The Lower Presidio Historic Park, described as “The Most Historically Significant Site on the West Coast” and “One of the Most Beautiful Places in Monterey” is on its way to becoming a true historic public park to be enjoyed by locals and visitors. Old Monterey Foundation, in cooperation with the City of Monterey and Department of the Army, has raised initial funds to begin Phase One of the project to enhance and restore this historic 25.3-acre site and is now seeking public donations to help complete the project. Old Monterey Foundation invites everyone to become members of “Friends of the Lower Presidio” at www.oldmontereyfoundation.org and make tax-deductible donations to more quickly restore the park.
The Lower Presidio Historic Park is one of the least-visited historic parks in the area due to some confusion about whether the public is allowed in the area. Situated in a “hidden in plain sight” location, the park features spectacular views of the Monterey Bay and Harbor and will become a jewel of the City of Monterey’s park system.
With the help of donations and grants, Phase One of the project will give the Lower Presidio Historic Park the look and feel of an historic public park, including improved way-finding and identification entry signs to assist the public in accessing the site and highlighting several of the important historic periods at the Presidio; development of pathways, benches and interpretive signs and monuments on the site; replacement of the old cyclone perimeter fence with a wood-appearing historically accurate fence, minimal branch/tree removal where necessary to assure views of the Monterey Harbor and restore it to the way it was seen historically; and development of an ADA approved path leading to the Sloat Monument, the highest point of the site. Old Monterey Foundation is now also seeking funds to restore the Father Serra statue that was recently vandalized.
Eric Palmer and Anne McGrath of the City of Monterey Outreach Office recently completed an informative short video about the Lower Presidio Historic Park and its significance to California and American history.
Why is the Lower Presidio Historic Park considered by many professional historians as “The Most Historically Significant Site on the West Coast”?
There are many major historic highlights of this site that Tim Thomas will discuss in depth over the coming months which include:
- Prehistoric archeological presence of indigenous tribes tracing back 10,000 years.
- Spanish period that begins with the landing in 1602 of Sebastian Vizcaino, who discovered the Monterey Bay and named the land, “Monterey”, after the Viceroy of Mexico; followed by Father Junipero Serra and Gaspar de Portola in 1770; including the first El Castillo (Presidio) up through the Argentinian Hipolite Bouchard’s raid in 1818 when he attacked and sacked the City of Monterey, which is the only land and sea battle ever to occur on the West Coast of the United States.
- Mexican period (beginning in 1821 until the U.S. occupation, including the mistaken invasion in 1842 by Commodore Catesby-Jones, commanding the U.S. Pacific Squadron.
- In 1846, Commodore John Drake Sloat captured Monterey and El Castillo at the beginning of the Mexican American War.
- American/California period beginning in 1846, including the enactment of the first California Constitution in 1849 through the period that includes when Fort Mervine was a coastal defense and cavalry post.
- In 1866, Fort Mervine was abandoned by the Army.
- In 1901, reopening of the post by the Army as a cavalry and artillery garrison, and among its first units is the 9th Cavalry, the “Buffalo Soldiers”.
- Modern era from the turn of the century when the Presidio became primarily a military training facility in 1940.
- In 1940, the 11th Cavalry, Buffalo Soldiers and the last mounted regiment in Army history, departs to patrol the MEXICAN BORDER. The Presidio then becomes a training post for civil administration officers being sent to occupied territory during World War II.
- In 1946, the Presidio becomes the Military Intelligence Service Language School, which evolves into the Defense Language Institute as it is known today.
About the Presidio Museum of Monterey
The Presidio Museum of Monterey, also located on the site and operated by the City of Monterey, is an excellent place to currently view exhibits, artifacts, and videos that lead visitors through Monterey’s various stages of military development from the indigenous period which highlights the area’s native populations; through the Spanish and Mexican periods; and up to present day.
The Presidio Museum of Monterey is open Monday from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., Thursday – Saturday 10 a.m. – 4 p.m. and on Sunday from 1 p.m. – 4 p.m.
Visiting the Lower Presidio Historic Park Today
This centrally located site has tremendous potential for all park-goers. It can be a first stop for any visitor to the Monterey Peninsula with its gorgeous views, perfect for their photos and memories of the area. It is a great destination for simply relaxing, walking, running, biking, hiking, playing disc golf, touch football, doing yoga and other exercise, enjoying picnics with family or friends, meeting for reunions and it is even a unique place for wedding proposals. Artists and photographers will find it a wonderful site for their work and many other target groups will be invited to visit. Students can come to the park as well as any visitor to the area who wants to learn more about California history.
Currently, it can be visited at any time of day but it is important to pack in and out any food or items brought to the site. If desired, visitors may choose to bring a chair or small table for a lunch or dinner with an extraordinary view. Ultimately, when Phase One of the project is concluded, there will be benches, tables and trash receptacles.
For more information call (831) 521-2313.