What is the history of the Mission District?

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I am doing a special project for school on the The Mission District and would love any [somewhat brief] history on the area. Also, what streets are the official boundaries? Landmarks? And how it has changed over the decades etc. Thank You!

-- Sarah Jones (jonesagain@juno.com), April 23, 2000


The Mission District is a creation of the Assessor's office. This office of city government has to asess the value of land for tax puproses. In it's original assessment, it saw the city as two districts "Fifty Vara" (the downtown area around Portsmouth Square) and Hundred Vara" (the area south of Market).

Towards the 1860's other districts were added including the Mission District, the Richmond and the Sunset.

the assessor assigned block numbers 3501 thru 3654 to the Mission district. Later (1863) he reassigned some of the numbers (3623-3634 and 3645 thru 3654 to Horner's Addition.

Check out the assessors maps and books in City Hall.

Good Luck


I guess the big change these days is gentrification. But for a good part of the century the Mission was home to what San Franciscans called "working people". It was always ethnicly diverse, but in the early part of the century it was noticeably Irish and German. It was home to the old "South o' Mahket" manner of speech. This accent was very similar to that of East Coast cities. S.F.'s most popular mayor, "Sunny Jim" Rolph was a son of the Mission. The"Mish" has become increasingly Latino in recent decades which has enriched the cultural palette of the district.

-- Don Martinich (dutchm@dcn.davis.ca.us), April 30, 2000.

It is heartbreaking to admit, but most of the Mission District's history went out with the rubbish over its long history, and yet various waves of immigrants have inhabited that area. As a boy growing up in the Mission in the 1950s and 1960s, I used to wonder what the stories were of the people who lived in all those beautiful Victorian houses, and now as a historian I am shocked at how little has been handed down to us.

I visited the Mission's own branch library and was told: "Well, most of what we have is about the people here now (Latinos)." When I asked the California Historical Society's book buyer about this, someone who would buy almost anything on San Francisco no matter what the quality, she said: "Oddly, I don't recall ever seeing very many complete books on the Mission; in fact, even the many books that have a chapter on the Mission don't offer much."

After giving this a lot of thought, I've come to realize the main reason why this happened, and it's bigger than the 1906 Earthquake and Fire because the Mission was not destroyed past 20th Street. The primary problem is that people tend to view the beginning of their local history as primarily starting when their culture arrived. When the Victorian era people came they had very little interest in the Indians, Spanish, or even the few Mexicans who were in that area before them.

And after the descendants of the Victorian culture fled to the suburbs in the 1950s, the Mexicans and then Central Americans who arrived demonstrated as little interest in the events of that prior culture. I can think of two jarring examples of this cultural disconnect: When Mission High got its first 100% Latino school principal, for example, he inherited framed photos that covered the walls of the entry hallways.

These recorded every class the school ever graduated, but as they were all White students, who were but a minority group by then, he directed the janitor to simply trash the entire collection. The janitor rescued the collection by taking it home, and the controversy made a big splash in the newspapers, but the photos didn't go back up.

In a similar vein, there is a large Latino mural on the wall now over at St. Peter's Church at 24th and Florida. The parish served as a center for opponents of the Vietnam War, and was a local base for the United Farmworkers, and so quite logically the mural depicts such civil rights heroes as Martin Luther King and Miguel Hidalgo.

That's very nice, but the Reverend Peter Yorke - an Irish priest who was the biggest civil rights leader in the Mission District's entire history - is not even in the mural. Ironically, the mural is painted on the outside wall of the very parish office from whence Father Yorke lead his now largely fo

-- Hamilton Barrett (Mimereader@aol.com), January 01, 2002.

Hi Sarah

-- John Alexander (john.alexander@mail.esb.ie), February 07, 2002.

Hi Sarah. I am Emailing from Ireland. I am looking for information on a Margret Dowd who once lived at 2537 Mission St, San Fransisco. Is this the same Mission St you are doing your project on? If so, have you any idea how I could get info dating back to approx. 1906 ?

-- John Alexander (john.alexander@mail.esb.ie), February 07, 2002.

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