San Francisco Solano Mission, founded in 1823, was the last and most northerly of e 21 Franciscan missions of Alta California. It marked the northern end of "The King's Highway," El Camino Real. And it was the 21 Franciscan missions of Alta California. It marked the northern end of "The King's Highway," El Camino Real. And it was the only one of the California missions to be established under Mexican rule, independent of Spain.
Sonoma Mission, as it is popularly called, was the dedicated goal of the young and zealous Padre Jose Altimira. With the approval of Mexico's Governor Arguello, but without official church sanction, Altimira headed into the northern wilderness to find a more healthful location for his Indian neophytes than the crowded San Francisco de Asis Mission.
Here in the Sonoma Valley he found his ideal location, with fertile soil and mild, sunny climate. He blessed the site on July 4, 1823, and started construction the following month.
Sanction problems with the Father Presidente were soon resolved, and the original church was dedicated on April 4, 1824. The new mission was called San Francisco Solano in honor of the missionary to the Indians of Peru.
The first crude building was a wooden structure plastered inside and out with white-washed mud. The padres' quarters, a long, low wing to the right of the present adobe church and attached to it, is the oldest structure in Sonoma, dating back to approximately 1825.
Secularization of the mission in 1834 was followed by neglect and decay. The present adobe church was built by General Vallejo in 1840 for the families and soldiers of the pueblo.
Another and more tragic period of neglect began in 1881, when the church and padres' quarters were sold and used variously as a hay barn, winery and blacksmith shop. However, the mission was rescued from disintegration in 1903, when it was purchased by the Historic Landmarks League. Later that year, it became State property and full restoration began in 1911.
More recently, in 1953, archeological diggings at the mission uncovered valuable finds: tile walkways and foundations of adobe walks along the east side of the church and along the north side of the padres' quarters; evidence of a small annex or sacristy next to the church; remnants of the adobe church which stood east of the padres' quarters, 1827-1838; plus a larger structure, possibly an Indian dormitory, to the north.
The Mission is open daily from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Admission is $2 for adults, $1 for children.