They fell under rapid decay, and with the arrival of Americans from the East during the gold rush and with the population explosion, they were nearly forgotten. A lot of myths and legends have romanticized this brief period in Western history, which was certainly more drudgery than romantic delight, and yet these short-lived mission buildings and their gardens have maintained a heavy influence which goes on to this day. Some of the designs of Western agriculture set by the missions prosper in modern-day California. The first vineyards were planted by the padres to give sacramental wine, and the first citrus plantations were cultivated to supply oranges and lemons to cure’ scurvy-ridden sailors who docked at California harbors after spending months at sea.
When America started to search for indigenous styles of architecture at the end of the 19th century, the East Coast turned to the colonial past for some inspiration. In the West, the collapsing missions seemed to indicate a native style. In 1894, architect Arthur B. Benton, designer of the Mission Inn in Riverside, and historian Charles Fletcher Lummis established the California Landmarks Club to repair the mission buildings, and to prompt the growing population of its Mexican roots. The Mission Style, utilizing altogether the well-known design components of the old buildings, was formulated between 1891 and 1915. City halls, schools, railroad terminals and museums were built up using arches, pergolas, tile roofs and patios. Irving Gill was the master of this period, though he never replicated the style or its decorative motifs. He enjoyed the missions and the old ranch houses and he accommodated the basic elements he admired. He wrote, “The contour, coloring and history of a country influences its architecture. California is influenced, and rightly so, by the Spanish missions as well as by the rich colorings and form of the low hills and wide valleys. The missions are a part of its history and should be preserved, and in their long, low lines, graceful arcades, tile roofs, bell towers, arched doorways and walled gardens we find a most expressive medium of retaining tradition, history and romance. In coloring and general form, they are exactly suited to the romantic requirements of the country.”
Copyright © 2011 Athena Goodlight