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Living in historic Old Town San Diego

Most people think of historic buildings and tourists when they think of Old Town. But people also live in this neighborhood. There is a natural beauty here that made it the choice location for the earliest residents - in 1769, Catholic priest Father Junipero Serra founded California's first Spanish mission here. Today Old Town is appealing to residents for its central location, access to mass transit, restaurants and historic parks and buildings. In 2005 and 2006, California State Parks listed Old Town San Diego as the most visited state park in California. With so many visitors, this is a unique place to call home.

houses on hill in Old Town San Diego
There are newer homes as well as a variety of older Craftsman and Spanish-style and Victorian homes in Old Town with prices that range from the $300,000s to over $2 million.

Historic houses in Old Town
Historic homes in Old Town's Heritage Park.

Old Town is in the 92110 ZIP code and home prices range from the $400,000s to over $2 million. There are craftsman and Spanish-style and magnificently-restored Victorian homes here. The area was recently designated as a tourist-commercial zone. This designation encourages restoring existing home structures and using them for businesses that cater to visitors.

"Old Town is a perfect place to live," said Patrick Looby who has lived here for over 40 years. In 1967 he got a job as a teacher at a school in Old Town - Freemont Elementary. He moved here shortly after. He is retired now and said he never had to own a car living here. "I worked within walking distance to where I live and it's easy for me to get where I want to go," he said.

corn growing in front yard
Sue Lynn Steiner grows corn in the front yard of her home in Old Town.

Old Town is literally the center of town, where all roads in San Diego lead. It is located three miles north of Downtown at the junction of the 5 freeway and Interstate 8. The Old Town Transit Center was built in the early 1990s and the San Diego Trolley was extended here in 1995. The transit center hosts a bus station as well as passenger trains operating on Amtrak's Pacific Surfliner rail route and the San Diego Coaster. The San Diego International Airport is close enough to hear the planes take off and land. All that San Diego County has to offer is easy to access from this neighborhood.

Old Town San Diego park entrance
Entrance to Old Town State Historic Park.

The land, or rather the soil, attracted Sue Lynn Steiner to live in Old Town. She moved here three years ago and lives in a three bedroom, craftsman house that was built in 1909. Her front yard is planted with rows of corn standing over eight feet tall. "This land used to be a riverbed so it has fantastic soil," Steiner said.

The variety of visitors to the area as well as the shops and museums are also reasons Steiner likes living here. "Everyday is a learning opportunity in this neighborhood," she said. She mentions a number of historic buildings and museums close by. There is also the Presidio Hills Golf Course, an 18-hole course located near the center of town.

museum and shop
LEFT: Shops attract tourists with colorful items from Central and South America. RIGHT: Chuck Ambers, lives on Old Town and is the curator of the Casa del Rey Moro African Museum.

Another resident, Chuck Ambers has lived and worked in this neighborhood since 1997. He is the curator of the Casa del Rey Moro African Museum and lives in a house just behind the museum on Congress Street. The museum exhibits ancient, colonial and contemporary periods of African History with a special focus on African-Spanish, African-Mexican, and African-American heritage. Ambers enjoys talking with tourists and students that come to Old Town to learn about the history of the area. "This is the Plymouth Rock of the West Coast," he said. The museum is just one example of the many interesting places to visit in this neighborhood.

The Old Town State Historical Park maintains a collection of 19th century homes and businesses that give visitors a glimpse into colonial life in San Diego. Kit Carson was among the first pioneers to raise the American flag here in 1846. Old adobe ranch homes, schoolhouse and graveyard are spread among the occupied areas of the neighborhood. There are numerous rumors of ghost sightings in the area - most persistently at the old Whaley House Museum on San Diego Avenue.

photo of Building and church in Old Town San Diego
LEFT: Immaculate Conception Churc. RIGHT: Marine Antiques buildings.

Being a popular tourist destination, finding a spot to park your car can be difficult at times. On the upside, there are many regional and Mexican specialty restaurants here with many cooking styles to enjoy. The area also has a history rich in diversity so you can also find early California fare along with Italian, Japanese, Creole, Peruvian, and some really great seafood. There is something for every appetite and budget whether you are a tourist or resident.

Old Town has a great selection of Mexican restaurants to choose from. With all the tourist activity, this is a vibrant neighborhood all year long.

Tourists and mariachis in Old Town San Diego

Copyright 2015.




map link Old Town San Diego

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Old Town neighborhood profile blip
Courtesy Refrigeration