DEL MAR — One-hundred-pound, cast iron bells that replicate hand-held choir bells have been in the news lately because a spokesperson for the Rancho Santa Fe Historical Society reported one of five of these bells the group had installed was missing.
The bells are mounted on 13-foot-high metal poles that resemble a sheepherders crook.
The original bells were placed in 1906 by the Federation of Womens Clubs and Auto Club to mark the road used by Father Junipero Serra in 1769 between the Harbor City’s Mission de Alcala and one in Sonoma near San Francisco.
There are a total of 21 missions.
The road became known as El Camino Real (The King’s Highway). Parts of it remain today, although not totally accurately because of developments and highway redesign.
One of the original bells stands in front of Mission San Luis Rey in Oceanside. Another, although not certified as being original, is at an undisclosed location in Solana Beach. Most of the 600 bells installed by the Federation have disappeared.
In 1998, John Daley, Oceanside historian, launched a program to designate Coast Highway as Historic Highway 101. The mission bell was designated as its symbol. Organizations like Encinitas Rotary Club provided funds for bells in the San Dieguito area. Del Mar Historical Society raised funds to install one at the east corner of l4th Street and Camino del Mar where one of the original bells was located in front of St James Catholic Church (now the library).
Filed Under: EyeWitness