Updated: October 14, 2006
his small brass bell is one of approximately five hundred bells in the Mission Inn collections. Similar bells modeled after original El Camino Real bells, were sold as souvenirs in the hotel’s gift shop. El Camino Real or The Kings Highway was the road which connected the twenty-one Spanish Missions. The road stretched for approximately three hundred miles; it took about a month to travel from one end to the other. Travelers were able to rest at the missions, strategically placed about a day’s travel apart. El Camino Real can still be followed today by taking State Highway 101, which closely follows the old road.
In the late 19th century, Miss Anna Pitcher first proposed the preservation of El Camino Real. The California Federation of Women’s Clubs and the Native Daughters of the Golden West later accepted the challenge, and founded El Camino Real Association with the purpose of reestablishing the road. Mrs. A. S. C. Forbes designed an iron bell supported by a curved metal pipe to mark the highway. The Association placed the first bell at the Plaza Church in downtown Los Angeles. “El Camino Real” and the dates “1769” and “1906" appeared on each bell. These dates represented the founding of the first Mission at San Diego and the year the first bell was installed. It is symbolic that an El Camino Real bell now hangs near Frank Miller’s personal suite of rooms at the front of the Mission Inn.