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The seaside city of Ventura is a town rich in California history. From Mission San Buenaventura founded in 1782 to the classic 1912 City Hall, Ventura has retained a strong sense of its historical past, traditions, and architecture.
Ventura was founded more than 1,500 years ago as the Chumash village, Shisholop. During that time, a succession of various cultures inhabited the land where the City of San Buenaventura is now located.
Ventura takes its modern name from Mission San Buenaventura, founded by Franciscan friars under the Spanish crown in 1782. Ventura became a bustling frontier town following California statehood in 1850. The discovery of oil hastened the area’s growth, and by 1925, the Ventura Avenue oil field was among the most productive in the nation.
Visitors can learn about Ventura’s past by visiting downtown Ventura, where several of the historical attractions are located, all within walking distance.
Mission San Buenaventura, located at 211 E. Main Street, is the last and final mission founded by Father Junipero Serra. Destroyed by fire in the 1790’s, the church was rebuilt over a period of a dozen years and rededicated in 1809. Of particular interest is the side courtyard entrance which contains two curved lines above the door, executed by the Chumash, representing the two rivers found on either side of the Mission – the Ventura and Santa Clara rivers. Other highlights include a small museum, the statues of saints located throughout the mission and the 250-year-old paintings of the Stations of the Cross, which have been in the chapel since is rededication. The mission is open for self-guided tours Monday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. A $1 donation is requested. For more information call, 805/643-4318.
Located adjacent to the Mission is the Albinger Archaeological Museum at 113 E. Main Street. More than 3,500 years of Ventura history and five culture groups are revealed at this site. The exhibits include stone relics of Native Americans who lived in the area from 1600-100 B.C., objects from the Chumash city of Mitz Kanakan, Spanish crucifixes from the late 1760’s, and other artifacts telling the story of the area’s past. The museum is open daily (except Monday and Tuesday) from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. during the summer; and from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. weekdays, and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on weekends. Admission is free. For more information call, 805/648-5823.
Directly across the street sits the Museum Ventura County, one of the oldest museums in California. The museum contains interesting exhibits depicting life in Ventura County. From the Chumash Indians to the oil wildcatters, the county’s colorful history comes alive. Special features are the George Stuart Historical figures, quarter-life-size figures from history dressed in elaborate period costumes, and the “Ventura County in the New West” exhibit which explores Ventura from the Chumash era through the 20 th century. A museum and research library are also onsite. The museum is open Tuesday through Sunday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Admission is $4 for adults; $3 for seniors; $2 for children 13-16; and $4 for children 6-12. Children under 6 are free. For more information call, 805/653-0323. Note: the Museum is under renovation and expansion so a temporary is home is slated to open @ 89 S. California Street, just around the corner from its regular location. Opening day is April 25, 2008.
Other historical sites include the Olivas Adobe, an outstanding example of a two-story Monterey style adobe. The Olivas Adobe was built by Don Raymundo Olivas after he received a Mexican land grant in 1841. Visitors can tour the adobe’s lovely garden which contains 100-year-old fuschias and a grape arbor dating from the early California mission period.
Visitors can also see exhibits of the Olivas family photographs in the parlor and period furnishings in the other rooms. Weddings and special events are often held at the Adobe. The Adobe outside grounds are open daily, with docent-guided tours on Saturday and Sunday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Admission is free and donations are appreciated. For more information call, 805/644-4346.
The Ortega Adobe, located at 215 W. Main Street, was built in 1857 and is known as the birthplace for the Ortega Famous Green Chiles. The Adobe is open daily 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. and outside admission is free. For more information call, 805/658-4726.
The A.J. Comstock Fire Museum features turn-of-the-century firefighting equipment and artifacts. Visitors can visit the site on Figueroa Plaza located between Main and Santa Clara streets. For more information call, 805/339-4300.
Ventura’s historic City Hall, located at 501 Poli Street, sits on top of a hill overlooking the city. The former Ventura County Courthouse, built in 1912, has a neoclassical design with doric columns, marble floors, a domed stained-glass ceiling, bronze fixtures and 24 terra cotta friars. Both self-guided and organized tours are offered. For more information call, 805/658-4726.
For those interested in learning more about Ventura’s history, the city offers a number of walking tours led by local historians. The tours range from buried treasures, pirate invasions, old West shootouts, ghost sightings and Chumash lifestyles. The life of Erle Stanley Gardner, creator of the Perry Mason novels is explored indepth during organized tours.
In addition, a Historic Walking Tour Guide of downtown Ventura is available to visitors highlighting additional venues and historic sites for visitors to explore.
To receive a Ventura Visitors Guide, contact the Ventura Visitors & Convention Bureau at 1-800-333-2989 or visit the Bureau’s website at http://www.ventura-usa.com . An online guide is viewable at http://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/vg/ve. A 4.300 Square foot visitors center has now opened at 101 S. California Street in historic downtown Ventura. Open daily, the center houses information, guides, maps and displays on the Channel Islands National Park, Harbor Village, locals arts scene and the Heritage Valley. Exit north bound 101 @ California, go two blocks north. Exit south bound 101 @ Main Street, go 2 miles east to California, turn left. Center is on left at corner of California and Santa Clara streets.