News of the San Gabriel Valley since 1966.


by Joe Castillo

by Joe Castillo

Mission Construction

Inside the Mission …. The Mission San Gabriel has stood the test of time for over 200 years. It has survived the elements, the politics, the people and the progression of civilization. Its resiliency is based on multiple factors but perhaps its strongest trait is the physical construction of the building itself.  In 1937, Henry Whithey, District Officer performed a Historic American Building survey of the Mission San Gabriel Archangel. The survey noted that the Mission was physically located on Mission Boulevard in San Gabriel, today Mission Drive and Mission Road now intersect at the present street location of the Mission itself.  Construction began in 1794 and the Mission was completed in 1806, a span of 12 years.  However, it took an additional 23 years after its founding in 1771 by Padre Somero, to identify a suitable location, and start and complete its construction. Overall a total of 35 years passed from the time the Mission was founded until it was completed. The architect was Padre Antonio Cruzado, who more than likely patterned the building after the Cathedral Cordova in Spain where he was trained. The huge buttresses which are unique to the Mission itself are also used at the Cathedral. Padre Cruzado was in-charge of the Mission at that time, and along with Padre Miguel Sanchez, were the primary builders.  Indians were used to provide the labor but it’s interesting to note that in 1937, Whithey used the reference to ‘Indians’ rather than Gabrielenos’, Kizk or Tongva. He also cited three other sources including Herbert Bancroft’s ‘History of California’, but even then only uses the ‘Indian’ reference rather than any tribal name.  The survey noted that in 1937 the buildings which were intact were the Mission itself, Padre quarters which were converted into a museum and a small shop, an adjoining kitchen, foundations of a tannery, soap factory and smithy. The church was in fair condition and was still in use as part of the Catholic community. The foundations of all the buildings were fieldstones with lime mortar. The walls of the Mission itself were made of part stone, part burned brick, laid in lime mortar and thinly plastered on both sides. The floor and roof were made of wood. The Padres quarters were made from sun-dried adobe bricks, laid in adobe mortar, adobe plastered and white-washed. The original roof was an arched stone roof which was badly damaged during the earthquake of 1803 and was subsequently replaced by a wood framed roof in 1804. Originally, the Mission had a single bell tower located on the North-East entrance to the Mission. The tower fell in the earthquake of 1812, and a pierced wall was erected on the South–West side of the building to serve as the belfry, where six bells are currently installed. Whithey’s survey serves as a record of Mission San Gabriel history and architecture and is preserved within the Library of Congress collection…..

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