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Then & Now: The Mission San Francisco de Solano

A widely-renowned site that has weathered earthquakes, uprisings and collapses -- and still survives to tell it all.

Just in case you fell asleep during an Elementary School history lecture, Sonoma's Mission San Francisco de Solano is the last of the 21 Franciscan missions to be established along the California Coast. It offers one one of the most intriguing glimpses of pre-Gold Rush life. 

Long before our city was built, this beautiful mission stood lone and proud during a time when the Sonoma Valley was largely unsettled. Father Jose Altimira laid the foundation to La Misión San Francisco de Solano de Sonoma on July 4th, 1823, as it was then called.

Later, with the arrival of General Mariano Vallejo and an influx of pioneers and soldiers, the mission would soon see a whole town pop up around its adobe walls.

The mission is also prominent in local viniculture lore. By 1825, Franciscan fathers had begun cultivating grapes to create wine from Sonoma Valley’s first vineyard -- a tradition that no one could have imagined would have a such an extraordinary impact.

When the Mexican government cut mission projects in 1834, the church became a parish church until it was sold in 1881 to Solomon Schoken for $3,000. Construction had already begun on a much larger church not far away, and the building was then used as a barn and winery, among other things.

In 1903 Solomon Schoken sold the mission to the California Historic Landmarks League for the exact sum he paid for it in 1881. And with the help of the state, restoration on the ailing site was completed in 1913 in the wake of the 1906 earthquake.

Today the mission can still be seen daily from 10am until 5pm, except Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Years Day.

For more information and reservations call 707-939-6188.

Richard Arendt February 12, 2011 at 04:41 PM
Just a few corrections to an otherwise good article. First, the correct name of the Sonoma Mission is : Mission San Francisco Solano" -- there is no "de" between the names "Francisco" and "Solano". The correct phone number for the Mission is (707) 938-9560. Richard Arendt Sonoma/Petaluma State Historic Parks Association
Lee Cunningham February 12, 2011 at 05:36 PM
Hey there Richard. Thanks for your feedback! The "de" I was using was not in reference to the Official California State Parks name of "Mission San Francisco Solano" but in fact the historical colloquialism closer to it's original founding Spanish name of "La Misión San Francisco de Solano de Sonoma". Though I must admit it does look a bit un-natural with the "The" in front, haha. Check out Robert Smilie's 1975 writings about the seventies restoration for more info: http://bit.ly/fuWmUa. It's very fascinating. I also greatly appreciate the additional phone number! The one I left is for reservations and special events but I think it would be good to have a direct line to the Mission itself.

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