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The first time I came here was on a field trip as a child in grade school. I remember two things. First was the Wells Fargo stage wagon used to be right next to the museum here. The second was, about 20 feet away from the flags there are ruins under the lawn (and Indian statue now there). That day I saw archaeologists digging up history. It was my first physical experience of history.

El Presidio Reál de San Diego (Royal Presidio of San Diego) is an historical fort. This site is known as the first place a Spanish foothold was taken in what would become California. It was also the first permanent European settlement on the Pacific Coast. The site was a genuinely important one in the history of Spain's exploration and colonization of North America. On July 16, 1769, the Franciscan missionary Fray Junipero Serra blessed the site as the first mission in Alta California. At the same time the Spanish soldiers established the first presidio, or fort. It was one hundred and sixty years earlier separate Spanish forces encamped on high ground at the southwest corner of the San Diego River valley for the first time.

Then 1929 came. A man named George White Marston had been in San Diego for fifty-nine years. He took over two decades to personally fund and finish the Presidio Park and Serra Museum project. A reluctant Depression-era City Council would cause Marston to maintain the park and museum for another twelve years. When the city finally did take over maintenance and responsibility for the gift, Marston's records showed he had spent nearly $400,000 to acquire the land, plant and maintain the park, and build the museum. This easily constitutes the most generous gift ever given to the city of San Diego by a private citizen.

The San Diego Presidio was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1960. All good things take time I guess.


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© March 2012