San Juan Bautista SHP
Narrated by Russ Christoff


Once known for its fine food and drink, the present hotel in San Juan Bautista was a busy place during the gold rush, and is one of the historic buildings I visited at San Juan Bautista State Historic Park.

In addition to the hotel, California State Parks is preserving a number of buildings which surround San Juan Bautista’s town square.

One of these is the Castro Green adobe. This home was originally built in 1838 by Jose Castro and was used to serve as the headquarters for all Alta-California until it was purchased in 1848, by the Breen family, a group who managed to safely survive the Donner Party ordeal.

Next door to the adobe is the Plaza Hotel. The gold rush period is reflected here when the town of San Juan Bautista was swarming with miners and tired travelers, all stopping for the comforts of lodging and good food.

The Plaza Hotel’s inn keeper, Angelo Zanetta, owned this home on the square. Visitors may tour the first floor of the house where fine examples of Victorian furniture and accessories can be found.

Next door is the plaza stable. Original horse drawn conveyances that once carried passengers to may parts of California are on display inside.

The beautiful and historic San Juan Bautista Mission figures prominently on the other side of the square. Although, not part of the State Historic Park, its immediate proximity to the park makes the mission a must see for all who visit.

The ranger, Nick, talked about the importance of the park and its relationship to the mission.

Mission San Juan Bautista is not part of the State Park, is it?

RANGER NICK: No it’s not! It’s still a Catholic Church and has been a Catholic Church for 200 years, so it still belongs to the Catholic Church and they are still operating here as a local parish.

We work with them and they work with us because there are many visitors who come here to experience the different phases of California history that are represented here in San Juan.

So the visitors, can still come and tour through the museum, but it’s not part of the state park but we are all included as part of the historic district that visitors can come see.

It’s a part of our collective past, that’s really what is represented here.

If you stand in the center of the plaza, you can see all of the successive phases of California’s history and get a feeling for what it was like in California during the entire history of California.

You can stand there looking out over the plains and imagine how the Native Americans who lived here for thousands of years.

You can look to your left and look over to the San Juan Bautista, which was the Spanish colonization of California, and important part that still plays a role today in California.

You can turn around and look at the Castro Green adobe and look at where Mexican headquarters were in the Californias.

And then you can look over at the stables and the plaza hotel and see what a hustling and bustling place this was in the mid 1800’s during the gold rush, and after the gold rush and the early part of California as a U.S. possession.

And, you can get a sense of what San Juan Bautista was, and we are preserving that because that’s part of our past and as rangers we preserve not only the natural history but the cultural history.

And sometimes we think so much about the natural when we go to state parks, that sometimes we overlook the cultural history aspects, and that cultural is part of our collective past.