Monday, August 13, 2012

Side trip to Oceanside

Want a break from Orange County while barely leaving home? Just a short drive down the I-5 through Camp Pendleton will give you the chance to explore the history of strange and exotic,... (wait for it)... Oceanside!

I'm sure there's a lot more history to see in Oceanside than I'm covering today, but I'm hitting a few of the high points. First, start by following the signs along the freeway to the California Welcome Center at 928 N. Coast Highway. They have both reasonably clean bathrooms and the brochures you'll need to guide you to your other destinations. Pick up whatever pamphlets interest you, but be sure to get information on Mission San Luis Rey, the Heritage Park Village & Museum, and the "Self Guided History Tour of Downtown Oceanside."

Our first stop is Mission San Luis Rey de Francia, at 4050 Mission Ave, founded in 1798 as the 18th mission in California. Its impressive and pristine church was built in 1811, the year before the Great Stone Church at San Juan Capistrano was destroyed in an earthquake. Perhaps finally learning the lesson of its sister to the north, San Luis Rey is currently being seismically retrofitted, which means visitors don't have access to much of the church at the moment. Still, you can get close enough to admire much of the interior details. 
 The view above shows the mission's courtyard. Note the large tree on the right -- It is the oldest pepper tree in California, planted in 1830. Other interesting features include a small museum of mission life, stone faces carved by the local Indians ("Luiseños") by the lavenderia, a 1913 El Camino Real bell, amazing rose gardens, and a well-kept cemetery with tombstones that reflect the whole history of California.

Right around the corner from the Mission, at 220 Peyri Drive, is Oceanside's Heritage Park Village & Museum. Created in the 1970s in response to the bicentennial push to preserve local history, the park features a number of locally important buildings that were moved to the site to keep them out of the bulldozer's path.
They include the Blade-Citizen newspaper building (shown below), the tiny Libby School (1893), the Johansen House (1888) (shown above), and the City Jail. Even some of the towns old lightposts and street signs have been saved and line the path leading into the park. Additional museum space was created out of mock-Olde-Timey falsefronts that were originally city maintenance buildings.

 Just beyond the park's boundaries are the 1860s cemetery where the town's Protestant pioneers are buried, and an early adobe home.
 Next, we drive back toward the I-5 and Downtown Oceanside. Here's where that self-guided walking tour map comes in handy. There's plenty to interesting architecture to admire here, from the 1880s through today.

Some of the cool things you'll see aren't even on the map, but are worth a few photographs -- For instance, the Star Theater on South Coast Highway, with it's amazing neon sign and space-age ticket booth. Now THAT makes me want to see a movie. Unfortunately, it is now a church, so you can forget about that buttered popcorn.
 Oceanside is also known for a great collection of civic buildings by renown architect Irving Gill. These include their Old City Hall (1934), now an art museum; Police Station (1929), now the Oceanside Historical Society Museum; and Fire Station (1929, shown below), which is still a working fire station.
Just across Pier View Way from the Fire Station is a far less-celebrated (but just as striking) string of small 1950s storefronts. You can see part of one of the buildings on the left side of the photo below, along with the sign for another Mid-Century office. In the middle ground is an earlier office block, with the dome of St. Mary Star of the Sea Church (1927) peeking over the rooflines in the background.
 Just north of Coast Highway on Seagaze Ave. is Oceanside's first permanent post office, a 1936 WPA project with a classic Federalist eagle over the door. And yes, there's an original mural inside. The buildings design was at least partially created by Louis A. Simon, who also designed the 1935 post office in Downtown Huntington Beach.
That's it for today. Like I said, this is clearly just the tip of the iceberg. Consider this the "teaser" that will convince you that it may be worth stopping in Oceanside and snooping around rather than just zipping on down south to Balboa Park or Sea World.


Matt Leslie said...

There is another Irving Gill building around the corner from the fire station. It's now occupied by the Oceanside Museum of Art.

outsidetheberm said...

Also in the Oceanside area - and very much worth a visit - is the Leo Carrillo Ranch Park in Carlsbad. The famous actor was good friends with both Will Rogers and Walt Disney. It's fascinating to wander the grounds and see the rooms where this group once played and spent many an evening. It's a wonderful step back in time to another era.

A few days in the Oceanside / Carlsbad area is time well spent. Nice post, Chris.

Chris Jepsen said...

Indeed, Ken. Leo Carrillo's ranch would have been on the list except A) We had limited time that day, and B) I'd heard a rumor that it was closed (or at least a good portion of it was) that day. I will definitely be going back to Oceanside, and that will be on my return-trip list.

Also for Disney fans: Portions of the first season of Zorro were filmed at Mission San Luis Rey in 1957. My Mom, who then lived in Arizona, happened to be visiting the Mission then and saw some of the filming, including shots of Zorro swinging down from the tower.

Matt: Isn't the Oceanside Museum of Art in the old City Hall building?

Connie Moreno said...

Ooooh, this is fantastic!!! I can hardly wait to go exploring!

Ron said...

Actually the Star Theatre in Oceanside isn't a church, it's a performing arts venue. A friend runs the place. It's 99% live theatre.

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