Casa del Oro – Monterey, California - Atlas Obscura
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Monterey, California

Casa del Oro

The first safe in this California town had to hold all the gold. 

The Joseph Boston store, more commonly known as Casa del Oro, was one of the first general stores in the Monterey area.

The building was built around 1845 by Thomas O. Larkin, who at the time was the American Consul to Alta California (California was still under Mexican rule and not yet part of the United States). In about 1849 Joseph Boston leased the building and opened a general merchandise store. He sold a wide variety of goods including silverware, pans, coffee mills, tubs, brooms, walnuts, tea, hams and soap.

The first safe in Monterey was installed in Boston’s store. There were no banks in Monterey and a merchant such as Mr. Boston had to provide his own security for the money that his store brought in. It is thought that the nickname “Casa del Oro” (House of Gold) was given to the store because miners returning from the gold fields would arrange with Mr. Boston to store their gold in his safe. The safe is still there to this day (though the gold is not). Mr. Boston’s original desk also still occupies the store and it is easy to picture him seated at it managing his accounts.

Monterey was an important seaport and the store traded with many countries of the world for merchandise. Russian sea captains, among others, were eager to do business with Monterey.

Today the store is operated by the non-profit Historic Garden League and it offers merchandise such as children’s toys, decorative housewares, stationery, candy and other items all themed to the 1850s. Both reproductions and genuine antiques are available for purchase. The Historic Garden League also operates the Picket Fence Garden Store located next door. Proceeds from sales go toward improvements to the gardens of old Monterey.

Know Before You Go

Casa del Oro is located at the southwest corner of Olivier and Scott streets.