How to Find Mission Plans

There are mission kits and some plans in various books but one source of plans often forgotten is the Library of Congress. Buried in their collections are plans for many (not all) of the California missions. I can’t give you links to each one of them because their site uses session IDs so you have to do the search yourself and then repeat that search if you need to go back to the site at some future time.

So, instead, here’s how to search…

First, go to the Library of Congress Historic American Buildings site ( Note: The site previously mentioned on this page has changed. The older link, if you are stil using it, stopped being updated in 2011.

Main HAB Page

Note the search box in the middle (I point it out because there are two on the page). Enter the name of the mission in the search box. In these examples I’ll be using Mission San Luis Obispo as the search term. When you do, there may be several results. One of the top results should be the one you want but you may have to pick a couple before you find the one you want. The San Luis Obispo search brings up multiple results which could be a collection (the top entry) or the individual entries in the collection. Pick the one you want…

Search Results

Note the icons. The first is usually a collection which often will contain all the other individual links. You might find drawings, black and white photos, and/or scanned data pages. For mission plans look at the drawings. Out of curiosity you may want to come back to this page later and look at some of the old photos. They can be revealing. The data pages can have survey information on them but generally are of little use. When you take the drawings link for San Luis Obispo there are several different results; each displayed as a thumbnail which shows you a good idea of what’s on the drawing.

Take the link to the drawing(s) you are interested in and for each one you will see a page with a larger picture of the drawing and a number of links for different size images. For the largest drawing, look for the TIFF file. Right click on the link and then save the TIFF file to your system. Most any image editing/viewing program can handle TIFF images but keep in mind that the largest ones will be just that: large and will require much scrolling to see the whole drawing but will also have the most detail.

SLO Drawing Thumbnails
Single Drawing Page
That’s it. Now you know where the mission plans are hidden on the Internet. Happy browsing.