NPS Logo

Historical Background

Survey of Historic Sites and Buildings

Suggested Reading


Explorers and Settlers
Survey of Historic Sites and Buildings

National Historic Landmark MONTEREY (OLD TOWN)

Location: Monterey County, Monterey.

Monterey abounds in historic sites and structures that illustrate the political, economic, religious, and social life of Spanish and Mexican California. Of special note is the Vizcaíno-Serra Landing Site, at the foot of Pacific Street near the entrance to the U.S. Presidio of Monterey, which commemorates Sebastian Vizcaíno's landing in 1602 and the founding of the presidio and mission of Monterey in 1770 by Fray Junípero Serra and Gov. Gaspar de Portolá. The Royal Presidio Chapel is a Registered National Historic Landmark.

Monterey as a town, or pueblo, was formally authorized in 1827 by the Mexican Government. People had already begun to construct homes outside of the walls of the presidio, and by 1830 the population was about 500. Richard Henry Dana, Jr., who visited the town a few years later, praised its appearance, especially the green lawns of the hundred or so houses.

Presidio and town of Monterey
Presidio and town of Monterey, California, in 1841. The town, founded in 1827 by the Mexican Government, grew up around the presidio. (Courtesy, Bancroft Library, University of California.)

Among the many historic sites and buildings in Monterey, in addition to the Vizcaíno-Serra Landing Site and the Royal Presidio Chapel, the following are of particular interest:

(1) Site of Town Plaza, bounded by Munras, Pearl, and Tyler Streets. This is the original site of the central plaza of Monterey, a triangular area now much reduced in size and considerably altered.

(2) Old Custom House, Main and Decatur Streets. This Registered National Historic Landmark (relating primarily to the War with Mexico, 1846-48) is the oldest Government building extant in California. The original section was constructed in 1827; it was extensively enlarged during the period 1841-46. A State historical monument, it is open to the public.

(3) Larkin House, 464 Main Street. Another Registered National Historic Landmark (relating primarily to the War with Mexico, 1846-48) and a State historical monument, this two-story adobe-and frame residence was built during the period 1835-37 by Thomas O. Larkin. It is the prototype of the architectural style known as Monterey colonial, a combination of Spanish adobe style with New England frame construction that was widely adopted in California. Larkin was the U.S. consul in California and a key figure in events of the 1830's and 1840's.

Monterey (Old Town), California
One of many historic buildings in Monterey (Old Town), California, the Larkin House illustrates the Monterey colonial style of architecture.

(4) Casa de Soto, 816 El Dorado Street. This residence is probably the best extant architectural example of the traditional Spanish-Mexican one-story adobe residence. It was built about 1820.

(5) The French Consulate, Franklin Street and Estero. This one-story adobe, built about 1840, has been removed from its original location and restored. It is owned by the city of Monterey.

(6) The First Theater, southwest corner of Pacific and Scott Streets. Built about 1843 and used as a theater by U.S. troops in 1847, it is now owned by the State of California.

NHL Designation: 04/15/70

Previous Next
Last Updated: 22-Mar-2005