Gonzalez participated in many military assignments and witnessed attacks and revolts. His first assignment was in 1817 at Mission Santa Ines (also included in this itinerary), where he was part of the mission guard.

By 1818, Gonzalez was back at the Santa Barbara Royal Presidio when the Argentinean explorer and privateer, Hipolyte Bouchard, invaded the California coast at Monterey. Gonzalez was sent, along with Sergeant Anastasio Carillo and a small group of cavalrymen, to provide support during this attack. They were too late to protect Monterey, because Bouchard had already sacked and burned the city.

Following Bouchard’s attack on California, Gonzalez witnessed two mission revolts-one at the Mission San Buenaventura and the other at the La Purisima Mission. The revolts resulted from years of rising tension between soldiers, mission people, and Indian neophytes (converts). By 1811, due to the Hidalgo Rebellion in New Spain that began Mexico’s war for independence from Spain, supplies and money stopped coming to the California missions from New Spain (Mexico). In addition, Spanish governors would not allow the missions to trade with foreign merchants. All of this led to supply shortages, and the tension grew among everyone involved with the presidios and the missions. The soldiers often took out their frustration on the Indian converts. By the early 1820s, the tension reached a breaking point and the Indians revolted. The soldiers regained control of the missions but the missions would never fully recover.

In 1825, Gonzalez became the corporal of the guard at Santa Ines, and in 1827 received his discharge from the army. Soon after his discharge, Gonzalez returned to Santa Barbara and served as the alcalde (mayor) in his hometown in 1829. Santa Barbara and California were by then a part of Mexico, which gained independence from Spain in 1821. During this Mexican period of California’s history, Gonzalez built a medium-sized adobe home with two to three foot thick walls for his Italian wife.

Constructed around 1825, the home has seven rooms, two-one room wings that project off the main portion of the house, covered verandas, and a tile roof. Gonzalez built the adobe on acreage the King of Spain had deeded to his family known as “Las Isletas.” The “Las Isletas” were small areas of high ground surrounded by the swamps of a local lagoon. The street still bears the name, “Laguna Street,” because of this lagoon.

The Gonzalez House is a classic example of a medium sized Mexican-era adobe town house built during California’s Mexican period, and therefore, provides visitors with a glimpse into history and the style of homes that people resided in while living in the Santa Barbara area over 150 years ago.

Eventually, Gonzalez deeded the house to his daughter, Salome Francisca Ventura Ramirez. She lived in the house with her husband Cristobal Ramirez from March 17, 1866 until her death in 1923. By the mid 1900s, Louise Murphy Vhay and David Vhay, a couple interested in the architectural styles of New Spain and Mexico restored and enlarged the house.

Today, the Gonzalez House is the home of a bookstore, the Randall House Rare Books & Fine Art shop. The store is open to the public and welcomes visitors to come explore the Spanish and Mexican heritage reflected in this historic adobe.

Plan Your Visit

The Gonzalez House, a National Historic Landmark, is located at 835 Laguna St. in Santa Barbara, CA. Click here for the National Historic Landmark file: text and photos. The Randall House Rare Books & Fine Art shop located in the Gonzalez House is open 10:00am to 5:00pm Monday through Friday and 10:00am to 2:00pm on Saturdays. For more information, visit the Randall House Rare Books & Fine Art website or call 805-963-1909.

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Guajome Ranchhouse, Vista, California

The Guajome Ranchhouse near Vista, California is a remarkably intact example of a large Spanish Colonial style ranch complex. Built in 1852-1853, the large, one-story adobe hacienda with a double courtyard occupies land that was once part of the Spanish San Luis Rey Mission. What makes Rancho Guajome so unusual is that not only the main house but service buildings are still standing-- including the jail, blacksmith shop, horse stalls, carriage house, harness room, family chapel, servants' house, barns and sheds.

The Luiseno Indians first inhabited this region. In 1798, the Spanish founded Mission San Luis Rey De Francia. The Indians lived in a “rancheria” associated with the mission. After Mexico gained its independence from Spain in 1822, Mexican Governor of California, Jose Maria Echeandia, initiated the secularization of all California missions in 1826. Secularization became official under Governor Jose Figueroa in 1834, and by 1836, the first Mexican land grant, Rancho Guajome, was carved from the area. Ownership of the land passed from owner to owner until Cave Johnson Couts and Ysidora Bandini received it as a wedding present.

Cave Johnson Couts, originally from Springfield, Tennessee, moved to California in 1849 to serve as a dragoon with the U.S. Army, which sent him to California to aid in the establishment of the U.S. and Mexican border. Couts later was elected a delegate to the State Constitutional Convention and for many years served his community in a number of official positions. He met and married Ysidora Bandini in California in 1851.

With this marriage, Couts received the 2,219.4 acre tract of land, Rancho Guajome. Just two years after acquiring the land, the couple began constructing their home on the property. Couts recruited 300 Indians to build the 7,680 square foot house. Two years later Couts, his wife, and their two children moved into their residence. Eventually, Ysidora gave birth to eight more children in the house.

Couts found prosperity as a Southern California rancher, raising cattle and horses. The “cattle boom” began in 1849 because of the Gold Rush and the forty-niners’ massive demand for beef. The market for local cattle declined in 1857 as large imports of New Mexico sheep and Eastern cattle increased and other setbacks ensued. To overcome these setbacks, Couts added sheep to his cattle and horses, and planted orange groves and vineyards at the ranch. Couts was one of the first ranchers to plant orange trees, and eventually developed orchards with a wide variety of fruits and nuts. He established an adequate water supply for his crops by converting a frog pond into a network of basins and streams of running water. The name Guajome comes from the Luiseno word “wakhavumi,” meaning frog pond. Couts is remembered for his early recognition of the natural agricultural and horticultural advantages of the region.

Couts acquired vast acreage for investment and for grazing land for his prized Spanish Merino sheep eventually controlling almost 20,000 acres at the time of his death in 1874 at the age of 53. After his death, Ysidora managed the operations of the ranch and welcomed guests until her death in 1897. Rancho Guajome remained in the Couts family until 1943. In 1973, the County of San Diego, Department of Parks and Recreation acquired 566 acres of the Rancho Guajome restoring the historic adobe in the 1990s and opening the 22 room house and the grounds to the public.

The adobe hacienda has an inner and outer courtyard plan. The thick-walled, red-tile roofed main house is built around the four sides of a rectangle, forming a large inner patio with a fountain in the center. The west wing of the ranch house contains the pantry, bakery, kitchen, and dining room, while the center of the house has the family living room. The east and north wings are both occupied by numerous bedrooms with a veranda extending across the entire exterior façade of the south portion. A gate on the north side of the house leads to the outer courtyard. This double courtyard plan provided a ready means of defense in the event of an Indian attack. Although most of the original adobe remains intact, the house has seen some changes since its construction in 1852-1853. Nearby are a lake and small stream, natural rock outcroppings, gently rolling hills, and a distinctive row of casurina trees.

Plan Your Visit

Guajome Ranchhouse, a National Historic Landmark , is located at 2210 N. Santa Fe Ave. in Vista, CA. Click here for the National Historic Landmark file: text and photos. The adobe grounds and park trails are open from sunrise to sunset, seven days a week. The adobe house museum is open Wednesday through Sunday from 9:30am to 4:00pm. Guided tours are available at 12:00pm and 2:00pm on weekends, and self-guided tours are available during all other operating hours. For more information, visit the County of San Diego Rancho Guajome Adobe website or call 760-724-4082.

Guajome Ranchhouse has also been documented by the National Park Service’s
Historic American Buildings Survey.
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John Muir National Historic Site, Martínez, California

The John Muir National Historic Site preserves the house John Muir resided in for the last 24 years of his life, from 1880 to 1914. During this period, Muir was responsible for some of the most influential policies and writings on national conservation ever developed in the United States. In 1892, while living on the site, he also founded the Sierra Club, a renowned environmental organization still in existence today. The historic site preserves two separate houses and Muir’s approximately 9-acre fruit orchard. Although the site’s significance and interpretation generally focus on John Muir and his outstanding contributions, the property is an important reflection of the nation’s Latino heritage. The earliest house on the site, known as the Martínez Adobe, is a simple, two-story building that is one of the earliest examples of adobe construction in Contra Costa County. Built around 1849, the adobe is an intact example of Spanish-influenced Californian architecture from this period. The land on which the John Muir Historic Site sits today was once part of a 17,700-acre Mexican land grant.

Internationally recognized as one of the most important early leaders in the Conservation Movement in the United States, John Muir was instrumental in the creation of national parks and national forests, and the scientific management of Federal forests between 1889 and 1914. During that time, Muir was highly influential in the establishment and expansion of some of the nation’s greatest national parks and sites, including Yosemite, Sequoia, Grand Canyon, and Mt. Rainier National Parks. Named one of the fathers of the entire National Park System, Muir served as a conservation advisor to Presidents Grover Cleveland, Theodore Roosevelt, and William Howard Taft.

The history of the Muir site dates to the late 1700s when California was under Spanish rule and heavily colonized. The Spanish established many mission churches in order to bring Catholic teachings to the native people, and also built presidios (large military forts) nearby to protect the churches. Don Ygnacio Martínez was a young Spanish officer serving at both the San Diego and Santa Barbara presidios from 1788 to 1819. In 1819, he became the commandante of the important presidio at San Francisco, a position he held until 1831, when he retired.

While he served at San Francisco, Mexico gained its independence from Spain in 1821, and California thus became a part of Mexico. Under Mexican rule, large land grants encouraged citizens to move into unpopulated areas and establish ranches. Martínez took advantage of this opportunity in 1824, receiving a land grant for an area known as Rancho El Pinole, which encompassed a 17,700-acre parcel in what is today Contra Costa County. When he retired from the military and moved his family to the ranch, they were among the area’s very first residents. Martínez began serving as the third mayor of San Francisco in 1837, and had the present City of Martínez, California named in his honor.

When Don Ygnacio Martínez died in 1848, he divided his land among his children. His son, Don Vicente Martínez, claimed the land on which the John Muir National Historic Site sits today. Between 1848 and 1849, Don Vicente built what became known as the Martínez Adobe, a two-story ranch house typical of mid-19th century Californian architecture. The main walls of the house are of thick adobe brick, the foundations of rough-cut stone. An internal adobe wall divides each floor into two rooms. The eastern (front) and southern sides of the house have wooden wraparound porches at each level. Sawn wood shingles of either cedar or redwood originally covered the roof. The Martínez Adobe was the first of its kind in the county.

After constructing the adobe, Don Ygnacio Martínez only lived in the house for four years before selling it in 1853. The house then passed through a series of owners before Doctor John Strentzel bought it in 1874. Strentzel became John Muir’s father-in-law in 1880, when Muir married Louie Strentzel.

Dr. Strentzel was a well-regarded horticulturalist and fruit rancher in California during the mid-1800s and transformed what was once the Martínez land into a large orchard. He used the adobe itself as both an agricultural storehouse and a residence for his ranch overseers. Possibly Strentzel lived in the adobe for a brief period while awaiting the completion of his own mansion nearby. Contrary to legend, John Muir and his wife Louie never lived in the Martínez Adobe.

In 1882, Dr. Strentzel moved into his newly constructed house, an Italianate-style Victorian mansion that overlooked the Martínez Adobe. His house was one of the grandest and most expensive in the area at the time, costing $20,000 to build. The 10,000-square-foot house contains 17 rooms, Douglas fir flooring, black walnut railings, Italian marble fireplaces, and, in 1884, was the first house in the area to have phone service installed. When Dr. Strentzel died in 1890, John and Louie Muir moved into the mansion.

During the next two decades, John Muir played a vital role in the establishment of environmental policy in United States while living and often working on the site. The couple resided in the mansion for the remainder of their lives until Louie passed away in 1905 and John in 1914. Their daughter Wanda resided in the Martínez Adobe until 1915.

In the 1960s, concerned citizens organized to save the Strentzel/Muir Mansion, the Martínez Adobe, and the surrounding land from certain destruction and urban redevelopment. In 1964, with the establishment of the John Muir National Historic Site, the National Park Service purchased the property. In 1993, another purchase added an additional 326 contiguous acres of Muir’s original land that is protected, open space.

While slightly altered over time, both the Martínez Adobe and the John Muir House (former Strentzel Mansion) are still very significant historic properties that are open to the public. The mansion interior has period furniture, including John Muir’s original writing desk on which he drafted some of his most important works. Guided tours are available daily and a visitor center helps orient guests to the site. A 20 minute biographical film of Muir’s life, “A Glorious Journey,” is available to watch on site.

The Martínez Adobe is also open to visitors daily. The two downstairs rooms currently feature a new exhibit highlighting the Spanish heritage related to the Juan Bautista de Anza National Historic Trail. The National Park Service interprets the stories of the 18th century Spanish expedition along the trail in both English and Spanish.

Outside of the houses are many of the original fruit trees and plantings from Strentzel’s orchard and Muir’s time at the property. Trails throughout the remainder of the site are perfect for hiking. Visitors can enjoy regular wildflower walks, bird watching and full moon hikes. Walking throughout the protected land, visitors can experience an historic place that has evolved from its days as a Mexican land grant to the home of one of the most influential men in the establishment of national parks and national forests.

Plan Your Visit

John Muir National Historic Site, a unit of the National Park System including the John Muir House, a National Historic Landmark, is located at 4202 Alhambra Ave. in Martínez, CA. Click here for the site’s National Register of Historic Places file: text and photos. The site is open seven days a week from 10:00am to 5:00pm except for Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year's Day. For more information, visit the National Park Service’s John Muir National Historic Site website or call 925-228-8860. Programming and support are provided through the John Muir Association.
The John Muir House and Martínez Adobe have been documented by the National Park Service’s Historic American Buildings Survey. The John Muir National Historic Site is featured in the National Park Service Early History of the California Coast Travel Itinerary and is a significant site along the Juan Bautista de Anza National Historic Trail.

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José Castro House , San Juan Bautista, California

In San Juan Bautista, the José Castro House witnessed nearly a decade of cultural and political change between its construction in 1839 and the annexation of California by the United States in 1848. This was a time of demographic and political transition in California, as Mexicans, Americans, and both Latino and Anglo Californians fought for control of the Mexican province. Ownership of the José Castro House, a National Historic Landmark, passed from the Californio Castro family to the Irish American Breen family in 1848. Today, the José Castro House is part of the San Juan Bautista Plaza Historic District where the San Juan Bautista State Historical Park offers visitors a chance to explore life during the eras of Spanish, Mexican, and early American California.

General José Antonio Castro was a politician and military leader during the 1830s and 1840s in Alta California, then a Mexican province. As a young man, Castro was a vocal and active supporter of Californian self-rule and semi-independence from Mexico. At various times over the course of his life, Castro served as governor and general of both Alta and Baja California. His father, José Tibúrcio Castro, was the administrator of the secularized San Juan Bautista Mission and, under his authority, the California government distributed mission land to Castro relatives and friends. The elder Castro gave his son land on the San Juan Bautista Plaza, and General Castro finished building his adobe house there in 1841. Castro used the house as a residence for his secretary and as an administrative base for his military operations. During the Bear Flag Revolt of 1846 and U.S.-Mexican War that followed, Castro was the commanding general of Alta California. This province included the present day American States of California, Arizona, Nevada, Utah, and parts of Wyoming and Colorado. After the United States annexed Alta California at the close of the war with Mexico, the Mexican government appointed Castro as governor of Baja California in the south.

After the U.S.-Mexican War, José Castro gave his house in San Juan Bautista to an Irish American immigrant, Patrick Breen. Breen and his family were surviving members of the Donner Party. They arrived at San Juan Bautista in February 1848, nearly a year after completing their tragic journey through the Sierra Nevada. The Breens were the first English-speaking Americans to settle in the town, and Castro allowed them to live at his house until they could afford to buy it from him. One of Patrick Breen’s teenage sons made a fortune as a gold miner and the family used the money to purchase the adobe house from Castro in 1854. The Breen family established a working ranch and an inn at the plaza. Guests at the inn included gold rush prospectors and Ramona (1884) author Helen Hunt Jackson, who began writing her famous novel about Spanish California during her stay in San Juan Bautista in the early 1880s. The Breen family owned the house until 1935, when the State of California acquired the property and it became part of the San Juan Bautista State Historical Park.

The José Castro House, also known as the Castro-Breen Adobe, is a two-story Monterey-colonial style adobe, with a wood frame and second story porch. The Monterey style of architecture originated in California and blended Spanish colonial architecture with New England style. Massachusetts native Thomas Larkin built the first known Monterey house in 1835 in Monterey, California. The wood frame allows for more windows than regular adobe would have and can support a second floor. In the Monterey style, the porch and gable roof protect the adobe bricks and outer shell, made of mud, from water damage. The pane glass windows beside the front door of the José Castro House are not typical of Monterey architecture and reflect the influence of Greek Revival architecture, which was also popular during the 19th century. Today, the José Castro House property includes a half-acre orchard and garden.

San Juan Bautista State Historic Park uses the José Castro House as a fully furnished museum, where visitors are welcome to explore and see what the inside of the house looked like in the mid-19th century. Several other historic buildings in the plaza that are part of the San Juan Bautista Historic District are also open to the public. These buildings include the San Juan Bautista Mission, Plaza Hotel, and Zanetta House. The park offers guided tours of the plaza, a gift shop in the Plaza Hotel, costumed reenactments every first Saturday of the month, and activities for children. The San Juan Bautista Mission is a stop on the Juan Bautista de Anza National Historic Trail.

Plan Your Visit

The José Castro House, a National Historic Landmark, is located in the San Juan Bautista State Historic Park at the corner of Second and Washington streets in the city of San Juan Bautista. Click here for the National Historic Landmark file: text and photos. The José Castro House is open Tuesday-Sunday from 10:00am to 4:30pm. For more information, visit the California State Parks San Juan Bautista State Historic Park website, see the San Juan Bautista State Historic Park visitor’s brochure, or call 831-623-4881.

The José Castro House has been documented by the National Park Service’s
Historic American Buildings Survey. The San Juan Bautista Plaza Historic District is included in the National Park Service Early History of the California Coast Travel Itinerary.

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Juan de Anza House (Casa Juan de Anza Adobe), San Juan Bautista, California

During the 18th and 19th centuries, the Spanish established a chain of 21 missions throughout California. The Spanish founded Mission San Juan Bautista as the 15th mission in 1797. They constructed the mission in the San Juan Valley, a location selected because it was only a day’s walk between Mission San Carolos Barromeo de Carmel and Mission Santa Clara. While the Spanish lost control of California and its missions to Mexico in 1821, the settlement of San Juan Bautista continued to grow throughout the 19th century. One of the oldest buildings in San Juan Bautista’s Third Street Historic District and a National Historic Landmark in its own right is the Juan de Anza House or Casa Juan de Anza Adobe that dates from 1834 during the period of Mexican control.

Constructed on the San Andreas earthquake fault line, the newly founded Mission San Juan Bautista converted local Mutsun Indians to Catholicism. For thousands of years, the Mutsun Indians lived in the San Juan Valley as a hunter and gatherer society residing in dome-shaped willow reed and grass huts. Their lives dramatically changed with the establishment of Mission San Juan Bautista. The mission’s padres used Mutson labor and recruited Yokuts and Miwok people to construct the mission’s buildings, raise crops, and care for livestock. Mission San Juan Bautista prospered, however, its role as a Spanish mission would change in the coming years.

In 1821, when Mexico gained its independence from Spain, California and its missions became a part of Mexico, which secularized all of the missions and converted church property to private property. The Mexicans secularized Mission San Juan Bautista and converted the settlement into a town in 1835. Mexico’s civil administrator for the area, Jose Tiburcio Castro, oversaw the seizure, division, and sale of mission property to Mexican residents. By 1840, San Juan Bautista had about 50 Mexican residents and by 1845, the Mexican population had increased to 75. Constructed during this period of Mexican control, Casa Juan de Anza Adobe is one of the oldest buildings in San Juan Bautista’s Third Street Historic District.

The Anza House, Casa Juan de Anza Adobe, is an example of a Spanish Colonial style dwelling built during the Mexican era of California’s history. Practiced throughout what are today the States of California, New Mexico, Arizona, and Texas, the Spanish Colonial style was extremely popular because the adobe material used to construct these buildings was readily available and inexpensive. Most commonly built between 1600 and 1840, Spanish Colonial dwellings generally have sun-dried adobe brick exterior walls covered with a whitewashed lime plaster coating that helped protect them from the regional weather extremes. The thick adobe walls helped to insulate the houses -- keeping them cool in the summer and warm in the winter. The typical Spanish Colonial dwellings throughout this region were one-story and had a basic rectangular shape.

Constructed in 1834 as the Anza family residence, the Casa Juan de Anza Adobe (or Anza House) was originally a one-story, rectangular two-room adobe house covered with whitewashed plaster. A farmer or merchant looking to make additional income likely built the house. In the 1850s, the adobe house was “Americanized” and enlarged, and windows with wooden or metal bars were added.

By 1870, San Juan Bautista had nearly 1,500 residents. Around this same time, the new owner of the Anza House, Francisco Bravo, modified the house yet again, turning it into a cantina that would serve some of the town’s residents. This began the Anza House’s use as a commercial building. Other than a brief period when Jake Beutler and subsequently his stepson, Fred Beck, lived in the house, the building remained in commercial use and housed the first antique store in San Juan Bautista’s Third Street Commercial District beginning in 1933. The same family operated the antique shop there for 60 years.

Today, at the Casa Juan de Anza Adobe in San Juan Bautista’s Third Street Historic District and San Juan Bautista’s State Historic Park visitors can step back in time and experience an old-fashioned mission town that retains much of its historic rural character. A series of “bypasses,” first when the railroad bypassed the town in 1870 and then when it was bypassed for the position of county seat by nearby Hollister, CA, led to economic ups and downs for San Juan Bautista. These “bypasses” helped preserve the town’s original character, because the town did not develop outside of its original town limits. This makes San Juan Bautista distinctive among California’s mission towns. Many of the mission communities eventually grew into large cities such as San Francisco, San Diego, and Santa Barbara. Walking along the streets of San Juan Bautista and viewing the Casa Juan de Anza Adobe, visitors to this old mission town can readily experience the Spanish and Mexican heritage of the area.

Plan Your Visit

Juan de Anza House (also known as Casa Juan de Anza Adobe), a National Historic Landmark, is located at 103 Third St. in San Juan Bautista, CA. Click here for the National Historic Landmark file: text and photos. The Anza House is located within the San Juan Bautista’s Third Street Historic District. Click here for the National Register of Historic Places file: text and photos. For more information, visit the City of San Juan Bautista website, the San Juan Bautista State Historic Park website or call 831-623-4661.

The Anza House has been documented by the National Park Service’s
Historic American Buildings Survey.

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La Purísima Mission, Lompoc, California

The Spanish established Franciscan Catholic missions throughout California during the 18th and early 19th centuries to assist in colonizing the Pacific coast region and to spread their Christian faith to local American Indian tribes. The Spanish not only introduced a new religion to the native peoples, they brought new livestock, fruit, vegetables, farming techniques, and social practices to the area as well. The missions, which were not just churches, but entire settlements, completely changed life in California. Today, visitors can see and experience many of these historic missions throughout California. The La Purísima Mission, a National Historic Landmark, is considered the most fully restored of these Spanish missions and today is a State park.

Father Presidente Fermin de Lasuén founded Misión La Purísima Concepción De María Santísima (Mission of the Immaculate Conception of Most Holy Mary) on December 8, 1787. The first padres assigned to La Purísima were Father Vincente Fuster and Father Joseph Arroita. The two padres organized the construction of temporary buildings at La Purísima and translated the mass and catechism instruction into the native tongue of the local Chumash Indians. Since the mission was more than just a church, construction began on living quarters, workshops, and storage and water systems. As the Spanish baptized the Chumash Indians, they taught them skills that enabled the Indians to help in the development of the mission.

A contemporary report provides some insights into the daily life of the Chumash Indian neophytes at the mission. In 1800, Father Horra, who was formerly at Mission San Miguel, accused the La Purísima Mission fathers of mistreating the Chumash Indians. Governor Borcia, the Spanish governor at the time, investigated, and the padres at La Purísima reported about the lives of the neophytes. They said the neophytes received three meals a day, had permission to gather their own wild foods, and had clothing that was expected to last one year. They lived in their native tule houses for it was not possible to construct permanent houses for them. The Spanish required their labor for no more than five hours per day, taught the Indians how to deal with the soldiers and other people outside of the mission, and punished them if they left the mission without permission. Ultimately, Spanish officials declared the charges against the missionaries unfounded. This report is only from the padres’ view of Indian life at the mission.

In the developmental years of the mission, the padres received help from the other missions in the form of livestock, vegetables, and cuttings to establish orchards and vineyards. Supplies the missions could not produce, including bells, church furnishings, cloth, tools, and iron, arrived on supply ships from New Spain (Mexico) two times a year. In addition, the padres received a stipend and an allotment from the Pious Fund, a fund wealthy Spaniards supported with donations to help expand Spain’s empire.

The mission grew and prospered, and in a report dated December 31, 1798, La Purísima claimed that the mission’s primitive church did not have enough space for its 920 inhabitants. A new, larger, and permanent adobe church was constructed between 1801 and 1803 to accommodate the mission’s growing population (the doorway of this building still stands at the original mission site, which the City of Lompoc now owns).

La Purísima expanded to include several permanent large and small adobe buildings and had nearly 1,500 neophytes. The mission prospered under Father Mariano Payeras, who arrived in 1804. La Purísima began producing soap, candles, wool, leather, and other leading commodities to trade. The padres also hired out the neophytes to local ranchos as an additional source of income for the mission. At the height of its prosperity, however, La Purísima faced a series of setbacks. Between 1804 and 1807, smallpox and measles struck and nearly 500 Chumash Indians died. Then, on December 21, 1812, life at La Purísima changed suddenly when a severe earthquake, followed by torrential rains, damaged all of the buildings at La Purísima beyond repair. With their unprotected adobe bricks, the damaged buildings melted back into mud.

Father Payeras requested and was granted permission to rebuild the mission four miles northwest in a small canyon closer to the El Camino Real, California’s main travel route. The padres established La Purísima in its new location on April 23, 1813. Using materials salvaged from the buildings destroyed by the earthquake, construction began immediately. The new site departed from the traditional layout of the California missions, which included a settlement arranged around four sides with an open square. The new mission was constructed in a straight line at the base of a long hill. Completed within 10 years, La Purísima’s new buildings included the padres’ residence, storehouses, workshops, quarters for the soldiers, the mission church, the Indian infirmaries and dormitory, the blacksmith’s quarters, a pottery shop, and the padres’ private kitchen. These buildings are part of the reconstructed La Purísima Mission State Park today.

In just a few short years, Father Payeras turned La Purísima into a thriving mission once again. About 1,000 Chumash Indian neophytes lived on mission lands. The mission became a school and training center for its inhabitants and a great ranching enterprise. While thousands of heads of livestock roamed the hills, the padres developed shops for weaving, pottery, leatherwork, and other crafts. In 1815, the Catholic Church recognized Father Payeras for his talents and outstanding achievements and appointed him the presidente of the California missions. Father Payeras decided to remain at La Purísima during his time as presidente instead of moving to the Carmel Mission, which had been the standard practice at the time. In 1819, he received the appointment of commissary prefect, the highest rank among California Franciscans. Father Payeras died on April 28, 1823 and lies buried under the altar of La Purísima Mission.

Even though Father Payeras was a strong leader, La Purísima could not deny the turmoil that was unfolding throughout the region. By 1811, after the Hidalgo Rebellion in New Spain (which was the beginning of Mexico’s War for independence from Spain), supplies and money stopped coming to the missions. Spanish governors still clung to old Spanish policy and would not let the missions trade with foreign merchants. This created supply shortages, which then led to black-market activity. Tensions grew between the soldiers, who were now dependent upon the mission, and the mission people. The soldiers took their frustrations out on the Indian neophytes.

By 1824, the increasing conflict between the soldiers and the Indians reached a breaking point. After hearing news that soldiers at Santa Inez flogged a La Purísima neophyte, the neophytes took control of the mission’s grounds. Father Ordaz and the soldiers and their families went to Mission Santa Inez, while Father Rodriguez was still able to come and go from La Purísima as he pleased. About a month after the rebellion began, 109 soldiers from the presidio at Monterey arrived to regain control of the mission. A violent fight that lasted only two and half hours left 16 Indians dead and one soldier and two others wounded. Seven Indians suffered execution for their involvement in the rebellion and 12 more punishment to hard labor.

La Purísima Mission never fully recovered after the rebellion, and by 1834, the Mexican officials enforced the order to secularize California’s missions. A civil administrator managed the grounds until Juan Temple of Los Angeles purchased La Purísima Mission for $1,000 in 1845. Ownership of La Purísima Mission subsequently changed hands multiple times until 1933, when its new owner, Union Oil Company, recognized the historic value of the site and donated it to the State of California.

According to Kurt Baer’s Architecture of the California Missions, in 1935, “after years of total neglect, vandalism and despoliation, the mission buildings were not much more than heaps of rubbish. Yet, diligent and patient examination of records and photographs, interviews with early settlers, and archeologists and structural study has made possible the almost complete restoration of the compound as it existed before secularization. Where details of the original were lacking, such as wood carving, in colors, and furnishings, extant examples from other missions, were copied. Even the adobes and the burned bricks were made in the original manner." In the 1930s, through the combined efforts of the County of Santa Barbara, the State of California, the National Park Service, and the Civilian Conservation Corps, the buildings and grounds were reconstructed and restored and furnished to their 1820 appearance.

Today, visitors to La Purísima Mission State Historic Park will see 10 of the original buildings fully reconstructed, restored and furnished, including the church, shops, living quarters, and blacksmith shop. The park's buildings, mission gardens, livestock, living history events, and visitor center provides visitors with a glimpse into what life was like on a California mission during the 1820s.

Plan Your Visit

La Purísima Mission, a National Historic Landmark, is located at 2295 Purisima Rd. in Lompoc, CA. Click here for the National Historic Landmark file: text and photos. La Purísima Mission State Historic Park is open 9:00am to 5:00pm daily and is closed New Year's Day, Thanksgiving Day, and Christmas Day. For more information, visit the California State Parks and Recreation La Purísima Mission State Historic Park website or call 805-733-3713.

La Purísima Mission has been documented by the National Park Service’s
Historic American Buildings Survey and is featured in the National Park Service Early History of the California Coast Travel Itinerary.

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Larkin House, Monterey, California

The Larkin House, a National Historic Landmark, is a two-story mud adobe brick home built during Monterey’s Mexican period by Thomas O. Larkin, a New England Yankee merchant who was highly successful and influential in early California politics. Thomas O. Larkin (1802-1858), financier, confidant of California officials, and United States Consul to Mexican California, not only exerted great influence on the political history of California, he also influenced the development of Californian adobe buildings. In the 1830s, the Larkin House became the prototype of Monterey Colonial architecture. Monterey Colonial buildings mix New England and Southwestern building techniques. They are constructed with wooden frames and mud bricks to make a leaner, sturdier adobe buildings than ones made primarily from mud and straw. The greater stability of Monterey buildings--compared to single-story adobes--allows for a large second-story and long covered porch. The covered second story porch also protected the adobe façade and walls of the house from water damage. By adapting an east coast building form to available California materials, adobe and redwood, and to California architectural preferences, Larkin created a style that synthesized elements of two very different cultures, that of the Spanish and Mexican colonists and of the Americans moving into California.

Born in Massachusetts in 1802, Larkin spent the first decades of his life pursuing various business ventures along the east coast of the United States. After attempting several businesses and having little success, Larkin decided to join his half-brother, John B.R. Cooper, in Yerba Buena (original name of San Francisco), California. Larkin sailed from Boston to Monterey in 1831 aboard the ship Newcastle. On board, he met Rachel Hobson Holmes, also from Massachusetts, who became his wife in 1833. Once in California, Larkin worked as a clerk in his half-brother’s business for about a year until he had enough money to go into business for himself.

Larkin quickly became a leading and affluent citizen in Monterey, developing an important commercial and trading business along the coast. As the most successful merchant in Mexican California, Larkin exported and imported a variety of goods selling items such as cloth, clothing, furniture, china goods, crockery, farming implements, sugar, and rice. He opened his first store in Monterey in 1834, and in the same year began construction on his first house.

The building was to serve as both a home and a store. Larkin followed a traditional Massachusetts model as the basis for the design but had to adapt this model to construction materials that were available. When he could not obtain enough redwood locally to construct a building entirely of wood, Larkin incorporated local adobe building techniques into his design. By blending the architectural styles, Larkin was able to create a building with a lighter shell of adobe bricks. This lighter shell made it easier to construct structural openings (windows, doors, etc.) than had previously been possible in traditional Spanish and Mexican adobe buildings where the adobe material predominated.

As one of the first two-story houses in Monterey and likely the first home in California to have an interior chimney/fireplace, the Larkin House marks a turning point in the development of California adobe buildings. The distinctive broad roof that overhangs the second floor windows and the seond story balcony are stylish as well as practical and became the standard for adobe buildings of the period. Also, Larkin made the first floor rooms in the house interconnecting, which was different from the Spanish-Mexican adobes where rooms generally opened only out onto a patio. On the second floor, Larkin followed the traditional adobe floor plan of providing access to the rooms only from the outside. Widely imitated throughout Monterey and California, the Larkin House represented a cultural middle ground where the blending and adaptation of cultural norms created something entirely new.

Larkin not only influenced the development of early California adobe buildings, he was also a key figure in the early political history of California. Because of his knowledge and prominent position in the Californian community, Larkin in 1844 received an appointment as the first (and what turned out to be the last) U.S. Consul to Alta California under Mexican rule. His house became a gathering place for Americans, as well as the governmental headquarters and the center of the social life of Monterey. Monterey was the Mexican capital of California from 1826 until the American occupation in 1847.

Larkin liked California so much he wanted it to become part of the United States, fearing that if it did not it would fall under the control of France or Great Britain. In 1845, Larkin received discreet orders from Secretary of State James Buchanan to serve as a confidential agent of the U.S. government and to assist any attempt at secession from Mexico. In the years that followed, Larkin was a key figure in the events leading to the annexation of California. Larkin’s historic decisions regarding California’s future were often made right from his influential adobe home.

In 1850, after the Mexican War, Larkin sold his Monterey house and moved to San Francisco where he built the first brick building in the city at 1116 Stockton Street. The Larkin House in Monterey that he left behind passed through many owners until 1922 when Larkin’s granddaughter, Alice Larkin Toulmin, purchased the home as a private residence. In 1957, she donated the historic house to the State of California. Today, the house is filled with early 19th century antiques from all over the world. Visitors can tour both floors and learn about Thomas O. Larkin and his role in the history of California that so intertwines Latino and Anglo cultures. The house is included in the Monterey Old Town Historic District, which is a part of
Monterey State Historical Park. There are free guided tours available at the park.

Plan Your Visit

The Larkin House, a National Historic Landmark, is located at 510 Calle Principale (at the corner of Pacific and Jefferson streets), in Monterey, CA. Click here for the National Historic Landmark file: text and photos. The Larkin House is part of Monterey State Historical Park. The park is open May through September from 9:00am to 5:00pm and October through April from 10:00am to 4:00pm. For more information, visit the California State Parks and Recreation Monterey State Historical Park website or call 831-649-7118.

The Larkin House has been documented by the National Park Service’s
Historic American Buildings Survey and is featured in the National Park Service Early History of the California Coast Travel Itinerary.

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Las Flores Adobe

The story of Las Flores Adobe is a common tale in California history. The land on which this National Historic Landmark sits was once part of a Spanish mission, then part of a private Mexican ranch a member of the elite owned, and then incorporated into a smaller American ranch after the U.S.-Mexican War. Built in 1868, Las Flores Adobe today is a restored Monterey Colonial on the grounds of the United States Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton.

After Mexico won its independence from Spain in 1821, the old Spanish missions became secularized administrative districts run by government officials. The Mexican government split these districts up into large ranches and granted the land to prominent men, marking the beginning of the rancho era in Mexican history. California, which was a Mexican province between 1821 and 1848, secularized its missions during the 1830s. Pío Pico, a member of the Alta California elite and the last Mexican governor of California, obtained Rancho Santa Margarita y Las Flores by grant of the Mexican government in 1841. This land grant was for 133,441 acres north of the San Luis Rey de Francia Mission and included the future site of Las Flores Adobe.

Pico sold Rancho Santa Margarita y Las Flores to his brother-in-law, John “Don Juan” Forster in 1864. A native of Liverpool, England, Forster arrived in California as a teenager and worked to become a successful businessman. He adopted California culture, the Spanish language, and Mexican citizenship, and converted to Catholicism. Through his business dealings, Forster formed connections to the Californio ruling class that his marriage in 1837 to Pico’s sister, Ysidora, strengthened. The Forsters had three sons who lived to adulthood. The family resided in the San Juan Capistrano Mission, where they ran as a successful horse and cattle ranch, until President Lincoln returned the mission to the Catholic Church. After Forster bought the large Rancho Santa Margarita y Las Flores from Pico, he gave the Las Flores ranch to his son, Marco Forster, as a wedding present. Juan Forster was an English immigrant who integrated into Californian society in the 19th century.

Marco Forster built Las Flores Adobe as a home for his own family in 1868, and they lived there for 14 years. After Juan Forster died in 1882, his sons sold Las Flores Adobe as part of Rancho Santa Margarita y Las Flores to Richard O’Neill and James L. Flood. In 1888, the new owners hired the Magee family to manage the ranch. The U.S. government acquired the ranch land in 1841 and established Camp Pendleton there as a training camp for marines. The government allowed the Magees to continue occupying Las Flores Adobe, and the family lived at the ranch house until the last surviving member passed away in 1967. With permission from the government, the Orange County Boy Scouts of America used 46 acres at and around Las Flores Adobe as a campground between 1974 and 2007. The camp closed after Camp Pendleton restored Las Flores Adobe in the early 2000s.

Las Flores Adobe is a u-shaped building with three connected sections that draws from Monterey Colonial and Hacienda architectural styles. The main house is a two-story rectangular adobe with a covered porch that wraps around the front and sides. A long single-story section connects the main house to the carriage house. Together, these three sections hug a central open area once bounded by a fence. The main house is a prime example of Monterey Colonial architecture, which was popular in California between the 1830s and 1860s.

The first Monterey house is attributed to American Thomas O. Larkin, who immigrated to California in 1832 and settled in Monterey, California. Monterey Colonial buildings mix New England and Southwestern building techniques. They are constructed with wooden frames and mud bricks to make a leaner, sturdier adobe buildings than ones made primarily from mud and straw. The greater stability of Monterey buildings--compared to single-story adobes--allows for a large second-story and long covered porch. The covered second story porch also protected the adobe façade and walls of the house from water damage. Las Flores Adobe contains all of these features and is one of a small number of surviving 19th-century Monterey Colonial style residences. Marcos Forster and his family lived in Las Flores Adobe for 14 years.

After the last Magee passed away, Las Flores Adobe, left empty, fell into disrepair. Camp Pendleton launched an historic resources program at the turn of the 21st century to evaluate and fund the needs of Las Flores Adobe and the base’s other cultural sites. A partnership between the National Park Service, the California Office of Historic Preservation, University of Vermont, U.S. Marine Corps, and private firms formed to save Las Flores Adobe and restore or replace many of its significant features. As the result of this partnership, preservationists restored Las Flores Adobe to its former glory and restored much of its Monterey colonial architecture. The roof of the main house was partially replaced and the wooden second-story balcony rebuilt. The wood and adobe façade was repaired, plastered, and painted. The house frame was also fitted with modern features that will help stabilize the building during earthquakes, which are common in the region and damaged the house in the years prior to the stabilization project.

The Camp Pendleton Historical Association manages the base’s cultural resources, including other historic properties near Las Flores Adobe. About 200 yards west of Las Flores Adobe is Las Flores Asistencia. Constructed in 1817, this adobe ruin is where Catholic priests and other travelers rested while traveling between the San Luis Rey de Francia and San Juan Capistrano missions. The historic Santa Margarita Ranch House, which was Pio Pico’s home, was restored at the same time as Las Flores Adobe and can be toured by appointment. Along with these sites, Camp Pendleton uses the stable and restored Las Flores Adobe for heritage events, where visitors can encounter the old California of Dons Pico and Forster.

Plan your visit

Las Flores Adobe, a National Historic Landmark, is located on the west side of Stuart Mesa Rd. about seven miles north of Vandergrift Blvd. junction in Camp Pendleton, CA. Click here for the National Historic Landmark file: text and photos. To schedule a tour of Las Flores Adobe, visit the Camp Pendleton Historical Society website or call 760-725-3146.

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Los Alamos Ranch House/Rancho Los Alamos (de la Guerra), Los Alamos, California

In 1839, during Mexico’s rule of Alta California, Jose Antonio de la Guerra received a land grant for 48,803 acres in the Los Alamos Valley. He named the ranch, “Rancho Los Alamos.” Los Alamos, which means “The Cottonwoods” in Spanish, is located midway between San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara. De La Guerra developed his ranch and built a one-story adobe home on his property. Today, this home is considered one of the finest examples of a Mexican period one-story adobe ranch house. The Los Alamos Ranch House, or Rancho Los Alamos (de la Guerra), is a National Historic Landmark that is an important reflection of the history of California’s Spanish and Mexican ranching period during the 1800s.

During the late 1700s and early 1800s, Spain extended its New World Empire by colonizing Alta California on the west coast of North America. The Spanish founded four presidios, 21 Catholic missions, and granted vast amounts of rancho lands to private individuals to aid in the development of the region. At the same time the presidios and missions were being constructed, the Spanish Crown gave Spanish officials in Alta California the authority to grant large amounts of land within their jurisdictions to individuals interested in agricultural and ranching pursuits. Spanish ranchos numbered only 14 in 1820 and title to these lands remained in the hands of the Crown. Once Mexico gained its independence from Spain in 1821, California became a part of Mexico, and the number of ranchos significantly increased. Under the Mexican land grant system, officials were encouraged to make more land grants that the individuals would own outright. By the 1830s, there were 47 private ranchos in California with the number increasing to 544 by 1845.

Under the Mexican land grant system, individuals who wanted land grants applied to the governor by listing their name, age, country, vocation, quantity and description of the land, and providing a hand-drawn map, or diseño, of the boundaries and natural features of the desired land. Most of the grants were for thousands or even tens of thousands of acres. On March 9, 1839, Governor of Alta California Juan Alvarado granted Jose Antonio de la Guerra y Carrillo the 48,803 acres that became Rancho Los Alamos. De La Guerra was a son of Jose Antonio de la Guerra y Noriega, the commandant of the Santa Barbara Presidio from 1815 to 1843. Jose Antonio de la Guerra y Noriega himself owned nearly 300,000 acres and had 50,000 heads of cattle in California.

The Chumash Indians lived in the Los Alamos Valley long before De La Guerra developed his rancho. The Los Alamos Chumash resided in villages throughout the valley until the early 1800s when many of them abandoned their villages to join the local
La Purísima Mission, which is also featured in this itinerary. The Chumash helped construct La Purísima Mission and tended to the mission’s cattle herds. Like other American Indians living throughout California at this time, many Chumash, lacking immunity, came down with European diseases. Outbreaks of smallpox between 1804 and 1807, and in the 1840s, took a harsh toll on the Los Alamos Chumash. When the Mexican government secularized the mission system in the 1830s and started granting mission property to prominent Mexican citizens and new settlers coming to California, many Indians became the herders, laborers, artisans, and domestic servants on the newly established ranchos. In exchange for their labor, the Indians were allowed to live on the rancho lands, where they received protection, food, and some goods.

Chumash Indians from a rancheria (native village) on De La Guerra’s new Rancho Los Alamos estate, built the one-story adobe ranch house that still stands today. The Chumash used local adobe bricks made by mixing straw and water with the area’s abundant hard-packed clay. The mixture was poured into wooden molds to dry in the scorching sun. The thick adobe brick walls kept the house cool in the summer and warm in the winter.

The comfort of its adobe construction and the lavish hospitality of its landowners made the Los Alamos Ranchos House a favorite overnight stopping place for travelers passing along the El Camino Real between Santa Barbara and Monterey. The El Camino Real or Royal Road connected the former 21 Spanish California missions and presidios and became a primary route travelers followed to California. Visitors today can follow California’s Historic Mission Trail.

Throughout the 19th century, ranchos and rancheros (ranchers) occupied a central position in California’s society and economy. Initially, rancheros raised Spanish cattle for their prized hides and tallow. By 1848, as the gold rush brought a stream of people into California, the demand for beef became greater than the demand for hides and tallow. The newcomers needed to eat and they wanted beef. By the end of the 1850s, ranchers produced four times as many cows as they had in 1848.

Around the start of the California Gold Rush, the United States took formal possession of California under the terms of the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, which ended the Mexican-American War. The treaty bound the United States to honor legitimate land claims in California. The Land Act of 1851 established a board of land commissioners to review these claims and charged the surveyor general with surveying confirmed land grants. American officials acquired land deeds, diseños, and various other documents to investigate and confirm land titles in California. As required by the Land Act of 1851, De La Guerra filed a claim for Rancho Los Alamos and received the patent on the ranch from the U.S. government in 1872.

The cattle boom lasted until the end of the 1850s when cattle prices dropped steeply. Disastrous floods and droughts plagued the area over the next decade. During this time, many rancheros found themselves heavily in debt forcing many of them to sell large tracts of acreage. In 1876, Thomas Bell, his son John S. Bell, and Dr. James B. Shaw (all from San Francisco), purchased 14,000 acres from Rancho Los Alamos and neighboring Rancho La Laguna, and a new chapter in Los Alamos’ history began. Both families allocated a half square mile from each of their new ranches to create the Los Alamos town site.

The Los Alamos Valley continued to prosper throughout the late 1800s and early 1900s. In 1938, the Pacific Coast Railway stopped running through Los Alamos, discouraging any major new development in the town. Visitors to Los Alamos today can see and experience much of the character and charm of a rural 19th-century California town nestled in the heart of the Santa Barbara wine country.

Plan Your Visit

Los Alamos Ranch House, or Rancho Los Alamos (de la Guerra), is a National Historic Landmark located between 2900 and 3380 Highway 135, three miles north of Los Alamos, CA. Click here for the National Historic Landmark file: text and photos. The Los Alamos Ranch House is not open to visitors. For more information about the town of Los Alamos and Los Alamos Valley, visit the Historic Los Alamos, California website.

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Los Cerritos Ranch House, California

Spanish colonists settled in California in the 18th century and ran large ranches on land given to them by the Spanish crown. In southern California, a Spanish soldier received a large land grant in 1774 that stretched across present-day Los Angeles and Orange counties. A large portion of this grant became Los Cerritos Ranch, now the City of Long Beach. In the mid-19th century, an American who became a Mexican citizen acquired the ranch and built the Los Cerritos Ranch House, a National Historic Landmark. Constructed in 1844, the restored Los Cerritos Ranch House is a grand example of mixed Monterey Colonial and hacienda styles of architecture applied to a traditional Spanish-Mexican colonial ranch house.

Corporal Jose Manuel Nieto received a royal grant in 1784 of 300,000 acres between the Santa Ana and San Gabriel rivers. Nieto, a Spaniard of African and European descent, served Spain in the years the empire pushed to colonize California, and Spain rewarded him for his work with the grant. After Nieto passed away in 1804, his wife and children inherited the large Nieto ranch and divided it amongst themselves. The eldest Nieto daughter, Manuela Nieto de Cota, received the 27,000-acre Rancho Los Cerritos. She was one of the few women who owned property in California during the Spanish colonial period. Until Manuela’s death, she and her husband, Guillermo Cota, lived in an adobe building on the ranch where they raised cattle.

In 1843, John “Don Juan” Temple acquired Rancho Los Cerritos from the Cota family. Temple was a prominent Los Angeles businessman who moved to California from Massachusetts in 1827, became a Mexican citizen, and married Rafaela Cota, Guillermo Cota’s cousin. A year after he took over the ranch, Temple built the Los Cerritos Ranch House to serve as his family’s summer home and ranch headquarters. During the politically and culturally tumultuous years of the late 1840s, the era of the U.S.-Mexican War and California’s Bear Flag Revolt, the Temple family remained politically neutral. After the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo at the close of the U.S.-Mexican War ceded California to the United States, Temple retained his rights to Rancho Los Cerritos and continued to raise cattle on the land.

In the early 1860s, a severe drought devastated California’s cattle population. After losing most of his herd, Temple sold Rancho Los Cerritos to the American firm, Flint, Bixby, & Co., in 1866. Jotham Bixby, who started his life in California as a miner, took over management of the ranch and moved his family into the Los Cerritos Ranch House. The Bixby family purchased the land from the firm in 1869 and used the ranch primarily for raising sheep. In the late 19th century, Americans flooded into the Long Beach area. The Bixbys began to sell off small parcels of Rancho Los Cerritos and rented out the main house.

In 1930, Jotham Bixby’s nephew, Llewellyn Bixby, purchased the 86-year-old Monterey Colonial ranch house from his family. The aged house was in poor condition at the time and Llewellyn took it upon himself to replace the roof, expand rooms, restore the crumbling façade, and install electricity and modern plumbing. In 1956, Llewellyn Bixby’s heirs sold the house and 4.5 surrounding acres to the City of Long Beach, which turned the property into a research library and history museum.

Associated with prominent early Californios and Americans, the Los Cerritos Ranch House is a nationally significant example of the Monterey Colonial and hacienda styles of architecture that were popular during California’s Spanish and Mexican eras. The Monterey Colonial Style originated in Monterey, California, with Thomas Larkin, a Massachusetts native who moved to California in the 1830s. Monterey Colonial houses blend New England and Spanish Colonial adobe building techniques.

In houses like Los Cerritos, a wooden frame supports adobe bricks and allows for a sturdy second story. The strength of the wooden frame also shrinks the width of traditional adobe walls. Placed on red brick foundations, the walls of the Los Cerritos Ranch House are three feet thick in the central section of the house and two feet thick in the wings. The brick came in ships that sailed around the Horn. A long, two-story veranda wraps around the front and both sides of the house, which is a common Monterey Colonial feature. The shingle roof extends over the second-story porch and protects the adobe materials from water damage. Los Cerritos Ranch House also incorporates elements of hacienda architectural design. The house is U-shaped and hugs a large courtyard garden that is enclosed by an adobe wall on the western end.

The Rancho Los Cerritos Historic Site today is a museum dedicated to local history. Managed by the City of Long Beach’s Department of Parks, Recreation, and Marine, the historic site hosts public programs and events year-round, including its award-winning Adobe Days Revisited elementary school program. The on-site library and archive houses a public collection of books and artifacts that provide researchers with information about the history of the house and the region. The docent-led tours and the visitor center provide guests with information about California’s Spanish, Mexican, and early American eras and about American Indian history. The house also has gardens that visitors can enjoy.

Plan Your Visit

Los Cerritos Ranch House, a National Historic Landmark, is located inside the Virginia Country Club at 4600 Virginia Rd. in the City of Long Beach, CA. Click here for the National Historic Landmark file: text and photos. Los Cerritos Ranch House is open Wednesday-Sunday from 1:00pm to 5:00pm, except on major holidays. General admission and weekend guided tours are free, but special programs and events may require a small fee. For more information, visit the Rancho Los Cerritos website or call 562-570-1755.

The Nieto family’s Rancho Los Alamitos is the subject of an online lesson plan,
Californio to American: A Study in Cultural Change. The lesson plan has been produced by the National Park Service’s Teaching with Historic Places program, which offers a series of online classroom-ready lesson plans on registered historic places. To learn more, visit the Teaching with Historic Places home page. Los Cerritos Ranch House has been documented by the National Park Service’s Historic American Buildings Survey. Los Cerritos Ranch House is featured in the National Park Service Early History of the California Coast Itinerary.

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Mission San Miguel Arcàngel, San Miguel, California

The Spanish established 21 Franciscan Catholic missions in a line throughout Alta California during the 18th and early 19th centuries to expand their empire, settle the Pacific Coast region, and convert local American Indian tribes to Catholicism. Many of these historic missions still stand throughout California for visitors to experience. Mission San Miguel Arcàngel was the 16th mission founded in the 21 mission chain, and is today a National Historic Landmark. A unique feature of this mission is that its interior wall murals, originally painted in the 1800s by Salinan Indians who converted to Catholicism, have never been retouched or repainted.

Father Fermin Francisco de Lasuén founded Mission San Miguel Arcàngel on July 25, 1797. The Spanish selected Mission San Miguel’s location along the Salinas River to ease travel between Mission San Antonio and Mission San Luis Obispo. In the mission system, missions were generally placed a day’s walk from one another. The mission’s grounds extended 18 miles to the north and south, 66 miles to the east and 35 miles to the west. Such large land grants were necessary for the mission to grow crops, plant vineyards, raise cattle and sheep, and graze horses and mules for trade and to sustain their community.

Mission San Miguel sat along the El Camino Real, which was the main overland route that connected Spanish missions, presidios, and pueblos in Alta California. The road ran right next to a large Salinan Indian village. The mission’s first padre, Father Buenaventura Sitjar, had a pre-existing relationship with the Salinan people having ministered to them for 25 years at Mission San Antonio. Father Sitjar spoke the Salinan people’s language and was able to baptize 15 Salinan children the day the mission was established. The founding of Mission San Miguel marked the beginning of a friendly relationship between the Salinan people and Spanish padres. Eventually, over 1,000 Salinan Indians would call the mission home.

In 1797, a temporary church and other buildings were built at Mission San Miguel. In 1806, a fire destroyed the church, the other mission buildings, and all the stored farm products. Planning and preparation for a new and larger church began immediately following the fire, while the rebuilding of the other mission buildings began at once. For the next 10 years, Salinan neophytes made nearly 36,000 roof tiles and adobe blocks that they stored in preparation for constructing the new church. The foundation for the new church was laid in 1816 and by 1818, the new church, with its six feet thick adobe walls and a long colonnade with multiple arches of varying shapes and sizes, was finished. Monterey’s Esteban Munras designed and had completed the interior murals with the help of the Salinan Indians by 1821. These never re-touched original murals make Mission San Miguel a special stop along the California Mission chain today.

Life at Mission San Miguel changed after Mexico’s independence from Spain in 1821. Due to the financial strain of maintaining the missions, the Mexican government began to secularize the mission system and convert church property to private property. In 1834, Mission San Miguel was one of the last missions to be secularized. By this time, only about 30 Salinan Indians remained at the mission and no Spanish padres. A Mexican administrator took control of Mission San Miguel.

In 1846, business partners Petronillio Rios, a retired Mexican military man, and William Reed, an Englishman who had a wife from Monterey, purchased the mission buildings. The Reeds lived in the mission until a brutal attack from three Irish sailors, who had deserted their ship, left 11 of the family members and household staff dead in their house. After the vicious murders of the Reed family and their staff, and because of the mission’s location as a stopping point for gold miners traveling between Los Angeles and San Francisco, the mission’s buildings and grounds were converted for commercial use. At various times, the mission served as retail shops, a hotel, a saloon, and a dancehall.

President Buchanan returned Mission San Miguel to the Catholic Church in 1859. By 1878, the newly assigned resident padre, Father Philip Farrely, ran the mission and established a new parish. Fifty years later, in 1928, the mission was officially returned to the Franciscans. Under the direction of the Franciscans once again, the mission became a novitiate training school and a center for retreats and meetings. The mission is still an active parish and a novitiate training facility.

Today, a visitor to Mission San Miguel can see the beautifully restored and reconstructed mission buildings. The untouched interior murals provide a unique opportunity to view a piece of history and of old Spanish mission life in California.

Plan Your Visit

Mission San Miguel Arcàngel, a National Historic Landmark, is located at 775 Mission St. in San Miguel, CA. The Mission San Miguel Museum is open 10:00am to 4:30pm daily and the Mission San Miguel Church is open 8:00am to 5:00pm daily.  For more information, visit the Mission San Miguel website or call 805-467-3256.

Mission San Miguel has been documented by the National Park Service’s
Historic American Buildings Survey and is featured in the National Park Service Early History of the California Coast Travel Itinerary.

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Mission Santa Inés, California

Founded in 1804, Mission Santa Inés was the 19th Spanish mission established in Alta California and today is one of the best preserved Spanish mission complexes in the United States. The site preserves an unrivaled combination of landscape setting, original buildings, collections of art and interior furnishings, water-related industrial structures, and archeological remains. The intact archeological remains of the two mission wings, a portion of the convento, and the Native American village are rare survivors that contain information on the critical period of resistance of native people against Spanish colonial power. Still an active parish, Mission Santa Inés plays an important role in understanding the history of Alta California and the cultural heritage of the area once controlled by both Spain and Mexico.

Father Estévan Tapís, president of the California mission chain, founded Mission Santa Inés. The site chosen for the mission was at a midway point between Mission Santa Barbara and Mission La Purísima Concepción. Its purpose was to relieve overcrowding at those two missions and to serve the Indians living east of the Coast Range.

Construction on Mission Santa Inés began in 1804 with one row of buildings. This wing contained the temporary church, a sacristy, the padres' quarters and the granary. The 30-inch thick walls were made of adobe and the roof consisted of poles covered by sticks laid side by side, and then by a layer of adobe soil that hardened, thus sealing out the weather. On September 17, 1804, Father Tápis officially dedicated the mission to Saint Agnes constructing a temporary brushwood shelter at which 200 Indians attended solemn High Mass. By the end of 1804, the baptismal register already contained the names of 112 Chumash converts of all ages.

An 1812 earthquake near Santa Barbara destroyed most of the original church, part of the division wall, and the bell tower. Many of California’s missions suffered damage, destruction, and even abandonment during this disaster. Santa Inés built a temporary church to sustain the mission er during its reconstruction. Despite the natural disaster, Mission Santa Inés reached its peak in 1816 with a population of 786 baptized Native Americans. Dedicated on July 4, 1817, the new church and bell tower still stand today.

The mission is also important as the place where the Chumash Revolt of 1824 started, one of the largest and most successful revolts of American Indian Catholic neophytes in the Spanish West that reflected indigenous resistance to European colonization. After Mexican Independence from Spain in 1821, life at the California missions changed. The Chumash were forced to work for the Mexican army, receiving payment in IOUs, which caused mounting frustration. On February of 1824, the beating of a Chumash by a Santa Inés soldier sparked an armed revolt that rapidly spread. Fires destroyed many Santa Inés buildings and smoke damaged paintings and decorations in the sanctuary. The large insurrection spread outside of Santa Inés to other missions in Alta California. After the restoration of peace and the punishing of the instigators of the rebellion, baptisms resumed, but the heyday of Santa Inés was over.

Another consequence of Mexico’s independence was secularization, which led to the decline of mission life. In 1834, the Mexican Assembly passed the Secularization Laws, which shifted responsibility for mission temporalities from the church to the government. The new laws confiscated the mission lands, produce, and animals and placed them under the administration of local Mexican ranch owners. The mission priests were allowed a small parcel of land for their use and to administer to the spiritual needs of the remaining neophytes. All priests had to take an oath of allegiance to the Mexican government, and those who remained loyal to Spain were deported to Spain. The mission churches became parish churches administering to the spiritual needs of the growing settler population. Ultimately, secularization caused the departure of the Spanish missionaries and most of the Chumash neophytes, and the eventual decline of Mission Santa Inés.

As the population at Mission Santa Inés dwindled, the Bishop of Alta California, Francisco Garcia Diego, established Santa Inés as a learning institution opening the College of Our Lady of Refuge, the first seminary in California, at Santa Inés in 1843. The seminary provided for the education of the young men of the landowners. The school eventually was moved outside of Santa Inés and was renamed College Ranch because it provided education for the sons of local ranchers. The college was abandoned by 1881.

Restoration to Mission Santa Inés began in 1947 and is ongoing. When workmen removed the roof from part of the residence, they discovered the outline of several rooms above the arches that had been used during the mission era. The second story was added, making the mission look as it did before the earthquake of 1812. Extensive repairs were made to the roof of the church and residence, and sections of the south end of the building were completely remodeled. The 1817 bell tower was returned to its original design, as confirmed by artwork and photographs prior to its collapse in 1812. The Chapel of the Madonna was also created during this period and numerous restoration projects were initiated. A radiation heating system was installed in the church under the original restored tile floor to preserve the mission's priceless paintings and other artwork. The entire mission was painted and weatherproofed. Improved irrigation and drainage systems were installed for the various refurbished and landscaped gardens. In 1954, a statue of Our Lady of Lourdes was installed in a shrine next to the cemetery.

In August of 1989, the 18th annual Fiesta celebrated many years of hard work. Particularly important to the Fiesta was the reconstruction of 8 of the 19 arches that form the eastern façade of the building. This restoration recreated the appearance of the convento prior to secularization in 1834. The new portion of the convento building now houses a large parish hall complete with kitchen and two conference rooms. All are used by the parish as well as area groups for meetings. Inside the hall are several large paintings done by local artists depicting the various eras of mission life as well as the present life of the parish. Restoration work begun on the mission paintings in 1992 is ongoing.

Today, the Mission Santa Inés District consists of 15 buildings, structures, and sites that reflect the period between 1804 to 1855, when local Chumash lived in one of Spain's and then Mexico's primary colonizing institutions. Surviving historic buildings include the massive original adobe (mud brick) church and convento (priests' residence) wing. archeological remains of the original padres' (priests) residences, the Chumash village of both traditional and adobe dwellings, the soldiers' residence, the temporary church, and the ecclesiastical college of 1844-1868. The mission also has a largely intact water system with plaza and village lavanderias (washing areas), the site of the mission garden, and a complex of reservoirs and mills.

Plan Your Visit

Mission Santa Inés, a National Historic Landmark, is located at 1760 Mission Dr. in Solvang, CA. Click here for the National Historic Landmark registration file: text and photos. The mission offers self-guided and audio tours of the museum and gardens daily from 9:00am to 4:30pm, and is closed on Easter, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Day. Admission is $5.00 for adults and free for children under 11. For more information, visit the Mission Santa Inés website or call 805-688-4815.

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Monterey Old Town Historic District, Monterey, California

Monterey served as the Spanish, then Mexican, capital of California between 1776 and 1848. A National Historic Landmark, the Monterey Old Town Historic District includes within its boundaries the Monterey State Historic Park. The district brings to life the Spanish Colonial, Mexican Colonial, and early American periods of California through its 19th century historic buildings. As a thriving port, Monterey became a bustling city as the social, economic, and political center of California. Self-guided and guided walking tours throughout the Monterey Old Historic District and the Monterey State Historic Park transport visitors back to early California and remind them of the historic Spanish and Mexican heritage that permeates the area.

By the late 1700s and early 1800s, Spain had extended its New World empire by colonizing the west coast of North America. The Spanish created permanent settlements in Alta California by constructing presidios (forts) and establishing missions throughout the region. On June 3, 1770, Captain Gaspar de Portola and Franciscan Father Junipero Serra founded the Presidio of Monterey and the Mission de San Carolos Borromeo de Monterey at Monterey Bay. As the second of the four presidios the Spanish established in California, the Presidio of Monterey provided settlers and the mission with protection, and served as the military and government headquarters. The second in what would become a 21 mission chain in California, Mission de San Carolos Borromeo de Monterey moved to nearby Carmel in 1771, because it offered a better agricultural and political environment for the growing mission. The presidio remained in Monterey and flourished as the seat of government.

Roughly 50 years after the establishment of Monterey, Mexico won its independence from Spain in 1821 and California pledged its allegiance to the Mexican government. For the next 25 years, Monterey served as the capital of Mexican California. During this time, Mexico lifted the strict trading regulations the Spanish had enforced, and Monterey became California’s main port of entry. British, American, and South American trading vessels flocked to this coastal port. The economy boomed and Monterey became a cosmopolitan town.

Drawn to Monterey for its economic possibilities, foreign tradesmen, settlers, and businessmen settled in the area and often married into leading local Mexican or Californio families. Californio is a term used to describe Spanish-speaking people, regardless of their race, born in California before 1848. As Monterey’s economy expanded, so did the city itself.

Beginning in the 1820s, Monterey grew beyond the old Spanish presidio walls becoming a tangle of irregularly laid streets lined with pristine, whitewashed adobe buildings. By the mid 1830s, a New England entrepreneur named Thomas O. Larkin introduced a new building style to Monterey by combining Spanish building methods with New England architectural features. This became known as the “Monterey Colonial” style. As the American presence in California continued to grow and California officially became part of the United States in 1848, American settlers introduced further refinements to the area’s architectural techniques. Introduced by American Gallant Duncan Dickenson in 1848, kiln-fired bricks became a part of Monterey’s architectural mix.

The architectural styles found throughout the Monterey Old Historic District and the Monterey State Historic Park represent the city’s political, social, and cultural history. As Monterey evolved from a Spanish to a Mexican capital, and then to an American city, its diverse citizens found ways to adapt and blend architectural techniques to suit their needs and aesthetic preferences. The best way to experience the architectural styles of the Monterey Old Town Historic District is through a walking tour.

The
Monterey Walking Path of History is a historic two-mile path that includes 55 historic buildings and sites throughout the historic district and the park. Yellow-tiled markers set into the sidewalk help visitors follow this path. A good place to start a tour of old Monterey is at the Pacific House (200-222 Calle Principal at Scott Street), which the Monterey State Historic Park administers as a visitor center and museum. Constructed in 1847 for Thomas O. Larkin, Pacific House is an example of a Monterey Colonial style commercial building. The United States Quartermaster first rented the building for use during the Mexican-American War. After the war, in 1849, the house became a boarding house and salon and finally the main visitor center for the park.

Right next door to Pacific House is Casa del Oro, also known as the Boston Store (200 Oliver Street at Scott Street). Thomas O. Larkin built this two story adobe building in 1844, which first served as a hospital for American sailors and then as quarters for American troops during the Mexican-American War. After 1848, David Jacks and Joseph Boston operated a general store named the Boston Store out of Casa del Oro. Today, Monterey’s Historic Garden League runs Casa del Oro as the Boston Store once again.

Leaving Case del Oro or the Boston Store, visitors should walk to the First Theater (at the corner of Pacific and Scott Streets). Built by British sailor Jack Swan in 1846, the First Theater is a typical one-story adobe that initially served as a boardinghouse and saloon. In 1848, when the Mexican-American War was over, American servicemen from Colonel Stevenson’s 1st New York Volunteers used the adobe as a place to produce plays for a money making venture. They needed to raise money to travel home to the East Coast. While the price of admission was high, at the equivalent of about $5.00 per person today, they sold out most of their shows, providing much needed entertainment to the area.

A short walk north from the First Theater is theOld Whaling Station (391 Decatur Street). Constructed in 1847 by David Wight as a home for his wife and daughter, the Old Whaling Station adobe eventually served as the headquarters and employee residence for the Old Monterey Whaling Company. The Old Whaling Station boasts Monterey’s only remaining walkway made entirely of whale vertebrae, reminding visitors of Monterey’s bustling whaling industry that lasted from 1850 until 1900. Walk carefully, because this sidewalk cannot be replaced.

Right next to the Old Whaling Station is the First Brick House (351 Decatur Street). Gallant Duncan Dickenson, a member of the 1846 Donner Party of overland emigrants, built this home in 1847 using fired bricks. This building was the first in Monterey to be constructed of fire bricks, a technique that American settlers brought to California during California’s early American period.

From the First Brick House visitors can walk east to the Old Custom House (115 Alvarado Street). The Old Custom House is a National Historic Landmark featured in this itinerary separately. In 1827, the Mexican government began construction of the Old Custom House, which was to be used as a place to collect custom duties from the merchants of California’s flourishing shipping trade. The Old Custom House is the oldest extant public building on the Pacific Coast and is an excellent example of Monterey Colonial public building architecture. At the Old Custom House in 1846, Commodore John Drake Sloat raised the American flag claiming over 600,000 square miles of territory for the United States.

Leaving the Old Custom House, visitors can walk south for four and half blocks on Alvaredo Street to the Cooper-Molera Adobe (508 Munras Avenue). American sea captain, John Rogers Cooper, built this long, two-story adobe with a wooden balcony in 1827. Rogers found success as a merchant and prominent landowner in Monterey and convinced his half-brother, Thomas O. Larkin, to move to the area in 1832 in order to assist him in his business pursuits. Today, the National Trust for Historic Preservation owns the adobe, which the Monterey State Historic Park Association operates as a museum.

From the Cooper-Molera Adobe, a stroll west on Polk Street take visitors to the Casa Gutierrez (590 Calle Principal-the corner of Polk Street and Calle Principal). Built between 1841 and 1842 by Joaquin Gutierrez, the Casa Gutierrez is one of the few remaining adobes constructed in the simpler Mexican style of buildings that once lined the streets of Monterey.

Leaving Casa Gutierrez, walk north on Pacific Street to Colton Hall (570 Pacific Street). U.S. Navy Captain Walter Colton, appointed Monterey’s first American Alcalde or Chief Magistrate of the Monterey district in 1846, designed and supervised the construction of Colton Hall between 1847 and 1859. Colton Hall, the first public building constructed under the American flag in California and the first Greek Revival style building erected on the Pacific Coast, opened March 8, 1849 and originally served as a public school and government meeting place. It also hosted California’s constitutional convention during September and October of 1849. California’s first constitution was written and ratified here. Today, Colton Hall is open to visitors as a museum. Just behind Colton Hall is the Colton Jail, built in 1854, which is also open to visitors as a museum.

After Colton Hall, visitors can make a stop at the Larkin House (510 Calle Principal). Thomas O. Larkin built this National Historic Landmark adobe between 1834 and 1847. This house served as the prototype of the Monterey Colonial architectural style that Larkin created by adapting east coast building techniques to the available materials in California. Finding too little timber to construct the entire home, he used readily available adobe along with the wood, masterfully melding Spanish and Mexican Colonial building techniques with those of New England. The new Monterey Colonial style became popular in Monterey and other parts of California. Visitors can tour the house and learn about Thomas O. Larkin and his influential architectural style.

Leaving the Larkin House, visitors can continue to explore the over 50 sites on the “Monterey Walking Path of History.” A walk through the Monterey Old Town Historic District is a strong tangible reminder of the influence Spanish, Mexican, and early American cultures had on the development and construction of Monterey.

Plan Your Visit

Monterey Old Town Historic District, a National Historic Landmark, is located in two sections of Monterey, CA. The southern section is bounded roughly by the four blocks surrounding the intersection of Madison and Pacific Sts. the northern section borders on the bay and includes the blocks surrounding the intersections of Scott, Pacific, Olivier, Calle Principal, and Alvarado Sts. The Monterey State Historic Park has varying hours, please click here for an up-to-date schedule. For more information, visit the Monterey State Historic Park website or call 831-649-7118.
The Monterey Old Town Historic District is featured in the National Park Service Early History of the California Coast Travel Itinerary. The National Park Service’s Historic American Buildings Survey has documented the Monterey Old Town Historic District.

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New Almaden Mining Historic District, California

Located just 12 miles south of San Jose, California is the tiny village of New Almaden, the once world famous quicksilver (mercury) mining community that is now a National Historic Landmark district. The New Almaden Mine produced mercury beginning in 1845, making it California’s oldest mining operation. Predating the major California gold rush of 1849, the mines at new Almaden produced $70,000,000 in quicksilver – a fortune greater than any California gold mine that made New Almaden the most valuable single mine in the State. Quicksilver was the leading reduction agent for gold and silver until the discovery of the cyanide process in 1887. Using Spanish and Mexican mining techniques, Mexicans were the first to develop the New Almaden mining area, and therefore were essential to the rapid growth of California’s great gold and silver mining industries.

Long before the successful mining operations of New Almaden in the 1800s, local Ohlone Indians used the area as a source of the deep red mercury-bearing rock, cinnabar. The Ohlone painted their bodies a bright red with the cinnabar and also found it an important item to trade. Cinnabar expeditions came from as far away as Walla Walla, Washington to the New Almaden area to trade or fight for the prized resource.

The first non-Indian person to discover the cinnabar deposits was Secundino Robles, a native Californio. In 1824. he found the deposits in the Capitancillo Hills on the land once owned by Jose Reyes Berryessa, a retired sergeant of the Presidio of San Francisco. Robles shared his discovery with Antonio Sunol, a Mexican settler, and Luis Chabolla. Excited by the idea that the hills might also yield gold and silver, Sunol and Chabolla, made unsuccessful attempts at extracting the metal but abandoned their venture.

By 1845, Andreas Castillero, a native of Spain and a captain in the Mexican Army trained in geology, chemistry, and metallurgy, became interested in the red rock in the Santa Clara area. He recognized and proved that this red rock contained quicksilver. On November 22, 1845, Castillero filed a claim and a declaration of intent with the Mexican government for the land. Rewarded the land, Castillero returned to the “Santa Clara” mine with William Chard, a carpenter he met in San Jose, and hired Indian workers to build rudimentary furnaces to work the mine. By 1846, after some successful firings of the ore, Castillero realized that he needed more capital, labor, and equipment to develop his mine fully. Castillero left for Mexico to obtain capital for his venture. While on his trip, however, the Mexican military required his services due to the growing conflicts between Mexico and the United States, and he never returned to California.

Late in 1846, Castillero sold part of his shares in “Santa Clara” to the English industrial firm of Barron, Forbes, & Co. The firm operated a cotton mill in Tepic, Mexico. Barron, Forbes, & Co. changed the Santa Clara name to New Almaden after the famous and greatest quicksilver producing mine in the world located in Almaden, Spain. Around this time, as California’s gold and silver mining industries grew, so did the need and demand for quicksilve. Living up to its new name, New Almaden would eventually become the second largest quicksilver mine in the world.

In the fall of 1847, under the Barron, Forbes, & Co. and with the necessary capital to develop a mine, Alexander Forbes arrived at New Almaden from Mexico with a large crew of Mexican workers and equipment. Mexican labor and Spanish/Mexican mining technology were essential in the early development of New Almaden. Early miners, many of whom were from Sonora, built structures like the Hacienda de Beneficio (reduction works), which still stands today, and the planilla, the mine’s long, open shed where ore cars were unloaded and crews of laborers broke the ore to specified size and separated it according to its value. The workers were divided into two groups classified as “Tanateros” and “Mineros.” The Tanateros carried the ore out of the mines, a physically strenuous and demanding task.

The Tanateros and Mineros built their homes over several low ridges in a large open ravine near the mine. This settlement became Spanishtown and housed as many as 1,500 Mexican and Chilean miners and their families. Spanishtown was New Almaden’s largest settlement. While there are no buildings remain to be seen in Spanishtown, visitors can take the
Almaden Quicksilver Historic Trail to stop #5 where beneath the tall cypress trees is the unmarked site of Spanishtown’s Guadalupe Cemetery.

Eventually, New Almaden contained three separate enclaves: Spanishtown, the Hacienda, and Englishtown. The Hacienda settlement was built along Alamitos Creek during the 1850s. By the 1860s, English miners arrived from Cornwall and established Englishtown. During the 1870s and 1880s, Chinese immigrants arrived at New Almaden to work as miners and cooks and to do laundry, but they did not establish a separate enclave.

The Hacienda settlement became the gateway to the New Almaden mines. Here, neat rows of cottages owned by the company and rented to supervisory personnel sat near the Casa Grande. Captain Henry Halleck, the mine’s general manager during the 1850s, had the Casa Grande designed and built in 1854 by architect Francis Meyers. For decades, this palatial brick, adobe and wood, three-story building, served as a personal and official residence for the New Almaden Mining Company. John McLaren, designer of San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park, later landscaped the five-acre grounds around the Casa Grande. Today, the Casa Grande serves as the Almaden Quicksilver Mining Museum.

Other buildings in the Hacienda include a two-teacher school built near the Casa Grande in the 1860s, many one-story adobe and board-and-batten miner’s houses, and the Carson-Perham Adobe built between 1948 and 1850 by Mexican miners. The adobe was later the home of George Carson, the mine company bookkeeper, postmaster, telegraph operator, and Wells Fargo agent. Constance Perham lived in the adobe house for many years as well, establishing a private museum there in 1949. The Santa Clara County Parks & Recreation Department purchased her collection of mining artifacts, memorabilia, and historic photographs of New Almaden, in 1983. Today, walking tours and wayside signs encourage visitors to explore the history of New Almaden at the Hacienda.

By 1864, the Quicksilver Mining Company of New York and Pennsylvania began operating the mine after beating the Barron, Forbes, & Co. in an eight-year legal battle. In 1870, James Randol became general manager of the mines, reorganizing the entire mining operation for more efficient production. The mine and its villages flourished during the 20-year directorship of Randol. Not only did he reorganize the mine, he also established an authoritarian structure at the mine and throughout New Almaden. Company sponsored organizations, which were progressive but authoritarian, presided over residents’ health, wealth, cultural and social lives.

After Randol’s retirement in 1892, the mine began to decline. By the turn of the century, most of the Mexicans, who had been so instrumental in the early development of New Almaden, had moved away. In 1912, the Quicksilver Mining Company declared bankruptcy and closed. As the 20th century moved forward, the settlements of Spanishtown, the Hacienda, and Englishtown became mostly deserted except for a few older residents staying in the company houses along the creek at the Hacienda.

Today, visitors can experience the diverse and exciting history of New Almaden through walking tours; stopping by the New Almaden Quicksilver Mining Museum; or by taking the Almaden Quicksilver Historic Trail at the Almaden Quicksilver County Park. Along the way are the Casa Grande, many of the buildings and structures associated with the mine, some of the historic miners’ homes, and the natural and mining landscape of the area. Artifacts from Cornish, Mexican, and Chinese mining families are on display at the Almaden Quicksilver Mining Museum.

Plan Your Visit

New Almaden Mining Historic District, a National Historic Landmark, is located off the Almaden Expressway, south of San Jose, CA. Click here for the National Historic Landmark file: text and photos. The New Almaden Quicksilver Mining Museum is open year round Friday, Saturdays, and Sundays, except for major holidays, from 10:00am to 4:00pm (from September-June Friday hours are limited to 12:00pm to 4:00pm). The Almaden Quicksilver County Park, open from 8:00am to sunset, encompasses the mining landscape and several historic buildings. Admission is free to the museum and the park. For more information, visit the Almaden Quicksilver County Park website or call the park office at 408-268-3883 or the New Almaden Quicksilver Mining Museum at408-323-1107.

New Almaden Mining Historic District has been documented by the National Park Service’s
Historic American Buildings Survey and is featured in the National Park Service Santa Clara County: California’s Historic Silicon Valley Travel Itinerary.

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Nuestra Señora Reina de la Paz, Keene, California

Labor activist César Chávez established the headquarters of the United Farm Workers of America (UFW) at Nuestra Señora Reina de la Paz in the Tehachapi Mountains of Kern County, California in 1972. “Our Lady, Queen of Peace” in English, the compound is commonly called La Paz. As the headquarters of the UFW, La Paz is of great historic significance for its role in the 20th century labor, civil rights, Chicano, and environmental movements, and for its association with Césario Estrada Chávez (1927–1993), the leader of the United Farmworkers of America, which became the voice of the poor and disenfranchised. The 187-acre property just north of Keene, California, contains 26 historic buildings and structures, as well as the César Chávez Memorial Garden and burial site. La Paz continues to serve the UFW and its related organizations, and its visitor center is open to the public. On October 8, 2012, President Barack Obama issued a proclamation establishing the La Paz property as the Cesar E. Chavez National Monument. The National Park Service will manage the site. On the same day, the Nuestra Señora Reina de la Paz was designated a National Historic Landmark.

Early development of the La Paz site began in 1913, when the Kern County Highway Department opened a rock quarry near Keene. The county government built four wood-frame buildings, a road, and water and sewer infrastructure. Two of the quarry buildings are still on the property, though they are moved from their original sites. In 1917, the county shut the quarry down and a year later, the California Bureau of Tuberculosis chose the property for a new sanatorium for TB patients, called Stony Brook Retreat. Over the next fifty years, Stony Brook built dormitories, hospitals, a schoolhouse for young patients, garages, storage sheds, administrative buildings, and new roads. By the time the sanatorium closed in 1967, the compound was prepared to accommodate California’s labor activists, and three years later the United Farm Workers, led by César Chávez, chose the property to establish the Nuestra Señora Reina de la Paz Educational Retreat Center.

Born in 1927, César Chávez grew up under some of the worse economic conditions brought on by the Great Depression. Prior to the crash, his family owned and operated a grocery store, auto repair shop, and a pool hall at their homestead near Yuma, Arizona, but lost it all in the 1930s. After losing his land, Librado Chávez – César’s father – became a migrant worker whose family traveled with him, sometimes living out of their car. The Chávez family drew strength from their former status as landowners and their social ties in the face of low wages, racism, and unsafe working conditions. Librado was a member of the United Cannery, Agricultural, Packing and Allied Workers of America, and Chávez once said his family never hesitated to join their fellow workers in a strike. In 1944, Chávez enlisted in the U.S. military and served in the Navy for two years until his honorable discharge at the end of World War II.

After the war, Chávez returned to California and to migrant agricultural work. He married Helen Fabela and they had eight children together. In the 1950s, Chávez’s earlier exposure to labor activism evolved into an interest in organizing farm workers. He joined the Community Service Organization, but quit in 1962 when the majority of CSO members refused to put rural labor on their agenda. Afterward, Chávez moved to Delano, California, and helped fellow labor activists Dolores Huerta and Gilbert Padilla found the National Farm Workers Association, a forerunner to the United Farm Workers of America. Chávez participated in the Delano table-grape workers strike of 1965, which Filipino farm workers initially led, and his contribution to Mexican-American and Filipino-American unity during the strike is part of his legacy. In 1966, the organized farm workers purchased 40 undeveloped acres in Delano and built a labor community there from the ground-up. Called Forty Acres, and also a National Historic Landmark featured in this itinerary, this property was the headquarters of the newly-formed United Farm Workers Organizing Committee before the organization moved to Keene in 1972.

The United Farm Workers Service Center received a tip in 1970 about a 187-acre developed property up for public auction in Keene, California. Though the county refused to consider the UFW’s offer to buy it, a wealthy supporter of the organized farm workers managed to buy the property, the closed Stony Brook Retreat, at auction without revealing his association with the UFW. The benefactor, a movie producer, first leased and then later sold the property to the UFW. The old sanatorium officially became the UFW headquarters in January 1972. Chávez chose to settle at the ranch in order to move the organization away from Delano. He hoped the move would give the UFW a chance to broaden its mission and distance itself from the day-to-day demands of labor activism.

By 1971, the UFW was a full affiliate of the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO) and officially named the United Farm Workers of America. As president of the UFW, Chávez helped the organization build La Paz to create a peaceful refuge for the farm worker leaders, members, and supporters, as well as a home for himself and his family. For the labor activists, La Paz became a symbol of the UFW’s future beyond California’s grape fields.

The UFW settled into its new home in Keene and its new identity as a full union in the 1970s. During the decade, up to 200 people occupied La Paz. Some, like the Chávez family, lived there permanently, but most visited to attend strategy classes and UFW meetings. The labor newspaper El Malcriado and the Radio Campesina radio station had offices at La Paz, and there was a school for the children of visitors and residents. The residents lived and worked together, sharing meals, gardens, worship services, and celebrating milestones as a community.

From La Paz, the UFW led a national lettuce boycott and fought to pass the California Agricultural Labor Relations Act of 1975. This legislative victory for the UFW was also the first law in the United States to give agricultural labor unions organizing and collective bargaining rights. The ALRA’s supporters celebrated at La Paz after the bill passed. In the 1980s, Chávez led another grape boycott to protest the harmful pesticides used in the fruit’s production. In 1988, to raise awareness of the issue, Chávez conducted his third and longest fast at Forty Acres, where he went 36 days without consuming anything but water. After he ended his fast, American celebrities and activists carried it on for him.

In April 1993, Chávez died in his sleep. Tens of thousands of mourners attended his funeral service at Delano and then, according to César’s wishes, Helen Chávez buried her husband at La Paz. In 1994, President Clinton posthumously awarded Chávez the Presidential Medal of Freedom. In 1999, the U.S. Department of Labor inducted Chávez into the Labor Hall of Fame as its first Latino member. In 2012, the Navy launched USNS César Chávez, a cargo ship named to commemorate Chávez’s influence in the struggle for freedom and justice in the United States. Today, he is recognized as the historic leader of California’s migrant farm workers, for what he and the UFW did to empower and improve the welfare of farmworkers and their families throughout the nation, and as the symbolic progenitor of Latino American and Chicano civil rights movements throughout the nation.

At La Paz, the United Farm Workers and associated organizations continue to operate from the historic buildings the labor community renovated, rebuilt, relocated, and modernized over the decades once the organization moved there from the Forty Acres in 1972. Twenty-three buildings, one site, and three structures contribute to the historic significance of the 187-acre property. Most of the historic buildings have Craftsman/California Bungalow or Spanish Colonial architectural features. The oldest buildings are the Trust Funds Management Building and one house, which Kern County built to serve the rock quarry workers. Between 1918 and 1967, the Stony Brook Retreat constructed the Dormitory Building, Financial Management Building, Cafeteria Building, Storage Unit, three Garages, Villa La Paz Conference Center, and five houses. One of the five houses from the sanatorium era is the Chávez House, where César and his family resided. After settling at La Paz, the United Farm Workers community built the Quonset Hut, a second Storage Unit, Administration Building, three Manufactured Housing Units, Telecommunications Building, and a house. They also installed two structures, the Water Tank and Satellite Dishes. The Road System structure that connects the buildings developed throughout the 20th century and most of its pathways are unpaved. The single contributing site is the César Chávez gravesite in the Memorial Garden.

The Cesar Chavez Foundation operates the National Chávez Center at La Paz today. This educational and memorial center includes the garden at Chávez’s burial site and a visitor center. The visitor center at La Paz is located in a replica of the original 1914 quarry building that Chávez used as his administrative headquarters. The Smithsonian recorded the layout and catalogued the contents of the building before the UFW razed the building in 2003. Constructed to the same specifications and on the foundation of the original, the new building, the National Chávez Center, curates the Chávez office and library according to the Smithsonian’s record of the rooms. The visitor center, which offers free parking, also contains exhibits, a gift shop, and conference space.

Plan Your Visit

The Cesar E. Chavez National Monument, the Nuestra Señora Reina de la Paz National Historic Landmark is located at 29700 Woodford-Tehachapi Rd. in Keene, CA, north off California State Route 58. The National Chávez Center and Memorial Garden is open daily from 10:00am to 4:00pm, except on major holidays. Admission is $3. For more information, visit the César Chávez Foundation website or call 661-823-6134. Cesar E. Chavez National Monument, the Nuestra Señora Reina de la Paz National Historic Landmark i in the Places Reflecting America's Diverse Cultures: Explore their Stories in the National Park System Travel Itinerary. San Juan National Historic Site is also the subject of an online lesson plan, The Forts of Old San Juan: Guardians of the Caribbean that is available

César Chávez and the Chicano Movement are featured in Five Views: An Ethnic Historic Site Survey for California.

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Old Custom House, Monterey, California

The history of colonization on the California Coast spans three nations: Spain, independent Mexico, and eventually the United States. Perhaps nowhere is this seen so clearly as in Monterey, California’s original capital. The Old Custom House is a National Historic Landmark that stands as a reminder of the city’s Mexican heritage and of Mexico's political presence in the city during the mid-1800s. The landmark and its surrounding historic district are a living museum that interprets the rich early story of Monterey and the economic foundations of California.

Before the Spanish began to explore and colonize the region, the Ohlone populated the Monterey area. The coastal lands were flush with natural resources, fertile soil, and a temperate climate – all qualities that would later attract the Spaniards.

In 1542, Spanish explorer Juan Rodríquez Cabrillo was the first non-Native person to see the wide Monterey Bay in southern California, spotting it from a ship. In 1770, Captain Gaspar de Portolá and Franciscan Father Junípero Serra established the Royal Presidio of Monterey and the San Carlos de Borromeo Mission – the city’s first permanent buildings. The presidio was soon serving as the seat of the Spanish government in the area. By 1776, Monterey became the capital of both Baja (lower) and Alta (upper) California.

Monterey thrived, mainly within the protective walls of the military presidio, until Argentinean revolutionary privateer, Hipólito Bouchard attacked the city in 1818. The conflict would be the only land and sea battle fought on the West Coast. Bouchard sacked the town leaving severe damage in his wake. Over the next decade Monterey remained the capital and slowly rebuilt. Residences and businesses moved beyond the presidio’s walls and the street pattern that is still visible in Monterey today began to develop.

The Custom House in Monterey emerged out of this new period of prosperity. In April of 1822, the city learned that Mexico had won its independence from Spanish rule the year before. California immediately pledged allegiance to the Mexican government. While Spain had prohibited international trade in its territories, the Mexican government opened up its borders and seaports to foreign trade. The purpose of the Custom House was to collect custom duties on foreign goods at the bay, California’s main point of entry.

Constructed in 1827 and perched on the wide bay at Monterey, the Old Custom House was the first government building in California and the earliest government building on the west coast. The building quickly became a critical part of trade and cargo sale during the Mexican Era. A wide variety of goods began to flow into California arriving on ships from American, British, and South American markets. A single vessel involved in California’s popular hide and tallow trade might owe $5,000 to $25,000 in duty fees on just one load of cargo. The collection of custom fees was California’s most important source of revenue during the 19th century.

The growing trade through Monterey launched the city into a new era of heightened prosperity. What had begun as a small presidio grew into a major cosmopolitan community and an attractive destination for American travelers. This growing American presence in 1842 led to greater interest by the United States government in the territory, and by 1844, the United States established an American consulate in Monterey.

Thomas O. Larkin, a New England merchant who came to California in April 1832, was the first and only United States Consul to Mexican-ruled California. When Larkin first moved to Monterey, he quickly became an affluent citizen and developed a successful trading business. Because of his knowledge and position, Secretary of State Buchanan appointed him as Consul. Larkin is considered to be a key player in the eventual annexation of California by the U.S. Larkin's home served as the consulate from 1844 to 1846 and is now listed in the National Register of Historic Places.
Larkin altered and expanded the single-story Custom House, more than doubling its size. By 1846, the custom house had reached its present form and had two stories, a two story porch veranda, four large contiguous rooms, and a tiled hipped roof. At this same time, Mexico and the United States went to war with each other. Commodore John D. Sloat, commander of the U.S. Pacific squadron, arrived in Monterey during the “Bear Flag Revolt.” He raised the American flag over the Custom House and officially claimed California as U.S. territory.

The Old Custom House served as the American-operated custom house until 1868 and then became a private residence. By the early 1890s, the building was unoccupied and began to deteriorate. In 1900, it became one of California's earliest preservation projects. The Native Sons of the Golden West completed the original restoration efforts by 1917. In 1929, the building became the first California State Landmark. On January 1, 1930, the State Division of Beaches and Parks took it over and opened it to the public as a museum. In 1960, the Custom House was designated a National Historic Landmark and remains in use as a museum and visitor center.

Visitors to the Old Custom House can tour the building and peruse the historic objects and educational materials there. The building sits within the Monterey Old Town Historic District, itself a National Historic Landmark. The district showcases several dozen 19th-century adobe buildings from both the Spanish and Mexican eras that at one time were the hub of social, economic, and political activities in California. The district is also part of California’s Monterey State Historic Park. A two-mile walking path marked with yellow tiles guides guests through the historic buildings, secret gardens, and gorgeous views. Visitors are welcome to explore the “Monterey Walking Path of History” on their own with the help of an interpretive brochure found online here. Guided tours are available and tickets may be purchased at the Pacific House Museum or by calling the Monterey State Historic Park office at 831-649-7118.

Plan Your Visit

The Old Custom House is a National Historic Landmark and also part of the Monterey Old Town Historic District National Historic Landmark and California’s Monterey State Historic Park. The Custom House is located at 20 Custom House Plaza, Monterey, CA. Click here for the Old Custom House National Historic Landmark file: text and photos. The Custom House is an active museum and is open daily for tours and visitation. For more information, visit the Monterey Historic Park Tour Page website or call the park at 831-649-7118.

The Old Custom House has been documented by the National Park Service’s Historic American Buildings Survey. It is also featured in the National Park Service Early History of the California Coast Travel Itinerary as part of the Monterey Old Town Historic District.

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Old Mission Dam, San Diego California  

When the population of San Diego de Alcala Mission grew during the late 18th century, so did its demand for water. The Spanish colonists solved the water shortage problem by building what is likely the first major colonial irrigation-engineering project on the Pacific Coast. Known today as Old Mission Dam or Padre Dam, this National Historic Landmark collected water near the head of Mission Gorge on the San Diego River, and its five-mile-long aqueduct provided the mission with water for American Indians and Spanish colonists. Though damaged by floods, earthquakes, and human activity, the dam's stonewall continues to hold water. This impressive colonial ruin is a public site that visitors can enjoy within San Diego’s Mission Trails Regional Park.

The early years of colonization in Spanish California depended on the mission system. As Spanish colonists settled Upper California during the 18th century, they founded a chain of Catholic missions along the coast. This mission chain stretched north from present day San Diego to San Francisco. As in other Spanish colonies, the Californian missionaries’ goals were to convert American Indians to Catholicism, control the culture, and administer Spanish law. The southernmost mission in the California chain was San Diego de Alcala. Founded by Franciscan Father Junípero Serra in 1769, San Diego de Alcala was the first of 21 Spanish missions the Spanish established in Upper California.

Father Serra’s mission system laid the foundation for a European society on the Pacific Coast that opened California to Spanish, Mexican and later Anglo settlement. Before he sailed to Mexico in 1749 to spread Catholicism in the colonies, Father Serra lived a quiet life as a scholar and professor of theology. In Mexico, he established himself as a mission superior and in the 1760s, Spain chose him to set up a large mission field in California. Though Juan Rodríguez Cabrillo claimed California for the Spanish Empire in 1542, Spain did not move to permanently settle the area until Serra’s time. Serra, who traveled with soldiers and priests, arrived in California in 1769 and quickly established the San Diego de Alcala Mission. He went on to set up eight more California missions before he died in Monterey, California in 1784.

At the turn of the 19th century, the mission fathers at San Diego de Alcala designed a dam on the San Diego River to supply their expanding community with water after it suffered a bad drought between 1800 and 1802. The mission’s Native American converts, who were from the Kumeyaay Nation, built the aqueduct and dam structures. The mission community started work on the dam after the drought in 1803 and completed construction of the larger irrigation system by 1817. When the laborers finished, the dam was 220 feet long, 12 feet high, and 13 feet thick.

The laborers used cobblestones, bricks, and cement for the dam wall, and they laid tiles on the bed of the long aqueduct to keep water from seeping into the sandy ground. The aqueduct, which ran from the dam to the mission, was two feet wide and five miles long. The community used the water to support its people, agriculture, and herds of cattle and sheep. After the secularization of the California missions in the 1830s, which followed Mexican independence, the dam fell into disrepair. By 1867, the dam and aqueduct were in ruins. In the 1870s, residents of the mission valley restored the dam. The historic dam still disrupts the flow of water in the San Diego River.

Old Mission Dam is part of San Diego’s Mission Trails Regional Park, an urban park northeast of central San Diego. The park preserves the natural landscape and visitors can enjoy its hiking and bike trails, a day-use campground, and Lake Murray Reservoir. Restrooms and a picnic area are located close to the dam, and the park visitor center provides visitors with information about the natural and human histories of the land. The historic San Diego de Alcala Mission, a minor basilica and active parish, is also open to the public and a short drive from the dam.

Plan Your Visit

Old Mission Dam is a National Historic Landmark located on Father Junípero Serra Trail, which runs parallel to Mission Gorge Rd. in Mission Trails Regional Park in San Diego, CA. The visitor center for Mission Trails Regional Park is located at One Fr. Junipero Serra Trail. Click here for the National Historic Landmark file: text and photos. The Old Mission Dam parking lot is open daily from 8:00am to 5:00pm November 1-March 31 and from 8:00am to 7:00pm April 1- October 31. The visitor center is open 9:00am to 5:00pm weekends, except on Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Day. For more information, visit the Mission Trails Regional Park website or call 619-668-3281.

Old Mission Dam is featured in the National Park Service online book, Historic Places Commemorating the Early Exploration and Settlement of the United States.

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Petaluma Adobe, California

Between 1822 and the early 1850s, Mexico made over 800 land grants in California to Mexican citizens, as the government attempted to explore, populate and control the coastal lands of what is now the western United States. Rancho Petaluma Adobe served as the main headquarters and residential building for one of the largest land grants of this period, the Rancho Petaluma, a vast expanse of rolling hills and fertile grazing land for thousands of cattle. First established in 1834 as a land grant to successful military leader and colonial strategist, Mariano Guadalupe Vallejo, Rancho Petaluma would expand to 66,000 acres over the next decade and become the largest, richest, and most important Mexican estate in Alta California.

Sitting on a knoll overlooking the property and completed in 1846, the Petaluma Adobe served as the heart of the rancho’s daily routines and economic success. A National Historic Landmark, the two-story, Monterey Colonial style building stands today as the largest adobe structure in the country. The adobe sits within the Petaluma State Historic Park and is part of the California Park System’s ongoing effort to highlight and celebrate Spanish and Mexican heritage within the State. Interpretive signage, audio tours, authentic furnishings and educational programs all offer visitors a chance to experience Petaluma Adobe and learn about its inspirational connection to Mexican colonialism in the early 19th century.

HISTORIC BACKGROUND

Rancho Petaluma developed during the early 1820s, a time when the vast expanse of the Mexican-owned California Territory was sparsely populated and largely uncharted. Following Mexican independence from Spain, Mexican land grants encouraged citizens to move into California, and previously established Spanish mission holdings were divided up into smaller parcels for farming. In 1834, fearing infiltration from Russian colonists traveling south toward San Francisco, the Mexican Government ordered Lieutenant Mariano Guadalupe Vallejo to establish a pueblo at Sonoma, north of San Francisco Bay. Vallejo, who had already been instrumental in the founding of several California communities, received a promotion to Commandment General and Director of Colonization for the Northern Frontier. Mexican Governor Jose Figueroa granted Vallejo 44,000 acres, which was later expanded to 66,000, and instructed him to move his military command center in order to increase Mexican presence in the area north of the community.

Vallejo immediately began settling and improving the land that would become his Rancho Petaluma. Various corrals, outbuildings and houses dotted the landscape, and in 1836, construction began on the Petaluma Adobe, the main headquarters for the rancho. The two-story structure was a massive undertaking, however, and even after a decade, work was still being done on the building. Traditional adobe brick construction methods were used and all of the original lumber was locally cut redwood, almost entirely hand-hewn. At some point in the early 1840s, a sturdier, wooden roof for which thousands of shingles also had to be split by hand replaced the original thatched roof. American Indians performed most of the labor, mainly workers from the Coastal Miwok tribes who populated the area before European arrival.

Although it was standard practice to plaster and whitewash adobe bricks for protection from the elements, many of the walls at Petaluma never received this treatment. A deep, roofed veranda encircled the building on both levels and shielded the exterior from the weather. The majority of the adobe bricks have thus survived throughout the decades. Other original elements and hardware still exist within the building showcasing a fascinating mix of both pre- and post-industrial revolution technologies. Machine cut nails and cast iron hinges function side by side with wooden pegs and rawhide straps.

At its peak, Rancho Petaluma’s main income came from both hides and tallow (rendered cow fat). During the mid-1800s, cow hides were not only a valuable material for leather goods such as shoes, bags and saddles, but with the industrial revolution underway, hide belting was a necessary component of many machines. Tallow also had a variety of uses from candles and soaps to leather dressing and lubricants. The immense Petaluma Adobe housed the necessary facilities for the daily production of these products and general functioning of the ranch.

Across from the U-shaped, adobe building that stands today, another structure once existed, creating an interior courtyard surrounded on all four sides. During the heyday of Rancho Petaluma, this rectangular complex would have been alive with the sounds of hooves and hundreds of workers, the smells of hide processing and boiling fat, the whisper of looms weaving necessary blankets for the cold season, and heat pouring from the blacksmith’s anvil as he shaped and sharpened farm equipment. The Petaluma Adobe also housed storage space for grain and vegetable crops, as well as residential units on the second floor for both workers and guests of Vallejo.

Rancho Petaluma was the most prosperous rancho in northern California from 1834 until 1846, selling its wares to merchant ships arriving off the California coast, or trading its raw materials for manufactured goods from overseas. During the tumultuous year surrounding the eventual American takeover of California, Vallejo’s success came to a sudden end. The so-called “Bear Flag Revolt” of 1846 resulted in Vallejo’s arrest and imprisonment for several months. By the time the political dust settled, the ranch had been stripped of its valuables and most of the farm workers had fled. The U.S.government recognized Vallejo’s legal title to the rancho. He decided to lease the property and eventually sold it in 1857. Despite numerous owners and attempts, the ranch never reached the same level of prosperity again.

PETALUMA TODAY

Throughout the remainder of the 19th and into the 20th century, Petaluma Adobe passed through many hands and eventually fell into decline. The State of California purchased the property in 1951 after renewed interest in the site’s cultural heritage spawned an intervention program to save the adobe. Since the 1950s, preservation work, interpretation, research, and archeological investigation have continued to enhance the public’s understanding of the building itself and its tie to California’s Spanish and Mexican past.

Today the building and its surrounding State Historic Park are open weekly. A popular attraction for tourists and school groups, the Petaluma Adobe has been carefully outfitted with authentic, period furnishings and equipment to help visitors visualize rancho life during the early 1800s. Activities such as candle making, basket-weaving, period meal preparation and guided tours are available. For more information, check the Petaluma Adobe State Historic Park brochure or the Petaluma Adobe State Historic Park website.

Plan Your Visit

Petaluma Adobe, a National Historic Landmark listed in the National Register of Historic Places, a California State Landmark, and part of California’s Petaluma Adobe State Historic Park is located at 3325 Adobe Rd., Petaluma, CA. It is at the eastern edge of Petaluma proper, off Highway 116 and Adobe Rd. 20 minutes outside of Sonoma. Click here for the National Historic Landmark registration file: text and photos. Rancho Petaluma Adobe is open weekly on Tuesdays and Wednesdays only, from 10:00am to 5:00pm. The park is closed on Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day and New Year's Day. For more information, visit the Petaluma Adobe State Historic Park website or call 707-762-4871.

Petaluma Adobe has been documented by the National Park Service's Historic American Buildings Survey and is also featured in the National Park Service Early History of the California Coast Travel Itinerary.

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Point Reyes National Seashore, California

Located just north of California’s San Francisco Bay, Point Reyes National Seashore encompasses over 100 square miles (33,300 acres) of coastal wilderness area. At the beginning of the 17th century, Spanish explorer Sebastian Vizcaino named the impressive cliffs that line the seashore “la Punta de los Reyes” (Point of the Kings). The park preserves the natural ecosystems, native species, and cultural heritage found along the diminishing undeveloped western coastline of the United States. Vast windswept beaches, scrub grasslands, salt and freshwater marshes, coniferous forests and striking granite headlands characterize the peninsula, which is home to over 1,000 species of plants and animals. In addition to the area’s magnificent natural beauty, Point Reyes is home to a unique set of cultural resources, which highlights the many layers of human history present in the region.

The park contains landscapes that are much as they were when the first Europeans arrived in the 16th century. It includes 15 sites that provide evidence of one of the earliest cross-cultural exchanges between the Coast Miwok Indians and Europeans in Northern California and the most complete record of early interactions with the American Indians on the west coast of the United States. Before the Spanish permanently settled Alta California in 1769, five European voyages had made their way to the Pacific coast—the voyages of Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo and Bartolomé Ferrelo in 1542-1543, Miguel Unamuno in 1587, Sebastião Cermeño (captain of San Agustín) in 1595, Sebastián Vizcaíno in 1602-1603 (who named the peninsula “Punta de los Reyes,” the Point of Kings), and the Englishman Francis Drake in 1579. The archeological sites in the district have the potential to yield additional important information about early European contact with the land and the Coast Miwok.

The park also contains twelve historic cultural landscapes and many buildings and structures listed in the National Register of Historic Places, from farmhouses, barns and creameries to a lighthouse and radio station. The park exemplifies centuries of cultural connection to the land and sea along the central California coastline.

Drakes Bay Historic and Archeological District is a National Historic Landmark located in Point Reyes National Seashore. Famed English explorer and privateer Sir Francis Drake most likely landed in the bay that now bears his name, on the coast of Northern California, in 1579 to repair his ship while searching for the Northwest Passage, a hypothesized waterway that would open direct trade between Asia and Europe. Though he did not find the passage, this voyage made Drake, who later raided Spanish outposts in the Gulf of Mexico and burned the Spanish fort at St. Augustine, Florida, the first English navigator to circumnavigate the globe. Drake and his crew were also the first Europeans to record their contact with American Indians on the Pacific coast. Drake named the land he encountered in California “Nova Albion,” after the white cliffs at Point Reyes that reminded him of the white cliffs of southern England, and claimed it for Queen Elizabeth I. In the 18th and 19th centuries, England used Drake’s landing to support its claim to the Pacific Northwest when Spain, and later the United States, challenged its rights to the region.

In 1595, sixteen years after Drake landed, Spanish traders and sailors stopped at the Point Reyes Peninsula on their way to Mexico from the Philippines. The ocean trade route between Manila and Acapulco carried silver west from the Spanish colonies to the Asian markets and brought Chinese luxury goods east to Europe via New Spain. That year, the Manila galleon San Agustín, loaded with a cargo of painted ceramics and silk, entered Drakes Bay, which is part of the coastal area of Marin County known as “Tamál-Húye” by the Coast Miwok. Sebastian Rodriguez Cermeño, a Portuguese captain who worked for Spain, anchored the ship in the bay while some of the crew went ashore to build a launch. While the ship was at anchor, a Coast Miwok man oared a grass vessel to the San Agustín and the Spaniards gave him several objects from their cargo hold, including a piece of Chinese silk. Soon after this meeting, a storm swept through the bay and the ship wrecked into the shore.

Both the Spanish crew and the local Coast Miwok tried to salvage the ship after it ran aground. When the Spanish tried to stop the Coast Miwok from taking the goods, the peaceful encounter turned into a conflict. The crew ultimately abandoned the ship and took the launch to Mexico. After the Europeans left, the Coast Miwok continued to salvage the ship’s cargo and collected the goods that washed ashore. Today, the historic Coast Miwok village and midden sites at Point Reyes contain not only archeological evidence of the Spanish presence in 1595, but also of how the Coast Miwok chose to use Chinese and European goods.

After Cermeño’s crew left, Spain rarely visited California until the Spanish formally returned to colonize the province in 1769. When Spain returned to California in the 18th century, it established a mission system that forced native groups to live and work under Spanish soldiers and priests. The Coast Miwok did not join the mission at San Francisco until the early 19th century, just before California became a Mexican province after Mexico became independent from Spain. By the 1830s, when Point Reyes became private ranch land, many of the Coast Miwok left the peninsula to search for opportunities elsewhere. California became an American territory after the Mexican-American War in 1848 and the 31st State of the United States in 1850. The Coast Miwok, now part of the Federated Indians of Graton Rancheria, recognize the Point Reyes area as their ancestral lands.

In the 1980s and ‘90s, surveyors from the National Park Service and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration scanned Drakes Bay for magnetic anomalies that might give up the location of the San Agustín. The loation of the submerged wreck is not yet pinpointed, but historical accounts of the San Agustín and the sites of magnetic anomalies found during underwater surveys indicate that it is in the area, and it aligns with the currents that occasionally bring pieces of the ship’s ceramic cargo to shore.

The Coast Miwok archeological sites are in remote, protected locations on Point Reyes Peninsula. Point Reyes National Seashore collection contains over 700 pieces of Chinese ceramics found in the park, washed up on the beach, or at historic Miwok sites during excavations.

Coastal Miwok at Point Reyes

The earliest known human inhabitants of what is now the National Seashore were the Miwok American Indians, indigenous people who thrived within the fertile and biologically dynamic region. The Miwok lived along the central Californian coast for thousands of years before European contact, building small communities and developing rich economies based on gathering, fishing and hunting. They were prolific farmers and craftspeople who used native grasses, gray willow, hazel, lupine and tule to create thatched roofs, mats and baskets. Polished and carved abalone and clam shells were used to craft beaded decorations and make currency.

Sir Francis Drake is believed to have been the first European to make contact with the Miwok, when in 1579, he probably stopped along the craggy coast during his circumnavigation of the globe. After camping along the beach, which today bears his name, he claimed the land for Queen Elizabeth before returning to sea. Meanwhile the Spanish had also been sending ships along the Pacific Coast for many years and conducting overland exploratory missions, heading northwest from Mexico. In 1603, explorer Sebastian Vizcaino first sighted the rocky headlands along the Miwok-inhabited coast. He named the impressive cliffs “la Punta de los Reyes” (Point of the Kings) after the three wise men of the Catholic faith. Contact between the two cultures increased over the next decades, and trade of Spanish metal goods for fine Miwok baskets continued through the next century.

By the mid-1700s, however, the traditional Miwok population along the Pacific coast was waning as the result of disease and displacement brought about by increased Spanish settlement. Several Catholic missions established in the Point Reyes region introduced Christianity to the Miwok people and often forcibly removed them from their land. Spanish settlers and immigrants overtook and transformed what had once been strictly Miwok territory by the early 1800s.

Today the Miwok still live in the Point Reyes area with roughly 500 members registered as members of the federally recognized tribe. The National Seashore showcases their traditions with pride at Kule Loklo, a replica of a historic, Coastal Miwok village featuring various construction methods. The park offers ranger-guided interpreted tours of the village weekly and offers free, curriculum-based youth programming.

Partner programs through the Miwok Archeological Preserve of Marin (MAPOM) provide California Indian skills classes at Kule Loklo and special festivals and events. Visitors interested in learning more about the Miwok and other American Indian tribes of the region can check out the nearby Marin Museum of the American Indian in Novato, CA.

Ranching Heritage at Point Reyes

Major European ownership of Point Reyes began in the early 1800s through Mexican land grants. The Miwok people carefully tended the peninsula’s land for thousands of years through systems of controlled burning, pruning and harvesting. When early Spanish and American settlers arrived, they found a lush and fertile landscape. The 1849 California Gold Rush brought an influx of merchants, professional practitioners, laborers, and agriculturists, seeking wealth along the shores of San Francisco Bay. Many possessed dairying skills and traditions from their native homes, and the treeless coastal plain beckoned with potential for pasturing cattle.

In 1866, the law firm, Shafter, Shafter, Park and Heydenfeldt purchased the entire peninsula resolving disputes over land grants. The firm sold the northernmost part to an old friend of the Shafters, Solomon Pierce, who eventually built a small town around his dairy business including a schoolhouse, blacksmith shop, milking barn, and creamery. The Pierce Point Ranch, with its historic buildings and structures that date from c. 1869, is listed in the National Register of Historic Places. The ranch is a popular park attraction for visitors interested in the ranching heritage of Point Reyes who wish to take self-guided tours.

South of Pierce Point, the peninsula was divided into a series of tenant parcels labeled from A to Z, today referred to as the “Alphabet Ranches.” Shafter recruited European dairymen as superintendents to construct new facilities, recruit immigrant ranch hands, and aid in selection of the tenant ranchers. The ranches eventually became home to Irish, Swedish, Italian-speaking Swiss, and Azore Islands-Portuguese families as well as surviving Coast Miwok displaced by the Spanish missions. Later, Chinese, Canadian, Filipino, Mexican and German immigrants all found their chance to get started in America dairying at Point Reyes.

Throughout the late 19th century, the Point Reyes ranches produced record amounts of high quality butter and cheese. With up to 250 cows per tenant, the enterprise was one of the largest operations in the State of California at the time. Their products were so well known, nationwide, that other dairymen often forged the Point Reyes “PR” brand stamp. By the mid-20th century, major ranching at Point Reyes ended. A combination of factors contributed to the industry’s demise including damage caused by the 1906 earthquake, the Great Depression, and the absence of Miwok traditional agricultural methods that kept the land fertile.

Today visitors can still find many vestiges of the dairy history at Point Reyes within the park. For example, the Olema Lime Kilns, a National-Register-listed property dating from 1850, has two arched fireboxes that still stand as reminders of the early working landscape at Point Reyes. The former “W,” or Bear Valley, Ranch is now the National Seashore’s main headquarters. Visitors to the Bear Valley Visitor Center pass through the former ranch core, adaptively reused for park administration and support services. The Marin Agricultural Land Trust offers guided tours of selected West Marin ranches, as well as educational programming for children.

Maritime Heritage at Point Reyes

The Pacific Ocean has always been important to settlers at Point Reyes. Although the natural bay and protected estero provide the potential for docking and maritime commerce, the dangers of Point Reyes have consistently outweighed its appeal. Point Reyes is the windiest place on the Pacific Coast and the second foggiest place on the North American continent. Weeks of fog, especially during the summer months, frequently reduced visibility to hundreds of feet. The craggy shoreline, sheer granite headlands, and turbulent waters plagued early boat captains off the central California coast, and through the late 1800s, shipwrecks along Point Reyes’ shores were a common occurrence.

In 1871, the United States government established an official maritime lifesaving agency. The United States Life-Saving Service (USLSS), which would eventually evolve into the United States Coast Guard, established a lifeboat station for the eight-man crew of rescuers at Point Reyes in 1890. Despite the frigid waters and pounding surf, the Life-Saving Service made countless rescues via simple, oar-paddled surfboats. By 1927, larger, motorized boats made the original lifeboat station obsolete necessitating changes to it. Advanced coastguard technology, including helicopter rescue, eventually led to the station's closure in 1969. Today the Point Reyes Life-Saving Station compound is listed in the National Register of Historic Places and is a National Historic Landmark. The building is visible from the Chimney Rock Trail and is sometimes open to the public on weekends from January to mid-March. For more information, please call the National Seashore at 415-464-5100.

In addition to the life-saving service, Point Reyes is famous for its historic lighthouse. First lit in 1870, the lighthouse stands over 600 feet above sea level on a ledge blasted out of the rock with dynamite. The lighthouse parts were made in France in 1867 and shipped to Point Reyes via steamer, around the tip of South America. After 105 years of service, the Coast Guard installed an automated light and formally retired the lighthouse in 1975. The lighthouse still stands on the western most point of the Point Reyes headlands. It is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and can be found on the National Maritime Initiative’s Inventory of Historic Light Stations. The Lighthouse Visitor Center is open from 10:00am to 4:30pm, Thursday through Monday. Visitors can view historic photographs and purchase books and maps at the center’s bookstore.

Guests interested in later maritime history may also enjoy stopping by the RCA / Marconi Wireless Stations. In 1913, Guglielmo Marconi established a wireless communication facility at Point Reyes with a telegraphy transmitting station in Bolinas and a receiving station in Marshall. They formed the foundation for the most successful and powerful ship to shore and land station (known as "KPH") on the Pacific Rim. An Art Deco style building replaced the smaller Marshall receiving station in 1929, and both sites retain their still-functional World War II-era radio equipment. The structures are listed in the National Register of Historic Places. More information about KHP and the stations can be found with the Maritime Radio Historical Society, which runs a commemorative broadcast out of the stations each year on July 12.

For more information, stop by one of the three visitor centers located at Bear Valley, Drakes Beach, or the lighthouse. Staff can also assist with the abundant recreational opportunities at Point Reyes including 240 kilometers (150 miles) of hiking trails, backcountry campgrounds, beach combing, kayaking, biking, hiking, and wildlife viewing. The Kenneth C. Patrick Visitor Center at Drakes Beach hosts exhibits about 16th century exploration, first contact, and maritime hsitory with artifacts and maps. The Bear Valley Visitor Center, called the Red Barn, holds the park gift shop and orientation center and is at the Bear Valley park entrance. Visitors can obtain camping and fire permits at the Red Barn, and a ranger tour of the replica Coast Miwok village begins at the Red Barn. The Lighthouse Visitor Center, by the historic 19th century Point Reyes lighthouse, provides visitors with information about maritime history and science.

Ranger-guided programs give visitors the opportunity to explore the wonders of Point Reyes with a park ranger. Programs are offered each weekend on both Saturdays and Sundays throughout the year, and are often offered weekdays during summer, winter, and spring breaks. The park museum and archives are home to hundreds of thousands of natural specimens, archeological objects, photographs, correspondence and other artifacts relating to the cultural history discussed above. They are open to the public by appointment – please call 415-464-5218 for more information.

Plan Your Visit

Point Reyes National Seashore, a unit of the National Park System, is located approximately 30 miles (50 km) north of San Francisco on Highway 1 along the west coast of California.  Visitors can also reach the park via Sir Francis Drake Blvd. or the Point Reyes/Petaluma Rd.  Maps of the area can be found here.  For more information, visit the National Park Service Point Reyes National Seashore website or call 415-464-5100. For a list of additional NPS-recommended nearby attractions, follow this link.

For more information about the National Register properties discussed above, explore the following:
• Pierce Point Ranch: National Register of Historic Places File: text and photos
• Olema Lime Kilns: National Register of Historic Places File: text and photos; California Historical Landmark listing (no. 222)
• Point Reyes Lifeboat Rescue Station: National Historic Landmark; National Register of Historic Places File: text and photos
• Point Reyes Lighthouse: National Register of Historic Places File: Text and Photos; Historic American Building Survey Documentation ; National Maritime Initiative (Part of NPS) Inventory of Historic Light Stations
• RCA / Marconi Wireless Stations: Historic American Building Survey Documentation (Transmitting Station) and Historic American Buildings Survey Documentation (Receiving Station)

Point Reyes National Seashore is also featured in the National Park Service Places Reflecting America's Diverse Cultures: Explore their Stories in the National Park System Travel Itinerary. The National Park Service Archeology Program has a feature on the "The Sixteenth-Century Cross-Cultural Encounters in Point Reyes National Seashore."

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Presidio of San Francisco, Golden Gate National Recreation Area, San Francisco, California

Spanish colonists, Mexican frontiersmen, and American-Californians have all left their mark on the Presidio of San Francisco for over 200 years. Established at the mouth of San Francisco Bay as a Spanish military outpost in 1776, the Presidio stands today as testament to the longest operating Army installation in the American West, and California’s complex past as both a Spanish colony and territory of independent Mexico.

From the Presidio’s original construction in 1776, to its ultimate de-militarization in 1994, the site has accumulated a many layered, multi-era story of significance. The Presidio played a critical role in not only Spanish exploration and frontier expansion, but also in all major North American military conflicts from the Mexican-American War through World War II and Vietnam. As one of California’s most historic sites, the Presidio has witnessed the transferring of the West Coast from nation to nation, the effects of the California Gold Rush, military aviation, World Fairs, the devastation of earthquakes, and a vast evolution of architectural theory and design.

Today visitors flock to the site, a 1,491-acre National Historic Landmark District located within the National Park Service’s Golden Gate National Recreation Area. The park is flush with opportunities to explore centuries of historic architecture, the San Francisco National Cemetery, hundreds of significant military buildings, and over 25 miles of trails through beautiful forests and beaches. A visit to the Presidio of San Francisco is sure to inspire with its wide breadth of intact historic resources and an intricately woven quilt of heritage sites that link today’s American National Park to the nation’s Spanish and Mexican past.

HISTORIC BACKGROUND

The Presidio of San Francisco tells a complex story from its earliest incarnation as a Spanish military fort, through its present use as a national public park and historic site. The Presidio’s nine separate periods of significance include Spanish-Mexican Settlement (1776-1846), Early United States Occupation (1846-1860), the Civil War (1861-1865), Indian and Military Affairs (1866-1890), Nationalistic Expansion (1891-1914), World War I (1915-1918), Military Affairs between Wars (1919-1940), World War II (1941-1945), and the present (1945-today). For a detailed exploration of each, see the Presidio’s National Historic Landmark registration documentation.

EARLY HISTORY: SPANISH AND MEXICAN OCCUPATION

Before the arrival of the Europeans, indigenous tribes – largely the Ohlone/Costanoan people and Coastal Miwok -- occupied the California coast. In 1769, when Spanish explorer, Captain Juan Gaspar de Portola came over Sweeney Ridge and sighted the San Francisco Peninsula, he likely encountered small villages of native fisher-folk living among the fertile land’s low hills and coastal valleys. Several years later in 1776, Spanish occupation of the region began, led by Captain Juan Bautista de Anza who recognized the strategic location of the site at the mouth of the wide bay. Anza climbed to one of the highest points in the area, the Punta del Cantil Blanco, and with a single white cross in the earth, claimed the land for Spain. (For more information about Spanish exploration throughout California, visit the Juan Bautista de Anza National Historic Trail website.)
Immediate construction of the Presidio and the nearby Mission San Francisco de Asis (today known as Mission Dolores) began. Each was critical in supporting the new population – approximately 190 soldiers and their families from the colony of New Spain (northern Mexico.)

Designed for Spanish defense of California’s largest bay, the original Presidio consisted of a heavily armed fortification (El Castillo de San Joaquin) and the Presidio of San Francisco, proper, which included administration, training, and housing structures. The single-story adobe buildings stood in a quadrangle within a large defensive wall. The entire complex evolved over time and was extensively rebuilt and expanded after the great earthquake of 1812. The Mesa and de Anza rooms of today’s Presidio Officers' Club probably date from this rebuilding. (The Officers’ Club is the oldest intact building still standing in the Presidio – for more information about its evolution, click here.)

In 1821, Mexico declared its independence from Spain, which soon brought about changes for the Presidio. The Mexicans secularized the former Spanish missions, and the tight knit relationship between Mission Delores and the Presidio vanished. The mission-owned land surrounding the fort was divided into farms and ranchos and the former military importance of the site diminished. In 1835, General Mariano Vallejo shifted his Mexican forces further north to the plaza at Sonoma, and the Presidio was largely abandoned.

REVIVAL: UNITED STATES OCCUPATION

In 1846, during the Mexican-American War, U.S. military forces seized California. A year later, the American Army arrived at the deserted Presidio and over the next decade transformed it into a large 19th century military reservation – the first in the American West. The American military demolished and heavily altered the buildings from the Spanish/Mexican era to meet more modern needs – most notably, leveling the large Castillo to build an entirely new brick fort – Fort Point, which still stands today. More durable wooden barracks largely replaced the crumbling adobe buildings, and by the Civil War Era (post-1861), new brick barracks began to dot the expanding architectural landscape.

Today the “Main Post” section of the Presidio features several remaining buildings from the Civil War period including the oldest standing row of brick officers’ quarters, the Old Post Hospital, the Garrison Chapel and an old schoolhouse. The Main Post is the most historic section of the area and represents the original heart of the Spanish, Mexican, and early U.S. military establishment.

After the Civil War, the Presidio continued to expand as the United States flexed its military muscle in the West. When the reservation opened to public visitation in 1874, major changes to the landscape ensued to help beautify the site. The lush forest first created in the 1880s remains to tempt visitors today. In 1884, the Presidio’s small burial grounds became a National Cemetery – the first on the West Coast. The cemetery is now one of the most popular parts of the park for visitors. More information about the cemetery is available in the National Park Service’s travel itinerary, Civil War Era Cemeteries: Honoring Those Who Served.

By the turn of the 20th century, the formerly crumbling, abandoned Presidio had become a strong and beautiful American military facility. Its selection as the site for the Panama-Pacific International Exposition of 1915 further heightened the Presidio’s prestige and beauty. It soon developed into the most important Army post on the Pacific Coast, eventually managing a California defense system that included Alcatraz and Angel Islands as well as posts from the North Marin Headlands to Fort Funston in the southern part of the State.

The Presidio played a key role in both World Wars (with another burst of expansion caused in the mid-1940s by WWII) as well as the Vietnam War. Throughout the 20th century it remained a critical link in the chain of American military power into the Pacific Basin and further west onto the mainland of Asia. By the early 1990s, the military no longer needed the post, however, and in 1994, it was transferred to the National Park Service to be a part of the previously established Golden Gate National Recreation Area.

THE PRESIDIO TODAY

The San Francisco Presidio is one of the city’s most famous and highly regarded attractions. At the height of its military life, the Presidio consisted of five distinct posts: the Main Post, Fort Point, Letterman Hospital, Fort Winfield Scott, and Crissy Army Air Field. Structures from each of these remain today, as well as many buildings from earlier eras. Walking through the Presidio is thus a trip through one of the nation’s largest and best-preserved collections of military buildings. The National Park Service and The Presidio Trust jointly manage the Presidio.

The Presidio is an open-air architectural museum with over 700 historic buildings, ranging in style from early Italianate and Greek Revival, to later Mission Revival and World War II designs. (For more information, check out the Presidio Trust’s Guide to Architectural Styles.) In addition to historic architecture, the vast landscape features of the Presidio offer an abundance of outdoor opportunities including 25 miles of forested hiking trails, paved bicycle paths, athletics on Crissy Field, a golf course, and incredible scenic views of the both the San Francisco Bay and the Golden Gate Bridge.

Multiple visitor centers and museum displays exist within the park (including one at Fort Point, the only brick and mortar Civil War-era fort remaining on the West Coast). The centers provide an array of interpretive and recreational activities from indoor events and lecture series to audio-guided walking tours and history brochures. Check out the Presidio Trust’s visitor center page or the Things to Do section of the National Park Service’s web-guide to the park. A free Presidio shuttle travels throughout the site daily and visitors are encouraged to use this environmentally conscious option, rather than drive themselves in cars.

The Presidio not only offers a window looking in on America’s entire military past, but also on the broader themes of American history: advances in medicine, the role of women in the armed forces, racial integration, and evolution in architectural style and design. Moreover, the Presidio brings to light the strong Spanish and Mexican foundation on which the West was built, and the earliest beginnings of one of the nation’s most fascinating cities, San Francisco.

Plan Your Visit

The Presidio of San Francisco is a National Historic Landmark, and is part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area and Juan Bautista de Anza National Historic Trail units of the National Park System. Its main visitor center is located at 105 Montgomery St., San Francisco, CA (on the Main Post Parade Ground at the corner of Lincoln Blvd.) Click here for the National Historic Landmark registration file: text and photos. The Presidio of San Francisco is open Thursday through Sunday, 10:00am to 4:00pm. It is closed on Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day and New Year's Day. For more information, visit the National Park Service Presidio of San Francisco website and The Presidio Trust website or call 415-561-4323.

The Presidio has been extensively documented by the National Park Service’s Historic American Buildings Survey. It is also featured in three other National Park Service travel itineraries: Civil War Era Cemeteries: Honoring Those Who Served, Places Reflecting America's Diverse Cultures: Explore their Stories in the National Park System, and the Early History of the California Coast.

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Rancho Camulos, Piru, California

Perhaps no other historic site helped inspire the myth and romance of Spanish California like Rancho Camulos. A National Historic Landmark, Rancho Camulos is a Santa Clarita Valley ranch and farm that the prominent Hispanic del Valle family owned and operated between 1839 and 1924. Rancho Camulos is perhaps best known as the “Home of Ramona,” because of its influence on Helen Hunt Jackson’s Ramona, a best-selling novel set in post-colonial California. The ranch is privately owned, but the historic museum grounds are open to visitors most weekends and the property hosts tour groups, private parties, and public festivals.

The Rancho Period in California followed the Mexican Revolution. In the 1820s, Spanish priests, along with all other Spanish-born immigrants, were expelled from independent Mexico. The Mexican government claimed land in the southwest previously owned by Spain, including California, and gave large grants of land to individuals who had proven their loyalty to Mexico. Antonio del Valle, an administrator at Mission San Fernando who served in the Mexican army, petitioned for old mission land in California and received 48,612 acres called Rancho San Francisco. He became the legal owner of the land in 1839. After Antonio’s death in 1841, his son Ygnacio del Valle inherited a portion of the original grant, which he called “Rancho Camulos” because it included Kamulus, a Tataviam village.

After inheriting Rancho Camulos, Ygnacio built a cattle corral on the property and a 4-room adobe house for his foreman. Construction at Camulos began in 1853. Ygnacio remained in Los Angeles, where he was an elected member of the City Council and the California Assembly, until 1861. After Ygnacio retired from government, he moved with his second wife, Ysabel, to the ranch. They lived in the adobe house, expanding it to accommodate the growing del Valle family. By 1870, Ysabel had given birth to 12 del Valle children, half of whom lived to adulthood. Ygnacio initially planted a large citrus orchard on the land. By the time of his death in 1880, the ranch also produced wine, almonds, grain, and other produce. In addition to the del Valle family, Camulos supported nearly 200 Mexican and Native American ranch workers.

In the 1880s, the isolated ranch in the Santa Clarita Valley became part of the national culture when Helen Hunt Jackson published her novel, Ramona, about a young Californian woman of mixed Native American and Scottish descent. Jackson was a white advocate for Native American rights and hoped her writing would open Americans’ eyes to the mismanagement of natives by the American government. Though some of Jackson’s writing influenced policy, Ramona’s legacy was its contribution to romanticizing southern California in the American consciousness. Jackson stayed at Rancho Camulos while she toured the region researching rancho culture for her book, and the descriptions of Ramona’s fictional Morena Ranch match the real Camulos. Charles Lummis, a journalist and friend of the del Valle family, published The Home of Ramona: Photographs of Camulos, the fine old Spanish Estate Described by Mrs. Helen Hunt Jackson as the Home of "Ramona” in 1888. Tourists flocked to southern California and Rancho Camulos. The del Valles capitalized on Ramona’s popularity and sold their wine with a “Home of Ramona” label. In 1910, D.W. Griffiths directed a silent film adaptation of the novel. The movie, which starred Mary Pickford as the titular character, was filmed at Rancho Camulos.

As the romance of Ramona gripped the imaginations of its readers, the del Valle family’s hold on the property loosened. Ysabel managed the ranch after her husband’s death, but retired to Los Angeles in 1900. After their mother left, the remaining del Valle children took over operations. However, in-fighting and the deaths of several family members forced the del Valles to sell the ranch in 1924. The buyer was August Rübel, a Swiss American immigrant. He and his wife, Mary Colgate McIsaac Rübel, moved to the ranch the following year. August served the United States in the two world wars and was killed in Tunisia in 1943. Mary Rübel remarried in 1946 and her second husband, Edwin Burger, managed the ranch until 1994. Today, the property is administered by a board of directors presided over by August Rübel’s daughter, Shirley Rübel Lorenz. Under the board of directors, the citrus operation continued and a museum opened for visitors to learn about Rancho Camulos’ rich history.

There are four historic buildings on the property and three further contributing historic features. The first of the buildings is the Ygnacio del Valle Adobe, originally built in 1853 and later expanded. Two additions to the adobe were made in 1861, including three rooms adjacent to the western end of the house and a wine cellar underneath them. The second addition at the time was a freestanding kitchen building constructed just north of the adobe main house. In the 1870s, a full western wing was added on perpendicular to the original adobe structure with an open breezeway between this wing and the kitchen, creating a “U” shape around a central garden.

The historic Del Valle Winery building dates back to 1867. This rectangular stone building with a wood-shingled roof was where the ranch aged its Home of Ramona wine and later August Rübel kept a museum for tourists on the second floor. The other two contributing buildings are the Roman Catholic Chapel and the Southern Pacific Railroad Section House. The wooden chapel dates from 1867. The enclosed portion of the chapel is 14’x20’, but a large double door opens up to the chapel’s 30’ long porch to form an open chapel for large congregations. The section house was built in 1887, when the railroad first cut through the Santa Clarita Valley.

The fountain, bell structure, and railroad right-of-way also contribute to the national significance of Rancho Camulos. The date of the fountain’s construction is unknown, but could be as early as 1853 because it appears in Ygnacio’s original plans for the ranch. The bell structure is a simple wooden frame dating back to at least the 1870s. Two of three original large metal bells still hang from the frame: one from the San Fernando Mission and another that was cast in Kodiak, Alaska in 1796. The historic right-of-way is a dirt road that leads north-east to the section house.
Visitors to the Santa Clarita Valley can walk the 40-acre Rancho Camulos Museum grounds with a museum docent and see the “House of Ramona” firsthand. In addition to the nationally significant buildings and features, the museum portion of the 1,800 acre working ranch includes the Rübel family schoolhouse, workers’ bunkhouse, barn, gas and oil house, and the Nachito Valley Adobe. Weekend afternoon tours are available for walk-ins from February until the end of November. By appointment, school and other groups are welcome. Tours are free, but a donation of $5 for adults and $3 is suggested. A gift shop and produce stand are on the grounds. In addition to weekend tours and activities, Rancho Camulos hosts the annual Ramona Days festival. This Ramona-inspired celebration of California’s rancho heritage offers live music, dancing, living history, arts and crafts venders, children’s activities, and presentations of the Ramona Play scenes and D.W. Griffith’s Ramona.

Plan Your Visit

Rancho Camulos, a National Historic Landmark, is located at 5164 East Telegraph Rd. in Piru, CA. Click here for the National Register of Historic Places file: text and photos. Rancho Camulos is open for visitors by appointment or Saturday-Sunday 1pm to 4pm for docent-led tours on the hour, except during December and January or during inclement weather. For more information, visit the Rancho Camulos Museum website or call 805-521-1501.

Rancho Camulos is included in the National Park Service’s National Register of Historic Places Hispanic Heritage Month feature. The historic property has been documented by the National Park Service’s Historic American Buildings Survey.

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Royal Presidio Chapel, Montery, California    

Monterey, home of the Royal Presidio Chapel, is one of California's oldest and most historic cities. Originally founded in 1770 by Spanish Captain Gaspar de Portola and Father Junípero Serra, Monterey served as Spain's northernmost outpost in Alta California. Eventually the city would become California's capital under Spanish, Mexican, and early American rule. The Royal Presidio Chapel of San Carlos de Borroméo de Monterey still stands today as a reminder of Monterey's Spanish and Mexican origins, as well as the city's overall importance to California history. Completed in 1795 to replace earlier buildings first established in 1770, the chapel had close religious and political ties as California's rule shifted amongst three different nations. Royal Presidio Chapel, a National Historic Landmark, is now the only remaining presidio chapel in its original Californian location. It is also the only 18th-century Spanish architecture left in the city of Monterey.

The chapel is still an active church, and is open to the public as part of California's Monterey Historic State Park. It is in excellent condition and one of the city's most significant historic sites. Visitors to Monterey should not miss the Royal Presidio Chapel, where interpretive features help guide visitors through the extraordinary history that the nearly 250 year-old building represents.

HISTORIC BACKGROUND

The Presidio of Monterey was originally founded on June 3, 1770 as the second of four presidios that would eventually be established by the Spanish in Alta California (Spain's first and third Californian presidios are also featured in this itinerary and can be found here: San Diego, San Francisco). Don Gaspar de Portolá, Governor of California, and Father Junípero Serra established the Presidio along with approximately 60 Spaniards. They were the first European presence in the area. Within a matter of weeks, the colonists had erected rough log huts to serve as housing and a primitive mission for Catholic worship. This original chapel was plastered in mud and covered by a roof of layered twigs, leaves, and earth.

Soon Monterey's makeshift buildings were replaced with more permanent structures, including the chapel, which was rebuilt as an adobe building in 1773. By 1776, Monterey became the Spanish capital of California and the chapel remained in use until it was destroyed by fire in 1789. The Academy of San Carlos in Mexico City designed the new Royal Presidio Chapel (which still stands today), while Native American laborers under the direction of master stonemason Manuel Ruiz completed its construction. Completed in 1795, the sandstone chapel was one and a half stories and had a rectangular shape with a classic basilica plan. A square two-story bell tower with a flat roof graced the northeast corner, and the main chapel roof was arched and covered with clay tile. Pilasters, decorative niches, and intricate sculpture embellished the front facade of the chapel. Today the Royal Presidio Chapel is the most elaborate and ornate of all of the Spanish-constructed churches in California.

After the chapel's construction, an Argentine pirate, Hippolyte de Bouchard, attacked Monterey in 1818, overtaking the Spanish defense force, which abandoned the presidio along with its residents. Before departing, Bouchard ransacked Monterey and burned most of its buildings but did not destroy the stone chapel. Only adobe walls remained of much of the rest of city. After Mexico declared independence from Spain in 1821, Monterey slowly began to rebuild and would soon become a bustling Mexican capital and center of commerce once more. As the city began anew, the remains of Spanish-era buildings deteriorated, and by 1841, the Royal Presidio Chapel was the only remnant left standing.

Changes were made to the chapel in 1858 when it was enlarged by 30 feet and transepts were added to the southern end – transforming the building's plan to a cross. Gothic-style stained glass windows were also inserted into the chapel's walls around this same time. The last notable change to the Royal Presidio came in 1893 with the replacement of the original flat roof of the bell tower with its current peaked pyramid style roof. The crosses along the roofline today were also likely added at this time.

Despite these later alterations, the façade, main walls and much of the interior of the Royal Presidio Chapel have remained intact and original since the 1790s. Still in use as a church, the chapel welcomes visitors who want to experience such an important and authentic part of California's Spanish past.

THE ROYAL PRESIDIO TODAY

The last remaining Spanish presidio church in America, the Royal Presidio Chapel is also significant as the oldest stone building in California and longest continually operating church on one site in the State. It became one of the nation's earliest National Historic Landmarks in 1961, and gained official cathedral status in 1967 with the arrival of a new bishop in Monterey. It is currently the smallest Catholic cathedral in the continental United States. Now known as San Carlos Cathedral, the chapel is part of a complex of church buildings including offices, a rectory, and an early grade school.

Visitors to the Royal Presidio Chapel can experience not only the original features of the building's exterior and façade, but also explore inside. The chapel's interior is open to the public and contains decorative religious motifs that are notable examples of primitive art. The Stations of the Cross are original, as are the statues of St. John, the Sorrowful Mother, the Spanish Madonna, and the bas-relief of Our Lady of Guadalupe, carved in chalk rock above the entrance. San Carlos Cathedral also operates a small museum and heritage center next to the chapel that houses Catholic relics, including the iron safe used by Father Serra, a rudely carved reliquary of Indian manufacture, and Father Serra's chalice, cape, and dalmatics. Docent-led school programming, and group/individual tours are available daily. For more information, including operating hours, check out the San Carlos Cathedral website.

Royal Presidio Chapel is also part of the Monterey State Historic Park, a California State Park. This park consists of many significant houses and structures throughout Old Monterey, connected via a two-mile walking path navigated with yellow-tiled markers. Visitors are welcome to explore the “Monterey Walking Path of History” on their own with the help of an interpretive brochure located online here. Guided tours are available. Visitors may purchase tickets at the Pacific House Museum or by calling the Monterey State Historic Park office at 831-649-7118.

Plan Your Visit

Royal Presidio Chapel is a National Historic Landmark, and is part of the Juan Bautista de Anza National Historic Trail and California's Monterey Historic Park. The Chapel is known as San Carlos Cathedral and is located at 550 Church St, Monterey, CA. Click here for the site's National Historic Landmark file: text and photos. Royal Presidio Chapel is open weekly for tours and visitation. The chapel is a privately owned, operating religious space to be visited in a respectful manner. For more information, visit the San Carlos Cathedral website or call the chapel at 831-373-2628 or the Monterey Historic Park at 831-649-7118.

Royal Presidio Chapel has been documented by the National Park Service's Historic American Buildings Survey. It is also featured in two other National Park Service travel itineraries: Places Reflecting America's Diverse Cultures: Explore their Stories in the National Park System Travel Itinerary (as part of the Juan Bautista de Anza National Historic Trail) and the Early History of the California Coast.

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San Diego Mission Church, San Diego, California

The Spanish established 21 Catholic missions along the California coast beginning in the late 1700s. Of these, Mission San Diego de Alcalá was the first in Alta California. Father Junípero Serra initially established San Diego Mission Church in 1769 on Presidio Hill, along with the first Spanish colony and presidio in Alta California. The mission later moved to its present location, six miles east of the hill where several churches have stood over the past two centuries.

Originally completed in 1813, the present building still serves as an active parish church and cultural center. The National Historic Landmark is open to people of all faiths and is one of California’s most popular historic sites. As the mother of the Spanish missionary movement in California, Mission San Diego de Alcalá represents a very significant part of the nation’s Spanish heritage.

HISTORIC BACKGROUND

Before the Spanish exploration of Alta California, native peoples known as the Kumeyaay populated the area. By the late 1700s, Spain ventured into their territory in order to expand Spanish land holdings up from the south in modern-day Mexico. A religious mission that sought to bring Catholicism to the thousands of natives who called the western coast their home accompanied this political move.

On July 1, 1769, a Franciscan friar, Father Junípero Serra, and a Spanish Capitan, Don Caspar de Portola, founded the first Spanish colony in Alta California (San Diego). Here on July 16, Father Serra established the Mission San Diego de Alcalá, a crude church meant to serve both the Spanish colonists and begin Catholic outreach to local natives. The San Diego Mission became the first of 21 missions on the west coast of California.
The mission remained at its original site for only five years, after which Father Serra moved it six miles to the east. A strong military presence at the San Diego Presidio seemed to deter the native people Serra was trying to reach, and water supplies were insufficient for the church’s agricultural ventures. The new, and present, site was an ideal location close to both the San Diego River and many of the native villages along it. A wooden church and outbuildings constructed in 1774 burned to the ground a year later in the native uprising of 1775. The Catholic Church’s Father Luis Jayme was murdered at the time and became California's first Christian martyr. His remains are buried beneath the altar in the church that is standing today.

The second church on the site constructed in 1777 of stronger adobe brick with a thatched roof was replaced in 1780 by an even larger adobe building, as the mission continued to expand. By the late 1790s, Mission San Diego de Alcalá was at the peak of its success with over 50,000 acres to its name. The mission grew a variety of agricultural crops including corn, wheat, barley, kidney beans, and chickpeas and had some 20,000 sheep, 10,000 head of cattle, and 1,250 horses. A church vineyard produced wine.

The church was rebuilt and expanded once more between 1808 and 1813. Father Jose Bernardo Sanchez designed and planned the new church, which is on the site today. The building is of adobe and white washed brick in a simple, long, rectangular plan. Unlike its predecessors, its roof is of timber shipped over 60 miles from the interior mountains. The church’s most distinct architectural feature was a single, four-story bell tower containing five bells of three sizes.

After Mexico gained its independence in 1821, the government soon secularized all of the formerly Catholic missions. After the Franciscans stopped administering the church at San Diego in 1834, the mission deteriorated into a ruin. Over the next several decades, the site was used privately for agricultural pursuits and as an American military outpost after California became the 31st State in 1850.

In 1862, the U.S. government returned what remained of the mission buildings and land to the Catholic Church. The church retrofitted and made additions to the building and used it as a school for the native population and, later, a children’s home for boys until the early 1900’s. It was rededicated as a parish church in 1941.

THE MISSION CHURCH TODAY

Although much of the original 1813 church had been altered over its many years of evolution and neglect, significant documentation remained of its former layout, size, and appearance. Restoration work began in 1931 to bring Mission San Diego de Alcalá back to its former glory. The church that stands today is largely a reconstruction, and archeological efforts continue to help uncover further evidence of how the church buildings looked and were used.

Visitors interested in the church’s original features should check out the base of the bell tower, the baptistery arch, various parts of the sidewalls, and the wooden lintels above doorways. One of the bells in the tower is also original to the church and dates to 1802. This bell can be distinguished from the others because it is the largest and sports a Spanish Crown at its peak. Visitors are also welcome in the mission’s small, onsite museum, which showcases objects and information about the church’s history. A garden still surrounds the church that is home to the remains of California’s first European cemetery as well as century-old hibiscus, succulents and olive, citrus and avocado trees.

A joyous, annual celebration each July honors the mission’s birthday. Visit during the Festival of the Bells for a chance to witness the only time all five bells ring in unison each year. The occasion includes several days of fiestas and events including traditional Spanish food, dance, and music. See the festival’s official website or call 858-337-5857for more details.

Plan Your Visit

San Diego Mission Church (Mission Basilica San Diego de Alcalá) is a National Historic Landmark located at 10818 San Diego Mission Rd., San Diego, CA. Click here for the San Diego Mission Church National Historic Landmark file: text and photos. The church is open to the public daily from 9:00am to 4:45pm. For more information, visit the Mission San Diego de Alcala website or call the visitor center at 619-281-8449.

The San Diego Presidio has been documented by the National Park Service’s Historic American Buildings Survey and is featured in the National Park Service Early History of the California Coast travel itinerary.

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San Diego Presidio, San Diego, California

On July 1, 1769, the first European settlement on the Californian coast was established as a small, struggling Spanish colony. On this day, Governor Don Gaspar de Portola officially claimed “Alta California” as Spanish territory, and Father Junípero Serra arrived to establish what would become the first of 21 Spanish missions in the region (Mission San Diego de Alcalá). The San Diego Presidio, which was built to protect the original colonists from American Indian attack, became the military headquarters for continued Spanish exploration of the interior lands, and throughout Northern California. As the first of four presidios Spain eventually constructed in the region, it would remain a critical seat of military power throughout Spanish and Mexican rule of the territory. Spain’s second and third Californian presidios are also featured in this itinerary and can be found here: Monterey and San Francisco.

Today the San Diego Presidio, a National Historic Landmark, remains a testament to California’s Spanish and Mexican foundations, and a reminder of the early struggles and victories associated with colonization. The presidio and its colony of San Diego were the birthplace of European control over the west coast. Set within Presidio Park, the San Diego Presidio is one of the city’s most beautiful and historic sites. The Junípero Serra Museum interprets the site for visitors, and it continues to be both an active archeological site and a popular tourist attraction.

Nearly 300 Spanish colonists set out with Father Junípero Serra on an expedition to bring Christianity to the native people of Alta California. On July 1st, 1769, only 126 of the party remained and arrived at the banks of the San Diego Bay. Spanish Governor Don Caspar de Portola, who accompanied the group, officially claimed the land of Upper California for Spain and within two weeks, Father Serra had established the first Spanish mission in the new territory.

The small group of colonists was vastly outnumbered by Native Americans in the area – 5,000-some tribes-people who were not universally accepting of the new European presence on their land. In August of 1769, a destructive native attack and the threat of future conflict forced the Spaniards to erect a crude stockade on Presidio Hill. Completed in 1770, the presidio protected the mission and the colony, and further represented a permanent Spanish presence on the bay. The original presidio was simply made and constructed entirely of wood. The fenced stockade included two bronze cannon and rough wooden houses with tule roofs. A central square contained the commandant’s residence, the chapel, a cemetery and various storehouses. Officers’ and soldiers’ quarters ringed two sides of the square. All told, about 100 people lived in the original presidio compound proper.

While the new presidio served to protect the colonists, its construction also drained the community of its resources. By January 1770, the settlement was at the point of near starvation. Its abandonment or demise seemed imminent. On March 19, a Mexican supply ship sailed into San Diego Bay and saved the colony from certain ruin.

In 1774, Father Serra moved his mission to a new site, six miles to the northeast (the San Diego Mission Church is also featured in this travel itinerary). This solidified the presidio as a predominantly military complex. Over the next years, the primitive San Diego Presidio was transformed into the center of Spanish exploration and military operations throughout California.

In 1778, the rudimentary wooden stockade began to be replaced by stronger adobe buildings. By 1795, major additions to the presidio were constructed including an esplanade, powder magazine, flagpole and several adobe barracks to house an increase in soldiers living at the site. Fort Guijarros, a major armed battery with 10 additional cannon, was constructed in 1797, and the height of the presidio’s era of power began. The San Diego Presidio remained the seat of military power in California throughout the rest of Spanish rule. When news of Mexico’s independence from Spain reached the complex in 1822, the Mexican army took control of the presidio, and it served as the Mexican Governor’s residence from 1825 to 1829.

In 1830, new-found security in the region caused the military presence at the presidio to rapidly decline. The pueblo of San Diego was also officially founded in 1835 and many of the old presidio buildings were deconstructed in order to use their materials to expand the growing city at the base of Presidio Hill. By the end of the 1830s, the former stockade was in complete ruin. When the United States took control of San Diego in 1846, neither the presidio nor Castillo de Guijarros had any military value and they were largely abandoned to make way for new military construction elsewhere in the city.

The site of the Presidio of San Diego was rescued from complete oblivion in 1929 when 37 acres of its surrounding land were donated to the city by the owner and historian George W. Marston. San Diego officially accepted this gift in 1937 and transformed the land into a formally landscaped public park. Too little of the actual presidio remained to attempt a reconstruction, however. The ruins were covered with earthworks and their outlines were indicated by a simple adobe wall. The Junípero Serra Museum was also constructed to help interpret the site, and houses a collection of important objects related to the presidio’s Spanish and Mexican heritage.

The Junípero Serra Museum, built in 1929, remains the primary architectural feature of Presidio Park today. Most of what remains of the former San Diego Presidio now lies directly in front of the museum, though several 20th century infrastructure projects have caused the loss of sections of the site including an entire row of barrack ruins and an original wall.

Visitors, however, can still view extant vestiges of the San Diego Presidio. The Junípero Serra Cross, erected in 1913 in honor of Father Serra, stands at the center of the park. It is built from the many pieces of brick and floor tile that littered the site at the time of its construction. Grass covered mounds still cover the ruins, and the outlines of former walls and basic building floor plans are evident. Archeological excavations and site research continue in an effort to better uncover and understand the extent of the site.

The Junípero Serra Museum houses a large collection of archeological finds, historic objects, and reference materials related to Spanish colonization and the early heritage of California. Rotating exhibits and interactive educational programs are offered which help tie the history of the presidio itself to the greater Spanish and Mexican heritage present throughout San Diego.

Presidio Park itself offers visitors the chance to explore over two miles of beautiful trails in a natural refuge within urban San Diego. The park’s dramatic landscaping features native and non-native species. The park also offers The Old Presidio Historical Trial, a self guided walking tour that begins on the corner of Juan St. and Mason St. and is marked with interpretive signage. The park directly abuts the Old Town San Diego State Historic Park, which showcases and celebrates the original location of the pueblo of San Diego and its transformation into the present metropolis.

Plan Your Visit

The San Diego Presidio is a National Historic Landmark and part of San Diego’s Presidio Park. The Presidio is located at 2811 Jackson St in San Diego, CA. Click here for the National Historic Landmark file: text and photos. The Junípero Serra Museum interprets the site and is open to the public on Saturdays and Sundays. For more information, visit the Junípero Serra Museum website or call 619-232-6203.

The San Diego Presidio is also featured in the National Park Service Early History of the California Coast Travel Itinerary.

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San Francisco Bay Discovery Site, Pacifica, California

San Francisco Bay is an important harbor on the American West Coast and one of the greatest naturally formed, sheltered anchorages in the world. The San Francisco Bay Discovery Site marks one of the greatest events in the establishment of Spanish Alta California -- the moment the Spanish first glimpsed the bay. On November 4, 1769, Captain Juan Gaspar de Portolá and members of his overland exploration expedition climbed to the top of Sweeney Ridge and looked out upon the great bay. The discovery ultimately led to the establishment of San Francisco, one of the nation’s most vibrant cities.

The top of the ridge is now known as the San Francisco Bay Discovery Site, a National Historic Landmark and part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area. Visitors have the chance to follow the footsteps of Spanish explorers, soldiers, and early colonists as they climb the ridge and view the magnificent bay for themselves.

The history of the Spanish discovery of the site begins with an accident. Spanish Explorer Captain Juan Gaspar de Portolá set out from San Diego with a party of 60 men on horseback. His goal was to head north and find Monterey Bay, which had been described only from ships at sea. When Portolá’s land-based expedition arrived at the Monterey Bay and stood on its sands – they failed to recognize the bay! Instead Portolá pressed northward on a long, treacherous mission to look for a bay he had already passed by.

Exhausted and lost, the group eventually climbed over San Pedro Mountain and made camp in Pedro Valley, now in the city of Pacifica, just south of San Francisco. On November 1, 1769, one of Portolá’s men, José Francisco Ortega, led a squad of scouts on a three-day reconnoitering tour of the forested area surrounding the camp. Ortega’s notes show he sighted the San Francisco Bay on his first day of scouting, but assumed it was an estuary. When Ortega returned to camp, Portolá called for further exploration of the “estuary” and on November 4, 1769, the men climbed to the top of modern-day Sweeny Ridge hoping for a better view.

Here they first recognized that the body of water they glimpsed was a massive, sheltered bay – a discovery that numerous Spanish sea expeditions in the region had never made. Portolá himself wrote that there appeared to be, “...a large arm of the sea…some sort of harbor there within the mountains.” The Spanish were not excited about the historic discovery at the time, however, as Portolá realized he had mistakenly passed by Monterey, his original destination, over a hundred miles to the south. The entire expedition returned homeward, and Captain Portolá would ultimately find Monterey Bay and found the presidio there in 1770. For more about Monterey, click here.

Although the original European discovery of San Francisco Bay was a disappointment to Portolá, the Spanish quickly recognized the strategic value of such a huge, sheltered harbor. By 1776, they established the Presidio of San Francisco under the leadership of Captain Juan Bautista de Anza. The military fort would serve as protector of the bay for the next two centuries under Spanish, Mexican, and American flags. The San Francisco Presidio is also featured in this itinerary and its history can be explored here.

The San Francisco Bay Discovery Site’s historic significance was officially recognized in 1968 when it became a National Historic Landmark. The National Park Service erected a marker made of California’s State stone, Serpentine, at the peak of Sweeny Ridge. The monument pays honor to the Portolá Expedition’s important discovery. Today the site consists of approximately 18.5 acres of protected land that surrounds the two small knolls where the Spaniards originally spotted the bay. The visual impact of the site is its superb view. At the top of Sweeny Ridge, visitors are privy to the same breathtaking vista that Portolá saw centuries ago--the tremendous expanse of the Bay area spread beneath them and the coastline north as far up as Point Reyes.

The San Francisco Bay Discovery Site is part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area–one of the world’s largest urban national parks. In addition to Sweeny Ridge, the park is home to more than 30 scenic and historic sites, displaying a veritable cross section of California’s history throughout the Spanish, Mexican and early American eras. From forested hiking trails to Civil War era barracks, Golden Gate Recreation Area has something to offer all visitors.

Plan Your Visit

San Francisco Bay Discovery Site is a National Historic Landmark, and part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area, a unit of the National Park System. The San Francisco Bay Discovery Site is located about twenty five minutes south of San Francisco, between San Bruno and Pacifica. To get to the site from Pacifica, Sweeney Ridge trailheads are located at Sheldance Nursery off of Highway 1, and at the east end of Fassler Avenue. From San Bruno, trails start from the west end of Sneath Lane off of Hwy 35 (Skyline Blvd) and from Skyline College Parking Lot #2. Click here for the site’s National Historic Landmark file: text and photos. For more information, visit the National Park Service Golden Gate National Recreation Area website or call 650-355-4122.

The San Francisco Bay Discovery Site is also featured in two other National Park Service travel itineraries: Places Reflecting America's Diverse Cultures: Explore their Stories in the National Park System and the Early History of the California Coast.

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San Juan Bautista Plaza Historic District, San Juan Bautista, California

Five striking adobe buildings sit at the historic center of San Juan Bautista, California. They face an original Spanish-era plaza and help illuminate the Spanish, Mexican, and early American heritage of central California. The San Juan Bautista Plaza Historic District is a National Historic Landmark that celebrates this history and provides an intact example of traditional Spanish-Mexican colonial architecture that dates from between 1813 and 1870.

The district includes the San Juan Bautista Mission Church (1803-1813), the Castro-Breen House (1840-1841), the Plaza Hotel (1858), the Plaza Stables (1861), and the Zanetta House/Plaza Hall (1868). The restored historic buildings offer visitors interpreted displays and reimagined interior spaces. As both a nationally registered historic place and an official California State Historic Park, the San Juan Bautista Plaza District represents one of the nation’s most spectacular collections of publicly accessible Monterey-Colonial style buildings.

HISTORIC BACKGROUND

During the mid to late 1700s, Spanish land holdings in the New World began to shift northward–up from New Spain (today Mexico). A series of military and religious endeavors eventually led to the establishment of a chain of 21 Spanish-Catholic missions along the western coast of California. Padre Fermin Francisco de Lasuen founded the 15th of these, the San Juan Bautista Mission, on June 24, 1797.

The padre chose the area because of its proximity to a large American Indian population, and soon over 1,200 native people were living, working, and worshiping at the San Juan Bautista Mission. The original adobe church was small and soon insufficient for the booming mission, which led to the construction between 1803 and 1813 of the church that is still there today. Even after its initial completion, work continued to expand and beautify it by tiling and painting the interior and adding altar statuary throughout the mid-1800s. The largest of the 21 original Spanish mission churches in California, the building is still in use as a Catholic Church that has been in continuous operation since its opening in 1812.

After Mexico gained its independence from Spain, a new law provided for the secularization of all the California missions. In 1835, José Tiburcio Castro, a former Spanish soldier, became the civil administrator of the San Juan Bautista mission’s land. Castro divided his new, extensive landholdings and auctioned most of his land off to friends, neighbors, and relatives. Built in 1839-1841 for Castro’s son, José Antonio Castro, the José Castro House, which still sits on the plaza today, served as the judicial and administrative-headquarters of a district that included the entire northern half of Alta California. José Antonio Castro would eventually serve as acting governor of Alta California and commandante general of the Mexican army during the Mexican-American war.

In 1848, the Breen family purchased the house. The family arrived in California as survivors of the ill-fated Donner Party – the expedition over the Sierra Nevada Mountains that was stranded in blizzard conditions without supplies for 111 days. Members of the Breen family owned and occupied the house from its purchase until 1933 when it became part of the California State Historic Park System. The house known today as the Castro-Breen House has interior accurately furnished in the style of the original Breen tenure.

The 1850s through mid 1870s were a time of great economic prosperity for San Juan Bautista. The California hide and tallow trade was booming as well as the mining industry due to the discovery of gold and silver in the mountains. San Juan Bautista was en route between the major hubs of San Francisco and Los Angeles, and was a primary supply center for travelers from Hollister, Watsonville, Monterey and Santa Cruz. The Plaza Hotel (1858), Plaza Stables (1861), and the Zanetta House/Plaza Hall (1868) were all constructed during this period to meet new demands on the small city.

Seven different stage lines ran coaches through San Juan Bautista, bringing traders, business-folk and travelers through the town in great numbers, daily. Angelo Zanetta, a seasoned Mexican businessman, constructed the new buildings on the plaza, the last of which, the Zanetta House, housed his family on the ground floor. The upper story consists of a long, open hall built over 30-foot-long redwood beams. Noted early on for its excellent "spring," this floor became a popular dance venue. The Plaza Hall hosted many grand balls, events, and gatherings over the years.
San Juan Bautista’s boom days were numbered. In 1876, the railroad bypassed the town and its prosperity quickly dwindled. Luckily, each of the five original buildings on the plaza survived. Carefully restored in recent years, they are now open to the public as a California State Historic Park.

SAN JUAN BAUTISTA PLAZA TODAY

The five buildings surrounding San Juan Bautista Plaza are all regularly open to the public for tours offering interpretive programs suitable for all ages. Visitors can explore them on their own or take interpreter-led tours making advanced reservations with the San Juan Bautista State Historic Park by calling 831-623-2753.

The mission church is open daily and offers educational displays about the building itself and the historic artifacts housed within. While inside, note the original tile floor – it contains animal prints captured in the clay when the tiles were first set out in the sun to dry. The church contains a small museum that once was the padre’s living quarters. At one time, the gift shop served as temporary living quarters for the Breen family that bought the José Castro House. The historic church is still in use as a sacred place of worship to be enjoyed in a respectful manner.

Outside, along the northeast wall of the church, is the mission’s original cemetery that contains the graves of more than 4,300 converted American Indians and European colonists. Beyond the cemetery’s lower stone wall is a small section of California’s famed Camino Real, where visitors can still glimpse deep wagon wheel ruts in the compact earth.

Restored to their appearance in the 1870s, the Plaza Hall and stable are across the plaza. The stable houses display an assortment of carriages and wagons along with harnesses and other historic items. Behind the stable is a blacksmith's shop with many of the tools used in the wagonwright trade. Both the Plaza Hall and the stable are open to the public and contain interpretive displays with guided tours available.

Recently restored and reopened, the Castro-Breen house’s interior is a museum with period rooms featuring 1870s-style furnishings. A historic garden is also open and interpreted at the house’s rear. The Plaza Hotel next door contains Victorian furnishings and still serves drinks in its interior saloon. All of the buildings are a particularly popular destination during Living History Day, a history festival held on the plaza the first Saturday of every month. For more information about special events, see the California Historic State Park website.

Plan Your Visit

San Juan Bautista Plaza District is a National Historic Landmark, and is featured on the Juan Bautista de Anza National Historic Trail. The plaza and its five surrounding buildings are also a California State Historic Park. The district is located on Second St., between Washington and Mariposa Sts. in San Juan Bautista, CA. Click here for the National Historic Landmark file: text and photos. San Juan Bautista California State Park is open Tuesday through Sunday from 10:00am to 4:00pm. It is closed on Mondays and all Federal holidays. For more information, visit the San Juan Bautista State Historic Park website or call the park at 831-623-4881.

The plaza buildings have been documented by the National Park Service’s Historic American Buildings Survey. Click here for the surveys for the mission, the Zanetta House, the stable, the Castro House and the Plaza Hotel. The plaza is also featured on the National Park Service Early History of the California Coast Travel Itinerary.

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San Luis Rey Mission Church, Oceanside, California

The San Luis Rey Mission Church, the 18th of the 21 original missions established by Spain throughout California, is among the finest existing examples of Spanish-Colonial architecture in all of the State. The building is one of only two cruciform (cross-shaped) churches ever built by the Spanish in the region.

Founded in 1798, San Luis Rey de Francia Mission is in the sheltered valley just east of Oceanside. Erected between 1811 and 1815, the present church is the third one constructed at the site. At the time of its completion, the church was the largest building in Northern California. San Luis Rey is known today as the king of all the California missions.

The history of the San Luis Rey de Francia Mission spans the early Spanish colonial period, the Mexican era, and the beginnings of California’s statehood. Today the church stands as a National Historic Landmark recognized for its significant contribution to the Spanish and Mexican heritage of the western United States. It is still in use as a parish church, Franciscan college, retreat space, and conference center.

Visitors are encouraged to explore the beautiful church, which is open to the public daily. The mission site contains other remains of the mission in addition to the church. All are set around and within a historic six-acre central square. Highlights include a sunken garden, elaborate lavanderia (open-air laundry), stabilized ruins of former mission buildings, and California’s first documented pepper tree. A museum, signage, and guided tours help interpret the site for visitors.

HISTORIC BACKGROUND

By the late 1700s, the Spanish government in New Spain (modern-day Mexico) had already authorized the establishment of 17 Catholic missions throughout Alta California. The vast northern territory was lush with appealing resources for the Spanish, as well as a long coastline dotted with protected bays. The systematic establishment of missions was an inexpensive and strategic move to help bring religious and political ideologies to the native people who populated the area. One hope for the missions was to mitigate potential native aggression as the Spanish moved north to colonize these areas themselves.

Padre Fermín de Francisco Lasuén de Arasqueta founded the 18th of the Spanish missions, San Luis Rey de Francia, in 1798. He chose the original site, just east of modern-day Oceanside, for its protected nature within a valley, the availability of building resources and water, and the proximity of a large tribe of Luiseno American Indians. Constructed in 1798 at the mission’s first founding, the original church was a small and simple adobe building like the majority of Spanish missions. By 1802, early success and an increase in Catholic conversions necessitated the building of a bigger church with adobe walls and a tiled roof.

The third church, the one that remains on the site today, dates from the peak of the mission’s success. Construction on this church began in 1811, but due to its impressive scale and intricacy, the church was not finished until four years later in 1815. Antonio Ramirez, a master stonemason, oversaw the work of native converts who performed a majority of the labor. The main walls of the new church were impressive: 30 feet high and five feet thick with an adobe interior and baked brick exterior. White lime plaster coated the walls, and the huge church must have gleamed in the bright California sun. The main façade of the church features a mix of Baroque and Classical styles including a 75-foot tall bell tower at its eastern corner. A western, symmetrical tower was originally in the plans but never constructed. The tower rang a chorus of eight different bells in the 1800s, but only four hang within its belfry today.

Both the original floor and roof of the mission church were of terra cotta tile, and by 1829, a wooden dome sat atop the building. The octagonal dome had an eight-windowed lantern that filtered light down into the nave and crossing below. The restored dome remains today and is unique among all of California’s Spanish missions.

By the mid-19th century, the San Luis Rey de Francia Mission was expansive with landholdings covering approximately 950,400 acres. Over 3,000 converted native people lived at the mission and helped tend the land and care for the 50,000 head of livestock. Grapes, oranges, olives, wheat, and corn were just some of the crops produced on the property. The main mission buildings, including the church, ringed a large central plaza, 500-feet square. At the height of its glory, the mission included irrigation channels and an outdoor lavanderia (laundry), a convento for housing the friars, officers barracks, dormitories for residents, workshops of various types, a long decorative colonnade, and an extensive gated cemetery.
Mexico gained its independence in 1821 cutting short the period of prosperity for San Luis Rey Mission. Under a new Mexican law, all of the California missions were secularized within a decade. Many, including San Luis Rey de Francia, went through periods of divided ownership and neglect. As nearby pueblos grew, much of the quality materials of the mission church were stripped to use in new construction.

Between 1847 and 1857, the mission church served as an operational base for the United States military. California became the 31st State in the Union in 1850. The men were not greatly concerned with the upkeep of the church, even housing livestock within its walls. President Lincoln officially returned the mission to the Catholic Church in the 1860s, but the entire property was in such disrepair that the church abandoned it.
Mission San Luis Rey de Francia might have completely vanished from the landscape had it not been for a group of Mexican Franciscans who reoccupied the church in 1892. Under the guidance of Father Joseph Jeremias O’Keefe, a massive rebuilding and restoration began. Despite the deterioration over the years, much of the original mission remained, as did original drawings, plans and designs. After O’Keefe’s death, the restoration of the site continued.

TODAY

Today, San Luis Rey Mission Church is a part of the restored mission complex that sits on 56 acres of its original land. Franciscan friars still study, worship, and live at the mission, and it is highly regarded as both a religious and heritage site. The church is among the most stunning of all of the Spanish mission churches and is a popular tourist attraction in Southern California. Original patterns found in the church’s old documents and on remnant textiles decorate the interior. Outside, the church is believed to look much as it would have when originally constructed.

In addition to the church, visitors can view the other impressive features of the site. One of the most fascinating ruins left at the mission is the old lavanderia. Just to the south of the mission church, this structure consisted of a tiled irrigation system in which water spouted from the mouths of carved gargoyles. The water was diverted from the nearby San Luis Rey River and used for both bathing and the laundering of garments. The water capturing and retention system was advanced, even by modern standards. The lavanderia has been an archeological site since its unearthing in 1955, and today visitors can see its tiled stairs, channels and stone pools. The gargoyles remain intact and are believed to be the only known examples of carved Luiseno sculpture.

Ruins of the original convento arches, colonnade, officers' barracks, and lime kiln are still on the grounds as is the original mission cemetery – the oldest in North San Diego County. As you walk throughout the mission’s grounds, be sure to cross the original large central square and look up at the massive tree at its center. Planted in 1830, it is still alive as the oldest and first pepper tree in California.
The mission’s museum interprets the San Luis Rey Mission Church and its surrounding structures for the public. Housed in the former convento, the museum oversees all of the preservation and conservation efforts for the church and its extensive historic collections. Exhibits feature the entire history of the mission and include objects and artifacts from both the Spanish Colonial and Mexican periods.

Plan Your Visit

San Luis Rey Mission Church is a National Historic Landmark that is part of the Old Mission San Luis de Francia and is located at 4050 Mission Ave. four miles east of Oceanside, CA. Click here for the site’s National Historic Landmark file: text and photos. The church is open to the public daily from 7:00am to 5:00pm. The church is still actively used as a sacred religious space, which the public can visit in a respectful manner. For more information, see the Old Mission San Luis Rey de Francia website or call the church at 760-757-3651.

The mission contains a history museum open weekdays from 9:00am to 5:00pm, and weekends from 10:00am to 5:00pm. For more information, see the museum’s website. For group tour information or booking, please call the museum at 760-757-3651 x115.

San Luis Rey Mission Church has been documented by the National Park Service’s Historic American Buildings Survey and is featured in the National Park Service Early History of the California Coast Travel Itinerary.

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a name="SantaBarbaraMission" id="SantaBarbaraMission"><Santa Barbara Mission, Santa Barbara, California

Few buildings define the Spanish heritage of our nation like the chain of 21 California missions established throughout the 18th and early 19th centuries. Their beauty, stature and history help shape our understanding of California’s evolution and its story of Native American occupation, Spanish colonization, Mexican independence, and eventual statehood.

First established in 1786 as the 10th in the mission chain, the Santa Barbara Mission, a National Historic Landmark, is one of the most sophisticated and classically proportioned missions of the original 21. The Santa Barbara mission church, completed in 1820, is the only original mission church to survive unaltered into the 20th century. Its historic sanctuary light has never been extinguished. Based on the form of a Roman Ionic temple, the church is immense, with stunning proportions and extraordinary architectural design that have led it to be titled the “Queen of the Missions.”

Visitors to the Santa Barbara Mission can explore the church as well as the other mission buildings and their associated historic structures. Among these are the original cemetery and mausoleum, ruins of the mission’s extensive aqueduct system, several tanning vats, and 10 acres of landscaped gardens. A museum, guided tours, and an archive-library all help educate curious visitors, school groups, and scholars alike.

HISTORIC BACKGROUND

Before the Spanish arrived in Northern California, numerous American Indian tribes populated the west coast. The Spanish originally established the Santa Barbara Mission to make contact with the Chumash people—California natives who lived along the coast between Malibu and San Luis Obispo. The Chumash were skilled artisans, hunters, gatherers, and seafarers, but had no formal agricultural system. When Padre Fermín de Francisco de Lasuén first started the Santa Barbara mission in 1786, he aimed to bring both religious and sustainable farming practices to the native population.

Constructed by 1787, the first mission church at Santa Barbara was of logs with a thatched grass roof. It was rudimentary and soon required replacement in 1789. As the mission grew, so did the scale and quality of its church building. The church that dated from 1794 was constructed from adobe and tile. The fourth and present church was conceived after the great earthquake of 1812 completely ruined the previous adobe version. In 1815 construction of the grand new church began. Converted natives accomplished most of the labor under the guidance of master stonemason Antonio Ramirez. The new stone church was essentially complete by 1820, and its classical-inspired façade was one of the finest works of architecture in California at the time.

The church was immense at 179 feet long and 38 feet wide (its interior contained six chapels.) The main walls were made of local sandstone and the exterior had heavy buttresses for support. Two symmetrical towers adorned the façade along with classical elements such as Ionic pilasters, an entablature, and pediment. In addition to the church, the Santa Barbara Mission also consisted of housing for the priests, workshop space, storehouses, and hundreds of small adobe huts for native housing.

Throughout the early 1800s, life at the mission revolved around agricultural pursuits as well as religion. Thousands of cattle, sheep, goats, pigs, mules and horses thrived on the mission’s land. The Franciscans and converted tribes-people tended crops of wheat, barley, corn, beans, peas, oranges, and olives. As early as 1807, an impressive aqueduct system was implemented that included a dam across the nearby Pedregoso creek. Water was diverted into a large settling tank for filtration and then collected in a stonewalled reservoir 500 feet from the mission church. A fountain and a long laundry trough sprang from the reservoir by 1808. The fountain and reservoir are still intact just outside the church today.

In 1834, after Mexico achieved independence, new law dictated the secularization of the missions, including the one at Santa Barbara. For the other 20 Spanish missions, secularization led to division of land, abandonment of buildings and ultimately disrepair and severe ruin. The Santa Barbara Mission, however, managed to escape this type of neglect and decay. Although its buildings and lands were sold, the Franciscan friars were allowed to stay and occupy the mission. It soon became the Franciscan capital of California, and in 1842, California's first bishop arrived at the site to establish the seat of his diocese. By 1853, the church had founded a Franciscan missionary college, and while the other 20 missions languished in various states of abandonment, the Santa Barbara mission thrived. In 1865, President Lincoln returned the mission’s buildings and 283 acres of its land to the Catholic Church. While several of its buildings had been altered over the years, the mission church itself remained essentially the same as the day it was constructed.

The church survived remarkably intact until tragedy struck in 1925 when a violent earthquake shook southern California. The church suffered severe damage including the complete collapse of the eastern tower. Interior fixtures, furnishings and art were mangled by falling stone from the church’s own walls. Luckily, the building’s seven massive buttresses held fast, and much of the exterior remained standing. Since the church had been carefully documented, a complete restoration was possible. The entire building had been reconstructed, using mostly original stone, by 1927. The church sustained only one other major renovation project, when, in 1950, the settling of the building caused dangerous cracking in the towers. The damage required the dismantling of entire façade, including the two towers, and its reconstruction on new, solid foundations.

THE MISSION TODAY

Over 200 years after its construction, the church is still home to an active parish, as well as a working community of Franciscan friars. The current mission property now houses a retreat center and museum and displays its historic cemetery, gardens, and aqueduct system/fountain for visitors.

In addition to its nationally landmarked architecture, the mission is a major repository of historic records, art and objects from all eras of California history. The Spanish altar is original and the Stations of the Cross came from Mexico in 1797. Hundreds of other religious and secular objects, statuary, paintings, and memorabilia remain in the church’s collection. Many of these are on display within the church itself, or interpreted for visitors in the Santa Barbara Mission’s museum. Self-guided tours are available daily from 9:00am to 5:00pm and docent-led tours occur regularly on weekends. In addition, the mission’s archive-library holds thousands of historic documents pertaining to Santa Barbara’s Native, Spanish and Mexican-era history. For more information visit the archive’s website.

Plan Your Visit

Santa Barbara Mission is a National Historic Landmarks located at 2201 Laguna St. in Santa Barbara, CA. Click here for the site’s National Historic Landmark file: text and photos. The mission is open to the public daily from 9:00am to 5:00pm. Tourists are reminded that the church is still actively used as a sacred religious space and are asked to visit in a respectful manner. For more information, visit the Old Mission Santa Barbara website or call 805-682-4713.

The mission contains a museum open weekdays from 9:00am to 5:00pm for self-guided tours at a minimal fee. Special docent-led tours are offered Thursdays and Fridays at 11:00am and Saturdays at 10:30am. For more information and booking, please see the museum website or call 805-682-4713 x166.

The Santa Barbara Mission has been documented by the National Park Service Historic American Buildings Survey and is featured in the National Park Service Early History of the California Coast Travel Itinerary.

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Santa Monica Mountains Recreation Area, California

Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area covers over 153,000 acres and protects a mosaic of natural and historic resources. Established as a unit of the National Park Service in 1978, the park has continued to expand in both size and international recognition. Federal, State and local agencies and organizations work together to preserve its landscape, rare species of flora and fauna, fragile coastal ecosystems, hundreds of miles of recreational trails, and historic resources.

Now an attraction for tourists, the Santa Monica Mountains region has been the home of people of diverse cultures for thousands of years. Before Europeans arrived in what is now coastal California, American Indian tribes populated the region for more than 10,000 years, among them the Chumash and Tongva/Gabrielino cultures. The Chumash were thriving along the coast sustaining themselves with the abundant food, mineral, and aquatic resources present in the temperate environment when the Spanish arrived. The Spanish explorers encountered the Chumash in the late 1700s when they became the first Europeans to explore the region. After them came the rancheros and homesteaders.

In the 1700s, Spain controlled a strong empire in what is now Mexico and Central and South America. The Spanish King Carlos III, fearing that England and Russia would overtake the bordering lands to the north, set out to explore and colonize what the Spanish called “Alta California.” In 1774, Captain Juan Bautista de Anza was one of the first to identify a relatively safe overland route into the vast territory with the assistance of tribal guides. A year later, he convinced 300 colonists to return to the north with him to establish a presidio and mission near San Francisco Bay. The route they traveled became the one Spaniards would use over time as they continued to settle in California, changing the cultural character of the region forever.

Juan Bautista de Anza National Historic Trail traces the route the Spanish followed to explore and settle the area. The trail is over 1,200 miles long and cuts directly through and near Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area. Visitors can follow much of it by car. Many sites along the way are listed in the National Register of Historic Places. Several access points are available in the Santa Monica National Recreation Area. More information is available on the National Park Service’s Juan Bautista de Anza National Historic Trail website.

The Spanish presence continued to grow in Alta California as the Spanish Crown regularly funded missionary expeditions intended to “civilize” the native people and introduce Catholicism to tribes. The Spanish also sent the military north to forge new pathways into the territory and protect the often-isolated mission communities. Reports back to Mexico spoke of lush plains and fertile lands perfect for agriculture. Soon settlers were leaving the comfort of their homes in Mexico to pursue their fortunes in California.

Under a land-grant system, hundreds of Spanish colonists moved north in the early 1800s to establish huge ranchos. Ranchers introduced sheep, cattle, horses, wheat, oats, mustard seed, and other non-native products into California, especially in what is now the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area. The area was rich with expanses of wild grasses and fresh-water systems prized particularly for their ability to sustain large herds of livestock. When Mexico gained its independence from Spain in 1821 and Alta California became a part of the new nation, Mexican ranchers and farmers continued in the lucrative quest to farm the land. This legacy remained even as California switched national hands once more to become part of the United States in 1848.

Many landscapes that are reminders of the early Spanish and Mexican ranching eras still exist in the recreation area today for visitors to explore. The northern-most section of the area, Cheeseboro/Palo Comado Canyon Park, is a popular destination for hiking. The area, once home to the Chumash and later to Spanish settlers, is now quiet parkland where visitors can experience the landscape early explorers encountered on their travels north. The canyon is home to fresh-water springs and various species of deer, bobcats, and rabbits. Visitors can enjoy superb views from the top of Simi Peak.

Nearby, at Peter Strauss Ranch, a beautiful park commemorates the early rancho history of the Santa Monica region. Rancho Las Virgenes once occupied the land and later, an 1881 land grant by the Mexican government perpetuated the farming. The original coast live oak that marked the land grant survey stands near the park’s swimming pool with the land grant markings still visible in its ancient bark.

At the western edge of the Santa Monica Mountains is Rancho Sierra Vista, once known as Rancho El Conejo. In 1803, the King of Spain granted Rancho El Conejo to retired soldiers Jose Polanco and Ignacio Rodriquez. Over the years, the original 48,672 acre land-grant was subdivided and sold to various Mexican and later, American owners, one of whom renamed the property Rancho Sierra Vista. The land’s owners were ranchers and farmers until the National Park Service purchased it in 1980 for public parkland. The western boundary of the park still reflects the edge of the original land grant for Rancho El Conejo.

Spanish, and later, Mexican cultural practices, traditions and agricultural products altered the general character of what is now the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area. The recreation area provides a place for today’s visitors to reflect on this cultural heritage while experiencing one of America’s truly beautiful places. Hiking, biking, walking, and horse-riding trails wind through the land and are accessible from various visitor centers.

In 1980, the California State Legislature established the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy to be a partner with the National Park Service and other local organizations to help preserve the area’s natural and historic resources. The Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy and the Mountains Recreation and Conservation Authority offer educational, interpretive and conservation-based programs throughout the mountain region.
The land and its stories are diverse in this park with its tall peaks, sandy beaches along the roaring sea, gentle valleys of grass, and oak forests. Visitors interested in history, culture, archeology, and nature will all enjoy the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area.

Plan Your Visit

Santa Monica National Recreation Area is a unit of the National Park System that spans over 153,000 acres of the Santa Monica region west of Los Angeles, CA. The visitor center located at 401 West Hillcrest Dr. in Thousand Oaks, CA is open from 9:00am to 5:00pm seven days a week. Another visitor center located in the Satwina Native American Indian Culture Center in Newbury Park, CA is open from 9:00am to 5:00pm on Saturdays and Sundays only. For more information, visit the National Park Service Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area website or call 805-370-2301.

Juan Bautista National Historic Trail, which runs through the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area, is featured in this itinerary and in the National Park Service Places Reflecting America's Diverse Cultures: Explore their Stories in the National Park System Travel Itinerary.

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U.S. Court House & Post Office, Los Angeles, California

Before the U.S. Supreme Court ruled racial segregation in public institutions unconstitutional in Brown v. Board of Education, Méndez v. Westminster helped end racist policies in California’s school districts. This 1946 class-action lawsuit challenged the constitutionality of separate schools for Mexican American students in Southern California. The lawsuit threatened the “separate but equal” doctrine that supported segregation in the United States and the appeals court’s decision ended public segregation of Mexican Americans in the Ninth Circuit. The site of the trial was the U.S. District Court of Southern California, at the historic U.S. Court House & Post Office building, a National Historic Landmark, in Los Angeles.

For over 50 years after the Supreme Court ruled that “separate but equal” was constitutional in 1896, California school districts legally separated Chinese, Japanese, and American Indian children from white children. The doctrine meant that the separation of racial groups was legal as long as the facilities for each group were equal. Though Mexican Americans were “white” under the 1940 U.S. census, more than 80% of Mexican American children in Orange County, California attended segregated non-white schools by World War II. Separating Mexican American children from “whiter” children was widespread in the southwestern United States at the time. Schools segregated Mexican American children because of their Latino surnames and the presumption they had little or no English language skills.

By the 1940s, virtually all agricultural workers in California were Mexicans or Mexican Americans, and they were the largest minority group in the State. School authorities presumed Mexican American children would only need skills for low-wage labor, so the schools only taught Hispanic children vocational skills and did not offer higher-level classes. California’s Mexican American schools had inferior resources compared to white schools and only employed English-speaking teachers. In 1947, a Federal court’s decision in Méndez et al v. Westminster School District of Orange County etc al ended Mexican American primary school segregation in California and supported later civil rights struggles to end all segregation nationally.

When the children of Gonzolo Méndez tried to enroll at an Orange County, California school in 1943, the school denied them entry because of their Mexican heritage. The same day the school administrators rejected his children, they admitted Gonzolo’s niece and nephew, fair-skinned Alice and Edward Vidaurri. Administrators at the school district told the family that Mexican Americans needed their own schools because of cultural and language differences. The Méndez children enrolled at Hoover, the local Mexican American school, but Gonzolo was not satisfied. He knew “separate but equal” did not legally apply to his children and the school district was violating their rights. The Méndez family organized with four other fathers whose children faced similar discrimination. William Guzmán, Frank Palomino, Thomas Estrada, and Lorenzo Ramirez joined Gonzolo to launch the first class-action case in a Federal court in American civil rights history that would challenge primary school segregation.

As the lead defendant, Gonzolo Méndez sued four school districts and superintendants on the grounds that his children and the children of other Mexican Americans were legally white, therefore entitled to attend white schools. The Méndez lawyer filed the lawsuit at the U.S. Court for the Southern District of California, where they could argue that the State of California violated the children’s right to the Constitution’s Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment. The U.S. Constitution states that no State can “deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.” The lawyer also used social science expert witnesses to explain that segregating children threatened their self-esteem and segregated school districts invented an inferior class of citizens where one did not exist. As a result, Méndez v. Westminster was the first Federal lawsuit openly to challenge “separate but equal” segregation in K-12 schools. In Courtroom No. 8 of the historic U.S. Court House and Post Office of Los Angeles, Judge Paul J. McCormick decided in favor of Méndez.

In his 1946 decision, McCormick wrote,

“‘The equal protection of the laws’ pertaining to the public school system in California is not provided by furnishing in separate schools the same technical facilities, textbooks and courses of instruction to children of Mexican ancestry that are available to the other public school children regardless of their ancestry. A paramount requisite in the American system of public education is social equality. It must be open to all children by unified school association regardless of lineage.”

The Westminster school district appealed McCormick’s decision and the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco heard the appeal in 1947. By this time, the case had attracted national attention. If an appeal went to the U.S. Supreme Court, it had the potential to overturn public segregation throughout the nation. At the appeals level, the American Civl Liberties Union (ACLU), the National Lawyers Guild, and the Japanese American Citizens League filed a joint brief in support of Méndez. The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), American Jewish Congress, and the Attorney General of California also submitted briefs. Together, these briefs challenged the logic of all racial segregation in the United States, as well as the legality of segregating Mexican Americans in California. The Ninth Circuit Court’s decision did not overturn racial segregation in its district, but it did uphold the core of McCormick’s decision and ruled that it is unconstitutional to segregate Americans because of their heritage. Two months after the trial, California Governor Earl Warren, who later presided over Brown v. Board as Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, signed a bill that made California the first State to outlaw all public school segregation.

The national significance of Méndez v. Westminster rests on its influence on the Civil Rights movements of the 1950s and ‘60s, and its effect on the lives of Mexican Americans in the Ninth Circuit. The brief the NAACP filed for Méndez was the forerunner to the organization’s legal arguments in Brown v. Board of Education, when the U.S. Supreme Court overturned the “separate but equal” doctrine in 1954. After Méndez set the precedent, the landmark case helped strike down policies of segregating Mexican Americans in the Ninth Circuit. Mexican Americans in the Southwest took their school districts to court to challenge the legality of separate schools for their children and won. Using Méndez, district courts in Texas and Arizona ruled to end segregation for Mexican Americans before the U.S. Supreme Court decided that all state-sponsored segregation is unconstitutional in Brown.

The lawsuit that started the movement was a five-day trial held at the U.S. Court House and Post Office in Los Angeles. Built in 1940, this historic building was only five years old during Méndez v. Westminster. The building is a 17-story, Depression-era Moderne style Federal courthouse and post office. It is a steel-frame building, reinforced with concrete, with recessed windows. The exterior has a light-pink, textured ceramic veneer, and gray Minnesota granite with pink veining adorns at its base. Wide concrete steps lead from the sidewalks to the court house entrances on Spring Street and Main Street. U.S. District Courtroom No. 8, the site of the trial, is on the second floor where all District courtrooms were at the time. The high, white-plaster ceiling rises through the third floor. The walls feature five-foot-high American walnut wainscoting, with black walnut detail, with white acoustic tiles above it. Walnut paneling surrounds the double-door entry and lines the recessed area behind the judge’s bench. The bench, gallery bench, jury seating, press seating, and lecterns also feature a walnut veneer. The U.S. General Services Administration made few major alterations to the building after its construction and has made minimal changes to Courtroom No. 8 since 1945, apart from replacing ceiling lights, flooring, and minor aspects of the courtroom furniture.

In 1966, the U.S. Court for the Southern District of California moved to San Diego and the Court for the Central District of California (western division) moved into the Los Angeles U.S. Court House & Post Office Federal building.

The legacy of Méndez v. Westminster is the precedent it set for future cases, its impact on the lives of the people oppressed by segregation, and the inspiration it gave to later civil rights struggles. Overshadowed by Brown v. Board for decades, a resurgence of public recognition of the case in the early 21st century rightly called attention to its significance. PBS aired a documentary, Mendez vs. Westminster: For All the Children/Para Todos los Niño', in 2003. The U.S. Postal Service released a stamp in 2007 to commemorate the landmark case. Once turned away from her Orange County school in 1943, Sylvia Méndez, in 2011, received the Presidential Medal of Freedom for her role in the ongoing struggle for freedom and justice in the United States.

Plan Your Visit

The U.S. Court House and Post Office is a National Historic Landmark located at 312 N. Spring St. in Los Angeles, CA. The Spring Street Courthouse is open daily from 10:00am to 4:00pm, except on Federal holidays. For more information about the building, visit the General Services Administration website or call 213-894-3253. For information about visiting the courthouse, go to the U. S. District Court for the Central District of California website or call 213-894-1565.

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U.S. Immigration Station, Angel Island, San Francisco Bay, California

Located near Alcatraz Island and the Golden Gate Bridge, Angel Island is the largest island in San Francisco Bay. The 740-acre island, which offers expansive views of the San Francisco skyline, the Marin County Headlands, and Mount Tamalpais, is alive with history. American Indians, Spanish explorers, Russian sea otter hunters, British sailors, a Mexican rancher, and United States military and customs officials have all made use of the island. Today, visitors to Angel Island State Park can explore the diverse human history of this island, while enjoying its natural resources.

Beginning nearly 3,000 years ago, the Coastal Miwok Indians used the island for fishing and hunting. The Miwoks reached the island using boats made from tule reeds. Once on the island, the Miwoks established temporary camps at places now known as Ayala Cove, Camp Reynolds, Fort McDowell, and the Immigration Station. They hunted deer, seals, sea lions, and ducks and fished for salmon. They also collected shellfish, acorns, buckeyes, root vegetables, and other plants. The tribe used the plants for medicinal and other purposes such as toothpaste and substances similar to chewing tobacco. By the early 1800s, the Miwok Indians likely no longer utilized the island because the Spanish drew them to Mission San Francisco de Asís (Mission Dolores in San Francisco), or they were driven from the region.

The island came under Spanish rule in 1775 when Lt. Juan Manuel de Ayala, a Spanish naval officer, sailed the San Carlos into the San Francisco Bay and dropped his anchor in what is now Ayala Cove. One of the first Spanish expeditions to sail directly into the San Francisco Bay, this expedition was to develop an accurate chart and description of the area that future Spanish sailors could rely upon. Ayala’s pilot, Don Jose de Canizares, and his crew explored the area for 40 days and produced the first maps made of the San Francisco Bay. They named the island Isla de Los Angeles, which followed the common practice among Catholic explorers of naming a site based on the religious feast days nearest the time of discovery.

Following the Spanish discovery of the island, the Russians and British briefly utilized the island. Russian sea otter hunting expeditions visited the island and established a storehouse there in 1808; while in 1814, the British anchored in Ayala Cove to make repairs to their 26-gun sloop-of-war, the H.M.S. Raccoon. Damaged off the coast of Oregon, the H.M.S. Raccoon managed to make its way into the San Francisco Bay. The British repaired the ship during March and April of that year, and this brief moment in history gave the deep-water channel between Tiburon and Angel Island its name, Raccoon Strait, in honor of this old British sailing ship.

By 1837, during Mexico’s rule of California (1821-1848), a Californio man (California-born Mexican), Antonio Maria Osio, asked the governor of California to grant him Angel Island to use as a ranch. Osio had previously worked in Los Angeles as a town councilman, in San Francisco as a customs official, and in Monterey as a collector of customs and a judge in the Tribunal Superior Court. Governor Alvarado approved Osio’s grant in 1839, with the provision set forth by General Vallejo, the military commander of the frontier north of San Francisco, that part of the island be set aside for use as a fort. Upon receiving the grant, Osio quickly established his ranch.

Osio raised cattle on Angel Island and sold beef in San Francisco. He stocked the island with 54 horned cattle in 1839, and by 1846, he had up to 500 heads. Although Osio himself never lived on Angel Island, he built four houses there for his herders and other attendants to use. He also constructed a dam and a reservoir to provide water for the cattle. Throughout other parts of the island, Osio cultivated corns, beans, potatoes, pumpkins, and other vegetables. The success of his first ranch and the generous land grant policy of Governor Alvarado and his successor Manuel Micheltorena permitted Osio to expand his landholdings from the original land grant of 740 acres for Angel Island to over 50,000 acres in land grants throughout the San Francisco/Monterey area. In five short years, Osio had become one of the largest landholders in Alta California.

Osio’s life changed drastically in 1846, when the Bear Flag revolt erupted, followed by the Mexican-American War. Warned by the U.S. vice-consul that he was in danger of being arrested, Osio fled with his family south and then to Hawaii. During the war, the U.S. Navy occupied Angel Island and decimated Osio’s entire herd of cattle. At the end of the war in 1848, California became part of the United States. Osio returned to California in 1849, only to face major land disputes for the next 11 years.

Beginning in 1849, the United States government challenged Osio’s claim to Angel Island. In 1860, after years of legal battles, the government ultimately decided that Osio’s claim to the land was invalid. The government argued that even though Governor Alvarado had issued him the original land grant, it did not have the approval of the Departmental Assembly, the seven-man body that along with the governor ruled Alta California before 1846, and therefore Osio’s grant was void. Angel Island had a new owner, the United States government. Osio lived the rest of his life in Baja California, where he died at the age of 78 in 1878, outliving at least nine of his seventeen children.

When ownership of Angel Island shifted to the United States government, it became the home to several Federal facilities. In 1850, President Fillmore declared Angel Island a military reserve. During the Civil War, Camp Reynolds, later called West Garrison, on Angel Island was fortified with cannons to defend San Francisco Bay from potential attacks by Confederate ships. After the Civil War, Camp Reynolds became an infantry camp, serving as a training base for U.S. soldiers serving in campaigns against the Apache, Sioux, Modoc, and other American Indian tribes. Also on the island is Fort McDowell, later called East Garrison. Constructed beginning in 1899, Fort McDowell served as a very important military base and point of embarkation – handling the transfer, induction, detainment, and discharge of thousands of men during the Spanish-American War, World War I, and World War II.

In 1905, the War Department transferred 20 acres of land on the island to the Department of Commerce and Labor for the establishment of an immigration station at China Cove, also called Winslow Cove and the North Garrison. As the major west coast immigration center between 1910 and 1940, the Angel Island Immigration Station processed a majority of the Asian immigrants seeking new lives in the United States. The Angel Island Immigration Station detained an estimated 175,000 Chinese and 60,000 Japanese immigrants under adverse and oppressive conditions while they awaited permission to enter the United States and to begin their new lives.

The immigration station relocated to San Francisco when a fire destroyed the Angel Island Immigration Station’s administration building in August 1940. The Angel Island Immigration Station reverted to military use in February 1941. During 1942 and 1946, the immigration station’s rehabilitated barracks and hospital held Japanese and German prisoners of war and members of the Italian Service Units. A National Historical Landmark, Angel Island’s U.S. Immigration Station is open for guided and self-guided tours from Wednesday through Sunday.

In July 1946, after serving the military for a variety of purposes, the Army declared Angel Island surplus and eventually transferred ownership to the State of California for park, recreational, and historical purposes. Today, visitors to Angel Island State Park can explore the history of Angel Island by taking various trails and roads. Guided segway and tram tours, as well as interpretive signage, enhance visitors’ experience of this historically diverse island.

Plan Your Visit
Angel Island is located in the San Francisco Bay, CA and accessible by ferry from San Francisco or Tiburon. The U.S. Immigration Station, Angel Island is a
National Historic Landmark. Click here to view the National Historic Landmark file: text and photos. Angel Island State Park is open from 8:00 am until sunset. Tram and segway tours of the island are available from the Angel Island Company. For more information, visit the California State Park’s Angel Island website, the Angel Island Immigration Station Foundation website, or call 415- 435-5390.

The U.S. Immigration Station, Angel Island is featured in the National Park Service World War II in the San Francisco Bay Area Travel Itinerary. The U.S. Immigration Station, Angel Island has been documented by the National Park Service’s Historic American Buildings Survey.

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Raton Pass, Colorado and New Mexico

When Spain controlled what is now the southwestern United States, the Spanish officially banned international trade of all kinds. After Mexico gained its independence from Spain in 1821, the Mexicans lifted the ban and opened the area to both commercial and cultural exchange. The Santa Fe Trail, which spanned 1,200 miles from Franklin, Missouri to Santa Fe, New Mexico passing through deserts, mountains and forests along its route, became the main means of transportation to and from the area.

Raton Pass, at the border of present day New Mexico and Colorado, was one of the most important, yet treacherous, segments of the Mountain Branch of the Santa Fe Trail. The pass cut through the snow-capped Sangre de Cristo Mountains, allowing wagons access to the vast western territory. Shorter routes were eventually developed, but Raton Pass, which crossed easier terrain, remained in use. The pass played a critical role in General Stephen Watts Kearny’s conquest of Santa Fe and the eventual American annexation of New Mexico in 1846.

As the first major passage west through the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, the Raton Pass National Historic Landmark celebrates the development of American trade, cultural interaction, and westward expansion.

When Mexico opened its borders to trade with the United States in 1821, a great commercial, military and emigrant trail was born. The Sangre de Cristo Mountains, however, loomed huge and daunting between the western edge of the United States in Missouri and the bustling Mexican center of commerce, Santa Fe. Early explorers, trappers, and American Indian peoples had previously discovered various paths through the treacherous mountains, but before 1821, no covered wagons had made the journey.

In June of 1821, William Becknell, a horse and mule trader, traveled west from Franklin, Missouri with a wagon and four companions. He would be the first of many to travel via wagon through the narrow, torturous Raton Pass. The path was narrow, steep, and rocky. Some areas of the pass were so tight that only one wagon could go through at a time. Often their wooden axles shredded and snapped on the brutally rough terrain. Still, Becknell proved that it was possible, and many others followed, risking their equipment and lives along the craggy trail for the promise of trading success in Santa Fe.

Soon, however, a new branch of the Santa Fe Trail developed. The so-called “Cimarron Route” was not only 100 miles shorter, but cut across the relatively flat grasslands and deserts of present-day Kansas and Oklahoma instead of through Colorado’s peaks. Although the openness of the Cimarron Route led to frequent raids from American Indian tribes (and the dry desert presented issues of its own), the dangers of the shorter path were still preferable to travel over the difficult Raton Pass. Between the 1820s and early 1840s, most of the wagon traffic along the Santa Fe Trail opted to take the Cimarron Route.

The Mountain Route and its famously dangerous Raton Pass may very well have been abandoned completely, but in 1846, the pass again played a significant historic role. Tensions were running high between the United States and Mexico over land disputes in Texas, a territory that included what is now the State of New Mexico. Both countries lay claim to the land and Mexico disputed the decision of the United States to annex Texas in 1845. President James Polk declared war on Mexico in 1846 and sent American forces into the territory. General Stephen Watts Kearny set out with his famed 1,600-man “Army of the West” along the Santa Fe Trail.

Although the Mountain Branch and the Raton Pass were known for being dangerous, Kearny specifically chose to head west through the mountains, rather than take the Cimarron Route. The steep, narrow Raton Pass afforded better protection from invading forces and an ample water supply, unlike the dry desert along much of the Cimarron Route. Before Kearny and his men arrived, a team of workers set out along the trail to try to make passage easier including clearing rocks and debris from the notorious Raton Pass. In spite of their efforts, Kearny’s journey was still fraught with difficulty. Many wagons were destroyed and supplies had to be left behind.

Weakened, the men emerged from the Raton Pass and expected to meet resistance from Mexican forces that the provincial governor Manuel Armijo sent. They instead found the valley abandoned. Kearny’s takeover of Santa Fe thus was swift. Without a struggle, the United States laid claim to the territory.

The Mountain Branch was again mostly abandoned after its use by Kearny’s army, because traders and travelers still preferred the shorter, easier route. The Raton Pass saw use once again, however, with the outbreak of the Civil War in 1860. The vulnerability of the Cimarron Branch was recognized as concerns heightened around Confederate raids. The Santa Fe Trail saw heavy use as a Union Army supply route west, and the narrow, protected Raton Pass was easy to guard. The pass continued to serve Union troops through 1865.

At the war’s end, Raton Pass became part of a toll road for several years that entrepreneur Richens L. Wootton built and managed. Beginning in 1866, the most treacherous part of the Santa Fe Trail was heavily altered by grading, blasting, bridge building, and clearing. The formerly difficult Raton Pass was made passable in all seasons for horses, wagons and stagecoaches alike. While Wootton’s toll road was highly profitable, the advancing western railroad system soon overtook it. By the late 1870s, train traffic replaced Raton Pass and the Santa Fe Trail as a whole, which led to the abandonment of the epic trade route by 1880.

The railroad that once scaled the pass via a series of switchbacks has since been re-routed beneath the mountain by way of a tunnel. Much of the rest of the rail line still follows the old route of the Santa Fe Trail through Raton Pass and along Raton Creek. Though much of the trail has been wiped out by new highway construction, distinct original segments remain.

The 7,881-foot summit is accessible via I-25 and a New Mexico Welcome Center allows visitors to step out of their vehicles to see the incredible view, once only afforded to travelers of the Santa Fe Trail. An informative historic marker for Raton Pass interprets the landmark both at the center and on the Colorado side of the State border. Public access to the land, however, is restricted, as the wilderness is privately owned. The nearby city of Raton celebrates its trail heritage and the Raton Museum interprets the area’s past for curious visitors.

The Santa Fe Trail, as a whole, is a recognized American treasure. The entire 1,200-mile route is a National Historic Trail. Much of it can be traveled by car along the Santa Fe Trail Scenic & Historic Byway, a road-route that follows the path of the original trail.

Plan Your Visit

Raton Pass is a National Historic Landmark and is located along the Santa Fe National Historic Trail, a unit of the National Park Service. Raton Pass is located five miles north of Raton, NM and is accessible by car via Route I-25.

The Raton Museum is located at 108 2nd Street, Raton, NM. In winter, the museum is open Wednesday through Saturday, 10:00am to 1:00pm. Summer hours are Tuesday through Sunday, 9:00am to 5:00pm. Admission is free at all times. For more information, visit the Raton Museum website or call 575-445-8979.

The Raton Pass National Historic Landmark is the subject of an online lesson plan, Glorieta and Raton Passes: Gateways to the Southwest. The lesson has been produced by the National Park Service’s Teaching with Historic Places program, which offers a series of online classroom-ready lesson plans on registered historic places. The Santa Fe Trail is featured in the National Park Service’s Places Reflecting America's Diverse Cultures: Explore their Stories in the National Park System Travel Itinerary and many additional sites along the Santa Fe Trail are featured in the American Southwest Travel Itinerary.

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Sangre de Cristo National Heritage Area, Colorado

Sangre de Cristo National Heritage Area encompasses more than 3,000 square miles of south-central Colorado spanning Conejos, Costilla and Alamosa counties. The area lies within the San Luis Valley and is a treasure trove of impressive historic, cultural and natural resources. Sangre de Cristo’s heritage resources reflect the convergence of the area’s cultural past; one in which the stories of American Indians, Latinos, Mormons, Amish, Japanese-Americans, Dutch and Anglo are represented. In 1694, Spaniard Don Diego de Vargas became the first European known to have entered the San Luis Valley, though herders and hunters from the Spanish colonies in present-day New Mexico probably entered the valley as early as 1598. Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar, has noted that “The cultural and historic value of the Sangre de Cristo National Heritage Area to Colorado and our nation is immeasurable.” This national recognition includes the whole landscape and involves government agencies, private organizations, businesses, and individuals in conserving and interpreting the importance of the region.

Visitors to the heritage area can experience history in San Luis, the oldest town in Colorado (established 1851); impressive natural splendor at the Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve; and a diverse built environment that includes over 20 historic properties listed in the National Register of Historic Places.

Early American Indian Tribes and the Fertile Desert Valley

The San Luis Valley saw its first settlers almost 12,000 years ago. The Utes, the oldest continuous residents of what is now the State of Colorado, were referred to as the “Blue Sky People” by visiting tribesmen from the eastern plains due to the startling, intense clarity of the sky. By 1400 A.D., other American Indian tribes joined the Utes in the San Luis Valley region: Apache and Navajo from the North, Tiwa and Tewa people from the south, and Comanche, Kiowa, Cheyenne and Arapaho from the eastern plains. Although the 8,000 square-mile valley is an alpine desert with stark expanses and North America’s tallest sand dunes (some as high as 750 feet), two enormous aquifers lie beneath its dry surface. These supply water to a series of fresh-water lakes and rivers, including the beginnings of the Rio Grande, the continent’s third-longest river system. The availability of this water in the San Luis Valley made the area a highly valued seasonal hunting ground for early tribes as the warm season brought the area to life with a rich diversity of flora and fauna.

Today, the Sangre de Cristo Heritage Area showcases and preserves the natural beauty of the valley as well as petroglyphs and pictographs, which narrate the stories of some of the region’s earliest known residents. The area boasts the
Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve, three national wildlife refuges, a national forest (and two forest wilderness areas), 15 State wildlife areas and a Nature Conservancy preserve, the Medano-Zapata Ranch. The working bison ranch features a National Register listed main headquarters and guesthouse with both private and corporate accommodations. A stay might include horseback rides to the nearby dunes, white-water rafting on the Arkansas River or fly fishing in the Rio Grande.

Latino Culture: Spanish and Mexican Influence at Sangre de Cristo

In 1694, Don Diego de Vargas became the first European known to have entered the San Luis Valley, though herders and hunters from the Spanish colonies in present-day New Mexico probably entered the valley as early as 1598. In 1776, Juan Bautista de Anza II and a huge entourage of men and livestock probably traveled near the dunes as they returned from a punitive raid against a group of Comanche. Passes in the Sangre de Cristo and San Juan Mountains that border the valley provided routes between the High Plains and Santa Fe for the Comanche, Ute, and Spanish soldiers venturing into the area from the south.

Spain and the United States disputed claim to the valley in the early 1800s, but settlers began spreading northward from Spanish-occupied territories regardless. Some eventually received Mexican land grants in the mid-19th century such as the Sangre de Cristo Land Grant and Guadalupe Land Grant, which gave new arrivals space to raise herds and grow crops in the region. Descendants of these settlers still live in the San Luis Valley today.

Because the valley is somewhat geographically isolated, many early Hispano cultural traditions and practices still endure in the Sangre de Cristo Heritage Area. Hispano art, language, architecture, and authentic cuisine characterize the region. Established in 1851, San Luis in Costilla County is the oldest town in Colorado. Its town center, the Plaza de San Luis de la Culebra, is a nationally registered historic district. The district includes low-scale traditional adobe buildings in the early Spanish style, most of which have been in continual use since their construction in the early 1860s. More elaborate buildings from the 1880s also help explain the architectural evolution of the town including the Spanish-inspired Church of the Most Precious Blood and its convent. Built in 1886 by Father Francisco Garcia, the church was a place of worship and learning as well as refuge for early settlers. Its nearby convent eventually became the first San Luis high school.

The historic district is also home to the State’s first water right, the San Luis People’s Ditch, and the Vega, a large public grassland, given to the town in 1863 for the pasturing of livestock. The town retains much of its overall historic integrity, and residents have continued to construct buildings using traditional forms and methods. The San Luis Museum and Cultural Center helps celebrate and interpret these cultural and artistic traditions for visitors.

Just outside San Luis sits Fort Garland. This National Register listed fort was built in 1858 on land from the Sangre de Cristo Land Grant and was under the command of legendary frontiersman, Kit Carson from 1866 to 1867. The Fort Garland Museum offers tours, events and educational programming. Visitors to the fort may also enjoy a trip west to Conejos County, home of Pike’s Stockade where American explorer Zebulon Pike camped with his men in the early 1800s. The stockade is a reconstruction of the original based on Pike’s journal and is a National Historic Landmark.

To the south of the stockade, in Antonito, CO, the Sociedad Proteccion Mutua De Trabajadores Unidos (Society for the Mutual Protection of United Workers or SPMDTU) is also a preserved National Register listed property. This mutual aid society was founded in 1900 to help combat racial intolerance and protect Mexican property rights during the contentious time following the United States’ annexation of the Mexican Territory in 1848. One mile north of Antonito, in the town of Conejos, visitors can see Our Lady of Guadalupe Catholic Church, seat of Colorado’s oldest parish, first established in 1856 (though the current building dates from the 1920s).

Mountains of Silver: The Impact of the Railroad and Mining Industry

By the mid 1870s, Colorado was a State and had extensive silver mines within its borders. The San Juan Mountains, which rise from the southwestern arm of the Sangre de Cristo Heritage Area, were especially rich with ore. As American Indian peoples were being forcibly removed from the region, prospectors from the East flooded the mineral-rich area. The trans-continental railroad had recently been completed and various branches of rail continued to spread rapidly across the western States as the mining industry boomed. The narrow-gauge Denver and Rio Grande Railway constructed its San Juan Extension in 1880, which serviced the region within the Sangre de Cristo Heritage Area.

The introduction of the mining industry and the loss of native tribal peoples changed the cultural climate yet again as immigrants from various backgrounds moved to the San Luis Valley with dreams of getting rich. The diverse group of prospectors and settlers brought new ideas about farming practice, architectural style, and engineering; all of which affected the landscape.

Today, several branches of the Denver and Rio Grande Railroad, as well as the railroad depot in Alamosa County, are listed in the National Register of Historic Places. The Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad, once part of the original San Juan Extension, still runs during the summer season between Antonio, Colorado and Chama, New Mexico, passing through the Sangre de Cristo Heritage Area en route. The original trains, tracks and trestles are on the National Register of Historic Places and are a popular tourist destination. Visitors can board restored passenger cars in either Antonio or Chama and experience the journey through some of the valley’s most beautiful and historic scenery. Expansive views from the 10,015-foot Cumbres Pass (the highest mountain pass reached by rail in the United States) include aspen forests, alpine meadows and vast mountain vistas. Many of the railroad’s original structures still remain along the route as well, including the historic Cumbres Section House, Cascade Trestle, Mud Tunnel (still supported entirely by wooden beams), and Phantom Curve. Tickets can be purchased online or by calling 1-888-286-2737.

Plan Your Visit

Sangre de Cristo National Heritage Area (SdCNHA) is located in south-central CO in Conejos, Costilla and Alamosa Counties, along the northern New Mexico border and is easily accessible from both the north and south on Interstate 25. For a map of the area and its cultural resources, click here. A number of heritage organizations assist visitors in further trip planning including the National Park Service, Sangre de Cristo Heritage Area Association, History Colorado, San Luis Valley Heritage and San Luis Valley Museum Association. A comprehensive pamphlet about the heritage area created in partnership with the National Park Service can also be viewed here. For more information about National Heritage Areas, visit the National Park Service National Heritage Areas website. Visit the National Park Service Great Sand Dunes National Park and Preserve website for information on how to visit the park.

Two passes in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains are the subject of an online lesson plan, Glorieta and Raton Passes: Gateways to the Southwest. The lesson plan has been produced by the National Park Service’s Teaching with Historic Places program, which offers a series of online classroom-ready lesson plans on registered historic places. To learn more, visit the Teaching with Historic Places homepage. Sangre de Cristo National Heritage Area is also featured in the National Park Service Places Reflecting America's Diverse Cultures: Explore their Stories in the National Park System Travel Itinerary.

A number of sites throughout the heritage area are listed in the National Register of Historic Places, including many of the sites described above. Click here for the digitized National Register of Historic Places file for Pike's Stockade: text and photos.

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Trujillo Homesteads, Hooper, Colorado  

In the mid-19th century, northward migration of Hispano Americans in the Colorado Territory met the westward expansion of Anglo Americans. After the United States annexed Mexico’s northern territories in 1848, the new American citizens of the Southwest moved north and east. One of these Hispano Americans was Teofilo Trujillo, who settled with his wife in the San Luis Valley west of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains in 1865. The Trujillo Homesteads is a National Historic Landmark that recognizes the importance of the family’s two Colorado ranches as illustrations of the settlement history and influences of Hispano culture in the United States. The Trujillo Homesteads reflect and contribute to our understanding of the experiences of Hispano American settlers on the American frontier. The Homesteads also tell the story of the differences between Hispano and Anglo approaches to ranching in the 19th century and the tensions these cultural differences caused. The Trujillo Homesteads today are part of the Zapata Ranch, which the Nature Conservancy owns. They are located within the Sangre de Cristo National Heritage Area, which is also featured in this itinerary.

Hispano American settlers migrated to Colorado’s San Luis Valley in the 1850s and began to form agricultural communities there as the United States military suppressed the American Indian threat to these settlers. The Northern Ute Indians dominated the valley until the 1860s, and Navajo, Jicarilla Apache, and Plains Indian tribes also traveled and hunted in the region. During the early decades of Hispano settlement, the American military presence in the San Luis Valley region discouraged conflict between settlers and Indian groups, which allowed Americans to move in and permanently settle the land. To protect the Americans’ claims to the land, the United States established a permanent outpost in the valley in 1856, first at Fort Massachusetts and then at Fort Garland. The majority of the valley’s early settlers from New Mexico lived and worked land communally, and they supplied Fort Garland with cattle, grains, and produce. These settlers lived in adobe homes built around common plazas, cultivated common land, and shared water resources. The Trujillos, who moved to San Luis Valley in 1865, broke from this settlement pattern by founding an independent ranch away from other settlements becoming among the first permanent settlers to claim land and ranch on what had been the domain of American Indians.

Teofilo Trujillo was born in Rio Arriba County, New Mexico, in 1842, when New Mexico was still a Mexican territory. The Trujillos became American citizens in 1848, after the United States acquired New Mexico at the end of the Mexican-American War. Pedro Antonio Trujillo, Teofilo’s father, was a farmer and owned land worth $300 in 1850, which Teofilo likely helped cultivate. After his father passed away in 1863, Teofilo left New Mexico to settle in the Colorado Territory. He married Andrellito Lucero, whose parents were La Culebra settlers, while living in San Pablo in 1864, and the following year the couple established their ranch at Medano Springs in the San Luis Valley. The Trujillos had six children at their adobe house on the ranch, but only their firstborn son, Pedro Trujillo, lived to adulthood. Pedro established his own household at the second ranch in the Trujillo Homesteads when he married Sofia Martinez in 1885.

The Trujillos astutely took advantage of U.S. land initiatives that encouraged settlement in the western territories. Though Teofilo never learned to speak English, he and his son built successful, independent American sheep and cattle ranches on public domain land. They acquired the land through the 1841 Preemption Law, the 1862 Homestead Act, and the Desert Land Law of 1877. By the time the Trujillos sold their homesteads, the ranches together had nearly 1,500 acres.

The Trujillos developed a system of irrigation ditches to provide water to their fields and livestock. Everyone at the Trujillo Homesteads labored to support the ranches. Teofilo and Pedro raised cattle stock, milk cows, sheep, horses, and goats. In addition to produce for their own tables, they grew tobacco and wheat crops. While the Trujillo men worked in the fields and with traders, the Trujillo women prepared food, kept their houses clean and stable, spun wool and made clothes, watched young children, and cared for the sick or injured household members. The elder Trujillos constructed a substantial adobe house and other structures adhering to Hispano traditions but adapting American Indian and later Anglo ways as well.

In the 1880s and ‘90s, Anglo and Hispano ranchers clashed over the use of public ranges in the San Luis Valley. The Hispano ranchers, like Teofilo Trujillo, generally raised sheep and the Anglo ranchers raised cattle. The cattle ranchers believed sheep grazing destroyed the grasses preferred by cows and, when the sheep population increased in the valley, tensions grew between the different livestock-producing groups. Teofilo owned one of the largest sheep herds in the valley and was the target of the cattle ranchers’ intimidation. His son tried to persuade him to give up sheep and return to raising cattle, as Teofilo did in his ranch’s early years.

Pedro Trujillo was of the first generation of Latino Americans born in the United States after the Treaty of Guadalupe-Hidalgo, which transferred Mexican land to the United States. Pedro adopted Anglo culture in ways his Hispano father did not. Unlike his father, Pedro lived in a log house and he could speak, read, and write in English. More importantly, Teofilo kept sheep and Pedro kept cattle. In January 1902, four men raided Teofilo’s ranch and killed or dispersed a number of his sheep to intimidate him. During the trial of the alleged raiders, when the Trujillo family was away from the ranch, cattle supporters returned to Teofilo’s homestead and set the ranch buildings on fire. The adobe ranch house burned to the ground, taking the family’s possessions and $8,000 cash with it.

The range war ultimately drove the Trujillos to sell their homesteads together for $30,000 in 1902 to the bordering Medano Ranch, which is now part of the Zapata Ranch. Teofilo and Andrellita moved to a new ranch in the San Luis Valley, where they continued to raise sheep. Though Pedro raised cattle, his connection to sheep herders threatened his ranch’s safety and he sold his land along with his parents’ ranch. Pedro and Sofia moved northwest, to the Sargents, Colorado area where they established a 400-acre ranch and Pedro served as deputy sheriff. Their descendents still live in the San Luis Valley.

Today, 35.2 acres of the original Trujillo ranches (1865-1902) are part of the Trujillo Homesteads National Historic Landmark. There are no known 19th century sketches or photographs of the historic Homesteads, and only eye-witness accounts and archeological evidence help reveal what the Homesteads looked like during the Trujillo era. Two unattached areas make up the historic Homesteads property, which are the two ranch headquarters of the Trujillo family ranches.

The Teofilo and Andrellita Trujillo Homestead area includes the site of the large adobe ranch house and other archeological remains. Prior to the 1902 fire, the adobe ranch house was impressive, and had stained-glass windows and oriental rugs, according to accounts. There are no extant buildings or structures at this site today but a number of archeological remains are still onsite. The second area is the Pedro and Sofia Trujillo Homestead, which contains the historic ranch house, horse stable, and corral. The ranch house, built in 1879, is a two-story log and adobe daub house with a single-story rear projection. The historic stable is an unaltered rectangular, log and daub structure. The Trujillos built the northern portion of the corral by 1885 and later owners added the southern portion sometime after 1937. The corral measures 206’ x 200’ and has six holding pens.

The Trujillo Homesteads of the Zapata Ranch, owned by the Nature Conservancy since 1999, are partially located in the bounds of both the Great Sands Dunes National Park and Preserve and the Baca National Wildlife Refuge. Bison roam this rural, isolated region. The San Luis Valley Museum is located in Alamosa, Colorado, and visitors can also learn more about the region’s Hispano heritage at the San Luis Valley’s public parks and other cultural centers. The Zapata Ranch offers guests lodging and a chance to experience life on a contemporary bison ranch, and welcomes visitors interested in the historic Trujillo Homesteads.

Plan Your Visit

The Trujillo Homesteads is located inside the Nature Conservancy’s Zapata Ranch in Hooper, Colorado. Click here for the Pedro Trujillo Homestead’s National Historic Landmark file. For more information, visit the Zapata Ranch website or call 719-378-2356.

Trujillo Homesteads is featured in the National Park Service Celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month online publication. New Mexican ranches of the 19th century are the subject of an online lesson plan, The Hispano Ranchos of Northern New Mexico: Continuity and Change. This lesson plan has been produced by the National Park Service’s Teaching with Historic Places program, which offers a series of online classroom-ready lesson plans on registered historic places. To learn more, visit the Teaching with Historic Places home page.

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National Mall and Memorial Parks, Washington, DC

Located in Washington, DC, the National Mall and Memorial Parks (NAMA) protects and administers some of the oldest parkland in the National Park System. Its many monuments, memorials, and buildings are tangible reminders of the commitment of the United States to freedom and equality within its own borders and around the world. While many of these sites recognize the legacies of presidents, Civil Rights leaders, and other influential figures in the American story, others commemorate the contributions of Latino leaders who brought freedom and change throughout the Americas and played important roles in the history of the United States.

Between 1808 and 1826, Hispanic liberators fought against the Spanish Empire in a series of military engagements, known collectively as the Wars of Independence, to establish independent nations throughout the Americas. The success of the American colonists in defeating the British during the American Revolutionary War influenced these liberators as they sought to establish republic ideals throughout the Americas and to gain independence from Spain. Through the Wars of Independence, Hispanic liberators successfully freed most of the Spanish colonies in the Western Hemisphere, except Cuba and Puerto Rico.

Statues in the National Mall and Memorial Parks honor Hispanic liberators José Gervasio Artigas, Simón Bolívar, José de San Martín, Bernardo de Gálvez, and Benito Juarez. These statues were gifts from Argentina, Mexico, Spain, Uruguay, and Venezuela to the United States. Additional historic places in Washington, DC that recognize the contributions of other Hispanic leaders to the history of the United States include Farragut Square, the Organization of American States Building, and the Columbus Memorial Fountain.

A walking tour along Virginia Avenue, NW, from Constitution Avenue, NW to New Hampshire Avenue, is the best way to see these sites. The National Mall and Memorial Parks’ “Statues of the Liberators, Hispanic Heroes Walking Tour” is available as a printed brochure that can be downloaded
here. Visitors are encouraged to follow the tour with an audio narrative by calling 202-595-1730. After viewing what there is to see along Virginia Avenue, NW visitors can head to Farragut Square and the Columbus Memorial Fountain to see additional places that commemorate Hispanic leaders.

Walking Tour:
A good place to begin a walking tour is at the Organization of American States (OAS) Building, located at 17th Street and Constitution Avenue, NW. This building, which is listed in the National Register of Historic Places, was constructed to house the Pan American Union (later renamed the Organization of American States). The Pan American Union was established to strengthen relationships between the nations of the Americas, to support democracies, and to resolve international issues peacefully. Using Georgian, Tennessee, and Italian marble, architects blended North and South American architectural styles to construct the building in 1908. The area near the OAS building became a central location for the placement of statues and memorials commemorating Hispanic liberators.

Leaving the OAS Building, walk to the bronze José Artigas Statue at 18th Street and Constitution Avenue, NW. The Republic of Uruguay gave this statue to the United States in 1950. José Artigas (1764-1850), often referred to as the father of Uruguayan independence, was born in Montevideo on June 19, 1764. Artigas was a gaucho (cowboy) for many years and served in the Corps of Blandengues, a unit of the Spanish military that resisted the British invasion of the Río de la Plata region.

By 1810, Artigas decided to offer his support and military skills to the junta in Buenos Aires - a newly established military run government that wanted to free the region from Spanish control. To support the cause, Artigas commanded a small army of gauchos and volunteers. Artigas and this small army defeated the Spanish at Las Piedras, and they besieged Montevideo for a brief time.

As the Buenos Aires government gained control of the area from Spain, it attempted to assert centralized economic and political control over the entire region. Artigas disagreed with this action, because he thought that each area within the region should be politically and economically autonomous. Consequently, Artigas broke from Buenos Aires by 1813.
Abandoning his allegiance to the Buenos Aires junta, Artigas then became the leader of independence for Uruguay and retreated to an interior part of the country where he proclaimed himself “Protector of Free Peoples.” In 1820, Artigas unsuccessfully fought Brazil’s annexation of Uruguay, and he was forced to live in exile in Paraguay. In 1825, Uruguay finally attained independence – a triumph due in part to the initial efforts of Jose Artigas.

From the José Artigas Statue, continue northwest along Virginia Avenue, NW, to the Equestrian of Simón Bolívar Statue located at 18th and C Streets. Venezuela presented this 27-foot bronze equestrian statue to the United States in 1959. Known as The Great Liberator and as a revolutionary genius, Venezuelan Simón Bolívar (1783-1830) fought in more than 200 battles against the Spanish in the fight for South American independence. Bolívar provided the political and military leadership for freeing Bolivia, Colombia (then including Panama), Ecuador, Peru, and Venezuela from the Spanish empire. Water fountains that adjoin the Bolivar statue represent these nations.

Leaving the Equestrian of Simón Bolívar Statue, continue northwest on Virginia Avenue for about two and half blocks to the General José de San Martín Memorial at 20th Street and Virginia Avenue, NW. Argentinean citizens gave this equestrian monument to the United States in 1925, and the bronze plaque on the back of the sculpture associates San Martín to George Washington because they shared desires for democracy, justice, and liberty. Like Simón Bolívar, José de San Martín (1778-1850) was one of the fathers of South American independence and sought the creation of an alliance of nations in South America.

Born into an aristocratic family in Argentina, San Martín received his education as a boy in Spain. He then pursued a career in the Spanish Army and even fought against Napoleon. He became interested in a new cause when Argentina declared its independence from Spain and immediately requested to be relieved of his command to return to South America. Once in South America, Martín offered his services in the Argentinean, Chilean, and Peruvian struggles for freedom. He even led a dangerous 24-day march through the Andes to overcome the Spanish for the liberation of Chile.

Leaving the General José de San Martín Memorial, continue northwest on Virginia Avenue about two and a half blocks to the Bernardo de Gálvez Statue at 20th Street and Virginia Avenue, NW. King Juan Carlos of Spain made a gift of this equestrian statue to the United States in 1976 in honor of the United States’ bicentennial. Bernardo de Gálvez (1746-1786) was the governor of the Spanish province of Louisiana during the American Revolution and played a pivotal role in supporting the American colonies’ fight for independence. Gálvez provided supplies to the American colonists and forced the British out of west Florida. He corresponded directly with leaders such as Thomas Jefferson and sealed off New Orleans so that the British could not use the Mississippi River. Even though he was the governor of Louisiana who owed allegiance to the Spanish Crown, he aided the American colonists in their fight for independence by helping them defeat the British.

Just a few blocks northwest of the Bernardo de Gálvez Statue is the Benito Juárez Statue at Virginia Avenue, NW and New Hampshire Avenue, NW. Mexico gave this 12-foot bronze statue of Benito Juárez (a copy of the original located on a mountain in Oaxaca, Mexico) to the United States in 1969. Benito Juárez (1806-1872), known as the Father of Modern Mexico, was born into poverty but rose to become a lawyer, an active liberal politician, and eventually, to serve as the President of Mexico from 1858 until 1872. During his political career, Juárez successfully defended his government against the French, the Catholic Church, and military and conservative opponents. Juárez is remembered as a progressive reformer committed to defending democracy.

After viewing the many sites along Constitution and Virginia Avenues, take a short excursion to nearby Farragut Square to see a statue of David G. Farragut. Farragut Square is between K Street NW on the north, I Street NW on the south, and parts of East and West 17th Street about 10 blocks north of the OAS Building (where the walking tour began). The United States Congress in 1872 commissioned the David G. Farragut statue in the square. Its dedication occurred on April 25, 1881. David G. Farragut (1801-1870), whose father was a Spanish merchant captain who served in the American Revolution and the War of 1812, began his life as a sailor in the U.S. Navy at the young age of 9. By the time of the American Civil War (1861-1865), Farragut had already proven himself repeatedly in the military. Although he grew up in the South, Farragut chose to fight with the Union during the Civil War. He led many successful military campaigns during the Civil War, but is especially renowned for taking the city and port of New Orleans and eventually securing Mobile Bay, a seaport in the Gulf of Mexico, for the Union.

Complete the walking tour by making a stop at the Columbus Memorial Fountain directly in front of Washington, DC’s historic Union Station. The Columbus Memorial Fountain features a globe on top of a monument surrounded by figures representing the old and new worlds. In the center of the old and new world figures is a statue of Christopher Columbus. Columbus (1451-1506), an Italian explorer who in 1492 sailed west into the Atlantic Ocean on a voyage of discovery for the Spanish monarchy, opening the age of European exploration and colonization of the Americas. At the memorial, Columbus is standing at the front of a ship adorned with a winged figurehead symbolizing discovery. Three flagpoles surrounding the memorial fountain represent the three ships, the Niña, Pinta, and Santa Maria, that carried Columbus and his crew to the New World.

Plan Your Visit

National Mall and Memorial Parks, a unit of the National Park System, is located throughout Washington, DC. Click here for the National Register of Historic Places file for the Organization of American States Building: text and photos. The park is open 24 hours a day with park rangers on duty at the Memorial sites to answer questions from 9:30am until 11:30 pm daily. For more information, visit the National Park Service National Mall and Memorial Parks website or call 202-426-6841.

Virginia Avenue, Washington, D.C. and Columbus Fountain have been documented by the National Park Service’s Historic American Buildings Survey. The National Mall and many of the Memorials within the National Mall and Memorial Parks are featured separately in the National Park Service Washington, DC Travel Itinerary.

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Biscayne National Park , Florida

Following Spanish discovery of the New World in the late 1400s, competition exploded among European nations to extract the many natural resources and exotic goods this new and mysterious land provided. Transporting these resources, including silver, gold, gems, spices, and other items from the New World back to Europe via the Atlantic Ocean was at times difficult and dangerous. Navigating the Atlantic Ocean was challenging because of nature’s whims, and sailors and merchants also had to be aware of pirates and corsairs.

To combat the threat of raids from rival nations, including France, England, and the Netherlands, Spain developed a formal convoy system as early as 1537 to protect its merchants and goods. Spain used the fleet system for more than 200 years and while it did protect the ships from some enemy attacks, it could not save the ships from disasters caused by natural obstacles such as coral reefs and violent hurricanes. In the warm blue waters of Biscayne National Park, near Miami, Florida, two shipwrecked Spanish fleet vessels rest on the ocean floor where they sank during a hurricane in 1733. The shipwrecks provide a glimpse into the hazards of European exploration and colonization of the New World.

While the Spanish made few attempts to settle South Florida or the Florida Keys, they began utilizing the area quite frequently after Juan Ponce de León discovered the warm, fast moving Gulf Stream that flows through the Straits of Florida (the channel between the coast of Florida and the Bahamas). The swift moving warm waters of the Gulf Stream provided the fastest route from the Gulf of Mexico to the North Atlantic Ocean; however, the route was dangerously narrow, with coral reefs, small islands, shifting sandbars, and dangerous currents all acting as natural obstacles. Many ships wrecked due to the limited navigational aids available at the time.

While the route was treacherous, it still provided the best way for ships leaving the Gulf of Mexico to reach the North Atlantic on their return voyages to Europe. Spain’s fleet system used this water route. Each fleet had at least two heavily armed galleons (escorts) - a Capitana or flagship sailing at the front of the fleet and an Almiranta or vice-flagship in the rear- as well as pataches, which were smaller vessels used to communicate between ships, and resfuerzos or supply ships that carried food and regular cargo. Each fleet also had 10 to 90 merchant ships called naos. Naos were unarmed galleons that carried cargo, treasure, and passengers. For larger fleets, additional strategically placed armed galleons provided extra protection for the richly loaded ships.

Each year, two separate fleets, named the New Spain fleet and the Tierra Firme fleet, left Spain loaded with clothing and European luxury and household goods to trade with Spanish colonists in the New World. Often making the trans-Atlantic journey together, the fleets went in different directions once they reached the Caribbean. The fleets brought the European goods to various locations, and in return filled their vessels with New World products including Mexican silver, Chinese porcelain, Peruvian silver, pearls from Margarita Island, chocolate, sassafras, tobacco, leather goods, ceramics, and American Indian-made products. An analysis of these ships and the goods they carried reveals that, much like today, a truly international and worldwide trading network existed. Because of the diversity of products and the immense monetary value of goods on these ships, no one would question why Spain developed a convoy system to protect these vessels from pirates and raids. Once the fleets were fully loaded with New World products, they would meet again in Havana, Cuba for their return journey back to Spain.

During July 1733, on a return journey to Spain, the New Spain fleet faced disaster. On Friday, July 13, 1733, under the command of Lieutenant-General Rodrigo de Torres, the New Spain fleet left Havana harbor on its return journey to Spain. The fleet of four armed galleons and 17 or 18 merchant vessels left the harbor for Spain carrying gold, silver, tanner hides, rare spices, tobacco, porcelain, and precious jewels. The following day, after the fleet sighted the Florida Keys, the wind shifted abruptly and increased in velocity, which indicated to General Torres that a hurricane was approaching. He ordered the fleet to turn back to Havana, however, it was too late – the hurricane was upon them!

By nightfall, most of the ships had been wrecked, sunk, or swamped along 80 miles of the Florida Keys. Two of the ships that sank and were unsalvageable were the Nuestra Senora del Populo and the El Aviso del Consulado, which rest in the waters of Biscayne National Park today. The Nuestra Senora del Populo was a small, armed vessel that carried goods, and the El Aviso del Consulado was another small vessel used as a carrier between ships and as a scouting boat. While four ships made it safely back to Havana and one galleon, the El Africa, managed to sail on to Spain undamaged, the rest of the ships faced destruction in the treacherous Floridian waters. Small groups of survivors established camps wherever they came ashore and began salvaging. Rescue ships soon arrived from Havana loaded with supplies, food, divers, and salvage equipment to help recover as much lost treasure and goods as possible.

Over a couple hundred of years, a complex wrecking industry had developed to assist sailors in salvaging their cargoes throughout the region. The salvage operators were often American Indians, Spaniards, Bahamians, and Euro-Americans. The wreckers recovered goods from dying ships and helped refloat ships that had run aground but remained seaworthy. The salvagers burned to the waterline the vessels that could not be refloated or towed back to Havana, so divers could descend into the cargo holds to recover any possible cargo. Burning the ships to the waterline also hid them from pirates. The location of each wreck was marked on several maps and records were kept of all salvaged materials. Interestingly, more treasure was recovered than had been listed on the original manifests, which was proof that merchants smuggled contraband and extra gold and silver onto ships to avoid paying taxes.

The Nuestra Senora del Populo is the northernmost shipwreck of the 1733 fleet disaster and today is under the jurisdiction of the Biscayne National Park. The Populo, which is also known as El Pinque (The Pink – a type of small dispatch vessel), was lightly armed with 8 to 12 cannons and carried such goods as indigo, hides, brazil wood, citrus, and tobacco. The Populo was originally near the Capitana, but the hurricane winds whipped Populo far to north away from the rest of the fleet’s ships. In about 30 feet of water, Populo struck a coral reef, lost her balance, and then struck another reef that caused her to sink to her death in a sand pocket. While the Populo lost her goods to the water, her memory and significance are remembered today.

Visitors to the park can view the shipwrecks but must be careful because these are non-renewable historical resources and important archeological sites. As some of the oldest artificial reefs, the park’s shipwrecks are home to a myriad of sea creatures including lobsters, groupers, trumpet fish, anemones, tangs, parrotfish, and hermit crabs, just to name a few. Shipwrecks similar to the Populo lie all along the Florida Coast. Some shipwrecks are located within Dry Tortugas National Park, the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary, or one of Florida's Underwater Archeological Preserves. For more information on these other shipwrecks, please see the National Park Service
Florida Shipwrecks: 300 Years of Maritime History Travel Itinerary.

Plan Your Visit

Biscayne National Park, a unit of the National Park System, is located just south of Miami, FL and just north of Key Largo, FL. The water portion of Biscayne National Park is open 24 hours a day. The visitor center at Convoy Point is open daily from 7:00am to 5:30pm, while the Dante Fascell Visitor Center is open daily from 9:00am to 5:00pm. For more information, visit the National Park Service Biscayne National Park website or call 305-230-7275.

Other shipwrecks are featured in the National Park Service Florida Shipwrecks: 300 Years of Maritime History Travel Itinerary and are the subject of the online lesson plan The Spanish Treasure Fleets of 1715 and 1733: Disasters Strike at Sea available in English and also in Spanish: La versión en español Las flotas españolas de 1715 y 1733: Desastres en el mar (134). The lesson plan was produced by the National Park Service’s Teaching with Historic Places program, which offers classroom-ready lesson plans on registered historic places.

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Canaveral National Seashore, Florida

The Cape Canaveral barrier island, perhaps best known today as a National Aeronautical and Space Administration (NASA) base for space exploration, was once the edge of the European frontier in North America. In 1502, Canaveral became one of the first places on the North American continent identified by Europeans when it appeared on a map for the first time and Cape Canaveral is one of the oldest European-named places in the United States. In English, “cañaveral” roughly translates as the “place of reeds or cane.” Though it was not a significant site of permanent Spanish settlement, for approximately 300 years Spanish colonists sailed the waters in and around it as they traded, warred, explored, and settled in Florida. Canaveral National Seashore is located between the Indian River and the Atlantic Ocean on the northern slope of Cape Canaveral and on Merritt Island, north of the Kennedy Space Center.

When Ponce de León, Spanish explorer and governor of Puerto Rico, reached the coast of North America to claim all known land north of Mexico for Spain, he may have landed within the bounds of Cape Canaveral National Seashore. Historians disagree on where exactly he landed. Their theories range from Cape Canaveral, to present-day St. Augustine, to the coast of southern Georgia. One theory puts Ponce de Leon at Cape Canaveral in 1513, at a place he called the Cape of Currents. Florida was not resource-rich, but it offered Spain a strategic location to protect the colonies’ valuable exports from pirates and competitors as Spain’s ships sailed through the Florida Current. The Florida peninsula creates a fast-moving current in the Florida Straits that runs east from its southern tip in the Gulf of Mexico and then flows north parallel to Florida’s Atlantic coast, where it becomes the Gulf Stream. The Florida Current was an important shipping route between the Spanish colonies and Europe, and Spain’s enemies waited in the Straits to raid ships carrying silver from Mexico and Peru. To protect its ships, Spain invested resources in colonizing the eastern Florida coast. Ponce de Leon was the first of many Spaniards who tried to establish a Florida colony.

Permanent European settlement did not happen in Florida until Pedro Menéndez de Aviles founded St. Augustine in 1565. The king of Spain gave Menéndez the power to colonize and run Florida, in the hopes that Menéndez could keep the French away from the southeastern coast of North America and the Caribbean. Menéndez’s rival in Florida was Jean Ribault, a French Huguenot, who tried to found his own colony in North America between 1562 and 1565, to escape religious persecution in France. In 1565, Menéndez drove Ribault’s men from their fort. Once they were at sea, a hurricane destroyed four French ships along the Canaveral coast. Several of the ships went down near Ponce Inlet, which is in Cape Canaveral north of the National Seashore area. Ribault survived the storm, because his ship ran aground on the shores south of Canaveral. He and approximately 350 surviving French settlers were able to escape to dry land. Ribault headed north to challenge the Spanish with a small group of men, while the remaining group of French settlers went to Cape Canaveral to build a fort and a new ship. When Ribault met up with the Spanish, Menéndez executed Ribault and his men after they refused to convert to Catholicism, and then he marched his soldiers south to Canaveral to drive out the remaining French settlers who did not surrender.

Canaveral continued to be an important place for Spanish colonists until Spain ceded Florida to the United States in 1819. As maritime traffic increased in the Florida Current, so did shipwrecks, and Ribault was not the last European to wash ashore at the Cape. Today, wrecked Spanish and French ships from the colonial period lie sunken under waters off the coast of Canaveral and throughout the Florida Current where travelers were vulnerable to hurricanes.

Spain tried to create diplomatic ties with the American Indians along the Canaveral coast to encourage the return of survivors and goods that washed ashore after shipwrecks. However, there is no evidence that Spain ever built a mission on Cape Canaveral, as it did in other places throughout its empire as part of efforts to convert indigenous people to Christianity and extend its authority. Canaveral was also important for Spanish shipping because it juts out into the ocean and travelers in the straits used it as a navigational marker. One important landmark for navigators was Turtle Mound, a massive pile of oyster shells Timucua or Ais Indians created that is visible from the open ocean. Turtle Mound is about 30 feet high at present and covers approximately two acres.

Canaveral National Seashore today is a wildlife refuge and recreation area. Its natural landscape offers visitors spaces to enjoy the barrier island for swimming, fishing, camping, hiking, hunting, and boating. There is some archeological work done there to study the Spanish and precontact periods, especially at the site that is perhaps where the French settled for a short time in 1565 and at known American Indian sites like Turtle Mound. Rangers at the National Seashore offer guided tours of the park and facilitate learning for visiting school groups. Visitors can learn more about Cape Canaveral ecology and history at the Apollo Beach Visitor Information Center in the National Seashore.

Plan Your Visit

Canaveral National Seashore, a unit of the National Park System, is located on a barrier island east of Titusville, FL. Canaveral National Seashore is open year-round from 6:00am to 6:00pm in winter and from 6:00am to 8:00pm in summer. For more information, visit the National Park Service Canaveral National Seashore website or call 386-428-3384.

Canaveral National Seashore is featured in the National Park Service Golden Crescent. The Kennedy Space Center on Cape Canaveral is the subject of an online lesson plan, America’s Space Program: Exploring a New Frontier. The lesson plan has been produced by the National Park Service’s Teaching with Historic Places program, which offers a series of online classroom-ready lesson plans on registered historic places. To learn more, visit the Teaching with Historic Places home page. Cape Canaveral Air Station has been documented by the National Park Service’s Historic American Engineering Record.

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Castillo de San Marcos National Monument, St. Augustine, Florida

Castillo de San Marcos stands today as a monument to the Spanish empire’s 300-year occupation of Florida and to the interaction and clashes of cultural groups that built the unified nation that is the United States today. Constructed to protect Spain’s settlement in St. Augustine from pirate raids, hostile American Indian tribes, and neighboring imperial powers, the fortification is a symbol of the cultural and imperial struggles that shaped early North America. Never captured in battle, Castillo de San Marcos is both architecturally impressive as the oldest surviving masonry fortress in the United States and culturally significant because its stone walls are a testament to the endurance of this nation’s Latino heritage and to the other cultural groups that have played a role in its story.

Spanish influence in America began in 1513 when Juan Ponce de León, upon discovering the Florida peninsula, claimed North America for Spain. Recognizing the strategic significance of Florida for the defense of their treasure fleets, the Spanish began to settle the southeast coast of North America. Their efforts proved unsuccessful and costly, and in 1561, King Phillip II of Spain halted future expeditions into Florida. When news came three years later of the French settlement of Fort Caroline on the St. Johns River, the Spanish king revoked his order and commissioned Pedro Menéndez de Avilés to remove the French. By 1565, Menéndez and his crew established a settlement on a sheltered harbor they named San Agustín and reclaimed Florida for Spain when they launched a successful and ruthless attack on Fort Caroline.

During the first century of occupation in St. Augustine, the Spanish were victims of numerous enemy attacks that destroyed their original wooden fortifications. The Spanish constructed a series of wooden fortifications until English privateer Sir Francis Drake seized St. Augustine in 1586. An English sailor who accompanied Drake on this expedition against Spain described St. Augustine (San Agustín) as a “city built all of timber…or bodies of trees set upright and close together.” Following Drake’s attack and a later raid in 1668 by pirate John Davis, the Spanish governor of the Florida colony wrote to officials in Spain and Mexico requesting funds to build a more permanent defense system. The Spanish crown approved plans to build a stone fortress, and, in 1672, construction of Castillo de San Marcos began.
The Spanish designed Castillo de San Marcos to withstand the impact of a cannonball, using the bastion system developed by Italians in the 17th century. Resembling the medieval castle, or castillo, the bastion design lowered the castle walls and placed mounds of earth around the exterior to reinforce the walls. At each corner of the castle walls, the Spanish -- aware of their vulnerability to land and water attacks -- placed a circular tower to protect the fortress from every angle. To secure access into the castle, the Spanish constructed drawbridges. The survival of the Castillo today demonstrates the strength and success of the bastion system.

The castle underwent minor changes during different periods of its occupation by the Spanish, English, and Americans. Under the Spanish, Castillo de San Marcos had four bastions, 30 feet high and 14 feet thick walls of coquina blocks -- a soft limestone made of cemented seashells. Although disease and funding shortages slowed construction, the Spanish were ready to test the true strength of the coquina fortress during the War of Spanish Succession. After an attack in 1702, Castillo de San Marcos was the only structure to survive the fire that the English set in St. Augustine. After this, the Spanish sought to defend the city by extending the castle with a system of inner defense lines. By 1763, the Spanish finished construction on the Cubo and Rosario Lines, which are still present today, to form a boundary around St. Augustine for protection from future land attacks.

When tensions increased during the War of Jenkins’ Ear, the conflict between Spain and England that lasted between 1739 and 1748, the Spanish governor in St. Augustine wrote to officials in Cuba requesting funds, supplies, laborers, and soldiers to help extend the height of the walls, build an underground powder magazine, and replace the original ravelin. In 1763, after completion of most of the renovations, news came of the Spanish cession of Florida to England in the treaty that ended the Seven Years’ War. The Spanish surrendered the Castillo de San Marcos to England and abandoned St. Augustine altogether.

During the first decade of British occupation, the English renamed the fortification Fort St. Mark. Victorious at the end of the French and Indian War, the British did not seek to restore the fortress knowing they had eliminated all other competing imperial powers from North America’s eastern coast. Repairs and changes to the structure did not occur until the outbreak of the American Revolution when British loyalists sought refuge within Fort St. Mark’s walls. The British garrison reconstructed the former entrenchment lines and used the fort to house troops, weapons, and to imprison rebel colonists. Although the Continental Army planned to attack the British in east Florida, Fort St. Mark did not see any action during the American Revolution and remained unharmed throughout the remainder of the British occupation.

In 1784, the brief British control of St. Augustine ended when negotiations at the end of the war returned Florida to Spain. Throughout the second Spanish occupation of St. Augustine, Castillo de San Marcos was the center of a diverse cultural exchange. When the Spanish returned to Florida, they welcomed into St. Augustine American Indians, slaves, free blacks, British colonists, and immigrants from Italy, Greece, Germany, France, and Ireland. The new Spanish St. Augustine was not a peaceful city, however. Castillo de San Marcos found itself vulnerable to attacks from plantation owners from northern Georgia who crossed over to find and capture fugitive slaves. The Spanish, fearing future attacks from the Americans, continued to make improvements to the fortress, but American encroachment into Florida proved difficult to combat, and in 1821, Spain ceded Florida to the United States.

Under the new American occupation, Castillo de San Marcos became the property of the United States War Department. President James Monroe, believing the Florida acquisition would calm relations with Seminole Indians, appointed Andrew Jackson to govern St. Augustine at the newly named Fort Marion. Castillo San Marcos (now Fort Marion) was by that time uninhabitable from disrepair. The fortress became a storage facility for military supplies until the outbreak of the Second Seminole War in 1835. By 1842, Army engineers had modified the fort with a water battery, furnace, and refilled the moat around the castle walls. With the repairs, Castillo de San Marcos served as an active defensive fortification during the Seminole and western Indian wars, serving its purpose a final time during the American Civil War.

At the end of Reconstruction, with the resort and railroad land developments in Florida by tycoon Henry Flagler, St. Augustine and the Castillo de San Marcos became a popular tourist destination. The War Department offered guided tours, and in 1883 -- having recognized the value of the historic fort -- made a request for Congressional support to restore the fort. Now managed by the National Park Service, the Castillo illustrates the resourcefulness of the Spanish and their capable military engineers in the New World and the history and cultural influences of various groups associated with the site. Visitors can explore the fortress, enjoy a ranger program, watch a video, or view a demonstration by re-enactors.

Plan Your Visit

Castillo de San Marcos National Monument, a unit of the National Park System, is located at 1 S. Castillo Dr. in St. Augustine, FL. Click here for the National Register of Historic Places file: text and photos. The monument is open daily, except on December 25, from 8:45am with the last tour starting at 4:45pm. Gates close at 5:15pm. There is an admission fee for adults ages 16 and over. For more information, visit the National Park Service Castillo de San Marcos National Monument website or call 904-829-6506.

Castillo de San Marcos National Monument has been documented by the National Park Service’s Historic American Buildings Survey . The monument is also featured in the National Park Service Along the Georgia Florida Coast Travel Itinerary and in the Places Reflecting America's Diverse Cultures: Explore their Stories in the National Park System Travel Itinerary.

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Cathedral of St. Augustine, St. Augustine, Florida
The Cathedral of St. Augustine, the center of America’s oldest Catholic parish, is located in the heart of the nation’s oldest continuously occupied European-established city. Spanish explorer Don Pedro Menéndez de Avilés founded and established the city of St. Augustine in 1565. Sailing from Cádiz, Spain, Menéndez spotted the east coast of Florida on the feast day of Saint Augustine of Hippo, August 28, so the settlement’s name became San Agustín (St. Augustine) in his honor. At the landing on September 8, 1565, the Spanish held a celebratory Mass and thus began the establishment of the church. Most of the Spaniards were sailors and had little to no experience in architecture, but they rapidly constructed a simple and not very sturdy church from a variety of materials.

War broke out between Spain and England in 1585. The following year, Englishman Sir Francis Drake sailed to North America and captured St. Augustine, pillaging and burning the city to the ground, including the church. Citizens were able to recover and quickly rebuild the city. The new church they constructed used straw and palmetto, which would not last long in Florida’s humid climate. Soon, another fire, this time a natural one, destroyed the church again. They then built a third church of timber, a supposedly more permanent material, which deteriorated from lack of proper maintenance, climatic conditions, and the increasing numbers in the congregation. The British governor of colonial South Carolina, James Moore, led an invasion of St. Augustine in 1702, destroying this church.

St. Augustine went without its church for over 90 years. Multiple attempts to rebuild it all failed even after the king of Spain sent a large amount of money to rebuild the church in 1707. The colony was in such poor shape that the money never made it to the church but instead went to purchase goods and to pay for soldiers and public officials. With no place left to worship, the local people celebrated Mass in La Soledad Hospital’s chapel until 1763. That year, the Spanish ceded Florida to Great Britain as a part of the First Treaty of Paris, which ended the French and Indian War.

Catholicism began to die out in Florida after the English arrived until a new workforce of Minorcans, Italians, and Greeks arrived to the area in 1767 and reinvigorated the religion. In 1784, the English ceded Florida back to Spain, thus encouraging the revival of Spanish Catholicism. St. Augustine felt a new sense of pride, and two years later, the Spanish royalty requested construction of a new church. Laying the cornerstone in 1793, the Spanish completed a new church four years later in the Spanish Mission style.

In 1870, the church had its status raised to the level of Cathedral with the creation of a new Catholic diocese in St. Augustine. The St. Augustine
Cathedral suffered damage from a fire on April 12, 1887, but its exterior shell was salvageable. A national appeal raised funds to rebuild the interior. The congregation hired the prestigious New York City architect James Renwick, Jr. to work on the burned building.

The project included enlarging the Cathedral and constructing a transept, which gave it a more European look. Renwick devised a roof system that relied on timber, but decided to decorate the timbers and leave the ceiling exposed. He also added a Spanish Renaissance-style bell tower. The addition of the bell tower was not a unique idea; Spanish mission churches out west already had bell towers. The exposed bell out front became a symbol of the Spanish mission, influencing the decision to build a bell tower at the Cathedral of St. Augustine. The Cathedral has four bells, one salvaged from a previous church and thought to be the oldest bell in the United States. Another bell came from a British cathedral, a history with some irony due to that empire's repeated destruction of the St. Augustine church.

To celebrate the 400th anniversary of St. Augustine’s founding, the congregation renovated the Cathedral and added the Blessed Sacrament Chapel dedicating the renovated church on March 9, 1966. Ten years later, Pope Paul VI raised the status of the Cathedral to a minor basilica, the 27th American church awarded that honor.

Visitors to St. Augustine Cathedral can see the church restored to look as it did in the late 1700s. Most of the Baroque façade is original to that period. Inside, beautiful oil paintings that are copies of those located in the Vatican’s Pauline Chapel are on display. Victorian stained glass windows and marble altars are on view throughout the Cathedral. Touring the building or sitting in on a Catholic Mass in the Cathedral takes visitors back to the times of Spanish rule in St. Augustine, the United States’ oldest city.

Plan Your Visit
The Cathedral of St. Augustine, a
National Historic Landmark, is located at 38 Cathedral Place between Charlotte and St. George Streets in St. Augustine, FL. Click here for the National Historic Landmark file: text and photos.Mass is held on Sundays at 7:00am, 9:00am, 11:00am, and 6:00pm, weekdays at 7:00am, and Saturdays at 3:30pm and 5:00pm. Guided tours of the Cathedral are available at 1:00pm and 3:00pm on weekdays; self-guided tour brochures are available as well. The Bell Tower Gift Shop is open daily from 9:00am to 4:00pm. For more information, visit the Cathedral of St. Augustine website or call 904-829–0620.

The Cathedral of St. Augustine has been documented by the National Park Service’s Historic American Buildings Survey and is included in the National Park Service Along the Georgia – Florida Coast: A National Register Travel Itinerary.

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De Soto National Memorial, Florida

Hernando de Soto is famous in Latin American history as the Spanish conquistador who joined Francisco Pizarro in the invasion of the Inca Empire, but he is also a critical player in American history as the first European to discover the Mississippi River. Located on Shaw’s Point, which is the general area historians believe was the landing place of De Soto’s 1539 expedition, De Soto National Memorial commemorates de Soto’s landing in Florida and his northwestward expedition into North America. De Soto National Memorial is also an archeological site with artifacts and trails left behind by American Indians who guided de Soto’s expedition through Florida to the Mississippi.

The Spanish provinces of Badajoz and Barcarrota both lay claim to hometown status; while de Soto spent time in both as a child, he willed that he be buried in a Badajoz town named Jerez de los Caballeros, or City of the Knights (Templar). Given de Soto’s eventual career as a conquistador and avid horseman, it would seem fitting that he likely came from a town that both idolized knighthood and was noteworthy for its distinguished equestrian training. Born soon after the expulsion of the last Muslims in 1492, de Soto was raised in an atmosphere influenced by the eight centuries of struggle that followed the Moorish conquest of the Iberian Peninsula. This period, known as La Reconquista (the Reconquest), bred a distinct class of fighters who epitomized the medieval knighthood and fought to unify the Christian kingdoms by reclaiming the Iberian Peninsula from the Muslim invaders. Influenced by the military and religious crusades that defeated the Moors, and inspired by the discoveries of Christopher Columbus’ voyage, de Soto -- like many Spaniards of his generation -- became eager at a very young age to become a conquering explorer. By the time Hernando de Soto reached the age of 14 he had become a skilled equestrian, and in 1519 he joined the ranks of the famous conquistadores of the New World.

In 1525, following the successful expedition to Panama with Juan Ponce de León and Pedro Arias de Ávila, de Soto gained control of Nicaragua and acquired a vast fortune from American Indian gold and slave trading. During this period de Soto met Francisco Pizarro, a conquistador who informed de Soto of the wealth he had heard of in the native empire that lay south of Panama. In 1531, after receiving permission from the Spanish Crown to conquer Peru, de Soto and Pizarro successfully landed on the coast of modern day Ecuador. Making their way into Peru, the conquistadores found themselves in the middle of the struggle between the Inca ruler of Quito, Atahuallpa, and his half brother Huascar, the ruler of the Inca capital of Cuzco. Using the distraction of the Inca civil war, Pizarro managed to seize Peru after Atahuallpa’s army defeated and executed Huascar. In 1532, Pizarro and de Soto -- like Cortes in Mexico with Monteczuma -- captured and executed Atahuallpa after he rejected the Spaniards' demand for the Inca emperor to convert to Christianity. After learning of Atahuallpa’s death the Inca army eventually surrendered, and the Spaniards gained control of the Inca territories and ransacked the empire’s fortune.

Following the successful conquest of the Inca Empire, de Soto returned to Spain in 1536 and sought an audience with the emperor to request permission to become governor of Quito. Since the Spanish Crown would take a year to grant his request, de Soto took advantage of his time in Spain to marry Inès de Bobadilla, the daughter of his Panama expedition partner, Pedro Arias de Ávila. In the same year, he became a member of the Spanish Order of Santiago, and by 1537, he reached an agreement with Charles I of Spain to conquer Florida. Although the Spanish Crown did not grant his original petition to become governor of Quito, the emperor agreed to make de Soto the governor of Cuba if he returned victorious from his expedition through Florida. In 1539, two years after their departure from Spain, de Soto and his crew landed on the west coast of Florida in the area historians believe is the location of present day Tampa.

Expecting to find great treasures as he did on his previous expeditions to Central and South America, de Soto approached his conquest of Florida with the same mentality and techniques that Pizarro and de Ávila applied in their conquests of Peru and Panama. When de Soto reached Florida, he found that the natives of the Coosa towns did not possess gold and could only offer the Spaniards the richness of their agricultural harvest. De Soto, convinced that he would find monetary treasure, continued to travel northwest from one village to the next terrorizing native towns that did not cooperate by throwing natives to the dogs, burning them alive, enslaving and raping them, and cutting off their noses and hands. Those who did cooperate became servants who helped feed the Spaniards and guide them on the American Indian trails. Both the tribes and the Spaniards suffered losses caused by disease and battles, but despite losing half of his soldiers, de Soto was determined to find the treasures he sought. The journey ended in 1543, when de Soto died from a fever, having reached the Mississippi River at the time of his death. His men buried him in the river and built boats to return to Mexico by floating down to the Gulf of Mexico on the river.

De Soto never came across fortune throughout his voyage, but historians credit him with the European discovery of the Mississippi River. De Soto’s troops were the first Europeans to explore deep into North America, and the details of their travels helped future explorers of the area by offering them information about the land and the natives. By the time later explorers reached the territory de Soto had explored, however, the Florida they found was not the land that de Soto’s men encountered in 1539. When other explorers reached the area of the Coosa towns 20 years later, they found abandoned villages that demonstrated the negative impact the Spaniards had on the native people who were destroyed by raids and disease. Evidence of native life in the Southeast today from this period comes from the sites and artifacts discovered by archeologists, and the Indian trails throughout De Soto National Memorial.

In 1948, the National Park Service acquired 30 acres of Shaw’s point--the area the United States De Soto Expedition Commission declared in 1939 as de Soto’s landing point--to establish a National Memorial commemorating de Soto’s expedition in Florida and his discovery of the Mississippi River. The year 2009 marked the 470th anniversary of the Spaniard’s expedition into North America.

Visitors to De Soto National Memorial can enjoy both indoor and outdoor activities. The visitor center includes displays of historic armor, weapons, and related period items and provides helmets and armor to try on. An orientation film depicts the de Soto expedition and the native people it encountered.

Plan Your Visit

De Soto National Memorial, a unit of the National Park System, is located at 75th St. NW in Bradenton, FL. Click here for the National Register of Historic Places file: text and photos. The visitor center at the Memorial offers free admission and is open daily from 9:00am to 5:00pm. The Memorial is closed on New Year’s Day, Thanksgiving, and Christmas. For more information, visit the National Park Service De Soto National Memorialwebsite or call 941-792-0458. Clickhere for information regarding the De Soto trail.

De Soto National Memorial is also featured in the National Park Service Places Reflecting America's Diverse Cultures: Explore their Stories in the National Park System Travel Itinerary.

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Dry Tortugas National Park, Florida

Although Key West, Florida may be the southernmost point in the continental United States, the story of America’s rich cultural heritage expands beyond the zero mile marker of US-1. Located almost 70 miles off Key West is a cluster of seven coral reef islands that explorer Ponce de León discovered in 1513. Upon seeing the abundant population of sea turtles he named the islands Las Tortugas (The Turtles), but when explorers and merchants learned that the islands lacked fresh drinking water they soon changed the name to Dry Tortugas. Despite their name, the cluster of islands at Dry Tortugas National Park--which includes Garden, Loggerhead, Bush, Long, East, Hospital, and Middle Keys--is the site of events that have played an important role in American cultural and maritime history and a reminder of the seminal role the Spanish have played that history.

Following Ponce de León’s discovery of the Dry Tortugas, the islands immediately became a strategic location for Spanish explorers traveling along Florida’s Gulf Coast. Since these islands were between the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic Ocean, the Spanish considered the Dry Tortugas an important navigational marker that signaled when their vessels should begin turning into the Gulf Coast. As other empires joined the race to colonize the Americas, the passageway at the Dry Tortugas became heavily trafficked by treasure fleets carrying goods to and from the New World. Unfortunately, the Dry Tortugas were also a “ship trap,” whose shallow and flat terrain claimed several European vessels that are shipwrecked there and lie beneath the sea. The first documented shipwreck occurred in 1622. Known by the Spanish as Nuestra Senora de Rosario, this 600-ton vessel fell victim to a hurricane en route from Cuba to Spain. After acquiring Florida in 1819, the United States built two lighthouses--one on Garden Key in 1825, and the second on Loggerhead Key in 1858, to help vessels navigate into the Gulf Coast. Even so, the shallow waters around the Dry Tortugas continued claiming vessels, including the Norwegian Avanti located at the Windjammer Wreck site on Loggerhead Reef, south of Loggerhead Key. Shipwrecked in 1907 and discovered in 1971, the Norwegian Avanti is a 1,862-ton iron ship the British built in 1875. The vessel lies in approximately 18-21 feet of water. Visitors are welcome to explore the Avanti and enjoy the unique marine life that inhabits the Windjammer Wreck.

Although many today are attracted to the islands’ sunken treasures, the most prominent historic feature of Dry Tortugas is Fort Jefferson at Garden Key. Established to control navigation into the Gulf of Mexico and protect the Mississippi River trade, Fort Jefferson is one of the largest masonry forts built along the coast of the United States during the 19th century. Fort Jefferson is significant for its defense of the U.S Gulf Coast and also for its role throughout the Civil War. Fort Jefferson served in the Union’s campaign to obstruct the Confederacy’s shipping efforts in the South. Throughout the Civil War and subsequent years, Fort Jefferson also served as a military prison that held Union deserters, as well as four men tied to the 1865 assassination of President Abraham Lincoln.

Construction of this historic fortification began in 1846, but funding issues, periodic hurricanes, sickness, and lack of materials turned Fort Jefferson into a never completed 30-year endeavor. Many of the structures that African slaves and military prisoners constructed from the time of Fort Jefferson’s founding until its abandonment by the US Army in 1874 are still visible today. Among these are the remains of the Officers’ Quarters and Soldiers’ Barracks completed in 1870, two magazines built sometime between 1863 and 1872, the 1825 Garden Key Lighthouse, the restored hotshot furnace, and the cell of Dr. Samuel Mudd. Mudd was imprisoned at Fort Jefferson because of his role in President Abraham Lincoln's assassination; he mended assassin John Wilkes Booth’s broken leg, which was injured while fleeing law enforcement. Although never finished, Fort Jefferson continues to stand as a reminder of the enormous efforts of the United States to protect its coastal regions.
On arrival at Dry Tortugas National Park, tourists are encouraged to see the orientation program at the Fort Jefferson visitor center before beginning their tour of the military post and surrounding islands. Visitors can enjoy the historic sites and the natural scenery of these seven islands by kayaking, camping, snorkeling, bird watching, fishing, and taking ranger-led or self-guided tours.

Not all of the islands are open to the public, and restrictions apply for all outdoor activities. There are several closed areas, including the Shark and Coral Special Protection Zones, and the Bush, Hospital, and Long Keys. Camping is restricted beyond Garden Key, and visitors can only swim and snorkel in designated areas of Loggerhead Key. Visitors wishing to kayak into Garden Key should have a permit, and boaters need to check schedules and regulations for anchoring and docking at Garden Key. Fishing restrictions also apply within Dry Tortugas National Park, and commercial fishing, spear fishing, and taking conch or lobster are illegal.

Plan Your Visit

Dry Tortugas National Park, a unit of the National Park System, is located approximately 70 miles west of Key West, FL. Click here for the National Register of Historic Places file for Fort Jefferson: text and photos.  The park opens year-round during daylight hours, except for Bush Key, which is closed from February to September. The visitor center opens daily from 8:00am to 5:00pm. Dry Tortugas can only be reached by ferry or seaplane out of Key West, or by private boat.  For more information including transportation prices, schedules, and reservations, visit the National Park Service Dry Tortugas National Park website or call 305-242-7700.

Fort Jefferson in Dry Tortugas National Park has been documented by the National Park Service’s Historic American Buildings Survey. Fort Jefferson, Dry Tortugas National Park is also featured in the National Park Service Along the Georgia-Florida Coast Travel Itinerary and in the Places Reflecting America's Diverse Cultures: Explore their Stories in the National Park System Travel Itinerary. The Windjammer Site (Avanti) is included in the Florida’s Shipwrecks: 300 Years of Maritime History Travel Itinerary.

Florida shipwrecks are the subject of the online lesson plan The Spanish Treasure Fleets of 1715 and 1733: Disasters Strike at Sea, available in English and also in Spanish: La versión en español Las flotas españolas de 1715 y 1733: Desastres en el mar (134).

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El Centro Español de Tampa, Ybor City, Tampa, Florida

El Centro Español de Tampa, a National Historic Landmark, is one of the best surviving Spanish mutual aid society buildings in the Gulf Coast States of the United States. Many Spanish immigrants came to the Gulf Coast States of Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and Florida during the last decades of the 19th century and the early years of the 20th century. Located in Ybor City, Tampa, Florida’s “Latin Quarter,” this clubhouse reflects the important roles mutual aid and ethnic societies played in immigrants’ new lives in the United States. The building illustrates the trend-setting influence of the Spanish-born elite who founded Ybor City and long had a dominant influence on its commerce and social and intellectual life. El Centro Español de Tampa provides visitors and the nation with an important place to remember this phase of Spanish immigration to the United States.

During the 1880s and 1890s, Ybor City, Florida quickly developed into one of the cigar manufacturing centers of the world populated by Spanish and Cuban immigrants and others who worked in the cigar factories. As Florida’s first “industrial town,” by 1900 cigar factories in Ybor City out-produced cigar manufacturing in Havana, Cuba, earning Ybor City the title of “Cigar Capital of the World.” The male and female artisans who rolled the perfect handcrafted cigars in Ybor City could make good wages and had some control over their own workday. Paid based on how many cigars they produced, they had a certain amount of control over their own rate of production. At the factories, each worker contributed 25 cents per week for the services of lectors (readers). Lectors sat on the platform above the workers in the large workrooms and in loud, clear voices read the daily newspapers and Spanish poems, novels, and plays to the workers at their jobs.

In 1891, with production and business booming, a small body of the Ybor City’s Spanish businessmen and artisans organized the community’s first social and mutual aid society, El Centro Español. Before the State of Florida issued El Centro Español’s charter on September 7, 1891, Tampa had no existing philanthropic or charitable institutions to serve the new immigrants, and unlike their role in many other communities, religious institutions played a relatively small role here. The Spanish elite established El Centro Español to help the Spanish immigrants adapt to the United States while retaining their ethnic traditions. To join, applicants had to be either Spanish by birth or loyal to Spain. The club, which required members to pay 25 cents per week, provided recreational opportunities, low-cost health care for the many single men and the increasing number of families in the area, social privileges, educational programs, and death and injury benefits. As the first mutual aid society in Ybor City, El Centro Español set the organization model and economic blueprint for other nationalities to establish similar institutions.

By 1892, El Centro Español’s directors organized the Spanish Casino Stock Company with the goal of creating further recreational and theatrical activity for the club. The directors then had each of the original 186 members pledge stock shares of $10. They used the money to finance the building of a clubhouse at 16th Street and 7th Avenue. Costing $16,000, the first El Centro Español clubhouse was a large, ornate, wooden frame building that contained a theater, dance hall, cantina, and classrooms. Construction of the Centro Español’s Sanatorio in 1906 – which was probably the most modern and complete hospital in Florida at the time – further established the important role the club played in Ybor’s community. The clubhouse and Sanatorio provided the necessary facilities for the growing membership and influence of the club.

By 1901, the club had grown from 186 members to 926, expanding to 1,886 members in 1907 and to 2,537 in 1912. Over 20 years, the strength and size of the club steadily grew, and by 1912, the club was able to replace its original two-story wooden building with a massive dark red brick and stone-trimmed clubhouse. Built in a combination of Spanish, Moorish, and French Renaissance architectural styles, the clubhouse provided its members with an impressive space for social, cultural, and educational activities.

The long, rectangular building with its 2-1/2-story main block and a 3-1/2-story wing attached to its rear (north) façade contains a central lobby, flanked by a theater and cantina, and a ballroom on the second floor. Many Spanish-speaking artists and visiting dignitaries added the club’s theater, “El Gran Teatro Español,” to their international itineraries, and club members continued to watch movies and view live performances at the theater until the mid-1980s. El Centro Español de Tampa, with its wrought-iron balconies with Spanish motifs, decorative Moorish entrance arch with cast-iron trim, and eyebrow windows with white stone trim and decorative stonework, provided a physical place where Ybor City’s immigrant residents could maintain their ethnic identity while adapting to life in a new country.

El Centro Español experienced several decades of prosperity and growth, and thrived between World War I and the Great Depression. After that time, however, changes in the social, cultural, and political atmosphere in the United States contributed to a slow decline in the need for and use of mutual aid societies. Prohibition, the Great Depression, a decline in the cigar manufacturing industry, and immigration restrictions sent much of Ybor City’s population looking for work elsewhere. By World War II, a shift to government-provided welfare programs made the role of mutual aid societies in providing healthcare and social welfare to their communities less needed. Membership ebbed and flowed until the club sold El Centro Español de Tampa in 1983.

El Centro Español de Tampa sat vacant for many years. After being restored in 2010, the clubhouse is once again a center of life and activity. Businesses, restaurants, a gift shop, and the
Ybor City Chamber of Commerce Visitor Center are housed in the building and an Improv Comedy Theater in its historic theater fills the old clubhouse with laughter and energy.

Plan Your Visit

El Centro Español de Tampa a National Historic Landmark, is located at 1526-1526 E. 7th Avenue, Tampa, FL. Click here for the National Register of Historic Places file: text and photos. The Ybor City Chamber of Commerce Visitor Center located within El Centro Español de Tampa is open Monday through Saturday from 10:00am to 5:00pm and Sunday from 12:00pm to 5:00pm. For more information, visit the Ybor City Chamber of Commerce Visitor Center website or call 813-241-8838.

El Centro Español de Tampa has been documented by the National Park Service’s Historic American Buildings Survey.

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Fort Caroline National Memorial, Jacksonville, Florida

Set within the boundaries of Timucuan Ecological and Historical Preserve, Fort Caroline National Memorial commemorates one of the first attempts by Europeans to found a colony in the New World. Two centuries of Spanish and French colonial rivalry in North America began here in 1564 when Admiral Gaspard de Coligny (1519 – 1572) envisioned Fort Caroline as a French challenge to established Spanish colonies, a potential commercial venture, and a shelter for Huguenots (French Calvinists). The fort quickly became a source of conflict, because Spain resented French intrusion and objected to the presence of Protestants on land the Catholic Spanish claimed.

Picked by Gaspard de Coligny, Jean Ribault led the first expedition in 1562 to establish the colony and arrived at a location on the present day St. Johns River in South Carolina, but a settlement there failed. René de Goulaine de Laudonnière led a second attempt and in 1564 established Fort Caroline near the mouth of the St. Johns River in Florida. This group of 200 named the area La Caroline after the French King Charles IX and began to construct permanent shelter and defenses and try to grow the colony.

The local Timucua initially helped the newly arrived French and provided assistance in building the fort and other structures. Timucuans had lived in the area and throughout northern Florida for at least 1,000 years before the arrival of the French and Spanish in the 1500s. The Timucua drew a large part of their identity from the water around them, depending on it for shellfish and fishing as main elements of their diet. In addition, they supported themselves through some land-based cultivation of crops. Although the Timucua and colonists had generally peaceful interactions, the Timucua ultimately suffered displacement by the arriving Europeans and decimation by foreign diseases. Today, no known Timucua remain.

Irked at the unwelcome French attempt to divert trade from Spain to France and take the riches of the New World while establishing a Protestant community, the Spanish responded quickly to the French settlement. King Philip II of Spain sent an armada led by Don Pedro Menéndez de Avilés to force the French out of Spanish-claimed Florida. Menéndez and his troops attacked the fort in the fall of 1565, killing most of the settlers they found; however, a sizeable number of the French left Fort Caroline before the attack intending to set upon Menéndez to defend the French claim to the land. A hurricane forced most of the group to beach just south of the fort. They became Menéndez’s next target. A few escaped the storm and returned to France; Menéndez killed the others at a place later called Matanzas (“killing” or “slaughter”). While both Spain and France hoped to use Florida as a base from which to expand their overseas empires, Menéndez's victory ended efforts by the French to establish a lasting presence in the Southeast.

In 1568, the French sought revenge for the 1565 massacre and sent Dominique de Gourgues to attack the fort. De Gourgues landed at Fort San Mateo (Fort Caroline) with three ships in April of 1568 and attacked, captured, and burned the fort killing the Spanish prisoners they took in retribution for the previous massacre of the French. Spain then rebuilt the fort only to abandon it the next year. France never again strongly challenged Spanish claims in North America.

Although the exact site of the fort is unknown, visitors to Fort Caroline can see a large-scale model based on contemporary drawings. Built in 1924 for the Daughters of the American Revolution, the fort model recreates the original depicted in drawings done by artists brought over to record life in the New World as part of the 1564 expedition. Other sites around the fort further document the story of Spanish and French colonization. These include a reproduction of a marker placed by Ribault in 1562 to claim this area of Florida for France and the supposed site where the Spanish camped before their attack on the settlers.

Plan Your Visit

Fort Caroline National Memorial is part of the Timucuan Ecological and Historic Preserve, a unit of the National Park System. Fort Caroline and the visitor center are located at 12713 Fort Caroline Road in Jacksonville, FL. Click here for National Register of Historic Places file on the fort: text and photos.

The Timucuan Ecological and Historic Preserve also includes the Kingsley Plantation, Theodore Roosevelt Area, Cedar Point, and American Beach. The Visitor Center at Fort Caroline provides an orientation to the fort and other areas of the park. The park’s museum collection contains a Spanish cannon attributed to the San Martin wreck (1594) and five Spanish coins (1789-1792) attributed to a wreck in the St. Marys River. Fort Caroline and the Visitor Center are open daily from 9:00am to 5:00pm except for Thanksgiving, December 25, and January 1. There is no fee to visit any part of the Timucuan Ecological and Historic Preserve. For more information, visit the National Park Service Timucuan Ecological and Historic Preserve website or call 904-641-7155.

Fort Caroline and the Timucuan Ecological and Historic Preserve are featured in the National Park Service Along the Georgia Florida Coast Travel Itinerary and in thePlaces Reflecting America's Diverse Cultures: Explore their Stories in the National Park System Travel Itinerary.

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Fort Jefferson, Dry Tortugas National Park, Florida

In the Gulf of Mexico, approximately 70 miles west of Key West, are the seven saltwater reef islands that make up Dry Tortugas National Park. Juan Ponce de León, a Spanish conquistador and colonial administrator in the Caribbean, discovered and named the Dry Tortugas in 1513 as he sailed around the Florida peninsula. In the centuries that followed his first Florida expedition, the reef islands were an important navigational marker for sailors in the Gulf of Mexico and many ships passed through – and wrecked – in the Dry Tortugas. In the mid-19th century, when the islands were no longer a Spanish possession, the United States built Fort Jefferson on the Dry Tortugas’ Garden Key Island to guard the Florida Straits.

Spanish explorers discovered the Dry Tortugas in 1513 during the first official European expedition to Florida. The leader of the expedition was Ponce de León; after serving as governor of Puerto Rico, he acquired from Spain the right to explore unknown lands north of the island colonies. In the spring and summer months of 1513, Ponce de León sailed along the coast of Florida and throughout the Florida Keys. In June, he and his men stopped at the Dry Tortugas to hunt for sea turtles and seals to restock their food supply. Ponce de León called the islands “Las Tortugas” (The Turtles) after the large turtle population. British sailors later renamed them “Dry Tortugas” because the islands have no natural source of fresh water on them. “Tortugas” is one of the oldest European-named places in the United States.

Juan Ponce de León’s 1513 expedition was also the first to document the Florida Current, which later became an important channel for ships traveling from the Gulf of Mexico to Europe. The Florida Current is a fast-moving ocean current that moves east out of the Gulf waters into the Atlantic Ocean, where it becomes the Gulf Stream. The Dry Tortugas are located on the northwest edge of the Florida Current and sailors looked for these reef islands to navigate through or around the current. Not all of the ships that passed through the Straits made it out. Hurricanes and shallow reef waters made the Florida Keys treacherous, and there are shipwrecks in the waters in and around Dry Tortugas National Park.

The first documented shipwreck in the area was the Nuestra Señora del Rosario, a 600-ton Spanish galleon that wrecked in 1622 at Loggerhead Key in the Dry Tortugas. The Nuestra Señora del Rosario was part of a large treasure convoy traveling from Havana, Cuba, to Spain and was one of nine ships in the convoy that went down in the Florida Keys when a hurricane hit. The Nuestra Señora del Rosario alone carried half a million pesos worth of silver, which the Spanish recovered after the wreck. Other ships, including British ships, that are known to have wrecked at the Dry Tortugas before the United States annexed Florida in 1821 are a Spanish relief ship (1691), the Granville Packett (1765), the Santísima Concepción (1775), the Maria (1806), and the Sir John Sherbroke (1816).

Ownership of the islands transferred from Spain to the United States in 1821. After annexing Florida, the United States invested in lighthouses and a large fort on the Dry Tortugas. Americans built the first lighthouse on Garden Key in 1825 and the second on Loggerhead Key in 1858. By the time of the construction of the second lighthouse, the Army Engineers had started building Fort Jefferson to protect one of the most-strategic deepwater anchorages in North America, but never completed the on-going project between 1847 and 1875. Hurricanes, yellow fever, and a lack of funding and interest stalled the project permanently. Even so, Fort Jefferson was one of only three Union forts in the South that did not fall to the Confederacy during the Civil War, and the fort also served the United States as a prison and recoaling station during the 19th century.

The fort’s most infamous prisoner was Dr. Samuel Mudd, who was convicted of participating in the conspiracy to assassinate President Abraham Lincoln and served nearly four years at Fort Jefferson before he was pardoned. In the latter decades of the 19th century, the US Navy used Fort Jefferson to recoal ships. The USS Maine left the harbor at Fort Jefferson in 1898 when it weighed anchor for Havana, Cuba, where its explosion led to the Spanish-American War. Fort Jefferson, its contributing buildings and structures, and the Garden Key Lighthouse are part of the Fort Jefferson site.

In addition to preserving and protecting its cultural resources, Dry Tortugas National Park conserves the natural resources on the islands and in the reef. On the islands where Ponce de León’s men hunted turtles for food, sea turtle habitats are now protected. Endangered loggerhead, hawksbill, and green turtles nest on the Dry Tortugas. Certain parts of the park are restricted to non-invasive activity or closed to the public, but public areas are set aside for snorkeling, swimming, and camping. Visitors interested in the island’s history can visit Garden Key to tour Fort Jefferson, where there is a visitor center, and Loggerhead Key to visit its historic lighthouse.

Plan Your Visit

Dry Tortugas National Park, a unit of the National Park System, is located approximately 70 miles west of Key West, FL. Click here for the National Register of Historic Places file for Fort Jefferson: text and photos. The park opens year-round during daylight hours, except for Bush Key, which is closed from February to September. The visitor center opens daily from 8:00am to 5:00pm. Dry Tortugas can only be reached by ferry or seaplane out of Key West, or by private boat. For more information including transportation prices, schedules, and reservations, visit the National Park Service Dry Tortugas National Park website or call 305-242-7700.

Fort Jefferson in Dry Tortugas National Park has been documented by the National Park Service’s Historic American Buildings Survey. Fort Jefferson, Dry Tortugas National Park is also featured in the National Park Service Along the Georgia-Florida Coast Travel Itinerary and in the National Park Service Places Reflecting America's Diverse Cultures: Explore their Stories in the National Park System Travel Itinerary. The Windjammer Site (Avanti) is included in the National Park Service Florida’s Shipwrecks: 300 Years of Maritime History Travel Itinerary.

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Fort Matanzas National Monument, Florida

Fort Matanzas National Monument is on the east coast of Florida, about 14 miles south of St. Augustine, on a narrow passage of water that connects the Matanzas River to the Atlantic Ocean. Known as the Matanzas Inlet, this channel was strategically important for the Spanish as they battled other European nations for control of the New World. For almost 200 years, the Spanish used the Matanzas Inlet to strengthen their coastal defenses and settlements in Florida. Here they built a watchtower on the barrier island where the Matanzas River and Inlet meet. Today, Fort Matanzas is a unit of the National Park System that stands as a testament to the Spanish empire’s determination to protect its territorial claims for control of the New World against the French and British.

The story of Fort Matanzas and the origin of its name began in 1564, when King Philip II of Spain received news that Frenchman René de Laudonnière had established a settlement on land claimed by Spain. Located at the mouth of Florida’s St. Johns River, the French base at Fort Caroline posed a serious threat for Spanish treasure fleets sailing to and from Europe. French establishment of Fort Caroline amidst the Protestant Reformation fueled the tensions between the Spanish and the French. The news that Huguenots--French Protestants--were settling in Florida further aggravated the devoutly Catholic King Philip. Although the Spanish empire clearly demonstrated its objection to the Huguenots' presence in Florida, the French continued to supply the settlement, and in May of 1565, Jean Ribault sailed to Fort Caroline with 600 soldiers to reinforce the French post.

Soon after Ribault reached Fort Caroline, King Philip ordered Admiral Pedro Menéndez de Avilés to remove the French and establish Florida’s first Spanish settlement. By August, Avilés reached the eastern coast of Florida with 800 Spaniards. After a brief skirmish with the French, Avilés and his men retreated south of Fort Caroline and founded Florida’s first Spanish post in the area where St. Augustine is today. Once the Spanish settled in Florida, the French began planning an attack on the newly founded Puerto San Agustin, and on September 10, Jean Ribault and his men moved to attack the Spanish post. Although the French initially sailed toward St. Augustine, a hurricane changed their course, and Ribault and his men landed south of their intended destination.

As the French lay shipwrecked on the coast of Florida between present day Daytona Beach and Cape Canaveral, Avilés and his men headed north to Fort Caroline and attacked the French settlement. Because Ribault and his soldiers left the post unprotected, the Spanish easily captured Fort Caroline, killing most of its residents, except for women and children Avilés sent by ship to Havana. With Fort Caroline destroyed, Avilés returned to San Agustin and met with some Timucuan Indians who informed him about Ribault’s shipwreck a few miles south. Avilés immediately jumped at the opportunity to remove the French from Florida marching 14 miles south of the Spanish post with 50 soldiers to an inlet where they massacred nearly 250 of the shipwrecked French Huguenots, including Ribault. From that moment on, the inlet and river became known as Matanzas, which in Spanish means “slaughters”. The park commemorates the killing of the French Huguenots by the Spanish.

After the French massacre, the Spanish town at St. Augustine continued to grow, and by 1695, the Spanish completed Castillo de San Marcos, which became the heart of Florida’s coastal defenses. Although Castillo de San Marcos protected the coast of St. Augustine from pirate and enemy attacks, the Spanish soon realized that the stone fortress could not protect the town from its one and only weakness, the Matanzas Inlet. Since the inlet allowed enemy vessels to attack St. Augustine from the rear, the Spanish began building watchtowers on a barrier island near the inlet that would allow them to control the Matanzas River. Initially, the towers the Spanish constructed were simple structures made out of wood, which often needed replacement since the material could not withstand fires and the wet Florida climate. After numerous pirate attacks and as the British threat intensified, the Spanish recognized the need for a stronger fort.

Completed in 1742, Fort Matanzas is 50 feet wide and 30 feet high, built out of coquina, a local shell stone that the Spanish also used in their construction of Castillo de San Marcos. The Spanish usually stationed two gunners and four infantrymen at Fort Matanzas, but as international tensions increased, so did the numbers of soldiers stationed at the fort. Five guns protected the inlet; some weighing six pounds and one up to 18 pounds, they could easily reach a target less than a half a mile away. To maintain the fort, the Spanish rotated soldiers monthly between St. Augustine and Fort Matanzas, keeping soldiers on high alert to ward off British fleets. After defeating the British who attempted to gain control of the inlet in 1742, Fort Matanzas never again fired its guns.

When the Treaty of Paris of 1763 transferred Florida to Britain at the end of the French and Indian War, the British gained control of Fort Matanzas. In the initial years of the British occupation, the fort saw little change to its infrastructure, but as the American Revolution gained momentum, the British began to add more cannons. Although the struggle during the war of independence took place in the north, British forces faced a possible threat from the Spanish, who under General Bernardo de Galvez had already captured Pensacola. Before the Spanish could launch an attack, the British lost. The second Treaty of Paris returned Florida to Spain in 1784. The Spanish made little effort to maintain Fort Matanzas after that, so by the time the United States acquired Florida in 1819, the fort was in poor condition.

After its abandonment, erosion and rainwater took a heavy toll on the historic structure. In the late 19th century, Henry Flagler’s resorts began attracting wealthy visitors to Florida, especially St. Augustine. Many traveled to the Matanzas Inlet to see the ruins. They petitioned the United States Congress to save Fort Matanzas, and in 1916, after recognizing the fort’s historic significance, the Federal Government began to restore the site.

At Fort Matanzas National Monument, visitors can enjoy a ferry ride, explore the fort and nature trails, and learn about the history of the site. To reach Fort Matanzas, visitors must take a ferry from the visitor center.

Plan Your Visit

Fort Matanzas National Monument is a unit of the National Park System located at 8635 A1A South approximately 15 miles south of St. Augustine, FL. Click here for the National Register of Historic Places file: text and photos. The national monument is open daily from 9:00am to 5:30pm, and closed on Christmas Day. The visitor center is open from 9:00am to 4:30pm. Admission to the park is free, and there are no fees for taking the ferry to the fort. For information on the ferry schedule and park, visit the National Park Service Fort Matanzas National Monument website or call 904-471-0116.

Fort Matanzas is also featured in the National Park Service Along the Georgia-Florida Coast Travel Itinerary and in the Places Reflecting America's Diverse Cultures: Explore their Stories in the National Park System Travel Itinerary. Fort Matanzas has been documented by the National Park Service’s Historic American Buildings Survey.

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Fort Mose Site, Florida

Competition between Spain and Britain made Florida a haven for colonial South Carolina’s fugitive slaves in the 18th century. To destabilize British colonization in the north, Spain encouraged British slaves to escape to Florida, where they could convert to Catholicism and become Spanish citizens. In the 1730s, a black Spanish community formed in St. Augustine, the capital of Spanish Florida, and founded a town called Fort Mose. In the 18th century, two Fort Mose sites existed, one that the Spanish occupied between 1737 and 1740, and another occupied between 1752 and 1763. Fort Mose is the only known free black town in the present-day southern United States that a European colonial government sponsored. The Fort Mose Site, today a National Historic Landmark, is the location of the second Fort Mose.

Slavery in Spain predated its colonization of the Americas. Spain established its slave laws in the 13th century. Catholic doctrine, Roman law, and Spanish policy influenced these laws. According to Spanish law, slavery was not a natural state for any race. It was a product of war by which the victors enslaved rather than killed their enemy. Slavery existed in Spain, but slaves had legal rights within the Spanish slave system, including the right to own property, sue in courts, keep their families together, and purchase their freedom. Black African slaves arrived in the Spanish colonies in the early 16th century, where they replaced the forced labor of the indigenous population. Enslaved Africans first set foot in St. Augustine at its founding in 1565 as members of Pedro Menéndez de Avilés’s colonizing expedition. Despite slave rebellions in the Spanish American colonies, by the 18th century, Spanish Florida had a growing population of both free and enslaved black colonists.

Spain’s flexible attitude toward slaves and black freedmen encouraged British slaves in South Carolina to escape to Florida. In 1693, King Charles II of Spain ordered his Florida colonists to give runaway slaves from British colonies freedom and protection if they converted to Catholicism and agreed to serve Spain. The fugitive slaves from South Carolina who made it to Spanish Florida could expect to gain more control over their own lives, even as Spanish slaves. Between the late 17th and the mid-18th centuries, an unknown number of slaves from South Carolina successfully escaped to Florida. Spanish records note at least six separate groups of slaves who escaped from South Carolina to St. Augustine between 1688 and 1725. This policy of refuge encouraged fugitive slaves to flee to Spanish Florida with the hope of a better life if they made it to a Spanish outpost, and it gave the Spanish a weapon to use against the British. Spain’s policy toward runaways took laborers from the British colony and boosted its own colonial population to oppose the British.

In 1726, Florida governor Antonio de Benavides created a black slave militia to help the white Spanish regiments defend St. Augustine from British attacks. He appointed Francisco Menéndez to lead the militia. Captain Menéndez was a black slave and a veteran of the Yamasee War of 1715. He escaped to St. Augustine from South Carolina with nine other slaves in 1724. Despite Spain’s promise of freedom, Governor Benavides ignored the broad view of King Charles II’s 1693 order to free fugitive slaves. He believed it only applied to slaves who arrived in Florida during wartime. Benavides, perhaps afraid of British retribution, sold several runaway slaves in 1729 to reimburse their British owners and did not free the militiamen, including Menéndez, despite their loyalty. In 1733, the government in Spain outlawed the sale of runaway slaves to private citizens and offered the soldiers freedom after four additional years of service. Menéndez and several others petitioned the government for freedom that year and in 1737 they received unconditional freedom from the new Florida governor, Manuel de Montiano.

After Montiano granted freedom to Menéndez, he established the village of Gracia Real de Santa Teresa de Mosé for black citizens of St. Augustine. The appellation “Gracia Real” indicated that the king established the town. Saint Teresa de Avilés was the town’s patron saint, and Mose was the name of the site prior to settlement. Fort Mose was its unofficial name. There were nearly 40 free men and women at Fort Mose, including Menéndez and his wife María, who pledged to serve Spain and convert to Catholicism. According to British accounts, the first fort built was of stone and the community lived in dwellings outside of it. Although a white Catholic priest and a white Spanish officer were at the village, the governor considered Menéndez the head of the Fort Mose community and respected his military leadership.

The Spanish government emphasized its religious and humanitarian reasons for founding Fort Mose, but the village was also strategically placed to defend St. Augustine against British attacks. In 1739, African slaves in South Carolina killed over 20 British colonists and then tried but failed to escape to St. Augustine in a revolt called the Stono Rebellion. After the rebellion, an international war in Europe intensified competition between the colonies and their uneasy peace broke down.

In 1740, colonial governor James Oglethorpe of Georgia invaded Florida and burned Spanish outposts along the St. Johns River, as he led his force of British colonists and American Indian allies south to St. Augustine. They attacked the Florida capital and quickly captured Fort Mose. Because they lacked the fortifications to hold off Oglethorpe’s army, the Fort Mose community evacuated the town before the British arrived and escaped to St. Augustine. Soon afterward, the Fort Mose militia returned to take back their village from the British and won a conflict called the Battle of Bloody Mose. Beaten and unable to take the city, Oglethorpe retreated. The governor praised the bravery of Menéndez and his militia in a report of the battle to the king. After Oglethorpe’s attack, the Spanish abandoned the first Fort Mose and the black community returned to St. Augustine, where they integrated into mainstream Spanish colonial life.

Despite their successes in the capital, in 1752 Governor Fulgencio García de Solís ordered the black St. Augustine citizens to rebuild Fort Mose at a new site north of the city. The second Fort Mose, which Captain Menéndez again led, lasted until Spain gave Florida to Britain in 1763. In 1759, 67 people lived at Fort Mose. Most households were married couples and children. After the North American Seven Years War, known by the British as the French and Indian War, Spain abandoned Florida. The Spanish, including the Fort Mose community, left the continent and resettled in Matanzas, Cuba, on the Spanish frontier. Although the Spanish government outfitted them and gave them land, the Fort Mose refuges found life in Matanzas was rough. Refugees, including Francisco Menéndez, eventually moved to Havana, Cuba. The black Spanish community never returned to Fort Mose, but there is evidence of Spanish activity at Fort Mose after the American Revolution when Spain resettled Florida.

Beginning in the 1970s, ongoing archeological excavations at the site of the second Fort Mose uncovered a moat, log stockade, and earthwork fort walls. Evidence within the earthwork walls dates structures back to the first Spanish occupation. In 1759, according to a Spanish census, Fort Mose had 22 dwellings. Archeologists believe they were located in and around the main fort. The second Fort Mose also had a large wooden parish church with a thatched roof. At the site, archeologists discovered beads, nails, glass, buttons, American Indian ceramics, Mexican majolica, English wares, and food remains. During the Spanish colonial period, the Fort Mose site was dry farmland. It evolved into a marsh during the late 19th century. The site today is Florida’s Fort Mose Historic State Park, where reenactors and rangers interpret the lives of Spanish Florida’s freed men and women. The visitor center provides information about the history of the site and its museum exhibit highlights artifacts from the Spanish colonial period. Beyond the museum, visitors can walk across a wooden boardwalk that extends from the public parking lot into the open marshland to see the site of the second Fort Mose.

Plan Your Visit

Fort Mose Site, a National Historic Landmark, is located at 15 Fort Mose Trail in St. Augustine, FL. Fort Mose Historic State Park is open Thursday-Monday from 8:00am to sundown and the visitor center is open from 9:00am to 5:00pm. For more information, visit the Fort Mose Historic State Park website or call 904-823-2232.

Fort Mose Site is also featured in the National Park Service Aboard the Underground Railroad Travel Itinerary.

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Fort San Marcos de Apalache, Marks, Florida

At the junction of the Wakulla and St. Marks Rivers, Fort San Marcos de Apalache in western Florida was the site of three Spanish forts between 1679 and 1821. In three episodes during this period, Spain occupied this river junction at present-day St. Marks to protect its trade routes and its claim to Florida. Fort San Marcos de Apalache today is a National Historic Landmark and public State park, where visitors can see the remains of the Spanish forts as well as Civil War-era Confederate earthworks.

Spain first arrived at the future site of San Marcos when Pánfilo de Narváez, a Florida governor and explorer, and his 300 men stopped to build ships at the peninsula in 1526. Florida did not have the gold or silver mines of other Spanish colonies, however, so Spain did not invest resources in the colony until France and England threatened Spanish dominance in the Caribbean. To keep their claim to Florida, the Spanish built forts and Catholic mission towns throughout the region where they allied with American Indian nations, whose populations had been ravaged already by warfare and disease after initial contact with Europeans.

More than a century after the Narváez expedition, Spanish colonists returned to settle and occupy the fertile province of the Apalachee Indians. In Apalachee territory, small Spanish outposts produced wheat to supply Spain’s larger missions in the Caribbean region. Supply ships were targets for British and French pirates along the Florida coast, so the Spanish government ordered soldiers to garrison the strategic peninsula where the Wakulla and St. Marks rivers flowed into the Gulf of Mexico.

The first Spanish structure at Fort San Marcos de Apalache was a wooden fort. Spanish colonizers built this fort in 1679, and it held 45 Spanish soldiers and 400 Apalachee Indians. Spain lost the fort after an attack by English, French, and Indian raiders in 1682, but quickly recovered the site. However, the British threat and pirate attacks forced Spain to consolidate its presence in Florida. British forces from South Carolina and their Creek allies invaded Spanish Florida in the early 18th century. The British destroyed several Spanish missions, enslaved thousands of Apalachee, and crippled the Spanish colony. During this war, the Spanish burned down their wooden fort and abandoned San Marcos.

Spain returned to San Marcos in 1718. Led by Captain José Primo de Rivera, Spanish soldiers built a sturdier wooden fort there to establish a stronger defense against attackers, and in 1739, they began constructing a large stone fort. This stone fort was still under construction when Spain agreed to give Florida to Britain in 1763. This deal was part of the Treaty of Paris, which ended the global conflict commonly known in the U.S. as the French and Indian War. Twenty years later, as part of a series of treaties forged in France in 1783 between the newly independent United States, France, Spain, and Great Britain, Britain returned Florida to Spain.

With Britain finally removed from the region, Spain occupied Fort San Marcos de Apalache a third time between 1787 and 1818. San Marcos was a small garrison, but continued to be an important and thriving center for Indian trade. It was also a target for small-scale regional struggles between the Spanish, French, British, and American Indian groups. Spain lost the fort briefly to British renegade William Augustus Bowles, an adventurer who led a small army of Europeans, Africans, and American Indians against British and Spanish colonists in the 1790s. Ultimately, Spain lost the fort to the United States in 1818 when Andrew Jackson invaded Florida during the First Seminole War. Soon after the fort fell, political unrest in Mexico and increasingly assertive Americans led Spain to cede Florida to the United States in the Adams–Onís Treaty of 1819.

After Spain left Florida in 1821, the United States government sent troops to occupy San Marcos for three years while the government took control of its new territory. In 1839, the U.S. government returned to the fort. In 1859, 14 years after Florida became a State, United States Marines established a Federal hospital at San Marcos to serve victims of yellow fever. The Americans used limestone and flint rock from the Spanish stone fort to build the hospital, finishing it in 1858. Soon after the yellow fever epidemic, the Civil War broke out between the United States and the southern Confederacy. In 1861, Confederate soldiers occupied San Marcos, which they renamed Fort Ward. The Confederates built earthwork fortifications at Fort Ward to defend Florida from a squadron of Union soldiers, who blockaded the St. Marks River throughout the war.

For 100 years after the end of the Civil War, the San Marcos de Apalache fort site was in private ownership, accessible only by boat, and overgrown by vegetation. In the 1960s, the historic site became a National Historic Landmark, and Florida bought the land to turn it into the San Marcos de Apalache Historic State Park. The State filled in part of the marsh that separated it from the mainland and built a road, Canal Street, as well as a parking lot, museum, and public amenities for park visitors. Beyond the museum, the park has walking paths, a picnic area, and a spot for fishing. The park museum sits on top of the Marine hospital and the original stone foundation is still visible. In honor of the peninsula’s many occupiers throughout the centuries since Spanish colonization, six different flags greet visitors to San Marcos. Beyond the park infrastructure, only the stone ruins of the third Spanish fort and remnants of the Confederate earthworks are visible on the natural landscape of San Marcos.

Plan Your Visit

Fort San Marcos de Apalache, a National Historic Landmark, is located in St. Marks, off State Rd. 363, on Old Fort Rd. in St. Marks, FL. The visitor center and museum for San Marcos de Apalache Historic State Park is located at 148 Old Fort Rd., St. Marks. Click here for the National Historic Landmark file: text and photos. San Marcos de Apalache Historic State Park is open Thursday-Monday from 9:00am to 5:00pm, except on Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Day. There is no fee to enter the park, but there is a museum entrance fee of $2 for persons over five years old. For more information, visit the San Marcos de Apalache Historic State Park website or call 850-922-6007.

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Freedom Tower, Miami, Florida

Freedom Tower in Miami, Florida is considered the "Ellis Island of the South” for its role from 1962 through 1974 as the Cuban Assistance Center, offering nationally sanctioned relief to the Cuban refugees who sought political asylum from the regime of Fidel Castro. A National Historic Landmark, Freedom Tower illustrates the important story of the Cuban exodus to the United States and resettlement during the Cold War. Because of the political climate of the era, Cubans seeking political asylum received a warm welcome into the United States. Many Cubans fled to Miami, Florida because of its close proximity to Cuba.

Enacted during President John F. Kennedy’s administration, the Migration and Refugee Assistance Act of 1962 authorized assistance to the large number of Cubans fleeing to the United States for political asylum. The U.S. government transformed the building at 600 Biscayne Boulevard in Miami into the Freedom Tower, opening the Cuban Assistance Center there to help Cubans with everything from health care to housing, finances, and education. While assistance centers opened in Miami and other cities, the Freedom Tower is the single most important physical manifestation of this period of Cold War era politics and the Cuban exodus experience. More than anything else, Freedom Tower stands tall as a symbol of hope and freedom, and the firm belief that democracy should be available to all who fight against tyranny and demagoguery.

Construction of the building that would become the Freedom Tower began on June 11, 1924. Former Ohio governor James M. Cox purchased the Miami Daily News and Metropolis (Miami News) in 1923 during a thriving economic period in Florida and commissioned the construction of the building for use as the newspaper’s headquarters and printing facility. The building opened on July 26, 1925.

Freedom Tower reaches 17 stories, a significant achievement at the time, and contains over 82,000 square feet of space. The tower, based on the design of the Giralda tower of the Cathedral of Seville, is 11 stories high and three bays deep. Details such as the oak main doors, a cast iron decorative transom, wrought iron balconies, Corinthian capitals on the columns, groined ceilings, and cast concrete cherubs, add to the allure of this Spanish Renaissance-style building. Using a blend of Spanish and Italian architectural techniques with Moorish ornamental embellishments, Freedom Tower rose as a permanent and distinctive feature on the Miami skyline. The Miami News utilized the building until its 1957 move to a new facility. It sat virtually unused for the next five years until the U.S. government leased it, starting in 1962, to assist the Cuban refugees.

When Fidel Castro took over Cuba in 1959 he initially was very popular, even receiving support from the Catholic Church. He rose to leadership as a champion of the working class, raising wages and redistributing the assets of the wealthy. He made many businesses property of the Cuban government and nationalized large tracts of agricultural land. His popularity was short-lived, however, because he soon made significant policy changes after aligning himself with the Soviet version of Communism, resulting in a mass exodus of the Cuban people. Fearing imprisonment, violence, or worse, many upper and middle class Cubans fled the country, leaving all of their possessions behind. They left their belongings because they believed that they would be returning to Cuba after Castro’s surely imminent removal from power; they thought of themselves as exiles, not immigrants. Meanwhile, Castro began a campaign of ridding the island of anyone who did not support his ideologies. By the end of 1960, approximately 40,000 Cubans had fled to the United States.

Between 1965 and 1973, thousands more Cubans fled to the United States. Many arrived via Pan American World Airways’ “Freedom Flights.” Pan American World Airways flew two flights per day, five days a week from Varadero Airport, east of Havana, to Miami. Between December 1, 1965 and December 31, 1969, over 175,000 Cubans fled to the United States on what became known as Freedom Flights. The Freedom Flights continued until 1973, with a brief hiatus from August 1971 to December 1972 when Castro stopped the flights.

Because of the large wave of refugees in such a short period of time, the U.S. government needed to provide assistance to ensure that the Cubans could successfully resettle and start new lives in the United States. On July 1, 1962, the General Services Administration began its lease on the first four floors of the Miami News Tower for the Cuban Assistance Center. Simple gold lettering identified the building as “The Freedom Tower.” Utilizing the basement, lobby, mezzanine, third, and fourth floors of the building from 1962 until 1974, the Cuban Assistance Center provided thousands of Cuban refugees with resources for adjusting to their new lives in the United States.

Known to the Cuban refugees as "El Refugio," the Freedom Tower provided in-processing services, basic medical and dental services, records on relatives already in the U.S., and relief aid for those starting a new life with nothing. Refugees were furnished with identification cards and were interviewed to identify both their needs and strengths. They received medical examinations and surplus foods like cheese and canned meat. Federal funds were also distributed for financial assistance. Due to the mass influx of workers in the Miami area, job opportunities became scarce, and some refugees, through the Cuban Assistance Center, resettled in other areas of the country where economic opportunities did exist. Many refugees remember that they could find all the assistance they needed at the Freedom Tower. Many of the people working at the Cuban Assistance Center were Cuban so they could understand the needs and fears of those they were helping.

The Freedom Tower represented, for many Cuban refugees, a turning point in their lives. Here they began the slow process of rebuilding their lives by equipping themselves with the tools and resources necessary for successful resettlement. By utilizing the food program, medical clinics, and financial relief programs, refugees were able to start their new lives in the United States. The Cuban exile community utilized the Cuban Assistance Center and went on to make significant contributions to their new communities in the United States. With an estimated 650,000 Cuban refugees entering the United States from 1959 until 1974, the Federal Government spent $957 million dollars on the Cuban Refugee Program. By 1974, the U.S. government began phasing out the program and closed the Cuban Assistance Center in the same year.

Bought and sold many times in the coming years, and with vagrants destroying much of the architectural embellishments, the building languished until its purchase in 1997 by Jorge Mas Canosa, the founder and leader of the powerful Cuban American National Foundation. While Jorge Mas Canosa passed away only two months after purchasing the building, his family continued with his plans for its restoration and later sold it to another Cuban American family in 2004. The Pedro Martin family that purchased the building in 2005 donated it to Miami Dade College, the largest Hispanic-serving institution of higher education.

Today, the Freedom Tower serves the college as its premier exhibition space and gallery. Admission to the exhibition space on the 2nd floor of the building is free and open to the public. There are plans to use the Freedom Tower as the Cuban American Historical Museum in the future. As a beacon of hope and freedom, the Freedom Tower remains a national symbol of the liberty sought and found by Cuban refugees who came to the United States of America at the height of the Cold War conflict.

Plan Your Visit

Freedom Tower, a National Historic Landmark, is located at 600 Biscayne Blvd. in Miami, FL. Click here for the National Historic Landmark file: text. Freedom Tower is part of the Miami Dade College campus. The 2nd floor of the building serves as a gallery art exhibition space open to the public for free Tuesday through Saturday from 12:00pm until 5:00pm. For more information, visit the Miami Dade College Art Gallery System: Freedom Tower website or call 305-237-7700.

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González-Alvarez House, St. Augustine, Florida

A National Historic Landmark, the González-Alvarez House is the oldest surviving Spanish colonial dwelling in St. Augustine, Florida. While evidence exists that the González-Alvarez House site had been occupied since the 1600s, the present house dates to the early 1700s. Construction began on the house around 1723 and it reached its final form in 1790. The house exhibits both Spanish and British colonial architectural details and styles. A visit to the house reveals a record of life in St. Augustine over 400 years – through the Spanish, British, and American occupations of St. Augustine.

Spaniard Pedro Menéndez de Avilés established St. Augustine in 1565. Although St. Augustine had an early history plagued by violence and destruction at the hands of rival European nations, the settlement persevered and survived to be the oldest continuously occupied European settlement in the continental United States. Spanish settlers not only had to fight rival European nations, they had to adapt to Florida’s intense weather. Adjusting their architectural techniques to the climate needs of Florida, the Spanish developed a plan for the typical St. Augustine colonial dwelling from 1703 until 1763. When the British briefly controlled St. Augustine from 1763 until 1784, they adopted and improved upon this plan. The González-Alvarez House represents both of these phases of colonial architectural development.

A typical Spanish colonial St. Augustine residence was a one-story rectangular shaped building with two to four rooms. The homes had either a loggia (an open-sided room) or a porch, and often a street balcony. The main entrance to the home was through either the loggia or the porch, which opened to a walled garden in the rear. The thick coquina (a natural shell-stone) walls provided protection from heat in the summer and cold in the winter. Braziers heated the houses, which did not have chimneys. An essential element of the plan was to orient the home’s open areas to face south or east for ventilation purposes. In the summer, winds from the southeast moved through the homes, ventilating the large rooms and cooling the loggias or porches.

During the British occupation of St. Augustine, British settlers expanded porches and moved entrances from the walled gardens to the fronts of the houses facing the street. They also added chimneys for cooking and heating, entire rooms, and sometimes second stories to make the homes more spacious.

Construction began on the González-Alvarez house around 1723. Evidence suggests that by 1727, Tomás González y Hernández, an artilleryman stationed at the Castillo de San Marcos, lived in the house. The original home was a one-story rectangular-shaped stone dwelling with thick coquina walls that were plastered with lime and whitewashed. Covered by a hipped roof shingled with wood, the home’s two large rooms had tabby floors (a mixture of shells, lime, and sand) and large windows without glass. Closely laid parallel pieces of wood, called rejas, covered these large windows and double-leaf solid shutters protected them on the inside. González and his family lived in the house for nearly 40 years. When Spain ceded Florida to Great Britain in 1763, many of St. Augustine’s Spanish settlers left, including González and his family, who moved to Cuba.

The house sat vacant until 1775 when a wealthy British soldier, Sergeant-Major Peavett, purchased the home. Between 1775 and 1786, Sergeant-Major Peavett doubled the size of the house by adding a wooden framed second story covered in clapboard siding. Sergeant-Major Peavett replaced the rejas and the interior double-leaf solid shutters with glazed glass windows. Sergeant-Major Peavett died in 1786, and shortly thereafter, his wife married John Hudson, an Irishman in financial crisis. To pay off Hudson’s debts, the house went up for auction. Newly arrived

Spaniard Geronimo Alvarez purchased the home and began the alterations that would bring it to its final 18th century form.
Constructing it entirely of coquina, Alvarez added a two-story tier containing six rooms to the rear side of the house. On the east end of the house, Alvarez added a framed porch that sat on top of a one-story room coquina addition. The new rooms included a chapel, three bedrooms, a loggia, and a pantry. Alvarez, his family, and his descendents lived in the home for almost 100 years.

Beginning in 1882, ownership of the house changed hands many times, and by 1892 it was being presented to visitors as the “Oldest House” in America, a title now contested. The St. Augustine Historical Society acquired the home in 1918 and conducted research, archeological studies, and restoration and renovations on the site. Today, the González-Alvarez House is part of the St. Augustine Historical Society’s Oldest House Museum Complex, which also includes two museums, a changing exhibition gallery, an ornamental garden, and a museum store. Guided tours of the complex are available every half hour.

Plan Your Visit

The González-Alvarez House, a National Historic Landmark, is located at 14 Saint Francis St. in St. Augustine, FL. Click here for the National Historic Landmark file: text and photos. The St. Augustine Historical Society’s Oldest House Museum Complex is open daily 9:00am until 5:00 pm, except Christmas Day, Thanksgiving, and Easter. Guided tours begin every half hour, with the last tour starting at 4:30 pm. For more information, visit the St. Augustine Historical Society website or call 904-824-2872.

The González-Alvarez House has been documented by the National Park Service’s Historic American Buildings Survey. The St. Augustine Town Plan Historic District is included in the National Park Service Along the Georgia Florida Coast Travel Itinerary.

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Gulf Islands National Seashore, Florida and Mississippi

Stretching for miles along the southern coasts of Mississippi, Alabama, and the northwestern corner of Florida, Gulf Islands National Seashore helps tell the story of the development of the United States as an independent nation. The area included within the National Seashore was important in the creation and protection of the southern United States after a series of occupations by the Spanish and British. Visitors will find an array of impressive military heritage sites within the park that reflect the pivotal role of fortresses in seizing control of the region. Gulf Islands National Seashore also offers a wide variety of exciting recreational possibilities including swimming, boating, fishing, and camping.

Between the 1500s and the 1800s, the area where Gulf Islands National Seashore is located came under the Spanish, then the British, the Spanish again, and finally the United States. The sites to see in the park further evolved during the American Civil War and many remained in military service through World War II. Exhibits and tours feature and interpret not only military history but also the area's heritage as linked to the Apache, Latino culture, slavery, shipbuilding, and the coastal environment. There is much to see and do at the many units of the park to learn about the history of the region and the nation.

Around Pensacola, links to Latino heritage are especially strong. The Spanish first came to the area in the 1500s as one of the colonizing powers that ruled Florida. Because the Spanish originally regarded Pensacola as a simple military outpost, Spain only sent basic necessities to support its troops, including slaves and workmen, to build a military presence on the west coast of Florida to protect the strategic Pensacola Bay. In 1698, the Spanish constructed the first fort in this area, Fort San Carlos de Austria; however, the French completely destroyed it in 1719. The rivalry between European powers in this area led to the repeated destruction and rebuilding of fortresses.

From 1763 to 1781, the British controlled Pensacola and built the Royal Navy Redoubt, a five-faced battery made from earth and logs. In 1781, the Spanish regained control of Pensacola, which marked the beginning of the last period of Spanish rule in the area. In 1797, the Spanish constructed the Bateria de San Antonio, a masonry water battery, and Fort San Carlos de Barrancas, which was a replacement for the fort the Spanish built during their first occupation.

Andrew Jackson moved into Pensacola in 1814, in response to Spanish-British collaboration during the War of 1812. The British immediately burned down the fort and retreated from the area. The Spanish attempted to rebuild their fort, but eventually surrendered. Thus, Jackson seized control of West Florida and the fort for the United States in 1821.

Today, visitors can see this legacy in Fort Barrancas and its associated structures. The original Spanish-built fort has been highly altered over time, but the colonial-era Bateria de San Antonio, also known as the Water Battery, that dates from 1797 is still partially visible. US troops overtook it in 1834 and then used it during the Civil War. American engineers remodeled the Water Battery in 1840 and built the current brickwork Fort Barrancas on the bluff between 1839 and 1844, connecting it to the Water Battery by a tunnel. The United States deactivated Fort Barrancas on April 15, 1947. AFter being restored, the fort opened to the public in 1980..

Spain was the first European nation to gain a foothold in this region of the New World but other powers followed. The conflicts that marked the settlement at Pensacola were mostly between colonizing forces, but American Indian groups living in the area were also severely affected. Beyond the struggles of imperialism, successive waves of colonizers encountered American Indian tribes such as the Apache and, later, the Seminole. Relations between the colonists and Indians were not always peaceful, and by the time of the Spanish surrendered Florida to the British in 1763, foreign disease (like the notorious yellow fever) had devastated many of the Indians. Those who survived fled to Cuba with the Spanish. The Seminoles, who began moving into the area in the mid-1700s, clashed with the new American settlers, and few tribe members remained by the turn of the next century.

Meanwhile, the area around the original Spanish Fort Barrancas continued to be important in the nation’s coastal defense and the protection of Pensacola. Completed nearby in 1834, Fort Pickens played a defensive role as a Union stronghold against nearby Confederate forces at Fort McRee and Fort Barrancas during the Civil War. Fort Pickens is the largest of the four forts built in the area to protect Pensacola. The Advanced Redoubt to the north was constructed between 1845 and 1870 to defend against an enemy attack from the land, unlike the other fortifications whose defensive artillery faced the sea. A trench line connected Advanced Redoubt and Fort Barrancas, protecting the navy yard to the east from infantry attacks.

Just west of Fort Pickens in Florida is Fort McRee. Constructed between 1834 and 1839, this fort now lies in ruins after heavy damage during the Civil War and natural erosion of the shoreline on which it sits. Despite this, the US military continued to build artillery batteries here for the defense of Perdido Key and the coastline, through World War II. In addition to the site of the former fort, ruins of these batteries are still visible both here and near Fort Pickens.

Fort Massachusetts on West Ship Island in Mississippi was also intended for national defense. Beginning in 1859, Americans rebuilt what had once been a French base in the early 1700s to protect the strategic deepwater harbor on the north side of the island. Storms, disease, climate, isolation and the Civil War made construction on the remote barrier island such a challenge that it halted entirely in 1866 before completion of the fort.

Visitors to the park can explore Fort Barrancas and its Advanced Redoubt, Fort Pickens, Fort McRee, and Fort Massachusetts through a variety of ranger-led tours, youth programming, and special events. Although few tangible remains at Gulf Island National Seashore mark their presence, it was the Spanish who first realized the strategic importance of western Florida and began the series of outposts that evolved over time to protect the coast of the United States.

Plan Your Visit

Gulf Islands National Seashore is part of the National Park System and includes a number of National Park Service units in both Mississippi and Florida. The William M. Colmer Visitor Center serves as the headquarters for the park and is located at 3500 Park Rd. in Ocean Springs, MS. In Florida, a major visitor center is located at 1801 Gulf Breeze Parkway in Gulf Breeze, FL. The Bateria de San Antonio and land occupied by the present-day Fort Barrancas have been designated a National Historic Landmark within the Gulf Island National Seashore. Fort Barrancas Historic District is listed in the National Register of Historic Places and includes the fort area, the Bateria de San Antonio, and the Advanced Redoubt of Fort Barrancas. Click here for the registration file: text and photos. For more information, visit the National Park Service Gulf Island National Seashore website or call 850-934-2600 for details on sites in Florida, or 228-875-9057, extension 100 for details on sites in Mississippi.

Gulf Island National Seashore is included in the National Park Service Places Reflecting America's Diverse Cultures: Explore their Stories in the National Park System Travel Itinerary. Fort Barrancas and the Bateria de San Antonio have also been documented by the National Park Service’s Historic American Buildings Survey. The National Park Service has also prepared documentation on the fort area through its Founders and Frontiersmen program. The site may be reached by entering the Pensacola Naval Air Station through the back entrance, off State Route 173.

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Gullah/Geechee Cultural Heritage Corridor, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Florida

The Gullah/Geechee Cultural Heritage Corridor extends from Wilmington, North Carolina in the north to Jacksonville, Florida, in the south. The National Heritage Area includes roughly 80 barrier islands and continues inland to adjacent coastal counties, defining a region 30 miles inland throughout the United States Low Country. The Gullah/Geechee Heritage Corridor is home to the Gullah people in the Carolinas, and the Geechee in Georgia and Florida – cultural groups descended from enslaved peoples from West and Central Africa. The Gullah and Geechee share similar linguistic, artistic and societal traits that have remained relatively intact for several centuries due to the geographic isolation of the region. The cultures represent the many ways that Africans in the Americas maintained their homeland roots while simultaneously assimilating aspects of new cultures they encountered during and after enslavement. The Spanish came into what is now the heritage area in the 16th century.

The Gullah/Geechee Cultural Heritage Corridor is managed by a federal commission made up of local representatives who collaborate with the National Park Service, Community Partners, Grass Root organizations and the State historic preservation offices of North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia and Florida. Through research, education and interpretation, the corridor aims to preserve and raise awareness regarding the Gullah/Geechee, among America’s least-known and most unique cultures. Visitors to the southeastern coast of the country have the chance to experience Gullah/Geechee heritage through historic sites, local tours, traditional foods, cultural events, and art galleries.

Gullah/Geechee in the Southeastern United States

There are multiple theories as to where the Gullah/Geechee people received their name. It is possible that the name “Gullah” is derived from the country of Angola, where many of the Gullah/Geechee people may have originated. Another possibility is that the name came from Gola, an ethnic group that lives in West Africa. The term “Geechee” may come from another West African ethnic group known as the Kissi. It has also been suggested that the “Gullah/Geechee” name may have Native American roots. When the Spanish arrived to the South Carolina and Georgia region, they decided to call it Guale after a Native American tribe they encountered. Guale became one of four primary Spanish mission provinces along with Timucua, Mocama, and Apalachee.

When the ratification of the 13th Amendment to the United States Constitution banned slavery in 1865, most of the African and American-born slaves along the southeastern coast remained in the region that had come to be their homes. Life on the barrier islands was quite isolated from that of the mainland, and few outside visitors ever made contact with the newly freed communities. Because of this geographic isolation and a strong sense of cultural connection amongst the people, the African Americans who today self-identify as Gullah/Geechee retained their African heritage to a strong degree.

Most of the Gullah/Geechee still live in rural communities of low-level, vernacular buildings along the Low Country mainland coast and on the barrier islands. Towns once were often dotted with dirt roads and traversed by oxen, mules, and horses. The Gullah/Geechee are the speakers of the only African-American Creole language that developed in the United States – one that combines elements of English and over 30 African dialects. Oral traditions, folklore, and storytelling are cultural traditions that have gone largely unchanged for generations. Religious ceremonies such as ring shouts, artisan crafts like sweet grass basket weaving, and culinary traditions such as “hoppin’ john” and sweet potato pone are all preserved as part of the culture of the Gullah/Geechee.

Recently life has changed for the Gullah/Geechee. The barrier islands were accessible only by boat until the building of the first bridges starting in the early 1950s. Since that time, many traditional Gullah/Geechee communities on the islands have been altered by cultural infiltration from mainlanders, or been lost entirely to real estate development. The advent of air-conditioning transformed the hot, humid islands into desirable, ocean-side property bringing outsiders into what was once solely Gullah or Geechee territory. Despite recent losses, the Gullah/Geechee people remain a testament to the power of human adaptability and cultural survival, even in the face of outside pressures from the modern world.

Because of the nature of the Gullah/Geechee culture and its associated corridor, many aspects of the area’s heritage are intangible and cannot be experienced through a solitary site. Local institutions and organizations thus offer regional tours and assistance. Both The Sapelo Island Cultural and Revitalization Society in Georgia, and Gullah Tours out of Charleston, South Carolina provide boat tours that focus on Gullah/Geechee culture, language, music and storytelling. Carolina Food Pros also offers an extensive culinary tour of coastal South Carolina featuring traditional Lowland and Gullah cooking. Please call 843-723-3366 for scheduling.

The Gullah/Geechee Cultural Heritage Corridor protects, bolsters, and showcases the traditional Gullah/Geechee culture that remains in the region, and its relation to the overall history of slavery, plantations, abolition and emancipation in the South. Several cultural and educational institutions interpret this heritage for visitors. Geechee Kunda is a museum and community education center in Riceboro, Georgia, which features exhibits, galleries, classes and events about Geechee culture, a gift shop, and a family research center. For more information, call 912-884-4440. The Avery Research Center for African-American History and Culture in Charleston, South Carolina focuses on Gullah heritage in the Low Country as well as the wider theme of the African Diaspora in America. The center offers exhibits, public programming, tours, and an extensive archival collection. Call 843-953-7609 for upcoming events and information.

In addition to museums, visitors to the heritage corridor can experience the area through many federally recognized historic places. The National Park Service administers Cumberland Island National Seashore. Cumberland Island is Georgia’s largest, southernmost barrier island, with four major historic districts and 87 structures listed in the National Register of Historic Places. The island is still home to Geechee descendants of slaves who worked the plantations there through the mid 1800s. Park interpretive services include guided ranger tours and a museum with exhibits on the history and culture of the area that is open on Sundays from 1:00pm to 4:00pm.

Visitors interested in plantation history may also enjoy another unit of the National Park System, the Charles Pinckney National Historic Site in Mount Pleasant, South Carolina. The site interprets one of the authors and signers of the United States Constitution. In addition to the c. 1828 Farmhouse, the site focuses on plantation life and agricultural history on the 28 preserved acres of the original 715 acre property. This includes regularly scheduled Gullah heritage celebrations and a Gullah film festival.

One of the most notable historic places to visit within the Gullah/Geechee Cultural Heritage Corridor is the Penn School Historic District on St. Helena Island in South Carolina. The site is a National Historic Landmark listed in the National Register of Historic Places. The 47-acre area contains 18 historic buildings dating from the mid 1800s. Brick Church, the oldest building still standing, was constructed in 1855 by slaves for early Baptist planters in St. Helena. It was later used as a church, community center and school for both black and white abolitionists during the Reconstruction Era and is one of the earliest schools for the newly freed slaves. Missionaries constructed the other buildings on the island when they came there to assist former Gullah slaves with their newfound freedom after their owners abandoned the island during the Civil War. In addition to the early school and missionary buildings, the district also includes Gantt Cottage where Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Southern Leadership Conference often met during the African American Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s.

Locals showcase the Penn School Historic District, or “Penn Center” with pride, and visitors are welcome to attend annual Gullah festivals and community events. The York W. Bailey Museum interprets the history and culture of the island and is open Monday through Saturday, from 11am to 4pm. More information is available on the Penn Center website.

Florida’s connection to the Gullah/Geechee culture and heritage corridor is rooted in the longest standing tradition of black and Native American freedom. Spanish Florida was established within the Guale chiefdom in the late 16th century. Disease and warfare greatly reduced the size of the Guale. Those who survived migrated to the Spanish missions; many of these members became known as the Yamasee.

Gracia Real de Santa Teresa de Mose or Fort Mose in Saint Augustine is not only located in the nation’s oldest city but also is recognized as the oldest sanctioned free black community in the United States. In the 17th century, Spanish control in the southern region was threatened with the establishment of English colonies in South Carolina. In 1687, Spanish officials reported the first runaways from the nearby English settlements. The Spanish crown, interested in maintaining control in the southeast, began to encourage runaways to abscond from English settlements and colonies. In 1693, an edict was issued granting freedom to all runaway slaves from English settlements. Then, in 1702, the English forces from South Carolina invaded Spanish Florida and destroyed refugee missions located in the Guale region. In 1738, Spanish authority issued a charter to create Fort Mose and as early as 1739, fugitive slaves inhabited Fort Mose.

Blacks agreed to help defend St. Augustine from outside European invasion in exchange for certain liberties. The protection served three primary functions: to maintain a social and strategic relationship with the Spanish, to maintain the Spanish foothold in St. Augustine, and to advance Blacks within Spanish society. The Spanish provided food until the first crops were harvested, a priest for religious instruction, and established a military unit. In time, Fort Mose was considered the first line of defense for Saint Augustine.

Today, Fort Mose historic state park is a national historic landmark. Visitors enjoy both the ecological treasures and historical past of Fort Mose. The museum and interpretive center is open on Thursday to Monday from 9:00a.m. – 5:00p.m. On the last Saturday of each month, living history re-enactors provide visitors with a glimpse of the past. For more information, please contact the Fort Mose Park Office at 904-823-2232 or visit the park website.

Self-taught and visionary artist Minnie Evans was born and raised in Pender and New Hanover Counties, the northernmost points of the Gullah/Geechee corridor. The Cameron Art Museum of Wilmington, N.C. houses the Minnie Evans Study Center, a central repository for archival material regarding the life of Minnie Evans. In addition, the lands around the Cameron Art Museum once witnessed the Civil War "Battle of Forks Road," in which U.S. Colored Troops played a critical role.

In Winnabow, N.C., the St. Philips Church at Brunswick Town/Fort Anderson occupies land once cultivated by enslaved workers for the long leaf pine-based naval stores industry, and on Lower Cape Fear River rice plantations. This land also witnessed the liberation of former slaves as it served as a camp for black refugees in 1865. Another site, St. Stephen African Methodist Episcopal Church, of Wilmington, N.C. represents the fortitude and innovation of African Americans in the northern section of the Gullah-Geechee Corridor. The church sits on Campbell Square, on land designated for "the Negro population of New Hanover County," since 1845. In May of 1865, not even one month after the close of the Civil War, "642 Negroes joined the African Church," under the leadership of Rev. W. H. Hunter, an African American chaplain with the Union Army. In 1866, the Wilmington Board of Alderman passed an ordinance rededicating Campbell Square to the use of "colored people," specifying that four churches and a school should occupy the land. St. Stephen is one of those churches.

Plan Your Visit

The Gullah/Geechee Cultural Heritage Corridor, a National Heritage Area, stretches from Wilmington, NC to Jacksonville, FL. The corridor includes coastal lands and offshore barrier islands in North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida that all are connected by Interstate 95, which runs through, or near much of the heritage corridor. For additional information, visit the National Park Service Gullah/Geechee Cultural Heritage Corridor website or call 843-881-5516. Directions and a map can be found on the National Park Service website. For additional information, visit the National Park Service Cumberland Island National Seashore and Charles Pinckney National Historic Site websites.

Click here for the National Historic Landmark registration file for the Penn School Historic District: text and photos. Reservations for tours of the island can be made by calling 843-838-2432.

The Gullah/Geechee Cultural Heritage Corridor is also featured in the National Park Service Places Reflecting America's Diverse Cultures: Explore their Stories in the National Park System Travel Itinerary. Rice plantation farming and slavery in Lowland South Carolina are the subjects of an online lesson plan, When Rice Was King. The lesson plan has been produced by the National Park Service’s Teaching with Historic Places program, which offers a series of online classroom-ready lesson plans on registered historic places. To learn more, visit the Teaching with Historic Places homepage.

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Llambias House, St. Augustine, Florida

A National Historic Landmark, the Llambias House is one of the few buildings in St. Augustine, Florida that dates back to the first Spanish colonial period (1565-1763). Restored in the 1950s, the house is a prime example of St. Augustine’s local architectural style first developed by the Spanish and later modified by the British during the colonial period. Originally constructed before 1763, the house took its final form by 1788 and exhibits both Spanish and English architectural details. The home is within the St. Augustine Town Plan Historic District, another National Historic Landmark featured in this itinerary.

Throughout the 1500s, Spanish explorers identified Florida, with its land and potential trade route benefits, as an important place to establish Spanish settlements in the New World. After failed settlement attempts by other explorers, Spaniard Pedro Menéndez de Avilés established a permanent settlement named San Agustín (St. Augustine) in 1565. St. Augustine is the oldest continuously occupied European settlement in the continental United States.

Using the Laws of the Indies as a guide, St. Augustine started to take the shape of an organized Spanish colonial town by 1603. Written in 1573 by the Spanish crown, the Laws of the Indies set forth a body of laws to regulate the social, economic, and political lives of Spain’s colonial settlements around the world. The Laws of the Indies codified the city planning process and set forth a basic plan for Spanish colonial towns. St. Augustine’s narrow streets formed a grid, with symmetrical streets running both parallel and perpendicular to the town plaza. The plaza was a central place in the town and community, and the settlement expanded out from this location. To promote a sense of community, a higher moral code, and strong governmental core, important civic and religious buildings sat around the plaza. As the layout of St. Augustine took shape, so did the town’s residences.

In the late 1600s, when royal funds arrived in St. Augustine to construct an immense fort, the Castillo de San Marcos, colonists learned how to quarry and use coquina, a natural shell-stone located on the local barrier Anastasia Island. Colonists cut and quarried coquina into large blocks for the construction of this new massive stone fortress. Once the construction of the Castillo de San Marcos, which still stands today, was complete, the King of Spain permitted colonists to purchase the stone to build their homes.

The Spanish colonists developed a particular “St. Augustine” architecture suitable for the climate for the houses they constructed. A typical Spanish colonial St. Augustine house was a one-story rectangular shaped building with one to four rooms. The houses had either a loggia (an open-sided room) or a porch, and often a street balcony. The thick coquina walls provided protection from heat in the summer and cold in the winter. Braziers heated the houses, which did not have chimneys. The kitchen often smoked up the house; however, the smoke acted as a mosquito repellent that helped protect the colonists. For ventilation purposes, most houses faced south or east. In the summer, winds from the southeast moved through St. Augustine, ventilating the rooms and cooling the loggias or porches. The main entrance was through either the loggia or porch, which opened onto the walled garden in the rear of the house.

Built prior to 1763 on a variation of this typical “St. Augustine” residence design, the Llambias House is a prime example of this type of house. When it was first constructed, it was a rectangular, probably two-room coquina house with a hipped roof. The exterior was whitewashed and the interior plastered. The floor was made of tabby (oyster shell, sand, and lime concrete). Closed wooden grating called rejas protected the windows, which did not have glass.

Between 1763 and 1784 changes in the colonial government of Florida altered society and influenced the architecture of St. Augustine, including the final form of the Llambias House. During Britain’s brief control of Florida (1763-1784), new British settlers brought architectural ideas that subtly changed the Spanish design. The British expanded porches and moved entrances from the walled gardens to the fronts of the houses facing the street. They added chimneys for cooking and heating, entire rooms, and sometimes second stories to make the homes more spacious.

Juan Andreu, a baker who came to St. Augustine in 1777, acquired the Llambias House, remodeling and enlarging it between 1777 and 1788. Andreu added a second story of coquina containing two rooms, a covered balcony on the second floor, a stairway in the enclosed garden providing access to the second floor rooms, and a separate small one-story coquina kitchen. He also installed a chimney with two fireplaces and double-hung glazed windows with exterior shutters.

After many changes to the house in the following years, the St. Augustine Restoration and Preservation Association restored the home in the 1950s. The Llambias House stands as an important reminder of the influence of Spanish and British colonialism in Florida and their lasting impacts on the United States. The home, representative of Spanish and English architectural styles, provides visitors with a glimpse at the beginnings of European settlement in America. Today the St. Augustine Historical Society operates the house. Visitors can walk by the house to view the exterior but may only tour the interior of the house by appointment. The house is available for private functions such as weddings and other events.

Plan Your Visit

The Llambias House, a National Historic Landmark, is located at 31 St. Francis St. in St. Augustine, FL. Click here for the National Historic Landmark file: text. Visitors can walk by the house, but it is only open by appointment and for private functions. For more information, visit the St. Augustine Historical Society website or call 904-824-2872.

The Llambias House has been documented by the National Park Service’s Historic American Buildings Survey. The St. Augustine Town Plan Historic District is included in the National Park Service Along the Georgia Florida Coast Travel Itinerary.

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Plaza Ferdinand VII , Pensacola, Florida    

Plaza Ferdinand VII, a National Historic Landmark, is the site of the formal transfer of Florida from Spain to the United States in July of 1821. The basis for the transfer was the Adams-Onís Treaty of 1819, also known as the Transcontinental Treaty, whereby Spain agreed to cede East and West Florida to the United States in exchange for the United States agreeing to pay its citizens’ claims against Spain up to $5 million dollars. While it took Spanish foreign minister Louis de Onís two years to sign the treaty with Secretary of State John Quincy Adams, he ultimately realized that he had to negotiate with the United States or risk losing Florida without any compensation. Spain finally signed the treaty February 22, 1821. On July 17, 1821, in Plaza Ferdinand VII in Pensacola, Florida, Spain formally transferred Florida to the United States.

Well before the Adams-Onís Treaty, many European powers sought control over the land that would one day become the State of Florida. During the 1500s, early Spanish explorers such as Juan Ponce de León, Hernando de Soto, and Tristán de Luna y Arellano, helped to identify Florida as a desirable place for explorers, missionaries, and treasure seekers. In 1513 when Ponce de León arrived on the sandy shores of Florida for the first time, he named the area la Florida, in honor of Pascua Florida (“feast of the flower”), Spain’s Easter time celebration. After the early explorers’ failed settlement attempts in Florida, Spaniard Pedro Menéndez de Avilés established a permanent settlement, named San Agustín (St. Augustine) in 1565. St. Augustine was the first permanent European settlement in what is now the continental United States.

For the next couple of hundred years Spain continued its colonization efforts, constructing forts and Catholic missions throughout Florida. During this time both the French and British attempted to take gain control of Florida from Spain. Like the Spanish, these nations sought to exploit the rich resources of the area. For the most part, Spain was able to ward off these attempts; however, continued attacks by both France and England throughout the 1700s revealed the growing weakness of Spain’s hold on Florida. During a brief period, from 1763 until 1784, the British gained control of Florida. The British split Florida into two parts: East Florida, with its capital at St. Augustine; and West Florida, with its seat at Pensacola. The Spanish regained control of Florida in 1784 as part of the peace treaty that ended the American Revolution.

During the second period of Spain’s control of the area, Spanish colonists, settlers from the newly formed United States, and escaped slaves all fled to Florida. Favorable Spanish terms for acquiring property drew settlers. Escaped slaves came to the area because here their U.S. masters had no authority over them. During the early 1800s, while Spanish Florida was actually becoming more “American,” Spanish resources increasingly dwindled due to war. Spain was losing its hold on its American empire. While Spain had long rejected repeated American efforts to purchase Florida, by 1819 the idea of ceding it began to make sense.

Florida had become a bit of a burden to Spain, which could not afford to send supplies, settlers, or soldiers to protect Spanish settlers in this faraway land. While it took some time for Spanish foreign minister Louis de Onís to get the treaty ratified that would transfer rule of Florida to the United States, he ultimately realized that Spain had to negotiate with the United States or risk losing Florida without any compensation. Spain formally ceded Florida to the United States under the terms of the Adams–Onís Treaty with the signing of the treaty on February 21, 1821.

By March 1821, General Andrew Jackson received the appointment of temporary governor of both East and West Florida, which were to be combined into one territory. In July of that year, Jackson sent Colonel Robert Butler to serve as his representative in accepting the official transfer of East Florida at St. Augustine, and he proceeded to Pensacola to accept the official transfer of West Florida.

On July 17, 1821, in the third and most important transfer ceremony, the official transfer of West Florida to the United States occurred in Plaza Ferdinand VII at Pensacola. This ceremony was especially significant because it was the only one in which the Spanish territorial governor participated and because immediately after the ceremony an official proclamation announced the transfer to the United States and the establishment of its territorial government in Florida.

The transfer ceremony began around 10:00 am when Jackson rode to the steps of the Government House, which was on the site of the present City Hall, and met Spanish governor and colonel Don José María Callava. Together the men descended the steps and entered the plaza where they walked between lines of United States and Spanish troops. While the Fourth Infantry band played “The Star-Spangled Banner,” the Spanish flag was lowered to half-staff and the United States flag was raised to a level with it. Soldiers lowered the Spanish flag and raised the United States flag to full staff while the U.S.S. Hornet in Pensacola Bay fired a 21-gun salute. After the ceremony, Jackson officially proclaimed the establishment of the Florida territory, and a few days later, he set up a new territorial government on behalf of the United States.

Today, visitors and residents of Pensacola can stroll through the plaza where this historic event occurred. The Pensacola Historical Society erected a commemorative monument in the plaza in 1935, and old cannons are mounted at the four corners of the plaza. The plaza is bounded by Government Street, Jefferson Street, Zarragossa Street, and Palofax Street. Historic Pensacola Village, a collection of 22 historic buildings and museums where visitors can take self-guided walking tours or guided house tours, surrounds the plaza.

Plan Your Visit

Plaza Ferdinand VII, a National Historic Landmark, is bound by Government, Jefferson, Zarragossa, and Palofax Sts. in Pensacola, FL. Click here for the National Historic Landmark file: text and photos. The plaza is open year round, 24 hours a day. For more information, visit the Tourism Division of the Pensacola Bay Area Chamber of Commerce website or call 800-874-1234.

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San Luis de Talimali, Tallahassee, Florida

Spanish colonists established their western Florida capital and local Catholic mission in 1656 at an Apalachee Indian village in the Tallahassee Red Hills. Called San Luis de Talimali, this Spanish colonial town was the social, administrative, religious, and military center for the region’s colonists and equal in size to St. Augustine at the time. The Spanish and their Apalachee allies lived at San Luis, present-day Tallahassee, until a British invasion from the north forced them to abandon their village. Today, the site of the San Luis’ political and religious center is a National Historic Landmark and an important archeological resource. The State of Florida bought the land in 1983 and two decades later established a historical park, where visitors can learn about the history and explore recreations of Spanish and Apalachee buildings as they looked during the 17th century.

The Spanish settled permanently in Florida in the 1560s when Pedro Menéndez de Avilés, governor of Florida, founded the city of St. Augustine. The Spanish were slow to colonize the peninsula because Florida lacked the mineral wealth of the other colonies, like silver-rich Peru and Mexico. However, colonial outposts in inland Florida and along the eastern coastline gave the Spanish a strategic position to protect their ships from pirates and to preserve American Indian alliances against French and English competition. Like other Spanish colonies, Florida also gave Spain an opportunity to convert American Indians to Christianity. To preserve Spain’s claim to the colony and to perform their religious duty, the Spaniards founded missions throughout Spanish Florida from the eastern coast of present-day Georgia to Pensacola. San Luis de Talimali was part of this chain.

San Luis was Florida’s second most important colonial town, after St. Augustine. The large Spanish population there included a deputy governor, soldiers, Franciscan friars, and civilians. Spanish families in San Luis farmed and raised domesticated animals, like pigs and cattle. Residents of San Luis maintained strong trade ties to Cuba, where they sent wheat and other agricultural goods, and they imported goods from around the world. San Luis was also the home of the Apalachee chiefs, and the Apalachee council house there was the largest Native American building at the time in what is now the Southeastern United States.

According to one Spanish traveler who passed through San Luis in 1690, though on the edge of the frontier, San Luis looked like a Spanish city. The community had a large central plaza, Apalachee council house, chiefs house, a Spanish village, a Franciscan religious complex (with a church, friary and detached kitchen), and a Spanish fort. The Apalachee resided in the countryside around the town center to be near their fields.

Between 1656 and 1704, Spanish colonists and Apalachee Indians lived together at San Luis de Talimali. The community had an impressive population for a colonial outpost -- as many as 1,500 people lived there at one time. In 1702, a war between Spain, England, and their European and American Indian allies spread to Florida. Governor James Moore, a South Carolinian British officer, led British and Creek soldiers into Spanish territory to assault Florida’s missions and forts. Even though his siege of St. Augustine failed, Moore’s invasion destroyed five Apalachee missions and crippled the Spanish colony. Moore’s men imprisoned thousands of Apalachee and took them back to South Carolina as slaves. In 1704, the remaining Spanish colonists, who believed a British attack on San Luis was inevitable, destroyed the town before the British had a chance to sack it. The Apalachee leaders took 800 American Indian residents of San Luis west to Pensacola, and the remaining Spanish population moved to St. Augustine.

Archeological evidence suggests that, unlike other American Indians living in Spanish missions in the Americas, the Apalachee at San Luis kept their political organizations and some of their culture during the Spanish occupation. European culture did not replace Apalachee culture but existed alongside it and sometimes mixed with it. Research at the site and studies of documents reveal that Apalachee leaders requested that Spanish friars move to their village, perhaps for strategic as well as religious reasons. By the 17th century, disease and violent clashes with the Spanish devastated Florida’s native population leaving those who remained politically, economically, and militarily weakened. For the Apalachee, who had both Native and European enemies, an alliance with Spain became a practical choice. Though the Apalachee at San Luis kept their own cultural traditions at the Council House, the Spanish described them as “thoroughly Christianized.” The descendents of the 16th and 17th century Apalachee, who migrated west after the mission fell, are still practicing Catholics and are able to trace their ancestry back to San Luis through parish records.

Abandoned but not forgotten, San Luis is the only Apalachee mission whose name and location are definitively known, and surface evidence of the mission was visible into the early 19th century. Under the topsoil at San Luis are remnants of San Luis undisrupted by human occupation over the centuries since the Spanish left. This makes San Luis a valuable archeological research site. Prior to Florida purchasing the land, archeologists had studied the site intensively. John W. Griffin, Hale G. Smith, and Charles H. Fairbanks – all leading Floridian archeologists – investigated the site of San Luis in the 1940s and ‘50s. Today, a full-time research staff of archeologists and historians works at Mission San Luis.

When archeologists began digging at San Luis, there was no evidence of the original buildings and structures on the surface. Their work revealed what the center of San Luis looked like when the Spanish occupied it. Since the 1980s, excavations have uncovered the locations of the mission church, Apalachee council house, mission convent, Spanish and Apalachee dwellings, Spanish military complex, and the San Luis cemetery. The belief is that many of the buildings at San Luis were of wood or wattle and daub. Wattle and daub was a simple form of architecture imported by Spain, in which walls made of woven wood panels are insulated by mud, clay, or animal dung. Excavations also revealed that San Luis was an exceptional place of cultural mixing in the Spanish colonies. San Luis is the only known site in any Spanish-occupied area that contains sacred and secular artifacts from both Native and European societies, including Native and Spanish pottery, crucifixes, remnants of beans and corn, imported glass beads, and Apalachee quartz crystal beads and pendants.

After 50 years of research at San Luis de Talimali, the State of Florida took advantage of the growing wealth of information about the mission and reconstructed the Apalachee mission town near its historic site. In Tallahassee today, Mission San Luis is a living history park where visitors can learn about Spanish colonial and Apalachee history at the permanent museum exhibits, enter reconstructed Spanish and Apalachee buildings and structures, and talk to costumed interpreters about the lives of the people who lived there. For its exceptional work in heritage education and historical recreation, Mission San Luis received Preserve America’s Presidential Award for heritage tourism in 2006. Among the many reconstructed buildings are the large Apalachee council house, mission church, Apalachee ball court, and Fort San Luis. The Spanish colonists and Apalachee destroyed their houses and public buildings at San Luis de Talimali in 1704, but thanks to the work of archeologists, visitor can explore the village reconstructed to look as it did at the height of the mission’s influence.

Plan Your Visit

San Luis de Talimali, a National Historic Landmark, is located at 2100 West Tennessee St. (Rt. 90) in Tallahassee, FL. Click here for the National Historic Landmark file: text and photos. Mission San Luis is open Tuesday-Sunday from 10:00am to 4:00pm, except on Easter, July 4, Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, and New Year’s Day. For more information, visit the Mission San Luis website or call 850-245-6406.

San Luis de Talimali is featured in the National Park Service Golden Crescent. A quartz crystal cross archeologists found at San Luis de Talimali is the subject of an episode of History Detectives on PBS.

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St. Augustine Town Plan Historic District, St. Augustine, Florida

On a September day in 1565, Spanish Explorer Don Pedro Menéndez de Avilés sailed into Matanzas Bay and established the colony of St. Augustine. Though Ponce de León had already claimed the lands of Florida for Spain during a 1513 expedition, Menéndez’s mission was the first to create a successful permanent settlement. Forty-two years before the English colonized Jamestown, and 55 years before the Pilgrims landed at Plymouth Rock, Spain’s St. Augustine became the very first European colony in what is now the continental United States. The Spanish constructed a military base guarded by a large fortress, the Castillo de San Marcos, and the settlement developed and evolved into a sophisticated town with gridded streets and a central plaza. Burgeoning St. Augustine would remain the seat of Spanish power in Florida throughout the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries.

The city is the oldest continuously occupied European settlement in the continental United States. The St. Augustine Town Plan National Historic Landmark District is the earliest extant example of a European planned community with a distinctive layout of a 16th century Spanish colonial town. The Spanish emphasized town planning and developed specifications for laying out new colonial towns in their 1573 Laws of the Indies. The 16th century Plaza de la Constitución still sits at St. Augustine’s center – the metaphoric heart of the strong Spanish heritage thoughtfully preserved throughout the city.

Set among the network of narrow, sometimes winding streets, the district’s existing architectural heritage spans nearly 300 years, but the district and the city are most renowned for the early Spanish colonial buildings. The district also boasts impressive buildings from the Territorial Period (1821-1845), the Flagler Era (1880s-1890s) and the Florida Boom (1920s). St. Augustine showcases this mosaic of architectural styles, materials and typologies alongside traditions and practices inspired by over 400 years of Spanish-Floridian culture.

HISTORIC BACKGROUND

After Spanish Explorer Ponce de León discovered the Florida Peninsula in 1513, Spain immediately recognized the land as an instrumental point of defense for the Gulf of Mexico and the powerful Gulf Stream--both of which Spain heavily used for trade and transport between the motherland and her South American Colonies. After repeated attempts by the Spanish to colonize Florida, Don Pedro Menéndez de Avilés founded St. Augustine in 1565 under orders from King Philip II and the town began to be laid out in 1603. The coastal colony originally served as a military outpost and a base for Catholic missionary efforts. As the town began to grow, a distinct pattern of streets emerged based on Spanish colonial city planning law that called for the laying out of towns in a gridiron with a symmetrical network of streets running both parallel and perpendicular to a central town plaza. Important civic and religious buildings were to front the plaza and provide a strong moral and governmental core to new cities.

St. Augustine’s layout reflected this early Spanish planning. The grid of streets expanded out from the main plaza, which faced the sea, and throughout the 17th and 18th centuries, plots around the plaza housed the city’s main church, the Bishop’s house, the town hall, customs house, treasury building, arsenal, the hospital, guardhouses and various monuments.

During this early colonial period, St. Augustine was strategically important and routinely suffered attacks from the French and British colonists living to the north in present-day Georgia and South Carolina. Construction of the Castillo de San Marcos began in 1672 to help protect the important Spanish stronghold. The Castillo is all that remains of St. Augustine’s earliest architecture as a British attack in 1702 completely leveled the rest of the city. The large masonry fort is the oldest extant structure in St. Augustine, and the oldest of its kind in the United States. The National Park Service administers the Castillo de San Marcos as a National Monument. More information about the fort can be found here.

The City of St. Augustine went through several periods of both expansion and decline as its political and cultural climate shifted throughout the remainder of the 18th and early 19th centuries. St. Augustine had had some 342 dwellings by 1764, the end of the first Spanish period. Following the Treaty of Paris (1763), the British ruled Florida for a brief period until its return to Spanish ownership in 1784. With Spain suffering the Napoleonic invasions at home, its Floridian colonies lost importance. The expanding United States gained control of Florida in 1821, and Florida became a State in 1845. By the end of the colonial period, St. Augustine’s population was about 2,000, nearly half of whom were slaves, and the community had about 300 houses, of which about 30 houses remain, almost all of which are made of stone, using the native coquina.

St. Augustine experienced its last major boom, and an aesthetic renaissance, at the end of the 19th century. Henry Flagler, a railroad tycoon and former business partner of John D. Rockefeller, visited the city in 1885. Flagler envisioned St. Augustine as a tourist mecca – a winter resort town for wealthy Northerners. By 1886, one of Flagler’s railroad lines linked the city to the rest of the east coast, and in 1887, his company began construction on two large, ornate hotels, the Ponce de Leon and the Alcazar. Flagler also purchased a third hotel, the Cordova, renaming it Casa Monica. The massive hotels not only attracted a huge tourist industry, but also brought a new wave of Moorish and Spanish Revival styling to St. Augustine. In a short time, this style would come to characterize the look of cities throughout Florida.

ST. AUGUSTINE TODAY

Public and private efforts have been underway for many years to preserve and interpret the St. Augustine Town Plan National Historic Landmark District—especially the heritage that remains of the early colonial period. The city is now a fascinating visual mix of styles and typologies—a veritable timeline of built history ready to explore. St. Augustine prides itself on its historic district, and visitors are offered a wealth of walking tours, guided carriage rides, boat cruises, and historic reenactments.

One of the most significant features of the city is its Spanish colonial-style plan. The narrow roads and small blocks still reflect the original city layout. Set among this grid are 30 some buildings of colonial origin, and more that are reconstructions. The portion of the district located to the southwest of the Castillo de San Marcos contains the highest concentration of these buildings. Residences built along the street line have overhanging balconies, ornamental railings and decorative rejas (window bars). The Spanish colonial flavor is strongest in this part of the city—particularly between King Street and Bridge Street, the area that was once the original settlement with the largest concentrations of colonial buildings on St. George, Aviles, and St. Francis Streets and others scattered throughout the area. The Llambias House, a National Historic Landmark featured separately in this itinerary, is located at 31 St. Francis Street. 

The St. Augustine plaza in the center of town also dates from the early Spanish colonial period. Today, religious, commercial and governmental buildings from various periods surround the plaza, including the Cathedral of St. Augustine, the vernacular public marketplace (1824), and the Gothic Revival Trinity Episcopal Church (1825). Within the interior of the plaza is the Spanish Constitution Obelisk (1814).
Located north of the central plaza along Matanzas Bay is the oldest and most imposing structure in the district, the Castillo de San Marcos. Originally constructed between 1672 and 1695, this impressive fortification has had many improvements and repairs since then. The symmetrical, four-bastioned fortification built around a square courtyard is made of native coquina stone. This National Monument is now a national park, a living history museum offering a range of guided tours, events and educational activities for all ages. A schedule of events for the Castillo can be viewed here.

Interpreted exhibits and events are also available at the St. Augustine Historical Society Oldest House Museum Complex, which includes Florida’s oldest standing Spanish colonial residence, the González-Alvarez House, a National Historic Landmark at 14 St. Francis Street. Beyond the Spanish colonial period, the district contains significant architecture from different periods.

Archeological investigations have helped define the limits of the Spanish colonial city. They also are addressing important questions such as how the townspeople lived and adapted to change during the colonial period and how the town and its plan evolved into this major urban center in the Spanish New World.

Plan Your Visit

St. Augustine Town Plan Historic District is a National Historic Landmark generally bounded on the north by Castillo de San Marcos, on the south by St. Francis Barracks, on the west by Cordova St., and on the east by the Matanzas River. The St. Augustine and St. Johns County Visitor Information Center is located at 10 Castillo Dr. and is open daily from 8:30am to 5:30pm. See the official City of St. Augustine website for more information or call 904-825-1000. For information about Castillo de San Marcos National Monument, visit the National Park Service Castillo de San Marcos National Monument website or call 904-829-6506.

Many buildings in St. Augustine have been documented by the National Park Service’s Historic American Buildings Survey. The city is also featured in the National Park Service Along the Georgia Florida Coast Travel Itinerary.

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Tampa Bay Hotel, Tampa, Florida

A National Historic Landmark in Tampa, Florida, the Tampa Bay Hotel is not only a stunning example of Moorish and Turkish architecture, it also served as the headquarters for the United State Army’s invasion of Cuba during the Spanish-American War. Constructed between 1888 and 1891 by Henry B. Plant to draw tourists to Florida, the massive hotel and its expansive grounds proved extremely useful during the Spanish-American War.

Henry B. Plant, railroad magnate, successful businessman, and founder of the Plant System of railroads and steamboats, brought the railroad to Tampa in 1884. Plant’s railroad connected downtown Tampa to the rest of the east coast and to Port Tampa, where people could board a Plant steamship to Havana, Jamaica, New Orleans, New York, Bermuda, or other destinations.

With the arrival of Plant’s railroad and steamships in Tampa, new businesses and markets burgeoned. The fishing industry prospered, new products filtered into Tampa’s market, and Tampa’s tourist industry began. Newly founded
Ybor City (also featured in this itinerary), an area of Tampa that quickly developed into one of the cigar manufacturing centers of the world, benefited from using Plant’s trains to ship fine Cuban cigars to the rest of the U.S. market. Plant’s trains and steamships forever changed the sleepy village of Tampa, Florida and brought it fast into the 20th century.

To encourage tourists to visit Florida, Plant built hotels in strategic locations along his Floridian rail lines. Tampa Bay Hotel was the premiere hotel in his chain of resorts, and it is symbolic as the first pioneering effort in the Florida resort business. Built between 1888 and 1891, the Tampa Bay Hotel cost over $2 million to construct and nearly $500,000 to furnish. The completed hotel was 900 feet long, five stories high, and contained over 500 rooms. Most the rooms had their own baths and all had electricity and telephones – amenities that were considered quite a luxury at the time. The hotel had a formal dining room, Grand Salon, Music Room with an orchestra, barbershop, beauty shop, writing and reading room, and a telegraph office. Designed in the style of a Moorish palace, the enormous, irregularly shaped red brick building features turrets, domes, and minarets. While the hotel itself was intended to evoke mysterious faraway places, Plant’s Orientalist furnishings and European antiques created an exceptional atmosphere and added to any visitor’s experience.

The hotel sat on 150 manicured acres. On the grounds, guests could enjoy a golf course, tennis and shuffleboard courts, billiards, a casino (with a 2,000 seat auditorium), a race track, a flower conservatory, stables, and places for wild game hunting, fresh and salt-water fishing, sailing, rowing, and canoeing. The hotel operated from 1891 until 1932, and received many well-known guests and visitors including Babe Ruth, William Jennings Bryan, and Russian ballerina Anna Pavlova. The hotel housed some of its most significant guests in 1898 during the Spanish-American War.

The Spanish-American War was an armed conflict fought over a ten week period between Spain and the United States in Cuba and throughout Spain’s Pacific possessions. American business interests and support for Cuban independence from Spain led to the United State’s involvement in this conflict. On February 15, 1898 when the USS Maine, on a “friendly” mission to Cuba, mysteriously blew up in Havana harbor, a Spanish mine was blamed (this is still debated today). The sinking of the battleship enraged the American public, which was already in an anti-Spain frenzy whipped up by the yellow journalists of the day. Loss of the Maine gave the United States a final reason to go to war.

President McKinley issued a declaration of war against Spain on April 25, 1898 and shortly thereafter, the United States added the Teller Amendment asserting that after the war the United States would grant Cuba independence. The Teller Amendment provided a way for the United States to justify its actions while attempting to dispel fears that the country had imperialistic motives for going to war.

The U.S. government chose Tampa as the official port of embarkation for American forces heading to Cuba because of its geographical location, deepwater port, and connection to Henry B. Plant – with his railroad line, his ships, his lobbying and connections to the War Department, and his massive Tampa Bay Hotel. Colonel Teddy Roosevelt and his Rough Riders were among the 30,000 soldiers who arrived in Tampa by the late spring of 1898. The US military set up seven army camps in the Tampa area and made the Tampa Bay Hotel headquarters for the Army officers planning the war campaign and awaiting the order to ship out. The hotel also became the gathering place for news correspondents, socialites, mercenaries, and various foreign military observers. Other notable guests included Clara Barton, founder of the American Red Cross, who arrived at the hotel to organize hospital facilities, and former Freedmen’s Bureau chief Oliver O. Howard, who came to minister to spiritual needs.

The Tampa Bay Hotel became the hub of war preparation activity. With a train that came right up to its west side, troops, officers, and officials constantly came and went. The train took them to the Port of Tampa, only nine miles away, to handle cargo and supplies. Inside the luxurious hotel, the generals planned their war campaign, often in the “Writing & Reading” room, which visitors can see today. In the “Writing & Reading” room, the men and other guests caught up on the daily news, read newspapers, wrote letters, and read correspondence that focused mainly on the progress leading up to the war and the coming invasion of Cuba. In this room, Colonel Teddy Roosevelt talked about military strategy with the other generals staying at the hotel.

On the hotel grounds, with views of the army camps' many tents off in the distance, Colonel Teddy Roosevelt and his Rough Riders ran training drills on their horses. Even with the whirlwind of activity and training, officials initially simply waited for word from Washington to invade. The Spanish-American War was sometimes called the “Rocking Chair War” because the members of the military could be seen in rocking chairs on the Tampa Bay Hotel’s veranda discussing strategy, politics, and current events, just waiting for the order to invade Cuba. The hotel provided a comfortable place with plenty of space and accommodations to prepare for the war and wait.

Eventually, the generals received word from Washington to begin the invasion. They transferred troops from the camps and hotel to the Port of Tampa and began transporting them to Cuba, some on Henry Plant’s steamships. The war only lasted 10 weeks and officially ended with the signing of the Treaty of Paris on December 10, 1898. As a result of the war, Spain lost control over the remains of its overseas empire - Cuba, Puerto Rico, the Philippines, Guam, and other islands, and the United States emerged as a great power on the world stage of international relations and diplomacy.

The Tampa Bay Hotel continued operating as a hotel until 1932, even after Plant died in 1899, and his heirs sold the hotel and 50 acres of land to the City of Tampa in 1905. In 1933, the City signed a lease with the University of Tampa giving the university the right to use the building for 100 years at the cost of one dollar a year. Today, a portion of the building and its grounds serve the University of Tampa, while the Henry B. Plant Museum in the south wing of the old hotel building and Plant Park provide visitors the opportunity to experience this historic place.

Plan Your Visit

Tampa Bay Hotel, a National Historic Landmark, is located at 401 W. Kennedy Blvd. in Tampa, FL. Click here for the National Historic Landmark file: text and photos. The Henry B. Plant Museum and the Museum Store are open Tuesday through Saturday, 10:00am to 5:00pm and Sunday, 12:00pm to 5:00pm, closed Mondays (Jan-Nov), Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. For more information, visit the Henry B. Plant Museum website or call 432-477-2251.

The Tampa Bay Hotel has been documented by the National Park Service’s Historic American Buildings Survey.

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Timucuan Ecological and Historic Preserve , Jacksonville, Florida
Visitors to Timucuan Ecological and Historic Preserve have an opportunity to explore thousands of years of history in the wetlands along Florida’s Atlantic coast. In addition to places and stories of the Timucua Indians and European colonists, the park includes sites related to cotton plantations, segregation in the South, and Florida’s ecosystems. These places reveal the natural and cultural history of this diverse region that has been the home of many peoples.

After Ponce de León named and claimed Florida for Spain in 1513, Spanish Franciscan missionaries established missions in the area to convert the Timucua, translating religious texts from Spanish into Timucua and leaving us much of what we know today about the Timucua language.
Long before the arrival of ships from Europe, America’s first peoples lived in present-day Florida, some of them in what is today the Timucuan Ecological and Historic Preserve. Although the European colonists called them by one name, the Timucua, several groups of loosely related bands who shared a common language inhabited the region. The Timucua generally lived in large, fortified villages where they grew crops such as maize, squash, and beans. They also hunted and fished. A chief led groups of villages related by family ties. The Timucua had a highly stratified caste society, where heredity determined a person’s role in the larger group.

Visitors to Timucuan Ecological and Historic Preserve can learn about the Timucua at Fort Caroline and the Ribault Club. A good place to begin is at the visitor center at Fort Caroline, which features artifacts and exhibits about Timucuan culture. Near Fort Caroline, a modern reconstruction of a Timucuan hut and shell mound interpret how the people lived. The reconstructed hut would have been one of many huts that made up a village. Tall wooden poles would have surrounded a group of huts. The center of the village often held a ceremonial space. The shell mounds are piles of discarded oyster shells and clamshells. A complex society, the Timucua encountered all of the early colonial powers in Florida.

Successive waves of explorers from Europe had an impact on Timucua life after Ponce de León named and claimed Florida for Spain in 1513. Over the next several hundred years, control of the area swung from Spain to France to Great Britain and, finally, to a fledgling United States in 1821. Armed conflict regularly brought soldiers through the area. Participation in fights either with or against colonists killed some Timucua. Though the first contact between the colonists and the Timucua people was peaceful, they were involved in some colonial battles that had roots far across the ocean. The park interprets the struggle of empires in Florida at Fort Caroline, which is included separately in this travel itinerary.

Missionaries also came to Florida. Established sometime during the 1570's, the San Juan del Puerto mission on Fort George Island was one of the largest. In the late 1500s, Franciscan monks attempted to convert the Timucuan to Catholicism, eroding Timucuan culture as tribal customs and practices changed to adopt European influences. Much of what we know today about the Timucua language is based on missionaries' work to translate religious texts from Spanish into Timucua. Father Francisco Pareja was an especially gifted linguist who created parallel Spanish and Timucua catechisms, a dictionary, and a description of Timucua grammar between 1612 and 1627. Within a century, missionary zeal died out as other concerns, like fighting with the British, took over.

The British began attacking Florida in the 1760s with the goal of gaining some territory as a colony. They frequently targeted the Spanish missions, some of which moved closer to St. Augustine for protection. The mission at San Juan del Puerto was attacked and destroyed in 1736. Its inhabitants reformed the mission outside San Augustine but it closed within a few years. As their culture changed through contact with Europeans, including war and diseases, the number of Timucua decreased. By the late 1600s, only about 550 Timucua lived in Florida, and none are known to remain today.

Kingsley Plantation was the home of Zephaniah Kingsley. The home site and remains of many slave cabins and other outbuildings tell the story of 18th and 19th century Florida. Zephaniah Kingsley and his wife Anna Madgigne Jai, a former slave from Senegal, moved to the island in 1814. Though they were not the first to live here, the Plantation gets its name from the Kingsleys. The Kingsleys were successful planters whose holdings gradually expanded to include tens of thousands of acres, several other plantations in Florida, and hundreds of slaves. Visitors can take self-guided walking tours of the plantation, including the slave quarters and barn. Rangers also lead guided tours.

A group of slave cabins is arranged in a semi-circle a short distance from the plantation house. Made of tabby--a mixture of lime, sand, water, and shells (usually oyster shells discarded long ago by the Timucua), these cabins housed the slaves who worked in the Kingsley fields. A demonstration garden features crops grown on the plantation such as long-staple Sea Island cotton prized for its softness, indigo, okra, squash, and beans. Slaves on the island worked under the so-called task system where each slave was assigned a fixed amount of work each day. After finishing their work, the slaves tended to the needs of their families and community by growing their own food. Slaves expressed themselves in music, dance, and religious practices that were their own rather than the customs of their owners. Until the end of the Civil War, agriculture dominated life on Fort George Island. The Rollins family purchased the island in 1869 and, following several failed attempts to turn a profit from growing grapes and oranges, began to use the island for recreation and as a tourist destination, which led to the construction of hotels and country clubs.

Visitors can drive or take a ferry to Fort George Island where the visitor center at the Ribault Club highlights the island’s long history. Built in 1928, the clubhouse for the Ribault Club is a remnant of “Roaring Twenties” society life. Created as a social club for the wealthy, the club had as members men and women from major East Coast cities like New York, Philadelphia, Boston, Wilmington, and Pittsburgh. The visitor center interprets Timucua life on and around Fort George Island, particularly along the St. Johns River. A video recounts the history of the club. Segway tours and a CD tour to play on a car stereo are also available. The Theodore Roosevelt Area preserves a landscape very similar to that of “Old Florida” during the time of the Timucua. This area highlights the ecological diversity of Florida and provides opportunities for hiking and bird watching, as does the Cedar Point part of the park.

Outdoor exhibits at American Beach tell the story of African American life in segregated Florida during the early 1900s. With most beaches closed to black people, wealthy African American insurance company president A. L. Lewis bought and divided land on Amelia Island for his employees and the black general public in 1935. Following World War II, the beach community he created exploded in popularity, until the Civil Rights Act of 1964 outlawed segregation in public spaces and opened formerly closed areas to African Americans. After the passage of the Civil Rights Act, the importance of American Beach declined. The National Park Service preserves one of the defining sand dunes of the area—an important natural feature among the beach houses of this historically black vacation community. Visitors can see the dune and learn about the social and cultural history of American Beach through outdoor interpretive signs.

Timucuan Ecological and Historic Preserve protects cultural and natural resources that reflect the stories of the people who settled this part of Florida. From the Timucua to the Jim Crow South, the Preserve records the culturally diverse history of the coastal wetlands of Florida’s Atlantic coast from before the Spanish and other Europeans arrived until well into the 20th century.

Plan Your Visit

Timucuan Ecological and Historic Preserve, a unit of the National Park System, includes several sites around Jacksonville, FL such as Fort Caroline, the Kingsley Plantation, Theodore Roosevelt Area, Cedar Point, and American Beach. The main visitor center is located at 12713 Fort Caroline Rd. in Jacksonville, FL. Visitors interested in learning more about the Timucua should also visit the Ribault Club, located at 11676 Palmetto Ave. in Jacksonville. Click here for National Register of Historic Places files for Fort Caroline: text and photos. The visitor center at Fort Caroline is open daily from 9:00am to 5:00pm. All National Park Service areas of the Timucuan Preserve are closed on Thanksgiving, December 25, and January 1.

For more information, visit the National Park Service Timucuan Ecological and Historic Preserve website or call 904-641-7155.

Sites within the Timucuan Ecological and Historic Preserve have been documented by the National Park Service’s Historic American Buildings Record.Timucuan Ecological and Historic Preserve is also featured in the National Park Service Along the Georgia Florida Coast Travel Itinerary and in the Places Reflecting America's Diverse Cultures: Explore their Stories in the National Park System Travel Itinerary.

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Ybor City Historic District, Tampa, Florida

At the turn of the 20th century, nowhere in the United States was as famous for its cigars as Tampa’s Ybor City, which was once known as the “Cigar Capital of the World.” The Ybor City Historic District is a National Historic Landmark located northeast of Tampa’s downtown. The district contains more than 950 historic buildings and structures built during its peak industrial years. Ybor City’s vibrant character, preserved best in the 7th Avenue Commercial Strip, is defined by the community’s blend of cultures from European, Asian, and Cuban immigrants who settled there to support the region’s once-booming cigar industry brought to Tampa in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

It was new American tariffs on imported cigars and political trouble in Cuba that compelled Cuban cigar manufacturers to build factories in the United States in the latter part of the 19th century. One of these manufacturing titans was Vicente Martínez e Ybor, who was born in Valencia, Spain, and lived in Spanish Cuba for 15 years before immigrating to the United States. While in Cuba, he founded the “Prince of Wales” brand of cigars and achieved some success there, but Ybor supported Cuban independence and was therefore unable to stay in Spanish Cuba. He moved his factories to the United States in the late 1860s, first to Key West and New York City. Though his cigar factories were in the U.S., Ybor imported his tobacco from Cuba and hired fellow Cuban exiles to work in his factories. In 1885, Martínez e Ybor and Ignacio Haya, a friend and manufacturing peer, formed a partnership to develop a cigar-manufacturing town near Tampa, Florida.

Tampa was an ideal location for Martínez e Ybor’s factories because of its warm, humid climate and its close proximity to Cuba, which was Martínez e Ybor’s preferred source of labor and tobacco. When Martínez e Ybor and Haya purchased undeveloped land to build their planned community, Tampa’s population was around 700. Tampa eventually annexed Ybor City in 1887, but the Hispanic factory town kept a separate identity. In 1886, Martínez e Ybor and his manufacturing colleagues oversaw the construction of the first 176 worker houses in Ybor City, which became home to some of the 3,000 people already handcrafting cigars in their new factories. Of the first wave of Cuban immigrants, 15% were Afro-Cuban. By 1890, Ybor City’s population had doubled from the first year and was around 6,000. Though many of the residents were Hispanic, immigrating from Spain or Spanish Cuba, there were also Italian, German, Rumanian Jewish, and Chinese immigrants in Ybor City.

Ybor City’s concentration of diverse ethnic groups was uncommon in the American South and added to the unique character of the town. While most of the Hispanic residents worked in the cigar factories, these immigrants also produced the beautiful boxes that held their cigars, operated small shops, and supported the service industries. Ybor City’s residents formed ethnic social clubs and benevolent organizations, which offered their members cooperative medical plans and charitable services. The largest Hispanic clubs in Tampa between 1890 and 1920 were the Centro Asturiano, Circulo Cubano, El Centro Español, and La Union Marti-Maceo. Because of its proximity to Cuba and large Cuban immigrant population, the town naturally became a center for Cuban exiles and political activity. José Martí, a Cuban revolutionary leader, visited Ybor City before the 1895 Cuban War for Independence to gather support. In the factories, readers – hired by the workers for entertainment – read from patriotic newspapers and spread information about the political situation.

By 1900, Tampa’s manufacturers produced the highest-quality hand-rolled cigars in the world, surpassing even Havana, Cuba. Other Latino cigar manufacturers joined Ybor and Haya in Tampa, including Armo, Garcial and Company; Trujillo and Benemelis; and Arguilles, Lopez and Brothers. At the hand-rolled cigar factories, cigar crafting was an art. Ybor City’s skilled factory workers rolled cigars by hand in 36 shapes and sizes. Tampa’s cigar manufacturing peaked in the 1920s. In the late 1920s and early 1930s, the Great Depression and mechanization hurt Tampa’s cigar industry. Only small shops were able to continue the handcrafting tradition. A quarter of immigrant whites and half of the city’s Afro-Cuban population left Tampa between 1930 and 1940. Even when Tampa’s industries recovered after World War II, Ybor City continued to decline and fell into an economic slump. An urban renewal project in 1965, which demolished a large part of Ybor City, sparked a local movement to preserve Ybor City’s unique culture and important buildings.

The Ybor City Historic District is located northeast of downtown Tampa and contains nearly a thousand historic resources. Most of the historic buildings and structures were constructed between 1886 and World War I. These include the businesses, churches, social clubs, factories, and public buildings used by Ybor City’s residents at the height of Tampa’s hand-rolled cigar industry.

The Ybor City archway, just east of the 7th Avenue and Nick Nuccio Parkway intersection, welcomes visitors to the heart of the historic district: the 7th Avenue Commercial Strip. The American Planning Association named this strip one of America’s Greatest Streets in 2008 and it is a tourist-friendly area that stretches 11 blocks from the Parkway to 26th Street. Seventh Avenue’s architecture reflects Ybor City’s Spanish, Cuban, and Italian heritage. Most of the buildings are blond or red brick and many have wrought iron, second-story balconies. Significant historic buildings on 7th Avenue include three historic social clubs: the Marti-Maceo Club; L’Unione Italiana (the Italian Club); and El Centro Español. The oldest continuously operating restaurant in Ybor City, the Columbia Restaurant, and the Ritz (Rivoli) Theater, which historically served the Afro-Cuban community, are also on the 7th Avenue strip.

Nine key cigar factories survive in the district. These factories are throughout the district, located near the houses in which factory workers lived. Most are brick or stone two-to-four story buildings. Factory workers packed and shipped cigars on the first floors and manufactured the cigars on the second floors. Third floors, if the building had one, were used for blending tobacco to make brand-specific flavors. One of these surviving factories is the redbrick Ybor Factory Complex, which is located on 14th Street and takes up nearly an entire city block. A portion of the complex was the first cigar factory in Ybor City, the Ybor-Manrara Cigar Factory (1886). The only large factory still producing cigars in Ybor City is the E. Regensberg & Sons, also known as S. Fernandez and Co., on 16th Street.

Apart from the factories and beyond the 7th Avenue corridor are Ybor City’s public buildings and residences. The largest concentration of historic houses built before World War I lies between 4th and 6th Avenues and 15th and 22nd Streets. Some of these houses date back to the late 19th century. Most Ybor City residents lived in a single or multi-family house, and those who worked in the cigar industry lived in company housing close to their factory. The residences are typically wood-frame, gable-roofed buildings. Ybor City’s practicing Roman Catholic residents have attended the Our Lady of Perpetual Help Church on 11th Avenue since 1891. The church, a Romanesque Revival building rebuilt in 1937, offers sermons in English, Spanish, and Italian. Two historic schools are part of the district: the St. Joseph’s Academy of Our Lady of Perpetual Help and the V.M. Ybor Elementary School. St. Joseph’s, built in 1927 and no longer in operation, is a stucco-on-brick building located near the church, on 11th Avenue. The historic two-story brick elementary school on 15th Avenue, constructed in 1911, was one of the community’s first public schools.
Ybor City was an urban slum by the mid-20th century, but heritage preservation and economic development efforts in the 1980s revitalized the historic “city within a city.” The district’s commercial corridor offers shopping, museums, restaurants, hotels, and beautiful public parks. Information about guided historic and ghost walking tours can be accessed through the Ybor City Chamber of Commerce.

The Chamber also operates a visitor center and the Ybor City Cigar Museum, located in the historic El Centro Español building south of 8th Avenue’s Centro Ybor shopping center.

Plan Your Visit

Ybor City Historic District, a National Historic Landmark, is located northeast of Tampa, Florida’s downtown and is intersected by Interstate 4. The Ybor City Chamber of Commerce Museum & Visitor Center is located at 1600 East 8th Ave. Click here for the National Historic Landmark file: text and photos. The Chamber Visitor Center is open Monday-Saturday from 10:00am to 5:00pm and Sunday from 12:00pm to 5:00pm. For more information visit the Ybor City Chamber of Commerce website or call 813-241-8838.

Over 80 resources in the Ybor City Historic District have been documented by the National Park Service’s Historic American Buildings Survey. Ybor City is the subject of an online lesson plan, Ybor City: Cigar Capital of the World. The lesson plan has been produced by the National Park Service’s Teaching with Historic Places program, which offers a series of online classroom-ready lesson plans on registered historic places. To learn more, visit the Teaching with Historic Places home page.

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Cumberland Island National Seashore, Cumberland Island, Georgia

Spain settled Georgia’s Sea Islands in the second half of the 16th century and quickly established Catholic missionary provinces among the indigenous tribes. Cumberland Island, the largest of Georgia’s isles, was the site of a large Spanish fort and several Catholic missions where members of the island’s large Timucua tribe learned the Spanish language and converted to Catholicism. The Spanish occupation of the island lasted almost a century, ending only when pressure from other European and American Indian competitors, as well as raids by pirates, forced them to abandon the Georgia Sea Islands and move south to St. Augustine, Florida. In the 18th century, Britain and then the United States owned the island, and it passed into private ownership. Today, its natural beauty and historic features are preserved by the National Park Service Cumberland Island National Seashore.

During the early decades of Spanish Florida, the colonial territory stretched from South Carolina to the Gulf of Mexico. In 1565, Florida governor Pedro Menéndez de Avilés led the first successful colonizing expedition of civilians, priests, and soldiers to the colony. Upon arrival, Menéndez forced a small party of French settlers from the region and then established missions, towns, and forts along the eastern coast, including St. Augustine, the oldest surviving European city in the United States. The Spanish colonized the Georgia coast at that time and settled on its defensible barrier islands. In 1569, colonial soldiers built a large fort and garrison on Cumberland Island, which they called San Pedro Island, in present-day southeast Georgia. The island was already known by European and Native American traders for its profitable sassafras tree production, and the Timucua Indians called the island “Wissoo,” which means sassafras. In 1587, Franciscan priest Baltazar Lopéz arrived on the island and established the San Pedro de Tacatacuru mission.

At the island, and throughout inland Georgia and northern Florida, the Spanish made contact with the Timucua, an American Indian group that lived in present day Georgia and Florida at the time of Spanish colonization. The Timucua included many tribes that spoke different dialects of the Timucua language, including the Tacatacuru tribe that lived on Cumberland Island and spoke the Mocama dialect. The San Pedro missionaries’ goal was to convert the Tacatacuru tribe to Catholicism and persuade the Indians to adopt Spanish culture. In exchange for the benefits of living at the mission, the Tacatacuru labored to support the Spanish there.

The mission system dramatically altered the lives of the Tacatacuru at Cumberland Island. Before the Spanish arrived, the Tacatacuru moved seasonally between the island and the mainland. Afterward, the tribe lived permanently on the island and adopted a sedentary lifestyle based on European animal husbandry and agriculture that kept them close to the mission year-round. Spanish missionaries taught the Tacatacuru Christians to speak the Spanish language, and some to read and write it. The missionaries also learned to speak the Timucuan dialects and created a written form of Timucuan, which some of the indigenous people learned and used to communicate with each other. In the early 17th century, Franciscan missionary Francisco Pareja wrote several Catholic primers in Timucuan.

The missionaries oversaw the construction of the first San Pedro de Tacatacuru church in 1587. Though there are no records left describing what the first mission looked like, it is possible to speculate. Other similar Spanish mission churches in the region were built from wattle and daub, which is woven wooden branches or strips plastered with a simple mixture of mud, clay, or animal dung, and they had roofs of thatched palmetto leaves.

In 1597, Guale Indians from the north attacked the island and destroyed the Spanish mission buildings. Led by chief “Don Juan,” the island’s Tacatacuru Catholics defended the island against the attack. They replaced the first church with a second in 1603, called San Pedro de Mocama. According to reports, it was more impressive than the first mission church, with walls of wooden slats instead of branches and mud. The Franciscans also built a second adjacent mission, San Pedro y San Pablo de Porturibo, on the north end of the island. They founded another mission, San Felipe de Athulteca, in 1675 and the Spanish intended to continue building on the island, but outside threats forced them and the Catholic Timucua to abandon their missions by 1684.

When England officially settled Carolina in 1670, its English and Scottish colonists put pressure on Spanish Florida’s northern border to force the Spanish to move south. At Cumberland Island, Spanish and Timucua Catholics lived in fear of raids and enslavement by the British and the unconverted American Indian tribes. In 1684, the colonists were planning to abandon their settlements when two separate attacks by English and French pirates destroyed the remaining Cumberland Island missions and drove out the island’s Spanish inhabitants. The French attacked first and raided two of the island’s mission churches. The second attack came after an English pirate, Captain Thomas Jingle, led a failed attempt to take the colonial capital at St. Augustine and brought his six remaining ships to harbor at Cumberland Island. The Spanish and Timucua fled from their homes, and those who escaped the raids eventually resettled at St. Augustine.

Though the Spanish did abandon Cumberland Island, Spain did not formally give up its claim to the island after the missions closed. Native Americans and independent mestizos occupied the island until James Oglethorpe, the founder of the British colony of Georgia, arrived at the island in 1736. Oglethorpe renamed the island after the Duke of Cumberland and his colonists built two forts there: Fort St. Andrew and Fort Prince William. The Spanish attacked the forts and attempted to recapture Cumberland Island in 1742, but failed. Spain and England fought over ownership of the coastal region until the Treaty of Paris in 1763, when Spain ceded Spanish Florida to England. Georgia became a U.S. State in 1787 and the United States annexed the rest of Florida after the Adams-Onís Treaty of 1819.

In the 19th century, Cumberland Island was home to plantations that produced timber and Sea Island cotton. General Nathanael Greene, who led the Continental Army during the Revolutionary War, was one of the first Americans to own property on the island, and several of his 19th century heirs were among those who owned plantations on Cumberland. By the Civil War, there were about ten plantations on the island. Chattel slavery supported these plantations, and in 1850, there were 455 black slaves producing cotton on Cumberland Island. Northern industrialist Thomas Carnegie bought an estate of 1,891 acres on the island after the post-Civil War collapse of Cumberland’s plantation system. Other elite American families purchased land on the island in the late 19th and 20th century, and kept private estates there. The National Park Service acquired the island in 1972 and created the Cumberland Island National Seashore to protect the island’s resources.

Cumberland Island National Seashore today is a park of over 9,000 acres made up of the marshes, forests, waters, and shores of the historic island. Only 300 members of the general public can visit the island each day, and the park recommends visitors make reservations ahead of their trip. Visitors can access the island by a ferry, which picks up at the park headquarters in St. Marys, Georgia. On the island, park visitors can board park trams or rent bicycles to tour the historic properties and access the island’s public areas for camping, hiking, fishing, swimming, and wildlife watching.

Though no surface evidence of the 16th and 17th century Spanish and Timucua presence is visible today for visitors to see, their history is part of the island’s rich American heritage. Archeological investigation did reveal late 16th and early 17th century Hispanic earthenware at one site traditionally thought to be that of the a Spanish mission, San Pedro de Mocamo, but additional work did not find anything beneath the ground. Further archeological and historical investigation may reveal more remains of the earliest American Indian, Spanish, and other early settlement on the island.

Plan Your Visit

Cumberland Island National Seashore Visitor Center and ferry pick-up is located at 107 St. Marys St. E, St. Marys, GA. Click here for the Cumberland Island National Seashore Multiple Resource Area National Register of Historic Places file: text. The visitor center is open Monday-Sunday from 8:00am to 4:30pm, except on December 25. The park allows approximately 300 visitors to access the island each day and recommends making ferry reservations in advance. The ferry fee is $20 for adults, $18 for seniors, and $14 for minors. For more information, visit the National Park Service Cumberland Island National Seashore website or call 912-882-4336.

On Cumberland Island, Stafford Plantation, the General Nathanael Greene Cottage, and Dungeness have been documented by the National Park Service’s Historic American Buildings Survey.

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Fort Frederica National Monument, St. Simon's Island, Georgia

James Oglethorpe built Fort Frederica for the British during the Anglo-Spanish conflict for control of what is now Georgia. Named for Frederick, Prince of Wales (1707-1751), the town housed both a civilian community and British troops between 1736 and 1763. Though a 1758 fire destroyed most of the town, it had been a lively commercial center and military post at the edge of British claims to land adjacent to Spanish territory. Fort Frederica did more than advance British military interests, however. Under founder James Oglethorpe (1696-1785), the settlement furthered a social agenda that advocated for penal reform and the abolition of slavery. Today, the artifacts and ruins at Fort Frederica National Monument are reminders of both the idealism of this community and the Anglo-Spanish struggle for control in the New World.

The settlement at Fort Frederica was one of several in the colony of Georgia headed by James Oglethorpe. At Fort Frederica, Oglethorpe envisioned a place of employment for people then trapped in British debtors’ prisons. Fort Frederica was to be a community of the “worthy poor” who would tend their own land, using what they produced to support themselves. The emphasis on enabling the poor to support themselves was in response to the mass of landless poor who were ill served by the British system of marginalization or imprisonment. Oglethorpe also welcomed religious reformers, accepting Protestants fleeing Germany and the Methodists John and Charles Wesley. Oglethorpe was also careful to ensure that the town had people of diverse occupations. For a small community in the British colonies, the town at Fort Frederica had a number of artisans practicing specialized crafts to meet the needs of colonists. In addition to being the home of skilled laborers and farmers, the fort was a defensive structure and active garrison posted with regiments of British troops.

The location of Fort Frederica, in what is today southeastern Georgia, was important to both the British and the Spanish. Great Britain had established 12 other colonies further north and had made definite claims on land as far north as Maine. To the south, the Spanish sought control over the territory between St. Augustine, Florida and Charleston, South Carolina. Georgia lay in disputed territory, often called the Debatable Land by the Europeans.

From 1739 until 1742, the British and the Spanish fought many battles with each other in what became known as the War of Jenkins’ Ear. Expecting invasions by the Spanish, Oglethorpe built a defensive wall that surrounded the entire town and helped to give it a fort-like appearance. The actual fort itself was a smaller building set partially within this wall. The fort was made of tabby, a kind of concrete composed of oyster shells that was used throughout the southeastern United States. Many of the other buildings in the town were constructed at least partially of tabby, because it was less expensive and more readily available than bricks. Barracks on the northern edge of town served as quarters for approximately 200 troops and as a hospital and prison for captured Spanish soldiers.

Fort Frederica National Monument was the site of frequent battles between the British and Spanish. Just five miles from the fort town, visitors can see the site that commemorates the Battle of Bloody Marsh, which was fought in July of 1742. Under the command of Manual de Montiano, the governor of Florida, the Spanish launched an attempt to seize British land from Georgia up to South Carolina and sent two thousand troops to Fort Frederica. Led by Oglethorpe, the British ambushed the Spanish troops marching single file through the marsh and routed them from the island, preventing them from taking Fort Frederica. The origin of the name came from the marsh supposedly "running red with the blood of Spaniard." However, official Spanish records indicate that only seven grenadiers died during this battle. The Battle of Bloody marsh forced the Spanish to abandon efforts to take land in the colony of Georgia and marked the end of the Spanish efforts to invade Georgia during the War of Jenkins’ Ear.  With the threat from Spain gone, the British had little need to maintain a military presence in Georgia. Oglethorpe returned to England in 1743, and the regiment he commanded disbanded. The removal of British troops from the community in 1749 took away one of the most important sources of income for the village merchants, and the fort and town fell into decline.  A disastrous fire in 1758 left Frederica in ruins.

After more than 275 years, the fort community is now an archeological site with some exposed building foundations and other remains such as portions of the King's Magazine and the entrance to the barracks. The buildings used by residents of the city included the Calwell House, home of the town’s chandler and soap maker, and the Hawkins-Davison duplex. The Hawkins-Davison houses belonged to Dr. Thomas Hawkins, a surgeon and apothecary, and Samuel Davison, owner of a tavern. The town burial ground has also been partially preserved. During their time at Fort Frederica, John and Charles Wesley preached at services held at the burial ground. Visitors can explore the archeological site on their own or with a digital tour, view the artifacts in the museum, and see a film at the visitor center on how this history was uncovered. These give a sense of how the people of the fort lived, fought, and worked during an important moment in both British and Spanish history.

As a social experiment, the community at the fort demonstrated the need for British penal reform as well as the alternative reform systems contemporary religious and social groups proposed. As a military installation, the Anglo-Spanish clash and ultimate British victory shaped the geography and composition of North America. The artifacts and other objects at the fort tell this unique story.

Plan Your Visit

Fort Frederica National Monument, a unit of the National Park System, is located at 6515 Frederica Rd. on St. Simon's Island, GA. The Bloody Marsh Unit is at 1810 Demere Road. Click here for National Register of Historic Places registration file: text and photos. There is a fee to visit the park. Fort Frederica is open 9am to 5pm daily. Bloody Marsh is open 8:30am to 4pm daily. Both units are closed on Thanksgiving, December 25th (Christmas Day) and January 1st (New Year's Day). For more information, visit the National Park Service Fort Frederica National Monument website or call 912-638-3639.

Fort Frederica is also featured in the National Park Service Along the Georgia-Florida Coast travel itinerary and in the Places Reflecting America's Diverse Cultures: Explore their Stories in the National Park System Travel Itinerary. Fort Frederica is the subject of an online lesson plan Frederica: An 18th-Century Planned Community. The lesson plan has been produced by the National Park Service’s Teaching with Historic Places program, which offers a series of online classroom-ready lesson plans on registered historic places. To learn more, visit the Teaching with Historic Places homepage.

The buildings of Fort Frederica have been documented as part of the National Park Service’s Historic American Buildings Survey.

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St. Catherines Island, Georgia

Mission Santa Catalina de Guale on St. Catherines Island was the northernmost outpost in Spanish Florida between 1587 and 1680, and one of the most important Spanish missions in what is now the southeastern United States until 1684. For over a century, Catholic friars and Spanish soldiers lived with Guale Indians on the wooded sand dune and salt marsh island that is part of Georgia’s Sea Islands. After the Spanish abandoned the island, Mary Musgrove, a Muskogee leader, claimed the island and then Button Gwinnett, a signer of the Declaration of Independence, called it home. Today, the St. Catherines Island Foundation, Inc. owns and manages the island, which is a National Historic Landmark, as an historic site, archeological resource, and wildlife preserve.

During the colonial period, Spanish Florida was a territory in southeastern North America that Spain claimed in 1513 and permanently settled in the 1560s. Permanent settlement began in 1565 after the king of Spain granted Pedro Menéndez de Aviles the privilege to govern Spanish Florida. During Menéndez’s governorship, Spanish Florida stretched from present-day South Carolina to the Florida peninsula. When Menéndez arrived in North America, he drove French Huguenots from the coast and then began to establish mission outposts along the coast where he was able to make alliances with the indigenous towns. Santa Catalina was the first Spanish outpost in Georgia and the largest mission in the Guale province.
After he founded St. Augustine in 1565, Menéndez led an expedition to St. Catherines Island in 1566. The Spaniards initially called the island “Guale,” after the people who lived there. Menéndez stationed 30 soldiers on the island after he made contact and two years later Jesuits established Mission Santa Catalina de Guale. In 1587, English privateer Sir Francis Drake attacked Florida after he raided Spain’s Caribbean colonies. In response to these attacks, Spain consolidated its colonial presence in Florida by reducing the number of missions and the size of the colony. The Spanish abandoned outposts north of Santa Catalina and the island mission became the northernmost base of Spanish colonial power on the east coast for nearly a century afterward. During that period, Spanish authorities often recommended moving the Florida capital at St. Augustine to Santa Catalina.

By the time of Drake’s attacks on the Spanish colonies, Franciscan Catholic missionaries had replaced Jesuits in the Florida missions and at Santa Catalina. The Franciscans arrived at Santa Catalina in 1573 and ran the mission afterward. A Guale revolt against the mission system drove the Spanish out of Santa Catalina for a brief time in 1597, but St. Augustine sent reinforcements to suppress the rebellion and reinstated the mission. After the rebellion, Spanish soldiers, Franciscans, and Christian Guale Indians rebuilt the mission and ran Santa Catalina as the military, political, religious, and economic center of Spain’s influence in the Guale province. In the 1680s, attacks by the British and by Westo Indians forced Spain and its Guale allies to abandon Georgia. The Spanish left Santa Catalina in 1680, and by 1684, Spain abandoned all six of its Guale province missions.

After Spain deserted Mission Santa Catalina, American Indians reclaimed the island and its final indigenous owner was Mary Musgrove, a Muskogee (Creek) leader. After Musgrove died, her husband sold the island in 1765 to a delegate to the Continental Congress and future signer of the Declaration of Independence, Button Gwinnett. By the time Gwinnett occupied the island it had the Anglicized name, St. Catherines Island. The private island changed ownership throughout the 19th and 20th centuries. Today, the St. Catherines Island Foundation funded by the Edward J. Noble Foundation owns the island. Edward J. Noble, a businessman, was the island’s final individual owner.

A partnership between the Edward J. Noble Foundation and American Museum of Natural History in New York City initiated archeological research at the island in the 1970s that carried into the mid-1990s. Archeologists conducted the most significant studies of the island’s Spanish history in the 1980s after they discovered the site of Mission Santa Catalina in 1981. No evidence of Santa Catalina mission is visible on the surface, but surveys revealed buried evidence of a fortified village.

Archeologists determined what they found were the remains of two churches, a cemetery, kitchen area, two wells, and dwellings. The older church is the first Christian church built in Georgia. A palisade with bastions once surrounded the mission plaza and inner buildings. The buildings and structures were of wattle and daub. This building technique uses woven branches, or wattle, to create a frame that then gets a plaster of daub, made from mixtures of mud, clay, or animal dung. Researchers at the Santa Catalina site also discovered numerous artifacts, including tens of thousands of valuable beads, food remains, jewelry, rosaries, crosses, and bronze pieces of a bell.

St. Catherines Island today is a private nature preserve and research site that educators and scholars use to study Georgia’s coastal ecology, geology, fauna, flora, and 6,000 years of human history. The beach is accessible by private boat, but the interior of the island is not accessible to the public in order to conserve its natural and historic resources. Over a million artifacts found on the island are part of the St. Catherines Island Foundation and Edward John Noble Foundation Collection, which is stored and exhibited at the Fernbank Museum of Natural History in Atlanta, Georgia.

Plan Your Visit

St. Catherines Island, a National Historic Landmark, is located at sea approximately 50 miles south of Savannah, Georgia, between St. Catherines Sound and Sapelo Sound. St. Catherines Island is privately owned and closed to the public. Click here for the National Historic Landmark file: text and photos. For more information, visit the Fernbank Museum of Natural History website or call 404-929-6300.

St. Catherines Island is included in the National Park Service Along the Georgia-Florida Coast Travel Itinerary.

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Jefferson National Expansion Memorial, St. Louis, Missouri

In 1947, architect Eero Saarinen entered his name in the competition for the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial. Chosen from 172 entries, his world-renowned stainless-steel masterpiece memorializes America’s historic expansion across the West. Although popularly known as the St. Louis Gateway Arch, the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial commemorates not only the history of western migration, but also the role President Thomas Jefferson played in opening the West with the purchase of the Louisiana Territory from the French. In addition, the park interprets the history and culture of St. Louis and the city’s role as the Gateway to the West.

The Spanish conquest of North America, which began in 1521, resulted in Spain obtaining a large amount of territory. This included most of the present-day United States west of the Mississippi River and Florida. By 1800, Spain secretly agreed to transfer power of its Louisiana Territory back to France, through the Treaty of San Ildefonso; however, France delayed taking possession of the area until 1803 because Napoleon wanted more time to build up a military to protect the territory.

In 1802, during the time that Spain was still in control of the territory, Spanish officials withdrew the previously granted “Right of Deposit,” which allowed Americans to use New Orleans’ port facilities. This shocking decision prompted President Thomas Jefferson to move forward and purchase the city of New Orleans. The offer proposed by France ended up including the entire territory of Louisiana, which the United States gladly accepted. France controlled the territory for only about three weeks, from November 30 to December 20, 1803. On December 20, 1803, France signed documents formally transferring the Louisiana Territory to the United States. The ratification of the Louisiana Purchase doubled the size of the United States and opened up the continent to the continued westward expansion of the nation.

Following the Louisiana Purchase, Thomas Jefferson, an advocate of westward expansion, commissioned Captain Meriwether Lewis and his partner William Clark to lead the Corps of Discovery in an expedition through the nation’s newly acquired territory. Their mission, according to Jefferson’s instructions, was to explore the Missouri River and find the elusive Northwest Passage for the purpose of commerce. Although Lewis and Clark never found a direct water route to the Pacific Ocean, their expedition advanced the nation’s geographical knowledge of the once uncharted West. With the help of their Shoshone interpreter Sacagawea, the Corps of Discovery managed to locate 50 American Indian tribes, many of which Lewis and Clark befriended by offering peace medals to the most important chiefs. As a result, the Corps of Discovery expedition helped open the West for America’s fur trade.

The publication of Lewis' and Clark's detailed accounts of their journey of discovery generated a great American interest in the Indian fur trade. By 1810, with Clark’s map of the West at hand, traders marked the beginning of the historic Missouri River trade as they moved into the Indian Territory to exchange goods with the Plains tribes. The Plains Indians traded their buffalo robes, horses, and mules for the Americans' tobacco, axes, firearms, and other technological goods. Although the buffalo hides were highly sought, beaver pelts were also of great interest. As a result, traders began sending trappers further west to set beaver traps. Among these was St. Louis fur trader William H. Ashley, who in 1822 employed 100 trappers to work in the Rocky Mountains. Known as the legendary mountain men, these trappers helped America expand further west.

Although the decline in beavers eventually slowed the fur trade, America’s rapid westward expansion continued as the notion of Manifest Destiny swept across the nation. Popularized in the 1840s, the term justified the United States' expansion into the West with the claim that America had a divine right to expand from sea to shining sea. As a result, for two decades large numbers of white wagons painted the American landscape as settlers traveled across the western trails, one of which was the Santa Fe Trail blazed by Missouri trader William Becknell in 1821. The trail, which ran between Independence, Missouri and Santa Fe, New Mexico, became the principal avenue for manufactured goods and emigrants bound for Santa Fe and the American Southwest.

Expansion did not come without conflict. Along with the displacement of American Indian tribes and clashes with other peoples, American soldiers provoked an attack by the Mexican army in the disputed Texas Territory in 1846. This attack led the United States to declare war on Mexico. After several months of campaigning, however, General Winfield Scott entered Mexico City in 1847 bringing the war with Mexico to an end.

By 1869, western settlement increased since the completed transcontinental railway facilitated travel all the way to California. The United States had fulfilled its destiny. The American frontier was gone in less than 90 years.

In the end, displacing a number of American Indian tribes from their homelands, over 300,000 settlers traveled across the West in search of land, gold, and religious freedom. Although the journey proved difficult at times, especially as American Indians fought to keep their lands, the United States' expansion into the West played a significant role in the development of the nation's unique culture. Involved in this mass-migration were peoples of many backgrounds. Spanish explorers, French traders, African Americans, American Indians, Asian railway workers, and the Homestead Act immigrants from around the world all helped shape the American West. Today, the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial pays tribute to the diverse people of America, whose stories, whether of triumph or defeat, highlight the historic movement into the West.

At Jefferson National Expansion Memorial, visitors may begin their tour at the Gateway Arch, where they can ride the tram to the top and enjoy the majestic view of St. Louis from the observation deck, which faces both east and west. After riding the tram, tourists can proceed to the Museum of Westward Expansion. Located beneath the Arch, the museum features two films: The Monument to the Dream documenting the construction of the Gateway Arch, and Lewis and Clark, Great Journey West shown in the Odyssey Theatre. The museum also features several exhibits that chart the history of the American West, where visitors can see a full size tipi, lifelike animal displays, a stagecoach, a covered wagon, a bullboat, and other mounted exhibits that demonstrate how the American Indians and pioneers lived.

Beyond the Gateway Arch and Museum of Westward Expansion, the park also tells the story of the Old St. Louis Courthouse. From 1812 until 1865, over 300 African American slaves living in the St. Louis area sued their masters for their freedom at this courthouse. Many times, these cases were thrown out because the United States Constitution did not consider African Americans as citizens at the time. The controversial case of Dred Scott and his wife Harriet moved the nation to the brink of Civil War, which led to the emancipation of all slaves in the United States.

Across from the historic Old Courthouse, visitors are also welcome to tour the Old St. Louis Cathedral, which remains an active Catholic parish. Visitors can stop by the Old Cathedral Museum where the cathedral’s 1776 bell, a gift of Spanish Lt. Governor Don Piernos enriched with 200 Spanish silver dollars in its casting, is on display. The Old Cathedral, the only building spared for the construction of the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial, serves as an additional reminder of the westward expansion of the United States.

Plan Your Visit

Jefferson National Expansion Memorial, a unit of the National Park System, is located at 11 North 4th St. in St. Louis, MO. The park’s Gateway Arch and Westward Expansion Museum are open daily from 9:00am to 6:00pm. During the summer season, both the museum and Gateway Arch are open from 8:00am to 10:00pm. The Old Courthouse is open daily from 8:00am to 4:30pm. All sites at Jefferson National Expansion Memorial are closed on Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Day. There is an admission fee for most sites. For more information, visit the National Park Service Jefferson National Expansion Memorial website or call 314-655-1700.

Jefferson National Expansion Memorial has been documented by the National Park Service’s Historic American Buildings Survey. The memorial is also featured in the National Park Service's Lewis and Clark Expedition Travel Itinerary and in the Places Reflecting America's Diverse Cultures: Explore their Stories in the National Park System Travel Itinerary. The Old Courthouse is the subject of an online lesson plan, The Old Courthouse in St. Louis: Yesterday and Today. The lesson plan has been produced by the National Park Service’s Teaching with Historic Places program, which offers a series of online classroom-ready lesson plans on registered historic places.

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Julien Dubuque's Mines, Dubuque, Iowa

Julien Dubuque’s Mines, Mines of Spain, is a historic district that contains a nationally significant concentration of more than 100 archeological sites associated with the mining of lead from 1788 to 1865. The district lies along the narrow creeks and in the limestone bluffs and rolling countryside west of the Mississippi River in Dubuque, Iowa. The district is best known for its connection with Julien Dubuque and the extensive lead mining enterprise he developed with the Mesquakie Indians, who inhabited the area when he arrived.

The district has the potential to provide information on the contact between the American Indians and Europeans and the role of lead mining in the development of the United States from the 1780’s to the 1910’s. The yields from these mines provided most of the lead for the nation from the 1820’s to the 1850s, and mining revived again during the Civil War. Dubuque negotiated an agreement with the Mesquakie that gave him exclusive permission to work the mines with them in 1788, but he also had to secure his right to mine the land from the Spanish because the area was part of Spanish Louisiana at the time.

Spain itself was the second largest producer of lead in the world during the 18th century, and its ore mining and smelting technologies were influential in the New World. Dubuque’s Mines, which the Mesquakie worked with him, were highly successful and initiated the first major North American mineral rush – a precursor to the California Gold Rush of the 1850s. The district contains the archeological remains of Dubuque’s Trading Post (1788-1810) and the Mesquakie village of Kettle Chief (ca. 1788-1810); Amerindian and Euro-American lead mining shifts, shafts, adits, and smelters; and the remains of the later mining communities of Catfish and Mosalem. The district is now the Mines of Spain State Recreation Area whose visitor and interpretive center is a popular destination for learning about the important cultural amalgamation and technological evolution and the role of lead mining in the development of the United States.

The earliest known human inhabitants of the district were the Mesquakie tribe. Mounds, rock shelters, campsites and other archeological evidence reflect their presence for thousands of years prior to European contact. A large village of Mesquakie sat at the mouth of Catfish Creek when the French first entered the region in the mid-1600s, and the Mesquakie traded amicably with the newcomers to their region. By around 1690, the tribe revealed a rich lead deposit near present-day Dubuque to French explorer Nicolas Perrot. Perrot briefly set up a trading post in the area, bartering furs and other goods for ore with the native population. By 1710, however, he abandoned the region in search of less isolated territory.

Julien Dubuque, a young Quebec-born French Canadian, heard of the lead-rich area in 1785 and by 1788 was in negotiations with the local Mesquakie leaders to begin a mining venture on their land. By the end of the year, he had secured permission to be the sole mine-operator on the site. Considered the first person of European descent to settle permanently in present-day Iowa, he built a trading post, residence, and small smelter at the mouth of Catfish Creek with the help of the Mesquakie and French laborers.

During the late 1700s, the vast Louisiana Territory that Dubuque set out to mine belonged to the Spanish Crown. During Europe’s Seven Year War (1756 to 1763), the territory was under French control, but following its conclusion and the Treaty of Paris, the Spanish acquired Louisiana. Julien Dubuque had obtained express permission to mine the land from the Mesquakie, but he also sought recognition from Spain to secure his claim. In 1796, the Spanish Governor of New Spain, Francisco Luis Hector, barón de Carondelet, officially granted a 189 square-mile area to Dubuque for his mining operation. In recognition of the grant, Dubuque named his mines in Spain’s honor.

From the beginning, Dubuque combined fur and lead trading with manufacturing, residential, agricultural and export functions at his post. The first mines were worked on a small scale in a somewhat primitive fashion. After digging the ore out of the ground, miners would wash it in wooden sluices where the water would carry away any latent dirt and light impurities such as limestone. The ore was then brought to the smelter, a furnace designed to reduce the ore to its fairly pure lead form.

The earliest smelters at the mines were rudimentary due to the costs and limitations on materials. These furnaces involved stacking ore and logs together in a large inferno and collecting the molten lead as it flowed from the base of the pile. This system, though relatively easy, was inefficient in the amount of fuel it used and percentage of lead that could be captured, and little could be done about the plumes of deathly smoke that were a byproduct of the process. By the 1820s, the mines began using reverberatory furnaces.

Instead of mixing the fuel and ore together in one stack, reverberatory furnaces are configured so that the mineral and the burning fuel never come in contact with one another. Instead, the firebox is separated from the ore by a partition and covered with a domed roof. The angle of the roof reflects the hot air into the reaction chamber where the ore liquefies and easily flows out one end of the furnace. Chimneys divert smoke upward to reduce the risk of inhalation by the workers. Dubuque’s Mines used these more efficient furnaces until converting to more practical methods, such as the Scotch Hearth furnace introduced in the area in 1835.

The reverberatory furnace was by no means a new technology. At the time, England and Spain were the world’s top lead producers, and European nations had been mining and smelting various metals for hundreds of years. Technologies were constantly evolving to be more efficient: inventions that would eventually find their way from their mother-nations to the colonies. In 1640, the famous Spanish metallurgist, Alvaro Alonso Barba, published a comprehensive guide on metals, including the use of reverberatory furnaces. The Spanish are believed to have been the first to introduce the technology to the Americas.

The Mesquakie Indians worked Julian Dubuque's Mines and used the lead ore in trade for goods at his trading post. The Mesquakie continued to work the mines after Dubuque’s death in 1810, but American miners finally took over the mines as part of the settlement of the Black Hawk War of 1832. By the early 1830s, most of the Mesquakie tribe had left the area. What began as a small mining operation was now a big industry accompanied by towns, filled with newcomers flocking to the mineral-rich area from Missouri and the Ohio Valley. An assembly of these miners in 1830 drafted regulations for land use and conduct, laws that formed the basis for the development of future mining activities in the American West during the subsequent California Gold Rush.

Dubuque was the largest and most prosperous community in the entire lead district through the Civil War. Between 1845 and 1847, mining activity in the area peaked with the production of 54 million pounds of lead a year, at the time the most of any mining district in the entire world. Many miners had left in pursuit of gold out west beginning in 1849 and the easily worked minerals became depleted. Iowa’s fertile farmlands also lured miners away from the dangerous and struggling industry, and by 1870, agriculture had replaced lead mining as the region’s most valuable asset. The archeological remains of the 19th century mining communities of Catfish and Mosalem and a camp are located within the district.

At the beginning of the 1980’s, Julien Dubuque’s Mine became the Mines of Spain State Recreation Area and in 1993, the historic district became a National Historic Landmark. It is also a significant place to visit within the Silos and Smokestacks National Heritage Area.

The 1,380 acres in the Mines of Spain State Recreation Area offer visitors a diversity of experiences. Much of the land is reminiscent of what it must have been like during Dubuque’s time and visitors can enjoy hikes, canoe trips and vistas through the area. Many of the trees in the district are at least 300 years old and it is the home of rare species such as bobcats, flying squirrels and bald eagles.

Visitors should stop at the Julien Dubuque Monument, which sits in the northeast corner of the Mines of Spain district. When Dubuque died in 1810, the Mesquakie buried him with tribal honors beneath a log mausoleum on the high bluff overlooking the Mississippi. During 1896, his body was exhumed and reburied under a new monument. Completed in 1897, the structure is a 12-foot tall limestone, cylindrical tower resembling a medieval castle turret. A rectangular stone in the floor marks Dubuque’s final resting place. The public can reach the monument via a paved path. The tower offers a fine panoramic view of the City of Dubuque and the Mississippi Valley below. Interpretive signage explains the site to visitors.
The E.B. Lyons Interpretive Center welcomes visitors to the park with free exhibits and programming. Visual and audio presentations provide information about the recreation area and its mining heritage. The center is part of the NPS Passport Program (stop by the main desk to get your stamp). Signs along the park’s many trails connect visitors with the surrounding natural and archeological features.

Plan Your Visit

Julien Dubuque’s Mine, Mines of Spain, is a National Historic Landmark located along the southern edge of Dubuque, IA, with access via Highway 52 South, at the intersection of Route 61. The Mines of Spain State Recreation Area is open daily, year-round, from 4:00am to 10:30pm. The E.B. Lyons Interpretive Center is open year-round with limited winter hours. During the summer (April 15 through October 15), the center is open seven days a week: Monday through Friday from 8:00am to 4:00pm and weekends from noon to 4:00pm. Admission is free. For more information, visit the Mines of Spain website or call the visitor center at 563-556-0620.

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Santa Fe National Historic Trail, Missouri, Kansas, Colorado, Oklahoma, and New Mexico

The Santa Fe Trail, stretching 1,200 miles from Franklin, Missouri to Santa Fe, New Mexico, was one of America’s great trading routes. The trail followed several different routes depending on weather conditions and terrain. From 1821 until 1880, the Santa Fe Trail served as a vital commercial and military trail, and sometimes as an emigrant trail. Americans, American Indians, Latinos, Anglos, and African Americans encountered one another along the Santa Fe Trail creating an avenue of commercial and cultural exchange.

Designated a National Historic Trail in 1987, the National Park Service’s Santa Fe National Historic Trail traces the route thousands of people traveled in order to participate in trade, commerce, and western expansion. Today, visitors can travel between western Missouri and Santa Fe on the Santa Fe National Historic Trail and drive the Santa Fe Trail Scenic & Historic Byway, a road route that captures the historic experience of the Santa Fe Trail. Many of the sites listed in the National Register of Historic Places near and along the Trail played a critical role in the history of the Santa Fe Trail. Visiting these historic places provides visitors with a glimpse into the commercial aspects, daily activities, traveling obstacles, scenic views, cultural relations, and military presence, which were part of life along the historic Santa Fe Trail. Some of the historic places for visitors to see along the Trail are highlighted below. The Trail crosses five States- Missouri, Colorado, Kansas, Oklahoma, and New Mexico.

In 1821, Mexico gained its independence from Spain’s 200 years of control and unlocked a great gateway to the West- the Santa Fe Trail. From 1821 until 1880, trade between Mexico and the United States flourished along the Trail. By 1880, the railroad had reached Santa Fe. It replaced the Santa Fe Trail as the most the viable trading and traveling method in the area. However, between 1821 and 1880, the Trail became a major component of an international web of business, social ties, tariffs, and laws. The Trail made possible the transporting and trading of goods such as woolens, cottons, silks, linens, china cups, whiskey, champagne, combs, forks, spoons, watches, dry goods, hardware, razors, and jewelry.

Today, travelers can visit historic trading posts along the Santa Fe Trail, such as Bent’s Old Fort National Historic Site, located about eight miles east of La Junta, Colorado, and Kozlowski’s Stage Station and Spring, which is about three and a half miles north of I-25 on New Mexico Highway 63. Bent’s Old Fort served as a trading post, a social center, a place of refuge and safety, a rest and relaxation point, and a repair depot. Cheyenne, Arapaho, Kiowa, Comanche, Ute, and Lakota Indians participated in trade at the fort, as did westbound traders, and local mountain men. Kozlowski’s Stage Station and Spring, now known as the Forked Lightning Ranch, was a trading ranch and station along the Santa Fe Trail, especially known for its good food. Today it is a part of Pecos National Historical Park. Trading posts like Bent’s Old Fort and Kozlowski’s Stage Station played a pivotal role in the success of the Santa Fe Trail.

Thousands of people traversed the Santa Fe Trail attempting to benefit from trade and commerce in places like Bent’s Old Fort, Kozlowski’s Stage Station, and ultimately in the plaza in Santa Fe. While making this journey, with their hearts and minds filled with commercial hopes and opportunities, travelers stopped in towns such as Council Grove, Kansas and Boggsville, Colorado to prepare for the long journey ahead. In these towns, travelers would stock-up supplies for travel ahead, repair their wagons, converse with other travelers, interact with American Indians, and learn about important natural features that could help them navigate the vast terrain of the western frontier.

Today, in Council Grove, Kansas, visitors will feel transported back in time by exploring many sites listed in the National Register of Historic Places. They can see the Council Oak, Hays House Restaurant, the Conn Stone Store, and the Last Chance Store. The Council Oak is the site of a treaty in 1825 between the Osage tribe and the U.S. government giving Americans and Mexicans safe passage along the Santa Fe Trail through Osage territory. Built in 1867, the Hays House Restaurant was a gathering place for meals, mail distribution, court trials, and church meetings. The Conn Stone Store has an interpretive sign that explains its history as an important trading post where Trail travelers, Kaw Indians, and local merchants exchanged their goods. The Last Chance Store dates from 1857 and served travelers by providing them one “last chance” at stocking up for their journey to Santa Fe.

Visitors will also feel transported back in time by a stop in the Boggsville Historic District, located about two miles south of Las Animas, Colorado on Colorado Highway 101. Founded in 1862 by Thomas O. Boggs, Boggsville was the last home of the famous frontier scout Kit Carson. Today, the reconstructed homes of Boggs and Kit Carson give visitors a sense of life in the 1860s. For about a decade, Boggsville thrived as a center of trade, agriculture, and culture along the Trail. Two trading stores that John W. Prowers and Thomas O. Boggs owned separately made it an important stage stop along the Trail. In Boggsville today, visitors can view the remnants of these trading stores and also follow a hiking path and read interpretive markers exploring this town’s Santa Fe Trail connections.

Before leaving a town like Council Grove or Boggsville, a Trail traveler likely obtained bacon, coffee, flour, sugar, a small amount of salt, and a bag of beans as supplies for the journey ahead. Today, evidence of travelers’ journeys exists in the preserved wagon ruts found in various locations along the 1,200 miles of the Trail. Visitors can see Ralph’s Ruts on the Ralph Hathaway Farm near Chase, Kansas or the Boot Hill Museum Ruts that are 9 miles west of Dodge City on the north side of U.S. Highway 50, Kansas. With these ruts visitors can walk alongside the historic remains of westward expansion, travel, and trade.

Along their journey on the Santa Fe Trail, travelers used natural landscape features to provide important navigational clues. Places such as Pawnee Rock, Rabbit Ears Mountain, and Wagon Mound helped guide and navigate travelers through the terrain. Pawnee Rock, a large sandstone rock, is a well-known natural feature along the Trail in Kansas marking the halfway point of the Trail. This large natural landmark is protected in the Pawnee Rock State Historic Site located on Centre St. (SW 112th Ave.), one-half mile north of U.S. Highway 56 near the town of Pawnee Rock.

The twin 6,062 feet volcanic peaks of Rabbit Ears Mountain and Round Mound (Mt. Clayton) in Clayton, New Mexico were very important natural features on the Cimarron Cutoff of the Santa Fe Trail. These natural features effectively guided travelers as they trekked across the Oklahoma panhandle. The name, Rabbit Ears, honors the Indian Chief Orejas de Conejo, who died in a battle with Spanish colonists in the early 1700s.

Today, Rabbit Ears Mountain and Round Mound (Mt. Clayton) and the campsites between them, McNees Crossing, Turkey Creek Camp, and Rabbit Ears Creek Camp, are recognized as the Clayton Complex National Historic Landmark. The campsites offered access to water, wood, and grass where the wagon trains could rest to refresh themselves and their animals. Upon reaching the area, travelers along the trail customarily sent runners on ahead to Santa Fe to arrange with Mexican customs officials and to see what was in the market.

Wagon Mound, still another important natural landscape feature on the Trail, is near the town of Wagon Mound, New Mexico. This mound is a 6,930-feet high lone stone butte that has a shape similar to oxen pulling a wagon. Wagon Mound was a guidepost observed by all travelers on the High Plains segment of the Cimarron Cutoff of the Santa Fe Trail. This region became a prized rest stop for travelers because of its appealing lush green grass and abundant water supply. Santa Clara Spring camping spot, located two miles northwest of the mound, became the site of numerous Indian ambushes. Wagon Mound not only served as a guide and a rest area on the Trail, but also as a warning to travelers of possible danger. Wagon Mound, the last major landmark on the westward journey across the plains of northeastern New Mexico, is also designated a National Historic Landmark. Landmarks like these provided weary travelers with the visual encouragement to continue their journeys along the Trail.

Places like Pawnee Rock, Rabbit Ears, and Wagon Mound provided travelers with natural visual cues. At other sites travelers left their own mark on the natural landscape, such as at Autograph Rock, located approximately seven miles west and seven miles north of Boise City, Oklahoma, where people chiseled their names in the surrounding sandstone bluffs. Today, visitors can examine these inscriptions to better understand the variety of people--including soldiers, merchants, gold seekers, and adventurers-- who ventured along the Trail.

As the Trail became more popular and the number of travelers significantly increased, relations with American Indians began to deteriorate. For thousands of years, this vast terrain was home to many American Indian tribes, including Comanche, Kiowa, southern bands of Cheyenne, Arapaho, Plains Apache, Osage, Kansas (Kaw), Jicarilla Apache, Ute, and Pueblo Indians. During the early years of the Santa Fe Trail, most encounters between travelers and American Indians were peaceful. As Trail traffic increased, the Indians began to retaliate as they experienced more and more disruptions to their traditional ways of life. The governments of Mexico and the United States responded by providing troops to escort caravan travelers. The United States also established military forts along the trail to ensure the safety of travelers. Visitors can explore forts such as Fort Union National Monument in Watrous, New Mexico on NM 161, and Fort Larned National Historic Site, located six miles west of the town of Larned on Kansas Highway 156, to understand the vital functions these forts played during the years of western expansion and the heyday of the Santa Fe Trail.

Ultimately, travelers reached the end of the trail, the Santa Fe Plaza. Established c.1610 by Don Pedro de Peralta, the Plaza has long stood as the commercial, social, and political center of Santa Fe and would have teemed with carts, goods, livestock, traders, and townspeople during the 19th century at the height of the Santa Fe Trail. Buildings constructed in the Pueblo, Spanish, and Territorial styles ring the Plaza, reflecting the diverse cultural history of this historic place. One of the most noted historic buildings on the Plaza is the Palace of the Governors. Constructed in 1610, the Palace of the Governors served for 300 years as the seat of the Spanish, Mexican, and American territorial government in New Mexico. The Palace of the Governors is the oldest extant public building in the United States and now is part of the Museum of New Mexico. Both the Santa Fe Plaza and the Palace of the Governors are featured in this itinerary.

Extensive use of the Santa Fe Trail ceased by 1880, but its legacy, lore, and influence live on. Goods, ideas, and diverse cultural interactions traversed the Santa Fe Trail for nearly 60 years, and the mixing of cultures and ideas that followed created a unique experience that lives on today. While this travel itinerary only discusses a handful of historic sites, many other historic sites await visitors in the five States that the Santa Fe Trail traverses. Please see the “Plan Your Visit” and “Learn More” sections of this itinerary and follow this link, Visiting the Santa Fe Trail Today, for a more extensive listing of National Register of Historic Places sites on or near the Santa Fe Trail.

Plan Your Visit

Santa Fe National Historic Trail, administered by the National Park Service, crosses the five States of Missouri, Kansas, Colorado, Oklahoma, and New Mexico. For more information, directions, maps, an places to see and things to do, visit the National Park Service Santa Fe National Historic Trail website or call 505-988-6098. Visit this website for lists of places to go in each State along the Santa Fe National Historic Trail.

Santa Fe National Historic Trail is also featured in the National Park Service Places Reflecting America's Diverse Cultures: Explore their Stories in the National Park System Travel Itinerary.

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Atchafalaya National Heritage Area, Louisiana

Established in 2006, the Atchafalaya National Heritage Area spans 14 parishes in south central Louisiana. Encompassing the nation’s largest river swamp, this 10,400 square mile heritage area is historically and culturally rich and ecologically varied. The heritage area begins at the junction of the Atchafalaya River (Atchafalaya is an American Indian word that means long river and that is pronounced ah-CHA-fa-LIE-ah) and the Mississippi River and extends south to the Gulf of Mexico. For hundreds of years, people of American Indian, African, Caribbean, French, Latino, European, and American descent have lived in and interacted with one another throughout this region. Around each bend of the long Atchafalaya River, visitors to the heritage area will hear, smell, and see evidence of this diverse cultural heritage and history.

Visitors are invited to explore the Atchafalaya National Heritage Area’s diverse cultural heritage in its historic sites, museums, and natural parks.

Please click here for information on visiting these places and refer to the National Park Service’s Explore the History and Culture of Southeastern Louisiana Travel Itinerary for additional historic places to explore. Visitors can experience the Atchafalaya National Heritage Area’s Latino heritage at a number of historic sites.

The Atchafalaya swamp is the largest river swamp in the United States- larger than the Everglades and Okefenokee Swamps. The Atchafalaya swamp’s maze of streams and bayous sustains a diverse array of flora and fauna including alligators, deer, squirrel, beaver, more than 85 species of fish, and over 270 species of birds. The area’s hunting, fishing, trapping, logging, Spanish moss gathering, oil extraction, and commercial catfish and crawfish farming activities are made possible by the richness of the natural bounty.

The abundant natural resources have always influenced the lifestyles and the social and economic development of the people residing in the area. As far back as 2,500 years ago, American Indians lived in the region, which has American Indian mound sites and villages throughout the area dating from AD 700 to AD 1700. American Indians concentrated their villages on the high natural levees of the river and throughout the large bayous, living off the plentiful selection of fish, reptiles, and mammals. The Chitimacha tribe has the longest historical association with the area. The tribe lived in more than 15 villages that clustered around places like Bayou Teche, Grand Lake, Grand River, Bayou Plaquemine, and Butte La Rose. In 1650, the Chitimacha had a population of around 4,000 people.

By the late 1500s, Europeans began discovering the region. Spaniard Hernando De Soto explored what would become Louisiana in 1543, while Rene Robert Cavelier, Sieur de la Salle claimed the Mississippi River and the lands that it drained for France in 1682. Over the next century, France, Spain, and then France again, controlled Louisiana. Over the course of the 18th century, French, Spanish, African, Acadian, Caribbean, and American settlers would all call this region their home. During this time, Louisiana’s well-known Cajun and Creole cultures developed from the amalgamation of the different nations’ cultural influences. The United States purchased the Louisiana Territory in 1803, and Louisiana became a State in 1812.

Hispanic Heritage Sites in the Atchafalaya National Heritage Area

Described below are a handful of sites throughout the Atchafalaya National Heritage Area where visitors can experience the Spanish heritage of the region.

Ascension Parish: Galveztown and Donaldsonville

In 1778, Bernardo de Galvez, who was the governor of Spanish Louisiana, was searching for places to strengthen Spanish defenses against British West Florida when he encountered a small community of British squatters. The squatters were refugees from the community of Canewood, near the confluence of the Bayou Manchac and the Amite River. Galvez decided to let them stay. In gratitude, they named their community, Villa de Galvez.

Galvez liked the high elevation and easy water access of this location and decided it was perfect for establishing a settlement and fort. Galvez, an American ally in the American Revolution, prevented the further development of a British stronghold in the Mississippi Valley by capturing British forts at Manchac and Baton Rouge in 1779.

In 1779, a mix of Spanish soldiers and Spanish Canary Islanders joined the British squatters at Villa de Galvez swelling the town’s population to nearly 400. The layout of the town was in the traditional Spanish style with a central plaza, a Catholic church, and residential lots around the plaza. In 1779, Galveztown had 20 homes, a coffee shop, and a single room jail. Over the following two decades, disease, floods, and hurricanes challenged the community’s survival. By 1788, the population was down to 268 residents, with many of the town’s homes completely empty, collapsed, or only sheltering animals.

In 1803, the Spanish ceded the Louisiana Territory to France, which quickly sold it to the United States in the Louisiana Purchase of 1803. Galveztown became part of the United States. In 1804, Dr. John Watkins, representing the new American government of Louisiana, arrived in Galveztown and informed residents that they were permitted to stay in their town if they so desired. The town was in utter disrepair. Most of the Spaniards and Canary Islanders decided to leave, and many moved across Bayou Manchac to Baton Rouge because they preferred to stay on Spanish soil. Baton Rouge welcomed them by laying out residential lots for them in a settlement that became known as Spanish Town.

While no buildings remain at the site of Galveztown today, archeologists have found pottery and brick fragments, pieces of bottle glass, shards of a smoking pipe, and other artifacts. A historical marker locates the Galveztown site a little more than four miles from the intersection of Hwy. 42 and Hwy. 73, in an area known as Oak Grove. The current Galvez, LA is about two miles from the 18th century Galveztown site.

Visitors to Assumption Parish should stop in historic Donaldsonville to see La Iglesia de la Ascension de Nostro Senor Jesu Cristo da Lafourche de los Chetimaches, known today as the Church of the Ascension of Our Lord Jesus Christ. King Charles III of Spain ordered the establishment of the church, and Spanish militia began building a small mission chapel on this site in 1770. Construction of the current church building began in 1875.

Donaldsonville’s history dates back to 1699 when Pierre Le Moyne Sieur de Iberville, a French explorer, founded the community. The Acadians settled in Donaldsonville, which was then called Lafourche, in 1758. Under the Spanish, Louisiana welcomed the exiled Acadians to settle the bayous and wetlands of the Louisiana Territory. In 1806, William Donaldson, a wealthy Englishman, acquired the land and changed the name of the town to Donaldsonville.

Assumption Parish: Belle Alliance Plantation

About five miles from Donaldsonville on the east bank of Bayou Lafourche is Belle Alliance Plantation. Successful sugar planter Charles Anton Kock built the plantation’s massive Greek Revival mansion in 1846. The land on which the house sits was originally a part of the 7,000-acre Bayou Lafourche plot granted to Don Juan Vives, a physician and military officer of the Spanish government.

In 1779, Vives participated in Galvez’s expedition against the British in Baton Rouge. Vives was successful in helping Galvez prevent the further development of a British stronghold in the Mississippi Valley, and the Spanish king knighted him. The area around Vives’ grant became known as Valenzuela and served as a Spanish military outpost. Today, Belle Alliance Plantation House and Grounds, which is listed in the National Register of Historic Places, is accessible to the public for lectures, special occasions, executive retreats, and photo shoots.

East Baton Rouge Parish: Spanish Town

In September of 1779, the Spanish Governor of Louisiana, Bernardo de Galvez, defeated the British at Fort Butte on Bayou Manchac and then captured Baton Rouge. By 1781, West Florida, including East Baton Rouge, was under Spanish influence. After the United States gained control of the Louisiana Territory in 1803, Spanish Baton Rouge became the only non-American settlement along the Mississippi River. Around this time, residents from nearby Galveztown, which the United States controlled, decided to resettle in Baton Rouge so they could stay on Spanish soil.

In 1805, V.S. Pintao, the official Spanish surveyor of West Florida, at the instruction of Don Carlos de Grendpre, the Governor of West Florida, designed an area in Baton Rouge with 18 long and narrow lots, with a public road 40 feet wide running east to west through the settlement. The area became Spanish Town, which today is the oldest neighborhood in the City of Baton Rouge. Pintao designed the lots so that each family would have enough space for a house, a garden, and a stable. As Spanish Town grew, the original layout extended to include 20 more lots to the east. The 40 feet wide public road running through the middle of Spanish Town became the “Spanish Town Road.”

While buildings from the original 1805 settlement no longer remain, Spanish Town Road still runs through Baton Rouge today. Visitors to Spanish Town Road today will see the original 18 lots of Spanish Town, many of which have been irregularly divided, that are located between Capitol Lake and North Street, between 5th and 12th Streets. Spanish Town is listed in the National Register of Historic Places.

Iberia Parish: New Iberia and Spanish Lake

In 1779, a group of Spaniards from Malaga settled near the banks of the Bayou Teche and a small lake that took the name Spanish Lake. These early settlers named their town “Nueva Iberia” in honor of their homeland, the Iberian Peninsula. The Spanish settlers found that much of the land surrounding Bayou Teche had already been granted to other settlers. Since they needed land, many of them dispersed to neighboring prairies, including the area around Spanish Lake, where they became planters and ranchers. Today, visitors can drive around Spanish Lake on Spanish Lake Road to view the lake that once supported a Spanish colonial settlement.

The many historic sites scattered throughout the Atchafalaya National Heritage Area provide visitors with tangible evidence of the Spanish roots and the diverse cultural heritage found throughout this region.

Plan Your Visit

Atchafalaya National Heritage Area is located throughout 14 parishes in south central Louisiana. Click here for the National Register of Historic Places files for Spanish Town: text and photos; Belle Alliance Plantation: text and photos.  For more information about visiting the heritage area, visit the Atchafalaya National Heritage Area website or call 225-219-0768.

Many of the sites found throughout the Atchafalaya National Heritage Area are featured in the National Park Service’s Explore the History and Culture of Southeastern Louisiana Travel Itinerary.

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The Cabildo, New Orleans, Louisiana

The Cabildo, a National Historic Landmark on Jackson Square in New Orleans, Louisiana, originally housed the administrative and legislative council that ruled Spanish Louisiana. The building took its name from the Spanish governing body that met there, the “Illustrious Cabildo” or city council. The Cabildo was also the site of the Louisiana Purchase Transfer ceremonies and the home of the Louisiana Supreme Court, which handed down the controversial and highly significant “separate but equal” Plessy v. Ferguson decision. The Cabildo itself is a reflection of the strong influence of Spanish architecture in the Louisiana Territory and one of the most important buildings remaining from the period when Spain held the Louisiana Territory. The Cabildo is now the home of the Louisiana State Museum, providing visitors to New Orleans with a tangible reminder of the city’s Spanish heritage.

Beginning in 1721, the site where the Cabildo now sits was set aside for government use. French engineer Adrien de Pauger laid out the plan for the newly established town of New Orleans, singling out specific lots for use by the French colonial government. In 1769, Don Alejandro O’Reilly took formal possession of the Louisiana Territory for Spain and quickly established a Spanish Cabildo (a municipal governing body) to replace the Superior Council that had governed Louisiana during the French regime.

Soon after taking possession of Louisiana for the Spanish, O’Reilly ordered the construction of a new town hall on the site of the prison of the corps de garde (police station). The new town hall, or Cabildo, was built on the foundations of the old prison (parts of these walls are incorporated in the present Cabildo). After the destruction of this building by a fire in 1788, the Spanish constructed new government buildings over the next few years, only to lose them to another fire that tore through New Orleans in 1794.

Between the two fires, the Cabildo held meetings first in the Government House, which escaped the fire, and then in a rented house. By 1795, after these great fires destroyed much of New Orleans, the Cabildo decided to build a new substantial building suitable for its use. The governing body selected Don Gilberto Guillemard to design the new Cabildo building. After the fire of 1788, Don Gilberto Guillemard had been responsible for drawing the plans for the Cathedral of St. Louis and the Presbytere, two other historic buildings on Jackson Square. The Cabildo sits on one side of the cathedral and the Presbytere on the other.

As he did with the Presbytere, Guillemard made as much use as possible of the old brickwork that remained on the Cabildo site after the fires of 1788 and 1794, and incorporated the remains of the brick walls of the old French corps de garde of the 1750s and of the old town hall building into the new Cabildo building. Once completed, the new Cabildo building would have nearly the same frontage to the public square as the new Presbytere.

The original Cabildo building had two stories and was made of stuccoed brick. The new Cabildo had two stories with open arcades. On both of these stories, elliptical arches sprang from square piers. A pediment crowned the three central bays on the second story of the building and once held the arms of the Spanish Crown. After the Louisiana Purchase, the arms of the Spanish crown were removed. By 1822, the pediment contained an eagle amidst trophies, arms, and flags, which Pietro Cardelli, who had worked on the United States Capitol, designed.

The Cabildo’s original flat tiled roof, which proved to be problematic and always in need of repair, was replaced in 1847 with a steep mansard roof in the French style with scrolled dormers. A third floor and cupola were also added to the building. About the same time, Baroness Pontalba, a strong willed designer and businesswoman in New Orleans, planned French inspired renovations to her own private buildings in the Jackson Square area. Because of Baroness Pontalba’s proposed renovations and influence throughout New Orleans, the city council decided to make similar improvements to its buildings on Jackson Square, and thus added the French style mansard roof to the Cabildo and to the Presbytere.

Guillemard designed the second story specifically to house the new council chamber or Sala Capitular. The Spanish utilized the Sala Capitular as a courtroom from 1799 tol 1803, until they formally ceded the Louisiana Territory to France in the November of 1803. Spain had already secretly agreed to transfer power of Louisiana back to France in 1800, through the Treaty of San Ildefonso, however, Napolean had delayed taking possession for he wanted more time to build up a military to protect the territory. France controlled the territory for only about three weeks, from November 30 to December 20, 1803, during which time they called the Cabildo, Maison de Ville, or Town Hall. On December 20, 1803, in the Sala Capitular of the Cabildo, France signed the transfer documents formally transferring the Louisiana Territory to the United States. The ratification of the Louisiana Purchase doubled the size of the United States and opened up the continent to the continued westward expansion of the nation.

After the Louisiana Purchase, the Cabildo continued to be used for government purposes and public offices. From 1803 until 1812, the Louisiana territorial superior court sat there, and after the Civil War, from 1868 until 1910, the Louisiana Supreme Court. Since 1803, the mayor, the city council, the superior court and its clerk, the county judge, and the city notary have used the Cabildo. The Cabildo has also served as an emergency hospital, a banquet hall, and as a home for various libraries, including the New Orleans Library Association in 1819 and the Law Association Library from 1847 until 1910. In 1911, the Louisiana State Museum moved in and remains there today.

The Louisiana State Museum’s exhibits in the Cabildo emphasize the diverse ethnic heritage of Louisiana. The museum operates four other properties in New Orleans’ historic French Quarter that reflect Louisiana’s historic events and cultural diversity including the Presbytere, the 1850 House, the Old U.S. Mint, and Madame John's Legacy.

Plan Your Visit

The Cabildo, a National Historic Landmark, is located at 701 Chartres St., Jackson Square in New Orleans, LA. Click here for the National Historic Landmark file: text and photos. The Cabildo is open Tuesday through Sunday from 10:00am to 4:30pm and closed Mondays and State holidays. For more information, visit the Louisiana State Museum at The Cabildo website or call 504-568-6968.

The Cabildo has been documented by the National Park Service’s Historic American Buildings Survey.

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Cane River Creole National Historical Park, Louisiana
In a rural and pristine area of western Louisiana near the winding Cane River, visitors can experience over two centuries of history by exploring Cane River Creole National Historical Park, a National Park System unit within the Cane River Creole National Heritage Area. Cane River Creole National Historical Park preserves the landscapes as well as the many buildings and structures of two historic plantations. At Oakland and Magnolia plantations, visitors can learn about plantation economies, slavery, cash cropping, Creole culture, the Civil War, sharecropping, and modernization to see how people of different ethnic and cultural groups lived and adapted to historical, economic, social, and agricultural change. Referring to locally born Spaniards, French, and enslaved people as Creole, the Cane River Creole National Historical Park preserves and interprets the diverse Creole cultures and histories of the Natchitoches region, and illustrates the convergence of the French, Spanish, African, American Indian, and others who have contributed to the multi-cultural character of the region.

After founding Fort St. Jean Baptiste in 1714, the French ceded Natchitoches to Spain under the 1762 Treaty of Fountainebleau at the end of the Seven Years’ War. The formal transfer of the colony from France to Spain did not occur until January 1767. During this period, resentment grew among the French settlers concerning Spanish administration of Louisiana. This displeasure resulted in a revolt against Spanish rule and the expulsion of the Spanish governor on November 1, 1768. For the next 10 months, the colony pursued independence from any European control. The period of rebellious self-rule abruptly ended in July 1769, with the arrival at the mouth of the Mississippi of a Spanish fleet carrying General Alejandro O'Reilly with an army of more than 2,000 soldiers. The rebellion quickly crumbled. This time Spanish authorities imposed Spanish law and government on the former French colony. However, French fears of Spanish domination proved unwarranted as the new regime caused little visible change in daily life. At Natchitoches, the Spanish adopted the French method of trade, thus attracting Native American commerce and maintaining relative stability throughout the period of Spanish domination.

Spain ceded the area back to France in the secret Treaty of San Ildefonso in 1800, but the actual transfer of Louisiana from Spain to France took place in November 1803. In the light of these developments, U.S. President Thomas Jefferson instructed his minister to France, Robert R. Livingston, to negotiate with French Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte for the purchase of Louisiana, resulting in the Louisiana Purchase and subsequent turning over the Louisiana territory to the United States in December 1803.

In 1789, Jean Pierre Emmanuel Prudhomme established Oakland Plantation on a land grant from the Spanish government. By the early 1800s, Prudhomme began using his plantation, originally named Bermuda, to grow cotton, a major cash crop. Through cotton production, Prudhomme amassed great wealth. To ensure success, Prudhomme used enslaved laborers year round to grow, harvest, and bail cotton, which is a labor intensive crop.

In 1859, for instance, 145 slaves, who lived in 30 dwellings at Oakland Plantation, produced 698 bales of cotton and 7,000 bushels of corn. While most of the slaves toiled in the cotton fields, others worked as midwives, nurses, cooks, weavers, shoemakers, brick masons, painters, and ginners. The success of Oakland Plantation allowed Prudhomme and his descendants to expand the land holdings of the estate and to construct multiple outbuildings on the property. The Prudhomme family resided on the plantation until late in the 20th century.

A self-guided tour winds its way through the grounds and many of the original buildings and structures of this once bustling plantation. Visitors can see the main house, the carriage house, the doctor’s cottage, slave/tenant quarters, the overseer’s house, the cotton gin ruins, the store and post office, and many sheds, shops, and storehouses. Most likely built by enslaved African Americans in 1821, the Oakland Plantation main house is an example of a raised Creole plantation house constructed of bousillage. Bousillage is an infill material of mud, Spanish moss, and deer hair.

The historic landscape of the main house includes an 1835 bottle garden and a short alley of live oaks. Believed to be one of only two such gardens surviving in the Mississippi Valley, the bottle garden displays parterres outlined by bottles from Scotland, Ireland, England, and France. A number of sheds and shops remind visitors of the many “behind the scenes” tasks that went into the smooth running of a plantation. The old store is evidence that even when slavery ended and a sharecropping system replaced it, many freed people were still tied to a plantation-like system.

Magnolia Plantation still has 21 standing historic buildings and structures. Visitors can see a slave hospital, a pigeonnier, eight brick slave houses, a gin house, and a plantation store. While Jean Baptiste LeComte I acquired the Magnolia Plantation land in 1753, it was not until about 1840 that Ambrose LeComte II built the first main plantation house on the grounds. By the 1860s, the LeComtes expanded the landholdings of the plantation and shifted to growing cotton. Magnolia Plantation soon became the largest cotton-producing plantation in Natchitoches Parish, with the LeComtes owning the most slaves in the area.

Enslaved African Americans lived in a double row of eight brick slave houses at Magnolia. On both Oakland and Magnolia plantations, the slave quarters were places where enslaved workers created their own institutions, community, internal governance, recreation, and religious practices. Out of sight of their masters within these slave communities, they married, started families, and produced domestic goods such as clothing, furniture, tools, and toys. They also had their own gardens where they raised crops of sweet potatoes, watermelons, turnips, and other vegetables.

The 1860s brought great changes to both plantations and to the southern plantation system way of life. During the Civil War, Union troops swept through the area burning a steam cotton gin and 400 bales of cotton at Oakland Plantation. Union soldiers burned the original main house at Magnolia Plantation in 1864. Following the fire, the LeComtes lived in the former slave hospital and did not rebuild the main house until 1899. The Civil War and the Emancipation Proclamation had lasting effects on southern plantations. After the war, many freed slaves became sharecroppers on plantations under conditions that were not very different from slavery. Under the sharecropping system, freed workers became forever indebted to the plantation store for what they needed and were never able to secure the land, money, education, or skills necessary to move beyond plantation life.

Visit Cane River Creole National Historical Park to better understand this diverse and controversial period of American history in a park that brings alive the world of the Creole in this part of the South where the French, Spanish, African, American Indian, and other cultures converged in the nation's story.

Plan Your Visit

Cane River Creole National Historical Park is a unit of the National Park System. Oakland Plantation, a National Historic Landmark, is located on Hwy. 494, 12 miles south of Natchitoches, LA and is part of the Cane River Creole National Historical Park and the Cane River Creole National Heritage Area. Magnolia Plantation, also a National Historic Landmark, is located at 5487 Hwy. 119 in Derry, LA. Magnolia Plantation Home is privately owned and is open for tours from 1:00pm to 4:00 pm daily. Both plantations are open for self-guided tours from 8:00am to 4:00pm, daily, except Thanksgiving, December 25, and January 1. Guided tours of Oakland Plantation are offered daily at 1:00 pm. Formal tours of the Magnolia grounds are given only on Saturdays and Sunday at 11:00 am and 3:00 pm.

Click here for Oakland Plantation’s National Historic Landmark registration file: text and photos. Click here for Magnolia Plantation’s National Historic Landmark registration file: text and photos. For more information, visit the National Park Service Cane River Creole National Historical Park website or call 318-356-8441.

Oakland and Magnolia Plantations are also featured in the National Park Service’s Cane River National Heritage Area Travel Itinerary and in the Places Reflecting America's Diverse Cultures: Explore their Stories in the National Park System Travel Itinerary. The National Park Service Archeology Program has online tours of the Oakland Plantation and Magnolia Plantation. The National Park Service's Historic American Buildings Survey has documented several different buildings at the Oakland Plantation. At the Magnolia Plantation, the Historic American Buildings Survey has documented the Plantation, Slave Quarters, and Cotton Gins and Presses.

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El Camino Real de los Tejas National Historic Trail, Louisiana and Texas

El Camino Real de los Tejas stretches 2,500 miles from colonial Mexico City through Texas and ends in Natchitoches, Louisiana. This trail provided the only primary overland route from Mexico across the Río Grande to the Red River Valley. Other trails such as the Lower Road, Old San Antonio Road, and Laredo Road were also created along this route to accommodate varying weather conditions, terrain, and relations with American Indians.

The Spanish began using the trail in 1690, when Alonso de León, a Spanish explorer, crossed the Rio Grande heading to eastern Texas to establish missions. He followed routes previously used as Indian trails and trade routes. The following year, Domingo Terán de los Ríos traveled the same route with additional missionaries.

Along with missions, the Spanish built presidios to protect Spanish territory from French intrusion, as well as trading posts and ranches. Throughout the 17th century, Spain, France, and England engaged in a major power struggle to control North America. This fight over control served as a catalyst for exploration, settlement, and trade.

El Camino Real de los Tejas was used extensively during the period when Texas was Spanish, then Mexican, land. When Texas became independent, trade between Texas and Mexico declined while trade between Mexico and the United States increased. The trail was briefly a way to get supplies to the Confederacy and to send cotton to Mexico, but this soon waned with the arrival of the railroad. By the mid-19th century, El Camino Real de los Tejas was no longer in use. During its heyday, the trail had a permanent impact on the people of Texas and Louisiana.

Growing interest in the history of El Camino Real de los Tejas caused the Texas Legislature to research the route in 1915. V. N. Zively, a professional surveyor, surveyed the trail and placed wooden markers along it. In 1918, the Texas Daughters of the American Revolution installed inscribed pink granite markers every five miles along the route to mark it. Today, visitors can see nine of these granite markers in their original locations. A number of towns along the route have their own monuments and historical markers to commemorate the trail, including Natchitoches, Louisiana and Cotulla, Texas. In 2004, El Camino Real de los Tejas became a National Historic Trail.

The trail passes through Cane River Creole National Historical Park (a part of the Cane River National Heritage Area) in Natchitoches Parish, Louisiana. Using a land grant from the Spanish government, Jean Pierre Emmanuel Prudhomme established Oakland Plantation in 1789. Here, cotton was harvested and bailed by Prudhomme’s enslaved African American laborers. Visitors are able to explore many of the plantation’s original buildings and structures, including the main house, carriage house, slave/tenant quarters, and cotton gin ruins. Magnolia Plantation began cotton production in 1840. As this plantation grew, it became the largest cotton-producing plantation in Natchitoches Parish. In 1864, the Union army burned the main house at Magnolia Plantation but the brick slave houses still stand for visitors to see.

Cane River National Heritage Area is the site of the Spanish Mission of San Miguel de los Adaes (commonly abbreviated as just Los Adaes.) The Spanish founded the mission in 1716 to convert local American Indians to Christianity and stop the French from expanding into Spanish Texas. In 1729, Los Adaes became the capital of Texas and served in this role until 1770. Los Adaes was abandoned in 1773. While no buildings of the mission or presidio of Los Adaes still stand, the area remains an important archeological site, and a visitor center there tells the story of Los Adaes. Los Adaes is featured in this itinerary here.

In Sabine Parish, Louisiana, Fort Jesup is also in the Cane River National Heritage Area. It was constructed in 1822 to protect the border with Spain and the United States. Later, Texas passed to Mexican control, but became American territory after the United States won the Mexican War of 1846. After the war, Fort Jesup was considered unnecessary and later abandoned. Visitors can see the restored kitchen and reconstructed officers' quarters, which also serves as a museum.

To learn more about Cane River National Heritage Area, please view the Cane River National Heritage Area Travel Itinerary.

Along with Los Adaes, there were other Spanish missions along El Camino Real de los Tejas. Mission Nuestra Señora de los Dolores de los Ais in San Augustine County, Texas was built in 1716-1717 to convert the local Ais tribe to Christianity. A military inspection completed in 1767 revealed that the mission was not very successful, having only baptized 11 members of the Ais tribe in nearly 50 years, so the mission was closed in 1773.

Nothing remains of the mission, but an interpretive complex at the site includes a museum and archeology lab. Visitors can also see a visible swale, or rut, in the ground of the mission site that indicates a section of El Camino Real de los Tejas passed through it.

The best known cluster of missions along El Camino Real de los Tejas is part of the San Antonio Missions National Historical Park: Mission Nuestra Señora de la Purisima Concepción de Acuna, Mission San José y San Miguel de Aguayo, Mission San Juan Capistrano, and Mission San Francisco de la Espada. These four missions, established in the 18th century along the San Antonio River, became the foundation for the City of San Antonio. Each mission offers much to see. The San Antonio Missions National Historical Park is featured in this itinerary here.

The Alamo, or Mission San Antonio de Valero, also in San Antonio, is another mission along El Camino Real de los Tejas. Established in 1718, the mission became the site of a famous battle during the Texas Revolution in 1836. At the Alamo, Mexican President Santa Anna’s army defeated 190 members of the Texas Army, including William Travis, James Bowie, and David Crockett. This incident later inspired the battle of San Jacinto, which led to the independence of Texas.

To learn more about the San Antonio Missions National Historical Park and the Alamo, please view the South and West Texas Travel Itinerary.

El Camino Real de los Tejas paved the way for the development of present day Mexico, Texas, and Louisiana, and today brings alive the stories of the Spanish and the other peoples who left their legacies along the route.

Plan Your Visit

El Camino Real de los Tejas National Historic Trail, a unit of the National Park System, stretches across Texas and Louisiana. There is no formal auto tour route for the trail, but visitors and convention bureaus in communities located along the trail can provide information about local attractions and activities. For more information, visit the National Park Service El Camino Real de los Tejas National Historic Trail website or call 505-988-6098.

A number of sites along the trail are listed in the National Register of Historic Places, including many of the sites described above. Click here for more information:

• Oakland Plantation, a National Historic Landmark; National Register of Historic Places file: text and photos; Historic American Buildings Survey
• Magnolia Plantation, a National Historic Landmark; National Register of Historic Places file: text and photos; Historic American Buildings Survey
Los Adaes, a State Historic Site and a National Historic Landmark
Fort Jesup, a State Historic site and a National Historic Landmark; National Register of Historic Places file: text and photos
• Mission Concepción, a National Historic Landmark; National Register of Historic Places file: text and photos; Historic American Buildings Survey
• Mission San José; Historic American Buildings Survey.
• Mission San Juan Capistrano; National Register of Historic Places file: text and photos; Historic American Buildings Survey
• Mission San Francisco de la Espada; National Register of Historic Places file: text and photos; Historic American Buildings Survey
The Alamo, a National Historic Landmark; National Register of Historic Places file: text and photos; Historic American Buildings Survey

Many of the places to see along the trail are included in the National Park Service South and West Texas Travel Itinerary, the Cane River National Heritage Area Travel Itinerary, and the Places Reflecting America's Diverse Cultures: Explore their Stories in the National Park System Travel Itinerary.

The San Antonio Missions National Historical Park is the subject of an online lesson plan, San Antonio Missions: Spanish Influence in Texas. The lesson plan has been produced by the National Park Service’s Teaching with Historic Places program, which offers a series of online classroom-ready lesson plans on registered historic places.

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Jean Lafitte National Historical Park and Preserve, Louisiana

Jean Lafitte National Historical Park and Preserve protects an array of natural and cultural resources in the historically diverse Louisiana Mississippi River Delta. The region, first settled 2,500 years ago, has become a melting pot of ethnicities, nationalities, traditions and cultures. Jean Lafitte National Park and Preserve highlights the area at its Acadian Cultural Center in Lafayette, Prairie Acadian Cultural Center in Eunice, Wetlands Acadian Cultural Center in Thibodaux, the Barataria Preserve in Marrero, Chalmette Battlefield and National Cemetery in Chalmette, and the French Quarter Visitor Center in New Orleans. Together they tell a complex story of the diverse peoples who played a role in the region’s history and development, among them the Spanish who gained control of the area in 1763, at the end of the Seven Years’ War.

Pre-Contact: Evidence of Louisiana’s American Indian Past

Nearly 2,500 years ago, Chitimacha, Houma, and other American Indian tribes populated the Mississippi Delta. These peoples had broad-based economies, permanent settlements, and seasonal camps that utilized the full range of environments and resources of the diverse and fertile region. Visitors can find evidence of their ways of life throughout the Jean Lafitte Historical Park and Preserve. For example, in the Barataria Preserve the “Bayou Coquille Trail” starts at the site of a prehistoric Indian village and continues for 0.5 miles through undisturbed wilderness. French settlers, who obtained the area through land grants in 1726, named the bayou for the mound of clam shells (coquilles) visible here. Later, hundreds of immigrants from Spain’s Canary Islands settled in the Indian village. Middens, mounds, and shell beaches that date to the early period of tribal habitation are still evident throughout the Barataria Preserve. The middens contain remnant piles of ancient meals such as discarded shells and bones. Burial mounds and foundation mounds (used to elevate housing structures above flood level) are also interpreted features of sites.

European Contact: A Melting Pot of Cultures


By the late 17th century, Europeans began to explore and settle the area. The new arrivals and their enslaved African servants changed the delta landscape with the insertion of plantation fields, artificial levees, logging canals, trappers’ ditches and an array of new building styles. By 1699, France declared this region the Louisiana colony. This powerful, new European presence had a great impact on the area’s religion, art, music, food, law, architecture, and language. In 1718, the French established New Orleans on the Mississippi River. Nouvelle Orleans was laid out in a neat grid, which is still reflected in the current city. The downtown core is filled with a vast array of historic buildings reflecting a variety of cultural influences.

Visitors can experience this best by walking through the Vieux Carré (or French Quarter.) The neighborhood is among the oldest protected historic districts in the nation and French, Spanish and American architectural styles are represented along its streets.
The Spanish gained control from France of New Orleans and the area west of the Mississippi River at the end of the Seven Years War making it

part of New Spain in 1764. A Spanish governor arrived in 1766. The Spanish are responsible for much of the character and flavor of the Vieux Carré. Many of the 18th century buildings in New Orleans are in the Spanish style made of brick with courtyards and iron balconies.

Three of the most impressive buildings-- St. Louis Cathedral, the Cabildo, and the Presbytere-- date from the 18th century when the Spanish controlled the city. At the heart of the Vieux Carre on Jackson Square, St. Louis Cathedral is the oldest Catholic cathedral in continual use in the United States. Flanking the cathedral on one side, the Cabildo, once the seat of the Spanish colonial government, is now part of the Louisiana State Museum. The matching Presbytere on the other side of the cathedral is also part of the museum. Both buildings are largely Spanish in design but have added French mansard roofs. The ceremonies transferring the Louisiana Purchase to the United States took place in the Cabildo in 1803. Visitors can follow the New Orleans Visitor and Convention Bureau’s self-guided walking tour and stop in the National Park Service’s French Quarter Visitor Center to learn more about the cultural heritage of the French Quarter.

In 1795, Spain granted the United States "Right of Deposit" in New Orleans, allowing Americans to use the city's port facilities. In 1800, Spain and France signed the secret Treaty of San Ildefonso stipulating that Spain give Louisiana back to France, though it had to remain under Spanish control as long as France wished to postpone the transfer of power. Napolean delayed taking possession of Louisiana for he wanted time to build a military force strong enough to protect the territory from the Americans and the British. France did not take formal possession of Louisiana until November 30, 1803, but only for a short time. The United States took control of the colony on December 20, 1803 through the Louisiana Purchase.
Beyond New Orleans, other peoples settled along the bayous and wetlands of the Louisiana Mississippi Delta and adapted to water-based lifestyles. They pioneered new ways to live off the natural bounty by fishing, hunting, and trapping in the rich swamps, marshes, and coastal waters. Their lifeways and traditions spread westward onto the prairies of Southwest Louisiana where the land was well suited to raising cattle and farming rice and other cash crops.

Acadians from French Acadie (today Canadian Nova Scotia) began filtering into the region as early as the 1750s. When the British took control of the Acadie colony in the early 1700s, many Acadians were not cooperative and preferred to maintain their independence and freedom. By 1755, the British government began dispersing disloyal Acadian subjects to other colonies along the East Coast, the Caribbean, Britain, and France. By 1800, nearly 4,000 Acadians were in Louisiana. Over time, Acadians have intermarried with other groups including Spanish and American Indian peoples. Their unique traditions, styles, foods and music are reflected in the “Cajun” culture Louisiana is famous for today.

Visitors to Jean Lafitte National Historical Park and Preserve can explore the Acadian Cultural Center in Lafayette , the Prairie Acadian Cultural Center in Eunice, and the Wetlands Acadian Cultural Center in Thibodaux to learn about the Acadian or “Cajun” culture of Louisiana’s Mississippi Delta region.

Like “Cajun,” the term “Creole” is a popular term used to describe cultures in the southern Louisiana area. “Creole” can be roughly defined as “native to a region,” but its precise meaning varies according to the geographic area in which it is used. Generally, however, Creoles felt the need to distinguish themselves from the influx of American and European immigrants coming into the area after the Louisiana Purchase of 1803. “Creole” is still used to describe the heritage and customs of the various people who settled Louisiana during colonial times. The amalgamated Creole culture in southern Louisiana includes influences from the Spanish-speaking Islenos (Canary Islanders), American Indians, enslaved West Africans, and French-speaking free people of color from the Caribbean.

Despite the cultural diversity in the region, the people of Louisiana found a common cause at the Battle of New Orleans on January 8, 1815. Under General Andrew Jackson, they joined in driving back the British in the last battle of the War of 1812. This victory secured the Louisiana Territory for the United States, promoted westward expansion, and encouraged national pride. Chalmette Battlefield and National Cemetery commemorates this battle and is the final resting place of more thanr 15,000 troops who fought in the Civil War, the Spanish-American War, World Wars I and II, and the Vietnam War.

Jean Lafitte National Historical Park and Preserve is as diverse as the land, history, and culture in the Mississippi Delta region. Visit this Park and Preserve to experience hundreds of years of American history in a unique setting unlike any other in the United States.

Plan Your Visit

Jean Lafitte National Historical Park and Preserve, a unit of the National Park System, is located in southern Louisiana. Click the following links for the National Register of Historic Places files for: Barataria Unit: text and photos; Chalmette Unit: text and photos; Vieux Carre Historic District: text and photos.

The Park and Preserve has six units including, Acadian Cultural Center in Lafayette, the Prairie Acadian Cultural Center in Eunice, the Wetlands Acadian Cultural Center in Thibodaux, the Barataria Preserve, in Marrero, Chalmette Battlefield and National Cemetery in Chalmette, and the French Quarter Visitor Center in New Orleans. Please click here for the detailed hours of operation for each center. For more information, visit the National Park Service Jean Lafitte National Historical Park and Preserve website or call 504-589-3882.

Jean Lafitte National Historical Park and Preserve is featured in the National Park ServicePlaces Reflecting America's Diverse Cultures: Explore their Stories in the National Park System Travel Itinerary. The French Quarter Unit of the Jean Lafitte National Historical Park and Preserve is the subject of an online lesson plan, Vieux Carré: A Creole Neighborhood in New Orleans. The lesson plan has been produced by the National Park Service’s Teaching with Historic Places program, which offers a series of online classroom-ready lesson plans on registered historic places. To learn more, visit the Teaching with Historic Places home page. Two examples of French and Creole architecture in the Vieux Carré have been documented by the Historic American Buildings Survey, the Fouche House and Laurel Valley Sugar Plantation.

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Los Adaes, Robeline, Louisiana

During the mid 1700s, Spanish and French interests in North America often overlapped and collided as the two nations discovered and explored new territories. Los Adaes is the site of a presidio and mission the Spanish built in 1721 to protect their landholdings from potential French encroachment on the northeastern frontier of New Spain. The Spanish named the presidio – Nuestra Senora del Pilar de los Adaes, and the mission – San Miguel de Cuellar de los Adaes, after the Adaes Tribe, a group of Caddo American Indians who inhabited the area at the time of its construction.

The entire complex, known simply as Los Adaes, quickly became the administrative capital of the Spanish province of Texas (Tejas) in 1729 and served as the first capital of Texas until 1770. Los Adaes would also become an important cultural and social melting pot at the international border between Spanish and French controlled lands. Although abandoned in 1773, Los Adaes set the stage for the blend of Spanish and French traditions that is still celebrated in Louisiana’s Creole heritage today.

During the early 1700s, France controlled the large Louisiana Territory, a region that directly bordered Spanish-owned land in Texas. Potential conflicts along this international boundary spurred the creation of the presidio at Los Adaes. In 1714, the French founded a new mission in Natchitoches, near the Spanish border, and soon constructed Fort St. Jean Baptiste to protect it.

In response to the ominous French presence, the Spanish established Los Adaes in 1716 directly across the border to protect its holdings in Texas and check French expansion into the territory. By 1721, the Spanish had erected a large fort on the site and a mission church in order to convert the local American Indians to Catholicism and a more “civilized” way of life. The fort (presidio) included a thick hexagonal stockade with three defensive bulwarks that surrounded the presidial town and its mission. After Los Adaes became the capital of the province of Texas in 1729, the Spanish built a house for the governor within its walls.

Even though it was the capital, Los Adaes remained relatively isolated because the nearest Spanish supply post was over 800 miles away. Life at the presidio was harsh during its early years. The land was difficult to farm, and heavy rainy seasons often spoiled supplies and rotted structures. The Spanish government strictly forbade trade with the French at the time, but a cooperative relationship soon formed between the neighboring forts due to the difficult conditions. Although Spain and France supposedly were enemies, the communities grew close, extensively trading goods illegally across the border, exchanging cultural ideas, language, and often even intermarrying. This early Spanish-French cooperation laid the foundations of the Creole culture that still thrives in Louisiana today.

In 1762, after the French and Indian War, France ceded all of its territory west of the Mississippi to Spain, including New Orleans and a portion of the modern-day state of Louisiana. This erased the former border between the two powers that Los Adaes was to protect. The presidio continued to serve as the capital of Texas until 1770, but it was decommissioned and abandoned in 1773, less than 60 years after its construction.

Although the Spanish population largely left the isolated Los Adaes in the late-18th century, some stayed and other former residents returned later to the area and reestablished a community. Many people who live in the Cane River region today can trace their heritage back to the original presidial town. The nearby Church of Saint Anne, (a Louisiana State Historic Landmark listed in the National Register of Historic Places )is the direct descendent of the original San Miguel de Cuellar de los Adaes mission church at Los Adaes.

Today, nothing of the mission or presidio that comprised Los Adaes is still standing, but the site of the fort is a very important archeological site where much research has been conducted. A small visitor/interpretive center is at the site, and visitors can enjoy nature hikes on the land, which is now a Louisiana State Park. The park offers educational programs for the public and live reenactments. Visitors can learn more about Los Adaes at the nearby Fort St. Jean Baptiste State Historic Site and museum, where live reenactments, tours, and educational programs interpret the relationship between Fort St. Jean Baptiste and Los Adaes.

Plan Your Visit

Los Adaes is a National Historic Landmark, that is part of the Cane River National Heritage Area and El Camino Real de los Tejas National Historic Trail, both administered by the National Park Service. Los Adaes is located at 6354 Highway 485 in Robeline, LA. The site is open by appointment only between 9:00am and 5:00pm on weekdays. The public is welcome and admission to Los Adaes is free.  For more information, visit the Los Adaes State Historic Site website