Posted: Wednesday, Sep 20th, 2023

By Visit Ventura

Iconic Ventura Landmarks: Then And Now

Who doesn’t love to look through old yearbooks and see how much you’ve changed? Consider this a yearbook of the City of Ventura. Ventura County is more than 150 years old —phew! We’ve found old photos of some iconic Ventura landmarks and buildings paired with images of what they look like now. Plus, a little history on each landmark so you know where we came from.

San Buenaventura Mission

Not too much has changed here at the San Buenaventura Mission and its importance in the city certainly hasn’t diminished. Founded in 1782 on Easter Sunday as Junipero Serra’s ninth and final mission, it’s known as the “Mission by the Sea” to no one’s surprise. Much of the building’s shape has remained the same and you can still see the iconic “Star Pines” (known as the world’s tallest Christmas trees) to the right of the Mission. The two 135’ tall Norfolk pine trees have been lit for the holiday season for over 80 years after being gifted to the Mission in 1878 by philanthropist E.P. Foster.

The mission is still fully functioning with regular Mass schedules. You can also tour the Mission and enjoy the tranquility of the Mission’s garden. 

First National Bank/Finney’s

Constructed in 1926, this building is one of the most architecturally recognizable buildings in Ventura. Just look at its arches and mixture of Renaissance Revival and Spanish Revival influences. The first-floor lobby has imported French Napoleon marble and the exterior’s terra cotta tiles are similar to the ones found on Ventura City Hall. What this building is probably most known for is being the first building in Ventura to have an elevator. Its other claim to fame is once being the home to author Erle Stanley Gardner’s office (author of the Perry Mason series). 

Today, the First National Bank building is now Finney’s Crafthouse where you can grab a delicious burger and a yummy cocktail as you look around the building and reminisce about the history all around you. 

Ventura Pier

Located in the heart of Ventura is the Ventura Pier. Its accolades are aplenty: the oldest wooden pier in the entire state of California, once the epicenter of Ventura County’s oil trade, agriculture, and fishing markets, and once the longest pier in California (storms weathered it down). Plus, it’s a designated Ventura Historic Landmark (#20 in case you were interested). 

Today, locals and visitors alike take sunset strolls and fishers hope to get a catch of the day. The Ventura Pier is truly a must-visit stop when you’re in town!

Ventura City Hall

The history of Ventura’s City Hall is an interesting one with a few twists and turns. The building actually originated as the Ventura County Courthouse, built in 1912, and continued to serve its civic purpose until 1969 when the building was found to be seismically unsound. The City of Ventura purchased the building from the County to save it from demolition and renovated it for its new purpose: Ventura’s City Hall. 

Before City Hall moved to its current location on Poli Street, Ventura City Hall was located on the corner of Main and California Street where the Ventura Inn is now.

Much can be said about the building’s facade: the lima bean section (honoring Ventura County’s legacy of once providing 75% of the world’s lima beans), the 24 faces of unknown mendicant priests, its gorgeous terra cotta exterior, and elegant Italian marble foyer all make up the beauty of Ventura’s City Hall!

Serra Cross, Grant Park

The location of Grant Park has always been one of the best scenic views in town. Serra Cross was erected in 1912 by members of the E.C.O. Club, a ladies’ service organization, and was later replaced by the cross we know today in 1941. 

Serra Cross/Grant Park represents a sign of hope and community to Ventura locals. Much of Grant Park was burned and destroyed during the 2017 Thomas Fire but the Serra Cross stood standing thanks to heroic acts of firefighters!

Today, Grant Park is an iconic point for prom photos, proposals, yoga, and a sunset viewing atop the hill.

Olivas Adobe

Olivas Adobe offers a sneak peek into California’s rancho era. Built in 1847, it was one of the only two-story haciendas in Southern California and the most impressive and grandiose homes in the Santa Clara River Valley. Much of the building’s structure has been preserved; today, visitors, students, and history buffs can wander through some portions of the home and get a feel for what it was like to live in Don Raymundo Olivas’s home.

Peirano’s Market

When you walk into Peirano’s you can feel the history. You’ll be amazed by the beautiful red brick walls right in the middle of Ventura’s historical district. Peirano’s encompasses Ventura’s Italian history and influences — the building was built in 1877 (it’s Ventura’s first commercial brick building) for Mr. Alex Gandolfo who was an Italian immigrant. Gandolfo operated a general and grocery store until his nephew “Nick Sr.” Peirano took over the business. The rest is history: the Peirano family owned and operated the building for nearly a century (1890 until the late 1980s). 

Today, the building is now known as Peirano’s market and you can eat delicious Italian food or order from their deli with fresh meat and cheese. Their outside patio is a popular spot to enjoy lunch or dinner and have a beautiful view of the San Buenaventura Mission.

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