Stand on the shady porch of the Robinson Rose house in an old town state historic park and you can catch a glimpse of what san diego was like in 1855. Where artists now set up easels in the plaza, a scrappy group of ranchers, soldiers and entrepreneurs were constructing what would become California’s second largest City. Old town is where the state of California began. Home to the Kumeyaay people since 10,000 BC, the area was claimed for Spain in the mid sixteenth century by Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo. Settlement did not begin in earnest until 1769, when Father Junipero Serra established the first mission at the top of what is now Presidio Hill, Spain’s appointed governor. When the mexican war of independence ended in Spanish rule in 1821, San Diego was considered a Mexican Pueblo, or village. The fort was abandoned and attention turned to more accessible areas around the base of the hill. Homes and businesses began to spring up. With the treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo in 1848, California became part of the US officially achieving statehood on September 9, 1850. The modest village remained the hub of San Diego life until 1867, where Alanzo Horton purchased 900 acres closer to the waterfront for $265, naming it new town. It would grow to become the city and county seat, now downtown san diego. A century later, the california department of parks and recreation established old town state historic park, with more than two dozen buildings depicting life from the early mexican american period of 1821-1872. Five original adobe structures mix with reconstructed sites and newer buildings done in the same style. A major overhaul reinvigorated the park in 2009, balancing authenticity with contemporary boutiques, restaurants and art studios. Many of the attractions are free.