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Dolores Park: Old photos show 150 years of popular park

Featuring park’s old wading pool and Jewish cemetery past

Before the gay beach. Before tech company trashings. Before the truffle man. Before turning into San Francisco’s most popular weekend draw, Dolores Park played host to numerous events, good and bad, over the years. And OpenSFHistory—boasts a trove of historic photos that deserve a deep dive from any SF diehard—reveals what the early days looked like at the park.

Long home to American Indians of the Ohlone tribe, the area became the spot two two Jewish cemeteries in the mid-1800s.

“[The Ohlone] had inhabited the area for several centuries before Spanish missionaries arrived in 1776 to establish Mission San Francisco Dolores,” notes Dolores Park Works. “Thereafter, the Ohlone shared the land with Spanish ranchers and shopkeepers until the 1849 Gold Rush, when new settlers, gamblers, and tavern keepers joined the mix.”

In 1861, the site was purchased by Congregation Sherith Israel for two cemeteries, which later went inactive in 1894.

After becoming an official park in the early 20th century, Dolores Park served as a temporary home for earthquake refugees. Years later, it underwent a renovation with such alluring trappings as a wading pool, sprawling green lawns, tennis courts, and the installation of the J-Church line.

Most recently, the sunny spread benefitted from a much-needed makeover.

This year the park will celebrate 150 years, according to SFGate, with an official Dolores Park Weekend planned for May. Before springtime hits, take a look back—way back—to what Dolores Park looked like during San Francisco’s sepia-toned days.

1865: Before becoming a park, Dolores Park was home to two Jewish cemeteries: Hills of Eternity and Home of Peace. Note the windmill and fence. According to KQED, eleven thousand dead people were buried here from 1782 to 1898. The deceased were later dug up and moved to Colma.
Photo via OpenDoneSFHistory / wnp37.00785-L.jpg
1865: Another view of the Jewish cemetery. Note the whimsical fountain amid the headstones.
Photo via OpenSFHistory / wnp37.00743.jpg
1906: Written on back of photo: “1 hour after earthquake” The boy’s expression says it all. Also of note, all of the buildings on far side of park later burned.
1906: Written on back of photo: “1 hour after earthquake” The boy’s expression says it all. Also of note, all of the buildings on far side of park later burned.
Photo via OpenSFHistory / wnp27.0119.jpg
View southwest from 18th Street showing hundreds of earthquake refugees, wagons, and tents.
Photo via OpenSFHistory / wnp37.01129.jpg
Dolores Park refugee camp with ruins of Mission District in background.
Photo via OpenSFHistory / wnp33.00777.jpg
1906: View earthquake shacks across Dolores Park. Within months of the great quake, these standardized relief shacks filled most city parks.
Photo via OpenSFHistory / wnp14.0614.jpg
1910s: Unidentified woman posing in Dolores Park.
Photo via OpenSFHistory / wnp27.0220.jpg
1910: Children playing a in wading pool. In the background, the former Lutheran Church at 19th and Dolores under construction, now the luxury Light House homes.
Photo via OpenSFHistory / wnp36.01182.jpg
1914: Victorians along Church Street (at Cumberland) as seen from Dolores Park.
Photo by OpenSFHistory / wnp36.00437.jpg
1915: Little girl with a big bow in a pony cart.
1915: Little girl with a big bow in a pony cart.
Photo via OpenSFHistory / wnp4.1794.jpg
1917: J-Church/J-Line dedication ceremony, looking northwest across the park.
Photo via OpenSFHistory / wnp36.01606.jpg
Aug 11, 1917: Opening of the J-Church line.
Photo via OpenSFHistory / wnp36.01686.jpg
1950s: View of downtown from Church and 19th Streets.
Photo via OpenSFHistory / wnp25.1026.jpg
1964: Couple sun bathing in Dolores Park
1964: Couple sun bathing in Dolores Park
Photo via OpenSFHistory / wnp14.4564.jpg
1964: Teen boy with transistor radio and bottle of 7UP.
1964: Teen boy with transistor radio and bottle of 7UP.
Photo via OpenSFHistory / wnp14.4562.jpg

Dolores Park

Dolores Street, San Francisco, CA 94110 Visit Website