Mission Santa Inés (sometimes spelled Santa Ynez) was founded on September 17, 1804 by Father Estévan Tapís, who had succeeded Father Fermín Lasuén as President of the California mission chain. The Mission site was chosen as a midway point between Mission Santa Barbara and Mission La Purísima Concepción, and was designed to relieve overcrowding at those two missions and to serve the Indians living east of the Coast Range . Despite its name, the Mission is located at 1760 Mission Drive, Solvang, California.
The Mission was home to the first learning institution in Alta California. Most of the original church was destroyed on December 21, 1812 in an earthquake centered near Santa Barbara that damaged or destroyed most of California's missions. The quake also severely damaged other Mission buildings, but the complex was not abandoned. A new church, constructed with 5- to 6-foot thick walls and great pine beams brought from nearby Figueroa Mountain, was dedicated on July 4, 1817.
On February 21, 1824 a soldier beat a young Chumash Indian and sparked a revolt. Some of the Indians went to get the Indians from Missions Santa Barbara and La Purísima to help in the fight. When the fighting was over, the Indians themselves put out the fire that had started at the Mission. Many of the Indians left to join other tribes in the mountains; only a few Indians remained at the Mission. In 1833 the missions in California were secularized, and their land given in land grants to settlers.
Highwayman Jack Powers briefly took over Mission Santa Inés and the adjacent Rancho San Marcos in 1853, intending to rustle the cattle belonging to rancher Nicolas A. Den, but he was defeated in a bloodless armed confrontation. He was not to be ousted from the Santa Barbara area until 1855.
In 1843, California's Mexican governor granted 34,499 acres of Santa Ynez Valley land to the first Bishop of California, who established at the Mission the College of Our Lady of Refuge, the first seminary in California. The college was abandoned in 1881; by then the Mission was disintegrating. A family lived there in the 1890s and did some repairs, but much of the complex collapsed in 1894. The Danish town of Solvang was built up around the Mission proper in the early 1900s. It was through the efforts of Father Alexander Buckler in 1904 that reconstruction of the Mission was undertaken, though major restoration was not possible until 1947 when the Hearst Foundation donated money to pay the for project. The restoration continues to this day, and the Capuchin Franciscan Fathers take excellent care of the Mission. Today the Mission is an active parish; there is also a museum, gift shop and information center.