2727 Presidio Drive, Old Town
How is it that even locals confuse the stately Serra Museum overlooking Old Town with an 18th-century California mission? Well, for one thing, it really does look like a historic mission. The prominent bell tower, thick white walls, and graceful arches along the loggia mimic traditional mission architecture. To further confuse matters, the Serra Museum is located near the site of the first Spanish mission in California, which was left in ruins after Mission San Diego de Alcala moved inland in 1774. The mission-like structure that now looms above Old Town was the brainchild of wealthy merchant and philanthropist George Marston. During the 1920s he commissioned architect William Templeton Johnson, who also worked on Balboa Park, to create a building that commemorated San Diego's Spanish heritage. The solemn, wood-beamed sanctuary still serves as a museum displaying artifacts of the region's Kumeyaay Indians, and can be rented for private parties.