The Junípero Serra Museum, in Presidio Park, is one of the most familiar landmarks in San Diego. As a major symbol of the city, it stands atop the hill recognized as the site where California began. It was here in 1769 that a Spanish Franciscan missionary, Father Junípero Serra, with a group of soldiers led by Gaspar de Portolá, established Alta California’s first mission and presidio (fort).
Often confused for the Mission San Diego de Alcalá, the Serra Museum was built between 1928-1929 for the purpose of housing and showcasing the collection of The San Diego History Center (then the San Diego Historical Society), which was founded in 1928. The structure was designed by architect, William Templeton Johnson, using Spanish Revival architecture, to resemble the early missions that once dominated the landscape of Southern California. The museum is owned by The San Diego History Center.
The Junípero Serra Museum, the historic home of the San Diego History Center, has begun a much-anticipated renovation.
This new core exhibition explores the earliest history of San Diego—the stories of the people that lived along the river’s edge since time immemorial—as well as those that came to settle the area and changed and used the river in order to adapt to San Diego’s arid climate.
The new exhibit also focuses on the Presidio as the site of San Diego’s and California’s original European settlement, one that was an active military garrison from 1769 to 1835. The Presidio and its church complex housed soldiers, their families, craftsmen, Indian workers, prisoners, and others who settled in San Diego prior to the establishment of the Pueblo San Diego (now Old Town) at the foot of Presidio Hill. Historical accounts combined with archaeological data tell of the presence of diverse people from many different social and ethnic backgrounds, surviving in an often harsh environment. Visitors will also be able to step back in time to view the Presidio and the Kumeyaay settlement of Kosaii.
This renovation, eight years in the making, preserves and restores the original architectural splendor of the interior spaces of the museum, and provides visitors with breathtaking views from the Serra’s iconic tower.
This exhibition would not be possible with the support of our presenting partners – the San Diego River Conservancy and State Coastal Conservancy. The San Diego History Center is also indebted to our group of grant matching donors as well the Kumeyaay Diegueño Land Conservancy, and a group of dedicated advisors and subject matter experts who are, with this writing, working to complete this new exhibition.
Current & Upcoming Exhibitions
This walking tour focuses on the Presidio de San Diego, buried underground below the Serra Museum. Learn about the historical significance of this site going back to deep time, how the unique river and marine environment attracted people to the site since the beginning of time. Discover how archaeologists and historians have been able to understand what buildings and structures were there, and reconstruct what they may have looked like. Afterwards, browse around the new exhibition inside the Serra Museum. Hear from Kumeyaay people today, the people that lived along the river’s edge since time immemorial, as well as the stories of people that came to settle the area, and why the Presidio continues to be a significant site.
Please note that at this time the Serra Museum is not ADA accessible. This walking tour will be over several different elevations, consisting of uneven surfaces and paths, some sloped or with stairs, and few with handrails. Please wear appropriate footwear.
Visit Junípero Serra Museum
2727 Presidio Drive
San Diego, CA 92103
11:00 a.m. - 4:00 p.m.
11:00 a.m. - 4:00 p.m.
2727 Presidio Drive, San Diego, CA