Beginning in 1769 and for the next 50 years, Spanish Missions were built along California’s “El Camino Real.” Spanning 650 miles from San Diego to Sonoma, the El Camino Real and the Missions that occupy it, are a rare legacy of California history.
In 1939, the California Mission Models made their debut at the World’s Fair at Treasure Island. Their construction was based upon two years of research and was completed by a team of German cabinetmakers under the direction of Italian artist Leon Bayard de Volo. All were designed to scale, are faithful representations of the original missions, and are finely detailed down to the shrubbery and the figures utilized. Materials used in their construction include, wood, clay, glass, cast iron, paperboard, and real plant material. As a collection, the models are acclaimed as an extraordinary and accurate depiction of California history.
In 1998, the Cline Family saved the models from being auctioned off individually, and in 2005 created the museum as a fitting showcase for these historical treasures. In addition to the models, the museum also features a life-size figure of Father Junipero Serra, mission paintings by artists Robert Morris and Henry Nelson, and two stained-glass panels originally housed in Mission Dolores prior to the 1906 earthquake.
The courtyard garden, and ample picnic areas make the California Missions Museum a must-see destination for both children and adults. Entrance is free of charge, and we can accommodate groups and classes of all sizes, though group reservations are required.