The Mission Road success

Even as the legislation authorizing his toll road to San Francisco’s Mission Dolores was still under consideration, Charles L. Wilson went ahead with the construction of the road. Several sand ridges were cut through and one in particular, near Post Street at a point that could not be avoided, was chosen as the place for the tollgate. A lot of grading was also required along Mission Street but the bridge over the bog between Seventh and Eighth Streets was the costliest part of the project. Wilson intended to build the bridge on piles but when the first twenty-foot post was put into position it was driven completely out of sight by the first blow from the pile driver. A second pile was placed on top of the first and after only a couple of more blows it too had disappeared. It was clear that there was no good footing within forty feet of the surface and that fact made the current plan for the bridge impracticable. The contractor suggested laying a platform of heavy logs over the bog over which cribs of logs were built up to form a foundation and atop this the bridge could cross. At first the span was perfectly level at a height of about twenty feet over the middle of the ravine, but the bridge always shook when a heavy team crossed, and after a few years, as the foundation settled deeper into the bog, the center of the span sank to five feet below the horizontal.

Mission Dolores

Mission Dolores

The road itself, a continuous, regular and smooth floor of wood planks wide enough for several teams to pass one another, was finished on the last day the law allowed for completion. It had cost one hundred and fifty thousand dollars or nearly seventy thousand dollars a mile. The tolls were twenty-five cents for a horse and rider, fifty cents for a horse and buggy, seventy-five cents for two horses and a vehicle, and a dollar for a four-horse team, fees that people willing paid, and traffic along the road was so good that the project returned a revenue of ten percent per month. It attracted so much traffic in fact that a proposal was put forward for another road to the Mission. This was soon built, but there was some trouble filling in the salt-water swamps between Fourth and Eighth Streets with enough sand to create a good foundation to lay the planks. On occasion, during a very high tide, the planks between Fourth and Fifth Streets would float away, but in all the new Mission Road was found to be a better and more popular drive than the old road and at a cost of ninety-five thousand dollars it had been much cheaper to build. Taken together, between the years of 1853-58 when the two roads were turned over to the city, Wilson made an average return of three percent per month on an investment of two hundred and fifty thousand dollars.



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