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Arts & Culture

What Is The Origin Of Dolores Park?

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Dolores Park on a Monday afternoon

Hey Area is where we find answers to questions you ask. Listener Sarah Fleming wanted to know the origin of Dolores Park.

Before any European contact, the Ohlone people lived on the land that is now Dolores Park. When Spanish missionaries arrived, they converted or displaced the Ohlone, and planted crops where the park is today.

In 1860 the land was purchased for a Jewish Cemetery, and the neighbors paid to make a park. I sat down with Bill Issel, a local historian, to talk about the origin of Dolores Park. 

“After several decades, because the city began moving the buried persons out of the city limits. The cemetery was turned into an empty space,” says Issel. 

Dolores park opened in 1905, and less than a year later, when thousands of families lost their homes in the big San Francisco earthquake, it served as a refugee camp. That is how the park started, but it keeps evolving.

“Beginning in the 1960s the park began to be a San Francisco site,” says Issel. 

In the ‘60s, two features were added to the park: a replica of the Mexican liberty bell, and a statue of Miguel Hidalgo, a Mexican war hero. And, during the ‘80s the park went through some dark moments. 

“When the whole country went through the crack epidemic, so did San Francisco, and one of the marketplaces was Dolores park,” says Issel. 

And now, as the mission’s population is growing more white and wealthy, changes can be seen in who is using the park as well. 

“The park is an arena. It is a stage and it is a stage for performances of all kinds of different people who have come to the city and who are working out how to coexist.”