History: 1835-Present

What was left of La Purísima was purchased by John Temple for $1,110 at a public auction in 1845. At this time the mission passed out of the control of the church. The adobe buildings fell into ruin. In 1903 Union Oil Company acquired most of the mission site at Los Berros. Union Oil officials realized the historical importance of the site. Timing was on La Purísima's side. The Civilian Conservation Corps began to assign work units to the National Park Service for development work in national, state, county and municipal parks. Restoration of La Purísima was a viable project if enough land could be acquired to make it into a historical monument. The Catholic Church donated the old church site to Santa Barbara County, and Union Oil Company gave six parcels including the site of the residence building. The county and State of California purchased additional land until there was a total of 507 acres. The total acreage was deeded to the State of California, then Division of Beaches and Parks. The first CCC crews began arriving in 1934 to start the job of restoration.

The first order of business for the CCC crews was to collect historical information, both written and physical. What we would term as "inner city" young men were taught archeological techniques as they located and uncovered the ruins of 13 buildings. Their findings provided information about the physical fabric of the structures and opened little windows into mission life. Initial construction techniques were very similar to those used by the padres and Indians. Thousands of adobe bricks had to be made and dried, most of the soil coming from the overburden removed from the building foundations. Clay was dug from the surrounding hillsides and processed into roof and floor tiles. Furnishings and hardware were made in the carpenter shop and blacksmith shop. The work was very labor intensive.

Reconstruction of the three main buildings was completed and the walls were up on three smaller buildings when the mission was dedicated as a State Historical Monument on December 7, 1941. Over the years, the three smaller buildings were completed and additional buildings reconstructed. La Purísima Mission has become the most completely reconstructed of the 21 California Missions.

The advisory committee overseeing the reconstruction issued the challenge that La Purísima Mission State Historic Park could become the Williamsburg of the west. The Department of Parks and Recreation has worked toward making La Purísima a living example of the missions. In 1973 a major step was taken to achieve this goal when a group of five volunteers joined with the Department to create a volunteer organization known as 'Prelado de los Tesoros de la Purísima' (loosely translated, 'The Keepers of the Treasures of La Purísima').

Over the years thousands of school students have been guided through the mission, and visitors have experienced firsthand what mission life was like. Visitors today may experience grinding corn with a mano on a metate, see sheep being sheared and the gardens being tended, learn how to spin and weave wool into cloth, and much more, all through the generous efforts of Prelado members. Prelado's goal is to bring life to La Purísima Mission so that the visitors gain a greater understanding and appreciation of California's past. Without the help and dedication of Prelado's members, the park staff would be unable to provide the quality and quantity of interpretive programs offered to the park visitors.

Thus through the cooperative efforts of Prelado de los Tesoros and the California State Park system, La Purisima Mission continues to live today!