Exhibition Closed

Image credited by San Diego History Center

Tenacious beginnings

Initially a Franciscan Mission and part of the Spanish Empire, San Diego became the site for the first European settlement of the emerging California. It was discovered in 1542 by one of the first European colonists, Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo who immediately saw the potential and possibilities of the area. In 1821 the colony became independent of Spain, joining the then-Mexican state of Alta California. Still only a small settlement, and military base, it wouldn’t become a true city until 1850, as part of the now American California. In many ways San Diego’s history is an instructive snapshot of every kind of town-making experiment: from its location rethinks, its relocation to the harbor, the changing needs of its residents, the visions of industrialists, its social trends and architectural visions.