Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Mission San Fernando

Los Angeles County -  July 28, 1997 

To the casual observer 45 light years away, it’s Sunday morning early in 1966 and the garp blue ’59 Plymouth station wagon with the Sanchez-Shield & Penn A/Fuel dragster in tow on an open trailer sits parked directly across the street from what is our landmark of current focus, Mission San Fernando Rey de Espana. You see Sundays at San Fernando Raceway were our only realistic chance at victory as we tried to grab the top ring in the drag racing ladder, and as usual, the disappoints of competing the previous night at the track we felt offered the least resistance, followed by an all-nighter in the attempt to get ready at the garage and a swing by home for a shower and change of clothes with the Plymouth moping by Dennis Sanchez house to pick him up. “Now boys, you make sure Dennis goes to mass today” Dennis’ mom would say. “Yes, Mrs. Sanchez” we’d reply in our best Eddie Haskell-ish voices. However, we actually did honor her wishes a few times and would head out early to catch mass at the San Fernando Mission, donning Pendletons over the uniform of the day of white tee shirts and white Levis.   

Moving forward to 1997, and from landmark #150, the journey is about a football field or the height of the Statue of Liberty away, where the Plymouth parked years before.

The mission was named for Saint Fernando, King of Spain, San Fernando Rey de España,  and was the seventeenth mission built in Alta California. The missions tended to be spaced about a day’s ride apart, or about 30 miles, and while intended to fill the spot between San Gabriel and San Buenaventura, it is much closer to San Gabriel Arcángel. It is built around a quad, similar to other missions, in which the church makes up one corner.. With 30,000 grapevines, 21,000 head of livestock, and the manufacture of leather goods and tallow, the mission was busy in its heyday.

As was the case with many of the missions, the structures began a steady decline when the Mexican government took control of Alta California and redistributed the land. Roof tiles were used for other construction and caused the adobe walls to crumble from exposure. During the mining boom, a story got around that there was gold buried beneath, so prospectors had a field day destroying what remained searching for gold that didn’t exist. As a guess, it was likely that ‘49ers figured that gold from the Placerita Canyon discovery of 1842 was stored here.

In typical fashion, heritage minded Californians have restored the mission to its original Spanish splendor, and then some. And restored again after earthquakes.  

There are a lot of state landmarks in Los Angeles County, and after writing up forty seven of them, it’s time for break before taking on the remaining fifty eight. So, we’ll time shift up to 2009, load up the Montero and head off to Mariposa County central California for a spell.

If there was a plaque it would read: NO. 157 MISSION SAN FERNANDO REY DE ESPAÑA - Mission San Fernando Rey de España was founded by Father Lasuén in September 8, 1797. A house belonging to Francisco Reyes, on Encino Rancho, furnished temporary shelter for the missionary in charge. An adobe chapel, built and blessed in December 1806, was damaged by the destructive earthquake of 1812 - a new church was completed in 1818.
Location: 15151 San Fernando Mission Blvd, Mission Hills Listed on the National Register of Historic Places: NPS-88002147
GPS: 34.272778,-118.461167

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