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San Diego History, California

A premiere coastal haven in Southern California, San Diego is a bastion of naval significance. San Diego hosts the US Navy, the US Marine Corps and the United States Coast Guard. It is also famous for the first Seaworld Park as well as for having the largest shipyards in the West Coast.

Indeed, San Diego is a foremost maritime hub. However, many may not know that its present day relevance as a coastal center dates all the way back to when it was first founded by Spanish explorers.

Colonial History

In 1542, the Spaniards under the command of Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo arrived at what is presently known as San Diego Bay and claimed it for the Spanish crown. During that period, Cabrillo named the place San Miguel.

60 years later in 1602, another Spanish expedition arrived at the adjoining bay (currently known as Mission Bay) headed by Sebastian Vizcaino on board the flagship San Diego. Vizcaino renamed the region after the Spanish Saint San Diego de Alcala. Thus the bay areas played a very important role from the very beginning in the formation of San Diego.

After more than a century, Gov. Gaspar de Portola led the establishment of the El Presidio Real de San Diego, a military fort that was setup in early 1769. This paved the way for civilian settlements over the years. It also functioned as the central headquarters for the colonization efforts by the Spaniards in California.

A missionary church was built that same year led by Friar Junipero Serra. The La Mision San Diego de Alcala was largely regarded as the first church in California. In 1774, the Mission was moved to the area now known as Mission Valley. The following year, an uprising by the Kumeyaay natives would burn down the Mission killing the resident priest Father Luis Jayme. Jayme would then be remembered as the first martyr of California. Nevertheless, the Mission was rebuilt and by 1797 San Diego would have the largest number of converted Native Americans in California.

Mexican Rule and American Occupation

In 1821, Mexico won its independence from Spain thus placing San Diego under Mexican rule. Over the next 4 decades, San Diego’s population decreased significantly. The city was then reduced to a district of Los Angeles.

In 1846, the USA declared war against Mexico. San Diego was occupied by American forces by December of 1846 and Fort Stockton was subsequently established. The USA and Mexico signed the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo in 1848 ending the war. San Diego was part of the Californian state included in the ceded region called the Mexican Cession. San Diego was designated as the county capital and by 1850 the City of San Diego was incorporated.

Other Historical Milestones

San Diego’s historical importance continues well past the Spanish and Mexican eras. In 1857, the Loma became the first ship built in San Diego. Ten years later, land mogul Alonzo Horton purchased around 800 acres of land, which is now Downtown San Diego. In 1903, the Marine Biological Association of San Diego was founded. Today it is known as the Scripps Institution of Oceanography. The US Navy built the Navy Coaling Station in 1907 then its base on North Island in 1912. By 1919, San Diego Bay becomes the home of the entire Pacific Fleet. The Marine Corps Recruit Depot and Naval Training Centers followed suit in 1923. San Diego even figured with the historical 1927 non-stop trans-Atlantic flight of Charles Lindbergh as he departed from Rockwell Field on the Spirit of St. Louis en route to his journey’s starting point in New York.

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  • mohds2The vibrant San Diego
    review by mohds2 posted more then 30 days ago
    San Diego is very robust and vibrant place to visit, in contrast to other towns of same size. Maybe it’s due to ideal climate, which is experienced by San Diego citizens, who always want an excuse to move into the city and take a look of it's area. San Diego possesses various outdoor...
  • mohds2And so it bacame San Diego...
    review by mohds2 posted more then 30 days ago
    In the past, just the Kumeyaay people colonized the small city, which is currently recognized as San Diego. This city is now famous for being the largest and richest town in the U. S. Its current population is up to 1,255,240 and is thought to be the 2nd biggest town in California as well as the...
  • MadSuhThanksgiving in Carlsbad and visit in San Diego
    review by MadSuh posted more then 30 days ago
    I drove down to San Diego on the 22nd for another business meeting. I was meeting with a group hotel company. San Diego has changed quite a bit. LA is still the same somehow but San Diego is being redeveloped over and over again. New office space everywhere, I should move down there sometime. ...
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Read our members' travel tips about San Diego

  • lindamuraMaritime Museum
    travel tip by lindamura posted more then 30 days ago
    Maritime Museum was totally cool. It is basically a collection of six ships, some restored, some replicas and the exhibitions within the ships. You can learn a lot about maritime history, get to know how ships worked and get the...
  • MadSuhSea World
    travel tip by MadSuh posted more then 30 days ago
    Sea World is a must see when you are in San Diego. This is not like some of the amusement parks where you really won't be too happy as an adult. This is for the whole family. They have amazing shows (i.e. dolphins or killer whale -...
  • MadSuhThe Mormon Temple
    travel tip by MadSuh posted more then 30 days ago
    The construction of the Mormon Temple of San Diego was led by the architect William S. Lewis II. and Kenneth Möller, their inspiration came from the Mormon temples in Salt Lake City and Washington DC. The white building is an...
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San Diego City Ratings

  • Rating79%
    City Rank159
  • History & Culture: rated for 78%
  • Night Life & Entertainment: rated for 90%
  • Family & Fun: rated for 90%
  • Outdoors Activities: rated for 75%
  • Food: rated for 85%
  • Sightseeing: rated for 75%
  • Shopping: rated for 80%
  • Public Transportation: rated for 60%
  • Must visit this place: rated for 80%
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