Sunday, May 4, 2014

A field trip to Cabrillo National Monument

Cabrillo National Monument is located at the southern tip of the Point Loma Peninsula in San Diego, CA.  This monument commemorates the landing of Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo at San Diego Bay on September 28, 1542.  This event marked the first time that a European expedition had set foot on what later became the West Coast of the United States.  The site was designated as California Historical Landmark #56 in 1932.  There is an annual Cabrillo Festival Open House held on a Sunday in October.  It commemorates Cabrillo with a reenactment of his landing at Ballast Point, in San Diego Bay.  It costs $5 per car to get in for 24 hours and it is sometimes busy on the weekends.  Hours are from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

There are some beautiful views of San Diego harbor and skyline, as well as Coronado and Naval Air Station North Island.  On clear days,  a wide expanse of the Pacific Ocean, Tijuana and Mexico's Coronado Islands can be visible.

The Old Point Loma Lighthouse is the highest point in the park and has been a San Diego icon since 1855.  The lighthouse was closed in 1891, and a new one opened at a lower elevation, because fog and low clouds often obscured the light at its location  of 422 feet above sea level.  The old lighthouse is now a museum, and visitors may enter it and view some of the living areas there.  The lighthouse is currently closed, except for the Assistant Lighthouse Master's House.

The area around the national monument includes various former military installations, such as coastal artillery batteries, built to protect the harbor of San Diego from enemy warships.  A former army building hosts an exhibit that tells the story of military history at Point Loma.  There is also
Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery.  On October 14, 1913, by presidential proclamation, Woodrow Wilson reserved 0.5 acres of Fort Rosecrans for "The Order of contract a heroic statue of Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo."  By 1926, no statue had been placed and the Order of Panama was defunct.  Calvin Coolidge authorized the Native Sons of the Golden West to erect a suitable monument, but they were unable to carry out the commission.

A major renovation of the half acre monument was undertaken in 1935, the lighthouse was refurbished, as it was deteriorating and a new road to the monument was built.  The Portuguese ambassador to the United States presented a bronze plaque, honoring Cabrillo as a "distinguished Portuguese navigator in the service of Spain" who made the first Alta California landfall."

In 1939, the Portuguese government commissioned a heroic statue of Cabrillo and donated it to the United States.  The sandstone statue, executed by sculptor Alvaro de Bree, is 14 feet tall and weighs 14,000 pounds  The statue was intended for the Golden Gate International Expedition in San Francisco, but arrived too late and was stored in an Oakland, California garage.  Ed Fletcher, who was then State Senator managed to obtain the statue in 1940 over the objections of Bay Area officials and shipped it to San Diego.  It was stored for several years on the grounds of the Naval Training Center in San Diego, out of public view and was finally installed at Cabrillo Monument in 1949.  The sandstone statue suffered severe weathering because of its exposed position and was replaced in 1988 by a replica made of limestone.

During World War II, the Cabrillo Monument was off-limits to the public, because the entire south end of the Point Loma Peninsula was reserved for military purposes.  Following the war,  the area of the national monument was enlarged by Presidents Eisenhower and Ford to more than 140 acres.

Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery is a federal military cemetery located on the grounds of the former Army coastal artillery station Fort Rosecrans in San Diego, CA and is administered by the United States Department of Veterans Affairs.  The cemetery overlooks San Diego Bay and the city from one side and the Pacific Ocean on the other.  Fort Rosecrans is named after William Starke Rosecrans, who was a Union general in the American Civil War.  The cemetery is a California Historical Landmark  and is spread out over  77.5 acres located on both sides of Catalina Blvd.  Even though the Monument was closed, we could still get into the cemetery, plus it did not cost us anything.

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