The Missions: Number 6

Four years elapsed between the founding of San Luis Obispo and mission number six, formally named San Francisco de Asís but popularly known as Mission Dolores. Dedicated October  9, 1776, the mission derived its name from the Presidio of San Francisco, built only a month earlier. Both are named in honor of St. Francis of Assisi, the founder of the Franciscan order. Some sources cite June 29, 1776, as the mission’s true founding date, because this was the date that a Spanish expedition discovered good land filled with grass, wild violets, fennel, and other herbs near a lovely creek they named Arroyo de Nuestra Senora de los Dolores (Our Lady of Sorrows). The original mission chapel consisted of log and thatch elements, and was located about a half-mile east of the present mission. The “new” chapel, dedicated August 2, 1791, is an excellent example of colonial Spanish architecture of adobe brick with redwood roof beams. After secularization in 1834 Mission Dolores fell on hard times. During the California Gold Rush newcomers “revitalized” the area, turning former mission lands and buildings into a racetrack, sites for saloons and gambling dens, plus a popular tavern and way station called the Mansion House. The mission was returned to the Catholic Church in 1857, and two decades later the Mansion House was razed and replaced with a large Gothic Revival brick church, to serve the growing population in San Francisco. Mission Dolores is still an active Catholic church, and is open to visitors. The mission chapel is the oldest intact building in San Francisco, having survived various earthquakes and other calamities. The three original mission bells hang on rawhide thongs above the entranceway, and are still in use.

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