The Journal of San Diego History
October 1965, Volume 11, Number 4
Ray Brandes, Managing Editor

Back to the article: Royal Presidio of San Diego

ruins of Royal Presidio of San Diego

The silent ruins of the once-proud Royal Presidio of San Diego. Junípero Serra Museum at crest of hill. Credit: John Oldenkamp, courtesy of California Review.

Bishop Francis J. Furey and others

Most Reverend Bishop Francis J. Furey, Apostolic Administrator of the Diocese of San Diego, blessing start of archaeological work at Royal Presidio. To his right, Dr. Ralph S. Roberts, Study Committee Chairman, Mr. DeKirby and Mr. Gibson.

Presidio Hill

Presidio Hill The Birthplace of California.

routes to Presidio Hill

Map showing easiest routes to Presidio Hill, the Birthplace of California. Site of first city, and excavations are open to public viewing at any time. Location of dig is just below the Serra Cross in park grounds. Map courtesy Hal Tollison.

groundbreaking ceremonies

Mr. Frank Gibson, Chairman, Board of Supervisors and Mr. Ivor DeKirby then Vice-Mayor of San Diego at groundbreaking ceremonies. Union-Tribune Publishing Company photo.

page from diary of Josef Camacho

Sample page from diary of Josef Camacho, Spanish ship captain who visited Royal of Presidio intheyear 1778, setting forth his impressions. Translation of such documents obtained from Mexico City and Spain, and use of information helps to re-create the Presidio as it once appeared.

Presidio Hill circa 1880

A stereopticon view of Presidio Hill taken circa 1880 probably the earliest photograph of the site looking from north to south. The view was taken by Parker & Parker, Landscape and Portrait Photographers. Photo Number 17496.

Ruins of the Presidio, circa 1935

Ruins of the Presidio, circa 1935, before site was covered with topsoil and grass for protection.

Aerial photograph

Aerial photograph by Erickson “The Flying Photographer” June 22, 1928, over the as yet undeveloped Presidio Park. The view is approximately south to north. Note the Serra Cross, and in the center of the photograph, the triangular-shaped Fort Stockton earthworks.

Annual Trek to the Cross ceremony

Mr. Richard F. Pourade and Honorable Frank Curran, Mayor of the City of San Diego, during the Annual Trek to the Cross ceremony held on Presidio Hill on each July 16 to commemorate the founding of San Diego.

Susan Cleary and Michael Rennie

Susan Cleary, student archaeologist showing Mr. Michael Rennie a piece of adobe tile from the chapel. Mr. Rennie had played the role of Father Junipero Serra in the motion picture “The Seven Cities of Cibola,” and was extremely interested in the excavations underway at the first city of California. Union Tribune Publishing Company photo.


San Diego State College student-archaeologists at work. Students received college units for course; at same time contributed to community project. Main altar was located in upper left hand corner of photograph.

View of excavations

Assistant Field Director William James at the plane table; Dr. Ned Greenwood of the State College Department of Geography who served as a crew member and gave his expert opinions regarding soils. View of excavations looking at the main chapel hall from east to west. San Diego State College photo.

adobe tile floor

Worn adobe tile floor in the main hall of the Chapel.

Section of main hall of Chapel

Section of main hall of Chapel showing adobe tile floor, and supports for arches inside Chapel.

clay figurines

Left, Clay, hand-made head from figurine of Saint. Nose and lips were worn smooth, suggesting custom of touching lips, hands, or feet of Satnt upon entering church, Right, clay, figurine of the Madonna.

Metal work from the Presidio site

Metal work from the Presidio site. Upper row, ornamental door handles; center, a facing for door key lock, and right, door handle. Lower row, door knockers. Note particularly the craftmanship on the boar’s head door knocker; far right, door latch.

beads, cufflinks and buttons

Upper row, trade, glass beads; left center the “T.D.” or so-called Tommy Duncan clay pipe. Lower rows, lead, brass and copper military buttons; copper and brass cuff links.

classifying artifacts

Kenneth Hedges, Robert Cassidy, Professor Brockington, and Ray Scaranella, classifying artifacts in San Diego State College laboratory. Union-Tribune Publishing Company photo.


Upper row, adobe wall tile with coating of white plaster, and red painted circle remaining as part of pattern. Upper center, and right, two shapes of roof, red-fired tile, Lower left, adobe block from flooring with footprint of dog; and lower right, adobe block from floor with fingerprints, perhaps of the maker.

metal pieces

Left, shoe buckle, buckle or hebilla, part of buckle which may have been used as a sword bandolier. Center, trigger guard, and right, portion of flintlock musket, and ramrod thimbles or guides.

Repaired section of wall in  sacristy

Repaired section of wall in sacristy, probably damaged by waterflow. Steps in foreground led out doorway (now closed up) to south side of Chapel.

Repaired section of wall

Repaired section of wall between main hall in Chapel and sacristy. There had been a door at this location but it had been closed up by use of adobe block and very thin tile.

Students Margaret Bartz and Susan Cleary

Students Margaret Bartz and Susan Cleary working in pit outside Chapel, where cobblestone buttressing was discovered.

Dr. Ray Brandes

Dr. Ray Brandes, Director, Serra Museum, examining tile from the altar in Presidio Chapel. Ambry at right of picture, recessed in the platform on which altar rested, was utilized for sacramental items disposed of following mass.

Robert Gonzales, Professor Donald Brockington, and Ardyce Holmberg

Robert Gonzales, Professor Donald Brockington, and Ardyce Holmberg examine a shoe buckle recovered from the floor of the sacristy. Herbert Lockwood photo.

Junior Members

Junior Members of the San Diego History Center mapping and sketching Chapel during summer program established for them. Similar coursework is given throughout year for both Junior Members (ages 12 to 18) and for adults. Students also learned many rudiments of history and archaeology.