San Francisco Solano, Sonoma
This is the last California mission, founded after Mexico won its independence and wrestled the Californias away from Spain. It existed just 12 years before Mexican Gen. Mariano Guadalupe Vallejo took over the site. As the city of Sonoma spread around it, the mission dwindled, with pioneers cannibalizing materials for their own projects. By 1906, when the state acquired the mission site, little remained but an 1841 adobe chapel built by the Vallejo family. In the next 50 years, the state reassembled the mission quadrangle. Now Sonoma State Historic Park's re-created buildings and exhibits stand cheek by jowl with the prosperous shops and restaurants of downtown Sonoma. Be sure to see the granite plaque outside the mission church listing the baptismal names of the 837 neophytes buried at the mission.
Nearby: Take a 10-mile drive into the countryside to see the two-story Petaluma Adobe (3325 Adobe Road, Petaluma; http://www.petalumaadobe.com), which was built by native California laborers between 1836 and 1846. The state acquired it in 1951. (Your admission to Sonoma State Historic Park also gets you into the adobe.) The National Park Service calls the Petaluma building the largest domestic adobe building left in the U.S.
Info: 20 E. Spain St., Sonoma; (707) 935-6832, http://www.bit.ly/1ltfPKM. Driving distance from Los Angeles City Hall: 410 miles northwest.
From the archives:
In 1958, The Times wrote about how Father José Altimira disobeyed his superiors to found Mission San Francisco de Solano at Sonoma.
In 1985, The Times reported on the state park system's operation of the Sonoma mission.