A Brief History of Mission Dolores Park

It took a long time for Mission Dolores Park to become the city park we know today.

At our May 26, 2018 Dolores Park History Day volunteer storytellers recounted events before, during, and after the Park’s creation, using photos, maps, and reproductions of old paintings.

Thousands of years ago the native peoples of the Ohlone tribe chose the area for its sunny weather and access to natural resources. In 1776 the Spanish settlers built Mission Dolores nearby for the same reasons.

The entrance to Woodwards Gardens was located on Mission Street. The grounds were bounded by Mission Street, 14th Street, Duboce Street, and Valencia Street, just on the eastern edge of the Mission Dolores neighborhood. Courtesy of San Francisco Public Library.

During the Gold Rush era, freewheeling bars and other places for amusement sprouted in the Mission District.

Jewish cemetery in Mission Dolores Park.

Then the to-be park welcomed the dead when two Jewish congregations made the land into burial grounds in the 1860s. The era of the dead ended in 1904 when (at the City’s urging) the Jewish cemeteries moved to Colma. A city bond measure funded the purchase of the land in 1905. And Park Superintendent John McLaren designed the park.

Then the 1906 Earthquake made the park into a camp of more than 500 earthquake shacks and tents for those who lost their housing in the fire.

1906: Written on back of photo: 1 hour after earthquake The boys expression says it all. Also of note, all of the buildings on far side of park later burned. Photo via OpenSFHistory / wnp27.0119.jpg

View southwest from 18th Street showing hundreds of earthquake refugees, wagons, and tents. Photo via OpenSFHistory / wnp37.01129.jpg

Finally, the park’s major landscaping was completed in 1910 and stayed largely intact during the last century.

1910: Children playing a in wading pool. In the background, the former Lutheran Church at 19th and Dolores under construction, now the luxury Light House homes. Photo via OpenSFHistory / wnp36.01182.jpg

Mothers and their children at the Mission Park playground in 1922. Courtesy of San Francisco Public Library.

The park was completely renovated from 2012 – 2016. Now community members engage to keep the park clean and safe (Love Dolores, Dolores Park Ambassadors, and neighborhood groups such as DHIC.) Contact the Ambassadors to contribute to our history research and storytelling or to help in a variety of other ways.

Thanks to Dolores Park Ambassador volunteers: Robert Brust, Hans Kolbe, Anne Vannucchi, Katie Snider, Luis Perez-Cordero, Carolyn Thomas, John Staal, Joanna Tong, Carolyn Kenady, Michelle and Chris Stone and Chris, Dog Kona, and Tam Tran and to Andras Power, Love Dolores & SF Rec and Parks Dept.

For more fun facts and photos, visit the links below:




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