Despite social and housing affordability challenges, the Mission remains one of San Francisco’s most culturally vibrant districts. With a collection of historic facts and photographs, we take a look at the neighborhood’s rich history — going as far back as 150 years ago.

Looking east from Reservoir Hill, a. 1865

Mission history 1 Photo: San Francisco History Center, San Francisco Public Library

There once was a natural water source, and Reservoir Hill was truncated and the water was diverted soon after this photo was taken for further development of the Market Pass and expansion past Van Ness Street.

Earthquake relief workers in the Mission, ca. 1906

mission history 2 mission history 3 Photos: San Francisco History Center, San Francisco Public Library

The San Andreas 7.9-earthquake of April 18, 1906 destroyed 28,000 buildings, killed 3,000 people and left another 250,000 homeless. At the time San Francisco was home to approximately 400,000 residents. Relief centers were built throughout the city including in the Mission District.

Streetcars at Army Street (now Cesar Chavez) and Mission Street, ca. March 1911

mission history 4 Photo: San Francisco History Center, San Francisco Public Library

Army Street was renamed Cesar Chavez Street in 1995.

Looking north from Mission Street and Army Street, ca. 1931

mission history 5 Photo: San Francisco History Center, San Francisco Public Library

United Railroad cars at Mission Street and 21st Street, ca. 1917

mission history 6 Photo: San Francisco History Center, San Francisco Public Library

Mission Merchants Association picnic, ca. 1920s

mission history 7 Photo: San Francisco History Center, San Francisco Public Library

Founded in 1909, the Mission Merchants Association is still alive and well today.

Law enforcement agents inspecting marijuana plants in front of Rinaldo Gotti’s home in the Mission District, ca. July 1935

mission history 8 Photo: San Francisco History Center, San Francisco Public Library

A description on the back of the image explains: “Rinaldo Gotti was arrested by state narcotic inspector Bernard Blonder and Agents Ed Oliva and William Grant. The state officers took Gotti into custody after they found the plants in full bloom.”

Crowd of anti-communists raiding the Mission Workers Neighborhood House at 741 Valencia Street, ca. 1934

mission history 9 Photo: San Francisco History Center, San Francisco Public Library

81 years ago, the city was shut down for 4 days due to the 1934 General Strike by the longshoremen and law enforcement. It marked the first time in US history a major port shut down. This was a pivotal point in the organized labor movement in America.

Thomas McGuire playing ping pong at the Mission Teen-age Center, ca. August 1944

mission history 10 Photo: San Francisco History Center, San Francisco Public Library

Aerial view of a fire in the Mission on 24th Street, ca. January 1945

mission history 11 Photo: San Francisco History Center, San Francisco Public Library

This image was taken by a navy pilot. It was not a serious fire and the Navy reported the blaze to the media with the note: “The Navy thought a lot of you Mission guys might be interested in this picture and we thought so too.”

High school students riding on the back of a streetcar, ca. May 1940

mission history 12 Photo: San Francisco History Center, San Francisco Public Library

The news print associated with the above image reads: “Fun, but dangerous, Mr. Fixit points out.” Mr. Fixit is referenced by the public library several times as an employee who worked for the old San Francisco News newspaper.

View of the Mission District from 30th Street, ca. 1956

mission history 13 Photo: San Francisco History Center, San Francisco Public Library

From 16th Street and Valencia Street, ca. October 1958

mission history 14 Photo: San Francisco History Center, San Francisco Public Library

Mrs. Amanda Rivera poses with her dog in from of a water fountain, ca. July 1959

mission history 15 Photo: San Francisco History Center, San Francisco Public Library

The fountain, which dates all the way back to 1877, was coveted by City of San Francisco, but its owner, local hardware merchant Walter A. Mariani, refused to sell it.

Southern Pacific’s small branch line in the Mission District, ca. unknown

mission history 16 Photo: San Francisco History Center, San Francisco Public Library

The residents behind 22nd and 23rd streets and Treat Avenue and Folsom Streets had the last of the “in-town” tracks which was part of the historic “Old Main Line,” a Southern Pacific line from San Jose to San Francisco. It was established in 1863 and operated until 1907. Kids reportedly used to peer behind their backyards to spot the infamous “Casey Jones,” a legendary train engineer “at the switch engine jostling freight cars into position.” Jones was known for keeping to schedule even if it meant driving the locomotive at dangerous speeds, and died in 1900 in a train collision in Vaughan, Mississippi.

Mission District police officer talks with a lost two-year-old boy, ca. August 1956

mission history 17 Photo: San Francisco History Center, San Francisco Public Library

A police officer speaking to a child who was found wandering around Potrero and 24th streets. According to the newscopy, the “frantic parents caught up with him 2.5 hours later.”

Hale’s Appliances at 2565 Mission Street, ca. August 1955

mission history 18 Photo: San Francisco History Center, San Francisco Public Library

Marketed as the headquarters for TV and appliances in the Mission, a newspaper article covering the grand opening of Hales described the new department storefront as “sleek.”

Sears, Roebuck & Company store at Army and Mission Streets, ca. January 1956

mission history 19 Photo: San Francisco History Center, San Francisco Public Library

For decards the old Sears building at 3545 Army Street (now Cesar Chavez) served as the department chain’s flagship store. In the 1970s it was acquired and transformed into one of the city’s first live-work artist communities.

Three banks in the Mission district: Mission Savings at 16th Street and Valencia Street, Crocker-Citizens National Bank at 16th Street and Mission Street, and the office of Hibernia Bank

mission history 20 mission history 21 mission history 22 Photos: San Francisco History Center, San Francisco Public Library

Developments featured in this article

More Like This

Facebook Chatter