Lake Dolores, Mission Creek & Mission Bay

Mission, Precita, Yosemite, Hayes, Dolores, Islais, Spring and Laguna Seca Creeks.
Where did they go?

A dock at 17th and Guerrero?

Marshes at 7th and Mission?

Traversing the Inner Mission by boat?

You knew the Financial District was once under the water of Yerba Buena Cove but did you know that China Basin and Mission Bays were once underwater?

Rincon Hill was leveled and dumped into the Mission Bay, how did that happen? Hear the dastardly, mean, corrupt and greedy way in which it was done. Especially since there was really no reason it ever had to happen. The same thing happened to Irish Hill. Irish Hill?

Ever hear of Mission Rock? It was one of a few islands that are no longer off the coast.

The Chinese caught shrimp in the then very shallow waters of western San Francisco Bay in the 1800's

The Mission neighborhoods were once divided up by nationalities, no, not Latin, White and Blacks. But Irish, German, Italian, German Poles and Dutch. The Irish were one of many groups that had farms in the Mission. The Irish primarily farmed between 16th and Duboce near Dolores because the land was well irrigated by the many streams that ran from the uphill springs.

Have you ever noticed how wet Duboce Park and Precita Park are during the wet months, it's not just because of the rain.

Most of San Francisco was dry and full of sand dunes but not the rich farmland of the Mission District. Elk and Grizzly Bears roamed the Mission because the land was so fertile and full of life. But it was also full of mosquitoes, this is one of the reasons the Franciscans moved the Mission to higher ground.

I will provide links to all of this source material because there is so much of it that it could be it's own website, or it's own book. In fact there are some good books on this subject, one of my favorites is called "Vanished Waters".

Pretty much, whenever you are near the Bay in San Francisco from Marina Green to Fishermans Wharf, from the Financial District, Portsmouth Square, The Embarcadero, North Beach, South Beach, Dog Patch, The Easter Mission, Potrero, Hunter's Point, and The Bayview, if you are on really flat ground but near the water it's because you are standing on landfill. Once you would have been under water while standing there. Why did the city fill everything in? Could it have been something underhanded and sneaky? The city sold underwater lots to unsuspecting persons or to speculators who would sell the lots to unsuspecting persons. Oh there are a lot of stories here...

Early Development in Mission Bay and Mission Lands

San Francisco's Secret: Water

Mission Creek

Islais Creek Remembered

The Springs, Lakes, Creeks and Lakes of The Mission District

The Mission Creek Watershed

When Mission Bay Was Water: Chinese Shrimp Camps in San Francisco Bay

Lake Dolores and How It Came Back To Life In 1906

Market and Church Creek Emerges

Mission Creek Wildlife

Vanished Waters

 


View Mission District in a larger map

Mission Waterways

Biking the Mission’s Waterways

Then, as now, they came to the Mission to party. In all of San Francisco, the Mission had the most water. And that meant one thing: beer.

“If you want to look for where the water was, look for the breweries,” says Chris Carlsson, a local writer and historian.

This ride is part of an enthusiastic, highly opinionated series of bike tours organized twice a year by Carlsson. As he pedals toward the Mission on his well-used mountain bike with a public address system strapped to one side and a bucket of maps strapped to the other, he points to the Costco at 10th and Harrison. It looms over our group like a gray and well-secured fortress of bulk savings. “That was the Falstaff Brewery. It was built right next to Mission Creek.” The crowd of urban planning wonks, curious Google employees and local history buffs peer up. It could (technically) still be considered a source of beer. There is no sign that it was ever surrounded by anything other than a concrete tangle of highway off-ramps.

“You’ve got to understand, these creeks smelled bad,” says Carlsson. “Wetlands don’t smell great even when they’re healthy, but so much sewage ran into them that by the time they were covered, pretty much every creek in San Francisco was nicknamed ‘shit creek’”

As Berkeley continues with plans to daylight Strawberry Creek in its city center, and Los Angeles reopens sections of the Los Angeles river that once flowed through sewage pipes, curiosity about the Mission’s buried waterways is high.

San Francisco’s abundant water supply becomes dramatically evident during the rainy season, when buildings flood and the city’s sewage system overflows. To the Public Utilities Commission daylighting a few creeks would potentially be less expensive than expanding the sewage system (though the PUC’s daylighting plans run more to concrete culverts than full restoration). And local writers like Joel Pomerantz put forward dramatic but thought-provoking theories about the potential long-term environmental and financial benefits of using more of San Francisco’s own water supply.

The Arroyo Dolores ran down 18th street. Precita Creek ran down Caesar Chavez to the vast marshland on the other side of Bernal Hill. The Armory, at 15th and Van Ness, was built over a tributary of Mission Creek, so that it would have its own water supply in case the National Guard was ever put under siege by a rabble-rousing populace. And a lake, whose exact location is still a matter of debate, most likely stretched between Mission and Valencia, and 20th and 16th streets before being filled in with sand. It wasn’t necessarily done well – at 15th and Shotwell several buildings tilt slowly backward like party goers after a long night.

A massive beer garden called The Willows stretched from 19th and Valencia and 18th and Mission in the 1850s. A Pepsi-owned bottling plant at 17th at Valencia used city water to make soda. It was sold in the 1970s, and is now the site of the Mission Police Station. And the long-lived Atlas Home Laundry linen cleaning service at 17th and Hoff drew 10,000 gallons of groundwater a day until it was replaced by a recent development.

 

The history of water in San Francisco is a history of scandal and monopoly. Anyone who looks up the terms Spring Valley Water Company and Raker Act will have enough reading material to leave them cross-eyed. In short: only a few older buildings still use water from the supply directly under the city, instead of water piped down from the Hetch Hetchy reservoir in Yosemite.

Mostly San Francisco’s water is a secret to all but a few. The Civic Center BART stop has pumps going day and night to keep the underground tributaries of the Hayes River from flooding the tracks - 2.5 million gallons of tested, high-quality groundwater sent straight into the sewer system, because the city has yet to figure out a way to adapt its old sewer system to separate out clean water from waste. The only place where residents actually encounter the Hayes is via the public fountains at United Nations Plaza and Fillmore Center – their water is Hayes water.

The Mission Dolores itself, in all of its squat, stuccoed glory, was erected near the banks of the most mysterious body of water in the Mission – the elusive Laguna Dolores. Certainly, someone filled it with sand, but its exact location before then is a matter of some dispute. The only thing that Carlsson and Pomerantz are sure of: the historical marker at Camp and Albion depicting the site of the lake seems to be inaccurate. Or at least neither, in the course of their research, has been able to find a primary source that convincingly supports that location.The Mission was damp and hard to traverse. A plank road was built to move goods in from the waterfront (and to charge people for the privilege of doing so – it was a toll road). It was difficult to sink pilings deep enough to support the road, and it continued to sink further down long after it was built.  

                                Mission Plank Road 1856

As Carlsson’s tour prepares to exit the Mission for the not-so-secret waterways of the Bayview, he stops by 23rd and Harrison, next to a few innocuous rectangles of dirt with flowers and spikey plants growing out of them. Here, he says, is one of the gardens put in by Jane Martin, a local landscape architect who in 2004 persuaded the city of San Francisco to simplify the permit process so that residents could petition the city to tear up pavement and plant gardens. Just a few decades ago, says Carlsson, San Francisco was a cement city. Organizations like Friends of the Urban Forest and Martin’s group, Plant SF, are a relatively recent development.

It’s an aesthetic move, and a bribe to the rain - giving it a chance to rejoin the aquifer beneath the Mission, and hoping that it goes there instead of into your basement, or out in to the bay. After all this talk about waterways being shifted around and constrained, it feels a bit open-spirited. “This,” Carlsson says, “is spot where people began to think about returning water to the city.”

 

The Mission Dolores after which the Mission District neighborhood was named was built in 1776 on the site of this ancient now-vanished lake, Lago Dolores. Topographically flat Valencia Street was the center of this lake. The lake had a roughly five block diameter stretching from around what is now Van Ness to almost Guerrero St and from 15th to 20th streets in the other direction (See Map, at bottom). According to reports from the late 1700s, Willow trees grew along the shore of this lake..

 

 

Ledia Carroll About CV Press   Events/Shows Links Projects
Mission Lake Lake Dolores Sign
 
Photo of historical marker of
now vanished lake at the corner of Albion and Camp.
 
Mission Lake   Mission Lake

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Changing Legends A Lake Map

Unraveling the Mystery of Lake Dolores

It was just another creek map. Christopher Richard, a biologist and editor at the Oakland Museum, had been creating them for watersheds throughout the Bay Area. The one he started in the mid-2000s was for San Francisco. The survey data in front of him wasn’t quite enough, so he dipped further into research — poring over explorers’ maps and historical literature.

Particularly confusing was a body of water in the Mission Bay watershed described by explorers and drawn by some cartographers: Laguna Dolores, known popularly as Lake Dolores.

Richard studied at least 100 maps of the San Francisco peninsula drawn before 1912. None showed a large second body of water — most showed only the tidal inlet that had been navigable in the past up to what is now 16th and Harrison streets. Many maps showed the inlet as tidally connected; others drew no inlet to the Bay and simply inserted an isolated body of water, often titled Laguna Dolores.

Something didn’t feel right.

Richard wasn’t the first to doubt the existence of a freshwater lagoon in the Mission District. At the celebration of San Francisco’s centennial in 1876 it became the focus of a small debate. In 1942, George Merrill wrote a pamphlet titled “The Story of Lake Dolores and Mission San Francisco de Asis.” For his research, Merrill spoke with some of the oldest living Mission residents; one of them said he remembered a dock at 17th and Guerrero as a boy.

Richard considered all of this, but a deadline loomed. He and his co-mapmaker, geologist Janet Sowers, had to publish something. Sowers wanted to follow the detailed 1852 Coast Survey map that excluded the lagoon. But Richard was swayed by the historical accounts and a popular 1912 map by Zoeth Eldredge.

Sowers and Richard compromised. They drew in Dolores Lagoon, but not firmly. Whereas creeks and inlets and marshland were indicated by solid lines, a series of dashes represented the lagoon — a clue that its whereabouts was essentially a guess.

The creek and watershed map was published in 2007, but Richard wasn’t happy. For him, the dashes indicated unfinished business, a mystery unresolved.

“I’m not comfortable having published this sleazy-weazy broken-line indication of what was there,” he said recently. “I feel some guilt at this point of having drawn [that] map. I had an engendered determination to get it straight this time.”

So he began this project — now stretched to four years — to answer one question: Did Laguna Dolores ever exist?

“This has become a research obsession for me, in a sort of way nothing ever has,” he said.

The original name, Dolores, and its hydrological descriptions, are rooted in paragraphs from the diaries of the Spanish explorers who founded the San Francisco mission.

Their journeys brought them to San Francisco when the Spanish government sent Juan Bautista de Anza to scout locations for a presidio and mission. Richard began there, too — digging up all 232 pages of de Anza’s elongated cursive field notes.

He looked at the paragraphs describing de Anza’s days on the San Francisco peninsula in late March 1776, in which the explorer mentioned three bodies of water.

One was Mountain Lake in what would become San Francisco’s Presidio, where he camped. Then, de Anza wrote, he found a good spot for planting crops that could be irrigated with water from the “ojo de agua o fuente,” a phrase that translates to spring or fountain. He wrote that entry as he was looking for a location to set up a mission and grow food to nourish his soldiers at the Presidio.

The third body of water he described as a permanent “laguna,” and also as a “laguna de manantial,” or spring-fed pond.

The laguna “does not have any land which could be irrigated,” de Anza wrote in 1776 (translated in 1930 by Herbert Bolton), “because the tide of the sea overflows the lowlands there, but on the banks of the laguna good gardens can be planted.”

Richard says this topography describes the body of water later known as Washerwoman’s Lagoon near Lombard and Gough, where miners had their sweaty shirts washed during the Gold Rush.

“He talks about them [the water bodies] out of sequence,” Richard said of de Anza’s notes. “It’s a really difficult paragraph to parse.”

The next day de Anza again describes going to the “laguna de manantial” and “likewise to the ojo de agua, which I called los Dolores.”

The chaplain who accompanied de Anza, Father Pedro Font, described the journey on the same day.

“We arrived at a beautiful creek, which because it was Friday of Sorrows, we called the Arroyo de Los Dolores.” (Dolores is the Spanish word for sorrows.)

These two entries indicate that the water body named Dolores was either a spring or a creek somewhere in the Mission.

Much of San Francisco was vegetated dunes before development — not good for planting crops. The only good alluvial soils on the peninsula are in the southeast corner, today’s Mission District.

Richard believes that de Anza needed to find arable soil and an uphill water source, and that’s what he saw in the ojo de agua. But the ojo called Dolores, Richard believes, was a spring, not a lake.

Richard, a scientist with experience in hydrology and waterways, believes that the spring de Anza and Font found was near where Duboce and Sanchez streets meet today.

“It makes absolute perfect geomorphic sense that there was a spring there. The subterranean water coming through the dunes comes up on alluvial soil.”

The spring was the source for a creek that ran down Duboce, past the Mint, into seasonal marshlands that flowed near 14th Street to the tidal inlet. Water not diverted to sewers still flows underground there today.

Richard’s theory is up against a lot of history. At the corner of Camp and Albion streets, near 17th and Valencia, a bronze plaque was erected in 1995.

“Father Francisco Palou, a member of the Anza expedition, had a brushwood shelter built here on the edge of a now vanished lake, Lago de los Dolores,” it reads.

The lake is part of the founding story of San Francisco — it’s written about in history books, mentioned in encyclopedias.

But that doesn’t intimidate Richard.

“There’s this tendency to think if it’s the knowledge of the ancients, it trumps what we know today,” he said.

Now that Richard has a polished presentation, he guesses he’s shared his theory with more than 300 people and done six large presentations with slideshows. Most people, he says, have been receptive.

Richard presented his research to the curator at Mission Dolores, Andrew Galvan, a few weeks ago. Galvan had questions, but didn’t dispute Richard’s research and invited him to give his presentation there this spring.

But Richard hasn’t convinced everyone.

One person at Mission Dolores, who carried a picture of the bronze plaque, said that no matter what Richard argued, his mind wouldn’t be changed.

With his theory of the mysterious Dolores Lagoon, Richard is fighting against more than he has with any other topic of research in his 27 years at the Oakland Museum.

“There’s a difference between academic discourse and legend. This is legend,” Richard said. “I can change academic discourse, but how can I change legend?”

It was just another creek map. Christopher Richard, a biologist and editor at the Oakland Museum, had been creating them for watersheds throughout the Bay Area. The one he started in the mid-2000s was for San Francisco. The survey data in front of him wasn’t quite enough, so he dipped further into research — poring over explorers’ maps and historical literature.

Particularly confusing was a body of water in the Mission Bay watershed described by explorers and drawn by some cartographers: Laguna Dolores, known popularly as Lake Dolores.

Richard studied at least 100 maps of the San Francisco peninsula drawn before 1912. None showed a large second body of water — most showed only the tidal inlet that had been navigable in the past up to what is now 16th and Harrison streets. Many maps showed the inlet as tidally connected; others drew no inlet to the Bay and simply inserted an isolated body of water, often titled Laguna Dolores.

Something didn’t feel right.

Richard wasn’t the first to doubt the existence of a freshwater lagoon in the Mission District. At the celebration of San Francisco’s centennial in 1876 it became the focus of a small debate. In 1942, George Merrill wrote a pamphlet titled “The Story of Lake Dolores and Mission San Francisco de Asis.” For his research, Merrill spoke with some of the oldest living Mission residents; one of them said he remembered a dock at 17th and Guerrero as a boy.

Richard considered all of this, but a deadline loomed. He and his co-mapmaker, geologist Janet Sowers, had to publish something. Sowers wanted to follow the detailed 1852 Coast Survey map that excluded the lagoon. But Richard was swayed by the historical accounts and a popular 1912 map by Zoeth Eldredge.

 

Looking west from 16th and Bryant in 1863

Sowers and Richard compromised. They drew in Dolores Lagoon, but not firmly. Whereas creeks and inlets and marshland were indicated by solid lines, a series of dashes represented the lagoon — a clue that its whereabouts was essentially a guess.

Decoding the myth
The problem with this long-told story, as recounted on the plaque on Albion street, says Christopher Richard, is that a lagoon couldn’t have existed here.
He pulls out a topographical map, and points to the place we’re standing. He says back in the 18th century, it overlooked a creek bed, a canyon.
"You can't have a lake on a highland," he says. "You can't have a lake in a bathtub when you've pulled the plug. The water would have immediately drained away."
When Richard and Sowers produced the 2007 version of the map, they left the lake on it. "We couldn't come up with a strong enough argument to not put it on," says Sowers.

New Water Map

On the updated, 2011 Watershed Map, the historic Dolores Lagoon is gone.
But the mystery of the Laguna nagged at Richard, so he started looking into historical records, many of which had only recently become available online.
Today, he says the myth of the lagoon can be traced back to a single paragraph, written by the Spanish explorer Juan Bautista de Anza in March, 1776.
“After continuing to the southeast a league and a half along the coast of the estero, I found a good site for planting crops with irrigation by taking the water from an ojo de agua o fuente…” the passage begins.
What’s confusing about this passage, according to Richard, is that de Anza is actually talking about three separate bodies of water: A creek, here in the Mission, and two different lakes: one in the Presidio, one in Cow Hollow.
But a hundred years later, historians got confused. They thought deAnza had described a lake in the Mission District. San Francisco, they said, was founded on the banks of a lake. Generations of map-makers then followed suit.
What difference does it make?
Richard’s and Sowers' work has ignited a controversy. One local resident, who helped get the plaque put up, said he was too angry to even be interviewed. He and others spent years researching the Lagoon and its history. They feel confident there was a lake here. Now someone’s telling them they were wrong?
While Richard, Sowers and I were studying the plaque, a car pulled into the driveway of the adjacent apartment building. Tom Schmidt, a software engineer got out. I asked him what he thinks of the plaque.
"Honestly it’s the bane of my existence, that sign," said Schmidt.
He told us the sign attracts tour buses, groups of school kids, drunk teenagers. It's a nuisance. But even beyond that, he's just not really sure what the point is.
"It would be one thing if there were some historical buildings to look at here," he said. "But there are just apartment buildings now, bars and homeless people. There's nothing here."
To, Janet Sowers, that is the point. We can't see anymore what this city looked like 250 years ago. So you have to you use your imagination.
"Imagine it as grassland," she says. "Imagine it with cattle grazing on it. And imagine being able to see the Mission Dolores over that distance, without any of these buildings in the way."
But to do this, it helps to have a few clues. Richard says his job is making sure they’re good ones. "Our lives are dedicated to finding out what is from what isn’t," he says. "That’s what a scientist does."
Richard and Sowers would like to see the plaque taken down, or at least revised, but that idea is bound to be controversial in the neighborhood. The final decision belongs to California's Office of Historic Preservation. That process could take years.

The lake that gave Mission Dolores its name and location, and how it came back to life in the 1906 earthquake

thumbnail oflake old map

The City of San Francisco was named after the Catholic mission there, which was in turn named after St. Francis of Assisi. But the Mission there is almost universally referred to as the Mission Dolores. Apparently, it was named informally after a small lake (or a lagoon within the lake) upon whose shores it was built. Early Spanish explorers gave the lake the name Lago de las Dolores because they saw Indians weeping on its bank, or because it happened to be raining that day. The mission was built there because it seemed to be a good place to obtain fresh water and grow crops. The lake no longer exists; it has been largely filled in and almost forgotten.

The best way to understand the lake is to go to the southwest corner of 17th and Mission, and look up and down both streets. You will notice that you are actually in the center of a basin that has been somewhat filled in but is still about 20 feet deep, that extends several blocks in every direction.

The spot at the southwest corner of 17th and Mission is very near what was the deepest part of the lake. The lake extended about two blocks in all directions. If you look west on 17th street, you can see that the Mission Dolores is three blocks away, at Dolores between 16th and 17th.

Now walk west on 17th a block and a half to Albion, which marks roughly the western shore of the lake; look north up Albion a half block to Camp, where the fathers built their first crude shelter, June 29, 1776.

Now walk a few feet farther west on 17th and turn south down Dearborn, still the shore of the old lake, to 18th. You have now reached the creek which fed the lake. Look to your right, west, up the creek, on 18th, past the BiRite Market, past the edge of Dolores Park, toward the heights of Twin Peaks.                                                                                                           Mission Creek underneath the Armory

dear
Looking west on 18th, from Dearborn

This was a ravine, called Arroyo de las Dolores, containing the creek coming down from Twin Peaks. The Mission Dolores was built one city block north from the edge of the ravine and about the same distance west from the shore of the lake, and dedicated in 1791. Water exited the lake at about what is now 16th and Howard, going east down 16th, and then draining generally east to the Mission Bay tidal wetlands and then to the San Francisco Bay.
Bayard Taylor who saw the Mission valley in 1849 says: “Three miles from San Francisco is the old mission of Dolores situated in a sheltered valley which is watered by a perpetual stream fed from the tall peaks towards the sea. * * * Several former miners in anticipation of a great influx of emigrants in the spring, pitched their tents on the best spots along Mission creek and began preparing the ground for gardens. The valley was surveyed and staked into lots almost to the summit of the mountains” (Eldorado pp. 64, 298-9).
As is implied in the passage above, eventually the lake was drained and filled in with dirt, and built over. In 1906, the loose fill dirt created havoc during the earthquake).

havocAccording to a recent geologic paper:

The ground deformation on Valencia Street between 18 and 19th streets was arguably the single most devastating event of the 1906 earthquake. …
One eyewitness describes a famous scene on Valencia:

link
Along Valencia Street from 21st to 17th, there was a hole big enough to bury at least 50 people, not to mention horses. The old Valencia Street Hotel, where I had played sliding over the banister, was lying flat on the ground and all the people in it had lost their lives, was the report.
Valencia Street was an old creekbed, [actually the creek ran through there, but it was perpendicular to Valencia, more or less under 18th Street; but whether it was the lake site or the creek site that collapsed is of little importance.] which had been filled in and then built on. The severe jolts of the quake caused the soft-packed fill to settle suddenly, leaving gaping holes in the street. The buildings on top of the fill reeled with the force of this settling, and houses for several blocks leaped off their foundations. The four-story Valencia Hotel hotel[718 Valencia, almost at 18th Street] collapsed like a tower of cards. Its top floor landed intact in the middle of the street with the bottom three floors flattened underneath, crushing at least 15 people. [Here is my favorite image looking north at the Valencia Hotel and surroundings, aaand here is another image, from the other side of the hotel, looking south.]a
This scene found its way into the 1936 movie San Francisco. As Clark Gable searches desperately through the city’s rubble for Jeannette MacDonald, he comes upon the collapsed hotel. A policeman tells him, “Those on the top floor stepped right out their windows to the street. The others were out of luck.”
That this was literally true can be seen in this photo.s
Another eyewitness recalled:

I was curious to see the nearest fire at the corner of 22nd and Mission St. Our house was located at 931 Dolores Street in the block between the 22nd and 23rd Streets. As I ran across Valencia St. going to the Mission St. fire, I noticed on my left down Valencia St. a small old three-story hotel. (Evidently it had been built over a subterranean faultline.) The first story had partly sank in the earth while the second and third had fallen out into the street. That was the first structural destruction I had witnessed.

Another image of the Valencia Hotel can be seen hereaq

Here is another image looking north along Valencia toward 18th. It doesn’t take a lot of imagination to see that the ground is trying to collapse down to the right or east, down the old watercourse that was covered over by 18th St, with some help from broken water mains.

The total devastation of Valencia in the area of 19th and farther north can be seen here,ss
This 1863 photo shows Mission Bay
before it was filled. Street at left is
3rd Street, swamps begin to right of 4th Street.
In the upper right distance is the
original 3rd peak of Potrero Hill,
known as Irish Hill. To it's left is
Mission Rock.
Photo: San Francisco History Center, San Francisco Public Library

 

 

This bird's eye view rendering
of Mission Creek as it pours into
Mission Bay was drawn in the
1870s. Long Bridge crosses
the mouth of Mission Bay,
roughly where 3rd Street
runs today.
Image: Library of Congress

 


Go south on 4th Street until it intersects 3rd Street and you are in the middle of Mission Bay. In 1849, when the gold rush began and San Francisco was a small village on the northeast edge of the peninsula (near today's Montgomery Street), Mission Bay was actually a wide, shallow bay full of clams and oysters and teeming with marsh life.
From the 1850s to the late 1870s shipbuilding and repair at Steamboat Point (Townsend from 2nd to 4th Streets, at the time the southernmost point of land extending into Mission Bay) was the main industry around Mission Bay, while the waters continued to yield a healthy supply of oysters and clams (and also real estate profits!). Butchers got the land in the Mission Creek marshes near today's 9th and Brannan set aside as an industrial zone for their slaughter-houses (butchertown), and the blood and guts of their business was dumped directly into the creek on its way into the bay.
The steam shovel, the steam-paddy, was used intensively to shovel the 30- to 100-foot sand hills from various locations throughout the area from Market Street south, first along Townsend Street, and later 4th, 5th, and 6th Streets, depositing the material in Mission Bay. The long process of filling in the water lots in Mission Bay lasted from approximately 1860 to 1910. After the steam shovels had leveled the numerous sand hills, the Second Street cut in 1869 provided thousands of cubic yards of rock and dirt, followed soon after by early blasting of Irish Hill (today this is the land east of Illinois Street between 20th and 23rd Streets, home to abandoned Todd Shipyards and adjacent to a small residential district just east of Potrero Hill at 22nd & 3rd, affectionately known by locals as Dogpatch), which also contributed its rubble to the filling of Islais Cove. From the 1870s to the '90s garbage dumps along 7th & 8th Streets near Berry provided steady fill to the Bay. The earthquake debris from 1906 provided the last large quantity of fill, although many wet spots needed additional filling in the following years. Mission Bay's business would eventually be subsumed by the nation's controlling capitalists the time, the railroad barons.

Aerial view of Mission Bay (to right of freeway) in early 1980s when it was still railroad land with warehouses and industrial facilities.
Photo: Santa Fe Pacific Railroad
The China Basin building built in 1925 as part of the Del Monte Cannery empire, remains to this day a prominent landmark at the northern edge of Mission Bay, though it actually sits on what was once the Bay itself.
Today 7th & Berry is the site of a sewage treatment plant at the land end of the Mission Creek Channel. The channel is a delightful hidden community, home to a fleet of two dozen houseboats in the shadow of the useless (I-280) freeway spur built in the early 1970s to lead to a never-built second crossing bay bridge.
Mission Bay today is fast becoming a bit of suburbia implanted in San Francisco by the former real estate division of Southern Pacific Railroad, Catellus Corporation. To facilitate their exclusive development rights over their enormously valuable real estate, they donated 40+ acres to the University of California to build its new biomedical campus, which in turn greatly increased the value of the surrounding acreage. Here are some images of the newest part of San Francisco, built entirely on landfill, subject to liquefaction during earthquakes.

1906 San Francisco Fire Department Operations Overview
San Francisco
August 1, 1906

At the fire which destroyed the building at the northwest corner of Mission and 22nd streets immediately after the earthquake, there was no water to be had east of Valencia Street, but the double hydrant at the northwest corner of 22nd and Valencia and the southwest corner of Valencia and 21st St. furnished an abundant supply, which, with the aid of the cistern at 22nd and Shotwell St., extinguished the fire.

 


See the Following Album: Mission Creek, in a larger format