About ~ Old Santa Rosa Chapel ~ Cambria, California
The Santa Rosa Chapel, a National Historic Registry landmark and one of the oldest churches in the county, was built in 1870.
The building was constructed of locally grown pine and was dedicated to St. Rose of Lima. After the missions, it was the first Catholic church built in California. Priests from both the Mission San Luis Obispo and the Mission San Miguel traveled to Cambria (weather permitting) to conduct services.
The chapel served the community for 91 years, and among its congregation included guests of William Randolph Hearst, Marion Davies, Gary Cooper and Bing Crosby. The cemetery is the final resting place of many Cambria pioneers, including the Phelans, Pereiras, Cantuas and Fiscalinis.
The final Mass was celebrated in the chapel on May 26, 1963. After its closing, the chapel and cemetery fell into a state of neglect and disrepair with both the chapel and cemetery incurring vandalism.
In 1978, Cambria natives Marina Curti and Clementine Newman formed the Santa Rosa Chapel committee and spearheaded the restoration project for seven years.
By September 16, 1984, the restoration was complete and the chapel was rededicated for community use. Brush and trees had been removed and a fence and gate added. Workers raised and restored the foundation, replaced siding on the north and east sides, installed new window panes and a new floor and replaced much of the wainscoting. They rebuilt the floors, communion rail, confessional, side altars, and the iron fence and gateway at the cemetery.
The committee restored curbing around family plots and placed redwood markers on unmarked graves. They bought pews from Holy Cross Church in Santa Cruz and even found the original 1871 altar in a Phelan barn.
Clearly, the efforts of these two extraordinary women and their Santa Rosa Chapel committee resulted in the treasured site we have today.
Fundraising continues today for restoration and maintenance of the chapel. It is available for weddings, memorial services, concerts and events. Additional funds are raised by the annual polenta dinner and candlelight Christmas program.
About the Cemetery behind the Santa Rosa Chapel.
The cemetery was established in 1870. The earliest born person interred in the cemetery was born in 1798. The cemetery, gardens, and walkways are on 12.2 acres of land in the middle of the largest stand of Monterey Pines in the state of California. Over 1,200 trees are on the grounds ranging from Monterey pines, coastal live oaks, Toyon trees, California Pepper trees, and various other native flowers and grasses. Headstones range from inscribed granite rock, metal, military issued, to beautiful carved marble. Of the old wooden headstones 80 have no names as they have worn off over the years but still stand.