Thursday, May 12, 2011

Mission Dolores.


Presidio Chapel, Monterey, California.

On June 17, 1776, Lieutenant Jose Moraga, 16 soldiers and small group of colonists left the Monterey Presidio for San Francisco Bay.  Among the travelers were Fathers Francisco Palou and Pedro Cambon, who accompanied the expedition as founders of the mission.  They arrived four days later and set up a camp on the bank of a lake, named Laguna de Nuestra Senora de los Dolores (Lake of our Lady of Sorrows).

Lieutenant Jose Moraga.

The commander ordered an arbor to be constructed, and the Fathers celebrated the first mass on the feast of Saints Peter and Paul, June 29, 1776, just five days before the Declaration of Independence was signed in Philadelphia. This little tule arbor built by Spanish soldiers was the first church in San Francisco.  This church was located on the site where the Mission Dolores was later constructed.  The date of June 29th would become the official birthday of the City of San Francisco.

Father Francisco Palou.

Construction of Mission Dolores began on August 18, 1776.  The church was dedicated on October 9th of that year.  Of the 21 California Missions, this was the sixth to be established under the direction of Father Junipero Serra.

Father Junipero Serra.


Mission San Rafael Archangel.

Unfortunately, the often cold and damp weather kept the Native Americans way from this place.  Almost an entire year went by before the first Native Americans were baptized there. The climate at the mission site was severe, often with chilly sea winds and damp fogs.  This did not help the many natives stricken with the diseases brought by the foreigners. More than 5,000 Native Americans eventually died here from the measles epidemic.  The problem of sick natives was so great that eventually, in 1817, a hospital mission was opened in San Rafeal where the Mission Dolores inhabitants could recuperate in the sunshine.  This site would later become the Mission San Rafael Archangel.

1782 - 1791.

Mission Dolores Chapel, 1791.

In 1782 Father Pal√≥u decided to move the mission to a more favorable site.  In 1791 a beautiful new adobe church was dedicated.  The chapel is an excellent example of vernacular colonial Spanish architecture. The walls are constructed of adobe brick four feet thick and the roof beams are of redwood. Traditional Indian designs have been reproduced on the ceiling with vegetable dyes.  The Neophytes (Christianized Native Americans) built this church so well that it withstood the 1906 Earthquake of San Francisco.

Photo of Mission Dolores, taken after 1906 Earthquake.


Mission Dolores.

In 1834, Mexico decided to close Mission Dolores, as well as all the other missions, and sell the land.  Mission Dolores was the first to be secularized. The Indians did not want to come back, and no one would buy it, so it remained the property of the Mexican government.


The grounds of Mission Dolores.
In 1846, California became part of the United States, and American priests took over.  When the California Gold Rush began in 1849, the area became a popular place for horse racing, gambling and drinking.  Land reforms took the land away from Mexico, and soon there were more Irish than Spanish grave markers in the old cemetery.


Mission Dolores.  Present Day.
Mission Dolores is now the center of the city's Hispanic population.  Mission Dolores, the oldest intact building in San Francisco.  The church and cemetery are all that survive of the original complex.  It has been used continuously for religious purposes since it was built.   The adjacent cemetery includes many significant burials, including that of Don Luis Antonio Arguello, the first Governor of California under Mexican rule.  Don Jose Joaquin Moraga, the first commandante of the Presidio of San Francisco, is buried under the altar of the church.  Mission Dolores continues to serve the people of San Francisco and masses are still held today.

Mission Dolores


Anonymous said...

In San Francisco, Mission Dolores is one of two places where dead people are actually allowed to remain buried since it is a California Landmark. The other being the Presidio, and actually the Legion of Honor (because it was built over the graves...and people only realized that when they were doing reconstruction)

Jeff said...

Wow! This was the most informative blog i have ever read. Just straight up facts for pages! Although I have a strong distaste for learning what's what, I will say that this was a pretty cool history, especially since the mission IS awesome. Crazy how time can wash over all the history of a place though. So much has gone on in the City that i will never know... Oh well.

Anonymous said...

Via Tony,

I enjoyed reading your blog, it was very easy to follow and I could really make out your voice with your writing. It was a very even tempo that made the information move quickly. The picture, color choices and information was nice to look at/learn about, Good job.

Kasra said...

I really like your blog. All of your information is concise and straight forward. This post also changes the way that I feel about Delores seen through the chronological change. "More than 5,000 Native Americans eventually died here from the measles epidemic." This fact alone makes delores particularly interesting/creepy. Your blog concept is very strong. Maybe eventually you can make one that historically annotates every major city you live in. Just an idea but keep up the good work!

Anonymous said...

What religion did they follow???

Anonymous said...

They were Roman Catholics.

Anonymous said...

would love to see more about the history of san francisco and its neighborhoods.......this is really great...more please.....