Mission Revival architecture

The Mission Revival style was part of an architectural movement, beginning in the late 19th century, for the revival and reinterpretation of American colonial styles. Mission Revival drew inspiration from the late 18th and early 19th century Spanish missions in California. It is sometimes termed California Mission Revival, particularly when used elsewhere, such as in New Mexico and Texas which have their own unique regional architectural styles. In Australia, the style is known as Spanish Mission.[1]

Santa Barbara station, built in 1902 in Santa Barbara, California, an example of a railroad depot in Mission Revival Style
San Gabriel Civic Auditorium (1927), San Gabriel, California

The Mission Revival movement was most popular between 1890 and 1915, in numerous residential, commercial and institutional structures, particularly schools and railroad depots.[2]


1797 Mission San Fernando Rey de España: View looking down an exterior arcade or corredor, an element frequently used in Mission Revival design.

All of the 21 Franciscan Alta California missions (established 1769–1823), including their chapels and support structures, shared certain design characteristics. These commonalities arose because the Franciscan missionaries all came from the same places of previous service in Spain and colonial Mexico City in New Spain. The New Spain religious buildings the founding Franciscan saw and emulated were of the Spanish Colonial style, which in turn was derived from Renaissance and Baroque examples in Spain. Also, the limited availability and variety of building materials besides adobe near mission sites or imported to Alta California limited design options. Finally, the missionaries and the indigenous Californians had minimal construction skills and experience with European designs.[3]





The missions' style of necessity and security evolved around an enclosed courtyard, using massive adobe walls with broad unadorned plaster surfaces, limited fenestration and door piercing, low-pitched roofs with projecting wide eaves and non-flammable clay roof tiles, and thick arches springing from piers. Exterior walls were coated with white plaster (stucco), which with wide side eaves shielded the adobe brick walls from rain. Other features included long exterior arcades, an enfilade of interior rooms and halls, semi-independent bell-gables, and at more prosperous missions curved 'Baroque' gables on the principal facade with towers.



These architectural elements were replicated, in varying degrees, accuracy, and proportions, in the new Mission Revival structures. Simultaneous with the original style's revival was an awareness in California of the actual missions fading into ruins and their restoration campaigns, and nostalgia in the quickly changing state for a 'simpler time' as the novel Ramona popularized at the time. Contemporary construction materials and practices, earthquake codes, and building uses render the structural and religious architectural components primarily aesthetic decoration, while the service elements such as tile roofing, solar shielding of walls and interiors, and outdoor shade arcades and courtyards are still functional.

The Mission Revival style of architecture, and subsequent Spanish Colonial Revival style, have historical, narrative—nostalgic, cultural—environmental associations, and climate appropriateness that have made for a predominant historical regional vernacular architecture style in the Southwestern United States, especially in California.


The Mission Inn entry portal, in Riverside, California
1909 The Louis P. and Clara K. Best Residence and Auto House, Davenport, Iowa
Arcade at Union Station, in San Diego, California
The William Morrison House, in Toledo, Ohio, designed in the Mission Revival style in 1906

The Mission Inn in Southern California is one of the largest extant Mission Revival Style buildings in the United States. Located in Riverside, it has been restored, with tours of the style's expression.[4]

Other structures designed in the Mission Revival Style include:

See also



  1. ^ Lacey, Stephen (2007-11-01). "Spanish mission style". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 2022-09-25.
  2. ^ Weitze, p. 14: "Railroad literature described the missions as 'Worthy a glance from the tourists [sic] eye,' with the Southern Pacific, from 1888 to 1890, publishing numerous pamphlets that included sections on the missions."
  3. ^ Castillo, Elias (November 8, 2004). "The dark, terrible secret of California's missions". SFGate. Retrieved October 30, 2015.
  4. ^ "Historic Districts of Riverside" (PDF). Riverside, California. Archived from the original (PDF) on Apr 11, 2023.
  5. ^ Richard Melzer (2008). Fred Harvey Houses of the Southwest. Arcadia Publishing. pp. 37–40. ISBN 9780738556314.
  6. ^ "history". arrowheadsprings.org. Retrieved May 11, 2010.
  7. ^ St. Petersburg Historic Preservation – Hotels
  8. ^ Big Orange-Lederer Residence
  9. ^ Big Orange—Canoga Mission Gallery
  10. ^ Jones 1991, p. 2
  11. ^ Jones 1991, p. 42
  12. ^ Dewitt, Susan (1978). Historic Albuquerque Today (PDF). Historic Landmarks Survey of Albuquerque. p. 15.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: date and year (link)
  13. ^ File:CSS&SB Depot, Beverly Shores, IN on January 27, 1964 (26558117333).jpg
  14. ^ "The School's History – Auckland Grammar School".
  15. ^ Wainwright, Oliver (3 February 2023). "'Our own little Vatican': inside the biggest Catholic parish church in North America". The Guardian.

Further reading

  • Gustafson, Lee and Phil Serpico (1999). Santa Fe Coast Lines Depots: Los Angeles Division. Acanthus Press, Palmdale, CA. ISBN 0-88418-003-4.
  • Jones, R. (1991). The History of Villa Rockledge. Laguna Beach, CA: American National Research Institute.
  • Weitze, Karen J. (1984). California's Mission Revival. Hennessy & Ingalls, Inc., Los Angeles, CA. ISBN 0-912158-89-1.
  • Yenne, Bill (2004). The Missions of California. Thunder Bay Press, San Diego, CA. ISBN 1-59223-319-8.