Colton Hall

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Colton Hall
Colton Hall.JPG
Colton Hall from the east-southeast
LocationMonterey, California
Coordinates36°35′52″N 121°53′51″W / 36.59778°N 121.89750°W / 36.59778; -121.89750Coordinates: 36°35′52″N 121°53′51″W / 36.59778°N 121.89750°W / 36.59778; -121.89750
ArchitectWalter Colton
Reference no.126[1]
Colton Hall is located in Monterey Peninsula
Colton Hall
Location in the Monterey Peninsula

Colton Hall is a government building and museum in Monterey, California, United States. It was built in the late 1840s by 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.

Colton Hall was originally a public school and government meeting place. It also hosted California's first constitutional convention in 1849.[1]

Construction of building[edit]

Upon becoming the elected alcalde Colton decided to build a school in Monterey, he decided that it would be in the style of the buildings he was familiar with from Philadelphia and Washington DC, the Greek Revival style. He wrote in his diary "It is built of white stone (white Monterey shale), quarried from the neighboring hill". As alcalde, Colton served as mayor, corner, judge, sheriff, in charge of weights and measures, prosecutor, and tax collector. In order to raise funds and free labor, Colton took full advantage of his "absolute" powers. He would tax cantinas, alcohol and gambling, sell city lots and used the money toward the building. When he found someone "misbehaving" he would arrest them as the sheriff, throw them in jail and act as the judge, often sentencing them to labor on the school. When the building was completed March 8, 1849 it was the largest public building in California.[2]

The scheme was regarded with incredulity by many, but the building is finished, and the citizens have assembled in it, and christened it after my name, which will now go down to posterity with the odor of gamblers, convicts and tipplers. I leave it as a humble evidence of what may be accomplished by rigidly adhering to one purpose, and shrinking from no personal efforts necessary to its achievement.

— Walter Colton, 1849[2]

The Native Sons of the Golden West were instrumental in 1903 in securing a legislative appropriation for necessary repairs on Colton Hall.[3] The building was then registered as a California Historical Landmark in 1934.[1]

In October 2018, the City of Monterey completed a $353,000 renovation. This included a back stairway, deck, courtyard and parking lot. The building became compliant with the American Disabilities Act with the installation of a chair lift and ADA restroom. “'We are excited to welcome all visitors to our exhibits and events in Colton Hall,” said Mayor Clyde Roberson ...“This is a perfect example of a Neighborhood Improvement Program project.'”[4]

California Constitution[edit]

California's military governor called for a constitutional convention, to be held in Monterey's Colton Hall. On September 1, delegates from ten districts arrived in Monterey to debate and write California's first state constitution. The California Constitution was ratified on October 13, voted on in November that year and sent to Congress in January 1850. San Jose was chosen as the seat for the first Legislature. (Officially, a state capital is where the legislature sits; therefore Monterey never was the capital of the State of California.)[5]

Colton Hall School[edit]

Originally built to be a school for Monterey children, it became the district school office as well as a grade school in 1873. In 1897 the school moved to a bigger building nearby. The Monterey Weekly Herald wrote in 1875, "'Surely the children of Monterey cannot fail to imbibe knowledge within such a building, the very air of which is redolent with patriotism and learning'".[6]

Current history[edit]

The most important public office building in Monterey County still in continuous use, Colton Hall has over the years housed Monterey's City Hall, a public school, the county court house, the sheriff's office, and Monterey's city police headquarters.The second floor is a museum which was established in 1949. According to the museum's website it is open for free daily from 10-4pm. A docent is on staff during these hours for information and tours.[6]

Reenactment of 1849 delegates in Colton Hall part 1 - Courtesy Colton Hall Museum
Reenactment of 1849 delegates in Colton Hall part 2 - Courtesy Colton Hall Museum
Reenactment of 1849 delegates in Colton Hall part 3 - Courtesy Colton Hall Museum




  1. ^ a b c "Colton Hall". Office of Historic Preservation, California State Parks. Retrieved 2012-10-10.
  2. ^ a b Conway, J.D. (2003). Monterey Presidio, Pueblo, and Port. Arcadia Publishing. ISBN 9780738524238.
  3. ^ Historic Spots in California, Mildred Brooke Hoover
  4. ^ Hagemann, Hannah (11 October 2018). "Colton Hall improvements finished in time for History Fest". Monterey Herald. Monterey County Herald. Retrieved 11 January 2019.
  5. ^ "City of Monterey MUSEUMS". Monterey City. Archived from the original on 2008-06-10. Retrieved 2008-06-03.
  6. ^ a b Colton Hall Museum. City of Monterey (flyer).

External links[edit]