On our way back to the hotel after visiting the Monterey Bay Aquarium, we took a look around a few of the buildings of the Monterey State Historic Park. A little history lesson: Monterey was first established in 1770 by Father Junípero Serra and explorer Gaspar de Portolà. Spain had begun colonizing Alta California, in 1769, and the San Carlos Borromeo Mission de Monterey followed a year later. When Mexico gained its independence from Spain in 1821, Monterey came under Mexican rule. I didn’t know it then, but Monterey was actually California’s earliest capital city (from 1777 to 1846 – under both Spain and Mexico) and the site of the state’s first constitutional convention. Monterey changed hands again in 1846 during the Mexican-American War, and once it was in American hands, the capital was moved away from Monterey.
The Monterey State Historic Park consists of several buildings located throughout the downtown area, built at various times in the 1800s. Most are only open on the weekends, so Jon and I didn’t get to tour the inside of any of them, but we were able to check out the outside of the Custom House, the Pacific House (which contains the museum) and the Cooper-Molera Adobe. The Custom House is the first government building in California, built in 1827, and it is the First California Historic Landmark!
We were able to stop in at the Cooper-Molera Adobe garden and gift shop. They have one room of the home open daily, so you can get a little of the feel of the home. One of the outbuildings contains information on the families that lived there. This adobe was built in 1823 by Captain John Rogers Cooper, a New Englander who sailed to Monterey on a trading mission. He met and married a member of one of California’s most well-connected Mexican families. After John Rogers Cooper’s death, he left the home and property to his wife, and it was eventually passed down to Cooper’s granddaughter Frances Molera.
Upon Frances Molera’s death in 1968, the property was willed to the National Trust for Historic Preservation, who leases it to the California Park System. It has been restored and furnished with period furnishings left by the family. The room that we were able to visit contained several beautiful pieces from the late 19th century – it would be interesting to see the rest of the home!
At the Cooper-Molera Adobe (or the other Monterey SHP buildings when they are open) you can pick up a brochure detailing a walking tour around town showing the locations of the twelve buildings of the Monterey State Historic Park, as well as several other historic buildings (55 in all) in Monterey. The route is about two miles, and there are little medallions embedded into the sidewalk that show the route. Touring these homes and buildings will certainly be on my list for my next trip to Monterey!