Monterey State Historic Park is a historic state park located in central California. The grounds include both California's first theatre, and the Monterey Customs House, where the American flag was first raised over California.
The park is a group of restored historic buildings; the Custom House, the Cooper-Molera Adobe Complex, the Larkin House, California's First Brick House, Colton Hall (City Hall of Monterey), Old Whaling Company, the Stevenson House, the First Theater, the Pacific House Museum, the Interpretive House, Casa del Oro, and Casa Soberanes. These houses display the cultural diversity that guided California's transition from a remote Spanish outpost, to an agricultural Mexican province, to U.S statehood. These influential adobe houses made up California's earliest capital and were the site of the state's first constitutional convention.
The Custom House
The Custom House, built around 1821 by the Mexican government, is California's first historic landmark and its oldest public building. It is where the first American Flag was raised on July 7, 1846, declaring California part of the United States. It is a National Historic Landmark.
The Cooper-Molera Adobe
Built by John Rogers Cooper in 1823. John Rogers Cooper
, a sailor, in 1803 arrived in Monterey, and built what is now the Cooper-Molera Adobe. He became a merchant and a prominent land owner. The adobe house is the perfect example of Spanish building style combined with New England architecture.
The Cooper-Molera Adobe was featured in Bob Vila's A&E Network production, Guide to Historic Homes of America.
The Larkin House
The Larkin House, itself designated a National Historic Landmark, combined Spanish building methods with New England architectural features. This created a pattern for the popular "Monterey Colonial" style of architecture.
California's first brick house
1847 California's first brick house was built by Gallant Duncan Dickenson. He was the first man to introduce American building techniques to Monterey's architectural mix.
Colton Hall (City Hall of Monterey)
In 1849 the new state constitution was drafted in both English and Spanish. In 1850 California became the thirty first state of America. Monterey lost its position as the capitol seat of California state government. San Jose was then elected as the permanent seat of California state government, ending Monterey's years as California's capitol.
Old Whaling Company
In 1855 the Old Monterey Whaling Company built a headquarters and whaler's residence. This building was used to support the shore whaling operations. The unique feature of this establishment is the front walkway, which is made up of whale vertebrates.. The Old Whaling Station is a reminder of the economic activity in California's history. In the early 1900's, Monterey became the center of a thriving fishing and canning industry.Monterey's scenic coastline attracted artist and writers as well as sailors and fishermen.
The First Theater
This adobe theater was built by Jack Swan in 1846-47 as a lodging house and tavern for sailors. English seaman John Swan built the wood portion of the building in about 1845. He added the adobe portion in 1847, as the actual theater. It was used as a theatre in 1850 when U.S. Army officers from Colonel Stevenson's 1st New York Volunteers produced plays as a money-making venture. Swan built a small stage and provided benches, whale-oil lamps, candles for footlights. In later years, the First Theatre was used as a lodging house for whalers, but fell into disrepair after Swan's death in 1896. It was purchased in 1906 by California Historic Landmarks League and donated to the State of California. In 1937 and until recently, the Troupers of the Gold Coast staged the first melodramas since the 1850s.
Scottish writer Robert Louis Stevenson wrote articles for the local Monterey newspaper that captured the essence of the "Old Pacific Capital." During this time he stayed in the French Hotel, now called the Stevenson House.
The Pacific House Museum
Constructed in 1847during U.S. occupation of California. This adobe was used by the U.S. army as storage, a hotel, a court house, a tavern, and in later years as offices. The Pacific House Museum tells the story of Monterey when it was the capital of Spanish and Mexican California.
During the 1840s, Rafael Estrada constructed this adobe brick home on a hillside overlooking the bay. His family lived there until it was sold to the Soberanes family in 1860, who lived there until 1922. The Serranos later purchased and restored the house in the 1920s and 1930s. The house contains furnishings that are a blend of early New England and China trade pieces mixed in with modern Mexican folk art. Casa Soberanes received its nickname - The House of the Blue Gate - from the blue gate at its garden entrance on Pacific Street. Wine bottles, whale bones, and abalone shells border paths meandering through the sheltered garden.
Casa del Oro
Casa de Oro or House of Gold in spanish is in the Custom House Plaza. Built in 1849 as an army barracks, then as a hospital for sailors run by Thomas Larkin. Later the building was used as general store run by Joseph Boston in the 1850s. The origin of the name could be attributed to a period of time when the building was used as saloon and later as a gold dust exchange for miners.
Monterey State Historic Park today
Today the historic buildings of Monterey State Historic Park retain their rich heritage, preserving an important part of Californian as well as Spanish, Mexican, and American history. Added to the adobe houses is the park's Interpretive Center and the Pacific House Museum. The park provides tours of the historic houses and museums for the general public.