Friday, June 19, 2009
San Francisco, that city by the bay, where many hearts have been left- or so goes the song. We found it a lovely city and certainly very photogenic!. The most recognizable landmarks here, aside from the bay itself, are of course the Golden Gate Bridge, and the Cable Cars. Of course we had to drive across the Golden Gate at least once. No toll to drive north but to come back it is a $6.00 toll per car. Or you could stay in Sausalito!
And how can you visit San Francisco without riding the famous Cable Cars. We rode from Wharf to downtown, then back again on the alternate route ( resulting in having to walk some 5 blocks uphill to our car) If you want to get good photos, my advise is to take the standing position on either side, suck in, hold tight with one hand and fire away! Thats what I did, and I was able to get some pretty good shots! So without further delay- here is our November Obscura view of San Francisco- with a little history mixed in!
The City and County of San Francisco is the fourth most populous city in California and the 13th most populous city in the United States, with a 2008 estimated population of 808,976. It is the second most densely populated major city in the U.S. and is the financial, cultural, and transportation center of the larger San Francisco Bay Area, a region of more than seven million people. The city is located at the northern end of the San Francisco Peninsula, with the Pacific Ocean to the west and San Francisco Bay to the north and east.
In 1776, the Spanish established a fort at the Golden Gate and a mission named for Francis of Assisi. The California Gold Rush in 1848 propelled the city into a period of rapid growth, transforming it into the largest city on the West Coast at the time. After being devastated by the 1906 earthquake and fire, San Francisco was quickly rebuilt, hosting the Panama-Pacific International Exposition nine years later. During World War II, San Francisco was the send-off point for many soldiers to the Pacific Theater. After the war, the confluence of returning servicemen, massive immigration, liberalizing attitudes, and other factors gave rise to the Summer of Love and the gay rights movement, cementing San Francisco as a liberal bastion in the United States.
Today, San Francisco is a popular international tourist destination renowned for its chilly summer fog, steep rolling hills, eclectic mix of Victorian and modern architecture and its famous landmarks, including the Golden Gate Bridge, the cable cars, and Chinatown.
The earliest archaeological evidence of inhabitation of the territory of the city of San Francisco dates to 3000 BC. People of the Ohlone language group occupied Northern California from at least the 6th century. Though their territory had been claimed by Spain since the early 16th century, they would have relatively little contact with Europeans until 1769, when, as part of an effort to colonize Alta California, an exploration party led by Don Gaspar de Portola learned of the existence of San Francisco Bay. Seven years later, in 1776, an expedition led by Juan Bautista de Anza selected the site for the Presidio of San Francisco, which Jose Joaquin Moraga would soon establish. Later the same year, the Franciscan missionary Francisco Palou founded the Mission San Francisco de Asís (Mission Dolores). The Yelamu tribal group of the Ohlone, who had had several villages in the area, were among those brought to live and work at the mission and be converted into the Catholic faith.
Upon independence from Spain in 1821, the area became part of Mexico. Under Mexican rule, the mission system gradually ended and its lands began to be privatized. In 1835, Englishman William Richardson erected the first independent homestead, near a boat anchorage around what is today Portsmouth Square. Together with Alcalde Francisco de Haro, he laid out a street plan for the expanded settlement, and the town, named Yerba Buena, began to attract American settlers. Commodore John D. Sloat claimed California for the United States on July 7, 1846, during the Mexican-American War, and Captain John B. Montgomery arrived to claim Yerba Buena two days later. Yerba Buena was renamed San Francisco the next year, and Mexico officially ceded the territory to the United States at the end of the war. Despite its attractive location as a port and naval base, San Francisco was still a small settlement with inhospitable geography.
The California Gold Rush brought a flood of treasure seekers. With their sourdough bread in tow,prospectors accumulated in San Francisco over rival Benicia raising the population from 1,000 in 1848 to 25,000 by December 1849. The promise of fabulous riches was so strong that crews on arriving vessels deserted and rushed off to the gold fields, leaving behind a forest of masts in San Francisco harbor. California was quickly granted statehood, and the U.S. military built Fort Point at the Golden Gate and a fort on Alcatraz Island to secure the San Francisco Bay. Silver discoveries, including the Comstock Lode in 1859, further drove rapid population growth. With hordes of fortune seekers streaming through the city, lawlessness was common, and the Barbary Coast section of town gained notoriety as a haven for criminals, prostitution, and gambling.
Entrepreneurs sought to capitalize on the wealth generated by the Gold Rush. Early winners were the banking industry, which saw the founding of Wells Fargo in 1852, and the railroad industry, as the magnates of the Big Four, led by Leland Stanford, collaborated in the building of the First Transcontinental Railroad.
The development of the Port of San Francisco established the city as a center of trade. Catering to the needs and tastes of the growing population, Levi Strauss opened a dry goods business and Domingo Ghirardelli began manufacturing chocolate. Immigrant laborers made the city a polyglot culture, with Chinese railroad workers creating the city's Chinatown quarter. The first cable cars carried San Franciscans up Clay Street in 1873. The city's sea of Victorian houses began to take shape, and civic leaders campaigned for a spacious public park, resulting in plans for Golden Gate Park. San Franciscans built schools, churches, theaters, and all the hallmarks of civic life. The Presidio developed into the most important American military installation on the Pacific coast. By the turn of the century, San Francisco was a major city known for its flamboyant style, stately hotels, ostentatious mansions on Nob Hill, and a thriving arts scene.
"Not in history has a modern imperial city been so completely destroyed. San Francisco is gone." – Jack London after the 1906 earthquake and fire
At 5:12 am on April 18, 1906, a major earthquake struck San Francisco and northern California. As buildings collapsed from the shaking, ruptured gas lines ignited fires that would spread across the city and burn out of control for several days. With water mains out of service, the Presidio Artillery Corps attempted to contain the inferno by dynamiting blocks of buildings to create firebreaks. More than three-quarters of the city lay in ruins, including almost all of the downtown core.Contemporary accounts reported that 498 people lost their lives, though modern estimates put the number in the several thousands. More than half the city's population of 400,000 were left homeless. Refugees settled temporarily in makeshift tent villages in Golden Gate Park, the Presidio, on the beaches, and elsewhere. Many fled permanently to the East Bay.
Rebuilding was rapid and performed on a grand scale. Rejecting calls to completely remake the street grid, San Franciscans opted for speed. Amadeo Giannini's Bank of Italy, later to become Bank of America, provided loans for many of those whose livelihoods had been devastated. The destroyed mansions of Nob Hill became grand hotels. City Hall rose once again in splendorous Beaux Arts style, and the city celebrated its rebirth at the Panama-Pacific International Exposition in 1915.
During World War II, the Hunters Point Naval Shipyard became a hub of activity, and Fort Mason became the primary port of embarkation for service members shipping out to the Pacific Theater of Operations. The explosion of jobs drew many people, especially African Americans from the South, to the area. After the end of the war, many military personnel returning from service abroad and civilians who had originally come to work decided to stay. The UN Charter creating the United Nations was drafted and signed in San Francisco in 1945 and, in 1951, the Treaty of San Francisco officially ended the war with Japan.
Urban planning projects in the 1950s and 1960s saw widespread destruction and redevelopment of west side neighborhoods and the construction of new freeways, of which only a series of short segments were built before being halted by citizen-led opposition. The Transamerica Pyramid was completed in 1972, and in the 1980s the Manhattanization of San Francisco saw extensive high-rise development downtown. Port activity moved to Oakland, the city began to lose industrial jobs, and San Francisco began to turn to tourism as the most important segment of its economy. The suburbs experienced rapid growth, and San Francisco underwent significant demographic change, as large segments of the white population left the city, supplanted by an increasing wave of immigration from Asia and Latin America. Over this same period, San Francisco became a magnet for America's counterculture. Beat Generation writers fueled the San Francisco Renaissance and centered on the North Beach neighborhood in the 1950s. Hippies flocked to Haight-Ashbury in the 1960s, reaching a peak with the 1967 Summer of Love. In the 1970s, the city became a center of the gay rights movement, with the emergence of The Castro as an urban gay village, the election of Harvey Milk to the Board of Supervisors, and his assassination, along with that of Mayor George Moscone, in 1978
The 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake caused destruction and loss of life throughout the Bay Area. In San Francisco, the quake severely damaged structures in the Marina and South of Market districts and precipitated the demolition of the damaged Embarcadero Freeway and much of the damaged Central Freeway, allowing the city to reclaim its historic downtown waterfront.