No visit to Monterey would be complete without learning and experiencing the city’s diverse and colorful history still evident today in its missions, adobes, and historic city buildings. Visitors are welcome to walk Monterey’s Path of History and enjoy a cell phone tour or self-guided tour by following the yellow “Path of History” tiles throughout Old Monterey. Before you plan a historic sites and attractions tour of Monterey, here’s a brief informative synopsis of Monterey’s history.
Monterey was first inhabited by the native Ohlone people known as the Rumsens. The Rumsens were one of the seven linguistically diverse Ohlone tribes that inhabited the coastline from San Francisco to Big Sur. The Rumsens obtained their food from fishing, hunting, and gathering throughout the incredibly rich Monterey Peninsula. The Ohlone culture remained stable until Spanish soldiers and Catholic priests arrived in the mid-1700s to build missions and expand Spain’s territory.
The first European sighting of Monterey Bay was made on November 17, 1542 by Portuguese explorer Juan Rodriquez Cabrillo who called the bay “La Bahia de los Pinos (Bay of Pines).”
Sixty years later, on December 1602, Spanish explorer Sebastian Vizcaino became the first European to officially set foot on the shores of Monterey Bay which he renamed “Monte Rey Bay.” Vizcaino expressed that it was a satisfactory anchorage port for Manila Galleons (Spanish Trade Ships). After Vizcaino’s exploration in 1602, the Monterey Bay was relatively untouched even though there may have been visits by Manila Galleons. There would not be another major European visit to Monterey for another 166 years.
On June 3, 1770, after several other exhausting expeditions by Captain Gaspar de Portolá and crew to locate Vizcaino’s “Monterey Bay,” The Royal Presidio of San Carlos de Monterey was founded by Captain Gaspar de Portolá to protect the port of Monterey and the Mission San Carlos Borromeo was founded inside the Presidio by Father Junipero Serra. A year later Father Serra moved the Mission to Carmel stating the need for better water and land, but in reality the reason was likely that Father Serra did not want his newly converted Catholic natives exposed to the influence of the Spanish soldiers stationed at the nearby Presidio. Mission San Carlos Borromeo was moved to Carmel and the old Presidio church became the San Carlos Cathedral (Royal Presidio Chapel). Monterey was officially named the capital of both upper and lower California in 1776. That same year, the first Spanish colonists arrived from Sonora with Captain Juan Bautista de Anza.
San Carlos Cathedral and Mission San Carlos Borromeo are still active churches in Monterey County and are open to the public daily. San Carlos Cathedral is a mere four minute walk from Hotel Abrego and San Carlos Borromeo is located in Carmel, a short 12 minute drive south from Hotel Abrego.
In October of 1818 Argentinian revolutionary privateer Hipólito Bouchard sailed into the Monterey Bay on his ship the Argentina and briefly captured the Presidio with help from English Captain Peter Corney and his ship the Santa Rosa. Bouchard and his men ransacked, looted, set the Presidio on fire and then sailed out of the Monterey Bay never to return.
Spanish rule of New Spain ended in 1821 after Mexico gained their independence. A year later in April of 1822, California pledged allegiance to Mexico. The native born citizens and early settlers were known as “Californios.” International trade was opened up in Monterey by the Mexican government which led to more of a metropolitan settlement. The town was a popular place for Americans “Yanquis,” (Yankees) who married Californios, settled into the town, and became Mexican citizens. The United States soon established an American consul due to the increased number of Americans in the city. Thomas Larkin was appointed as the first and only American consul to Mexico during this time.
Visitors to Monterey can still explore Larkin’s two story Monterey Colonial home built in 1835. As you walk through the property and lush gardens that make up Larkin’s historic home you can almost imagine what life was like in 1830’s Mexican Monterey. Many Spanish adobes were also built during Monterey’s Mexican period, a few of these historical treasures are Casa De La Torre, Vasquez Adobe, Alvarado Adobe, Gordon House, and Stokes Adobe. Though many of them are not open to the public, visitors can still get an idea of what early Monterey life was like.
The Mexican-American War began in April of 1846 as a response to the United States’ annexation of Texas in 1845 and over the conflict of whether the territory line ended at the Rio Grande River or the Nueces River. On July of 1846, Commodore John Drake Sloat’s Pacific fleet arrived in the Monterey Bay, raised the American flag and claimed California for the United States. California was not officially recognized as U. S. territory until the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo was signed between the U.S. and Mexico in 1848. The treaty established the territory line between the United States and Mexico and awarded the United States the land that now makes up California, Utah, Nevada, Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico, and Wyoming.
United States Navy Chaplain Walter Colton was selected to serve as Monterey’s first American mayor in 1846 shortly after California had been claimed for the United States. One of Walter Colton’s biggest accomplishments was his construction of Colton Hall, originally intended to serve as a public school and town hall. Colton Hall opened to the public on March 8, 1849 a year after California was officially recognized as U. S. territory.
On September 1, 1849, delegates met at Colton Hall to write California’s first state constitution. The Constitution was sent to congress in January of 1850 and California officially became the 31st state of the Union on September 9, 1850.
Visitors to Monterey are welcome to visit historic Colton Hall and explore the Colton Hall Museum which is free and open to the public 10am to 4pm daily. Colton Hall is located only a half a mile away from Hotel Abrego.