Presidio of Monterey

These photos are old. We originally visited the Presidio in Monterey in March 2013… but the photos never made it to the site. Given we spent time in Monterey, it seemed appropriate to resurrect this un-posted post and finally link it up with the Mission/Presidio Journeys.

Monterey and its natural harbour were discovered by Spanish explorer Sebastián Vizcaíno in 1602 but the Spanish did nothing with the area until 1768 when the country faced pressure from European Rivals who started to colonize the West. More specifically, Russia began to establish forts along the North Pacific coast because of the rich abundance of otters (for the fur trade) and made known their desire to colonize California.

This prompted Spain to send Gaspar de Portolá and Father Junípero Serra to secure the upper Las Californias Province and establish the Mission/Presidio chain that changed California’s history. The first Mission and Presidio combo built in the chain was in San Diego (1769), and the second was in Monterey with Mission San Carlos Borromeo de Carmelo (1770) in nearby Carmel, and El Presidio Real de San Carlos de Monterey.

Since its founding, a Presidio and military presence has been in Monterey in one form or another until present times.

When the U.S. invaded California during the Mexican-American War, they landed in Monterey (1846) and claimed the territory and the Presidio for the United States. Under American control, it was renamed Fort Mervine but later abandoned (1865) at the end of the American Civil War and at the beginning of the California Gold Rush. The original buildings from this era are now gone; the only remaining structure is the Royal Presidio Chapel (not pictured).

After this and during the World War era, the army built a series of wooden barracks on the land in which troops lived and knew as the Ord Barracks (though officially the site was renamed the Presidio of Monterey by the War Department). Many of these buildings still sit abandoned and are different from the nearby Fort Ord.

There is one notable burial on the hill where the Presido once stood; that of Alexis Nino (1770). A nearby sign says, Boat caulker Alexis Nino, a black Freeman died on board the “San Antonio,” anchored in Monterey Bay on June 2, 1770, and became the first non-Indian to be buried in what is now California.

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