The most famous building in town is the little church made of sheet metal (shown above), which was designed by and fabricated for Gustave Eiffel, who hoped it would be a prototype for French mission churches in remote, tropical locations. Although the design won a prize at the 1889 Paris World Exposition (where the Eiffel Tower was also featured), the idea of a prefabicated metal church didn't catch on, and the owner of the mining company bought the pieces and brought them to Santa Rosalía, where they were reassembled. It's a surprisingly pleasing structure, with handsome detail pressed into the metal cladding.
But French influence aside, Santa Rosalía reminds us of company towns we have encountered in our travels - from Ocean Falls in remote British Columbia to Samoa on the shores of Humboldt Bay in Northern California (both pulp mill towns); from Butte, Montana to Bisbee, Arizona (mining towns). These places get built up and organized and inhabited with great energy and investment, and they develop an air of purpose and prosperity. Then the timber or the ore on which they depended gets used up, and jobs disappear, leaving only the shell of the purposeful operation.
Santa Rosalía has survived well, and the town is still energetic and densely populated. Every tiny wooden cottage seems to be inhabited, and bursts with flowers, as if the small graceful French details inspire a different aesthetic than is found in most small Baja towns. Best of all, there is still a French bakery, with baguettes fresh every morning.