A Brief History:
Prior to European settlement in the late 18th century, the area known as San Juan Capistrano was populated by nomadic Native American tribes. In 1775, the Spanish priest Father Fermin Lasuen made the first attempt to establish the first mission in the area. However, the Mission was attacked by San Diego natives and one of the priests was killed. The bells were buried and the Mission abandoned. A year later, Father Junipero Serra returned to uncover the bells and re-establish Mission San Juan Capistrano -- this time with the help of friendly local natives called Juaneno. The mission grew quickly and in 1811 experienced it’s most successful harvest and in 1812 the church was destroyed in an earthquake.
In 1821 Mexico won independence from Spain and in 1833 a Secularization Act was passed, with a stipulation to divest the Mission lands. The lands were divvied up among a small group of political appointees, thus beginning the Rancho system controlled by a few wealthy and powerful land owners. San Juan Capistrano was declared a pueblo instead of a religious parish. In 1845, the Mission was sold to an Englishman and the governor’s brother-in-law.
The second half of the 19th century brought with it another transition in the San Juan Capistrano history and by the 1850s the land was American territory. The next 30 years the area went through a roller-coaster of development. The city became a gold-rush town and an overnight stage stop, and was eventually returned to the Catholic Church by the US Government. By the late 1800s San Juan Capistrano also became a railway stop, which helped usher in the 20th Century with economic stability, and in the mid-1900s San Juan Capistrano was officially incorporated.
Lay of the Land:
Housing & Real Estate:
Median rent: $1,650
Median house or condo value: $562, 300
San Juan Capistrano Schools:
Shopping & Dining:
San Juan Capistrano Attractions:
The main attraction in San Juan Capistrano is, of course, the Mission and the surrounding historical district. However, during the city’s gold rush days, the seeds were planted for arts and theatre -- a tradition maintained by local artist and at the Camino Real Playhouse.
San Juan Capistrano is also famous for the swallows that used to make their home atop the Mission and other historical buildings. While the birds have been granted protected status, they have not returned to the Mission since 2009, opting for higher ground in the Chino Hills instead. However, San Juan Capistrano still celebrates the return of the Swallows with an annual Swallows Day Parade.
By the Numbers:
Median Age: 36
Median Income: $90,000