Things You Should Not Miss
1. The seals, at Seal Rock, as well as the fourth version of Cliff House in the northwest part of San Francisco.
2. Yes, ... a ride on a Cable Car. There's not much
like it, but watch your step.
3. Take the trip to Alcatraz, but remember to get your
reservations as they can fill up fast during the tourist season.
4. Chinatown ... San Francisco's oriental neighborhoods are
the largest and oldest in the United States of America, and they harken
back, in more modern buildings due to the 1906 destruction, the days
when the Barbary Coast were in full flourish. (Picture below,
5. Take a walking tour. Some, provided free, are
staffed by volunteers.
What is There NowJust a Few of the Museums in the City Include...
The Exploratorium - Palace of Fine Arts Building from the 1915 Pan Pacific. Seemingly an unlikely tenant for an building styled after a Roman ruin, this science museum explores a variety of subjects, including music and earthquakes, another unlikely pair.
Chinese Historical Society Museum - The museum and learning center documents Chinese American history, including special collections and exhibits on the effect of the earthquake on Chinatown and many other immigrant history tales.
Wells Fargo History Museum - This museum sits on the site where Wells Fargo opened for business during the height of the Barbary Coast and Gold Rush days. Exhibits include stagecoaches and gold dust from the halcium moments of quick riches and gold fever.
San Francisco is a cosmopolitan city with a wealth of accommodations. Check out the tourist organization as well as Expedia and other travel sites for a hotel, motel, bed and breakfast that suits your needs. Be aware that San Francisco is the second most dense city in the U.S.A. (after New York), so expect crowds in the downtown core and on city streets and the interstates, plus the city and its environs.
San Francisco LinksAlcatraz
Fort Point National Historic Site
Golden Gate National Recreation Area
Virtual Museum of the City of San Francisco
Seal Rock & Cliff House
San Francisco Maritime National Historic Park
San Francisco City Guides
Nearby AttractionsManzanar National Historic Site
Muir Woods National Monument
Rosie the Riveter/World War II Homefront National Historic Site
Sutter's Mill, Marshall Gold Discovery SHP
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The Barbary Coast Then and Now
San Francisco Then
|The Barbary Coast
- Prior to the days of gold, the town of Yerba Buena (later named San
Francisco in 1847 after the United States took control) was a sleepy
town of eight-hundred and fifty people. That all changed in
when gold brought an influx of quick rich folks, who wanted things fast
and loose, whether that meant fortune in the fields of gold, or profit
in the gambling houses, or a night in a Chinese bordello. The
area teamed with dirty miners, dancehall girls, Chinese rogues, and the
fortune seekers from many nations. The Barbary Coast may have
been a western U.S. early version of the United Nations, without a
charter. When the gold rush stopped ten years later, it was
followed by the Comstock silver lode, an even bigger strike.
of the physical plant of the Barbary Coast plant was lost in 1906,
during the great earthquake and fire. For those with a bent
toward following the past Barbary Coast tales, the book "Walking San
Francisco on the Barbary Coast Trail" may be a good start. It
details Portsmouth Square, where some of the most important events of
the Barbary Coast days took place.
The Gold Rush - When the gold rush of 1849 began at Sutter's Mill one year earlier on January 24, 1848, it hit the city of San Francisco like a tidal wave. The city grew from less than one thousand residents to twenty-five thousand in less than two years. Forty thousand people passed through the city in 1848 alone. An estimated eighty thousand would pass through in 1849. This influx caused the Barbary Coast to development into a baudy area of notorious activities.
San Francisco's World's Fairs - San Francisco began its infatuation with international events by hosting the California Midwinter International Exhibition in 1894, the first national event held in the west. Although small in comparison to subsequent expos, the Midwinter drew over one million people to its 160 acre site and exhibits from thirty-eight nations and colonies. Even before the 1906 earthquake, San Francisco leaders were discussing hosting another fair, but after the devastating impact of that natural disaster, there was even more reason. So the Pan Pacific International Exhibition (Picture left, Court of Palms) was spawned. It opened with dual purpose, to celebrate the city's rebirth after the earthquake and to celebrate the opening of the Panama Canal. Held on 625 acres on reclaimed land on the south bank of the bay, it opened with the fanfare of 255,144 visitors and held a captive audience that included Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Herbert Hoover, and John Phillip Sousa's band, which performed, that would visit the exhibits of forty nations and colonies. To this day, it is regarded as one of the most magnificent world gatherings in history, and the Palace of Fine Arts remains as one legacy of its glory. Twenty-five years would pass, but by the time the Golden Gate International Exposition opened for its two seasons, San Francisco had been connected to the east by two large spans, the Golden Gate Bridge and the Oakland Bay Bridge, the later which would lead to the four hundred acre island, known as Treasure, in the middle of the bay and host a world's fair. The island was assisted in construction with WPA money, but despite the fact that the fair was viewed as spectacular by most who visited, if was considered less successful than the 1915 edition, in many ways due to the impending tensions of World War II and competition from the New York World's Fair of 1939-1940.
1906 Earthquake - April 18, 1906, the city shook to an earthquake, its estimated moment magnitude 7.8, estimated Richter scale of 8.25. The rupture along the San Andreas fault was followed by fires that burned throughout the city, five hundred city blocks in total. The devestation to the city of San Francisco was enormous, with almost eighty percent of the city destroyed by the earthquake and fire. Although the loss of life was estimated very low at the time due to city father's desire to minimize the loss, it is now thought that three thousand people is a conservative amount for the people that perished in 1906 due to the event. Also, between 50-75% of the population at the time was homeless after the earthquake, with tent cities, and subsequent Army "relief houses" popping up in the various city parks to handle the influx.
World War II - The implications of World War on the major city in the western United States were many. Its high concentration of Asian immigrants saw the tragedy of internment, whose story is now told at Manzanar National Historic Site east of the city (picture above, the Manzanar camp), and the proximity to the coast saw intense efforts to ensure national security, which included use of Treasure Island as what was intended as a temporary Naval Air Station. Thousands of recruits would pass through this navy station on their way to combat. After the surrender of Japan in 1945, the original charter for the United Nations was also signed in San Francisco.
San Francisco Now
Cable Cars - At times, one of the most special and romantic ways to traverse any city in the United States, these cable cars have plied the hills of San Francisco since Andrew Smith Hallidie, an Englishman no less, put the Clay Street line into public service on September 1, 1873. For more on the history of San Francisco's cable cars, go the the Cable Car Museum on Mason Street on Nob Hill.
The National Parks of San Francisco - For many outside California, it might come as some surprise at the variety and popularity of San Francisco's national parks. From Golden Gate National Recreation Area, which includes many different sites, ranging from the notorious prison in the bay, Alcatraz, to the Marin Headwaters, Nike Missile Site and its Cold War remains, the Presidio, and Muir Woods, twelve miles north of the Golden Gate Bridge among its 59 miles of shoreline and 75,000 acres, to Fort Point National Historic Site where the city was guarded from invaders from the Civil War through World War II, and the many ships and maritime displays of San Francisco Maritime National Historic Park on the west end of the wharf of San Francisco Bay. It includes a museum, historic vessels docked at the pier, and a visitor center.
Alacatraz Island - Part of Golden Gate National Recreation Area, Alcatraz Island is accessible through a concessionaire's tour from Pier 41. Ranger tours and audio tours are available once at the prison. The prison was once home to Al Capone, Machine Gun Kelley, and the Birdman. Reservations are advisable.
Remnants from the Pan Pacific International Exposition - (Picture, Top of the Page) The Palace of Fine Arts from the 1915 exhibition still remains, a spectacular site which now houses the Exploratorium, a modern museum of science and perception. The building, designed by architect Bernard R. Maybeck, recounts a Roman ruin and has charmed city residents and visitors since its February 1915 debut.