While not located within the Historic Monterey district, the importance of Mission Carmel – formally called Mission San Carlos Borromeo del Rio Carmelo – and its relationship to the original settlement of Monterey warrant its inclusion in any listing of the area’s most historic buildings.
Father Junipero Serra founded his second California mission in Monterey near the Royal Presidio in 1770. But he soon found a host of reasons to move the mission over to the Carmel River valley: better soil for farming, fresh water in abundance, and a larger number of native people to preach to (with less chance of bad influences from the soldados in the Presidio).
The first church, dedicated in August, 1771, was a simple construction in wood; several years passed before the padres were able to construct a replacement in adobe bricks. Father Serra died in 1784; Father Lasuen, who followed him as Presidente of the Franciscan missionaries in Alta California, began construction of a new church, directly on the site of the old, using sandstone quarried in the Santa Lucia Mountains; it was dedicated in 1797.
After the secularization of the missions in 1834, and the removal of the padres to Monterey, Mission Carmel began its slow slide into ruin. A wooden roof slowed its complete destruction in the 1884, but true restoration in the spirit of the original construction did not begin until 1936. Today, Mission Carmel is open for visitors and services; an excellent museum in the original padres residence (convento) displays relics of the padres, mission life, and California’s oldest library.