Old Custom House; Preparing tortillas.
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Juan de Anza House (Casa Juan de Anza Adobe)

San Juan Bautista, California

Casa Juan de Anza Adobe

Casa Juan de Anza Adobe
Courtesy of Zee Geezer, Flickr’s Creative Commons

During the 18th and 19th centuries, the Spanish established a chain of 21 missions throughout California. The Spanish founded Mission San Juan Bautista as the 15th mission in 1797. They constructed the mission in the San Juan Valley, a location selected because it was only a day’s walk between Mission San Carolos Barromeo de Carmel and Mission Santa Clara. While the Spanish lost control of California and its missions to Mexico in 1821, the settlement of San Juan Bautista continued to grow throughout the 19th century. One of the oldest buildings in San Juan Bautista’s Third Street Historic District and a National Historic Landmark in its own right is the Juan de Anza House or Casa Juan de Anza Adobe that dates from 1834 during the period of Mexican control.

Constructed on the San Andreas earthquake fault line, the newly founded Mission San Juan Bautista converted local Mutsun Indians to Catholicism. For thousands of years, the Mutsun Indians lived in the San Juan Valley as a hunter and gatherer society residing in dome-shaped willow reed and grass huts. Their lives dramatically changed with the establishment of Mission San Juan Bautista. The mission’s padres used Mutson labor and recruited Yokuts and Miwok people to construct the mission’s buildings, raise crops, and care for livestock. Mission San Juan Bautista prospered, however, its role as a Spanish mission would change in the coming years.

Mission San Juan Bautista

Mission San Juan Bautista
Courtesy of ~MVI~, Flickr’s Creative Commons

In 1821, when Mexico gained its independence from Spain, California and its missions became a part of Mexico, which secularized all of the missions and converted church property to private property. The Mexicans secularized Mission San Juan Bautista and converted the settlement into a town in 1835. Mexico’s civil administrator for the area, Jose Tiburcio Castro, oversaw the seizure, division, and sale of mission property to Mexican residents. By 1840, San Juan Bautista had about 50 Mexican residents and by 1845, the Mexican population had increased to 75. Constructed during this period of Mexican control, Casa Juan de Anza Adobe is one of the oldest buildings in San Juan Bautista’s Third Street Historic District.

The Anza House, Casa Juan de Anza Adobe, is an example of a Spanish Colonial style dwelling built during the Mexican era of California’s history. Practiced throughout what are today the States of California, New Mexico, Arizona, and Texas, the Spanish Colonial style was extremely popular because the adobe material used to construct these buildings was readily available and inexpensive. Most commonly built between 1600 and 1840, Spanish Colonial dwellings generally have sun-dried adobe brick exterior walls covered with a whitewashed lime plaster coating that helped protect them from the regional weather extremes. The thick adobe walls helped to insulate the houses -- keeping them cool in the summer and warm in the winter. The typical Spanish Colonial dwellings throughout this region were one-story and had a basic rectangular shape.

Constructed in 1834 as the Anza family residence, the Casa Juan de Anza Adobe (or Anza House) was originally a one-story, rectangular two-room adobe house covered with whitewashed plaster. A farmer or merchant looking to make additional income likely built the house. In the 1850s, the adobe house was “Americanized” and enlarged, and windows with wooden or metal bars were added.

Juan de Anza House, 1934.

Juan de Anza House, 1934.
Courtesy of the Historic American Buildings Survey

By 1870, San Juan Bautista had nearly 1,500 residents. Around this same time, the new owner of the Anza House, Francisco Bravo, modified the house yet again, turning it into a cantina that would serve some of the town’s residents. This began the Anza House’s use as a commercial building. Other than a brief period when Jake Beutler and subsequently his stepson, Fred Beck, lived in the house, the building remained in commercial use and housed the first antique store in San Juan Bautista’s Third Street Commercial District beginning in 1933. The same family operated the antique shop there for 60 years.

Today, at the Casa Juan de Anza Adobe in San Juan Bautista’s Third Street Historic District and San Juan Bautista’s State Historic Park visitors can step back in time and experience an old-fashioned mission town that retains much of its historic rural character. A series of “bypasses,” first when the railroad bypassed the town in 1870 and then when it was bypassed for the position of county seat by nearby Hollister, CA, led to economic ups and downs for San Juan Bautista. These “bypasses” helped preserve the town’s original character, because the town did not develop outside of its original town limits. This makes San Juan Bautista distinctive among California’s mission towns. Many of the mission communities eventually grew into large cities such as San Francisco, San Diego, and Santa Barbara. Walking along the streets of San Juan Bautista and viewing the Casa Juan de Anza Adobe, visitors to this old mission town can readily experience the Spanish and Mexican heritage of the area.

Plan your visit

Juan de Anza House (also known as Casa Juan de Anza Adobe), a National Historic Landmark, is located at 103 Third St. in San Juan Bautista, CA. Click here for the National Historic Landmark file: text and photos. The Anza House is located within the San Juan Bautista’s Third Street Historic District. Click here for the National Register of Historic Places file: text and photos. For more information, visit the City of San Juan Bautista website, the San Juan Bautista State Historic Park website or call 831-623-4661.

The Anza House has been documented by the National Park Service’s Historic American Buildings Survey.

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