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Dolores Park: A Poorly Reconstructed History

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If you have passed Dolores Park lately you will have noticed that she is undergoing major reconstructive surgery.  But while her lower half looks like it was struck by a small meteor, her upper half is open and will remain open throughout the summer.  The upper leisure area is noticeably more cramped now but is still a nice place to relax and sip a beverage next to potentially naked SF locals and tourists alike.

This Fall, the new tennis and basketball courts should be finished along with the entire lower section of the park.  This includes new bathrooms, a designated off leash dog area, as well as a multi-use field area that promises to have fewer pot holes and weird puddles in it.  Once the lower half of the park is finished, the upper half of the park goes under the knife.

Summer of 2015, Dolores Park’s upper and lower sections should be completely finished and open to the public. This includes even more new bathrooms, a picnic table area, new walking paths, trash cans, and bike racks ect.  But for some, the most exciting addition to the park will be San Francisco’s first open air urinal, or “pPod”.  They’re installing it at the very top of the hill in the “gay beach” section of the park, which could mean wonderful views for stand up pee-ers.  And for everyone else…you may continue quietly glancing downhill.

All these changes to the park inspired me to learn about the history of Mission Dolores Park and the changes it has undergone over the years.

(Make sure to click all the photos below to see them bigger!)

1860 – 1904 The Spooky Years

Dolores park was a Jewish Cemetery for 44 years.  Yes, that’s right.  If you were ever wondering if it were haunted you can stop, there’s a 98% chance it is.  When the population of the Mission began to really boom, they commissioned for all the bodies to be moved out, it was just like today’s gentrification of the area, only instead of moving out low income families it was dead Jewish people.

grave yard

 Dolores Park when it was Home and Peace Jewish Cemetery from 1860 – 1904


When half the city burned down following the 1906 earthquake some 500 temporary cottages were built on Dolores to house the refugees, (there were 10 other refugee camps built in other parks around the city, but it’s widely known that Dolores Refugee Camp was the coolest)

          dolores on firedolores camp

1909 – 1915  Mission Dolores Gets Parky

Did you know that where the fancy playground is today, there used to be a large wading pool?  I suppose for fine dandies to roll up their knickers and get their feet wet…in the 1920’s the fun police got rid of it and built the first rendition of a playground.  This area of the park has been lousy with children ever since.  It was also during this period that the tennis and basketball courts were built.

dolores wading pooldolores park playground

The playground we know today was built in 2012 and named for the bay area philanthropist Helen Diller.

1925 – 1939  A Black And White Version of Mission High School Was Built

dolores highschooldolores highschool new

Shortly after the Wizard of Oz came out in 1939, Mission High School was colored in and it still looks great today.

1940– The First Bi-Rite Market Opens on 18th St. near the park.  Neighborhood Self-Satisfaction Skyrockets

bi rite newBi-rite-exterior-750-500

Bi-Rite Market, Dolores Park’s local grocery is like, amazing

1960 – 1966  Viva Dolores!

While the hippies were getting Golden Gate Park ready for the summer of love, the Latino community was busy erecting a replica of the Mexican Liberty Bell and a statue of Miguel Hidalgo the Jesuit-trained Leader of the Mexican War of Independence.

liberty bellhidalgo

1970’s – 1980’s  No Park Construction Happens

There is a noticeable increase in crushed velvet in the park, and then a period of sequin was observed, but outside of that no major changes to the park’s infrastructure occurs.

dolores 70 to 80

1996 – 2013 The Tech Years

Dolores Park starts to see upwards of 10,000 visitors a weekend, local residents complain that the “kids these days don’t respect anything”.  Journalist from abroad come to the park to write 3 articles a day about San Francisco’s gentrification problem.

google and jeeves

2015The Era Of Decent Bathrooms

Dolores is getting a 21st century make-over, which means more manicured cement pathways and areas ‘designated’ for particular activities over others.  This does strike a bit of a blow to the general disorderly chaos that Dolores park has enjoyed over the last century.  But, if we must lose some of the park’s quirky characteristics, we at least gain an interesting place to go to the bathroom.  And don’t worry ladies the new bathrooms promise to accommodate thousands on a daily basis which will be a well received improvement from the long bathroom lines in the past.  Below, compare the past to sketches of what the future holds in store for us.

french ppodmodern ppod

 1865 Parisian “pissoir”                                                               2015 San Franciscan “pPod”


dolores pee linedolores bathroom sketch

 2014 Dolores bathroom Line                                                2015 planned renovation


For more in formation about Dolores Park these are some great sources:

New Park Plans and Sketches: SocketSite

A Thorough And Well Documented History Of Dolores Park Commissioned By SFRPD: Mission Dolores Park Historic Resource Evaluation

Official San Francisco Recreation And Parks Site: sfrecpark

Shout-out to Sf Public Library for taking care of all the amazing black and white photos used in this article.

title pic from FunCheapSF

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Broke-Ass Stuart - Editor In Cheap

Broke-Ass Stuart - Editor In Cheap

Stuart Schuffman, aka Broke-Ass Stuart, is a travel writer, poet, TV host, activist, and general shit-stirrer. His website is one of the most influential arts & culture sites in the San Francisco Bay Area and his freelance writing has been featured in Lonely Planet, Conde Nast Traveler, The Bold Italic, and too many other outlets to remember. His weekly column, Broke-Ass City, appears every other Thursday in the San Francisco Examiner. Stuart’s writing has been translated into four languages. In 2011 Stuart created and hosted the travel show Young, Broke, and Beautiful on IFC and in 2015 he ran for Mayor of San Francisco and got nearly 20k votes.

He's been called "an Underground legend": SF Chronicle, "an SF cult hero":SF Bay Guardian, and "the chief of cheap": Time Out New York.

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