Nov 16, 2019
|Monterey is a city located in Monterey County on the southern edge of Monterey Bay on California's Central Coast. Founded on June 3, 1770, it was the capital of Alta California under both Spain and Mexico. During this period, Monterey hosted California's first theater, public building, public library, publicly funded school, printing press, and newspaper. It was also originally the only port of entry for all taxable goods in California. In 1846 during the Mexican–American War, the United States flag was raised over the Customs House. After California was ceded to the U.S. after the war, Monterey hosted California's first constitutional convention in 1849.
The city occupies a land area of 8.466 sq mi (21.93 km2) and the city hall is at 26 feet (8 m) above sea level.. The 2010 census recorded a population of 27,810.
Monterey and surrounding area have attracted artists since the late 19th century and many celebrated painters and writers have lived there. Until the 1950s, there was an abundant fishery. Among Monterey's notable present-day attractions are the Monterey Bay Aquarium, Cannery Row, Fisherman's Wharf, California Roots Music and Arts Festival, and the annual Monterey Jazz Festival.
Native American period
Long before the arrival of Spanish explorers, the Rumsen Ohlone tribe, one of seven linguistically distinct Ohlone groups in California, inhabited the area now known as Monterey. They subsisted by hunting, fishing and gathering food on and around the biologically rich Monterey Peninsula. Researchers have found a number of shell middens in the area and, based on the archaeological evidence, concluded the Ohlone's primary marine food consisted at various times of mussels and abalone. A number of midden sites have been located along about 12 miles (19 km) of rocky coast on the Monterey Peninsula from the current site of Fishermans' Wharf in Monterey to Carmel.
Royal Presidio Chapel circa 1934. The existing building dates to 1794.
In 1602, Spanish maritime explorer Sebastián Vizcaíno recorded the name "Bahía de Monterrey", which has evolved into Monterey Bay. Vizcaíno landed at the southern end of the bay and described a great port, suitable for use as an anchorage by southbound Manila galleons. Vizcaíno also noted and named the "Point of Pines" (labeled on today's maps as "Point Pinos", the northernmost point of the Monterey Peninsula). All other uses of the name Monterey derive from Vizcaíno's name for the bay. Variants of the city's name (from the Spanish Monterrey) are recorded as Monte Rey and Montery.
In 1769, the first European land exploration of Alta California, the Spanish Portolá expedition, traveled north from San Diego, seeking Vizcaino's "Port of Monterey" from 167 years earlier. For some reason, the explorers failed to recognize the place when they came to it on October 1, 1769. The party continued north as far as San Francisco Bay before turning back. On the return journey, they camped near one of Monterey's lagoons on November 27, still not convinced they had found the place Vizcaino had described. Franciscan missionary Juan Crespí noted in his diary, "We halted in sight of the Point of Pines (recognized, as was said, in the beginning of October) and camped near a small lagoon which has rather muddy water, but abounds in pasture and firewood."
Portolá returned by land to Monterey the next year, having concluded that he must have been at Vizcaino's Port of Monterey after all. The land party was met at Monterey by Junípero Serra who traveled by sea. Portolá erected the Presidio of Monterey to defend the port and, on June 3, 1770, Serra founded the Cathedral of San Carlos Borromeo inside the presidio enclosure. Portolá returned to Mexico, replaced in Monterey by Captain Pedro Fages, who had been third in command on the exploratory expeditions. Fages became the second governor of Alta California, serving from 1770 to 1774. San Diego is the only city in California older than Monterey.
Serra's missionary aims soon came into conflict with Fages and the soldiers, and he moved the mission to Carmel the following year to gain greater independence from Fages. The existing wood and adobe building became the chapel for the Presidio.
Monterey became the capital of the "Province of Both Californias" in 1777, and the chapel was renamed the Royal Presidio Chapel. The original church was destroyed by fire in 1789 and replaced by the present sandstone structure. It was completed in 1794 by Indian labor. In 1840, the chapel was rededicated to the patronage of Saint Charles Borromeo. The cathedral is the oldest continuously operating parish and the oldest stone building in California. It is also the oldest (and smallest) serving cathedral along with St. Louis Cathedral in New Orleans, Louisiana. It is the only existing presidio chapel in California and the only surviving building from the original Monterey Presidio.
The city was originally the only port of entry for all taxable goods in California. All shipments into California by sea were required to go through the Custom House, the oldest governmental building in the state and California's Historic Landmark Number One. Built in three phases, the Spanish began construction of the Custom House in 1814, the Mexican government completed the center section in 1827, and the United States government finished the lower end in 1846.
Construction on the Custom House began in 1814 under Spanish rule. This photo dates from 1936.
Main article: Hippolyte Bouchard § California and Central America
On November 24, 1818 Argentine corsair Hippolyte Bouchard landed 7 km (4.3 mi) away from the Presidio of Monterey in a hidden creek. The fort resisted ineffectively, and after an hour of combat the Argentine flag flew over it. The Argentines took the city for six days, during which time they stole the cattle and burned the fort, the artillery headquarters, the governor's residence and the Spanish houses. The town's residents were unharmed.
Mexico gained independence from Spain in 1821, but the civil and religious institutions of Alta California remained much the same until the 1830s, when the secularization of the missions converted most of the mission pasture lands into private land grant ranchos.
Monterey was the site of the Battle of Monterey on July 7, 1846, during the Mexican–American War. It was on this date that John D. Sloat, Commodore in the United States Navy, raised the U.S. flag over the Monterey Custom House and claimed California for the United States.
In addition, many historic "firsts" occurred in Monterey. These include California's first theater, brick house, publicly funded school, public building, public library, and printing press, which printed The Californian, California's first newspaper. Larkin House, one of Monterey State Historic Park's National Historic Landmarks, built in the Mexican period by Thomas Oliver Larkin, is an early example of Monterey Colonial architecture. The old Custom House, the historic district and the Royal Presidio Chapel are also National Historic Landmarks. The Cooper-Molera Adobe is a National Trust Historic Site.
State of California
Monterey Bay area in 1917
Colton Hall, built in 1849 by Walter Colton, was originally both a public school and government meeting place.
Monterey hosted California's first constitutional convention in 1849, which composed the documents necessary to apply to the United States for statehood. Today it houses a small museum, while adjacent buildings serve as the seat of local government, and the Monterey post office (opened in 1849). Monterey was incorporated in 1890.
Monterey had long been famous for the abundant fishery in Monterey Bay. That changed in the 1950s when the local fishery business collapsed due to overfishing. A few of the old fishermen's cabins from the early 20th century have been preserved as they originally stood along Cannery Row.
The city has a noteworthy history as a center for California painters in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Such painters as Arthur Frank Mathews, Armin Hansen, Xavier Martinez, Rowena Meeks Abdy and Percy Gray lived or visited to pursue painting in the style of either En plein air or Tonalism.
In addition to painters, many noted authors have also lived in and around the Monterey area, including Robert Louis Stevenson, John Steinbeck, Ed Ricketts, Robinson Jeffers, Robert A. Heinlein, and Henry Miller.
More recently, Monterey has been recognized for its significant involvement in post-secondary learning of languages other than English and its major role in delivering translation and interpretation services around the world.
In November 1995, California Governor Pete Wilson proclaimed Monterey as "the Language Capital of the World".
This section relies largely or entirely on a single source. Relevant discussion may be found on the talk page. Please help improve this article by introducing citations to additional sources. (June 2012)
Birds along a rock sea wall near the Coast Guard Station, which borders the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary.
According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 11.7 sq mi (30.4 km2), of which 8.5 sq mi (21.9 km2) is land and 3.3 sq mi (8.5 km2) (28.05%) is water. Sand deposits in the northern coastal area comprise the sole known mineral resources.
Local soil is Quaternary Alluvium. Common soil series include the Baywood fine sand on the east side, Narlon loamy sand on the west side, Sheridan coarse sandy loam on hilly terrain, and the pale Tangair sand on hills supporting closed-cone pine habitat. The city is in a moderate to high seismic risk zone, the principal threat being the active San Andreas Fault approximately 26 miles (42 km) to the east. The Monterey Bay fault, which tracks three miles (4.8 km) to the north, is also active, as is the Palo Colorado fault seven miles (11.3 km) to the south. Also nearby, minor but potentially active, are the Berwick Canyon, Seaside, Tularcitos and Chupines faults.
Monterey Bay's maximum credible tsunami for a 100-year interval has been calculated as a wave nine feet (2.7 m) high. The considerable undeveloped area in the northwest part of the city has a high potential for landslides and erosion.
The city is adjacent to the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary, a federally protected ocean area extending 276 mi (444 km) along the coast. Sometimes this sanctuary is confused with the local bay which is also termed Monterey Bay.
Soquel Canyon State Marine Conservation Area, Portuguese Ledge State Marine Conservation Area, Pacific Grove Marine Gardens State Marine Conservation Area, Lovers Point State Marine Reserve, Edward F. Ricketts State Marine Conservation Area and Asilomar State Marine Reserve are marine protected areas established by the state of California in Monterey Bay. Like underwater parks, these marine protected areas help conserve ocean wildlife and marine ecosystems.
The California sea otter, a threatened subspecies, inhabits the local Monterey Bay marine environment, and a field station of The Marine Mammal Center is located in Monterey to support sea rescue operations in this section of the California coast. The rare San Joaquin kit fox is found in Monterey's oak-forest and chaparral habitats. The chaparral, found mainly on the city's drier eastern slopes, hosts such plants as manzanita, chamise and ceanothus. Additional species of interest (that is, potential candidates for endangered species status) are the Salinas kangaroo rat and the silver-sided legless lizard.
Monterey Wharf and Harbor area
There is a variety of natural habitat in Monterey: littoral zone and sand dunes; closed-cone pine forest; and Monterey Cypress. There are no dairy farms in the city of Monterey; the semi-hard cheese known as Monterey Jack originated in nearby Carmel Valley, California, and is named after businessman and land speculator David Jack.
The closed-cone pine habitat is dominated by Monterey pine, Knobcone pine and Bishop pine, and contains the rare Monterey manzanita. In the early 20th century the botanist Willis Linn Jepson characterized Monterey Peninsula's forests as the "most important silva ever", and encouraged Samuel F.B. Morse (a century younger than the inventor Samuel F. B. Morse) of the Del Monte Properties Company to explore the possibilities of preserving the unique forest communities. The dune area is no less important, as it hosts endangered species such as the vascular plants Seaside birds beak, Hickman's potentilla and Eastwood's Ericameria. Rare plants also inhabit the chaparral: Hickman's onion, Yadon's piperia (Piperia yadonii) and Sandmat manzanita. Other rare plants in Monterey include Hutchinson's delphinium, Tidestrom lupine, Gardner's yampah and Knotweed, the latter perhaps already extinct.
Monterey's noise pollution has been mapped to define the principal sources of noise and to ascertain the areas of the population exposed to significant levels. Principal sources are the Monterey Regional Airport, State Route 1 and major arterial streets such as Munras Avenue, Fremont Street, Del Monte Boulevard, and Camino Aguajito. While most of Monterey is a quiet residential city, a moderate number of people in the northern part of the city are exposed to aircraft noise at levels in excess of 60 dB on the Community Noise Equivalent Level (CNEL) scale. The most intense source is State Route 1: all residents exposed to levels greater than 65 CNEL—about 1600 people—live near State Route 1 or one of the principal arterial streets.
Places adjacent to Monterey, California
The climate of Monterey is regulated by its proximity to the Pacific Ocean resulting in a cool-summer Mediterranean climate (Köppen climate classification: Csb). Monterey's average high temperatures range from around 14 °C (57 °F) in winter to 21 °C (70 °F) during the summer months. Average annual precipitation is around 19.5 inches (500 mm), with most rainfall occurring between October and April, with little to no precipitation falling during the summer months. There is an average of 70 days with measurable precipitation annually. Summers in Monterey are often cool and foggy. The cold surface waters cause even summer nights to be unusually cool for the latitude, opposite to on the U.S. east coast where coastal summer days and nights are much warmer. The extreme moderation is further underlined by the fact that Monterey is on a similar latitude in California as Death Valley – one of the hottest areas in the world.
During winter, snow occasionally falls in the higher elevations of the Santa Lucia Mountains and Gabilan Mountains that overlook Monterey, but snow in Monterey itself is extremely rare. A few unusual events in January 1962, February 1976, and December 1997 brought a light coating of snow to Monterey. In March 2006, a total of 3.2 inches (81 mm) fell in Monterey, including 2.2 inches (56 mm) on March 10, 2006. The snowfall on January 21, 1962, of 1.5 inches (38 mm), is remembered for delaying the Bing Crosby golf tournament in nearby Pebble Beach.
The record lowest temperature was 20 °F (−7 °C) on December 22, 1990. Annually, there are an average of 2.9 days with 90 °F (32 °C)+ highs, and an average of 2 days with lows reaching the freezing mark or lower.
The wettest year on record was 1998 with 41.01 inches (1,042 mm) of precipitation. The driest year was 1953 with 8.95 inches (227 mm). The most precipitation in one month was 14.26 inches (362 mm) in February 1998. The record maximum 24-hour precipitation was 3.85 inches (98 mm) on December 23, 1995.
Climate data for Monterey
Record high °F (°C)
Average high °F (°C)
Average low °F (°C)
Record low °F (°C)
Average precipitation inches (mm)
Average precipitation days (≥ 0.01 in)
Source #1: WRCC (temperature and precipitation 1981-2010, extremes 1906–present)
Source #2: Weather Channel
Main article: Monterey County attractions
Monterey Bay Aquarium
Monterey is well known for the abundance and diversity of its marine life, which includes sea lions, sea otters, harbor seals, bat rays, kelp forests, pelicans and dolphins and several species of whales. Only a few miles offshore is the Monterey Canyon, the largest and deepest (3.2 km) underwater canyon off the Pacific coast of North America, which grants scientists access to the deep sea within hours. The cornucopia of marine life makes Monterey a popular destination for scuba divers of all abilities ranging from novice to expert. Scuba classes are held at San Carlos State Beach, which has been a favorite with divers since the 1960s. The Monterey Bay Aquarium on Cannery Row is one of the largest aquariums in North America, and several marine science laboratories, including Hopkins Marine Station are located in the area.
Monterey's historic Fisherman's Wharf was constructed in 1845, reconstructed in 1870 and is now a commercial shopping and restaurant district with several whale watching entities operating at the end of its pier.
Monterey is home to several museums and more than thirty carefully preserved historic buildings. Most of these buildings are adobes built in the mid-1800s. Some are museums and open to the public, including the Cooper Molera Adobe, Robert Louis Stevenson House, Casa Serrano, The Perry House, The Customs House, Colton Hall, Mayo Hayes O'Donnell Library and The First Brick House. Many others are only open during Monterey's annual adobe tour. The Monterey Museum of Art specializes in Early California Impressionist painting, photography, and contemporary art. Other youth-oriented art attractions include MY Museum, a children's museum, and YAC, an arts organization for teens.
What may be the only whalebone sidewalk still in existence in the United States lies in front of the Old Whaling Station.
Historic Cannery Row
Cannery Row is an historic industrial district west of downtown Monterey. Several companies operated large sardine canneries and packing houses from the 1920s until the 1950s when the sardines were overfished and the industry collapsed. The neighborhood was largely empty from the 1950s until the late 1980s when the Monterey Bay Aquarium bought the former Hovden Cannery and built their cannery around it. The Aquarium revitalized the neighborhood and it is now the number one tourist destination on the Monterey Peninsula. Several of the canneries burnt down in the 1970s and some of their empty foundations are still visible along the oceanfront. A free shuttle transports visitors between downtown Monterey and the Aquarium.
Once called Ocean View Boulevard, Cannery Row street was renamed in 1953 in honor of writer John Steinbeck, who had written a well-known novel of the same name. It has now become a tourist attraction with numerous establishments located in former cannery buildings, including Cannery Row Antique Mall which is located in the most historically intact cannery building open to the public. Other historical buildings in this district include Wing Chong Market, The American Tin Cannery which is a shopping mall, Doc Rickett's lab, next door to the aquarium and only open to the public a few times a year, and some of the water tanks written about by Steinbeck. A few privately owned and operated fishing companies still exist on Cannery Row, housed on piers located a short distance from the historic district frequented by tourists. Cannery Row is now considered the historic cannery district from Foam St. to the ocean.
Lake El Estero is a popular Monterey park. Recreation opportunities include paddle boats, the Dennis the Menace Park (named after the comics character Dennis the Menace), and a skate park designed by local skaters. Birders are especially fond of this park due to its easy accessibility and the diversity of bird life it attracts.
Other attractions within easy reach of Monterey include:
17 Mile Drive
Big Sur Coastline
National Steinbeck Center
Sea Otter Classic
Monterey is the home of the Monterey Museum of Art, its annex museum La Mirada and the Salvador Dali Museum. There are several commercial galleries located in the historic district of Cannery Row, New Monterey and Customs House Plaza.
Monterey is also the site of numerous waterfront arts and crafts festivals held in the Custom House Plaza at the top of Fisherman's Wharf.
Robert Louis Stevenson, 1885
Artists who have made the area their home have included John Steinbeck, who grew up in Salinas and lived many years in nearby Pacific Grove, as well as very briefly in the city of Monterey. Steinbeck immortalized Monterey in his novels Cannery Row, Tortilla Flat, Sweet Thursday, and East of Eden.
Steinbeck's friends included some of the city's more colorful characters, including Ed Ricketts, a marine biologist, and Bruce Ariss, artist and theater enthusiast who designed and built the Wharf Theater.
After Ricketts' death, the new owner of his lab and a group of friends assembled each Wednesday at the lab for drinks and jazz music. While visiting with the group, San Francisco disc jockey Jimmy Lyons suggested holding a jazz celebration in Monterey, which eventually became the Monterey Jazz Festival.
In 1879 Robert Louis Stevenson spent a short time in Monterey at the French Hotel while writing The Amateur Emigrant, "The Old Pacific Capital," and "Vendetta of the West." The former hotel, now known as the "Stevenson House", stands at 530 Houston Street and features items that belonged to the writer.
The Monterey Jazz Festival began in 1958, presenting such artists as Louie Armstrong, Dizzy Gillespie, and Billie Holiday, and now claims to be "the longest running jazz festival in the world" (since the Newport Jazz Festival moved locations).
In June 1967 the city was the venue of the Monterey Pop Festival. Formally known as the Monterey International Pop Music Festival the three-day concert event was held June 16 to 18, 1967, at the Monterey County Fairgrounds. It was the first widely promoted and heavily attended rock festival, attracting an estimated 200,000 total attendees with 55,000 to 90,000 people present at the event's peak at midnight on Sunday. It was notable as hosting the first major American appearances by Jimi Hendrix and The Who, as well as the first major public performances of Janis Joplin and Otis Redding.
The Monterey Pop Festival embodied the themes of San Francisco as a focal point for the counterculture and is generally regarded as one of the beginnings of the "Summer of Love" in 1967. It also became the template for future music festivals, notably the Woodstock Festival two years later.
In 1986, the Monterey Blues Festival was created and ran continuously for over two decades. It filed for bankruptcy in 2012  and was resurrected in 2017 as the Monterey International Blues Festival.
California's First Theater
The building in which the first paid public dramatic entertainment in California is located in Monterey and is called, appropriately, "California's First Theater". In 1847, a sailor named Jack Swan began construction on an adobe building at the corner of Pacific St. and Scott Ave, near the Pacific House and Fisherman's Wharf. Between 1847 and 1848 several detachments of soldiers were stationed in Monterey and some of the sailors approached Swan with a proposition to lease a section of his building for use as a theater and money making venture – a proposal that Swan accepted. The enterprise collected $500 on its first performance, a considerable sum at that time. The primary mediums presented were melodramas and Olios (a form of musical revue and audience sing-along). In the spring of 1848, the play Putnam, the Iron Son of '76, was presented. After the California Gold Rush of 1849, much of the population, including Swan, traveled to northern California in search of riches. As a result, by the end that year, the company disbanded. In 1896, Swan died and the building was abandoned until 1906 when it was purchased by the California Historic Landmarks League, who deeded it to the State of California. In 1937, the building was leased to Denny-Watrous Management, who revived the tradition of melodrama at the now historic building. A resident company was created and named the Troupers of the Gold Coast, who maintained the tradition for over 50 years, closing for renovation in 1999. It is now permanently closed.
In 2005, former movie-theater the Golden State Theatre located on Alvarado Street was refurbished to produce live theatrical events. The Forest Theater Guild produced several plays at the Golden State including: Aida (musical). Grease (musical), Zoot Suit (play), and Fiddler on the Roof. The theater's new owners, Eric and Lori Lochtefeld, have produced several musicals in the theater in conjunction with Broadway By the Bay.
The Bruce Ariss Wharf Theater formerly run by Angelo Di Girolamo, known now as The New Wharf Theater, whose brother had the original idea for a theater on the wharf. "The Wharf Theater" opened May 18, 1950, with a production of Happy Birthday, featuring a set design by Ariss. The theater also produced one of Bruce Ariss' original plays and was successful enough to draw the attention of MGM who brought the artist to Hollywood to work for several years. The theater was destroyed by fire December 31, 1959. It re-opened in 1960 in a new location on Alvarado Street (formerly "The Monterey Theater") and in 1963 was renamed "The Old Monterey Opera House". It continued until the mid-1960s when it fell to urban renewal. In the early 1970s, discussions began about rebuilding back on the wharf itself, and theater plans began to take shape. Designed by Ariss, the new Wharf Theater opened its doors on December 3, 1976, with a community theater production of Guys and Dolls, directed by Monterey Peninsula College Drama Department chairman, Morgan Stock. Located at the northwest end of old Fisherman's Wharf. Girolamo died in September 2014.[