Perched on a hill overlooking Mission Valley is the site of San Diego’s first settlement—the Presidio—and the mission-like museum to Father Junípero Serra.
When Spain finally decided to settle San Diego more than 200 years after Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo first landed in the harbor in 1542, they placed their settlement atop this hill just northeast of present-day Old Town in May 1769. It was the first European settlement on the west coast.
The location was initially also the home to the first of 21 Spanish missions in California, founded by Father Junípero Serra. In 1774, the mission was moved further inland in the valley to provide a bit more distance between the Kumeyaay people the mission was trying to convert and the garrison at the Presidio.
None of the Presidio’s original buildings remain today.
George Marston, an influential businessman, bought the property where the Presidio was located in 1907 to save it for future generations. He created the Presidio Park and built the Junípero Serra Museum that opened in 1929, and is the building that you see and explore at the top of the hill today.
Marston donated the park and the museum to the City of San Diego in 1929, and the museum is run by the San Diego History Center.
The museum is small and has a limited number of artifacts. Perhaps one of the more interesting ones was a bronze cannon, El Jupiter, on display. It was one of two cannons at the garrison; one aimed at the harbor, the other at the Kumeyaay settlements. One of the side rooms had a video highlighting the history of both the settlement and the creation of the museum, and it also had a small archaeological dig box that the kids may enjoy playing with.
One of the interesting things was to climb the nearly 60 steps (no elevator) up to the tower for a panoramic view of Mission Valley. Along the way, there were small displays of what life was like in the 1920s when the museum was being built.
If you’re in Old Town or Mission Valley, take a few moments to enjoy Presidio Park and to explore the Junípero Serra Museum.
What You Need To Know
Location: 2727 Presidio Drive, San Diego, CA 92103
September 7, 2015– June 2, 2016: Saturday & Sunday, 10 am – 5 pm
June 3 – September 4, 2016: Friday, Saturday & Sunday, 10 am – 4 pm
Closed Thanksgiving and Christmas
Cost: $6 Adults
Phone: (619) 232-6203
Tips: There’s both free street and off-street parking in front of the museum. Oh. And I learned the correct pronunciation of Junípero: who-NIP-er-oh. That was worth the $6 admission alone. (I was pronouncing it who-nip-AIR-oh. Wrong.)
Click to see full-sized photos.
Visited: 1 May 2016