San Gabriel, in its heyday, was one of the most important settlements in the Los Angeles Basin, both to the Tongva people who dominated the area from Malibu to San Bernardino, and to the Spanish interlopers who saw Alta California as the next Golden Paradise. Mission San Gabriel Arcangel was the most important way station between San Diego de Alcala and Santa Barbara.
I spent about three hours on Sunday, March 23, in the Mission District of this still fascinating town on the eastern edge of Los Angeles County. The arts have become full partners with the lovely and still vibrant Mission, in calling attention to San Gabriel.
This post focuses on the Mission Playhouse, now San Gabriel Civic Auditorium, and the other buildings immediately to the west of the Mission itself. I arrived here about 10 A.M., after a brisk stretch-walk from El Monte to Rosemead and back, about a two-mile rounder. Not much was happening there, but San Gabriel was my goal for the morning, anyway.
The Playhouse itself was closed, of course. Who goes to plays on Sunday morning, even if they are about Padre Eusebio Kino?
Both the Civic Auditorium and Mission San Gabriel itself have miniature exhibits of all the coastal missions in Alta California.
As with so much decorative art, one must never neglect a view of the doors. Those found here, are second to none.
Nor should we overlook the ceiling! This painted design is more modern, of course. The Spaniards opted for wooden beams and other, more simple fare.
The alcoves are among my favourite parts of the missions.
The full story of the Playhouse, and its transfer to the City of San Gabriel, is told here.
Grapevine Park is part of San Gabriel Senior Center now, and as such is only open during the week. It has one of the original grapevines which helped defray the costs of the Mission.
The walls protected the privacy of the friars, back when this was part of the mission proper. Today, they keep Mom and Pop safe from prying eyes.
There is a spot, though, where one is able to get a good view of the California Live Oak, on the Playhouse grounds.
Here is one last view of San Gabriel Civic Auditorium, from the northwest.
Across the street from the old playhouse lies San Gabriel City Hall, built in 1914, in the Spanish Colonial style, on the grounds of the area’s Grist Mill.
Adjacent to City Hall is the Ramona Museum of California History. It’s open from 1-4 PM on Saturdays, but the mural is there, 24/7.
North of the Civic Auditorium lies Bovard-Wilson-Hayes House, home to the area’s first Anglo-Californian settlers. Reverend George Bovard, the first resident of this 1887 Victorian, was the fourth President of the University of Southern California. When he moved to Pasadena, Judge Milton S. Wilson purchased this house. Judge Wilson’s granddaughter, Mary Ruth Hayes, inherited the home and served as a school teacher in San Gabriel, for many years. When she passed on, in 1990, her will deeded the house to the San Gabriel Historical Association. The house is open to the public on the first Saturday of each month, from 1-4 PM.
So, it looks like I will need to pencil in a First Saturday afternoon in San Gabriel, at some point.
NEXT: Mission San Gabriel Arcangel- The Quadrangle and Peace Garden