Without the efforts of previous preservationists, many,
if not most, of the missions today would be little more than roofless walls
or crumbling heaps; their history-our history-lost somewhere between the
roar of bulldozers and the dreadful stillness of neglect.
The fact that the missions are still with us can be attributed
to the vision of foresighted individuals, several near the turn of the
last century. In 1882, Father Angelo Delfino Casanova, a Monterey pastor,
began the work of restoring that abandoned "cathedral in the wilderness,"
Mission San Carlos Borromeo del Río Carmelo.
Tessa Kelso, librarian of the Los Angeles City Library,
began the first serious attempt at preservation on a broader scale around
1888. Through lectures, photographs, and stereopticon exhibitions of the
then current and deplorable conditions of California missions, she focused
public attention on what needed to be done, and paved the way for the
work of the Landmarks Club.
In 1895, Charles F. Lummis, president of that group, wrote
"In ten years from now-unless our intelligence shall awaken at once-there
will remain of these noble piles nothing but a few indeterminable heaps
of adobe. We shall deserve and shall have the contempt of all thoughtful
people if we suffer our noble missions to fall." Under his direction,
the all-volunteer, privately funded Landmarks Club dedicated itself to
the preservation of these historic places.
Through the years, other names stand out in this most worthy
endeavor, among them, Senator Joseph Knowland for his work with the California
Historical Landmarks League in 1902. Years later other organizations,
including the Native Sons and Daughters of the Golden West, would also
take up the mission-restoration cause.
In spite of these previous efforts, much remains to
be done-from southernmost Mission San Diego Alcalá to Mission San
Francisco Solano in the north. With your help, the California Missions
Foundation will build on and sustain the work of our forebears.