This humble but beautiful little mission church is the only one still intact of 21 once established in California. Its thick adobe walls also withstood the 1906 earthquake - making it the oldest surviving structure in San Francisco. The mission was founded just 5 days before the Declaration of Independence (6/29/1776) and the chapel was built in 1791 by the hands of the local indigenous peoples that the Spanish friars had come to convert. Sadly, the priests, as often was the case, didn't treat those people gently and many of them died of disease or simply left to escape the hard life of backbreaking work, constant punishment and cultural intolerance inflicted by the padres. It is a tragic story all too common in the history of the American Southwest.
It was originally called Misión San Francisco de Asís, after St. Francis of Assisi, but evolved in the 1800's to Mission Dolores because of its proximity to a since-vanished lake (Lago de los Dolores) and creek (Arroyo de los Dolores). The compound was also once much larger than the chapel and cemetery that you see today. In the 1834, the substantial farm and grazing lands were claimed by the government and the self-sustaining mission converted to small parish church.
A self-guided tour includes the old mission chapel, adjoining basilica (1918), cemetery and a small museum. Notable in the chapel are old, lovely reredos and side alters from Mexico, and beautiful windows and mosaics in the basilica. There are also restrooms and a small gift shop.
See the website for hours and admission fees ($5 and $3 at time of this writing), and this webpage for more history of the mission:
I wanted to give the small cemetery at Mission Dolores (see previous tip) a special mention as it's the only one remaining within the city proper. Just as the mission complex was once much larger, the cemetery once covered a great deal more ground but was consolidated after the change from self-sufficient compound to parish church. Remains in unmarked graves were disinterred and reburied together in a common plot - the majority of them being approximately 5,000 indigenous people who died of disease during the mission's early years. A replica of a traditional Ohlone hut serves as a sad memorial to the many nameless who toiled and died in the "Mission of Sorrows".
Among other notables, you'll find the graves of Francisco de Haro, first mayor of San Francisco, and Don Luis Antonio Arguello, the first governor of Alta California under Mexican rule.
Mission Dolores is the oldest building is San Francisco! Formerly called Mision San Francisco de Asis, erected by father Junipero Serra in 1776 but the building we see today was built in 1782 by francs monks with help of Indians. It was the sixth mission of Serra that was trying to evangelize the local Indians for the Spanish crown. There were 21 California Missions, this was the third most northerly. The first Mass in the area celebrated on june 29, 1776 and thus the City of Saint Francis had its official beginning five days before the Declaration of Independence but the formal establishment of the Mission of Saint Francis was delayed until the arrival of the necessary church documents on October 9, 1776.
The building looks like a typical Spanish colonial structure and the interior is very simple of course (pics 2-3), with a nicely decorated redwood ceiling.
There’s no entrance fee but the suggested donation is $5, considering the fact they don’t get any public funds it seems they rely on voluntary offerings so they can maintain and restore the building. The small gift shop serves coffee for $1 and you can buy a postcard or a magnet.
Don’t miss the small calm cemetery at the back side (pic 4), with some interesting statues (in the center the one of Junipero Serra) and indian hats that will give you some nice photo opportunities.
Right next to the Mission Dolores you can see the Basilica that was built in 1913 (pic 5).
Mission Dolores was founded in 1776 as part of the California chain of missions, and its chapel (1791) is the oldest structure in San Francisco. The mission was originally dedicated to St. Francis of Assis (San Francisco de Asis), from where the city of course derives its name. The 21 California missions were usually positioned so that it would take a man no more than a day to ride between each one of them, so that missionaries never had to spend the night in the wild, and their main goal was to convert Native people to Catholicism.
A visit to Mission Dolores includes a self-guided tour of the cemetery, where numerous San Francisco pioneers were buried between 1830 and the end of the 19th century. Among them are Don Luis Antonio Arguello, the first governor of "Nor Cal", Don Francisco de Haro, the first mayor of San Francisco, as well as many Irish immigrants. There is also a small museum that explains life in the missions, and of course it is possible to visit the Old Mission itself - the painted ceiling and altar are especially interesting. Visits usually end at the Basilica, which was completed in 1918 and is located right next to Mission Dolores - it's also worth going across the street to take a look at its beautifully ornamented facade.
Mission Dolores is open daily from 9:00 am to 4:00 pm. Admission: $5.
This is not one of the better missions to visit in California. Its rather small and hemmed in by Modern buildings, taking away a lot of its charm. The mission was established in 1776 and is the oldest building in San Francisco.
Fathers Francisco Palou and Pedro Cambon founded Mission Dolores and consecrating it to the Protection of Saint Francis of Asissi (Hence the Name SAN FRANCISCO) in 1776 but by the California Gold Rush, the Mission and its surroundings were an entertainment area (due to secularization of the Mexican Government, which sold the properties). Today it is a heavily hispanic area and is the center of hispanic and Roman Catholic heritage of San Francisco.
A bit of San Francisco history that I learned through work. I was sent to photograph the 150th anniversary of the final chapter of San Francisco's famed Committee of Vigilance, which seized power in the city in 1856 and hanged four men, including a member of the city's governing body. The church is one of, if not the oldest structure in San Francisco. One of my more interesting assignments.
The vigilantes were well respected business men who had decided to take the law into their own hands. Back in the 1800's crime in San Francisco was like the Wild West. Everyone carried guns and the city was in control of corrupt politicians.
James King of William was a well-liked editor of a small newspaper. In 1855 he published a story about one of San Francisco's supervisors. King wrote that Michael Casey was an ex-con who had served time in Sing Sing Prison. Casey found King as he was leaving his office and shot and killed him. When he died members of an earlier vigilante group organized and decided to act.
Casey was held by the sheriff whom the vigilantes suspected was Casey's ally. They went to the jail and demanded he turn Casey over to them. The vigilantes also took Charles Cora gambler who had shot a U.S. marshal for insulting his mistress.
They held their own trial in which they were the judge and jury. Both Casey and Cora were taken out and hanged. James Sullivan also died in vigilante hands. It was officially called a suicide, but the cause is still a mystery. The three men are buried at Mission Dolores Cemetery. The vigilantes made results. The crime rate dropped dramatically.
The group's motto was "Be Just, Fear Not.''
San Francisco, like Los Angeles, San Diego, and other California cities, started as a mission--Mision San Francisco de Asis, popularly known as Mission Dolores. The original church, completed in 1791, is still intact. It is quite small and simple compared to modern Catholic churches. Its decoration, which tend to be ornate, reflects the style in vogue at that time. It is pretty sturdy, however. Pictures of the church still standing after an earthquake, while all around it was a scene of complete desolation, are just amazing. Beside the church is a cemetery where many prominent San Franciscans of old are buried. There is also a museum that houses many artifacts and memorabilia related to the California mission life. A visit to Mission Dolores is like a glimpse into San Francisco's very beginning.
This mission, founded in 1776 and with the current building being constructed in about 1782-1792, is the namesake of the city itself and the Mission District surrounding it. It has been renovated and remodelled over the years, and most of the mission complex is long gone, but the current building is basically original. This makes it one of the oldest original mission structures in California. It is rather large and an great condition, with a magnificent altar, etc. The Mexican governor of California, Luis Antonio Arguello, is buried there in the beautiful, peaceful garden cemetery that is in spring and summer abloom with flowers.
Notably, apparently whiole it survived the 1906 earthquake, the newer American-made church next to it did not, requiring a new structure to be built afterwards.
MISSION DOLORES, the northernmost of the California missions founded by Father Junipero Serra, is the oldest structure in San Francisco, dating from 1788. It is a Spanish-colonial style building beneath roof beams held together with rawhide strips. The graveyard includes the remains of both noble colonial families and the Native Americans who were conscripted to build and then serve the Mission. The museum houses artifacts and manuscripts. Tickets: USD3 Adult; USD2 Child. Cash only.