Then & Now: By Rhonda deHaan
Then & Now: By Rhonda deHaan

By Rhonda DeHaan

After this past year’s tree lighting at San Juan Capistrano’s Historic Town Center Park, attendees dispersed throughout the town … some going to the Mission, some staying close by to enjoy the area’s stores and restaurants. Others wandered over to Los Rios Street.

Or should I say West Street?

The story of Los Rios Street is closely linked to that of the Mission. Originally named Calle Occidental, or West Street, it was lined with adobes built in 1794 as housing for the ever-growing population around the historic site.

While it may be difficult to imagine, the Mission land extended much farther than it does today and included substantial gardens, orchards, a vineyard and a series of aqueducts. A large plaza stretched in front of the Mission as far south as what is now Forster Street, and along the plaza’s east side was a road called Calle Oriental, or East Street – now El Camino Real. The western edge of the Mission grounds was bordered by Calle Occidental.

Mexico won its independence from Spain in 1821, and in 1841 San Juan Capistrano was officially designated as a secular Mexican pueblo. Calle Occidental was included in the plans for the new town and was given its current name of Los Rios Street by Juan Bandini, an early public administrator.

Bandini is mentioned in Richard Henry Dana’s Two Years Before the Mast, where he is described as having “the bearing of a man of high birth and figure.” And, while he ultimately made his home in San Diego, Bandini left a permanent imprint on our town’s legacy and lasting tribute to one of our most notable local families.

Experience a step back in time as you enjoy a stroll down this quaint street, where every historic home has a story to tell.

Rhonda DeHaan enjoys learning about San Juan Capistrano and its history, sharing fun photographic finds along the way. She is proud mother of two, a freelance writer and a member of the San Juan Capistrano Historical Society Board of Directors. She is also serving her eighth year as member of the city’s Cultural Heritage Commission.

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