Monterey State Historic Park is a state park of California, United States. It preserves the Monterey Old Town Historic District and other buildings in downtown Monterey, California. The historic district contains many buildings dating back to California’s period as a Mexican Alta California province (1821-1846), including several adobe houses, shops, restaurants, bakeries, blacksmiths, cigar factories, barber shops, and saloons. Today these buildings house museums with collections ranging from Californian history to art, architecture, and music.
Like Casa del Oro, it was originally a restaurant and tavern serving miners working the nearby diggings. Later, it was owned by Henry Tichenor, and then Duncan McRae, before becoming the residence of shipping magnate Robert S. Montgomery. Mr. Montgomery lived here with his wife Mary Averell Harriman, whose father, E. H. Harriman died in September of that year, aged 91. They had three children, Mary Averell, Robert Jr., and William K. II. At some point prior to her death in October 1945, Mrs. Harriman gave instructions that she did not wish to be buried next to her husband.
She wanted to be cremated and her ashes scattered on the grounds of what would become the new Monterey State Marine Recreational Management Area. Her wishes were carried out, and the site where she died remains open to visitors today. Visitors can see the concrete circle surrounding the spot where her ashes were scattered, as well as the memorial plaque marking the grave. The house is still standing, though it requires maintenance and security. It serves as the visitor center for the park, and is open daily for tours.
The Monterey State Historic Park Association (MSHPA) manages the site under long-term lease from the City of Monterey. The original townsite was given by Governor Pio Pico to his successor, Juan Bautista de Anza, when he founded San Antonio de Los Angeles on July 16, 1769. He named it after the city of Monterey, Spain, which had been taken over by the same person, Felipe de Neve, two years earlier.
In 1776, the presidio at Monterey became the first European settlement in North America. Two years later, the pueblo of Santa Cruz de la Sierra was founded across the bay, and the settlements were split up; only one part of the old town remained behind when most of the rest was destroyed in a fire that swept through the area during the 1820s. This section came to be known as “Old Monterey” or “Old Town”. When the Mexican Republic fell to an invasion by the American forces in 1844, the region was annexed under the name California.
However, Old Monterey continued to exist separately as a commercial center until its destruction in the 1906 earthquake. After this disaster, the property was purchased for $1 million and restored to its former glory. It served as the model for the restoration of Old Sacramento after the fires of 1955. Many of the buildings have been rebuilt following their initial construction, using materials and techniques available at the time. Others are reproductions built according to plans drawn up by architects like Gustave Stickley and Joseph C. Lanterman. There are fourteen historic sites within the park, listed below. Adobes Casa del Oro (“The House of Gold”), also called La Habana, is a large adobe home with gardens designed by Francisco J. Weber. Built around 1840, it is considered historically significant because it was used as a restaurant and tavern in the 1850s, serving food and drink to miners who worked the nearby diggings.
Later, it housed the headquarters of the Pacific Coast Steamship Company and again saw much activity as a place to socialize and enjoy good company. It closed in 1923, but was put back into operation as a hotel in 1949, and has since operated continuously as a four-star resort inn. It now hosts weddings and events. Adobes Casa Soberanes (“Soberanes’ House”) is another adobe home, constructed c. 1845.