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  • Casa de EstudilloCasa de Estudillo San Diego, California
    The Casa de Estudillo has been referred to as the Estudillo House, which is adobe and set in San Diego, California, and built in 1827 by Jose Maria Estudillo and his son, Jose Antonio. These men were some of the first settlers in the region and the house is believed to be on f the best examples of Spanish architecture in old Mexican California and did get national attention because it is considered to be the house that was written of in Helen Hunt Jackson's exciting novel from 1884, Ramona. The house became the property of the state in 1968 and was added to the National Historic Landmark's list in 1970. The big casa is U-shaped, measuring 113 feet on the frontal side and 98 feet on each of the wings. Constructed in the Spanish colonial style, this signifies that the rooms are consecutively set, with the corridor on the outside and covered; with 13 rooms. The central part has the main entry, which faces west, with the chapel on the left and the right side holds the schoolroom. The two rooms were smaller when constructed, and bedrooms on the outer ends; which were enlarged in 1910, when the two rooms that held the schoolroom and chapel had their walls taken down to do it. There are two bedrooms, a kitchen and living room were located on the north wing with servants dining room and the south contained three bedrooms and the family dining room. On top of the house, a cupola has been built, which allowed the residents and guests a marvelous view of the plaza next door, where festivals and bullfights were held. Jose Estudillo passed on in 1852, and his family continued to live there until 1887, and then moved to Los Angeles, leaving a caretaker to look after the property. Then in the novel Ramona, which had created a rather romantic portrait of the life in California, a national inquisitiveness began to grow; and after the opening of the Southern Pacific and Santa Fe Railroads, encouraged many thousands to head west to the enticing state. The appearance of two railroads caused a price war to start, and the rail fair to Los Angeles from St. Louis, Missouri went to a dollar, and that really helped populate the state. Helen Jackson passed on in 1885, without ever having specifically mentioning where the novel took place, which in turn would cause some controversy as to where it happened, but nevertheless, it was in California, and brought them here to see. In the San Diego Union, in 1887, a front page article stated the Estudillo home to be the actual marrying place in Ramona, even though Helen had never been there. The novel had been fictional, but still visitors came here thinking that it was the long adobe building that had been mentioned in the novel, and one tourist had written the name "Alessandro" on the side of the adobe building, and the caretaker, eager to earn a little more money, sold off pieces of the house for souvenirs; thus causing the building to become more dilapidated. The San Diego Electric Railway bought the house in 1906, that was owned by John Spreckels, also the owner of the Union newspaper, and he had dreamed about making the house the main part of a tourist attraction that would be connected by his railroad. That way, he would make money off the house and the railroad that would bring the tourists there, as well as increasing the population of the city. To further achieved this goal, he hired Hazel Wood Waterman, an architect, to rejuvenate the home so that it would resemble the adobe building that was written about in the book, Ramona. This required the cupola and balcony to be removed, as well as numerous doors and windows; so that the house would look like it was written about. Hazel was as meticulous as possible, in having the house look and feel like the house, but did add some modern conveniences like indoor plumbing and electricity. It was finished in 1910, and then marketed as the Ramona house, which would then become a popular destination, actually bringing in 1632 people in 1940, in a single day. The owner, Spreckels then went on to hire a theater showman called Tommy Getz, to run the property and he enriched the idea that this was the Ramona house, labeling many objects around the building as Ramona's marriage place, and involved printing more postcards for this venue than any other about the novel's location. This helped create a marriage location marketing campaign, and soon there were weddings taking place there. Tommy Getz would eventually buy the house and attraction from Spreckels in 1924.  The novel had made the house so popular and important that it was easy to make it a National Historic Landmark that was titled "Casa Estudillo/Ramona's marriage place", and could have been destroyed with other buildings in the area if not for the designation. Getz passed on in 1934, and his daughter Margeurite Weiss would stay to run the business for another 30 years; when she sold it to the Title Insurance and Trust Company; who then sold it to a local business man that donated it to the state in 1968. 

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  • Western Prince Whale Watching, San DiegoWestern Prince Whale Watching San Diego, California
    The Western Prince tour company takes visitors and guests on exciting and adventurous whale, dolphin and wildlife watching tours from San Diego bay every day, with a special crew that really enjoys their work and associated values that come with protection of marine wildlife. Journey out into the Pacific Ocean, where you can breath the fresh salt air, see numerous mammals like the whales, dolphins, plus sea lions, birds and seals which proliferate the sea shores in this state. The company's knowledgeable naturalists help you understand more about these awesome creatures, their habitats and the necessary interaction between people and the oceans environments. Many of the tours will include visits to the Coronado Islands, which lie 16 miles south of San Diego, but are full of beautiful wildlife animals and birds, all in their natural settings. Part of their fees are given to preserve conservation efforts, and since they are a smaller company, are able to give their guests a more personalized tour. The company started almost a quarter of a century ago in Washington state, and this will be their first year giving winter whale watching trips from San Diego. They have done over 3000 tours to date and include the most memorable trips to view the magnificent orcas, and other critters that help continue the amazing ecosystem that still manages to survive despite the overwhelming fishing and other venues that are changing the sea environment in desperate ways. The charter boat captains have their USCG master's license and are full time, with a great love and appreciation for marine wildlife and the diverse ecosystem.

January 11, 2011