As a New Englander, Spanish missions are both foreign and fascinating to me. With this being the first mission I have ever visited, I am by no means an expert on what a mission typically entails. However, I can assure you that Mission San José is picturesque enough to be well worth more than the suggested three dollar donation.
Since its foundation in 1797, Mission San José is unique in being the only mission east of the San Francisco Bay. In the midst of the town of Fremont, it can be hard to imagine that at its peak, there were once 2,000 Native Americans living there and over 350,000 cattle being raised. The mission saw its first baptism on 2 September 1797 – the first of over 6,000 – and went on to become one of the most prosperous of all the California missions until a Secularization Act was passed by the Mexican Congress in 1833.
The church was destroyed in 1868 by an earthquake and replaced by a wooden building. Construction of a near-perfect replica of the original was finished in 1985 – the only difference being more structural support to protect against earthquakes. In addition to the church, the mission features a visitor’s museum, containing various artifacts and pictures of the mission before its restorations. From a Lomographer’s perspective, it is a bit frustrating that flash photography is not allowed indoors, where the lighting is not that great. There were definitely things worth photographing inside, so I would advise bringing film with higher sensitivities and a light meter. If you cannot manage that, then worry not, as the small graveyard outside provides many wonderful picture opportunities.
As a last tip, do not think that Mission San José is located in the city of San Jose. It is, in fact, in Fremont, which is not far from San Jose, but research tells me both were coincidentally named after St. Joseph. The original city of San Jose was founded thirteen miles away. Also, you may want to call ahead to make sure they are open, as I would suppose they close for religious services.