010. Colton Hall, Birthplace of California

Colton Hall, Birthplace of California The State of California as we know it today began right here in Colton Hall. The two-story building might seem quite ordinary now, but when it was built in 1849 it was the largest public building west of the Mississippi River. At the time Colton Hall was unique. Built in a New England-style from locally-quarried stone, it stood out in sharp contrast to the white-washed Spanish adobe homes common to Old Monterey. When the United States took possession of California from Mexico in 1846, Commodore Robert Stockton appointed Navy chaplain Walter Colton as the Alcalde of the old capital at Monterey. As Alcalde, Colton served as the district's mayor, judge, tax collector and chief legal officer. Colton's driving ambition was to build a town hall and a school house for Monterey, but he had no money to pay for it. He found a convenient solution by taxing those he considered "sinful malefactors" - like gamblers, liquor store owners, and inebriated citizens. The taxes they paid went straight into the building fund. For the workers he needed, he pressed convicts into hard labor as their punishment… a clever approach to keep construction costs low and provide the needed workers. He also hired skilled masons and carpenters. Upon completion of the building in 1849, Colton wrote, "It's not an edifice that would attract any attention among public buildings in the United States but in California it is without rival." Other early Californians agreed. To learn more about Colton Hall and the California Constitutional Convention that was held here in 1849, tap or click the blue right-arrow above the photo thumbnails.