Old Town, San Diego, California
Old TownÂ is a neighborhood ofÂ San Diego,Â California. It contains 230Â acres (93Â ha) and is bounded byÂ Interstate 8Â on the north,Â Interstate 5Â on the west,Â Mission HillsÂ on the east andÂ Bankers HillÂ on the south.Â It is the oldest settled area in San Diego and is the site of the first European settlement in present-dayÂ California.Â It containsÂ Old Town San Diego State Historic ParkÂ andÂ Presidio Park, both of which are listed on theÂ National Register of Historic Places.
The Serra Museum inÂ Presidio ParkÂ marks the original site of the Presidio and Mission
TheÂ San Diego PresidioÂ andÂ Mission San Diego de AlcalaÂ were founded in 1769 byÂ Gaspar de PortolaÂ andÂ Junipero SerraÂ on a bluff at the western end of theÂ San Diego RiverÂ valley. The Presidio and Mission constituted the firstÂ SpanishÂ settlement inÂ Alta California, the present day state of California. After five years the Mission moved to a location several miles upriver, while the Presidio on its hill remained the primary settlement. In the 1820s the town of San Diego grew up at the base of the bluff, at the site commemorated byÂ Old Town San Diego State Historic Park, while the Presidio fell into disrepair.
In 1834 the Mexican government granted San Diego the status of aÂ pueblo, or chartered town. However, the population of the town declined so much that in 1838 its pueblo status was revoked. One problem was the town’s location far from navigable water. All imports and exports had to be brought ashore inÂ Point LomaÂ and carried several miles over the La Playa Trail to the town.
When California was admitted to theÂ United StatesÂ in 1850, San Diego (still largely limited to the Old Town area) was made theÂ county seatÂ ofÂ San Diego County, even though the town’s population was only 650.
The Old Town area remained the heart of the city of San Diego until the 1860s, when a newcomer to San Diego namedÂ Alonzo HortonÂ began to promote development at the site of present-dayDowntown San Diego. Residents and businesses quickly abandoned “Old Town” for Horton’s “New Town” because of New Town’s proximity to shipping. In 1871, government records were moved from Old Town to a new county courthouse in New Town, and Downtown permanently eclipsed Old Town as the focal point of San Diego.
The Old Town neighborhood has nine hotels, 32 restaurants and more than 100 specialty shops.Â There are 12 art galleries and 27 historic buildings and sites, includingÂ Old Town San Diego State Historic Park,Â Presidio Park, Heritage Park (a collection of Victorian homes), and theÂ Mormon BattalionÂ Visitor Center. A major government building is the District 11 headquarters ofÂ Caltrans, the California Department of Transportation.
San Diego’sÂ Cinco de MayoÂ celebration is held in Old Town every year.
The Old Town Art Festival takes place in October of each year.
Fiesta Navidad is a two-dayÂ ChristmasÂ festival in December, highlighted by the Mexican tradition ofÂ Las Posadas, which re-enacts the story of Mary and Joseph’s journey to Bethlehem for the first Christmas.
The Old Town Community Planning Committee advises the city on land use and other issues. The Old Town San Diego Chamber of Commerce promotes business interests and tourism.Â Local service organizations include aÂ KiwanisÂ club.
TheÂ Old Town Transit CenterÂ is a major intermodal transportation station where travelers can transfer between city buses, theÂ San Diego Trolley, and theÂ San Diego Coaster, the regional rail system ofÂ Amtrak.