Architectural Styles – Mission and Spanish Colonial Revival Part 1

by John Neuuber

There is something quite magical about beautifully designed spaces. We may not be able to articulate it like an architect or designer, but we know it when we see it.

I guess that’s what the designer is trying to do, create a space knowing that it really isn’t finished until someone sees it, walks in and uses it. It’s like what Frank Lloyd Wright said: “All beautiful architectural values ​​are human values, otherwise they have no value.” Good architecture and good design speak of our values, of our humanity.

Various architectural styles can be found in nearly every residential neighborhood in Claremont. The more eclectic collection of styles is predominant in the older neighborhoods, although given the city’s history in the citrus industry, older styles can be found scattered throughout the city.

The most represented styles in Claremont are Craftsman/Bungalow, Mission and Spanish Colonial Revival, Turn of the Century, American Colonial Revival, Tudor and English Inspired, French Inspired, Monterey Revival, International Style, California Ranch, Modern styles and a handful of d other styles.

All of the characteristic features of each of these styles may not be present in every example, but when they are, they are important to the design and character of the residence. When restoring, remodeling, or adding a specific style, the Interior Secretary’s Standards for the Treatment of Historic Properties is the guiding document. The standards are intended to promote the preservation and rehabilitation of character-defining elements.

Standard procedure for historic buildings is to identify, retain and preserve the form and detail of materials and architectural elements that are important in defining the historic character of the structure. Additions or alterations are encouraged to be compatible with these character-defining elements.

One of the most popular and sought after styles in Claremont are Mission and Spanish Colonial Revival homes, the latter being dominant. In many ways, there is an overlap between these two styles. The Spanish Colonial Revival was an early 20th century stylistic movement based on Spanish colonial architecture seen during the Spanish colonization of North America.

California is the birthplace of the Mission style, and most prominent examples can be found here. The first were built in the 1890s. A few were built in Claremont but demolished decades ago in favor of more modern styles.

The 1915 Panama-California Exposition highlighted the work of architect Bertram Goodhue. This created the style’s popularity in California and nationally, with most homes being built here and in Florida. The style was popular between 1915 and the early 1930s.

In Mexico, the Spanish Colonial Revival style was adopted by the nationalist arts movement promoted by the post-Revolution Mexican government. While the Mexican style was influenced by the baroque architecture of central Mexico, the American style was influenced by the California missions.

The style proved so popular in California that the town of Rancho Santa Fe in San Diego County grew up around it. Santa Barbara adopted the style to give the city a unified Spanish character after an earthquake in 1925. Real estate developer Ole Hanson favored the style when San Clemente was founded and developed. Today we see details of the revival style in homes and commercial developments.

The Mission style blends the architecture of Mediterranean, Italian and Spanish traditions with that of the California missions. In general, this style sought to convey the feeling and association of the California missions era. The buildings were intended to be copies of these early Spanish and Mexican forms. The style suited the hot California climate and became a favorite building idiom in the 1920s.

The Spanish Revival style was most popular from 1915 through the 1930s. The Spanish influence in residential architecture in Claremont is prominent in the historic neighborhoods, recognizable by their distinctive white troweled smooth stucco finish, shingle roofing, clay tiles, with their simple shapes and modest door and window openings. The character of these dwellings ranges from the smaller, more simply detailed eclectic Spanish Revival style to large, upscale style homes with more ornate detailing and building forms.

Characteristic features of the Spanish Colonial Mission and Renaissance style:

Mass mission style

  • One or two stories
  • Often symmetrical, but can be asymmetrical with a hipped or gabled roof
  • “Mission shaped” or scalloped dormer or parapet
  • Exterior stair and balcony elements

Mass Spanish colonial revival

  • One, one and a half or two storeys high
  • Asymmetrical volume with multi-level roofs
  • Side and front gabled, cross-gabled, flat and hipped roof forms
  • Exterior stair and balcony elements


  • Mission or Spanish lime roofs
  • Terracotta tile coping on the parapets
  • Gable and hipped roofs with medium to low pitch

Porches and balconies

  • Porches and balconies are common and are often found in interior or back yards, although street-facing features do occur
  • Front entrances are often recessed into a deep wall


  • Front entrances are sometimes behind small open arcades with arched openings
  • Balconies on upper floors are usually small, cantilevered, and may be open or covered with a roof
  • Balconies are common and are usually made of solid timber framing members with exposed rafter tails and supports
  • Balconies often have open wooden railings, sometimes metal, and simple details

Architectural details

  • iron railings
  • Smooth trowel stucco finish on roof chimneys, elaborate clay tops
  • Decorative stucco or smooth trowel tile roof vents at gable ends
  • Decorative Tile Accents
  • Unpainted heavy timber framing on exterior balconies and porch roofs

Windows and doors

  • Arched window and door openings
  • Doors made of wooden planks or panels
  • Split-pane wood twin casement windows
  • Recessed windows and doors at wall level with stucco return, without trim
  • Window awnings

Future episodes of this series will explore Craftsman, Turn of the Century, and modern styles, among others.

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