Stop #401 Custom House The Spanish Mission period began in Monterey in 1770 with the landing of Father Junipero Serra, a short distance from here. At first, only a small warehouse stood here, but when Mexico declared independence from Spain in 1821, the new Mexican province of Alta California increased trade and a larger structure was built. Today, the Custom House appears much as it did when Richard Henry Dana, Jr. first came ashore in the 1830’s. That landing can be read in his book Two Years Before the Mast. Dana writes: “It was a fine Saturday afternoon that we came to anchor, the sun about an hour high, and everything looking pleasantly. The Mexican flag was flying from the little square presidio, and the drums and trumpets of the soldiers, who were out on parade, sounded over the water, and gave great life to the scene. Everyone was delighted with the appearance of things.” Dana was one of many who were trading in the new country of Mexico. Here, the law required all trading ships to offload cargo into this building so that import taxes could be levied and trading permits issued. Then, ships could continue trading in other ports. Monterey’s main export was untanned cowhides for making leather goods and tallow– the raw material used for making soap and candles. Cowhides were often made into leather belts used to turn the wheels of factories in Western Europe and the United States. In exchange, just about everything a Californio household needed was brought to this building by American, British and South American trading ships. Today, the Custom House stands as California’s oldest government building – State Historic Landmark Number One.