The Los Rios Street Historic District illustrates the growth of an 18th-century
California village. The small vernacular residential buildings of the
district date from the late 18th century to the early 20th century. The
development of Los Rios Street is closely tied to the establishment of
nearby Mission San Juan Capistrano. In 1794, 40
adobe structures were constructed at the present site of Los Rios Street
to house the Indians who labored at the mission. As the village evolved
it was incorporated into the plans for the secular pueblo of San Juan
Capistrano, created in 1841. Los Rios Street was originally called Calle
Occidental, or "West Street," indicating its orientation to the western
edge of the mission grounds. Several adobes from the 18th century remain
to represent this earliest phase of development.
Rios Adobe in the Los Rios Street
Photo courtesy of LetsGoSeeIt.com
The Montanez Adobe (31745 Los Rios Street) is believed to be one of the
original 40 adobes constructed by mission Indians in 1794. The Montanez
Adobe was the home of Dona Poloninia Montanez, the daughter of Tomas Gutierrez,
an early mission carpenter. Between 1886 and 1910, the Montanez Adobe
gained spiritual significance following the secularization of the Mission.
Dona Montanez created a tiny chapel in the adobe which became the village
sanctuary. She was the spiritual leader for the community as well as the
village midwife and nurse. In 1887, the Santa Fe Railroad came through
San Juan Capistrano, and new building materials were introduced to the
area. The availability of milled lumber dramatically changed local building
technology. Small board-and-batten houses sprang up along Los Rios Street.
In 1894 a Railroad Depot was constructed adjacent Los Rios Street. A conscious
effort was made to design a building that would relate to the Spanish
heritage of this small mission town. The depot remains one of the earliest
examples of Mission Revival style architecture in California. The construction
of the railroad line through San Juan Capistrano created a boundary that
separated Los Rios Street from the remainder of the town. As a consequence,
Los Rios Street remained residential and appears much as is did at the
The Los Rios Street Historic District is bounded by 31600-31921
Los Rios St. in San Juan Capistrano. Further information on the district
can be found on the community's website.
The O'Neill Museum, at 31831 Los Rios St., is operated by the San Juan
Capistrano Historic Society. It is open Tuesday-Friday, 9:00am to 3:00pm
(closed for lunch from 12:00pm to 1:00pm), and Sundays from 12:00pm
to 3:00pm. For further information visit society's webpage.