Mission San José 1868 Church

In October 1868 an earthquake destroyed the standing San José Mission church. It was replaced on the site by a Normandy-style parish church. This church served as the parish church until 1965. It looked something like this drawing (the perspective is a bit off but the design is accurate) found in the church as it now stands. A steeple was added in 1894.In 1982 a decision was made to build a reconstruction of the original San José Mission on the site but, something had to be done with the frame church still sitting unused on the site.

Old San José Mission Church
Picture taken 11:02am 24 Apr 2007

About the same time the Christ Church congregation in San Mateo was considering finding a site and building a church in San Mateo. They had problems getting approvals for the original triangular site they chose and managed to obtain, instead, another site along El Camino Real at State Street. While trying to find a designer for the new site the old Mission church became available and a deal was struck.

The frame church on the site was sold by the Catholic Archdiocese for $1 to the Christ Church congregation in San Mateo.

The steeple was removed and the stained glass windows boxed. The building was then cut into multiple pieces and loaded onto eight flatbed truck trailers. On midnight of Sunday, 26 September 1982 the flatbeds moved the major pieces to the Church site (several other storage locations in San Mateo were also used for portions of the structure). The route started down Mission Blvd (Highway 238) in Fremont and then over to Central Expressway which turns into Alma and then joins El Camino Real in Palo Alto. Finally, up El Camino Real to the Church and other storage sites.

The Christ Church congregation wanted an undercroft (basement) for a Parish Hall, classrooms, and administrative offices, so the undercroft had to be prepared before the old church could be reconstructed over it. Most of the old church could be used in the reconstruction; the 1894 steeple was placed atop a reinforced steel support as an elevator was installed for handicap access to the undercroft. Redwood paneling was added over the steel structure to match the original. After the move, the Church was consecrated to and called Saint Joseph and reconsecrated as Christ Church Parish in 2001 when the mortgage was burned. In researching changes to MissionTour I note that the church reverted to Saint Joseph some time between 2007, when I last visited, and 2015. With those changes the church now proudly sits serving its new congregation.

Christ Church front
Picture taken 12:00pm 24 Apr 2007
Christ Church back
Picture taken 12:10pm 24 Apr 2007

Inside, the church is much as it was when it served as the San José Mission. The new ceiling extends up to the peak where in the mission the inside ceiling stopped part way up and curved over.

Inside altar long shot
Picture taken 11:40am 24 Apr 2007

The altar is the same one used in the Normandy-style San José Mission building as is the representation of the lamb sitting in the niche at the top-center of the altar. The history of the lamb beyond it being a part of the altar was not known when I visited.

Lamb
Picture taken 11:45am 24 Apr 2007
Altar Detail
Picture taken 11:40am 24 Apr 2007

The altar rails are also original to the Normandy-style building; the San José Mission kept the rounded ends for their museum.

Altar Rails
Picture taken 11:40am 24 Apr 2007

Lectern
Picture taken 11:40am 24 Apr 2007
Pulpit
Picture taken 11:40am 24 Apr 2007
The eagle-shaped lectern and ambo are not part of the original Normandy-style church, but, instead, are later additions.The lectern originated with a casting found in a San Francisco antique shop. Using a design from the Schoenbrune castle the eagle was perched upon a sphere and installed in the church in the mid-1990s.The ambo (pulpit) was donated by the Allen family who bought it at a Napa Valley antique shop. It is thought to have come from a closed Presbyterian church in the Napa Valley and might have originally come from Scotland (19th century?).
Left side wall
Left Wall Pan
Picture taken 11:25am 24 Apr 2007
These two panoramic shots of the left side wall (above) and right side wall (below) were digitally stitched together from multiple pictures. They show the stained glass windows which are original from the mission church although not installed in exactly the same order as they were in the original mission church. A couple of the very top windows (the small ones with lobes) had to be replaced with plain colored glass as the originals were broken during a rock-throwing match a group of boys doing community service at the original site engaged in before they could be stopped.
Right side wall
Right Wall Pan
Picture taken 11:25am 24 Apr 2007

Finally, on the way out, don’t forget to look up as the choir loft and stained glass behind is very well done. The window depicts Saint Joseph in honor of the Church’s origins.

Choir Window Detail
Picture taken 11:35am 24 Apr 2007

Choir Loft
Picture taken 11:35am 24 Apr 2007

More Information

I would like to give public thanks to Father John Altberg, Rector of Saint Joseph Parish for helping to arrange my visit and a special thanks to Al Schick for his help and stories during my visit.

Note: A number of the images on this page have been digitally altered. Power and phone lines as well as some traffic has been removed from exterior shots and interior shots of stained glass windows have been enhanced to bring out the colors in the windows while making the exposure of the inside walls correct. No details of the structure have been removed or added in this process; it’s simply a clarification to help the visual presentation.