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The Mission District: San Francisco’s hidden gem

Posted by
on March 25, 2014 at 01:25 AM

One of San Francisco’s oldest neighborhoods, The Mission District has served as home to a number of different ethnic and socioeconomic groups over its long, yet illustrious history- as an artist’s canvas, and as a giant culture hub.

© Courtesy of Aniruddha Mahale

Whenever one thinks of San Francisco, one usually thinks of the famous Union Square, or the Fisherman’s Wharf, San Francisco’s famous historical fishing district. However, few have heard of, or visited the equally historical, ( and equally architecturally pleasing) Mission District, one of San Francisco’s vibrant area codes.

The Mission District is one of San Francisco’s oldest neighborhoods, and has served as home to a number of different ethnic and socioeconomic groups over its long, yet illustrious history. The Mission, long a working-class stronghold, is a mixed-used district centrally located between the downtown districts and the outlying residential neighborhoods. The District, or Mission, as it is more popularly known as, is famous for its huge painted scenes on the walls and facades of buildings, murals by renowned artists, both local and nationwide. There are nearly 600 murals in San Francisco, with the highest concentration in this neighborhood ranging from political satires, and tributes to social issues.

However, the Mission isn’t only about the many murals on its walls, and colourful facades, it has more architectural significance than that. The lesser-known “flatlands” of the Mission District are clusters of Victorian era houses. Hosting various typologies of housing, the Mission is home to close to 2,600 Victorian homes and more than 900 Italianate houses of the 1870’s. In addition to the outstanding examples of Victorian era architecture, two other notable landmark buildings are the old Levi Strauss factory, and Mission Dolores.

One of the oldest surviving structures in San Francisco, Mission Dolores is a key religious settlement,  and an integral tourist feature. It has always had a central place in the religious, civic, and cultural life of San Francisco, giving its name to Dolores Park, an urban oasis in this architectural wonder.  The park is popular among San Franciscans looking for outdoor relaxation and recreation, offering a host of activities, in the form of outdoor sports and cultural programs.

The bright colours and ornate facades of the Mission notwithstanding, it is in many ways, the heart of San Francisco. Since it is shielded by hills and protected from the cold fog that plagues most of the rest of the city, the Mission is the city’s warmest district, attracting those without proper housing, forming a hub of culture in the process. For much of its history,  the Mission developed as a semi-independent “city within a city” with its own rich cultural and  architectural heritage. The oldest settled area of the city, the Mission has retained distinctive  identity and character even though subsequent historic events have continued to transform it—to such an extent that a part of it seems frozen in time.

Conclusively, the Mission is a historic neighborhood that boasts of culture and diversity. Nowadays, mainly classified as a gentrified hipster locale; this district stems far deeper in its heritage and roots than anyone can fathom. This area has everything you could possibly need, and never need all while being in SF. It is an area filled with thousands of hidden gems or holes-in-the-wall. It's never quiet, the streets are busy, and there will always be some sort of mini parade that you can't help but join.

One can think of many reasons on why to love the Mission. Some might say that it  is eclectic and unique, yet others might say that it inspires them, and that it is rare. A select few would applaud it on its suis generis, but no one would deny that the most inherent part of the Mission that they love is it’s old-world charm, and its vigor, which gives the place its unique character.

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