Santa Cruz County History - Architecture

Construction Chronology of the Site of Holy Cross Church, Santa Cruz, Calfornia
by Edna E. Kimbro


New construction activities on the site of Holy Cross Church are expected to involve considerable earth disturbance in and around the former site of the quadrangle and cemetery of Mission Santa Cruz. Historical research has been undertaken to assist in identifying archaeologically sensitive portions of the site in order to avoid or minimize impact on any subsurface cultural resources. The following is a summary report of the initial intensive archival research. Holy Cross Church contracted with the Cabrillo College Archaeological Program for archaeological services. The program, in turn, subcontracted with the author for historical research and report preparation prior to and in order to guide archaeological testing.

Specific research objectives included identification of the corners of the historic mission quadrangle, the location of the front of the mission church and its bell tower, the boundaries of the cemetery and the sequence or spatial relationship of the various historic buildings, to assist archaeologists in identifying subsurface findings and planning their testing program. The research appears to have been successful in attaining most of the objectives; however, the proof of the pudding is in the ground. Furthermore, the sequence of rooms and buildings within the quadrangle represent an educated guess or hypothesis, not a prediction.

Primary documentation consulted included the original mission informes or annual reports which included a section entitled Fabricas, relating the year's building achievements. These were compared with the two secularization inventories of 1834 and 1835, which detailed what remained of those activities. The inventory of 1834 gives dimensions of buildings as does the account of the dedication of the church in the baptismal record. Interestingly enough, the dimensions given for the church length vary from 39 varas long in the 1793 informe and 37.5 varas long in the baptismal record of the next year. The difference may relate to the size of the foundations excavated one year and the finished exterior measurements of the church the next. Alternatively, they may represent the difference between interior and exterior measurements.

Additional primary documentation recovered included historical maps and photographs which assist with placing the buildings of the past within the context of the topography of the present. Materials from the following archives were utilized: California State Library, the Bancroft Library, the Huntington Library, the Chancery Archives of San Francisco and Monterey, the Santa Barbara Mission Archives, the Historical Society of Southern California, Lummis House collection, the Santa Cruz Historical Trust Archives, the Holy Cross Parish Archives, the Santa Cruz Public Library microfilm collection, and Special Collections and Map Room of the Dean McHenry Library of the University of California, Santa Cruz. Research emphasis was upon the nineteenth century, with less attention given the last fifty years of development on the site. Current parish records, for example, were not consulted. Buildings off site, at the Holy Cross School and the replica sites, for example, were not researched. The considerable data collected by the author and others to research the Santa Cruz Mission Adobe under contract to the California Department of Parks and Recreation was invaluable.

The Holy Cross Church site has seen a succession of buildings come and go, with a number of them moved around on the site as needs dictated. Also, parts of the site have been significantly graded on at least two, perhaps three occasions. Considerable effort was expended in locating period newspaper accounts of parish activities which led to building and moving episodes. The data retrieved has been entered into a Filemaker Pro Mackintosh database which can be searched to recover information about specific topics as they present themselves.

Information about the history of Mission Santa Cruz generally speaking and its physical development before establishment on Mission Hill or outside the quadrangle area has been omitted as it is either reported elsewhere, or lies outside the scope of the present endeavors, i.e., is not part of the immediate site of Holy Cross Church, where construction activities are contemplated. The information is naturally divided into the period from 1792 until secularization and the departure of the last Franciscan priest in 1845, and the period following.

[This document was originally prepared for the Historic Preservation Commission as part of Holy Cross Parish's application to build a new Parish Hall.]

Next: The Mission Era


© Copyright Edna E. Kimbro, Reg. Prof., from Historian No. 543. Historical: Architectural: Conservation: Research. Reproduced with the permission of Edna E. Kimbro and the City of Santa Cruz.

View similarly tagged articles:

building construction, churches, Holy Cross Church, Mission Santa Cruz


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