Historic California Posts, Camps, Stations and Airfields
El Presidio Real de San Carlos de Monterey
by Justin Ruhge

San Diego was the first European settlement in Alta California but the over-riding goal of the Spanish government was the location and settlement of the Bay of Monterey. It was to that end that the best Spanish personnel were collected and sent by ship and ground parties to Alta California on what was referred to as the "Sacred Expedition". Once the location of the Bay of Monterey was verified by new latitude measurements and comparisons with the charts prepared by Vizcaino in 1602, the effort began to find a location for the presidio and to build the first structure. The leader in all of this was the Spanish Royal Corps of Engineer, Miguel Costanso, one of the best available in Mexico at the time.

As mentioned earlier the Spanish were the epitome of civic organization. As a means to this end King Philip V organized the Royal Corps of Engineers in 1711 as a Department of the Army. Its purpose was to support the Army in its campaigns but also to provide construction drawings of all civic buildings as well as forts, prepare maps and support explorations of new lands for the crown. At any time there were several hundred engineers training in the Royal Corps of Engineers.

Shortly after arrival in San Diego in 1769, Costanso had been promoted to Lieutenant and "extraordinary." In Mexico after the "Sacred Expedition", he was raised in army rank to Captain in recognition of his services.

Costanso spent a little over three months in Monterey and kept busy during that time. He chose the site for the Presidio of San Carlos de Monterey, as well as for the mission, its outbuildings and offices. He utilized his architectural skills in tracing out lines for the foundations of the buildings and defense works. Costanso supervised the construction of a palisade, which included storehouses where cargo from the ship was stowed and which served as provisional living quarters for the missionaries and the commanding officer. A third storehouse was built to hold powder and defense equipment at a safe but visible distance from the other supplies and habitations. He also laid out the permanent adobe presidio to replace the temporary palisade made of logs, sticks and tules and left a drawing to show that plan.

Costanso had spent fourteen months and ten days in Alta California and in that time had been a witness and a contributor to the first European colonization activities in the area. He left Monterey on July 9, 1770 along with Don Gaspar de Portola aboard the El Principe (San Antonio) and returned to Mexico where he spent the rest of his life in the service of the King. He died in 1814, never to return to the pine-covered slopes and the wide spacious harbors of California that he described so well. The immediate future of the Presidio was left in the hands of Lieutenant Pedro Fages.

The Royal Presidio of Monterey, founded June 3, 1770, was the principal Presidio of Alta California and is the oldest and most historic of all Monterey sites. Since 1840, when the garrison moved to El Cuartel, it had been forgotten until 1971 when an archaeological investigation of the site was begun.

The term "Presidio" is derived from a Roman ancestor, "Praesidium", meaning a fortified garrison of troops. The Spanish generally gave the title of "Presidio" to all their forts in America, which were among heathen peoples. From earliest Spanish penetration into the Southwest in the seventeenth century, the Presidios were an important force for conquest but reached a peak of effectiveness in the last decades of the eighteenth century. This institution was charged with handling the problem of hostile Native Americans not susceptible to the missionary efforts of the Roman Church and to prevent European powers from penetrating into Alta California.

Reprinted From A History of the Presidio of Monterey 1770 to 1970 by Kibbey M. Horne. Published by the Defense Language Institute West Coast Branch. Presidio of Monterey, California.

California presidios varied little in design and construction because they were designed by the same engineer, Miguel Costanso, who elaborated the pattern developed from the Moors. Using adobe brick and stone, presidios were built in a quadrangular shape with walls at least 10 feet high; the length of the sides varied from 200 to 550 feet. On diagonal corners, bastions were placed, raised above the defense walls with cannon embrasures. This defense system allowed soldiers to fire at attackers down the length of all four walls. Inside, a parallel tier of buildings was made, the roofs of which were higher than the walls to serve as a parapet from which to shoot. Fundamental buildings in the presidio compound were a chapel, warehouse, barracks, smithy, jail and official quarters. The primary outside opening was the main gate, which afforded entry of carriages, horsemen and pedestrians.

The Europeans brought with them iron saws and axes with which to cut down the local forests and to use to shape the wood structures. Such implements had not been available to the Native Americans before then.

Everything was done under the direction of the King and/or the Viceroy. After all, the King of Spain owned everything and everybody.

With "modern" building techniques and his marching orders in hand, Lieutenant Pedro Fages set out to convert the wood and tule palisade into a modern presidio as outlined by Royal Engineer Costanso. He worked at it for three years and on November 29, 1773, now Captain Fages, Comandante of the Monterey Presidio, sent a report to Viceroy Antonio Maria Bucareli describing his progress:

"The presidio is about fifty varas square. (A varas is 2'9") At its center is a base of adobes four varas square consisting of four steps, half a vara in height on top of which is a cupola in the shape of a half orange on which stands the holy cross of hewn wood, seven varas tall whose trunk and arms are a fourth of a vara wide. The entire base is plastered with a mixture of lime and sand.

In the wing of the presidio on the south side facing the base is an adobe church whose foundations are of stone set in mortar. These foundations extend two quarters above the surface and are a vara and a half in width. Upon these foundations rise the walls five-fourths in thickness. The church is fifteen varas long, seven varas wide and seven varas high. Twenty hewn beams each a palm in width and ten varas in length have an overlay of cane and upon this rests the roof, which is flat. This has a cover of loam. The roof has four spouts to carry off the rainwater.

Joined to the right of the chapel is a tower six varas square also built of adobe. It is fifteen varas high and contains two terraces in ascending proportion in which to hang bells. The tower is surmounted by a cupola in the shape of a half orange and upon this rises an iron cross a vara and a half in height which also has a weather vane to show the direction of the wind. This tower has its foundation of stone mortared with lime and protrudes from the ground for three-fourths of a vara. The church and tower are plastered with lime within and without.

To the left of the church is an adobe dwelling for the reverend fathers who come here to administer to our spiritual life. This dwelling is about twelve varas long and about six varas wide. It has its small outside corridor along its length with its pillars and wooden corbels upon which lies the beam supporting the roof. The roof is flat and is covered with lime. The corridor has fifteen hewn beams ten varas in length. This building communicates with the church. It is plastered with lime in its entirety.

Along the east wing of the presidio there are six rooms, five of which are eight varas square, the other eight by five varas. One is used by the mail couriers and the blacksmith, another serves as the carpenter shop, the third contains the gear of the muleteers, the fourth is the dwelling of the servants and the fifth is for the use of the Native Americans who happen to sleep at the presidio. The sixth room is used to store building tools and field implements. All these rooms are built of poles of pine and are plastered, their roofs being of earth. Behind the servants' dwelling is their kitchen, eight varas square with an inside connection. It is built of the same construction.

The "As Built" Presidio of Monterey as Reported by Comandante Fages in 1773 From A Description of California's Princiapal Presidio, Monterey, in 1773, Translated and Edited by Rev. Maynard Geiger, OFM.

In the west wing there are two quarters for soldiers, the one fifteen varas long and eight varas wide which is used by the volunteers (of Catalonia). The other, twenty varas long and eight varas wide, is used by the leather-jacket soldiers. To the rear of these quarters are two kitchens, each four varas square for the use of the two afore-mentioned groups. There are inside connections between the kitchens and the respective quarters. At the head of the wing of the presidio facing the south there is a dwelling place eight varas square, which serves as a pharmacy containing the medicine chest. All these constructions are the same as those in the aforementioned wing. The two entrances to the garrisons face the plaza of the presidio.

In the north wing there are two storehouses for food and for royal property. Attached to this are two small rooms occupying the space of the width of the wing of the presidio, both of which are four varas wide and six varas long. The first serves as a prison, the second as a guardhouse and as sleeping quarters for soldiers (on guard duty) with a rack for firearms inside with another outside. Next, one comes to a large main entrance, which is four varas wide. Next to it is a small room with its display table and shelves with a stock of goods, made of wood. This is the store and sales room for clothes, which are sold and distributed to the dependents of these establishments. There is a door connecting it with the main entrance and has inside connection to the door of the commander. This room is about six varas in length and eight varas in width. Along it is a corridor six varas in length and three in width with two pillars and their corbels of cypress supporting the roof beam. Behind this is a kitchen with a chimney to carry off the smoke. It measures four varas square.

Then one comes to the second storeroom, which is ten varas long and eight varas wide. To one side is a storage bin five varas square. Almost this entire wing is of adobe, its foundation being of stone. The walls of the building are five varas high and three fourths in thickness. The beams are hewn and are covered with a roof toped with lime which has its corresponding spout to carry off the rainwater from the presidio.

Most of the doors of the dwellings of the presidio, which number about thirty, are of pine. Some are of redwood, which is very similar to cedar, while still others are of cypress, sawed and fashioned at the presidio. At the four corners of the presidio are ravelins with two embrasures each containing batteries with a bronze campaign cannon placed in each. One of the ravelins is of adobe with a sentry box facing the point (of Pinos) together with three trenches, which command the front of the presidio. At the front, the foundations are of stone while on the other three sides they are constructed of logs of pinewood. However, stones have already been cut and adobes fashioned which will be used to build walls similar to that in front because the humidity of the place tends to rot and destroy the wood. Consequently, buildings so constructed have little advantage.

For the east and west wings of the presidio already 100 beams have been hewn. They are ten varas long and a quarter of a vara wide. They are roof supports so that these sections of the presidio will be the same as the others. The kitchens will be incorporated with them in a corner of the presidio leeward to the northwest. There is a very large cesspool; a subterranean outlet going towards the estuary. In another place there are three hog stiles for the sows with the doors facing the open country. And at a distance of forty varas there is another large one. The roofs are covered with lime. Outside the stockade at a distance of forty varas there are two corrals fifty varas in circumference, which are for the cows and mules. Next to the first is a hog sty for breeding purposes.

At about fifteen minutes walking distance from the presidio on the other side of the estuary is the powder magazine, (the "casa mata") four varas square, built of poles plastered inside and out. It has its door and lock. At a distance of four varas there is a stockade of poles four varas high. At a musket shot away leeward to the northwest, in which the wind prevails for the greater part of the year, is a small house four varas square for the soldiers who stand guard.

At a distance of half a league from the presidio is a garden 120 varas in length, its width varying from seventy to eighty varas in places. On one side of the garden is a house, four varas square, for two of the (Catalonian) volunteers. It has its door and lock and a battery embrasure within for whatever contingency may arise.

Next to the presidio on the side in the direction of the church is where the mission of San Carlos was founded. There it remained until May of 1771 when an order came from His Excellency the Marquis de Croix, your predecessor, to transfer the mission site to the banks of the Carmel River since it is one league away from the presidio. Moreover, the site offers better lands for cultivation than those which the port has."

As a part of this report Captain Fages included a drawing of the "As Built" Presidio. An examination of this shows a number of differences with the original Costanso proposed drawing. Notable in these changes was the construction of the third church in the middle of the Presidio instead of in the one side as was done at San Diego. The comandante obviously has some flexibility in constructing the Presidio. The use of flat roofs is more of a southwest design not really suited to the fairly rainy weather of northern California. A "casa mata" was also constructed at a distance from the Presidio as at San Diego. At any rate the work accomplished in three years by Captain Fages was very commendable. He should have received nothing but praise; however, Fages was a soldier's soldier and believed that the church missionaries should be under his command. The very headstrong Junipero Serra disagreed and went off to Mexico to plead his case.

On January 1, 1774 a reorganization of the province of the Californias made Monterey the residence of a captain commander with jurisdiction over the territories of the Franciscan missions (thus resolving the struggle for supremacy in temporal matters in favor of the military over the church) and reporting directly to the governor of both Californias at Loreto.

The garrison was to consist of one captain, one sergeant, 22 soldiers, two carpenters, four blacksmiths, four muleskinners and one storekeeper at Monterey. An additional corporal and five soldiers were to be the guard for the mission at Carmel where Father Serra resided. Captain Fages, largely at the insistence of Father Serra, was relieved of his command and sent to fight Apaches in Sonora - almost a death sentence. In his place Don Fernando Rivera y Moncada was appointed captain commander and arrived in Monterey on May 23, 1774 to take command. Moncada, remember, was involved with Portola in the original "Sacred Expedition" from Loreto.

Moncada was never too popular a comandante and it was with relief that the garrison saw him go on February 3, 1777 as a result of still another reorganization. Don Felipe Neve arrived on that day as Governor of the Californias to reside in Monterey, thus making that village the capital of both Californias. Moncada was posted as Lieutenant Governor to Loreto, the former capital.

Neve was a more energetic commander than Moncada had been and by July 3, 1778 had completed the conversion of the log and earth stockade to a stone and adobe wall twelve feet high, four feet thick and 537 yards in circumference. Inside were ten adobe houses measuring 21 by 24 feet, and a long barracks, 136 by 18 feet, which was not quite finished. The newer buildings were thatched rather than roofed with sod.

By 1782 there were 205 soldiers in the four presidios of Alta California plus a fifth presidio with 54 men at Loreto in Baja California all under the central direction of the captain commander at Monterey. The Monterey garrison itself consisted of the governor, a lieutenant, an alferez (a junior lieutenant), a surgeon, a sergeant, two corporals, 27 soldiers, one carpenter and two blacksmiths. At each of the three missions of Carmel, San Antonio and San Luis Obispo the garrison maintained an additional corporal and five soldiers with four more soldiers at the Pueblo of San Jose de Guadalupe.

On September 10, 1782, Pedro Fages, having survived the Apache wars and now promoted to colonel of infantry, returned to the Presidio as governor of both the Californias.

Four years later the French scientist, Jean Francois De La Peruse, head of an expedition funded by King Louis XVI, arrived at Monterey with a two-ship squadron - the L'Astrolabe and the La Boussole. The French were among the first Europeans that wanted to know what Spain had in the new world and just what potential there was for their country. The British Cook Expedition had been there before them in 1780 and 1784 and had stirred up interest after their journals were published in Europe.

La Peruse visited the Presidio September 14 - 24, 1786. His comments, among others, were: "a lieutenant colonel who resides at Monterey is governor of the two Californias. His government is more than eight hundred leagues in circumference but his real subjects are two hundred and eighty-two cavalrymen who must furnish garrisons for five little forts and supply squads of four or five men at each of the twenty-five missions or parishes established in Old and New California. So small a force suffices to control about fifty thousand nomadic Indians." La Peruse sent his journals back to France from the South Seas but his expedition was never to be heard of again.

On August 11, 1789 the Presidio was badly damaged by fire as the result of firing a salute to the ship San Carlos as it entered the port. A flaming wad from the salute gun set fire to the thatched roofing of one of the buildings; the fire spread to almost the entire northern side of the Presidio and half of the buildings eventually were destroyed. In September 1790 the Presidio was reroofed this time with the red tile that gave the Spanish buildings their distinctive permanent appearance.

On February 26, 1791 work on the fourth and present chapel was started using stone instead of the adobe used in the third chapel and the other Presidio buildings. Viceroy Gigedo directed that the new chapel follow closely the plan created by Antonio Velasquez, Director of the Academy of San Carlos in Mexico. It was completed in 1794 by Native American labor under the direction of Manuel Ruiz, a Mexican stonemason who also completed the Carmel Mission in the same year. Father Fermin Francisco Lasuen officially blessed the chapel on January 25, 1795. This chapel is the only building of the five presidios to survive the ravages of time to the present, and with rebuilding, additions and modifications over that time is the center of the Catholic Parish in Monterey today.

In 1791, the Spanish outfitted an expedition to explore the world and its own possessions under the leadership of Alejandro Malaspina. This royal expedition visited Monterey on September 1791 for a fortnight, which gave the expedition's artist the opportunity to make the first known sketches of the Presidio as it then appeared. A comparison of the original Presidio plan by Costanso, Fages's earlier description and the Malaspina expedition's sketches shows that the new buildings did not employ the external wall as their rear wall but were separated from it by some distance. This space may have been used as corrals for the horses and for kitchen and latrine space. A bell tower, which Fages had built earlier, had collapsed by this time and the bells were suspended from a wooden rack near the adobe rubble, which still had not been cleared away. At the time of the Malaspina visit the local garrison consisted of the comandante (Fages was still in charge but waiting the arrival of his successor, Jose Romeu), a lieutenant, an alferez and 63 cavalrymen. The log of the expedition also makes mention of a common practice at Monterey, the firing of cannon from the shore to guide ships into the landing area through the all too common fog. In the Malaspina log the guns firing from the presidio are identified as "12 caliber cannon" which were probably the equivalent of nine-pounders.

This is the First Known Drawing of the Monterey Presidio in 1791 by Jose Cordero, Who Was Part of the Spanish Malaspina Expedition. A Second Rendition was also made by Tomas de Suria. Shown in the Center Foreground is the Construction of the Fourth Chapel, the One Which Remains in 2001 and is the Only Original Building from the Presidio Period in California That Still Exists on the Foundations Shown. The Poles are Scaffolding. This Chapel was Built Using Stone for Foundations and Walls. To the Right is Shown the Third Adobe Chapel with its Thatched Roof. Bastions are Shown in the Right and Left Edges of the Drawing. The Spanish Flag Waves in the Middle. The Presidio was Always a Work in Progress, Changing Often Over its 206 Years. The Artist Also Centers our Attention on the Varied Activities Outside the Presidio Walls: Two Nude Native American Men Carrying a Water Barrel, Suspended From Shafts, to a Garden; Women Hanging Out Washing; and Men on Horseback Riding Toward the Presidio Gate. Also Pictured are Kilns, Corrals and a Number of Carretas (Ox-Carts) the Only Wheeled Vehicles in Use in Spanish Days. The Three Ships Shown in the Harbor are Probably the Atrevida and the Descubierta of the Malaspina Expedition, and the Santa Saturnia which Came into the Bay on September 16, 1791. Courtesy of the Honeyman Collection, Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley, California.


The Only Known Drawing of the Plaza of the Presidio in 1791 Made by Jose Cordero. Shown in the Center is the Third Chapel, Which was Made of Adobe. On the Left side is the Scaffolding for the Fourth Chapel Which Still Exists Today. The Bells are Placed on a Rack Next to The Remains of the Bell Tower Which Has Collapsed. A Soldado de Cuera is Shown on a Horse in the Middle Foreground. All the Buildings Have Porches Supported by Redwood Posts. Piles of Adobe Bricks can be Seen in the Background Under a Porch on the Left. The Cross in Front of the Chapel Once Stood in the Center of the Quadrangle. Courtesy of the Honeyman Collection, Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley, California


Another important commentary on the Monterey Presidio was recorded in the logs and reports of the next English expedition to explore the world and check on the Spanish possessions therein. Captain George Vancouver, a member of the earlier English Cook Expedition in 1784, led this. His three-ship squadron arrived off Monterey on November 27, 1792.

Vancouver was an astute, although acid, military observer who criticized the location of the Presidio as unhealthy since it was located on low swampy ground; and the Presidio did not have an adequate supply of fresh water due to the indolence of the Spanish in failing to sink wells.

John Sykes of the expedition made two drawings of the Presidio, one of which was published in 1798 as a William Alexander rendition.

Vancouver's comments on the Presidio are: "the buildings of the presidio form a parallelogram or long square comprehending an area of about 300 by 250 feet. Officers' apartments were tiled, and buildings for officers, soldiers, and stores were along and inside a defense wall. There was one entrance for carriages, which was the main gate. Small doors opened to the countryside in the middle of the sidewalls, to the right and left of the main entrance. There was one entrance to the apartment of the commanding officer with 5 of 6 spacious rooms with boarded floors. Windows all faced the plaza and had no glass. There were no apertures in the wall except doors, with one at each of the officers' houses contiguous to the governor's house, and a door on the opposite side. There were blockhouses on each corner. (In the Sykes drawing the bastions were outside the corners. Jose Cardero in 1791 showed the southeast blockhouse within the walls.) The whole presents the same lonely uninteresting appearance, as already described at St. Francisco. On the outside, before the entrance into the presidio, which fronts the shore of the bay, are placed seven cannon, four nine-pounders dismounted, form the whole of their artillery. These guns are planted on the open plain ground, without any breast work or other screen for those employed in working them, or the least cover or protection from the weather. The four dismounted cannon, together with those placed at the entrance into the presidio, are intended for a fort to be built on a small eminence that commands the anchorage. A large quantity of timber is at present in readiness for carrying that design into execution; which when completed, might certainly be capable of annoying vessels lying in that part of the bay which affords the greatest security, but could not be of any importance after a landing was accomplished; as the hills behind it might be easily gained, from whence the assailing party would soon oblige the fort to surrender; nor do I consider Monterey to be a very tenable post without an extensive line of works."

The only other military establishment that met Captain Vancouver's critical eye in the Monterey area was at the mouth of the Salinas River where "a small guard of Spanish soldiers are generally posted, who reside on that spot in miserable wretched huts".

A Drawing of the Monterey Presidio by John Sykes, Artist on the English Expedition Led by Captain George Vancouver While Visiting the West Coast in 1792 and 1793. This View, Looking East Across the Open Fields to the Presidio, a Mile Distant, and the Hills Beyond, was Painted From the Location of the Future Castillo. Shown are Three of the Four Bastions, the North Wall Showing Some Possible Ruin and the Third Chapel With the Scaffolding For the Fourth. Courtesy of the Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley, California.

From the account of Archibald Menzies, the botanist who accompanied Vancouver, it would seem that the four dismounted cannon were already in place at the site of the future fort, for Menzies wrote that "six nine-pounders and three smaller ones were mounted on carriages
before the entrance to the presidio and we saw four nine-pounders without carriages laying on logs of wood on a small eminence abreast of the anchorage." Menzies also clarified the role of the small guard that Vancouver had noticed: "To guard themselves therefore from any sudden alarm, the Spaniards have outposts a few leagues off where soldiers are stationed at the different passes to watch the Indians' motions and give timely intimation to the garrison in case of any hostile appearance. One of these outposts, about five leagues to the eastward of Monterey, frequently terminated our ride; it was guarded by 6 or 7 soldiers and situated by a wide rivulet."

On November 1, 1793 the Vancouver expedition paid a second visit to Monterey, at which time he observed that, "the cannon, which, on our former visit were placed before the presidio, were now removed to the hill, mentioned at that time as intended to be fortified for the purpose of commanding the anchorage. Here is now erected a sorry kind of barbet battery, consisting chiefly of a few logs of wood, irregularly placed behind which those cannon, about eleven in number, are on their rear and flanks entirely open and exposed." By a "barbet" Vancouver meant an open gun position whose only protection was afforded by a mound of earth or pile of wood over which the muzzle of the gun projected.

On February 16, 1792 the new comandante Jose Joaquin Arrillaga (Romeu had died on April 9, 1792 after only six months at Monterey) reported to the viceroy that Monterey had eleven cannon, eight guns and three pedreros. The latter was a lighter cannon, designed to shoot stone balls instead of iron shot, these were probably the three-pounders that Vancouver had noticed. Arrillaga added however, that Monterey had only one or two men at the fort to man these guns. The fort, or El Castillo, was located on the site of the present Presidio of Monterey, at the first level overlooking the harbor.

Removal of the cannon to El Castillo marked the end of the Old Spanish Presidio as a true fort and the old enclosure more and more assumed the character of an administrative center and unfortified barracks. Recognizing the shift in status of Monterey from a garrison to a town, Spain established a formal pueblo government for the presidio establishments in 1791, which went into effect in 1794.

The already flimsy fortifications at the Presidio became progressively more decrepit with each passing year. In February of 1801, Arrillaga informed the viceroy that the Presidio was "in ruinous condition." The inability of the adobe construction to withstand the elements even in such a mild climate as that of Monterey is evident from the report that in March of that same year the main gate of the Presidio was demolished by a wind and rainstorm. In 1803, the Catalan volunteers were withdrawn, reducing the local garrison to nothing but cuera soldiers and a handful of artillerymen. In 1804 Alta and Baja California were placed under separate governors. In 1810 the Spanish-American Wars of Independence broke out, the most direct result of which was that supply ships stopped coming to Monterey for a number of years and then only sporadically thereafter. From 1810 to 1820 the Monterey garrison received no pay at all.

One of the effects of the War for Independence from Spain was the attack of Hippolyte Bouchard, an Argentine privateer out of the Hawaiian Islands, on Monterey in November 1818 with the resultant conquest and sacking of the Presidio and spiking of the guns at the Castillo. The attack was carried out as predicted by Vancouver with a large party landing behind the Castillo. Reconstruction work had been underway by then Governor Sola at the Presidio even before this attack. The damage was confined to the northern side of the Presidio and to three houses of the southern block but left the adobe walls for the most part still standing. The raiders took about $5,000 in goods and the orchard and vegetable garden were entirely ruined. The houses of the governor and comandante were among those partially destroyed.

In November 1826, the English Ship H.M.S.Blossom Visited Monterey. Richard Brydges Beechey, Midshipman, Prepared a Watercolor of Which the Above is a Black and White Copy. In This View the Presidio has Been Expanded Over the Earlier Drawings. A Chapel Annex or Sacristy Has Been Added. At This Point the Mexican Government Has Been in Charge for Four Years. This Picture is Taken from Across the Nearby Lagoon. The Chapel and Buildings Appear to be in Good Repair But the Ruined Adobe Walls More Truly Represent the Actual Condition of the Entire Presidio. After Visiting The Dilapidated Garrison, Captain Beechey Reported that Although it was in Better Condition Than the One in San Francisco, it was Quite Useless as a Place of Defense. The Castillo is Shown in the right-center, and the H.M.S. Blossom on the Far Right. The Mexican Flag is Seen in the Middle of the Drawing. Courtesy of the Bancroft Library Honeyman Collection, University of California, Berkeley.


This Drawing of the Presidio was Made by William Smyth, Admiralty Mate on the H.M.S.Blossom in 1827. The Drawing Shows the Whole Pueblo of Monterey as Well as the Presidio. The Chapel is Shown Without a Belfry. Most of the Defensive Wall is Gone and Other New Structures Have Been Added to the Front of the Presidio at the Gate Area. A Cemetery is Seen on the Left-Center Edge of the Front of the Presidio.Courtesy of the Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley, California.


This View of Monterey Was Drawn by the French World Traveler, Auguste Bernard Duhaut-Cilly During His Visit in 1827. Shown in the Foreground is His Ship Le Heros and the Pueblo and Presidio in the Background. A Large Corral is seen on the Right of the Presidio and the Chapel With a Bell tower on the Left. The Defensive Wall is Missing in This View. Duhaut-Cilly Comments As Follows in His Book Voyage Autour du Monde, Paris, 1834:
"The First Buildings on Rounding Point Pinos Are Those of the Presidio, Forming a Square of Two Hundred Metres on Each Side, and Which Having Only a Ground Floor, Look Like Mere Long Ware-houses, Roofed With Tiles. To the Right of the Presidio, on a Little Green Field, Are Then Seen Scattered Here and There, About Forty Quite Agreeable Appearing Houses, Also Roofed With Tiles and Painted White on the Outside. These, With as Many Thatched Huts, Compose the Whole of the Capital of Upper California".

While at Monterey in March 1827, Duhaut-Cilly Entertained the "Gente de Razon" with an Elaborate Dinner and Ball on Board His Ship, But Reciprocal Festivities on Shore Were Limited Because the Padres Frowned on Feasting and Entertaining During Lent. Courtesy of the Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley, California.


A Sketch of the Monterey Presidio by Alfred Robinson on February 16, 1829. Robinson's Ship the Brookline, on Which He was a Clerk, Was Owned by Bryant and Sturgis of Boston. In His Sketch,The Presidio Walls Have Become Shapeless Blobs. The Chapel Façade Begins to Take on Its Final Shape.Located in California's Lost Fortress, The Royal Presidio of Monterey,
by Donald M. Howard, Pacific Grove, California.

Reconstruction efforts continued for years. On August 18, 1826 then Governor Echeandia ordered 15,000 adobe bricks for rebuilding parts of the Presidio. On April 9, 1822 independence of Mexico was celebrated at the Presidio of Monterey. On November 11 of that year, elections were held at the governor's house to select provincial deputies.

In 1826 the English ship H.M.S.Blossom visited Monterey. Its midshipman Richard Beechey painted a watercolor entitled "Presidio of Monterey." In 1827 the French explorer Auguste Bernard Duhaut-Cilly on the ship Le Heros visited Monterey during which he prepared a sketch of the Presidio. In 1829 Alfred Robinson, factor on the Boston ship Brookline, prepared a sketch of the Presidio, which showed the northern wall in complete ruin.

In 1828 to 1829 the Joaquin Solis revolt began at the Presidio and spread to the south to Santa Barbara. The soldiers were protesting their lack of pay and poor living conditions. Some improvements followed a settlement of hostilities.

In 1835 Richard Henry Dana visited Monterey and commented, "In the center of it is an open square, surrounded by four lines of one-story buildings. The presidio here was entirely open and unfortified."

On November 5, 1836 the Gutierrez-Alvarado revolt ended unceremoniously when, as Charles Wilkes of the U.S.N. Exploring Expedition comments, "at dawn on the 5th, their hunter adversaries becoming impatient at the delay, fired an eighteen-pound ball, which struck the center of the roof of the Presidio, directly over the apartment where the council was held."

On May 14, 1840 Jose Zenon Fernandez acquired the Presidio governor's house from Jesus Pico. At this time the house was described as: "consisting of six rooms with an upper story and wooden floors. And the balance without flooring or upper story - said house has a tile roof, and stands on a lot of 50 varas frontage by 50 varas in depth, situated at a point where the buildings of the old presidio were, on the left hand side as you come out of the church."

In 1840, La Casa de Gobierno or El Cuartel, a long two-story adobe governmental building was built by Governor Alvarado. This was the new barracks for the soldiers.

In January 1842 the French attaché to Mexico, Duflot de Mofras, visited Monterey and described the ruined adobe walls: "The presidio had been demolished...few traces of the foundations remaining...During the wave of revolution that swept over Monterey, the presidio was pillaged by inhabitants who used the material for building houses. Plans, however, have been made to reconstruct the church.."

In 1842 pictures of the city of Monterey were prepared by Edward Vischer and Swedish traveler Waseurtz af Sandels.

By 1845 little remained of the Presidio but the town flourished. The Presidio armament was removed to San Juan Bautista according to H.R. Bancroft. Much of the Presidio property was sold and resold for new developments. The chapel, the one enduring structure of the Presidio, was restored and stands today as a tribute to the desire of the Spanish government to hold the line against encroachment from the European competitors.

On January 18, 1971 the first attempts to locate the walls of the Presidio were made by Monterey archeologist Donald M. Howard. Permission was obtained from the Catholic Parish to conduct exploratory excavations to locate the original Presidio compound. Students from the Pacific Grove Community Centered High School were used to conduct preliminary work and on February 15, 1971 a trench revealed the Presidio footing. This discovery sparked tremendous community interest and produced statewide publicity and television coverage.

A Third-Hand Copy by Engraver Charles Ransonnette of the William Smyth's Original Drawing of "The Presidio and Pueblo of Monterey" Which Appeared as an Engraved Illustration in Eugene Duflot de Mofras's Exploration du territoire de l'Oregon, des California 1844. Ransonnette based this Version on the Lithographic Copy of the Smyth Drawing by Day and Hague Published in Alexander Forbes,
California: A History of Upper and Lower California in 1839.
Courtesy of the Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley, California.


Two Views of Monterey in 1842 Made by American Consul Thomas O. Larkin. The American Squadron led by Commodore Jones is Shown in the Lower Drawing. The Occupation of Monterey Has Just Ended and the Flags are Again Mexican. The Ships are the United States, Dale, Yorktown, Shark and the Cyane. El Cuartel is Seen on the Right and the Custom House and Castillo on the Left. In the Left Foreground is a Two Story Building Owned by Thomas O. Larkin. The Center Foreground is the Residence of Governor Juan Bautista Alvarado. In the Upper Drawing, the Chapel of the Presidio Stands Alone on the Far Left. The Castillo is Shown on the Far Right and El Cuartel is in the Center Middle. Courtesy of the Oakland Art Museum, Oakland, California.


A Photograph of the Presidio Chapel, Now the Catholic Parish Church Taken at the Turn of the 20th Century. Note Transepts at Rear. The Pyramidal Roof on the Belfry Was Added in 1893.
The Gothic Windows on the Sides Were Added about 1858. The Portal on the Right Transept Was Brought From the Carmel Mission.Courtesy Colorado Historical Society, Denver, Colorado.

Subsequent work has shown the true architectural form of the Presidio based on fieldwork.

The Army Presidio recognized the importance of the excavations and permission was obtained to construct a protective shelter, which was finished by August 1972. In 1975 Howard had the Presidio site resurveyed and using earlier field notes determined the location of the various walls of the Presidio which were moved and expanded during the time the Presidio was in use.

In 1983 the location of an 1820 drawing of the Monterey Presidio prepared by General Mariano Vallejo, Comandante of the Presidio in 1836, was reported. The background and reference for this drawing is given above under the San Diego Presidio story. Vallejo was a resident soldier at Monterey for years and was very familiar with the layout of the Presidio at that time. Vallejo's drawing shows the outline of the Presidio to be different than described in the written record and in some of the earlier drawings of the Presidio. The drawing probably reflects what was current construction at the height of the presidio period following the Bouchard attack. Patios separate the buildings from the outer wall. The inside square is ringed with porch roofs that are supported by posts. Only one ravelin is shown in the southwest corner. New rooms built outside the walls are located on both sides of the main gate. Also shown in the 1820 drawing are the outbuildings around the walls and the Castillo, which has three buildings and six embrasures for cannon. A cemetery is shown behind the Presidio Chapel.


References: References used for this history are based on the following: Presidio of Monterey by Antoinette G. Gay, 1940; "A Description of California's Principal Presidio, Monterey, in 1773" (M. Geiger, ed) The Historical Society of Southern California, Vol. XLIX, No.III, pgs. 327-336, 1967; A Pictorial and Narrative History of Monterey, Adobe Capital of California by Jeanne Van Nostrand, California Historical Society, 1968; A History of the Presidio of Monterey 1770-1970 by Kibbey M. Horne, Defense Language Institute West Coast Branch, Presidio of Monterey, California, 1970.; California's Lost Fortress, the Royal Presidio of Monterey by Donald M. Howard, Esq., 1976.


Excavations of the Presidio Foundations Led by Donald Howard in 1971. Wall Footings Are Visible in the Left Foreground.From California's Lost Fortress, The Royal Presidio of Monterey by Donald M. Howard, Pacific Grove, California.


A Map Prepared by Donald Howard Showing the Evolution of the Presidio Defense Walls From 1770 to 1840. Measurements Were Taken From the Southeast Corner of the Presidio Which is Thought to Have Been Stable Since 1791. This Map is Based on Excavations at the Site and Field Notes of Earlier Surveys. From California's Lost Fortress, The Royal Presidio of Monterey By Donald M. Howard, Pacific Grove, California.


The Drawing of the Monterey Presidio in 1820 By Mariano Vallejo, Located in the Edward Vischer Papers at the Bancroft Library in 1981.Courtesy of the Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley, California.


The Presidio Chapel in This 1998 Photograph is the Only Original Structure of the Presidio Period Remaining. Photograph by the Author.


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Updated 8 February 2016