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
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
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
Army Street was renamed Cesar Chavez Street in 1995.
Looking north from Mission Street and Army Street, ca. 1931
United Railroad cars at Mission Street and 21st Street, ca. 1917
Mission Merchants Association picnic, ca. 1920s
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
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
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
Aerial view of a fire in the Mission on 24th Street, ca. January 1945
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
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
From 16th Street and Valencia Street, ca. October 1958
Mrs. Amanda Rivera poses with her dog in from of a water fountain, ca. July 1959
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
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
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
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
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.