Two Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) camps were established at what is today the La Purísima Mission State Historical Park: Camp La Purísima and Camp Lompoc. They were built back-to-back on the mesa above La Purísima Mission, but housed two separate companies that worked on different projects. They shared a few officers, activities and functions, however, and came to be known as ‘the Twin Camps’.
The first camp was set up on the site of Mission La Purísima in Lompoc CA in July-August 1934. It was called Camp Santa Rosa and housed CCC company 1951, whose enrollees came mostly from Southern California (Savage, pp. 23-24). It remained a tent camp for over a year, and lacked its own water supply, after which it was moved up to the plateau/mesa behind the mission site and housed in newly-built wooden barracks. At that point, in 1936, it was renamed Camp La Purísima.
The principal work of the camp was a complete restoration of the Mission La Purísima. From 1934 to 1941 CCC crews uncovered, restored and rebuilt 13 separate structures at the Mission. It was an astonishing achievement, given the ruined state of the Mission and scarce historic sources to guide the work. The State Historical Park was dedicated in 1941.
The camp also sent men out to fight fires around Southern California, especially in 1938, and an outlying ‘spike camp’ was placed near Morro Bay to work on the state park, build boat slips and construct a stone gutter at the golf course. (Savage, p 82).
In 1936, a second camp was established on the mesa, called Camp Lompoc. It housed company 2950, formed at that time and assigned to work with the Soil Conservation Service (SCS) in projects around Santa Barbara County.
Most of the CCC enrollees at La Purísima were drawn from Los Angeles. Many were Latino/Mexican American and their memories of the camp were generally quite positive, other than the usual scrapes among young men (usually dealt with in the boxing ring)(Savage, p 24). The original enrollees at Camp Santa Rosa also included about 50 African American youth, whose life and work were fine until 1936, when recruits from Virginia arrived and started treating the Black CCCers in Jim Crow fashion. When fights and other incidents grew worse, as the men from LA refused to endure that kind of racism, the “solution” was to transfer the African Americans to another camp – which so angered them that many quit the CCC (Savage, p 33).
Christine Savage, New Deal Adobe: The Civilian Conservation Corps and the Reconstruction of Mission La Purísima, 1934-1942. Santa Barbara: Fithian Press, 1991.
Project originally submitted by Richard Walker on March 16, 2021.
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