San Francisco Solano Mission, Sonoma, California From the Sonoma State Historic Park Plan November, 1986, used with permission.
Priest Quarters and Chapel of Mission San Francisco Solano: The current priest quarters or convento of four rooms, two large and two small, is not only a small surviving portion of what was a much larger adobe and redwood timbered building of 27 rooms, but all that remains of the original mission complex founded in 1823. Mission San Francisco Solano was the last mission established in Alta California, and the only mission established under Mexican rule. The mission was short-lived, yet reached a progressive degree of sophistication before secularization. At its height, some twenty adobe and palisaded structures were situated about the existing convento. To the east was situated a large adobe church and the Campo Santo, or cemetery, now in private hands. The mission complex of semi-ruined structures was sold by the Catholic Church in 1889. The convento, the only structure to survive, was used for numerous purposes before being acquired by the state in 1906. A number of restorations were carried out from time to time, some inaccurate, others which returned the structure back toward its mission era. Total historic restoration has not occurred, and during the years of work, part of the building was not reconstructed. The current version of the convento measures 21 x 126 feet, and is probably the oldest adobe construction north of San Francisco Bay. The priest bedroom, now shown as part of the convento, is not original. Until the 1912 restoration, it was a gated-fenced passageway.
The Chapel of Sonoma was constructed by Mariano G. Vallejo in the period 1840-1841, on the earlier site of the wooden chapel of Mission San Francisco Solano. This chapel was built to replace the demolished church of the mission, which was originally located opposite the east boundary of the state-owned mission convento site. The chapel served the community of Sonoma until 1882. In 1889, the property was sold by the Catholic Church to Solomon Schoken, a local merchant. He used it as a warehouse and barn. In 1903, spurred by efforts of local and statewide historic preservation groups, the property was deeded to William Randolph Hearst, who headed the preservation efforts. At one point, during the latter part of the 19th century, a small wooden structure was built in front of the convento door. This was a small cooper chop. For a short period of time (less than ten years), a saloon, which was originally located just north of the intersection of Spain and East First Streets, and in the middle of the street, was moved directly in front of the chapel. It was a wooden structure, with a main doorway facing the intersection and side doors on East First Street. The saloon had been removed by 1905. In 1906, Hearst deeded the property to the State of California. Over the years, successive alterations have transformed the “Monterey” or “Spanish Mission era” church, with a tile roof and adobe flooring. Only the adobe walls of the chapel remain of the original church built by Indian labor and Yankee craftsmen. Many of the interior features were donation of Harry Downie, known for his work on mission restorations. At various times since acquisition by the state, the chapel has been used as a museum, featuring many local artifacts; today it reflects a mission-era church.
The Mission Courtyard contains modern interpretive and comfort facilities. The current walls bisect several historic mission sites, while next to the existing convento are the archeological remains of the original northern portion of the convento.