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Footsteps of History

The California Missions

Sonoma

San Francisco Solano Mission
San Francisco Solano Mission
21st Mission
State Historic Landmark Number 3

Naming of Mission:
The mission was named after Father San Francisco Solano, a 17th century missionary to Peru.

Location:
between Santa Rosa and Napa on State Highway 12

History:

Father Jose Altimira at Mission Dolores in San Francisco wanted to build a mission further north where the weather was not so damp. He thought the Indians here were becoming sick due to this type of weather. Many of the Indians in this area were sent to more southern missions to help their health improve. The Father petitioned the administrator of the missions for the founding of a new mission, but his request was not approved.
better. He felt that the poor health of many of the Indians was caused by the foggy, damp weather. The Governor at the time, Luis Arguello, felt that a more northern mission would help to slow down the presence of the Russians. He was able to influence Father Presidente Sarria to authorize the building of this new mission. Though he first looked in the Petaluma area, more adequate water was found in the Sonoma Valley near an underground spring. The abundance of good water and better weather with a longer growing season would make this a good spot for the new mission. Father Altimira founded the San Francisco Solano mission on 4 July 1823. Other nearby missions helped with supplies at first until the mission could become self sufficient.

The construction was finally started in October of 1823. The Miwok Indians came back to help with the building of the mission. They erected a temporary chapel with logs and a thatch roof. The chapel was dedicated on 4 April 1824. Gradually other adobe buildings were built. Father Altimira ran the mission well, but was not good with the local Indians. There began to be some trouble at the mission and finally, in 1826, some of the harvest was stolen and some of the wooden buildings were burned. Father Altimira did not feel he could stay and asked to be transferred. He later returned to his native Spain.

The priest chosen to replace him was Father Buenaventura Fortuni. He was much older, but was able to bring the mission back into harmony. By 1832, the mission had become self-supporting and thriving. The mission consisted of a large adobe church and a 27 room building to house the priest and guests. There were workshops and livings quarters for the Indians people who lived at the mission. Outside the compound, there were many of the places which assisted the mission to self-sufficiency, such as orchards, vineyards, a gristmill, a cemetery and an infirmary. They had over 10,000 acres of land for grazing and crops. The mission had 5,000 sheep and 2,000 head of cattle. Though it was the last of the missions, it finally became the most successful of them all.

When Father Fortuni needed to transfer to a mission where his duties could be shared, he was replaced in 1933 with Father Gutierrez. A short time later, in 1834, the missions were secularized. Governor Figueroa sent General Mariano Guadalupe Vallejo to be the area military commander and direct the area as it changed from the Church to the public. He was also granted 44,000 acres for his own private ranch. General Vallejo and his group lived there at the mission for a number of years. The town of Sonoma was also developed nearby. Foreign carpenters began to enter the area after the Mexican government freed the ports. To find building materials, these carpenters began to take apart the mission with the red roof tiles being the first items to go. Only a few rooms were left intact. When the original church fell in during the late 1830's, a smaller chapel was built in 1841. In 1881, the mission was sold to Solomon Schoken. The people felt the church was too cold and damp and didn't want to meet there anymore. It was then used as a barn, winery, blacksmith shop and hennery. Mr. Schoken sold the mission to the California Landmarks League and in 1906, it was donated to the state for restoration.

Several earthquakes in the early 1900's sent the remaining buildings to the ground, but restoration began anyway starting in 1909. The Historic Landmarks League worked hard to make restorations. The League turned the property over to the state when they completed their work in 1926. Gradual restoration began over the years with much of the work completed by the 1940's. The mission is now part of the Sonoma State Historic Park and is listed as State Historic Landmark Number 3.

Contact the Mission:

San Francisco Solano Mission
20 E. Spain Street
Sonoma, CA 95476
Mailing address:
114 East Spain Street
Sonoma, CA 95476
Open 10:00 am-5:00 pm
School Tour Reservations (707) 938-1519

Mission Trivia:

Mission San Francisco Solano was the last of the 21 California missions to be built.

This is the only California mission built during the Mexican rule.

The mission is California State Historic Landmark No. 3

Mission Links:

Great pictures of the Mission

More information on the mission

California Missions


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This page was last updated on 28 June 2012 at 12:47 pm

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