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  1. #1

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    T&T visit Mission San Gabriel 3-5-11

    Tink and I had been discussing this trip for a while. What brought it front and center was our recent trip to the LA Natural History Museum. The kids haven't studied the California Missions yet (happens in 4th grade). They didn't realize that California was once part of Mexico, which was once owned by Spain. To them California has always been part of the United States, and English has always been the native language. We wanted to address that. Before I get to the pictures there are a few things I wanted to say as well.

    The California Mission System can be a very volatile topic. It involves imperialistic colonization, religion, race, slavery, abuse, politics, the birth of one society and the destruction of another. At first I was hesitant to post this TR. When my children are older I will explain the darker side of this system. For now we decided to focus on history. We decided to explain how important the Missions were in establishing cities, and how the history of our state is closely tied to the Mission System. There is no going back. There is no righting the wrongs of the past. What we can do is remember what happened, learn from it, and hopefully prevent it in the future. When my children are older we'll talk about it. For right now, at their age, the focus is on history.

    Many of my friends were surprised that we took the kids to a Mission. Tink and I were both raised Roman Catholic, but we don't practice. We aren't the "Church on Sunday" family. Many family and friends wish we were... but we're not. We're "spiritual" and in that respect we love taking the kids to see the natural wonders of this world. We hope to eventually take the kids to all 21 of the California Missions. We know this will take years to do... but it is the backbone of the history of California. So for anyone concerned about this report, I actively chose to leave religion out of it as much as possible. That said on with the report.
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    Getting to San Gabriel proved to be an adventure in itself. We specifically chose San Gabriel because it was the closest Mission. It is right outside Los Angeles. We headed out sometime around 11am on a Saturday. Traffic "should" have been light. Turns out the 5 was a mess. So we took the 91 thinking we'd hit the 605. 605 was a mess. So 91 all the way to the 710... a good 15 minute detour. 5 was STILL a mess, thankfully we didn't need it. 10 was "interesting"... but eventually we made it. Also of note the Mission is still active. When we pulled up there was a Baptism in the old chapel and a funeral in the new one. The result was a full parking lot and a short walk from a side street parking job.


    My only "complaint" was a lack of signs. We actually walked all the way up to the Mission doors because we didn't see the museum entrance. Overall I can't complain.


    The kids made the comment about a castle. The adobe walls are 5ft thick in some places. The amazing part is that portions of it survived the 1812 earthquake. What you are looking at is the oldest standing structure in LA County.


    a nice little decorative touch


    This is #4 in the Mission System. It was founded September 8, 1791. For anyone wondering the Missions do run up the coast, but they are not founded in a South to North order. The southern most is the first and the northern most is the last... but in between is a LOT of back and forth. To go from #1 to #2 is to travel from San Diego to San Jose... Any hope of seeing these in order was quickly dashed. Our 'system" will be to start with what is close and work outwards from there.


    It took a couple minutes to find the museum entrance. You pay admission in the gift shop

    Free for children (through age 5)
    $3.00 for youth (age 6 thru 17)
    $5.00 for adults (age 18 thru 61)
    $4.00 for senior citizens (age 62 and older)


    Some of the structures are original, some of them are replica. A lot was destroyed in a massive 1812 earthquake. I'll get to it later but on the other side of this gate is the oldest recorded graveyard in LA County.



    large anchor with some history to it. I'll let all of you read about it.


    Showing Tink just how nice our kitchen is compared to what people used to have


    You honestly couldn't tell what was "replica" without signs.






    There is literally history buried all over the place out here.


    A brief summary of the civil history of the Mission. Believe it or not it was President Lincoln who gave the property back to the Church.


    I'm kicking myself because I forgot to photograph the sign. The barrel is original. They found it in the river bed in the early 1900's... they assume it was part of the military history of the Mission.




    Installed 1930's, restored 1970's... the kids had fun looking at all the models. The geographical back and forth from 3 this to # that would make your head spin!


    plaque too faded to read.


    This Mission was the "backbone" of the system. This was the largest of them Missions in terms of property and supplied all the other Missions with a variety of goods.
    "Happiness is a Low Water Level"


    "Creating magical memories and making Managers cry since 1955!"


  2. #2

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    Re: T&T visit Mission San Gabriel 3-5-11



    The numbers alone are mind numbing. The signs, while informative, were a mixed bag. Some were brand new, others decades old. I only photographed 3 of the furnaces because I could avoid snapping a shot of the bottom. Sadly people are such litter bugs!


    Cactus gardens everywhere. I love native plant life.


    Yes... yes that would be an indirect tie to Walt Disney and Disneyland (which was built on orange groves). They also introduced mustard to California.



    There is a lot there to read about.



    This was the site of the original "fountain".



    I remember reading the musings of an 11 Century Abbey years ago. He made the comment that "the kitchen is destined to burn itself into the soil. As we are powerless to prevent it's eventual demise we should ensure that it is built away from the rest of the monastery. Pray that our planning now prevents loss later." From the look of it the monks here had the same thought in mind.



    This is the Quad, which was excavated in the 1930's. While excavating they found the original foundations.


    More info on the place.


    I can't imagine what it was like to actually WALK up California. He is buried at one of the Missions. Eventually I hope to see his gravesite.



    I think Fr Catalan would smile at the first picture!



    Per the docent the vine is dormant, not dead, and they make a few bottles of wine from it every year. The vine is thicker then many small trees. Originally I thought it was a scrub oak.


    Again, not meaning to offend, historical perspective on how important this specific Mission was.
    "Happiness is a Low Water Level"


    "Creating magical memories and making Managers cry since 1955!"


  3. #3

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    Re: T&T visit Mission San Gabriel 3-5-11



    This is a "future display. They are working on restoring it.


    I'm assuming Olive or Grape, didn't say.


    The reflection was unavoidable. They cut the plaster from a section of the wall, installed a frame with glass, and now you see the adobe brick.


    original mill stone excavated in the Quad.


    Another shot of the Quad



    HUGE doors


    taking a break in the museum



    books brought by the Missionaries. Many of the books are older then the mission itself.


    guest bedroom



    always fun to see how they used to make wine.


    'John" is an amazing docent who volunteers his time at the museum. He is a wealth of information about the Mission. He also loves to let the kids ring the bell.


    This is an illustration of the bell they are ringing. I forgot the actual weight, but it is the largest of the bells. The actual tower was destroyed in the 1812 earthquake (which also set fire to the living quarters). I believe the bell was cast in Mexico and brought up.




    This is the heart of the old chapel which may explain how it has survived all these years.
    Last edited by techskip; 03-06-2011 at 04:05 PM.
    "Happiness is a Low Water Level"


    "Creating magical memories and making Managers cry since 1955!"


  4. #4

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    Re: T&T visit Mission San Gabriel 3-5-11


    Native baskets, artifacts from the ranching days, more museum stuff



    most of the books are leather bound and vellum pages (lambskin). It was explained that they didn't have a lot of paper because there wasn't a lot of wood available.


    I'm guessing seats for the priests.
    "Happiness is a Low Water Level"


    "Creating magical memories and making Managers cry since 1955!"


  5. #5

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    Re: T&T visit Mission San Gabriel 3-5-11



    Showing there the bell tower once stood.


    speaks for itself



    At this point we slipped into the chapel. I was hesitant to take photos at first. But then reality set in. This is a tourist destination. It is a piece of history. While I am respectful of those who worship (no services when I was photographing) I also realize the historical importance of this place.




    Me... personally... I'd be terrified to read anything from that pulpit!




    From what was explained to us the entire thing was actually a gift from the King of Spain. The basin, and other articles, made the journey around South America to get here... total of 2 months in a ship.
    "Happiness is a Low Water Level"


    "Creating magical memories and making Managers cry since 1955!"


  6. #6

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    Re: T&T visit Mission San Gabriel 3-5-11




    Impressive entrance



    exterior shots


    This sign would have been EXTREMELY helpful... on the OTHER SIDE of the Mission...


    Up the street this is supposedly a piece of the old Mission wall. Sadly it was closed so I have no idea what the inside looks like.
    "Happiness is a Low Water Level"


    "Creating magical memories and making Managers cry since 1955!"


  7. #7

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    Re: T&T visit Mission San Gabriel 3-5-11

    "John" recommended a cafe down the street to get lunch. Tink and I had planned on getting lunch anyways, so a local tip is always welcome. He didn't steer us wrong. Luna's is a block from the Mission. The specialty is Mexican Food. The prices may seem slightly steep, but the plates are HUGE. We all had an amazing meal for under $40.

    I guess we barely missed the lunch rush. Luna's only has 20 or so tables. If it's crowded you'll have to wait. When we stumbled in there were only 2 other couples in the place. Thankfully they let us stash our wagon nearby (again wasn't crowded) so everything worked. We talked about the history of the Mission and how the Missions played a role in California's rich history. Then we started talking specifically about San Gabriel. Pretty soon the waiter and waitress were chatting with us. Fun facts went back and forth. The kids pitched in a lot. When they discovered John sent us they smiled. I guess John sends a lot of people there way. Towards the end of our meal an older gentleman approached the table. He'd seen us come in, and had overheard us talking about the mission. This entire time he had sat quietly with his wife listening. He was slightly stunned that we had 5 kids, but he complimented us on getting our kids out see California history. We traded a few more facts and then he said something that shocked me. "You make me very proud of my city". With that he pulled out his business card. We were talking to the mayor of San Gabriel...

    I guess there is a plan in the works to lower the railroad tracks. The mayor wants an archeological team on standby. He's certain the minute they scrape the topsoil they'll start finding history. As he put it the whole ground is littered with discarded and lost items from countless natives, monks, travelers and settlers. I managed to say thank you. The whole experience reminded me of stories of Walt Disney. I'm told he had a habit of listening in and not saying who he was until the end.

    After our lunch we walked up the street to a local museum he had recommended.
    "Happiness is a Low Water Level"


    "Creating magical memories and making Managers cry since 1955!"


  8. #8

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    Re: T&T visit Mission San Gabriel 3-5-11


    This is a small museum that covers early life in the area


    [IMG][/IMG]


    The stone tools area was interesting


    artifacts from the Mission


    campaign ribbons and military decorations from a variety of eras


    a carriage



    Artifacts from the "Great San Francisco Quake".



    The back area had even more artifacts from the early pioneer and gold rush days


    the amazing Singer


    it is a replica, but the book that changed how stores do business forever.




    cool old stuff


    This is a brief summary of the Donner party. The frame holds a piece of granite chipped from the "3rd wall" of the shelter. For those wondering, a lean to was constructed against a granite boulder, and that is partly how some of the party survived.


    how Adobe is made.

    They actually sold "Adobe brick making kits" for $2. The kid in me badly wanted to get a few of them. The father in me thought it would be a good learning experience. The husband in me knew Tink would never forgive me for that mess...so we didn't buy them.


    Again filed under "cool piece of history".



    in 1901 they put these bells up along El Camino Real.


    A final outside Mission San Gabriel shot... really amazing place!
    "Happiness is a Low Water Level"


    "Creating magical memories and making Managers cry since 1955!"


  9. #9

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    Re: T&T visit Mission San Gabriel 3-5-11

    I really enjoyed your pictures! I am not a California resident, but live close by and am a frequent visitor. I have been wanting to visit the missions for quite sometime. I agree with you that while there are many ugly events in our (meaning mankind's) history, that doesn't make the history any less important... in fact, probably more so. Thanks for sharing!

  10. #10

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    Re: T&T visit Mission San Gabriel 3-5-11

    Thank You

    My wife and I had debated about the "appropriate age" to take the kids. In the end we decided that my son will be learning about the Missions in school in a couple years. Since the kids are so close in age, what one learns one year the next learns the year after... We felt we should start to prepare them now. There are 7 Missions within "day trip" distance, and we hope to see all of them at some point. Some Missions are well known, some are more obscure... but each is unique and holds its own place in California history.
    "Happiness is a Low Water Level"


    "Creating magical memories and making Managers cry since 1955!"


  11. #11

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    Re: T&T visit Mission San Gabriel 3-5-11

    For little kids I highly reccommend taking them to Mission San Juan Capistrano. There is a little petting zoo within walking distance that they would have loved.

    Not to downplay the importance of Mission San Gabriel -- after all, that's where my parents were married almost 60 years ago! But San Juan Capistrano is also very nice mission and definitely with a visit.

  12. #12

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    Re: T&T visit Mission San Gabriel 3-5-11

    oh very nice. thanks.

  13. #13

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    Re: T&T visit Mission San Gabriel 3-5-11

    Great trip report. I have been to this mission for a funeral about a year ago but because of the purpose of the visit there was obviously no time (nor the mood) to go exploring. The little bit I got to see was interesting and your report made me want to see even more of it for myself.
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