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Mision San Francisco de Asis (or Mission Dolores) in San Francisco, California

Mission Dolores 2Mision San Francisvo de Asis (otherwise known as Mission Dolores) is the oldest building in the city of San Francisco. Dolores is, in fact, the very reason the city of San Francisco stands where it does today. Officially established on October 9, 1776, Mission Dolores is the only remaining Mission founded by Father Junipero Serra. If you’re in the Bay Area, it makes good sense to visit the place where it all began.

You can easily take the F Line to within a few blocks of the Mission. Parking in the area isn’t great, so this is probably your best option. I took the street car across town to check it out. When I got there, I was charged a $5.00 admission fee. There seems to be a little discrepancy there. The website recommends a $3.00 donation for visitiors and offers an “audio tour” for the price of $5.00. I didn’t get an audio tour. The guy at the desk wasn’t particularly friendly. While I was deciding whether or not I really wanted to pay $5.00 to spend 10 minutes inside the building, he made some sort of comment about me getting out of the way if I wasn’t going to take the tour because “there are a lot of people waiting.” It took me SECONDS to decide, I wasn’t standing there for a long time. Not a big fan of his.

Mission Dolores 5Mission Dolores 1Once inside, it really is beautiful. This was my first Mission visit (besides to the Alamo, which doesn’t really count as a Mission) so I was quite excited. The audio tour would have been nice. I’m sure there a LOADS of wonderful stories about the building and I would have loved to hear a few. The signage is non-existent in the buildings, which is good as it would obstruct the views. The brochure isn’t really much help, but the listing for the cemetery is interesting. “Originally the Cemetery covered a much larger area…Gradually the Cemetery was consolidated to its present size. The unidentified bodies were reverently buried in a common grave.” I don’t care if you use nice adjectives like reverent, throwing a bunch of unidentified bodies is a mass grave is just terrible. This occurred in the 1800’s, before the gold rush. There has to be some history there. This is the story I found, listed to be from the San Francisco Morning Call, 8 June 1889.

“MISSION DOLORES. The Cemeteries Now Ready to Be Transferred to the City. The removal of the bodies lying in that portion of the Mission Cemetery at Mission Dolores thorugh which the Sixteenth-street extension will pass was commenced on the 8th day of April, and yesterday the workmen engaged in the task disinterred the last three bodies that will be taken up until such time as the $2000 appropriated by the city for the purchase of the property is paid.

Mission Dolores 3Two bodies still remain to be moved, and they will hold the ground as a cemetery until the purchase is made complete.

The property abandoned has a cash valuation of $25,000, and the purchase was made partly through the efforts of the Church-street Improvement Club and partly, because the Archbishop, realizing that sooner or later the transfer must be effected, threw himself into the cause with a “hearty goodwill and interposed no difficulities, choosing rather to suffer a pecuniary loss through letting the property go at a figure far below its value than to hinder by opposition a feature in the city’s improvement that must necessarily enhance the value of the property in the neighborhood.

Ten of the bodies have been interred in Mount Calvary Cemetery; 40 at the cemetery of the Holy Cross in San Mateo County; 1, that of Senor Peralta, has been sent to Oakland; 1, named Murphy, sent to Vallejo; 2 children sent to Od Fellows’ cemetery, and the remainder, in number 446, have been reinterred in another part of the Mission Cemetery. One of these is Thomas Ford, a former stock-broker and society leader, and Senor Diaz, an old Spaniard Don.

Mission Dolores 6The three bodies disinterred yesterday were found beneath the roots of cypress trees that had been planted upward of thirty years ago. In every instance, except two or three recent interments, there was nothing to be found except a few bones, or badly corroded coffin plates. These, as a rule, were placed in new boxes. There was no mixing of bodies. When they were unknown, a simple cross marks the place of reinternment, upon which is inscribed “unknown,” or sometimes the number of the lot or grave from which they were taken. This, however, has seldom been necessary as most of the remains were localized by a slab or tablet.

The line of the street gives but scant margin to the church in passing, but strikes the school-house in such a manner that it will have be moved back several feet. This will be done, and a new building will also be erected for the use of the priests in the same yard with the school-house. These improvements will be made as soon as the street passes into possession of the city.”

So they didn’t just move a few people and put them in a mass grave. It was a full on project, all for development. Wow.

Mission Dolores 4If you want to visit, here is the 411:

3321 16th Street
San Francisco, CA 94114
Tel: (415) 621-8203
Fax: (415) 621-2294

Open Daily from 8:00am-12:00pm and 1:00pm- 4:00pm