Located between Fisherman’s Wharf and Custom House Plaza, Monterey’s Custom House is a traditionally styled Mexican adobe structure. It was used by the Mexican government (1821-1846) for the collection of taxes imposed on foreign merchants.
The current building dates from an extensive renovation of an earlier building — erected in perhaps the early 1820s — done by Thomas Larkin in 1841, but it is likely that some even earlier buildings must have stood in the area, so close to Monterey’s prime landing beach. Drawings made during the 1792 Vancouver expedition show a building in this area, and archaeological investigations in 1991 revealed foundations from an earlier structure immediately the south of the existing building.
Larkin also improved the rough wharf in 1846; later landfill over the decades has pushed the shoreline back from Custom House, which once stood virtually over the water. In 1889, the railroad was extended from Monterey to Pacific Grove, and the tracks were laid between the building and the water.
The building was again restored, in the early 1900s, by the Native Sons of the Golden West. Today it is acknowledged as the oldest government building in California, and bears the title of “State Historic Monument No. 1.” Exhibits recall the goods brought into Mexican-era California by trading sea captains and the commerce known as the “hide and tallow” trade.