La Plaza de Las Armas
The plaza, called La Plaza de Las Armas, was the scene of Catholic processions, horse races, bullfights, fandangos, and military and political activities during the Mexican period.
The Stars and Stripes was first raised here during the U.S.-Mexican War on July 29, 1846 by a detachment of marines from the U.S. Navy sloop, Cyane. Torn down in the heat of the battle, it was raised again by Albert Smith when a rag tag force of U.S. marines and volunteers routed local troops loyal to Mexico. The flagpole towers over the plaza and tiny settlement. Tradition maintains that the pole was made from a ship’s main mast.
After the war, the nature of public activities on the plaza changed. Rifle and pistol shooting matches, Forth of July celebrations, and mule team races reflected a masculine frontier character, especially during the Gold Rush years, when Old Town became a way station for thousands of young men destined for the gold fields in the Central Sierras.
From the historic plaza you can see the hilltop to the east of Old Town where the original presidio was build in 1769.