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Photography Gallery - California Missions

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Kenneth A. Larson has a quarter century of experience in design and construction of scenery for the Entertainment Industry and Theme Parks using Computer Aided and Traditional approaches to Design. Also experience in other areas of Design.
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The California Missions - Photography Gallery

All photographs taken by Kenneth A. Larson. All rights reserved. © 2003 - 2011.

Select photographs of my many visits to The California Missions build by Spain and Mexico between 1769 and 1823.

More text and photos at Mission Trail Today.

This web site is dedicated to the California missions and related constructions built by the Spain and Mexico* in the late 1700s and early 1800s. The missions are an important part of California history and it would be impossible to understand the California story without understanding the missions story. Modern California began with the founding of the first mission in San Diego in 1769.

* Most of the missions were built by Spain, however, San Francisco Solano was built by Mexico after the Mexican Revolution.

A note: There are no historical photographs on this web site. All of these photographs are taken by myself, while I feel two hundred years old, I simply didn't have a camera when the missions were built or when most were restored. These photographs are of the missions as they exist today or within the last quarter century. I includ historical text as a summary to give you a quick overview and place the photographs in historical context. There are several good internet sites and books that can provide historic photographs and art work and more in depth histories. I do believe that I have included here more photographs of the way the missions look today than most of the other sites and books. This site can be used as a guide for you and your family to visit the missions which is why I named it Mission Trail Today. So study these pages and web sites by others and pack up your car and your family and visit the missions. All of the missions are open to the public, most daily 10:00 am - 5:00 pm. Many are still in use as parish churches and hold mass regularly.

Mission Map

In order of founding.
#1 #2 #3 #4 #5 #6 #7 #8 #9 #10 #11 #12 #13 #14 #15 #16 #17 #18 #19 #22 #20 #23 #21


About 30,000 years ago, give or take a few millennia, people from northeast Asia traveled across the Bearing Land Bridge into what we now call North America. Within a relatively short time, they had populated all of North and South America and the major off shore islands. They organized themselves into nations and tribes and more or less got along and lived in harmony with the Earth.

While not well documented, it seems likely that Europeans had visited the eastern shore of North America prior to the voyage of Christopher Columbus in 1492. It was Columbus’ discoveries that brought the Americas to the attention of Europe and it was not long before all the major nations of Europe were setting up colonies in the Americas. Spain claimed the most territory including most of the west coast of both continents, what is now the United States Southwest, and the Caribbean. Spain established missions and settlements throughout its holdings for two primary reasons, first, to bring Christianity to the indigenous people, and second, to help strengthen Spain’s claim to the territories also coveted by France, Britain, Russia, and the United States. The famous Alamo in San Antonio, Texas is one of several missions build in Texas. Missions and churches were also established in Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado, and Baja California. A chain of missions eventually extended from to southern tip of South America north into Northern California.

Because Russian influence and settlements were moving south along the west coat of North America, Spain felt it needed to act to stop the Russian encroachment into the area we now call California. Spain already had established missions along much of the west coast of the Americas so in 1769 it extended the chain north, establishing the first Mission and town in what has become California.

Spain built 20 missions in Alta California along with a number of Asistencias and Estancias (Extension or sub-missions Missions and outlying ranches). The chain of missions in California was joined by El Camino Real ("The Royal Highway"), which is the approximate route of modern day Highway 101 along the California Coast. Following the Mexican Revolution in 1821, the new Mexican government decided to build one last mission in 1823 to head off encroachment by Russia from the north. Within a few short years, this new mission and all the others were stripped of their property when Mexico secularized the missions in 1834. This was the end of the mission period.

The missions did not end in 1834. The buildings were used by the new owners as ranch buildings but eventually, most fell into disrepair. President Lincoln, despite pressing issues in the east, returned many of the missions to the Catholic Church, but deterioration continued. In the twentieth century, interest developed among the public to preserve and restore these historically significant buildings. Some are now complete reconstructions, some on new sites. During the Great Depression of the 1930s, WPA projects restored some of the missions such as La Puríísima.

Today, all of the missions have been restored to various degrees. Most are in the hands of the Catholic church, some are in California State Historical Parks. Many still have active parishes and one, the Extension Mission of San Antonia de Pala, still serves an Indian population as the Padres had intended. All are open to the public and should be visited by anyone interested in California history.

More text and photos at Mission Trail Today.

This page last updated 2-2-11

This site maintained by Kenneth A. Larson.
Copyright © 2003 - 2011, Kenneth A. Larson. All Rights Reserved.
Website content including photographic and graphic images may not be redistributed for use on another website.

This site is a light hearted alternative to my commercial design portfolio site. This site's only purpose is for your enjoyment. There is no advertising and I make no profit. If you are in the need of a designer, please check my commercial site Kesign Design Consulting

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