Estudillo Courtyard

Many people in San Diego, along with much of California, still view the history of the
state and especially San Diego, through the romantic lens created by Helen Hunt
Jackson’s book Ramona. Even as California State Parks and the Colonial Dames
tried to move away from the building being Ramona’s Marriage Place, at the
reopening dedication in June of 1969 it was described as “the casa grande of the
grand don of all the Silver Dons of San Diego.”

Before we began the process of evaluation and removal of furnishings and objects,
the rooms were all photographed by Sandra Williams, a professional architectural
photographer. We felt it was important to have a visual record of how the building
appeared, and how many people have remembered it, for the past 40 years.

La Casa Estudillo Timeline
Due to the large size of the file, please right-click the link and download before opening.

Ramona's Marriage Place: A Brief History (video)


Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Q: How was this project funded?
A: The funding for this project is from voter supported bond funds identified for Interpretive Exhibits in California State Parks.

 Q: Why are you moving things around?  
A: We know our visitors have a special fondness for the Casa de Estudillo.
Our team has been researching the Casa for many years, and we now have the funding to create new, accurate, and engaging exhibits. You’ll even be able to step inside several of the rooms. The furnishings you see in the Casa were installed in 1976 and have not changed in nearly 40 years, while our knowledge of the Estudillos and the Casa has.  Each room will tell a particular story, helping visitors understand the evolution of the house, the people who lived here, and how that reflects what was happening in California.

Q: Who did the “new” research?
A: Scholars, experts, and specialists have been researching the Casa de Estudillo and Old Town for many years. We now have the funding to put that research to work, with new perspectives, we are creating new, accurate, and engaging exhibits for our visitors. If you are interested in seeing the sources that have been studied for developing the exhibits please refer to our bibliography.

Q: Will there be more or better access to the building? If so, who is in charge of it?
A: Part of this project is to improve the access to the building and the exhibits. The work is under the direction of local State Park staff but includes a team of experts (engineers, architects, archeologists, historians) who have addressed accessibility issues at other cultural properties in California.

Q: I am worried that electrical upgrades will ruin the feel of the House.
A: We are adding enough power for visitors to be able to see and appreciate the individual rooms of the Casa de Estudillo and to make sure everyone is safe.

Q: I am worried that adding ramps and other elements to improve access will alter the historic nature of the House.
A: Being a responsible 21st century cultural destination means that the Casa de Estudillo must make an effort to offer as much access as we can. Our very creative team has found a way to help visitors enter a number of rooms with minimal impact on the house. Everything we do can be removed without harming the structure.

Q: Will you offer the use of new technology?
A:  Where appropriate we will utilize modern exhibit techniques to help the visitor “step back in time.” We are working to strike an appropriate balance between visitor experience and modern technology.

Q: How long will all this take?
A: There are several projects going on at the same time that have different funding sources. We hope to have some of the work completed by mid-2014. Check back frequently to see our progress!

Q: Will you offer labels in Spanish?
A: Spanish will be used for a portion of the labels. We also plan to offer a Spanish-language brochure of the house and have some of the period-appropriate audio components in Spanish.

Q: Can I still take pictures of the Casa de Estudillo and the rooms?
A: Cell phone images of the Casa are fine.  No professional photography without the permission. For filming, photography requests, and permission forms please contact the Visitor Services Center  at 619-220-5422 or visit www. or call 619-688-3260.

Q: Will these new changes mean the Casa de Estudillo will charge a fee?

A: There are no plans to charge admission to the Casa. However, we graciously accept donations to support and maintain the exhibits and programming in the park. There is a donation box in the museum. Larger donations may be made to our non-profit cooperating association, Boosters of Old Town. For more information go to

Q: What will happen to the objects that you are removing?
A: Our detailed plan will re-use as many objects as possible that are appropriate to the time period of the house. These objects may be moved around to better tell the stories of the many phases of the house. Objects that we can’t use will be returned to their donor, safely kept in the California State Park museum collections storage, or officially removed from State Park’s holdings.

Q: Why did you need consultants for this project?
A: The project is a complex one that includes accessibility changes, changes in lighting, and an update approach to interpretation. We needed additional help from experts who could focus solely on this project to get these complex elements integrated and done well.

Q: How can I find out more about this project?
A: We will continue to post additional information to our website. We welcome your comments and questions on Facebook or Twitter.