The Los Rios Historic District was placed on the National Register of Historic Places April 4, 1983. This District includes 31 historic structures which line both sides of the street from Del Obispo to Mission Street. The District's registered boundaries lie within the locally designated Los Rios Historic Area, a 40-acre planning area which includes homes, "cottage" businesses, a park, and museums, and is one of the oldest neighborhoods in California.
The District has many interesting architectural styles spanning two centuries. Three homes are made of adobe and are the only ones remaining of 40 adobes originally built in 1794 by Indian neophytes. Nearly 1,000 neophytes lived and worked around Mission San Juan Capistrano. The most common structures on Los Rios Street are board and batten homes built between 1887 and 1910. It is this collection of single-wall-construction homes that qualified it for the National Register. A few of the homes have been built since 1920, but stringent guidelines make sure new construction is compatible in size and design.
The District also includes River Street, originally a narrow dirt road whose history is linked to that of Los Rios Street, having served as the main path across Trabuco Creek, connecting the town to the ocean. Finally, the District includes the Santa Fe Railroad Depot which has served as a vital element of the community since its construction in 1894.
Although constructed over a long period of time, the small homes of the Los Rios Historic District create a cohesive neighborhood which retains the small town character of San Juan Capistrano at the turn of the century. The homes possess a striking unity and an unassuming quality of design. Many have been restored, such as the home of Albert Pryor, now the O'Neill Museum.
Please enjoy your visit to the Los Rios Historic District, a special part of San Juan Capistrano's history. You are welcome to stroll the quiet streets and capture the feeling of San Juan Capistrano a century ago. Most of the homes are privately owned and occupied and can only be viewed from the street. While all have interesting stories, a few are highlighted on this plaque.