La Pursima Mission State Historic Park is a state park of California, United States, preserving the ruins of the Spanish mission San Fernando Rey de Espaa (St. Ferdinand), which was founded in 1771 by Gaspar Castao de Sosa and later abandoned in 1821. The site is located on present-day Los Angeles County property at the eastern end of the Santa Monica Mountains, near the city of Santa Barbara.
The interior has several rooms, but little else except dirt and dust. Only fragments remain of the mission’s bells, which hung in the belfry. Other items left behind included furniture, clothing, books, chalets, gardens, and thousands of artifacts. Many of these have been reassembled into museums at the nearby University of Southern California, which maintains a satellite facility known as the Juan Bautista de Anza National Historical Monument.
Visitors can see displays about daily life at the mission, including exhibits on crafts, food, and music. One room contains a scale model showing how the complex would have looked in its prime. Another features a video presentation about the history of the mission. The visitor center also includes a gift shop and cafe. The park grounds include trails through grasslands dotted with native flowers, oaks draped with mossy gray bark, and stands of evergreen and deciduous trees.
The 3,936-acre (1,593ha) park was established in 1952. In October 1774, Father Junpero Serra led 55 men from San Diego to establish an agricultural colony at St. Ferdinands, named after Saint Ferdinand, patron saint of soldiers. They arrived with their livestock, supplies, and building materials, intending to begin farming along the coast; however, they found themselves blocked by high mountains, so they decided to make an inland settlement instead.
On July 7, 1776, they set up camp four leagues (about 9 miles or 14km) north of modern Santa Barbara. There they built homes, planted crops, and began ranching, using horses brought from Mexico. Two years later, they were joined by more colonists, bringing with them sheep, pigs, cattle, mules, and goats for breeding. By 1781, there were 47 families living there, including women, children, and infants. A school opened that year as well. However, poor weather conditions and attacks by Indians forced many settlers to leave the area during the next two years, returning only when better times returned. Those who remained worked to improve the ranch, planting fig trees, grapevines, and olive trees, among other things.
In May 1783, Father Serra died, aged 81. He had been ill for some time, and his death greatly distressed those who loved him. His burial place is unknown. At least one grave marker still exists. In September 1787, almost 80 people gathered at the mission to celebrate Mass, though it would not be consecrated until the following March. This was because no priest could be found willing to take charge of such a large group of neophytes. Eventually, a church was built, but never consecrated. Instead, it served as a schoolhouse until its demolition in 1850. It stood where the parking lot does today, across the road from the original mission buildings. The main structure is a simple rectangular adobe, about 20 feet long by 15 feet wide. Its walls are composed of thick, solid adobe bricks made from locally available clay. The roof is covered with heavy wooden beams held in place by iron nails.
Among the wildlife of the park are:
- mountain lions
Birds observed at the park include:
- bald eagles
- wild turkeys