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SOHO Receives Stewardship

of Adobe Chapel of the Immaculate Conception in Old Town

Exterior c. 1872



Interior of the chapel of the Immaculate Conception in 1889. The patroness of San Diego city is to the left on the main alter and originally from the Presidio. The large Crucifix and the eight by ten painting of the last judgement in the center are from the Mission. The San Juan Bautista to the right is from the Presidio.


SOHO is pleased to announce that the City of San Diego has leased this very important artifact of San Diego's history to SOHO to operate. Originally built in 1850 as the home of San Diego's John Brown, the house was converted to a church by Don José Aguirre in 1858. Father Antonio D. Ubach, formerly a missionary among the Indians, was parish priest here from 1866 to 1907. In the late 1930's when the streets were realigned the chapel was bulldozed. In 1937 the WPA rebuilt the adobe chapel.

The chapel retains much of the interior artifacts from the original chapel including the tabernacle, the altar with its beautiful marbleized finish, some woodwork including pews and doors, and José Aguirre's tombstone is laid in the floor.

The chapel was used for many things, a school, town meetings and special events. It was also the repository for the art of the Mission period when the Mission and Presidio churches were in ruin or abandoned to other uses. All of the art was moved into the Adobe chapel.

According to author James Noland in The Discovery of the Lost Art Treasures of California's First Mission one of the Richard Pourard series on California history, "if it were not for the record kept by local and visiting photographers from the 1880's well into the 20th century, the art of the Mission and Presidio would have been lost beyond recall."

Because of this photographic evidence almost all of the art and artifacts from this period have been located.

As the Adobe chapel was a large part of daily life for Old Town residents there are written accounts that help paint a picture for us as well. In 1882, Lillian Whaley wrote of various holiday services at the Adobe chapel. She described in great detail the art and other decorative treatments including important small details such as the tin candlestick sconces "the tin candlesticks still occupy their old places on the adobe wall below and between the holy pictures of the estaciones which rest on a projection in the wall."

There is much research to be done, photographs and accounts to be gathered. But for now we will begin slowly to bring this most historic place back to life. Our immediate goal is to open it on weekends. As volunteers and funds become available we will have it open to the public six days a week along with the Whaley house. We also intend to make it available for weddings and other special events.

The first rule of order is, as always, clean! The chapel will be sparkling when the SOHO volunteers get done with it and we will hold the first open house in December as a part of the holiday season in conjunction with the Whaley house festivities.

The chapel is just down the street from the Whaley House at 3963 Conde Street, between Congress Street and San Diego Avenue, Old Town, San Diego.

To read more about the Adobe Chapel
Adobe Chapel of the Immaculate Conception
Adobe Chapel Welcomes the Old Town Community
Our Wish List for the Adobe Chapel

2004 - Volume 35, Issue 4

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2476 San Diego Avenue · San Diego CA 92110 · Phone (619) 297-9327
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