Santa Cruz Style: Mission Revival and Spanish Colonial Revival

 By: Lauren Spencer
History and architecture are intrinsically related and the architecture of Santa Cruz, California, is no exception to this statement. Santa Cruz' architectural landscape is shaped by multiple historical influences, making for a wide variety of designs for home and business buildings. Of particular interest are the Mission Revival and Spanish Colonial Revival styles. These styles are original to Santa Cruz in that they are influenced by the history of Santa Cruz, rather than European history, as in the Victorian, Gothic Revival, or Italianate architecture also popular in local residential and commercial buildings.

Mission Revival architecture refers back to the original Spanish Style (or Mission) era when Santa Cruz experienced its first contact with Europeans. At that time, the Spanish missionaries who came to the area wished to build missions in the late Baroque Spanish style they were accustomed to in their homelands of Mexico and Spain. However, because of the lack of available and suitable labor and materials, they were unable to exact the exquisite ornamental detail characteristic of this approach. They ended up creating simple but sturdy structures from adobe, stone, timber, tile, and brick, with exposed wood beams. Thick walls to kept the heat at bay and belfries were common fixtures.

Inspired by the features of this early architecture, Mission Revival architecture came into being approximately 100 years after the advent of Mission. It was most prominent from 1890 to 1915. Because of more efficient transportant technology and more advanced roadways, high-quality materials and skilled labor were easier to procure, resulting in a cleaner, more elegant aesthetic than the original style. Features of buildings constructed during the Mission Revival architectural period include low-pitched roofs covered in clay tiles, large arched doorways and decorative arched openings, bell gables (with or without the bell itself), long exterior arcades, courtyards, and curved gables on the main facade. All walls, as in the original Mission style, were covered with stucco, and side eaves protrude far away from the building. Originally this was to weatherproof the adobe encased within, but it became an aesthetic practice as more durable materials came into usage.

Picking up where Mission Revival left off, Spanish Colonial Revival enjoyed its peak popularity between 1915 and 1931. Although influenced by Mission Revival as well as more ornate Spanish architectural details, Spanish Colonial Revival did overlap somewhat with Mission Revival. At this time, many Californians were interested in Spanish style, due to the opening of the Panama Canal and other events in pop culture. Features include wrought iron, colorful and intricately-painted tiles and, sometimes, ornate carving and/or terracotta/cast concrete ornaments. Red or brown tile floors and interior shutters were commonly used to cool these buildings. Spanish Colonial Revival eschewed the curved gables of Mission Revival, but mostly kept the low-pitched red-tile roofs. Stucco also carried through into this genre from Mission Revival. Many Spanish Colonial Revival buildings include small verandas or balconies and wood casement or double-hung fenestration.

The southeastern United States, particularly California, were greatly affected by Mission Revival and Spanish Colonial Revival. Santa Cruz itself has many buildings of these styles. 1912 Piedmont Court and La Bahia Hotel, respectively, are fabulous examples. Mission Revival and Spanish Colonial Revival architecture is important to know about because of how inextricably both styles are related to Santa Cruz' past, and also because of how they may influence Santa Cruz architecture in the future.
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