Path of History Walk, downtown Monterey

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Monterey, CA
Path of History Walk, downtown Monterey
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Monterey has some of the best preserved 19th century adobes in California and you can go on a short, free 45-minute tour of these starting at the Pacific House Museum (20 Custom House Plaza). You can also take this walk on your own, though a few of the houses are only open during the tour. It's especially nice to go at Christmas time, when many of the buildings are decorated.

The Custom House is where traders brought exotic goods (check out some of these goods inside the museum) to Alta California (California during Mexican rule before 1846) to trade for California cowhides. In 1822 when Mexico ended the Spanish trade monopoly, traders could unload their goods here and pay duty. It was also here that the American flag was raised over the Custom House in 1846 annexing California to America. Check out the Custom House Gift Shop at 1 Custom House Plaza.
Monterey History & Art at Stanton Center, at 5 Custom House Plaza, has works laid out in a very busy, crowded way.
From Custom House Plaza, walk to Casa Soberanes, at 336 Pacific Street. Check out the abalone shells, bottle glass, and whale bones in the walkway, and also explore the rear garden where you can sit on benches and enjoy the rose arbor. This is possible even if the house itself is closed.
Walk to 464 Calle Principal and check out Larkin House. It was built in 1835. You can see both Mexican and New England elements in its design. A second-floor veranda encircles the entire building. Walk past pretty House of the Four Winds, named after its weatherpane, at 540 Calle Principal.
Next walk to the 500 block of Pacific St where you will see the impressive stone building, Colton Hall, with its lush grounds. Go inside and see it as it was furnished in 1849 when California's first constitution was drafted here. Kids enjoy climbing on the California bear statue outside Colton Hall. Also fun for kids to see is the Moon Tree, which traveled to the moon on Apollo 14 when it was a seed and was planted outside Colton Hall in 1976. Old Monterey Jail, which was featured in Steinbeck's "Tortilla Flat," is here too.
Check out the wonderful art at the Monterey Art Museum, at 559 Pacific St. There are some great works by photographers Ansel Adams and Edward Weston, as well as some colorful folk art from around the world. The gift shop has some nice items.
From here, go to 525 Polk St, the Cooper-Molera Adobe. It was built in 1827 by Cooper, a prosperous New England sea captain (Monterey was a major international port after Mexico took control in 1821). His family lived in Victorian-era luxury here. There's a large garden on the 2-acre property.
Head to 530 Houston St, where you can see French Hotel, where Robert Louis Stevenson stayed in 1879 while courting his future wife. Here he is said to have written Treasure Island, while still penniless and undiscovered. Check out all the Stevenson memorabilia, plus the children's nursery filled with Victorian toys and games.
At 500 Church St, you'll find the lovely Royal Presidio Chapel (shown above- photo courtesy of William Crowe). It was built in 1794 (this is like ancient history in California!) as part of the mission that was later moved to Carmel. It is now called San Carlos Cathedral, just to confuse you all! Walk around to see the many sculptures, including a delightful grotto with Mary. Inside, the church is pristine. 
After your walk, have a cup of coffee at Parker-Lusseau Bakery, at 539 Hartnell Street. It is in the adobe of an American explorer and politician, John C. Fremont, who lived there in 1847. It's wonderful to admire the building and sit out on the patio eating a delicious chocolate croissant, freshly delivered from their ovens. There is no seating inside, so make sure it's warm enough to sit outside.
The bakery is located inside Fremont Adobe, where explorer John C. Fremont, who came to be known as Pathfinder of the Rocky Mountains, and his wife, author Jessie Benton Fremont, lived in 1847. John C. Fremont's mother, Anne, was married off when she was 17 to a man in his 60s. He hired for her a young male tutor. Guess who Fremont's father was? After their affair was discovered, the two fled, but could never marry since a divorce was not granted. Fremont was therefore an illegitimate child with low social standing. After teaching math on a Navy ship, he became an explorer and surveyor for the US Topographical Corps. Senator Benton, an explorer himself, impressed with Fremont's work, invited him to dinner, where he met Benton's 16 year old daughter. She had been raised differently to most women at the time, because Senator Benton had wanted a son and named her Jesse. Benton took her with him everywhere he could, speaking with her to prominent politicians, and showing her maps and books from his explorations. Her father was furious when she eloped, since Fremont was not a man of upper society, but he soon accepted their marriage and provided financial support for Fremont's explorations. Jessie wrote articles and books, records of her husband's Western scouting trips, with human interest additions to please the public. Both were anti-slavery advocates. Her husband later ran for presidency, and she campaigned for him, with slogan, "Fremont and Jessie too."
A nice place to stay if you are getting in the spirit of all this history is Old Monterey Inn, built in 1929 by Carmel Martin Sr., first mayor of the city of Monterey, who fought to preserve many of the historic sites in Monterey. He saw Monterey as "the one place [in California] where people can live without being disturbed by manufacturing and big factories." At Old Monterey Inn, the peaceful gardens surrounded by tall Monterey pines, oaks, and redwoods, and the manor with hand-plastered Gothic archways and bull nose corners are a delight. The afternoon cookies (like none you've tasted!) and the breakfast in bed (aaah, fruit salad in a goblet with a sprig of mint) are also memorable...

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Colton Hall and its lush lawn. Photo courtesy of William Crowe.

The great seal of the state of California. Photo courtesy of William Crowe.

Gothic archway at Old Monterey Inn.

Lavendar- late afternoon in the garden at Old Monterey Inn.

Birdhouse at Old Monterey Inn.

Old Monterey Inn, on a slope above the garden.

Garden where you can enjoy your afternoon cookie, at Old Monterey Inn.

Potted flowers on a circle of rocks, at Old Monterey Inn.

Garden at Old Monterey Inn.

Lovely ivy grows on the 1929 manor, Old Monterey Inn.

The cute patio at Parker-Lusseau Bakery, at 539 Hartnell Street.

The bakery is in Fremont Adobe, occupied in 1847 by explorer John C. Fremont and his wife, Jessie Benton Fremont! Read about them!

The adorable Parker-Lusseau Bakery. See the delivery truck bringing your fresh pastry!

Parker-Lusseau Bakery and its many treats.

California poppies.

Colton Hall.


Pacific House Museum, 20 Custom House Plaza. California State Parks walking tours of Old Monterey are Thurs-Sun (and holidays that fall on a Monday) 10:30, 12:30, or 2, for $5 which includes admission to the museum. Pacific House Museum, open Thurs-Sun 10-4. Admission is free.
Custom House, open daily 10-4, includes a gift shop, 1 Custom House Plaza. Admission is free.
Dali17 Museum, 5 Custom House Plaza. Open daily 10-5. Admission is $20 for adults, $16 for students and seniors, $10 for children, and free for children 5 and under.
Casa Soberanes, 336 Pacific St. Gardens open daily 9-5.
Larkin House, 464 Calle Principal. Gardens open daily 9-5.
House of the Four Winds, 540 Calle Principal. Not open.
Colton Hall, 500 Pacific St. Museum is open daily 10-4. 
Monterey Art Museum, 559 Pacific St. Open Thurs-Mon 11-5. Closed Jan 1, July 4, Thanksgiving (fourth Thurs in Nov), and Dec 25. Admission is $10 for adults, free for military and children aged 18 and under.
Cooper-Molera Adobe, 525 Polk St. Gardens open daily 9-4. Store open daily 10-4.
French Hotel (Robert Louis Stevenson House), 530 Houston St. Gardens open daily 9-5. Open Sat 1-4 Apr-Oct.
Royal Presidio Chapel, 500 Church St. Museum hours vary- see hours here

Great Place to Stay (for couples, not families with kids): Old Monterey Inn, 500 Martin St, (831) 375-8284.


Click on map for interactive view


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Wed, 24 Nov 2010

My wife and I honeymooned in MOnterey 29 years ago today. We stayed at a friend's house, so we don't know about the hotels and motels. But Monterey and the environs was quiet and quaint, and we had a great time.

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Wed, 09 Sep 2009

I was fascinated by Colton Hall where they had a whole large scrapbook sized book with the stories of all the delegates to the first California Constitution. This brought into perspective many of the place names not only in Monterey but throughout California. For example the delegate from Santa barbara was De La Guerra (one of the downtown streets). You can get the constitutional convention debates at under American memory by entering california constitutional debates and clicking # 2 Report on Debates.

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Tue, 22 Dec 2009

yeah, you really get a sense of history going through and looking at all those markers on the map!

Last Updated: Fri, 15 Sep 2023 18:12:21 GMT

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