After visiting the Monterey Base and the exchange, we went back to the hall we passed by earlier. We parked at the front and we were lucky there were still some spots left. Deelow and I have visited the place before in 2009, but we did not explore the building itself. So with Deelow, our parents and Sam went down and explored the area. First, we went to the statue of the California bears and took some photos. The doors on the first floor were closed and there were signs leading to the museum. There was a sign saying it is open Sunday to Saturday from 10am to 4pm and the entrance is free. Here is the history of the building as we climb up the stairs.
“Colton Hall was built in the 1840s by, and named for, the Reverend Walter Colton who came to Monterey as a chaplain on Commodore Stockton’s vessel and remained to become Monterey’s first alcalde (mayor) in the American Period.
“It is built of a white stone, quarried from a neighboring hill, and which easily takes the shape you desire. The lower apartments are for schools; the hall over them — seventy feet by thirty — is for public assemblies. The front is ornamented with a portico, which you enter from the hall. It is not an edifice that would attract any attention among public buildings in the United States; but in California it is without a rival.”
— Walter Colton
The door was wide open and we entered into a recreated scene from its most famous history. California’s “Declaration of Independence Convention,” where there was a portrait of Pres. George Washington. The paperworks were in glass cases on the left side of the room. Me and Mom looked around, and here is the history of the convention.
California’s First Constitutional Convention
“Between the first of September and the thirteenth of October, 1849, Colton Hall was the site of a convention called by Governor Riley to draft California’s first Constitution. Bayard Taylor of the New York Herald-Tribune reported that “…the building was probably the only one in California suited to the purpose.”
“In the 1848 Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, which ended the Mexican-American War, Mexico ceded to the U.S. the lands that make up much of the Western United States. At almost the same time, the discovery of Gold at Sutter’s Creek set off an international emigration into California that dramatically altered the social and political character of the region. Californians believed that the United States government was moving too slowly in making decisions regarding the newly acquired western lands. Brigadier General Bennett Riley, head of the military government established to govern California, decided to call a constitutional convention in Monterey, California. He took this action to ensure not only law and order in the new land but also proper representation of the people in Washington, D.C.
Forty-eight delegates, of interesting and diverse backgrounds, met in Colton Hall for the convention. Thirty-six of the men were born in the United States; six were native-born Californios, and the remaining came from Spain, Ireland, Scotland, France, and Switzerland. Their backgrounds varied, but law, ranching and merchandising predominated. Because not all the delegates spoke English, the proceedings were translated into Spanish by English merchant of Monterey, William Hartnell. For six weeks the men worked on creating California’s first constitution. They met in the small schoolrooms of the first floor of Colton Hall on specific issues, then came together in the large second story hall to debate and vote. The work was completed and the final constitution, written in both English and Spanish, was signed on October 13, 1849.
Important issues were debated during the convention. Article XII, which dealt with the placement of the new states’ eastern boundary, took up many days of debate. The Sierra Nevada was finally settled upon because it was felt the mountain range made not only a natural boundary, but also a defensible border. A unanimous vote proclaimed California as a free state, a decision that was of vital importance to the balance of power between the slave-owning states and those, which stood against slavery. The first capital of California was designated to be San Jose. Rights of suffrage, who could hold an elected office, education, and women’s property rights were some of the issues that were settled during the convention. When the constitution was signed, General Riley addressed the assembled delegates with these words:
“I am satisfied now that the people have done right in selecting delegates to form a constitution. They have chosen a body of men upon whom our country may look with pride; you have formed a constitution worthy of California. And I have no fear for California while her people choose their representatives so wisely. Gentlemen, I congratulate you upon the successful conclusion of your arduous labors; and I wish you all happiness and prosperity.”
After the people of California approved the new constitution it was sent to the United States government. It took nearly a year for Congress to deliberate over the question of admitting California into the Union. Finally, on September 9, 1850, President Millard Fillmore signed the documents declaring California the 31st state.“
After looking at the exhibits, I went to see the curator and he was very helpful and knowledgeable about the place. I mostly asked about the building and Mr. Colton’s life before and after the convention.
“In the meantime, the state capital had moved to San Jose as specified in the constitution and Colton Hall was put to other uses. The local school district established a grade school there in 1873 and the building continued to serve this purpose until the school moved to larger quarters in 1897.
Today, Colton Hall is part of Monterey’s city hall complex. The first floor is occupied by the offices of the Planning and Building departments. The second floor contains the Colton Hall Museum which was established by the city in 1949, one hundred years after California’s constitution was created there.”
Here are the links for more information: