San Juan Capistrano (Spanish for “St. John of Capistrano”) is a city in Orange County, California, located along the Orange Coast. Take a look below for 15 fascinating and awesome facts about San Juan Capistrano, California, United States.
1. The population was 34,593 at the 2010 census.
2. San Juan Capistrano was founded by the Spanish in 1776, when St. Junípero Serra established Mission San Juan Capistrano. Extensive damage caused by the 1812 Capistrano earthquake caused the community to decline.
3. Following the Mexican secularization act of 1833, the mission village officially became a town and was briefly renamed as San Juan de Argüello.
4. Following the American Conquest of California, San Juan remained a small, rural town until the 20th century; the restoration of the mission in the 1910-20’s transformed the town into a tourist destination and a backdrop for Hollywood films.
5. The region was populated by the Acjachemen, also known as the Juaneños, an Indigenous Californian nation. They had resided in the area for approximately 10,000 years.
6. San Juan Capistrano was established by the Spanish in 1776, when Saint Junípero Serra founded Mission San Juan Capistrano, the seventh of the Spanish missions in California.
7. The mission as named after St. John of Capistrano, a 14th-15th century Franciscan saint.
8. The Serra Chapel at the mission is the oldest in-use building in California. San Juan was also the site of one of the first places to produce Californian wine.
9. The Mexican Congress of the Union enacted the secularization of the Californian missions in 1833, resulting in each mission being appointed an administrator to oversee the transfer of the missions and their lands from the Franciscan Order to the Mexican authorities.
10. Santiago Argüello, a member of a prominent family of Californios, was appointed administrator of Mission San Juan Capistrano. During his tenure, the community was briefly renamed “San Juan de Argüello”, similar to what happened to San Juan Bautista in Northern California, which was briefly renamed “San Juan de Castro” after its administrator José Castro.
11. In 1844 Don Juan Forster and James McKinley purchased the former Mission San Juan Capistrano at public auction. Forster made his home here until 1864, when the mission was returned to the Catholic Church by president Abraham Lincoln.
12. Following the American Conquest of California, San Juan remained a relatively small and rural community until the end of the 19th century.
13. Padre O’Sullivan arrived in San Juan Capistrano in 1910 to recuperate from a recent stroke. He became fascinated by Mission San Juan Capistrano and soon set to work on rebuilding it a section at a time. O’Sullivan repaired the roof of the Serra Chapel using California sycamore logs to match those that were used in the original work. He brought in architect Arthur B. Benton of Los Angeles to strengthen the chapel walls through the addition of heavy masonry buttresses. The centerpiece of the chapel restoration was its retablo, imported from Barcelona in 1806 and donated by the Bishop of Los Angeles.
14. The restoration of the mission resulted in San Juan Capistrano’s emergence as a tourist destination, owing to its historic architecture and proximity to the sea. The mission was used often in Hollywood productions, such as D.W. Griffith’s 1910 western film The Two Brothers, the first film ever shot in Orange County. San Juan incorporated as a city on April 19, 1961.
15. From 2009 to 2017, the famous swallows did not return to San Juan Capistrano, instead migrating to the Chino Hills, north of San Juan Capistrano. The swallows changed their route because the mission is no longer the tallest building in the area due to urban sprawl, and thus stopped attracting the swallows for nesting.