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Points of interest in the old capital

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Location: Monterey County, California

PostPosted: Mon Apr 07, 2008 7:34 pm    Post subject: Points of interest in the old capital Reply with quote

Naturally in a town of the historical importance of Monterey there would be many points of statewide, nationwide interest, such as:

One of the most sacred objects of veneration in Old Monterey. The present building was erected at the Presidio in 1794, and was called the Royal Chapel because it was the place of worship for the Governors of California who were the representatives of the King of Spain. In 1858, the transept was added and main altar erected.

Colton Hall was the first capitol building of California and was the meeting place of the "First Constitutional Convention." It was built by Rev. Walter Colton, a chaplain of the frigate Congress, and who was appointed Alcalde of Monterey on July 28, 1846 by Commodore Robert F. Stockton. He was afterwards elected to the same office by the people. The funds for the building were raised by subscriptions, by fines imposed in courts, and by prison labor.

Of this work, Colton says: "Thursday, March 8, 1849—"The town hall, on which I have been at work for more than a year is finished. It is built of white stone, quarried from a neighboring hill and which easily takes the shape you desire. The lower apartments are for schools; the hall over them, seventy by thirty feet, is for public assemblies."

"The front is ornamented with a portico, which you enter from the hall. It is not an edifice that would attract any attention among public buildings in the United States, but in California it is without a rival. It has been erected out of the slender proceeds of town lots, the labor of convicts, taxes on liquor shops and fines on gamblers. The scheme was regarded with incredulity by many, but the building is finished, and the citizens have assembled in it, and christened it after my name, which will go down to posterity with the odor of gamblers, convicts and tipplers."

Bayard Taylor in his "Eldorado" writing of Colton Hall says: "The building in which the Constitutional Convention met was probably the only one in California suited to the purpose. It is a handsome, two-story edifice of yellow sand-stone, situated on a gentle slope, above the town. It is named 'Colton Hall,' on account of its builder, Rev. Walter Colton. The stone of which it is built is found in abundance near Monterey, it is of a fine, mellow color, easily cut, and will last for centuries. The upper story, in which the convention sat, formed a single hall, a railing, running across the middle, divided the members from the spectators.

The former were seated at four long tables, the president occupying a rostrum at the further end, over which were suspended two American flags and an extraordinary picture of Washington, evidently the work of a native artist. The appearance of the whole body was exceedingly dignified and intellectual, and parliamentary decorum was strictly observed. A door in the center of the hail opened on a square balcony, supported by four pillars, where some of the members, weary with debate, came frequently to enjoy the mild September afternoon, where hues lay so softly on the blue waters of the bay."

No other building on the Pacific Coast occupies so prominent a place in history as the old Custom House. The flags of three nations have flown over this structure: The proud banner of Spain that pioneered the course of the missionaries to this part of the world; the tri-color of Mexico in a later regime (1822-1846), and last, but not least, the Stars and Stripes.

The upper or north end of the building was erected in 1814, when the country was under Spanish rule, the center or one-story section was built by Mexico in 1822, after it had gained its independence from Spain, and the lower end, which is an exact duplicate of the north end, was built after the American occupation in 1846.

The Abrego House was built by Don Jose Abrego, a Mexican merchant of Spanish parentage, who came to Monterey in 1834, with the Hi jar colonists, on the vessel La Natalie, which is said to be the vessel on which Emperor Napoleon escaped from the Isle of Elba. Later the vessel was sold to smugglers who carried on their business for a few months. One night while the men were on shore a heavy gale parted the anchor chain and she drifted ashore and was wrecked. A great part of the timbers of this historic vessel were used by Don Jose in building his home. In 1836 he married Josef a Estrada, a half-sister of Governor Alvarado, and moved at once into a part of the house which he had built, and to which additions were made afterwards.

In this house was one of the first pianos ever brought to California. A paper on the inside of it written by Don Jose, had the following information: "In 1841 Captain Stephen Smith arrived with his vessel in Monterey, and I engaged him to bring me a piano on his next trip to this country. In March, 1843, he returned to this city in a brigantine; he had three pianos on board. I bought this one of him for $600. He then sailed for San Francisco, where General Vallejo purchased another of the pianos. The third one was afterwards sold by Captain Smith to E. de Celis at Los Angeles."

Bayard Taylor writes: "The house of Senor Abrego was much visited by Americans. Senor Abrego, who is of Mexican origin, was the most industrious Californian I saw in the country. Within a few years he had amassed a large fortune, which was in no danger of decreasing. I attended an evening party at his house, which was as lively and agreeable as any occasion of the kind could be. There was a tolerable piano in his little parlor, on which a lady from Sidney, Australia, played "Non piu nesta" with a good deal of taste."

Formerly the French sloop-of-war Inconstant, which as we have said, was wrecked on the shores of Monterey Bay. The historic value of the relics built into the Abrego House, lies in the fact that the Inconstant or La Natalie, was the ship upon which Emperor Napoleon Boneparte escaped from the Isle of Elba when he returned to France for the One Hundred Days' War, which ended in the Battle of Waterloo and Napoleon's subsequent incarceration at St. Helena.

On the last night of her life, La Natalie, then in the hands of smugglers, lay off the coast of what is now Figueroa street. Her crew came ashore to attend a "Cascarone Ball." When the revelry was at its height a storm arose, and the ship was blown ashore, where she began to break up. Her master, Jose Abrego, dismantled the ship's upper works, and used some of the lumber to build the house of which we have spoken.

Three times in a century the remaining portions of the wrecked ship came above the surface of the water, due to a shifting of the sands and an extremely low tide. On the night of September 12, 1924, relics from the ship were secured.

This house is a two-story adobe building with a garden in front, and is situated at 514 Polk street. As nearly as can be ascertained it was built in 1825 by Don Jose Amesti, a Spanish Basque who came to Monterey in 1822, at the age of thirty years. In 1824, he married Prudencia Vallejo, sister of Gen Vallejo.

On the northeast corner of Main and Franklin streets (present site of the San Carlos Hotel) once stood one of the leading educational institutions of the State— St. Catherine's Academy, as this school was called, was opened in 1851 by three nuns of the Dominican Order, under the direction of the Right Rev. Joseph Alemany, Bishop of Monterey.

Joseph Alemany, O. P., was a native of Spain and feeling the call of the missionary, left his native country, in the early forties to come to America. After laboring zealously in the Atlantic Slates, he resolved to pass the remainder of his life in the Spanish speaking settlements on the Pacific Coast. In 1850 he was consecrated bishop of Monterey, and fully realizing the need of a school for girls, and the necessity of having religious women to instruct the children of his new flock, he sent east for Mary Goemare, a French nun and a most cultured woman. She came in answer to his appeal, accompanied by two other nuns, Mary Frances Stafford and Mary Aloysia O'Neal. On the first of the New Year, 1851, they opened a school at the residence of W. E. P. Hartnell. On account of increased attendance the school was soon moved to a new building on Main street, near Franklin, which was purchased from Don Manuel Jimeno, a brother-in-law of Mrs. Hartnell. This building had been erected for a hotel. The convent was formally opened and placed under the care of St. Catherine of Sienna and named St. Catherine's Academy.

Instructions here were given in the elementary branches: Reading, writing, grammar and mathematics, also French, Spanish, English, music and needle work. The charge for tuition in the regular branches and board was $400 a month. The school accommodated about one hundred and fifty pupils, many coming from the different parts of the State.

In 1858 the convent was removed to Benicia. After it was closed at Monterey, the Rev. Sorrentini, the parish priest at San Carlos Church, acting under instructions from the bishop, had the lower floor of the building made into a chapel and the large dormitory in the upper story was turned into a banquet hall. Many of the old time Fiestas were held in this room, such as the celebrating of baptisms and marriages of prominent members of the church. For many years the other rooms were reserved as guest rooms for the bishop and visiting priests.

Later the building was rented to private parties and rapidly went into decline, finally degenerating into an ill-kept tenement, a shelter for California Indians.

A few years afterward the building was wrecked by order of the Parish Priest, the Rev. Cassanova, and the adobe was used to level some of the streets of Monterey.

The first woman in California to enter the new novitiate at Monterey was Maria Concepcion Arguello, the daughter of Jose Arguello, Commandante of San Francisco in 1806, and Governor of California, 1814-1815. She was a sister of Luis Antonio Arguello, second Governor of California under Mexican rule, and successor to Pablo Vicenti de Sola.

There is a pathetic romance connected with the life of Concepcion Arguello. Count Resanoff, the Russian envoy to California in 1806, is said to have fallen in love with her when he met her at the Presidio in San Francisco, where her father was the military commander. She was then sixteen years of age and a beautiful woman. Before he could marry Concepcion, the Count had to obtain his Emperor's consent, and as soon as the purposes of his voyage were disposed of, he departed for St. Petersburg to obtain the Czar's consent and then intended to return, and claim his bride.

Unfortunately, however, he was killed by a fall from his horse while on his way through Siberia, and Concepcion never heard of his death until 1842, but she never doubted her suitor. She remained unwed, renouncing the world and dedicating her life to the instruction of the young and the care of the sick. She followed St. Catherine's Academy to Benicia in 1854 and died there in 1857.

Another pioneer worker and teacher in the convent was Fannie O'Neal, the adopted sister of Mrs. William Tecumseh Sherman.

In 1885, Charles Warren Stoddard first saw the convent. In describing his visit, he afterwards wrote: "I saw her in her decay, the old convent was windowless, and its halls half filled with hay."

The Cooper House stands at 508 Munras Avenue. It was built in 1829 by Captain J. B. R. Cooper, a pioneer of 1823. Mr. Cooper was a native of Aldernay Island, England, and came to Massachusetts as a boy with his mother, who by a second marriage became the mother of Thomas O. Larkin. Captain Cooper came to Monterey from Boston in 1823, as master of the Rover. He sold the vessel afterwards to Governor Arguella but continued to command her until 1826. In 1827 he was baptized in the Roman Catholic church and the same year married Encarnacion Vallejo, a sister of General Vallejo. From 1826 until 1848, Mr. Cooper's name appears frequently in the original town records.

The First Brick House at Monterey stands on Decatur street. Gallant Duncan Dickinson, a Virginian, with his wife, four sons and two daughters, was a member of the Donner Party, which started for California in May, 1846, from Independence, Missouri. At Fort Bridger, the Dickinson party separated from the Donner Party and took the route more generally travelled, finally reaching the Santa Clara Valley. Hearing that war had broken out between Mexico and the United States, Dickinson and his two sons, with A. G. Lawrie, who afterwards became his son-in-law, enlisted in Captain Weber's company. Returning from their service, they continued on to Monterey. On May 31, 1848, Dickinson bought the land on Decatur street, 90 yards long, for the sum of $29. Lawrie, who was a brick mason, was the actual builder of the house. The building was never completed. The house as it stands today is only a wing of the building as originally planned. The "Gold Rush" diverted the plans of the builder, who never returned to complete it, although the little red brick house, with singular patience, has awaited his return since 1848.

The first frame building has gone that progress might come. This historic building was brought from Australia by way of Cape Horn, in sections, in the year 1847. The owner was William Bushton, a sea captain, who had come to California with his wife and sick daughter. The lumber was nine months on the way to Monterey. Soon after the house was put up, Bushton died and his widow married William Allen. Two sons were born to this union. Ed and Tom Allen. Until 1923, when the property was sold and the house torn down, Tom Allen, with his family, had been occupying the old frame house. Here children to the fifth generation of the Allen family, were born.

This old structure was the first in Monterey to boast of a weather vane. Thus it received its name. Thomas O. Larkin was the builder. It was the first Hall of Records in the State, and the first Recorder of Monterey County had his office in that building for several years.

On the corner of Main and Jefferson streets stands the home built by Thomas O. Larkin in 1834. Larkin came to Monterey in 1832 and opened the first retail and wholesale store in California. He became United States Consul, the first and only United States Consul to California. In 1844 he established at Monterey, the first hospital in California, to the expenses of which the Mexican Government contributed. Colton in his diary of February 16, 1847, writes as follows: "I have just come from the house of Thomas O. Larkin where I left the youth and beauty of Monterey. This being the last night of the cascarone carnival every one has broken his last egg-shell (For months the Spanish women save all the empty egg-shells which they fill with tinsel, fine cut paper or perfume then reseal the egg. These are broken over the heads of the guests during the dances). Two of the young ladies broke their cascarones on the head of our Commodore and got kissed by way of retaliation."

Larkin gives the following account of the expenses incurred at one of these affairs: "Two dozen bottles of wine, $9; one and a half dozen bottles of beer, $13.50; thirty pies, $13; cakes, $12; box of raisins, $4; cheese, $1.50; nine bottles of aguardiente, (whisky) $13.50; music, $25; nine pounds of sperm candles, $9; five pounds of sugar, $3; other eatables, $5, and servants, $4."

This house was erected in 1824 by Don Esteban Munras, a Spaniard from Barcelona, who came to Monterey in 1820. After two years residence he married Catalina Manzanelli. Don Esteban was the first to build a pretentious dwelling in Monterey, the interior of the house has not been changed. Here was constructed, what is probably the first fireplace built in a California home, and the original andirons are still preserved in the fireplace of the home.

the Pacheco House is on the southwest corner of Abrego and Webster streets. It was built in 1819, by the artillery detachment under Jose Ramirez, Mexican sub-lieutenant. Don Francisco Pacheco was claimant for the San Felipe, San Justo and San Lucas Gonzaga ranches, and became one of the richest landowners of Monterey County. The Pacheco House is now the El Adobe Hospital.

Stands at the intersection of Alvarado, Main and Scott streets. It was built for a hotel by James McKinley, a pioneer of 1842. Bull and bear fights were held in the yard in the rear, the upper story was used as a boarding house for sailors, the first floor served as a jail and storehouse. All windows, above and below, were iron-barred.

This house, properly speaking, is the larger of two adjoining houses on Houston street, between Pearl and Webster streets, though each is known as the Stevenson House. The larger one was the home of Jules Simoneau in 1879, with whom Stevenson lived. This retreat in Stevenson's hour of adversity ever remained green in his memory. There was always a touch of pathos when he referred to those humble, but kindly, surroundings that sheltered him when in need. The smaller house was the home of Dona Manuela Girardin, whose daughter was the wife of Dr. Heintz. With this family Stevenson also spent many a pleasant hour.

This literary memorial is said to be visited by more people annually than any other in the world, save only Shakespeare's home at Stratford-on-Avon.

Next to the Larkin House is a small adobe, also built by Larkin in 1834. It was the headquarters of Lieutenant Wm. T. Sherman in 1847. At that time the man who was later to be a famous Civil War general, was a lieutenant. General Halleck was headquartered at the same place with Sherman. In his memoirs, General Sherman speaks of this house as "the little adobe back of Larkin's. This is explained by the fact that the entrance to the Larkin home was on Jefferson street at that time, and not on Main, where it is now.

California's First Theatre stands on the corner of Pacific and Scott streets. It is a long rectangular adobe, typical of the time in which it was built. It was first used as a sailor's boarding house and built by John (Jack) Swan, who came to Monterey in 1843. The first theatrical performance in this theatre in 1847 was the long forgotten drama, "Putnam, or the Lion Son of '76."

In 1849 and 1850, one of America's famous early humorists regaled audiences here. "John Phoenix" and "Squibob" he was called, though his real name was Lieutenant John Derby.

The first play was followed by "Box and Cox," "Damon and Pythias," "Grandfather Whitehead," "Nan the Good for Nothing," "The Golden Farmer" and the balcony scene from Romeo and Juliet.

The Washington Hotel was California's first hotel and stood on the northwest corner of Washington and Pearl streets. The building was erected in 1832 and for a few years was the private residence of Don Enrique Montenegro.

In 1849 during the Constitutional Convention the hotel was leased for $1200 per month, its rates being then $200 a month without board.

The Merritt House ss a two-story adobe on Pacific street, opposite the San Carlos Hotel. It was the residence of Judge Merritt, the first county judge of Monterey County.

At 314 Pacific street, near the Merritt House, is a picturesque two-story adobe building, built by Don Ygnacio Vallejo.

Another house which has become famous on Pacific street, is numbered 302, and was the home in which Miss Lou Henry married Herbert Hoover.
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