Why I Want To Hi-Five Clara Barton

Clara Barton

I am in the midst of another round of research, this time looking into certain aspects of the Civil War, when I stumble across a letter written by Clara Barton that makes me wish I could go back in time and hi-five her.

I am sure many of you recognize the name of Clara Barton. Additionally, I would say most of you associate her name with nursing. What you may not know is that she also founded and ran an office which searched for the missing soldiers of the Civil War. Today the building where the office was located is a museum and the museum has made several valuable pieces of history available online for public viewing. Included in these are several primary sources, such as letters written by family members requesting Ms. Barton’s help in locating their loved ones.

This may sound quite sad to read, and I would imagine most are, however, one particular set of correspondence left me with a huge grin on my face and, as I mentioned before, wanting to give Clara Barton a very 21st century hi-five.

The letters to which I am referring include a letter from a Eugenica Hitchins, who is searching for her brother, a letter from the “missing” brother, and Clara’s retort. Yes, retort. It seems this particular brother wasn’t overly bothered with letting his family know that he was still alive and felt quite mortified by having his name “Blazoned all over the county.” He demands to know “what he has done” to deserve this. He goes so far as to say that those concerned for his welfare should simply “wait until I see fit to write them.” I kid you not. Oh, and did I mention, his mother had also been looking for him until she DIED and his sister made a DEATHBED PROMISE to their mother that she would find him?

The beauty, the glorious, fantastic part of this story, however, comes in Clara’s retort. You absolutely have to read it in full to truly appreciate it, but here’s a highlight for you:

“‘What you have done’ to render this necessary I certainly do not know. It seems to have been the misfortune of your family to think more of you than you do of them and probably more than you deserve from the manner in which you treat them.”

Oh and it goes on from there. You can practically feel the heat of her righteous fury simmering on the page (or screen as it may be).

I am telling you, this is a lady I want to be friends with!

SDGQ – McGurck Block Building

McGauck Block Building

Built in 1880, this Italianate Revival building is located on the northeast corner of Fifth and Market Street. Occupied first by a dry-goods store, the building is best remembered for the Ferris and Ferris Drug Store, an all-night pharmacy, which operated on the ground floor there until 1984. According to the San Diego Historical Society’s Images of America San Diego Gaslamp Quarter:

“Many [sailors] who had been in altercations purchased leeches from the store to reduce swelling and avoid getting in trouble with superior officers.”

Another odd bit of interesting random trivia is that Gregory Peck‘s father apparently worked as the pharmacist at Ferris and Ferris for many years.

The ground floor is currently home to the restaurant, Searsucker.

The upper floors were once known as the “Monroe Hotel” with an entrance from 5th street, although I have been unable to pinpoint why it held this name.

The building is named after Edward McGurck the original owner of the building. For further details about the building’s structural details, click here.

Read the joyful history of Christmas in San Diego!

For a different and seasonally appropriate perspective on San Diego’s history, try “Christmas in San Diego” by Bill “Santa” Swank.

Source: Read the joyful history of Christmas in San Diego!

SDGQ – Old City Hall

Old City Hall Doorway

The next stop on our tour of San Diego’s historic Gaslamp Quarter is the Old City Hall located on the corner of 5th and G.

Built in 1874, this building was originally only 2 stories tall and housed two banks before being purchased by the city. The top two floors were added in 1887.

In an area full of interesting, historic buildings, the Old City Hall building draws your eye with its ornate window framing and the columns placed on the top floor.

Maybe I’m showing my lack of architectural prowess, but I’m used to seeing columns on the first floor of a building. Something about seeing them frame the windows that high up, for me, gives the building a regal feeling. They say, “Look at me. I’m important.” Which, with its history, seems accurate.

The building basically became a one-stop government shop in 1891 when the city’s leaders moved in. The Police Department occupied the first and second floors – complete with a jail.  The San Diego Public Library occupied the 3rd floor, while the Council Chambers occupied the fourth floor.

In 1955 someone got it into their head to (in my opinion) horribly disfigure this beautiful building by covering it in stucco. They called it “modernizing.” (Picture me shuddering.) Fortunately, years later, wiser minds prevailed and the building was restored to its original beauty.

Click here to see a picture of the building just beginning to be restored. You will also find additional interesting information on the history of this building.

In 1995 the un-reinforced masonry building was retrofitted according to the seismic regulations of the time.

Old City Hall 5th & G

Doesn’t this fire escape just beg to be used in a romantic movie scene?

Today the first floor of the Old City Hall building is a restaurant space currently occupied by the Florent Restaurant + Lounge, while the top three floors are live/work lofts accessible through the G Street entrance.

History | Gaslamp Quarter


While I could use the research I’ve done to put together my own timeline detailing the highlights in the history of San Diego’s Gaslamp Quarter, why reinvent the wheel?

Follow the link below to learn more about this fascinating part of San Diego’s History!

via History | Gaslamp Quarter.



10 Fun Ways To Enjoy Thanksgiving History


I don’t think it’s any secret that I love history and sharing history with others, and Thanksgiving is the perfect opportunity for doing exactly that. Even better are the hundreds of resources out there for making it fun. Here are just a few of my favorites:

1. A Thanksgiving History Lesson: Fun Facts for Turkey Day!  by Amanda Boyarshinov  

Contains a timeline overview of the Thanksgiving celebration and how it has changed through the years. At the end you’ll find a varied list of fun suggestions for fun ways to continue the learning.

2. Bet You Didn’t Know: Thanksgiving

This fun video is a great quick way to learn what was really on the menu at the first Thanksgiving Celebration, along with a few other lesser known facts.

3. Thanksgiving History Quiz

This quick quiz has some questions I haven’t seen elsewhere and provides little snippets of info after each answer, which is why I’m sharing it over some of the others I’ve seen.

4. Thanksgiving Interactive: Your are the Historian

In this fun, award-winning activity, you take on the role of a “history detective” to investigate what really happened at the famous 1621 celebration. (Hint: It was a lot more than just a feast!) Along the way, you will read a letter written by an eyewitness to the event, learn about Wampanoag traditions of giving thanks, and visit Pilgrim Mary Allerton’s home. As a final activity, you can design and print your own Thanksgiving exhibit panel.

5. The First Thanksgiving

Scholastic has a great interactive website chock full of information, games, and activities for people of all ages. They even have historical fiction letters.

And because Thanksgiving history isn’t all about learning, here are some other fun links I think you’ll enjoy:

6. Top 32 Easy DIY Thanksgiving Crafts Kids Can Make

What Holiday would be complete without a few crafts? As a mother of 3, I am all about the easy craft. I especially love yarn ball turkey center piece that guests can add to with feathers of thanksgiving.

7. Thanksgiving Jokes

Okay, so some of these are cringe worthy, but it’s all clean fun and you don’t have worry about offending Aunt Ida.

8. Thanksgiving Family Games

This page has a generous list of games suitable for the whole family, which are conveniently sorted by noise level and whether they can be played inside or must be played outdoors.

9. Top 30 Bible Verse for Thanksgiving

Whether you’re working on a craft, a sermon, or just wanting to do a topical study. This list of verses about giving thanks will help you get you started.

10. 4 Thanksgiving Food Pranks

For my readers with a mildly twisted sense of humor, I share this how-to video of Thanksgiving Food Pranks. Now I personally wouldn’t recommend the mashed potato prank because someone might crack a crown and there goes your celebration, BUT the rest are too hilarious not to share.

Well, that’s all folks. I hope these links add to both your understanding and enjoyment of this wonderful holiday.

Happy Thanksgiving Image with frame

San Diego Gaslamp Quarter

Locals know this area of San Diego as “the old, pretty place downtown with lots of great restaurants.” Visitors see it as another place to take tours. Neither is wrong, but for history buffs like me, it’s a (less than pure) time capsule of the past – a place where we can walk around and (if we can look past the honking cars, modern street lamps, and scads of modern advertisements) imagine what it might have been like to walk these same streets 100 or more years ago.

Last week I wrote about my visit to the Davis-Horton House Museum. That museum is located within the San Diego Gaslamp Quarter. In fact, it is #1 on the “Architectural Guide and Walking Tour Map” they sell in their gift shop. This wonderful map provides glimpses into the history of the buildings you will see walking the streets of the Gaslamp Quarter. Naturally, I couldn’t resist such find, so after my visit at the museum, I spent some time wandering the Gaslamp Quarter and taking photographs of the buildings I found the most interesting. Over the next few weeks, I’ll be sharing these with you, along with some additional information I have discovered about each building.

Today I begin with building #32 on the map:  the Louis Bank of Commerce built in 1888.

Nesmith-Greeley and Louis Bank Commerce

I spotted its twin towers from down the street and knew immediately that I would be sharing this building with you. I’m sorry to say that my photograph hardly does this building justice.

Louis Bank of Commerce 1888

Is it not a magnificent structure? From the windows to the carvings, to the peaks of its towers, this granite Baroque Revival building commands attention.

In fact, the building itself commands so much attention that it can be easy to miss a very interesting detail of this building’s history staring you right in the face. Did you see it? No? Here, let me point it out:

Louis Bank of Commerce 1888 - Awning close up

That’s right, this building was once home to the Oyster Bar, a gambling house and saloon operated by the famous/infamous Wyatt Earp! While many know of his involvement in the famous gun fight at the O.K. Corral, in Tombstone, Arizona, fewer are aware of the lawman’s ties to San Diego.

In fact, Wyatt and his wife Josephine spent much of the 1880s and 1890s living in San Diego where they bought and sold real estate, and invested in various businesses in San Diego – including several gambling establishments such as the Oyster Bar.