"San Juan Bautista State Historic Park" San Juan Bautista State Historic Park by starship

Alfred Hitchcock Slept Here

I have to admit that when we came to San Juan Bautista it had more to do with an old Alfred Hitchcock movie than it had to do with history. But we did find that San Juan Bautista has more to offer than just being the setting for a famous movie. Many of you may know that several scenes from Hitchcock's movie, "Vertigo," were shot here in 1957 with stars, Jimmy Stewart and Kim Novak. Although some features of the mission were enhanced for the movie, when you walk into the San Juan Bautista State Park you will see the buildings used in the movie, and you can't believe that it looks almost exactly the same as when the movie was filmed in the late 1950's (IMHO). The Bell Tower, from which the 2 women fell as depicted in the movie is, in fact, not as tall as the one in the movie . The mission church does tall Bell Tower but not a very tall one. The one shown in the movie was actually constructed on the backlot of Paramount studies for purposes of this film!!

Missions & Early California History

San Juan Bautista has seen much history and different peoples inhabit its environs. Prior to the Spanish settlement, this area of San Juan Valley was the home of the Mutsun Indians. The Mutsun lived in beehive-shaped huts made from vegetation and were hunters and gatherers. The men were skilled at making spear points & arrowheads for hunting. The women were equally skilled in the making of baskets that were so versatile that they were used for carrying, food storage, trapping fish and even cooking because of the density of the weaving. It's said that the Mutsun were creative and funloving people.

It was mainly because of the Indians that Padre Fermin Francisco de Lasuen chose the location at San Juan Bautista to build his mission in 1797. The area had good soil, good water supply, timber and other building materials nearby. At one time over 1,000 Mutsun lived and worked at the mission. "The last full-blooded Mutsun Indian, Mrs. Ascension Solarsano Cervantes, died in January, 1930, and is buried in the Indian Cemetery beside the old Mission Church."

The Mexican Connection


A prominent period of San Juan Bautista's history is owed to the Mexican period of dominance. During their occupation, San Juan Bautista became a military and commercial center of the San Benito Valley. Many buildings were constructed. After 1834, the town was known as San Juan de Castro, when Jose Tibercio Castro became the secular administrator of the mission. He was responsible for dividing mission property and actually auctioned much of it off to friends, neighbors and relatives because it was in his power to do so. Oddly enough, Castro's son was involved in a military revolt to overthrow the Mexican Governors in both 1836 and 1843. For his trouble, Jose Maria Castro later became a commanding general of Mexican military forces! During his command his job became one of worrying about the flood of "Immigrants" arriving in California from the East!

In July of 1846, war broke out between Mexico and the U.S. Americans were coming in droves, and the U.S. Surveyor John Fremont was among them. Commodore Sloat had claimed Califorinia for the United States. Returning as a colonel in the U.S. Army, Fremont returned to San Juan Bautista, and after a show of force, was able to meet & arrange the signing of the "Treaty of Cahuenga" which ended the armed hostilities between America and Mexico.

El Camino Real & San Juan Bautista

The El Camino Real* or "King's Highway"* was the road connecting all of California's missions. Generally, missions were established about a day's walk from each other. San Juan Bautista Mission is about a day's walk from both Mission Santa Clara and Mission San Carlos Borromeo. The El Camino Real passed just behind the Mission Cemetery and the Plaza area and part of it can still be seen today. San Juan Bautista became a major road stop for stagecoaches and wagons. Necessarily, the Plaza Hotel and Plaza Stable were established to meet the needs of travelers. Amazingly, at one time there were 7 stage lines passing by San Juan Bautista and as many as 11 stagecoaches arriving & departing daily!! San Juan Bautista also became a main supply center for quicksilver miners, cattle and sheep ranchers.

Pros and Cons
  • Pros:Interesting History, Beautiful Gardens, Mission not to be Missed
  • Cons:Found no negatives other than this area is an arid climate.
  • In a nutshell:Important Part of California History!
  • Last visit to San Juan Bautista State Historic Park: Aug 2000
  • Intro Updated Aug 18, 2011
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Reviews (6)

Comments (17)

  • HORSCHECK's Profile Photo
    May 12, 2012 at 3:38 PM

    Sylvia, lovely little page about the San Juan Bautista State Historic Park. I must admit that I didn't know that some scenes from Hitchcock's Vertigo were filmed here.

  • DSwede's Profile Photo
    Aug 18, 2011 at 2:14 AM

    Somebody has been busy reading some of my pages... thanks for the visits! I'm now in sunny Portugal for a couple days, but will be heading back to Belgium on Sunday. I like this page, but haven't yet been there!

  • LoriPori's Profile Photo
    Aug 9, 2010 at 5:56 AM

    I just love visiting Missions, esp. the ones in California. This one - San Juan Bautista looks real nice.

  • Yaqui's Profile Photo
    May 24, 2010 at 7:40 PM

    I absolutely enjoy the state parks! My boys learn so much from them and its a great place to let them explore! Excellent page!

  • Jan 24, 2009 at 5:29 PM

    i love Historical Parks

  • TheWanderingCamel's Profile Photo
    Nov 24, 2008 at 5:47 AM

    San Juan Bautista was the first of the California missions I ever visited. We found it a lovely peaceful place, and it set us off on our own mission trail. It was nice to revisit it through your page. leyle

  • scottishvisitor's Profile Photo
    Apr 4, 2008 at 2:39 PM

    Nice place and spledid tips + thanks for the virtual tour!

  • Ispeak4u's Profile Photo
    Mar 6, 2008 at 12:18 PM

    What a great exposition on SJB history! I'm taking a group down there next week and may refer them to your site. Thanks!

  • Lhenne1's Profile Photo
    Oct 2, 2007 at 10:15 PM

    Great tips! The last time I was in San Juan Bautista it was insanely hot out. I couldn't get over how cool it was inside the mission :) It's a great spot to visit.

  • atufft's Profile Photo
    Sep 24, 2007 at 10:41 PM

    Hey, nice write up of a favorite little town for mine, Sylvia :-)

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