Photo of Mission Dolores in San Francisco, California

Weekly Gem #227, Mission of Sorrows?

Published 4/11/20

Location: This hidden gem is located at the intersection of Dolores Street and Chula Lane, in San Francisco, California (see the Clue Me! Map). The oldest building in San Francisco has some interesting stories to tell. Here are two from even before it was built.

In 1768, California was an extension of Mexico, and a Spanish colony. Spain was intent on establishing Franciscan missions along the coast of California, in large part because of concern that Russians would be coming from the other direction (i.e. Alaska) and lay claim to this largely unexplored territory.

At that time, José de Gálvez in Mexico had already determined the names of the missions that would be built, and San Francisco was not among the list. Friar Junípero Serra was taken aback! "Is there then to be no mission for Our Father San Francisco?" Gálvez replied with a chuckle … "If San Francisco wants a mission, let him cause his port to be discovered, and it will be placed there!"

Just one year later, a Spanish ship noted what appeared to be a dent in the coast, which, upon closer examination, opened up into a huge bay. True to his word, Gálvez added a new Mission to his list, Mission San Francisco de Asís.

But then how did the Mission San Francisco become known as the Mission of Sorrows?

This again goes back to exploration of water. There was a nice creek, that seemed at first blush to be a fine place to build the Mission. The Spanish commander explored this creek on April 5, 1776, the Friday before Palm Sunday that year. This day was traditionally called Feast of our Lady of Sorrows, or to the locals, Nuestra Señora de los Dolores.

The Mission was built right there, and became known to the locals as Mission Dolores.


Here's the hidden gem entry from our Clue Me! map.


Namesake of St. Francis of Assisi


Mission Dolores. The Mission's official name is San Francisco de Asis.

Why It's Interesting

The oldest building in San Francisco, built beginning in 1785 (the original mission site, founded 1776, is a short distance from here). It survived the 1906 earthquake, with the resulting fires burning down the Basilica next door, but leaving the original Mission untouched. The three bells may also be the oldest in San Francisco, the small one cast in 1792, and the larger two installed in 1797. Dolores is the name of the stream that used to flow here, approximately where Dolores Street lies.

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