By Rhonda deHaan
Max Mendelson was born in Calish, Poland, in 1837. He and his two brothers, Mendel and Morris, made their way to the United States and ultimately settled in California. Max, also known as Mark, set his sights on the southern part of the state and moved with his family to San Juan Capistrano. In 1875, he purchased land from Manuel and Paula Garcia and opened the Mendelson Hotel that same year. Today, it is the site of our Historic Town Center Park.
The year 1875 was also when the first map of San Juan Capistrano Township was recorded in the Los Angeles County book of records. Many of the names listed on the map belong to families that are still prominent in town today. It is interesting to note, however, that the only street name that has remained the same is Spring, near the Mission. El Camino Real north of Ortega Highway was called Main Street. What we know as Camino Capistrano ran south from the Mission and was Central Street. There was Oriental (El Camino Real south of Ortega) and Occidental (now Los Rios Street).
Many things have changed since then. Thankfully, refrigeration has eliminated the need to raise our own poultry as they did at the Mendelson. But sometimes it’s nice when things remain the same. And, as countless hungry travelers enjoyed a hearty meal and warm hospitality at that old hotel, may today’s visitors also experience the graciousness of this lovely town. The annual city tree lighting is a wonderful way to share a memorable evening with family and friends. All are welcome as the community comes together to celebrate the season on Dec. 2 at Historic Town Center Park.
Rhonda deHaan is a resident of San Juan Capistrano who enjoys sharing fun photographic finds as she continues to learn more about this unique town. She is a proud mother of two, a freelance writer, and a member of the SJC Friends of the Library and San Juan Capistrano Historical Society Board of Directors. She is serving her fourth term as a member of the city’s Cultural Heritage Commission.