After exploring the mission and its grounds, Deelow and I decided to walk around this small town. You can easily tell its old because of the small streets, which some seemed to lead to nowhere while the houses vary from different decades and maybe even centuries.
“During the mid to late 1700s, Spanish land holdings in the New World began to shift northward–up from New Spain (today Mexico). A series of military and religious endeavors eventually led to the establishment of a chain of 21 Spanish-Catholic missions along the western coast of California. Padre Fermin Francisco de Lasuen founded the 15th of these, the San Juan Bautista Mission, on June 24, 1797.
The padre chose the area because of its proximity to a large American Indian population, and soon over 1,200 native people were living, working, and worshiping at the San Juan Bautista Mission.
After Mexico gained its independence from Spain, a new law provided for the secularization of all the California missions. In 1835, José Tiburcio Castro, a former Spanish soldier, became the civil administrator of the San Juan Bautista mission’s land. Castro divided his new, extensive landholdings and auctioned most of his land off to friends, neighbors, and relatives.”
“Built in 1839-1841 for Castro’s son, José Antonio Castro, the José Castro House, which still sits on the plaza today, served as the judicial and administrative-headquarters of a district that included the entire northern half of Alta California. José Antonio Castro would eventually serve as acting governor of Alta California and commandante general of the Mexican army during the Mexican-American war.
In 1848, the Breen family purchased the house. The family arrived in California as survivors of the ill-fated Donner Party – the expedition over the Sierra Nevada Mountains that was stranded in blizzard conditions without supplies for 111 days. Members of the Breen family owned and occupied the house from its purchase until 1933 when it became part of the California State Historic Park System. The house known today as the Castro-Breen House has interior accurately furnished in the style of the original Breen tenure.”
The house seemed to be in a bad state and badly needed repair and renovation. We walked along the main street and took more pictures of the old building, So let’s go on with the history and the other important buildings in the town.
“The 1850s through mid 1870s were a time of great economic prosperity for San Juan Bautista. The California hide and tallow trade were booming as well as the mining industry due to the discovery of gold and silver in the mountains. San Juan Bautista was en route between the major hubs of San Francisco and Los Angeles, and was a primary supply center for travelers from Hollister, Watsonville, Monterey and Santa Cruz. The Plaza Hotel (1858), Plaza Stables (1861), and the Zanetta House/Plaza Hall (1868) were all constructed during this period to meet new demands on the small city.
Seven different stage lines ran coaches through San Juan Bautista, bringing traders, business-folk and travelers through the town in great numbers, daily. Angelo Zanetta, a seasoned Mexican businessman, constructed the new buildings on the plaza, the last of which, the Zanetta House, housed his family on the ground floor. The upper story consists of a long, open hall built over 30-foot-long redwood beams. Noted early on for its excellent “spring,” this floor became a popular dance venue. The Plaza Hall hosted many grand balls, events, and gatherings over the years.:
Here is more information about certain buildings in the area. The entire details about the buildings are not posted here, but instead it’s in the link at the end.
“The first level of the Plaza Hotel was constructed out of adobe in 1792, five years before Mission San Juan Bautista was founded, by the Franciscan padres to house Native American converts and laborers.
It was used from 1813-1814 as barracks for Spanish soldiers stationed as guards at the mission. It then became the family home of the Anzar’s. Subsequently, they then moved and rented the home to the merchandising firm of McMahon and Griffin.
In 1853 Angelo Zanetta purchased the home from a trustee of the Anzar estate. He had the roof torn off and remodeled the building, adding a second story with a veranda facing the Plaza and extending the length of the building. On festival days this veranda would be occupied by spectators watching the heroic acts of horsemanship displayed on the Plaza below. Bull and bear fights were also featured there. June 24th, St. John’s Day, was always the scene of the largest event as St. John is the patron saint to the town. The grand opening was on June 24, 1856, with as many as 5000 people in attendance.
The Plaza Hotel was noted for its fine cuisine throughout the state as many stagecoach lines maintained stations in San Juan Bautista through the 1870’s. Often there would be as many as five seating’s for dinner. It became the headquarters for traders of livestock from wide and far. W.S. Hayden bought the hotel from Angelo Zanetta in 1894 and then sold it in 1905 to Antione Taix. Today the hotel may be viewed by visitors to the San Juan Bautista State Park.”
“This two-story adobe with balcony was built in 1838 by Jose Tiburcio Castro, a former Spanish soldier, for his son Jose Antonio Castro. It was to serve as the Judicial and Administrative Headquarters for the Northern District of Alta California, Mexico. Jose Antonio Castro became a Commandante-General in the Mexican Army during the Mexican-American War, and would eventually serve as Acting Governor of Alta California. The building is an outstanding and little-altered example of a Monterey Colonial House.”
“Plaza Hall was originally erected in 1815 as a one-story adobe building to house the unmarried Indian girls of the mission. In 1868 Angelo Zanetta purchased it and proceeded to remodel the building which was in a ruinous state. He tore down the building and reused the good adobe brick for the outer walls of the present two story Plaza Hall. The new second story was of frame construction, with a fake front and a two-story veranda of the facade facing the plaza itself. The hope was that the Plaza Hall would be the County Courthouse. However, when Hollister became San Benito County’s Seat, Zanetta remodeled the building to be his family home.”
Plaza Livery Stable
“The Zanetta Stable housed the horses of such famous men in the past as President U. S. Grant, John Vincent Astor, Leland Stanford and countless others who had stopped over at equally-famed Plaza Hotel.
Having had a variety of uses and names from the Plaza Livery, Zanetta Stables, and later Plaza Garage, it is now called the Plaza Stables, and was used in a scene from Alfred Hitchcock’s thriller Vertigo with Jimmy Stewart and Kim Novak.
To this day the State Park maintains a large assortment of carriages and wagons in the stable. Located behind it are historical replicates of repair workshops once used for manufacturing farm and carriage equipment. Wheelrights, blacksmiths and horseshoers would ply their trades there.”
“This 1840 two-story Monterey-style adobe first operated as a tavern, and the upstairs was used as a dance hall. Then the building became Adolphe Vache’s bakery. In 1860, the property also included a house, stable, shed and well. In the 1880’s the building became the Lavagnino family general store, which the family ran for over fifty years. Three generations of Lavagnino’s lived above the market in the Tuccoletta Hall.
There is a cantilevered, full-width front balcony that is sheltered by the principal roof and the exterior of the building is clad with plaster. Polished marble veneers from the 1920’s lie under the front windows on the first floor and there are two main entries; one is centered on the Third Street side of the building and the other is on Washington Street. The south end of the first floor was enclosed during the 1910’s in order to house the first telephone exchange in San Juan.
Several grocery stores have operated in the building throughout the 1900’s including Quality Market, Plaza Market, Bonfante Market, and Louie’s Market, and rooms were rented upstairs. Today, the upstairs has been converted to apartments and the bottom of the building houses several unique retail shops.“
Giacomo Ramoni Building
“Built of locally quarried sandstone in 1871, this two-story sandstone commercial building originally was the French Hotel, a saloon run by Gacino Bernardo and a barbershop run by Giacomo Ramoni. The building is a wood frame structural system with a sandstone foundation and the exterior is made of locally quarried sandstone with textured stucco. Giacomo Ramoni built the building after the 1867 fire that destroyed most of the block. There are three French doors on the second floor flanked by floor-length wood shutters and there are wall-mounted metal light fixtures at the first story.
In February 1873 the building, known as the Stone Hotel, was sold by Bernardo and Ramoni to James McMahon. In the 1960’s Larry and Paulina Lushbaugh restored the buildings and combined two store fronts into the Brass Lantern Restaurant, which served lunches and dinners. The second floor was apartments. Alterations at the time included first story door modifications and alterations to the balcony and posts below were added.
The Cutting Horse Restaurant moved into the building in the 1970’s and was regionally known as one of the finest cattleman’s steak houses in the area. The restaurant closed its doors in the late 2000’s. Today the building remains vacant.”
“Built by Antoine Taix c.1870 after the 1867 fire, this Western False Front sandstone building has a long history as a hotel and bar. Antoine was born in France, arrived in San Francisco in 1871 and came to Monterey County because of ill health where he eventually settled in San Juan Bautista. In addition to his commercial involvement, Taix was also a San Juan Bautista mayor and a bank director.
The building name “A. Taix Block” and date “1908” pressed within the arched dormers, was added presumably when the metal was applied. Additional ornamental tin detailing is found in the entablature above the pilasters and arched entrance on the ground floor.
There is an entry at the center that leads to an interior staircase to the above residences. The building is built up to the property line with the southeast elevation abutting the adjacent building. This is one of four sandstone buildings constructed on this block.”
“Built-in 1868 this commercial building was built by Giacomo Ramoni using locally quarried sandstone, a year after a fire destroyed most of the block. It was first occupied by a well-known store called The Pearl of San Juan. Notable are the iron bi-fold fire doors with a wood and glass front double door. It was one of four sandstone buildings constructed after the fire.
The building has been used for a variety of different businesses such as a saloon, native American Indian artwork, and various gift shops and antique stores. Today the entry located at the east side of the building leads to the courtyard of the Posada de San Juan hotel, and a shop occupies the building selling Mexican rustic style furniture and home decor.”
“Built-in 1894 by the Scots-Canadian Bowie brothers, this Carpenter-Italianate style building at Third and Polk was first operated by James Mossi as the American and Swiss Hotel and Grill. It is one of the few remaining examples of San Juan Bautista’s once flourishing hostelry trade when third street was the very busy Highway 101 where as many as half a dozen inns met the needs of travelers.”
“The Rozas House was built in 1856 for use as a boarding house by a Chilean named Bartolome Samit, who was a merchant in San Juan until 1880. Ambrosio Rozas Sr., who had moved to San Juan from the Central Valley with his wife and three sons, purchased the home in 1875 for his son Ambrosio Rozas, Jr. and his son’s new bride Emelda Erasma Lugo. The senior Rozas family lived in a nearby two-story adobe at the corner of Fourth and Polk Steets. Ambrosio, Jr. and Emelda went on to raise their 12 children in the Rozas House.”
“This Carpenter Italianate style building was originally the San Juan Grammar School before it became the Independent Order of Odd Fellows (IOOF) Lodge. The San Juan School was built in 1868 near First Street in the northwest corner of town
In 1907 the building was sold to the IOOF Lodge and moved to its current location. The IOOF is the second fraternal organization in San Juan Bautista, following the Texas Lodge, and was founded in San Juan on April 30, 1869. By the early 1980’s it sold its building at Third and Polk, and the remaining members transferred to the Hollister IOOF Lodge.”
“This Spanish colonial style adobe was built in the early1850’s. Its use was as a store for Theophile Vache known as the “Vache Wine Depot”to market wines from his Cienega Valley vineyards in south San Benito County. Theophile was born in 1814 in France where he trained as a vintner, and ultimately arrived in San Juan via New Orleans. He owned a 320-acre vineyard in the Cienega Valley where DeRose Vineyards and the former Pietra Santa Winery, now Eden Rift Vineyards, are currently located. In addition to the adobe there was a storeroom, stable and two wells on the property. In 1856 the adobe became used as a saloon, first operated by John Forney, then by Mr. Filoucheau, agent for the vineyard products of Theophile Vache.”
Casa Rosa / El Zipolote
“Built in 1870 by William Barbee for Francisco Bravo, La Casa Rosa was originally called “Bravo’s New Saloon.” This two-story, commercial building constructed in the Monterey style is an essential element of the historic fabric of Third Street. Barbee charged Bravo $4.00 per day for the construction and an additional $25.00 to paint the building; it took 125 days to complete the contract on January 16, 1870. Over the years, it has been a saloon, hotel and gambling place, tea room, and a restaurant serving lunch six days a week.”
“El Zopilote was moved from Third and Polk streets and was built around 1900. The name, Zopilote is described as the American black vulture. This space was so named by a jeweler, Victorio Bacchigalupe, who had a store here in the late 1970’s to the 80’s. It has had various uses over the years. In the 1920’s the building housed the New York Restaurant. In the early 1950’s it became the Blue Wing Antique shop, owned and operated by Claribel Haydock Zuck, who then sold the shop to photographer Sigurd Larsen and his wife Mae later in the 1950’s.”
Texas Masonic Lodge
“The Texas Lodge Masonic Hall is one of the oldest, most iconic buildings in San Juan Bautista, and the second oldest masonic lodge in California that is still active in its original location. The Free and Accepted Masonsis the first fraternal organization in San Juan.
Edward Farris Storey migrated to California with 42 other Texan Masons in 1852, and was granted a charter in 1854 to found a Masonic Lodge in the area of San Juan. By the end of 1854, according to Lodge minutes, membership was 20. The Masons met in various places until the National Hotel (located where Verutti Park is now) was built in 1858, and a room was made available for their meetings. Membership had grown to 110 by 1867 when they decided to build their own building. A wooden sign above the Texas Lodge Masonic Hall entrance reads “Texas Lodge #46 F&AM Chartered May 6, 1854, Building Completed, June 24, 1869.”
“This two-story Gothic Revival style twin-gabled home exemplifies construction that was prevalent in rural California in the 1870’s. Construction of the home was commissioned by Pedro Marentis and the design was created by architect George Chalmers. The home was constructed in 1874 by local builder Thomas Burmingham who constructed at least one other similar home in San Juan Bautista at the corner of Highway 156 and The Alameda. Heritage roses in the garden still remain from those early times.”
We didn’t have much time to take many pictures. We went back to the parking and head on to our next destination.
Here are the links for more information: