Church of Mt. Carmel

114 Hall Avenue: Templo de Restauracion

This simple Mission Revival building was originally Our Lady of Mount Carmel, the first Catholic Church in San Ysidro. Father Seville Alloero provided the dedication and blessing at the first service on Easter Sunday, 1927. The church was built by Mr. W.B. Settle, a San Diego carpenter and contractor for the sum of $5,100.oo. The money for the construction of Mount Carmel was donated by Mr. Frank Beyers, described as a “capitalist of San Ysidro and Tijuana, Mexico, with a long list of benefactions in his community”. In addition to owning a large diary, known as Rancho Lechuza located west of the study area, Mr. Beyers built and owned a home on Hall, donated money for the construction of the community church, the Catholic church, the library and the Civic Center. A major street in San Ysidro is named after Frank Beyers.

The significance of this Church does not lie in its Mission Revival style nor in its association with an individual important in the post 1916 development of San Ysidro. Rather, as the first Catholic Church in San Ysidro, the original site of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, the building reflects the social and cultural changes that were beginning to occur in this town in the early 1920s. “The significant factor in California history is the interaction of successive immigrant waves upon its life and culture.”

It was in the early years of the 1920s that San Ysidro began to lose its agricultural character. An engineer’s survey of 1922 noted work should be done to provide fire protection for what had become largely a residential community. In 1923 “there was built or under construction in the town more than 100  dwelling houses, indicating a growth in population of at least 500.

Following WWI, both the homestead ideal and the back-to-the-land movements that swept the U.S. had been replaced in the American psyche. The shortage of American labor form WWI and the flu epidemic impacted the nation as a whole. San Ysidro, as a border town saw a steady increase of immigration populations arriving to fill the void.

In addition, many laborers and entertainers who worked in Tijuana in the casinos and race tracks lived in San Ysidro, crossing the border on a daily basis to and from work. An urban-industrial transformation was sweeping the nation, reaching well into the suburbs and outlying communities. San Ysidro was no exception. The community focus gradually changed to cater to tourists and the commercial and social needs of an ethnically mixed town.

The growing change in the ethnicity of San Ysidro became apparent when the directories of the 1920s were reviewed: besides noting a wider range of occupations and available resources, Spanish surnames began to frequently appear.

The Little Landers, like other planned communities of the era, explicitly restricted minority groups in an effort to create a totally homogenous place grounded in the moral ideals of white, middle-class Protestants; a place “where families ‘knew’ who their future neighbors would be”.

Our Lady of Mount Carmel (now Templo de Restauracion) serves as a symbol of the changing cultural make-up of San Ysidro; a moving away from a predominantly Protestant, mid-Western Little Landers community toward an ethnically mixed community where many of the permanent residents were and are of a Catholic-Hispanic background.

Church of Mt. CarmelChurch of Mt. Carmel

From: San Ysidro Historic Resources Survey, Conducted for: City of San Diego Palnning Department, Conducted by: Roth and Associates, Linda Roth & Judy Berryman, 14 August 1989.

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