• A historic building under construction

      San Gabriel Mission Bells (Photo – Sophia Pu)

      The San Gabriel Mission was set on fire on July 11, 2020. It has been under restoration and is set to reopen at the end of August 2022.

      By Sophia Pu

      The Mission will reopen for Sunday and Monday services, and the gift shop also will reopen. However, public access and tours still may be closed due to ongoing construction on an artifact on the altar.

      Areas damaged by the fire include the choir loft, nave, altar, and museum, all of which will be repaired and remodeled. Melvyn Green and Associates, Inc. undertook the repair process, with support from other historic architects and project coordinators.

      Terri Huerta, Director of Development and Communications for the Mission, stated that it will not look like it did pre-fire, as there will be new color schemes and exhibits. They must keep the Mission historically accurate and recognize its significance while also striving to tell a new story and making sure the structure is safe.

      The new story of the Mission embraces honesty about every aspect of its history back at what the Mission has meant to communities in the past, and what it wants to be in the future. This includes all communities, from the Catholic community, to San Gabriel as a whole, and Native Americans.

      “We want to make sure that we don’t open up the museum and say, ‘This is the way it’s going to look and we’re not going to change it,’” emphasized Huerta. “You learn. You open it up with an exhibit, and then you start listening, and then you start rotating your exhibits… making sure that you’re sharing a piece of history, and then listening to how that has affected people in the community.”

      Before the fire, the Mission was already moving to renovate the museum and garden. After the fire, they had to start from scratch, which was made especially hard by the pandemic. According to Huerta, the Mission sustained about $6.7 million in damages, including economic losses from quarantine.

      A historic bell with building in construction in the background

      Front of Mission with Camino Real bell (Photo – Sophia Pu)

      The fire was a tragedy for everyone connected to the Mission, but it was also an opportunity for the church and community to come together. Through community donations, the Mission was able to raise over $400,000.

      “Anyone that had any kind of history with the Mission– whether they were church members, or they were married here, or they had relatives buried here, or they went to school here– [was] deeply affected,” Huerta stated. “You had students who remembered coming to the Mission for their fourth grade project, or just coming to vacation here…It was amazing to sit back and see the amount of support that we had from the local community and from the community at large.”

      The past two years have been a time of economic hardship, reflection, and revitalization for the Mission. 2021 marked the 250th anniversary of the Mission’s founding, and Archbishop Jose Gomez of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles celebrated the Jubilee year on September 8 that year. Huerta describes how the landmark anniversary also was a somber occasion.

      This year, September10 will mark the end of the Jubilee year, and it will be a time of celebration. Mass will be held to recognize both the reopening of the Mission and the end of the Jubilee year.

      Sophia Pu is a student at Gabrielino High School who is dedicated to highlighting underrepresented stories.


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      1. Rosalind R Hayes says:

        My late husband’s family have been buried there since the 19th century. Some of their graves each have 2-3 people laid to rest in the same grave, one above the other. My infant son was the last one. He rests with his great aunt and his aunt. It brings me such joy knowing that restoration is almost complete.

      2. Dennis Hall says:

        So Great!!!😃❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️

        • Juanita J Sparkes says:

          Very glad to see this. My Mother went to school here and buried all of her family on the Mission grave site. My Uncle Joseph Biaz, Jenny Biaz and my Great- Great Grandmother Biaz. Some of my Father’s Family members are buried in the Mission gravesite, My Uncle and Aunt Torres and My Aunt Alberta-Beltran Torres.
          My Mother Everlina Biaz Beltran and my Father’s Frank Peter Beltran are buried at Resurrection because we told there was no room for my Parents to be buried there at the time, which upset my Mother very much.
          I am very glad that they Mission is being rebuilt, sad that it is not being rebuilt as i remember its.

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