The Presidio of Monterey was founded on June 3, 1770, by Fray Junípero Serra, Gaspar de Portolá, Fray Juan Crespi, Lt. Pedro Fages, six Catalonian Volunteers, four cuera soldiers, and men from the ship San Antonio. On June 4, 1770, Costanso surveyed a level spot directly in front of the ship and perhaps two gunshots from the beach near an inlet which communicated with the bay at high water. Work apparently began immediately, but the temporary church was only partially completed when it was blessed on June 14. Culleton describes how, for the feast of Corpus Christi, the square marked off for the presidio was swept clean and an altar set up for High Mass and the traditional procession.
The original presidio was a stockade made of earth and pine logs. Portolá and Costansó did not stay to see the design completed. they returned to Mexico on the San Antonio on July 9, 1770. By that time the preliminary wooden palisade was probably completed enclosing the plaza. Buildings included a church, warehouse, quarters for soldiers and priests, and a powder magazine. The walls of these buildings were poles driven closely together into the ground. Work on the more permanent adobe walls probably began immediately. By the middle of November 1770 the square was enclosed so well that Fages was no longer worried about the safety of the inhabitants. At the presidio, building operations were probably conducted for most of the winter and spring, as on June 20, 1771 a communication from Fages to the viceroy implies that everything was complete except for the new church, which was to replace the original brush structure. Know deeply about the Presidio of Monterey.
In spite of the deterioration and need for constant repair, the presidio remained the center of Monterey for a number of years after 1800, and virtually the entire population of Monterey lived within the walls. Even though the outer walls were continually expanded -reaching some 200 yards on a side, living conditions were damp, crowded and unsanitary. Monterey was an outpost, not a town. It was not self-sufficient, as was the mission at Carmel, but still relied on supply ships from Mexico. The Hidalgo Revolt and the subsequent disorders (1810-1817) curtailed those supply ships, and increasingly the mission had to support the civil and military personnel. British, American, Russian, Peruvian, and other merchant ships brought supplies on an irregular basis, as most such trade was considered illegal. A visitor in 1814-1815 notes the population at about 400. From 1810 to 1820 the Monterey garrison, never too well paid at best, received no pay at all. Within a period of fifty years Portola’s royal fortress had become a forgotten outpost of a crumbling Spanish empire. It was during this period (1818) that the presidio and fledgling town were sacked by Hipólito Bouchard, the Argentine privateer.
Beginning somewhat before 1820, a few families, led by Corporal Manuel Boronda, took up residence outside the presidio walls. A few people had lived in outlying ranchos as early as the 1790s, but these do not seem to have been permanent residences. Teresa Russell notes that the Borondas were the first people to build a home outside the walls of the presidio. There had been other grants bestowed in the Carmel Valley, but none of the grantees had chosen to occupy their land. Their adobe was one room. They had an outdoor kitchen called a ‘ramada.’ They wore fine clothes in homemade surroundings.” In 1814, a number of non-Spanish immigrants began to settle in Monterey. But the town grew slowly. A watercolor by William Smyth during the winter of 1826-1827 shows a small number of scattered adobes without any formal property lines, fences, or streets. But by the early 1840s the pattern of the town was laid out and the presidio ceased to be the center of activity. After the American occupation the old presidio was abandoned and a new facility was built near the site of El Castillo, on the hill overlooking the harbor.
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