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The old lagoon, near which the original Franciscans built their mission, underlies the heart of today's Mission District. Note the creek running down 18th.
The Mission takes its name from the first European settlement in what is now the city, one of thirteen Franciscan missions established under Fr. Junipero Serra. A rebuilt replica of the original Mission is intact, adjacent to its old cemetery on Dolores Street just off 16th Street. Dolores Street is part of the old El Camino Real (still the name for the major suburban six-lane strip running through the peninsula's towns) and there are one or two of the old curving bells which marked the original route. The Mission was established in 1776 near the shores of what was once a small lake that drained into Mission Creek, which in turn meandered through today's Mission District down 18th and north toward Division and back east to approximately Brannan and 9th Streets at the former mouth of the creek. The Mexican land grants to the De Haro family and the Bernal family divided the territory between today's Potrero Hill and Bernal Heights. Neither family prevailed in decades-long legal procedures from the 1850s-80s trying to retain their property rights against thousands of squatters.
In its earliest days, the Mission District was a mixed neighborhood of Eastern European, Irish, Swedish, and German immigrants. The neighborhood transformed, however, after the 1906 earthquake and fire. The Mission District was one of the few neighborhoods in the city that was not burned to the ground in the devastating fires that ravaged the city after the quake. Residents of burned-out areas, especially the South of Market area, moved to the Mission and pushed out the middle class families that had occupied the neighborhood, making it into a low-income working class neighborhood and the most heavily Irish area of San Francisco. This migration of Irish families extended to Noe Valley, Eureka Valley, Potrero Hill, Bernal Heights and Glen Park. Many Italian immigrants also moved into the Mission after 1906.
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