O'Neil Museum, San Juan Capistrano
Located in the Los Rios District the O'Neill Museum is home to the San Juan Capistrano Historical Society. The museum is open Tuesdays through Fridays from 9:00 a.m. until 4:00 p.m. and on Sunday afternoons from noon until 3:00 p.m. The historical society is the repository of most historical documents, genealogies and photographs pertaining to San Juan Capistrano.
The O'Neil Museum is also know as, Garcia/Pryor residence and The San Juan Capistano Historical Society Headquarters.
Besides seeing a small but notorious Victorian home, it is one of the first frame houses in San Juan built between 1870 and 80. Stories of land grabbing, conspiracy, murder and ghosts surround this pretty little building jazzing up the idea of a visit here.
However, I was attracted to the style and decor and was pleasantly surprised by the friendly docents who are knowledgable and happy to share info about the history of this area. A tour doesn't take but fifteen minutes or so but, getting interesting information can take much longer. Depends on the person.
The O'Neill Museum is loacted on teh Los Rios Neighborhood, almost to the end of the street near the zoo.
The O'Neill Museum, was built between 1870 and 1880 by Jose Garcia, a saloon owner, for his wife, Refugio Yorba. It was one of the first frame houses in San Juan Capistrano and was originally located on the lot directly behind the present El Adobe de Capistrano Restaurant. Garcia was murdered in 1896 by a man known as Mestizo”, who was tried and convicted. He was sentenced to hang, but the sentence was reduced to life in prison. This sentence was also reduced and he was free in a few years. A story circulated in town that several prominent citizens wanted the land at Forster and Camino Capistrano streets on which Garcia's saloon was located and had paid “Mestizo” to kill Garcia. Nothing was ever proven against any of the town's citizens.
Now they say the house is haunted by the ghost of Albert Pryor. In 1903 Albert Pryor purchased the house from the Garcia family and he and his family lived there until 1955. Pryor spent many hours on the porch of the house, watching the children and the trains. The ghost sits on the porch occasionally and smoke a cigar.
Today the Museum also is the San Juan Capistrano Historical Society headquarters and the center of all its archives of photos, books, documents, maps, genealogical records, oral histories and much more.