Mission Dolores

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Founded by a tiny band of Spanish missionaries and soldiers in 1776, and completed 15 years later, Mission Dolores is the oldest structure in the city and San Francisco's Registered Landmark No.1. The building was originally called the Misión San Francisco de Asís (after St Francis of Assisi), and provided the town with its name. However, it takes its common name from Laguna de los Dolores, the swampy lagoon on the shores of which it was built. Although the original mission became an expansive outpost, housing over 4,000 monks and converts, today only the tiny old church remains. The adobe structure, constructed from 16,000 earthen bricks and 4ft (1.2m) thick, survived the 1906 and 1989 earthquakes unscathed, while the new church next door crumbled. Small wonder that the cool, dim interior looks and feels authentic: almost everything about it is unreconstructed and original, from the redwood logs holding up the roof to the ornate altars brought from Mexico centuries ago. (The modern-day church next door is a 20th-century basilica with no real architectural significance; it does, however, handle all the mission's religious services.) A small museum on the mission premises offers volunteer-led tours. The picturesque, flower-filled cemetery containing the remains of California's first governor and the city's first mayor, as well as assorted Spanish settlers and the mass grave of 5,000 Costanoan Indians who died in their service, backs up on to a grade-school playground. Film buffs may recall that in Hitchcock's Vertigo, an entranced Kim Novak led Jimmy Stewart to the gravestone of the mysterious Carlotta Valdes in this very cemetery. You won't find Carlotta's stone, though: it was merely a prop and was removed after filming.


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Mission Dolores details

Address
3321 16th Street,
at Dolores Street

Area San Francisco

Transport BART 16th Street/Metro J to Church/bus 22.

Telephone 621 8203

Mission Dolores website

Open 9am-5pm daily.

Admission $3-$5.

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