Old Town San Diego State Historic Park Entry Redevelopment Project

Reconstructed McCoy House in Old Town San Diego (Photo by Cynthia Hernandez)

Prepared by
David L. Felton
Senior State Archaeologist
California State Parks

In March 2000, the California Department of Parks and Recreation (DPR) completed construction of the Old Town San Diego State Historic Park Entry Redevelopment project, which included extensive landscaping and reconstruction of the McCoy House.  This project used funding from a variety of sources, including a grant for landscaping work provided under the Federal Transportation Enhancement Activities (TEA) program. A detailed "Archaeological Treatment Plan" was implemented to protect cultural resources present in the project area. The net result was one of the most comprehensive archaeological projects ever conducted in Old Town San Diego.  Read a 1997 article discussing earlier archaeology and planning issues related to the Silvas-McCoy Site site.

Historic Image of McCoy House

San Diego’s light rail system was extended to Old Town in the early 1990s, and a transit center constructed adjacent to a relatively undeveloped area of the park.  The light rail development transformed this area into a major park entrance, and stimulated efforts to enhance visitors’ services and historic landscape authenticity.  Improvements included removal of modern streets, re-creation of historic grades, new fences and other landscape enhancements, as well as reconstruction of the 1869 McCoy House for use as a visitor’s center.  These developments required several major archaeological and historical investigations to provide information needed to design landscaping and the McCoy House reconstruction, as well as to recover data likely to be destroyed by construction activities.

The archaeological work conducted as part of the Old Town San Diego State Historic Park Entrance Redevelopment Project included extensive excavations, and produced large and significant bodies of data and artifacts,

Major data recovery excavations were undertaken Fall 1998-Spring 1999 to clear the McCoy building site of deposits likely to be disturbed by construction, which began in March, 1999.  Additional data recovery and monitoring continued through the construction phase.  Throughout the project, archaeological staff worked closely with planners and contractors to design low impact development alternatives to protect intact archaeological resources where possible.  Staff archaeologists were assisted in both 1995 and 1998 by teams of young workers from the National Civilian Community Corps, a Federal community service program administered by AmeriCorps, as well as by local volunteers.  Archaeological field and laboratory work continued in Old Town San Diego until November 1999.  The entrance redevelopment project was completed spring 2000, at which time the archaeological collections and field records were transported to SACRF in West Sacramento.

Cyrene Cyrene
Vessel: Small transfer printed earthenware plate with maker's mark
Pattern: Cyrene
Maker: Adams, William & Sons, England
Date Range:1819-1864

The archaeological work conducted as part of the Old Town San Diego State Historic Park Entrance Redevelopment Project included extensive excavations, and produced large and significant bodies of data and artifacts. The magnitude of the project and of the remaining analysis and reporting tasks is reflected in the following statistics:

                                         1,301     archaeological contexts (unit/deposit/feature locations)
                                            225     archaeological features
                                         3,000+   pages of field notes and drawings
                                            122+   boxes of artifacts, stored in West Sacramento
                                       12,524     computer artifact records (TMS)
                                       62,000+   individual artifacts

ScrollScroll
Vessel: Transfer printed earthenware plate
Pattern: Scroll
Maker: Morley, Francis (& Co.), England
Date Range: 1844-1858

The Old Town San Diego State Historic Park Entry Redevelopment "Archaeological Treatment Plan"  includes a research design that identifies a series of specific research questions to be addressed using the archaeological data and collections recovered during the project.

DPR staff and management have made a commitment to complete the analysis and reporting required by the Archaeological Treatment Plan in 2005.  The purpose of this effort is to meet our obligations under NEPA and CEQA, to help further our mission to preserve and protect cultural resources, and to make the important information inherent in the raw data available for future interpretation and resource protection efforts.