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History in 3-D found in Temecula

For the third- through fifth-grade students who traveled to Old Town Temecula from Mary Fay Pendleton School on Camp Pendleton on May 27, history wasn’t just something they were reading about in a textbook. Besides placing historical events in geographical context, the students were able to see up close, and sometimes touch, objects made or used over a century ago.

They learned that the current Temecula Creek Golf Course was, for thousands of years, actually an Indian settlement. The Temecula Valley Museum houses a collection of stone tools and baskets used by the Indians along with replicas of their stone paintings (pictographs) and thatched shelters. On their tour of Old Town, the students also found out that mules, not horses, pulled the Butterfield Stagecoach because mules were better-suited for crossing the rough terrain of the mountainous areas the students could see surrounding Temecula.

Granite dug out of the nearby hills was used for hitching posts that the students found still standing around Old Town. A lot of granite from that long-ago quarry was sold and shipped out of town on the railroad. The museum docent also explained how train tracks were built through a canyon southeast to Fallbrook (and onto Oceanside), despite the warnings of residents.

The track was washed out by a big rainstorm, but was quickly rebuilt. However the next year, 1891, another flood took it out again. The southbound route was abandoned after that, but people still found their way to the Temecula valley. The docent said that Temecula’s population was about 200 residents in 1900. Visitors could stay at the Palomar Inn which was built in 1927 and considered quite modern with its indoor toilets and a switchboard that directed calls to the 20 phones to be found in the area.

The inn still operates on Front Street which is now the major thoroughfare through town. A hundred years ago, the roads were not paved and people walked on wooden sidewalks to stay above the dust and mud. The students walked on wooden sidewalks too, built in keeping with the historic look of the Old Town area which boasts 10 buildings that are over 100 years old.

The bank is now a restaurant; the general store turned saloon is now an olive oil tasting bar; the Hotel Temecula is now a private home. The old buildings still standing show the students that history is alive if they know where to look for it.

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