Francisco G. Montealegre was descendent from a wealthy Costa Rican coffee-growing family that settled in Berkeley and conducted business in San Francisco. In Costa Rica, Dr. Jose Maria Montealegre Fernandez, a Scotland-educated physician was also a banker and politician who served as president of the country from 1859 to 1863. In 1870, he voluntarily sailed for San Francisco in exile after his brother-in-law was deposed from the presidency by a military revolution. In 1883, his son, Juan Gerardo Montealegre Mora, purchased Palmdale Ranch in Mission San Jose from Juan de Dios Gallegos where he built a winery and distillery. Dr. Montealegre followed his son south to San Jose where he died in 1887 and was buried in the Gallegos family plot. In 1978 he was exhumed at the request of the Costa Rican government and entombed in his native land.
In addition to his vineyard and winery, Juan Gerardo ran a number of companies that included the Aztec Pinole Company and J.G. Montealegre & Bros in San Francisco.Unfortunately, he lost his farm to foreclosure in 1891. After selling off larger portions of his estate, he returned to Costa Rica with his wife and some of his children. That same year, J.G. Montealegre & Bros., was dissolved and reconstituted by some of his children as Montealegre & Company under the management of Carlos Francisco, Maria Teresa, and Francisco German Montealegre. Located at 230 California Street in San Francisco, the company specialized in the import of Central American coffees and the export of California products. Members of the firm, which controlled the entire Pacific Coast market, grew to include Rafael Gallegos, as well as Jose M. Montealegre, Jr., Manuel Montealegre, and Eduardo Montealegre.
Although it is uncertain where Francisco falls within the Montealegre family tree, he graduated from U.C. Berkeley in 1927 with a degree in literature. Transferring his love of World War I memorabilia that he avidly collected as a child into a career, Montealegre excelled in the school’s ROTC program. After graduation, he was stationed at the Presidio of San Francisco with the 6th U.S. Regiment of Artillery during the interwar period. Then, after serving in World War II, he returned to San Francisco with the 1st Battalion, 6th Coast Artillery and was stationed at Fort Point for approximately three months. He also served in the Korean War.
Donated to the Presidio Army Museum throughout 1974 and 1975, the Montealegre collection also includes a variety of U.S. Army general-issue gear both collected and actually worn by Francisco, in addition to World War I posters.
Last updated: February 28, 2015