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Monterey State Historic Park is a historic state park located in Montereymarker, Californiamarker. It includes part or all of the Monterey Old Town Historic District, a historic district which is a U.S. National Historic Landmark. The grounds include both California's first theatre, and the Monterey Customs House, where the American flag was first raised over California.

The historic district includes 17 contributing buildings and was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1970.

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 park

The Custom House

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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 Bautisa Rogers Cooper in 1823. John B.R. Cooper, a sailor, in 1823 arrived in Monterey, and built what is now the Cooper-Molera Adobe. He became a merchant and a prominent land owner. Cooper's daughter Amelia, married Eusebio Joseph Molera in 1875. 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

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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 California constitution was drafted in both English and Spanish in this building. In 1850 California became the thirty first state of America. San Jose was then elected as the seat of California state government, ending Monterey's years as California's capital. (The state's capital changed several times, and became Sacramento in 1854.) Reenactments of the state constitutional convention are held every year in Colton Hall during History Week.

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 vertebrae, one of several buildings in the area that prominently feature whalebone. The Old Whaling Station is a reminder of the economic activity in California's history. In the early 1900s, Monterey became the center of a thriving fishing and canning industry. Monterey's scenic coastline attracted artists and writers as well as sailors and fishermen.

The First Theater

This adobe theater was built by English seaman Jack Swan in 1846-47 as a lodging house and tavern for sailors. He 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 Jonathan D. Stevenson's 1st Regiment of New York Volunteers produced plays as a money-making venture. Swan built a small stage and provided benches, whale-oil lamps, candles for footlights and blankets as curtains. 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. Because of structural issues, the building is closed to the public except for the Christmas in the Adobes event in December.

Stevenson House

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Scottish writer Robert Louis Stevenson moved to Monterey to court his future wife Fanny Osbourne. During this time he stayed in the French Hotel, now called the Stevenson House. He wrote articles for the local Monterey newspaper that captured the essence of the "Old Pacific Capital." Today, the Stevenson House is dedicated to his legacy, and is well known for its lush gardens at the rear of the property.

The Pacific House Museum

Constructed in 1847 during 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 gardens outside were used for bullfights and bear fights. The Pacific House Museum tells the story of Monterey when it was the capital of Spanish and Mexican California, and also contains the Monterey Museum of the American Indian.

Casa Soberanes

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.

Sherman Quarters

Built in 1834 by Thomas Larkin, this small adobe was the quarters for Lieutenant William T. Sherman in 1847. Sherman later became famous as a Union general during the Civil War.

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.


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