Mission History as Revealed By Creeks, Streams, Lakes and Lagoons
Allan over at Mission Mission and Telstar Logistics are investigating hidden ponds and creeks of the Mission. Thankfully the all-powerful David Rumsey has given us a gift of kick-ass digitized historic maps, and it gets even better as he has taken full advantage of Google Earth. Combined with the old Coast Survey maps of San Francisco, it makes for an excellent creek detector.
Last month I asked David to add my favorite map of the Mission to his Google Earth collection, the 1859 US Coast Survey Map of San Francisco (which actually shows the state of the city in 1857). While there are several other maps available in Google Earth (specifically the 1869 Coast Survey and the 1915 map), they all show the street grid we know and love today, or like the 1853 Coast Survey, don’t go further south than the Mission Dolores itself. The glorious 1859 map shows open fields, streams and lakes in the Mission we inhabit today.
Anyway, the 1859 map is sweet — click on this link and then open it up in Google Earth (or navigate there via the Gallery Layer). Here’s a closeup, with today’s streets as an overlay. Click to zoom.
Using the map, I traced the creek that ran near 18th St. Below are views looking west from Google Earth.
It eventually fed into Mission Creek.
Ever wonder why Treat is on that funny angle? Now you know – it ran along the edge of Mission Creek!
Here’s the .kml file if you want to download and use it as a layer in Google Earth. Brown is marsh on the 1859 map, and blue is the Mission Creek. The green area was “The Willows Pleasure Gardens” – possibly a beer garden! Click to zoom…
(There’s no date on this photo, but check out the flag — the middle row of stars looks shorter than the others, so I think this is from before there were 35 states (7×5) though how many I can’t quite tell. And the star field orientation is flipped — 7 rows, not 7 columns as was typical in that era. While it could be the 31 star flag for California’s entry, that was from 1851-1858 and was pretty asymmetric. 32 (1858-1859), 33 (1859-1861), or 34 (1861-1863) are more likely, but I digress…)
You can see that The Willows is in quite a low area, right where there was once a lake. Mission Dolores was build a few blocks from the edge of a lake that was gone by the time of the 1859 map. Laguna de los Dolores, amongst other names, seems to have filled itself in after the time the Mission was established — it went from about 15th to 20th, from Valencia to Howard (here’s a higher rez version of the map Telestar provide to Mission Mission). This soft ground accounted for the Hotel Valencia at 19th sinking in the 1906 quake.
Where was this picture taken? Since it looks like Mission Dolores is to the left of the flag, above the fence, I strongly suspect it was taken from the edge of the Union Race Course. If so, then here’s the point of view:
Race courses in the Mission? Plural? Yup, two — the Union, roughly bounded by 19th to 23rd, and Capp to Harrison:
and the Pioneer Race Course, between 24th to 26th, and Mission to Bryant.
The all-knowing BobbyO helped me find this advertisement for the Pioneer Course from 1853.
What’s interesting is the relative position of these two racetracks — they seem to have affected the layout of the San Francisco-San Jose railway that cut through the Mission! Construction began in 1861 between downtown and the Mission in 1860 and the line started operating in 1863/1864.
If you look at the 1869 Coast Survey map, you first see the railway. But in just 6 years after the completion of the SFJSRR, the city had already built around the tracks.
The train set a speed record:
The first full-sized steam locomotive produced in the state of California, an American 4-4-0, was built for the SF&SJRR by the Union Iron Works in San Francisco. It was appropriately named the “California”. Its inaugural run was August 30, 1865, during which it set a speed record of 67 mph (107 km/h).
Today, 144 years later, Caltrain’s top speed today is just 79 mph. That’s just sad.