San Francisco Origins: The Presidio

October 13, 2015 | By | Reply More
The Presidio in 1817

The Presidio in 1817

Most cities settle for one date of origin. However, San Francisco, distinctive even in its beginnings, can hardly settle for less than three.

The historical record makes it abundantly clear that it was founded in three separate stages:

First as a pueblo, Yerba Buena, from which, certainly, most of the modern city by the Golden Gate has developed.

Each year, on June 29, San Franciscans, in impressive numbers, gather at Mission Dolores for an anniversary Mass commemorating the “birthday” of their city; they next go to the Officer’s Club at the Presidio for a luncheon and nostalgically impressive program which includes a birthday toast to the city.

However, the record is clear that this date, June 29, is not the real birthday of San Francisco.

What happened on June 29, 1776, was the celebration of Mass by Father Palou on the feast of Saints Peter and Paul on the shores of what had been named La Laguna de Nuestra Senora de Los Dolores; Palou and others had encamped there two days previously to await, in the sheltered area protected from fog by the Twin Peaks, the arrival of supplies that were to be used in establishing the Presidio.

It is of utmost importance that the intentions of the founding authority be examined when we have conflicting dates given in a matter such as the establishment of San Francisco; the record is clear that Juan Bautista de Anza had been sent to the peninsula to establish an “Outpost of Empire” – i.e., a presidio or military post – for many pressing reasons.

Hence the date of September 17, 1776, has priority here, for on that date the Presidio, a primitive but real structure (and surrounding area) was dedicated with the celebration of Mass accompanied by the usual ceremonies employed by Spain on such formal occasions.

“Since the present city of San Francisco grew out of the development of the mission, the presidio and the later Yerba Buena, all three of which grew into one, the date of the beginning of that community stems from the day of the first definitely established place withing it.

That place was the presidio, formally established on September 17, 1776.”

Maynard Geiger


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Category: Fog City - City of Fog, History

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