Plaque: No. 242 Mission San Diego de AlcalaThis blog focuses on my travels to visit and learn more about California Historical Landmarks. My goal for 2013-2014 is to visit all the landmark sites in San Diego County, but I will also be investigating other landmarks around the state.

Unlike other marker-spotting sites, or other landmark lists, I will be also adding more contextual information to better appreciate the history of California through the different landmarks featured. Additionally, I will be providing information on how to visit landmark sites.

There are two main parts to a landmark site:

  1. Landmark plaque (or other monument or marker) – This provides a brief history of the site’s significance, the landmark’s number, and usually some information on when the landmark was designated and who installed the plaque. While most California Historical Landmarks have a plaque on site, some have been lost, removed, or put in storage. Most plaques conform to a standard state look, while some sites might have private markers.
  2. The site itself – Depending on the landmark, there might be a historic structure or set of structures that are being celebrated with the landmark designation. Or perhaps it is a part of the physical environment that became historically or culturally significant. Sometimes the marker is the only physical reminder of the history of a site, as the site itself has been lost to nature or re-use.

Good resources:

  • Official list of California Historical Landmarks (from the California State Parks – Office of Historic Preservation), divided by County, then sorted by number. Each of California’s 58 counties has at least one registered historical landmark, and some have quite a few. For example, the list of San Diego’s landmarks are located on this page. The OHP also has a history of the program, which details how the first several hundred landmarks were designated without standardized criteria. The OHP also tracks other key designations: National Register of Historic Places, California Register, and California Points of Historical Interest (which is a sort of junior-grade landmark). Here’s the full list of all such designations for San Diego County.
  • Landmarks Guidebook, published by California State Parks, from 1995. It is essentially the same as the list above, and again is organized first by county, then by landmark number. The back does have a list of all landmarks sorted by name, and a list sorted by number. Sadly it needs a real index. It does have basic maps of each county, though the landmarks are not plotted on the maps. Because it is nearly 20 years old, this printing does not contain landmarks registered more recently than No. 1020.
  • Wikipedia also has a list of California Historical Landmarks, again divided by county, then by your choice of sorting criteria (number, name, location). (San Diego County’s page). One of the main features of this list is that many of the sites have geographic coordinates (latitude/longitude) for easier GPS navigation. It also has some photos for different sites.

A few other sites of individuals tracking down California Historical Landmarks:

Contact info:
Drop me a line at jawajames@gmail.com.

12 responses to “About”

  1. pattybones2 says :

    I nominated your blog for a Liebster Blogging Award. Please view my blog post for details: http://wp.me/p3g0ia-230

  2. Donald Laird says :

    Good work on the blog – hope to see more 🙂
    Donald Laird

  3. John J. Lesjack says :

    What does the bear represent at the top of the landmark?
    What do the two 5-pointed stars represent?
    Why does the landmark plaque have the shape it does?
    I have been in touch with the Office of Historic Presentation, heard from Jay, Historian III,and Joe, Historian II and they don’t know the history of the state plaques sold by the OHP. Who can help?
    Sent June 12, 2017

    • jawajames says :

      I don’t have any specific knowledge about the design of the landmark plaques. I’ve seen a few that don’t follow the standard, but these ones typically are fairly old. My guess on each of your questions:
      – The bear represents the California Grizzly Bear, California’s state animal, seen on the state flag. Usually the bear on the plaques is seen in the same profile outline as the bear on the flag.
      – The two stars: my guess is that they added a star to also fit the motif from the state flag, which has a single five-pointed star on the left. Maybe they added a second star for symmetry.
      – The shape: Seems like a pretty standard shape, a rectangle with a centered top piece (for the bear and stars) for something that stands out from regular rectangles, making it easily identified as a California historical landmark plaque. Perhaps the cap and shoulders double bump design evokes a bell shape, connecting to the mission bells of our state’s history (and the El Camino Real bells placed as historical markers along the historic route in the early 20th century). Or if not a bell, perhaps it matches more closely the basic architecture of Spanish missions, either the chapel buildings or campaniles.
      – The colors: newly placed plaques (either for new landmarks or as replacements) brown background with brass/gold outline and lettering. High contrast for easier reading, and I’m speculating that it evokes the gold from California’s history and the brown of the soil (and maybe also Franciscan robe brown) – plus for freeway signs, historical and recreation highway signs are in brown as well, although a lighter shade.

      Again, this is all conjecture. I’ve seen one or two plaques that don’t quite conform to this standard (i think they had the right shape, but didn’t have the bear) as well as private plaques that don’t fit the standard at all.

      • John J. Lesjack says :

        Dealing only with California Historical Plaques approved by the Office of Historical Preservation that knows nothing about the symbols, design or
        color of the official plaque, not the others, I know you have the correct
        information. What’s interesting to me is that your information so much
        reflects not only what I came up with but what other California history buffs
        have come up with and I thank you, as I have thanked them, for sharing.
        The most convenient private plaque to talk about in the Central Valley is
        the one at Caswell Memorial State Park. The first one installed t here in 1974
        was like what you mentioned–close but no cigar. It was an imitation of the
        official one and like other official ones in the area, made of bronze and got
        stolen. Its replacement is a black stone but has the same inscription.
        But it has no number and no symbols on it. What’s weird is that it is a private plaque installed on public property and the parks department has no paperwork on the original installation date or anything so they just allowed the Clampers to install a second one over the concrete structure that was not stolen knowing no one steals a stone.

        How much do you know about California Historical Landmark 214, “Site of Battle between Forces under Gen. Vallejo and San Joaquin Valley Indians”?

        That’s my project.

        No monument was ever erected to that Landmark. McBrian applied for a “point of interest,” was approved for California Historical Landmark 214 but never did anything about it. No monument, no talk, no writing and he owned the Ripon Record newspaper! His family would not talk about it.

        The battle site between Estanislao and his followers happened somewhere along the 96 mile long Stanislaus River but no battle site was ever established. In fact, translated reports by soldiers indicates there were three sites of conflict, not one and Padre Duran out fitted each one with ammunition and bullets, food and other supplies because he wanted t he Indians brought back to work as slaves at Mission San Jose but that’s not history books write up the story.

        Anyway, you have made my day with your description of a Californian historial plaque numbered anything you want.

        Thank you, Jawajames!

        John J.
        Santa Rosa, CA

        PS: Office of Historic Preservation’s Jay something said you don’t need a plaque to have a landmark. He claims he coined the phrase “Un-plaqued monument” or is it “un-plaqued landmark”….

      • jawajames says :

        I’m unfamiliar with the Central Valley landmarks, so I don’t think I’m much help there. But definitely there are landmarks that do not have a plaque (either standard or privately made) – often these are locations where something of historical note happened but the property is privately owned and not publicly accessible and they aren’t keen on visitors (or having to maintain a plaque). Sometimes it’s hard to tell when a landmark is ‘unplaqued’ versus ‘plaque missing/stolen’ if there is no plaque stand/wall. As for private plaques, sometimes they can just be plaques that were installed long before the site was designated as a CHL, or are part of a larger historical review and thus a CHL plaque would be redundant or aesthetically out of place. The Montgomery Memorial is an example of that.

  4. John J. Lesjack says :

    Montgomery Memorial is located where?

    • jawajames says :

      Montgomery Memorial is located in Montgomery Walker Park in the south part of San Diego, only a few miles from the border. Here’s the landmark text, which is in the OHP listing, but isn’t found anywhere on the city park marker, which highlights a larger context of Montgomery’s work in the history of aviation. “At Otay Mesa, in 1883, John Joseph Montgomery made the first flight in a heavier-than-air craft 20 years before the Wrights. Montgomery made many more glider flights before accepting a professorship at Santa Clara College, where he continued his interest in aviation.”

      • John J. Lesjack says :

        Yes, CHL 711, John Joseph Montgomery should be promoted more openly. His flights were significant. Was he in touch with the Wright Brothers? On the other and, my favorite Landmark in the San Diego area is the San Pasqual Battlefield State Historic Park, No. 533 as well as No. 452 Mule Hill. They were not dedicated to war but to reminders of what happens when war finds us. And, the best part is that when it was proven that the battle was not fought on Mule Hill, as first thought, a bunch of marine engineers from Camp Pendleton came out in July 1971 with metal detectors, swept the field for 2 days, turned up hundreds of historical artifacts, and the landmark was moved to the appropriate site of battle.
        Could this happen along the Stanislaus River if archeologist decided to establish where Estanislao and the Mexican soldiers conflicted? Could metal detectors or GRP on level land turn up old cannonballs, musketballs, arrowheads that would establish battle sites? If so, would they turn up the log structure left behind by Jedidiah Smith and his mountain men’s 1827 camp site? And then, if three sites of conflict are established, could we have satellite landmarks marking three local parks? I don’t see why not. Good talking to you, James.

        –John J.

  5. John J. Lesjack says :

    Since you and I last corresponded, several sources have contributed heavily with information about the California Historical Plaque design, symbols, and
    and what everything represents. The OHP has contributed nothing and they sell the plaque for over $4,000 each. But, they also say you don’t need a plaque to have a landmark.

    • jawajames says :

      Please share those links about the information about the plaque design significance!

      • John J. Lesjack says :

        I shall endeavor to replace them soon. I am currently searching for pictures of the new marker installed in Caswell State Park by the Clampers. The plaque was stolen. A stone was installed but where are the pictures of the new marker?

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