Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Mission San Jose

Located 43300 Mission Blvd, Fremont CA. California Historical Sites plaque number 334 is located on a wall in front of the church building.

The Mission San Jose was founded on June 11th, 1797 by Father Fermin Francisco de Lasuen. It is the 14th of 21 Spanish missions that were founded in California to enforce the Spanish claim to the territory and spread the Christian faith. Check Wikipedia for a complete list of the Spanish Missions.

In their heyday these missions were self-sustaining villages, with farmland and local industry that allowed them to be entirely self-sufficient. The Mission San Jose was one of the more prosperous California mission, and had, at its height, thousands of cattle and productive farm land on Mission-owned territory that stretched from present day San Jose up through what would become Oakland. The Mission San Jose had a successful community of Native American converts to Christianity and experienced rapid growth throughout the first third of the 19th century. Following the passing of An Act for the Secularization of the Missions of California by the Mexican Congress in 1833, the Mission San Jose went through a period of decline. The mission lands were parceled off to private owners and the local native population, no longer held at the mission by Spanish law, fled the community. The mission was eventually entirely auctioned off to private interests. During the California Gold Rush a businessman named H.C. Smith operated a successful general store to supply miners and explorers who were heading toward the southern mines. However, in 1865 President Abraham Lincoln restored the California missions to the Catholic Church and a local parish was re-established. In 1868 a 7.0 magnitude earthquake destroyed the original adobe church building. After the site was cleared a new Gothic church was constructed over the original red tile floor of the mission. In the 1980s a community effort, led by the Sons of the Golden West, was established to try and restore the site of the Mission San Jose to its original condition. In 1982 the Gothic church was relocated to another site across town and construction began on a replica adobe building that was intended to be an exact duplicate of the original. Finished in 1985 it is as near an exact replica as the architects and historians were able to construct. The new building incorporates a concealed steel frame to prevent damage from future earthquakes.

I really like the Mission San Jose. It's an absolutely gorgeous building set in a quiet and secluded corner of Fremont. The church grounds are well maintained, including a cemetery and the original Padre's residence, and the restored church is stunning on the inside. There's a small museum attached to the mission that details the history of the site and the surrounding community. It costs $3 to get into the museum and they take cash only, as I learned the hard way, but it's worth checking out if you've made the trip all the way down there. Besides, paying the $3 is the only way to get to see the inside of the church. One of my favorite parts of this historical site is that, in recognition of the history of the mission, they fly the Spanish, Mexican, Californian, and United States flags from the building.

Getting There By Bike...
This one is a bit of a stretch on a bike, since it's nowhere near a BART station. However, if you're willing to go for a bit of a ride it's totally possible to get to the Mission San Jose by bike. It's even a nice ride through rolling hills on lightly trafficked streets with big bike lanes. Here's how...
-Take the BART to Fremont.
-Leave the BART station, get on Walnut Ave. and head East towards Mission Blvd.
-Turn right on Mission Blvd and follow it for 3.3 miles.
-The Mission San Jose will be on the left.

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