Quintessential California. The Mission Architecture

Living in California, one can’t help but fall in love with Mission architecture of this area.  The white stuccoed walls with red tiled roofs, ornate ironwork, and colorful Mexican hand-painted tiles; these are such lovely characteristics of a warm and inviting architecture.  When you combine this style of architecture with the almost all year California sunshine, blue Pacific Ocean, and the rolling hills and mountains that abound here, sometimes one can forget this is America, but rather it can feel like we are in Spain or in the Mediterranean somewhere.

Santa Barbara, California

I have over the years taken so many pictures of the Mission architecture of this area, without realizing that there is a pattern here. They are all beautiful structures.

Santa Barbara Mission

I have a wonderful book that highlights the gorgeous Mission architecture of California titled California Casa by Douglas Woods. In this book author Douglas Woods describes the unique California Spanish architecture in the most descriptive of ways “As a term California Spanish Mission architecture has many wide ranging features such as thickset whitewashed stucco walls, deeply recessed doors, lushly planted courtyard gardens, intricate and colorful tilework, elaborately traced wrought iron window grilles, telescoping towers inset with Juliet balconies, and richly appointed interiors heightened by drama in light and shadows cast by the natural sunshine.”   


Montecito, California

The quintessential California Spanish Mission architecture is by far the most beautiful in the Riviera of the West Coast – Santa Barbara, California

I can honestly say that having visited Santa Barbara many times, this southern California city epitomizes the sunny Mission architecture of California so eloquently described by Douglas Woods.

Between the historic wildfires and the mudslides that have taken so many lives and caused havoc in the cities of Santa Barbara, Montecito and surrounding areas it’s heart breaking to see such devastation. According to LA Times the victims of the recent mudslides in Montecito were kids and adults of all ages:  “The 20 victims identified in the Montecito mudslides were children and retirees, immigrants and longtime residents, united by the mud and debris that crashed through their neighborhood .

Animals have also been hurt and displaced by the Thomas Fire that engulfed this area. Here is a picture of a bear whose paws were burned so badly in the fire.


According to NYTimes.com  “The bears were in bad shape when they arrived in December at a wildlife research lab in Sacramento County. The Thomas fire had burned them, creating wounds that oozed with blood and, in some cases, scorching off their paw pads completely.  Dr. Jamie Peyton had worked mostly on domestic animals before she was asked to help with the bears. Still, she thought she had a solution: fish skin. She created a homemade salve for the bears’ paws and also began sterilizing tilapia skin, which she cut into pieces. Then she sewed the fish skin over the wounds and wrapped her handiwork in rice paper and corn husks.  “We expected the outer wrapping to eventually come off, but we hoped the tilapia would keep steady pressure on the wounds and serve as an artificial skin long enough to speed healing of the wounds underneath,” she said in a news release last week. The bears got treated for the last time on Jan. 17 before they were placed into separate trailers for the long journey home. They arrived later that night, and the next day, wildlife officials drove the bears deep into the Los Padres National Forest. They placed the bears into the dens that officials had made for them; they say each bear has been fitted with a satellite collar so the caretakers can continue to watch them from afar.”

Once you see these beautiful photos that I took a little over a year ago from our visit to Montecito and Santa Barbara, one realizes that a town this gorgeous with strong community pride will bounce back; a city with so much friendly warmth and beauty has a fan club from far and near and they will help as the residents rebuild and restore their beloved town.  Our prayers go out to the families and residents.


Here is a look at some of the photos I have taken from our multiple trips to the beautiful towns of Montecito and Sana Barbara over the years.

With their tropical landscape, vibrant pink bougainvilleas, blue waters of the Pacific Ocean, and gentle rolling hills, in Santa Barbara one can easily get transported to another world.













Wineries in Santa Ynez Valley and Foxen Wine Trail, Santa Barbara County.








The most iconic of California mission architecture can be found in the Missions of California. The churches that the Spanish missionaries built all over California have a common theme – Mission architecture.

Santa Barbara Mission:


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Santa Clara Mission at Santa Clara University.







Dominican Sisters of Mission San Jose


California Mission Architecture Around Town

In Palo Alto





Hotel Los Gatos. Los Gatos, California




A visit to the doctor’s office in Los Gatos, California.  I know, can you believe it? The doctor’s office is in this gorgeous hacienda style office plaza.




Around town




Pictures of gorgeous Mission style homes, estates, and gardens from the book The California Casa by Douglas Woods.








This post gives you a glimpse of one of my favorite styles of architecture – California Spanish Mission architecture. I hope you notice the beauty of Mission architecture as you drive around town and visit other cities in California.


There is a unique style of architecture in every city and town, something new to discover and something unexpectedly beautiful in these buildings – have fun exploring.

10 thoughts on “Quintessential California. The Mission Architecture”

  1. The old Mission of San Luis Obispo de Tolossa was my parish when I was in school back in the late 1980s. It really is exquisite, even though it was probably common architecture when it was built.

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