Santa Cruz County History - Architecture

Construction Chronology of the Site of Holy Cross Church: The Mission Era
by Edna E. Kimbro

The Mission Era

The Convento

Construction activities atop Mission Hill in Santa Cruz began in 1792 with construction of the adobe convento, 64 varas (176 feet) long and 6 varas (15.5 feet) wide. These are presumed to be exterior measurements. This width suggests a single row of rooms containing a sala or reception room 13 varas (35.75 feet) long and two rooms, presumably for the two friars, each 9 varas (24.75 feet) long, and a large granary, 25 varas (68.75 feet) long. The room sizes may represent interior measurements as they derive from the 1792 Informe. The granary and a palisaded corral measuring 40 varas (110 feet) were indicative of the importance of agricultural production of foodstuffs and the security of livestock. The corredor of the convento was planked in for use as a temporary chapel (1792 Informe SBMA). The location of this building is not certain. However, the convento has generally been presumed to have been located in the same place on the hill, immediately west of the first and last mission church begun the following year as no reports or correspondence suggest any change in the building's location.

The convento was constructed with walls two adobes thick (1792 Informe SBMA). Since no mention was made of any flooring material, it may be presumed to have had a packed earth floor before installation of wood floors in later years. A ladrillo (flat tile) floor may have been installed during the years (1799-1805; 1807-1809) for which scant or no reports are available, however. The roof was flat or vaulted (an azotea), constructed with vigas (exposed beams), planked ceiling above and finished with ladrillos in mortar (probably lime) for half, the rest with bitumen. A parapet wall with canales (projecting water spouts of wood) surrounded the perimeter of the roof. The material of the corredor roof was not specified (1792 Informe SBMA). This roof may be supposed to have been flat as well, similar to such construction typically used elsewhere in the Southwestern United States.

The convento was altered considerably over the years. In 1796, it was heavily damaged, probably by rain and was rendered unfit to use and a temporary wooden structure housed the friars (1796 Informe SBMA). It is suspected that the flat roof fell in as did that of the church. A period of years for which no reports exist obfuscate the details of the convento's repair. Eventually it was recorded as being 70 varas (192.5 feet) long, just six varas longer than the original construction (1835 Inventory BL) It was expanded to 14 varas (38.5 feet) in width, making it undoubtedly two or more rooms in depth front to back. At this time it was described as encompassing 14 rooms with 20 doors and 7 windows. Ten years later it was described as only 12 rooms, ten of which had been allocated to the Padre (Pico and Anzar inventory 1845 BL; Figueroa to Del Valle 1834 BL).

The roof was eventually tiled with tejas (tapered barrel terra cotta roof tiles) and a tile roofed interior corredor facing the patio (north) was added in 1812 (1835 Inventory BL; 1812 Informe SBMA). The next year the sala, or reception room, was floored with wood, reflecting the plentifulness of lumber in the region (1813 Informe SBMA). In 1814 the corredor along the front (south side) of the convento was floored with ladrillo tiles, a material more impervious to the weather (1814 Informe SBMA). The roof of the corredor can be presumed to have been tiled along with the main building; however, it is not specified in the documentation.

The details of the facade of the convento are not well recorded, but it is generally understood from the 1876 Trousset painting (located in the reliquary adjacent the mission replica), and from mission authority Edith Buckland Webb's observations of the northern missions, that the corredor supports were hewn redwood interspersed with a low wooden balustrade. Such barriers were not uncommon at mission period sites, constructed either as low adobe walls, or wood to bar animals from the corredor; early depictions of the Presidio of Monterey and Camel Mission show them. The foundation was reported bad in 1825, the result of erosion (from excessive moisture), and was considered hazardous "by reason of its height," numerous earthquakes having occurred in the year (axiomatically, the greater the height to thickness ratio of an adobe wall, the greater the potential hazard in an earthquake). In 1840, the foundation of the convento was largely replaced by Fr. Real (1840 Informe SBMA).

The 1834 inventory lists the individual rooms of the mission. The following rooms are hypothesized to have comprised the convento: a possible room for a seamstress; one bedroom from the time when there were two priests; sala; storeroom; former office filled with storage; dining room; kitchen; grain husking room; Priest's room; library w/ books, cashbox, expensive cloth, etc.; ironworks storage w/ tools, hides, hats, stills; granary (possibly the first one built with the convento). The sequence of the rooms appears to have been as listed here, but it is not clear how the recordation was done by Fr. Real and Ignacio Del Valle, the secularization commissioner. First, they apparently recorded the rooms behind the church. Then, they appear to have started the convento from the south or front side next to the church as the sala (reception room) usually opened to the front. Completing the front, they may have proceeded to the back where the kitchen would be expected, and ended with the granary at the end of the wing to the west as indicated by the 1854 Black survey.

The Church

The permanent adobe church was started in 1793, located at right angles to the convento and facing south toward the mission plaza. Like the convento, it had a flat roof initially (Fernandez 1798 CASF). Upon dedication in 1794, it was described as 37.5 varas (103 feet) long, 9.66 varas (26.5 feet) wide, and 8.5 varas (23 feet) in height (no indication of whether these are interior or exterior measurements). In the 1793 informe it was reported as 9.50 varas in width and height. As described at the time of dedication, the church was constructed with a two vara (5.5 feet) high stone foundation above grade forming a talus or battered stone base with double adobe walls. Near the time of its demolition, the interior walls were said to be five feet thick, and the exterior ones six feet thick (San Francisco Call Supplement, January 3, 1884). The architecturally ornamented facade and three interior arches were carved stone, probably soft Santa Cruz mudstone. There was a choir loft 5 varas (13.75 feet) deep running along the rear of the church with a stairway for access from the west and a choir loft window (Elliott 1879:4). Sources differ as to whether the stairway was inside or outside of the church: Elliott has it inside in 1879, the dedication description places it outside in 1794. On the Epistle (right side facing the altar, or east, parking lot) side was a sacristy of 7 square varas (19.25 feet) and an office 5 square varas (13.75 feet). Originally these rooms were described as attached to the basic envelope of the church to the east, but by the 1834 and 1835 inventories, there were three rooms located behind the church serving these and related functions such as musical instrument storage. The original sacristy and office disappeared at an unknown date. No period picture depicts the facade of the Santa Cruz Mission Church. The Trousset painting of 1876 represents the building as described by local residents and as a portion of it appeared at that date.

Bad weather, rising damp, the use of an extraordinarily porous stone, or a combination thereof, forced the rebuilding of the facade from the ground up in 1811 and the installation of a tile roof, replacing the flat one (1811 Informe SBMA). The following year a portico was added to the facade (1812 Informe SBMA). The original flooring material of the church as a whole was not mentioned, but in 1812 the floor of the chancel (the area at the rear of the church where the main altar is located and the priest officiates) was reported covered with boards and a new sacristy (probably behind the church where the granary discussed below was located) was built with a wood floor (1812 Informe SBMA). The next year, 1813, the church and sala, or reception room, floors were floored with wood. At the same time three buttresses were built at the south and east side of the church, which were rebuilt in 1824 (1813, 1824 Informes SBMA). In 1833, more stone buttresses were built on the east cemetery side of the church (1833 Informe SBMA). Two buttresses are indicated southeast of the church on the 1854 Black survey.

When inventoried in 1835, the church was described as being 40 varas long by 10 varas wide and high with walls of adobe, covered with tile and ceiling of boards; three doors, three windows with glass panes and curtains. It is said to have had three rooms next to the sacristy, which was 8 varas square. The baptistery was 6 varas square with a room for arrangement of the movable things of the church, 8 by 4 varas (Real and Del Valle 1835 BL). The location of these rooms was not specified.

In early January, 1850, one E. Upton visited the mission church. He described the tower as very old and "crumbled down" with five bells hanging from a wood frame in front. He reported visiting the church and most of its secret apartments including a music room full of musical instruments. He related that the priest spoke only Spanish, was about 70 years old, wore a long gray robe, and lived in the wing next to the church. He said that the interior of the church was visited through a narrow passageway (Upton Ms. 1850 BL).

In 1794, the same year the church was completed, a two story granary was built (1794 Informe SBMA). This granary is thought to have been the long building located immediately behind the church vestry, sacristy, and music room, effectively an extension of the building. It was close to the same width, 10 varas (27.5 feet) wide (using the measurements of the 1834 inventory), and number of stories as the church, and 30 varas (82.5 feet) long. Its foundation was not battered as was that of the church. The weaving room, storehouse, and possibly even the carpenter shop of the same width, may have been originally located at its north end; the record is not clear on these particulars. Also constructed in 1794 were the weaving room, storehouse, and sheep corral with adobe walls, the latter possibly located west of the complex in the area later referred to in deeds as the mission corrals.

Two sides of the future quadrangle appear to have been completed in 1794 and in 1795, two adobe walls were built to enclose it. The church and granary were aligned along the east side with the convento and granary along the south; the new walls formed the west and north sides.

Over the years the church's accommodations for bells suffered various set backs. An espadana (decorative facade extension or "false front," sometimes with openings to hold bells) was built in 1814 to hold the bells, probably above the portico (1814 Informe SBMA). In 1825, the buttresses on the south (front) and northeast of the church had to be rebuilt (1825 Informe SBMA). Later in 1831 they were extended, a campanario or bell tower built atop a buttress extension, and part of the facade was rebuilt again (1831 Informe SBMA). In the same year, a large cross was erected in the cemetery on a raised stone platform (1831 Informe SBMA). In 1840 the tower fell, undermined from excessive moisture at the base from excessive rain and resultant high water table; no earthquake was recorded that year (1840 Informe SBMA). One early newspaper article related that the mission church had towers on both sides of the facade; however, this information does not coincide with that contained in the annual reports (Pacific Sentinel, September 28, 1860).

The Monjerio

The next major building of the quadrangle for which records are extant was the room for single women and widows, or monjerio, constructed in 1810 "double in the square." Prior to its construction the women were housed in a room of the convento (Arguello, September 11, 1798, in Smith, in Coy Collection CSL). The expression, "double in the square," suggests that it may have been built up against an existing building. At 12 varas (33 feet) long by 6 varas (16.5 feet) wide, it was one single room. A latrine or "lugar commun," 10 varas (27.5 feet) by 5 varas with a ladrillo tile floor was located next to it at an unknown date; perhaps the monjerio was built next to it, effectively doubling it? The size seems great for the purpose as bathing and laundry facilities were not mentioned as included.

The 1835 Inventory indicates that the monjerio had a tiled roof (added in 1815), ladrillo tile floor, board ceiling and two doors and a patio 50 varas square enclosed by a wall six varas high. Relative to this enclosed patio, a strong wall was reported built in 1810 at the same time as the monjerio; however, in 1816 a patio with a water ditch running through it for drinking and laundry was constructed (1810, 1816 Informe SBMA). The 1821 informe records "two walls 75 varas long, and 6 varas high, two adobes thick, were raised to make a corner for an ample patio for the unmarried women." This patio enclosure was larger than that reported later in 1835; it may have been diminished in size and the space put to other uses. It seems certain that this patio was located west of the quadrangle proper as several early photographs and the 1856 Miller sketch shows adobe enclosures and a water ditch or drainage running through from north to south, locating the monjerio and latrine along the west wing (Miller 1856 BL). As the convento and monjerio were the only known buildings extant in 1812 when tile-roofed corredores were built facing the interior of the quadrangle, it is likely that the monjerio had a corredor, or covered walkway, in that location.

The Workshops

The dates for construction of the various mission workshops were not reported in the extant informes; either they were considered of lesser importance, or they were constructed during the period for which there are no or scanty reports. They were described in detail in the inventories of 1834 and 1835 and are generally known to have been located at the rear of the mission quadrangle along the north wall and possibly extending down some unknown distance into the northern portions of the monjerio wing on the west and the church-granary on the east.

In 1834 the shops may have been inventoried clockwise in the following order: after the monjerio and latrine was a room for flour sifting; 2 rooms where a native lives (original use unknown); blacksmith's shop; weaving, wool carding, spinning rooms; shoemaker/saddlery shop; food storage room with barrels, etc.; granary; loft with beans; loft with wheat (both overhead); corn granary; granary with hides, skins, metates, wheels stored; 2 mill rooms with molinos de rastra, wheat storage room. Next were listed 2 guest rooms, a hat making shop, "zaguan," a cart gate of 7 varas long with a loft and wood door, roofed with tile (1835 Inventory measurements), to the orchard north of the quadrangle, and a carpenter shop. In the 1835 inventory this passage way was termed a paradise, a covered passage or alleyway.

A second passageway, a "zaguan paradise," is listed in 1834 and 1835, communicating with a corral. It had one room on each side where thread for weaving was stored and measured 7 varas long and 2 wide. The two small rooms, one on each side, were of equal size. This zaguan may have been overlooked in the initial pass through the west wing as it was presumably located on the west side where the corrals were built. (The orchard lie to the north and the cemetery on the east). Following the corral zaguan, a number of buildings were listed that appear to have been located outside the quadrangle proper but within the confines of its enclosures: a roofless room where soap was made; another soapworks room; meat storage room (dried and lard); candle making room; lime storage room; bran storage room; empty room; room where a native lives; 2 rooms where natives live; 2 former chicken coops; a shed used as a stable. Perhaps these rooms were built up against the outside walls of the quadrangle or were scattered around within the fenced areas. For example, in 1879, Elliott's history noted "The remains of the wine cellar are also visible on the easterly side of the hill, below the old church" (Elliott 1879:4). Wherever they were, it is certain that they were inventoried as part of the central framework or "casco" of the mission and not with the Indians and soldiers houses, tannery, etc. outside.

In 1835, the buildings were apparently inventoried in a different order, and measurements were given. It appears that the convento was measured first, followed by the granary behind the church, with the shops following counterclockwise: carpenter shop; warehouse with loft; passageway (paradise) with loft (communicating with the orchard according to the 1834 inventory); shoemaker shop; spinning room with ladrillo tiled floor, workshop and other room with ladrillo tiled floors, blacksmith shop; passageway (paradise) with two small rooms (which apparently communicated with a corral as described in 1834); room with ladrillo tiled floor, room with wood floor; latrine with ladrillo floor; monjerio; room; room with wood floor; room with annex; granary threatened with ruin; and granary.

Using the measurements given, efforts have been made to hypothesize the probable sequence and alignment of the rooms to correspond with the extant maps and plans of the exterior of the quadrangle. Taking these 1835 measurements for the south wing, the front of the church at 9.66 varas (26.56 feet), the length of the convento at 70 varas (192.5 feet), and the length of the granary at 12 varas (33 feet), came out at 252.06 feet, corresponding nicely with the measurement of 250 feet shown by G. Black in 1854. On that map, the north and south wings scale out to about 250 feet in length, while the east and west quadrangle walls are shown as 237.5 feet long. Looking at the west wing of the quadrangle: the end of the granary (33 feet), the length of a larger granary (74.25 feet), three buildings of unknown use at 19.25 feet, 16.5 feet and 27.50 feet, the monjerio with the privy at its side at 33 feet, another building of unknown use at 30.25 feet, and the side of another building of unknown use at 63.25 feet came to 237.87 feet, close again. Along the north shops wing: a building of unknown use at 63.25 feet; 3 rooms 19.25 feet each; blacksmith shop at 33 feet; the weaving room at 55 feet long ; spinning room at 42.62 feet long , the cobbler shop at 16.5 feet, and the side of the passageway at 19.25 feet came to 278.37, too long. From the south to the north on the east or cemetery side: church at 103 feet; granary at 82.50 feet; carpenter shop at 39.87 feet; storeroom/warehouse at 17.87, came to 232.37, close. Some adjustments around the northeast comer may be appropriate.

Secularization/Transition Changes

In 1840, Governor Alvarado terminated the secularization process, finally freeing the Indians from any obligation whatsoever to the Mission (Pico and Anzar 1845 BL). That same year, the church bell tower collapsed from water damage at the base and the foundation of the convento had to be largely replaced. Fr. Real rebuilt the cemetery walls and covered them with tile. He also had an adobe wall, 50 varas (137 feet) long constructed dividing the patio of the quadrangle (1840 Informe SBMA). The length suggests that 137 feet was the internal measurement of the quadrangle at whatever place the wall was located. It is supposed that this wall divided the space around the church and convento from the shops portion. The latter was no longer needed and perhaps already in ruin. Correspondence between Fr. Real and the authorities in Monterey suggest that he had an abiding interest in the granary extension behind the church, which remained standing long after his departure (Real to Alvarado 1840 CASF). There are indications that a blacksmith shop was located in that wing, possibly the stills (portable copper apparatus for distilling brandy from fruit), and that it was used or wanted for use as a stable, etc. (Rowland 1941:4; Real to Alvarado 1840 CASF; Figueroa to Del Valle 1834 BL). In any case, despite the division wall possibly separating the north portion of the quadrangle from the south, the actual pattern of use and occupation apparently disfavored the shops and monjerio wings and they deteriorated rapidly. The theft of roof tile from mission buildings was also a factor contributing to the deterioration of adobe mission buildings in the late 1830s. Mission mayordomo, or overseer, Jose Bolcoff was guilty of the practice (Amador Ms., BL; Real to Quijas, 1843:3893 SBMA).

Next: Ex-Mission Santa Cruz became Holy Cross


© 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.

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