History of Santa Clara

Before Santa Clara was a City


(Photo from the California Missions Resource Center)

Before Santa Clara became a diversified community, people of different backgrounds, there were natives who are today called Ohlone Indians. When the Spanish explorers came they were called Costanoans, people of the coast. Evidence has been found on today's Santa Clara University Campus that ancestors of Ohlone Indians have been in Santa Clara since the Middle Period, 900 B.C. and A.D. 900, at least, according to Ann-Marie Sayers (Skowronek, 2002, p.4). Although many Ohlone Indians have moved on since, many still live in Santa Clara even today.

Then there came the Spanish explorers. Various explorers passed through the Santa Clara Valley, but one of the earliest ones was Gaspar de Portola around 1769. The land became known as Llano de Los Robles, meaning Plain of the Oaks. By strengthening Spain’s claim to the San Francisco Bay it was decided that they would build two missions in the bay area, one of them was to be in Llano de Los Robles, the Mission Santa Clara de Asis.

Although the Santa Clara Mission Church is now situated on the Santa Clara University site in the city of Santa Clara, the original site was actually in the northern edge of the city near the Guadalupe River. It would be relocated 4 more times before it would settle into its final location, as of now. The Mission as we know it today is the second structured to be built on the same spot, even though it is the 6th Mission Santa Clara de Asis. The original site was ruined by a flood having been near the Guadalupe River. The second site was a temporary one until they could find a permanent location. The third Mission suffered severe damages from an earthquake. A temporary adobe church was built near the present site. In 1822 the fifth Mission was set to be built at its final location, in what is now Santa Clara University. Even though a fire destroyed the fifth Mission in 1926, reconstruction was set to take place on the same site.

1st Santa Clara Mission

A cross was placed by Santa Clara County Historical Society in April 1907 to mark the First Mission Santa Clara site.
(Photo from "Images of American: Santa Clara" )