San Diego History Facts and Timeline

(San Diego, California - CA, USA)

Panorama of San DiegoSan Diego was at the very frontier of the first European forays into the New World along the Pacific coast. With its strategic coastal location and superb climate, San Diego has been shaped by power and wealth.

Always at the front lines of regional power struggles, the city has been subject to Spanish, Mexican and finally, Anglo influences.

Spanish Mission History

When Portuguese explorer Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo first sailed into San Diego Bay in 1542, he knew he had discovered something special. He claimed the land for Spain, which many years later began building Catholic missions along the Californian coast. The Mission San Diego de Alcala and Fort Presidio were the first major landmarks built by the Spanish, with both being constructed in 1769. These two wonderful examples of Spanish colonial architecture are still preserved as National Historic Landmarks.

Further San Diego city view

Mexico Wins and Loses

When Mexico gained independence from Spain in 1821, San Diego was in the area that became known as Alta California. Mexican control ended in 1848 when the Mexican-American War saw the city handed over to the United States. The Battle of San Pasqual, a major conflict, was fought on the edge of the city. Visitors today can see the original town settlement at the Old Town San Diego State Historic Park.

The Birth of a Modern City

In the early 1900s, San Diego made history by hosting two World's Fairs. The 1915 Panama-California Exposition was followed in 1935 by the California Pacific International Exposition, both of which were held in Balboa Park, where many of the original Spanish-style buildings remain. These high profile events put cosmopolitan San Diego well and truly on the global map.

Panorama of San Diego

An American Naval Powerhouse

The United States Navy established a presence in San Diego in 1901 at Point Loma. By 1930, the city was home to the San Diego Naval Base, a major hospital, two camps and a training facility. During WWI and WWII, the city played a huge role in providing men and supplies for the Pacific arena. The US Navy remains the most prominent presence here today, although the city certainly has other attributes that make it popular with visitors.

What a Climate!

Anyone who has been to San Diego can attest to its magical Mediterranean-like climate. Its beautiful beaches, unique Spanish-Mexican architecture and wealth of attractions keep it at the top of America's travel destinations year after year. Along with SeaWorld, the San Diego Zoo and the San Diego Safari Park, there are a number of hugely popular attractions in the city, and tourism helps bring many of the 30 million annual visitors to town.

The modern history is still greatly influenced by the US Navy, although the city also enjoys a major economic boost from its commercial sea and cruise ship ports. Downtown San Diego is situated right on the water's edge, maintaining an integral link between the city's top-flight amenities and its long maritime heritage. From almost every district of the city, the ocean is never far from view.