California flag SAN  FRANCISCO California flag

Golden gate Bridge        Debbie and I visited San Francisco in the summer of 2000. It was a surprise for Debbie. I wouldn't tell her where we were going. Somehow I managed to keep our destination a secret from her until the time we actually boarded the plane. On June 28, we flew on United Airlines onboard a Boeing 757. It took around 7 hours over some pretty incredible scenery (Debbie slept the whole way).

        We had a great time, though it doesn't get very warm there. The highest temp was 72 degrees. There was fog and a lot of wind (not all from me talking either.) This was the place that Mark Twain said that the coldest winter he ever experienced was a summer in San Francisco. Having been here, I kind of know what he was talking about.

        Then there are the hills. You hear about them and you see pictures, but you never really grasp the scope until you start walking around the city. Some of the streets are so steep, I can't see how people walk up and down them every day of their lives.

        We stayed in a Holiday Inn on Van Ness Avenue between the Pacific Heights section and Nob Hill. We were one block from the California Street cable car stop. We bought a week long pass for the cable cars to avoid those hills. This is an ideal way to get around San Francisco. They have passes called Muni Passports (short for San Francisco Municipal Railroad) that you can use to ride the cable cars along with the streetcars and buses. The passes can be bought for one, three or seven days. We bought seven day Passports for $15.00 each (it is a major bargain when you consider that a one-way trip on a cable car costs $2.00 - in 2000). You can only buy them in certain places. We bought ours at the Visitor Information Center (on the lower level of Hallidie Plaza on the corner of Market and Powell Streets). You can also buy them at City Hall information kiosk, the Powell-Hyde cable car turntable, the airport along with a few stores around San Francisco.

        They also have a San Francisco CityPass that you can buy for $36.00 (that was the price in 2000). It includes the seven-day pass on the cable cars, streetcars and buses along with free passes to the Steinhart Aquarium & California Academy of Sciences in Golden Gate Park, California Palace of the Legion of Honor art museum (they have a Monet "Waterlilies") also in Golden Gate Park, Exploratorium science museum next to the Palace of the Fine Arts near the Presideo & San Francisco Museum of Modern Art in the Financial District along with a Blue & Gold Fleet Bay Cruise. It would cost you $38.50 just for admission to the four museums alone. The bay cruise alone is $20.00 (again that was in 2000). So if you bought a CityPass you would almost break even with the seven-day pass and the bay cruise making any museum visit free. If you plan to visit even two museums, this pass is worth it.

A Brief History of San Francisco

Mission Dolores               Despite all of the exploring of the "New World" by the English, Spanish and Portuguese, San Francisco Bay was missed for a hundred years.  It was not entered by a European explorer until 1769 when Don Gaspar de Portloa leads a party overland and discovers the bay. In 1775, the first ship, the San Carlos of Spain, enters the bay. The Spanish built a fort (presideo) here in 1776. Later that year, Father Junípero Serra established nearby the Misión San Francisco de Asís (now called Mission Dolores - photo at right). There was very little settlement in the area. In 1821, when Mexico declared its independence from Spain, it became Mexican territory. In 1835, William Richardson founds the village of Yerba Buena (named for a local plant) which was later re-named San Francisco in 1847. The village has about 800 inhabitants with 200 buildings.

             The United States took possession of San Francisco after the Mexican War in 1846. This was about the same time as gold was discovered in California turning San Francisco into a booming community. It became a city in 1850 and was known for it's lawless areas, like the Barbary Coast and for it's rich mansions on Nob Hill. Montgomery Street becomes the main business district which it still is today. California becomes a state the same year. In 1862, the telegraph links New York with San Francisco. The transcontinental railroad linked San Francisco with the East Coast in 1869, making a fortune for the a group of tycoons known as the "Big Four". In 1873, the first cable cars are tested and Levi Strauss patents his process for making riveted jeans. As the 20th Century dawns, new buildings and hotels are being built all over the city. Mayor Abe "Boss" Ruef becomes the powerbroker of San Francisco (he will plead guilty to extortion in 1907).

"Sunny Jim" Rolph             All of the growth and development will come to an abrupt halt, if only temporary. On the morning of April 18, 1906, an earthquake shook the city. Flames from burst gas mains erupted and caused a fire that raged for three days, destroying almost all of San Francisco's downtown and much of the residential area (more on that below). However, the city was quickly rebuilt, and in 1915 it played host to the Panama-Pacific International Exposition. In 1911, "Sunny Jim" Rolph (photo at left) is elected mayor and serves until 1930 (when he resigns to be governor).

            In 1936, the Bay Bridge opens and Pan American Clippers arrive in the city taking people to Asia. The Golden Gate Bridge opened the following year. After the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941, Japanesse-American internment begins. During the Second World War, San Francisco became a major shipbuilding area. When the war is over, the UN Peace Conference is held in San Francisco which leads to the founding of the United Nations.

California Seals              In 1946, the San Francisco 49ers became the first major league professional sports franchise on the West Coast. In 1958, The New York Giants relocated to San Francisco giving them their first baseball franchise. They have won three pennants here, but have not won a World Series since 1905. In 1961, the San Francisco Seals hockey team started in the Western Hockey League and six years later, after they moved across the bay, they joined the N.H.L. They were re-named the California Golden Seals (logo at left), but never did well and eventually moved to Cleveland in 1976 becoming the Cleveland Barons San Jose Sharks(After two more years of losses, the Barons were permitted to merge with the financially struggling Minnesota North Stars who later moved to Dallas). In 1991, The San Jose Sharks (logo at right) NHL team brought professional hockey back to the San Francisco Bay area. They have won three divisional titles but have yet to raise the Stanley Cup. In 1962, the Philadelphia Warriors basketball team re-located to San Francisco. They have since moved across the bay and are called the Golden State Warriors. In 1968, the Kansas City Athletics (formally the Philadelphia Athletics) moved to Oakland. Since then, the A's have won six pennants and four World Series including 1989, the only one between Oakland and San Francisco.

Mayor George Moscone            In the late 1950's, the literary development of the Beat Generation, with writers Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg and Neal Cassidy, was centered in San Francisco's North Beach area. In 1967, 25,000 hippies and others attend a day of music in Golden gate Park. The Monterey Pop Festival will feature Jimi Hendricks, Otis Redding and The Who. Local blues and soul singer Janis Joplin will become famous.

Joe Montana            In 1973, the Transamerica Pyramid will be completed. The following year, Patty Hearst, of the famous Hearst family will be kidnapped and later join her kidnappers. In 1978, Mayor George Moscone (photo at right), along with gay politician Harvey Milk, will be assassinated in city hall by a former policeman. In 1981, the San Francisco 49ers, led by Joe Montana (photo at left) will win their first of five Super Bowl titles, tied for the most, and have the distinction of being the only team to never lose a Super Bowl. In 1989, during a World Series game, another earthquake, called the Loma Prieta earthquake, struck the city causing death and destruction, though nowhere near as bad as 1906.

             Today San Francisco is the fourth most populous city in California and the 14th most populous city in the United States, with a 2007 estimated population of 764,976. One of the most densely populated major American cities, San Francisco is the core of the San Francisco metropolitan area, home to 4.2 million people, which itself is part of the much larger San Francisco Bay Area containing 7.2 million people. San Francisco is characterized by a high standard of living. The great wealth and opportunity generated by the Internet revolution drew many highly educated and high income workers and residents to San Francisco. The city is also known for its diverse, cosmopolitan population, including large and long-established Asian American and its Gay communities. It also has a large homeless population.

Fisherman's Wharf

Fisherman's Wharf        After checking in at the hotel, the first place we visited was Fisherman's Wharf. This is where you will find most of the tourists that visit San Francisco. It roughly encompasses the northern waterfront area of San Francisco from Ghirardelli Square or Van Ness Street east to Pier 35 or Kearny Street. Some of the restaurants, like Pompeii's and Alioto's #8, go back for three generations of the same family ownership. Nearby Pier 45, there is a chapel in memory of the "Lost Fishermen" of San Francisco and Northern California.

        That tourist on the corner next to the traffic light sure looks familar. Where have we seen her before? Much of this fame of Fisherman's Wharf is due to the annual harvest of the very popular and desired of all crustaceans, the Dungeness crab (you can see one in the center of the sign). All throughout the wharf you can buy them to be eaten there or taken home. The Dungeness crab is a species of crab that inhabits eelgrass beds and water bottoms from the Aleutian Islands in Alaska to Santa Cruz, California. About one quarter of this crab's weight is meat, making it one of the meatiest crabs available. Most of the meat is in the eight legs and two claws, although the body contains plenty as well. They are named after the town of Dungeness in northwestern Washington state.

        After walking here from our hotel we had lunch in a restaurant on the waterfront. Some of the restaurants, like Pompeii's and Alioto's #8, go back for three generations of the same family ownership. The restaurants and stands serve fresh seafood, most notably dungeness crab and clam chowder served in a sourdough bread bowl. One of the things I enjoyed here was the clam chowder served in a sourdough bowl. The Boudin Sourdough Bakery is here and almost always crowded.

        The Boudin Family has been baking bread since 1849 when they discovered something unique. Wild yeast in the San Francisco air had imparted a unique tang to their traditional French bread, giving rise to “San Francisco sourdough French bread.” The family survived the 1906 earthquake and in 1975 moved their bakery to Fisherman's Wharf. Since we were there, they have opened a bakery museum and tour.

        Also here is San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park, the Cannery Shopping Center, Ghirardelli Square, a Ripley's Believe it or Not museum, the Rain Forest cafe, the Musée Mécanique and the Wax Museum at Fisherman's Wharf. We visited The wax museum. It is all right, but it's no Madame Tussauds.

        Another very popular tourist attraction is Pier 39 which contain a number of restaurants and shops on a pier that juts out into the bay. One of the restaurants is called "Alcatraz bar and grill" and has a mock up of one of the cells on the island prison (there is a picture of me in it below). Fisherman Wharf is also where Blue & Gold boat tours leave from.  Pier 39 has another interesting attraction - sea lions. California Sea Lions have been hanging out on the pier since the  1990s. Each winter, the population can increase up to 900 sea lions, most of which are male. During the summer months, the sea lions migrate south to the Channel Islands for breeding season.

          Also here is the Liberty Ship S.S. Jeremiah O'Brien. A participant in the D-day landing in Normandy during World War II, this Liberty Ship freighter is one of two such vessels (out of 2,500 built) still in working order. To keep the 1943 ship in sailing shape, the steam engine -- which appears in the film Titanic - is operated dockside seven times a year on special "steaming weekends." Cruises take place several times a year between May and October.

fishing fleet in Fisherman's Wharf         Fisherman’s Wharf, which has been the home of San Francisco’s colorful fishing fleet (at right) for nearly a century and a quarter, is world famous for its wide variety of ocean fish and of course, the much desired Dungeness crab. [NOTE: if you look at the picture you can see a large bird on the bow of the boat at left taking off]

        From the earliest days of the San Francisco waterfront, Fisherman's Wharf has been evolving. Both its location and its layout were shifted repeatedly between 1870 and 1930 to make way for the almost constant construction of the city's shipping wharves and seawalls.

          Prior to 1860, Chinese immigrants fished the bay to supply Chinatown's fish markets. European immigrants and Americans from the East Coast pursued salmon, flounder, crabs and herring using a panoply of small boats such as sloops, whitehalls, sailing smacks and modified ships' boats. By the late 1860s, successive waves of Italian immigration brought hundreds of fishermen from the coastal villages near the city of Genoa into San Francisco. They also built fishing boats in the tradition of their native land, called "silenas" by the fishermen, but later more widely known as "San Francisco feluccas." The seaworthiness of these small, lateen-rigged vessels was a perfect match for the rugged waters of the San Francisco Bay and contributed to the success of their skilled owners. The felucca quickly became the principal vessel in the fishing fleets moored along the San Francisco waterfront.

          Through the years, the fishing fleet was forced to keep moving. It started out at the India Dock at the foot of Vallejo and Green Streets but moved to the Union Street Wharf, at the foot of Union and Greenwich streets, in 1884. Construction of the seawall in 1900, forced a move to the new Fisherman's Wharf located at the westernmost extension of the seawall, at the intersection of Jefferson and Taylor streets. The old sailboats and feluccas have been replaced with motorized clipper-bowed Monterey fishing boats.

San Francisco Bay          San Francisco Bay is a shallow, productive estuary through which water draining from approximately forty percent of California, flowing in the Sacramento and San Joaquin rivers from the Sierra Nevada mountains, enters the Pacific Ocean. The Bay covers somewhere between 400 and 1,600 square miles, depending on which sub-bays (such as San Pablo Bay), estuaries, wetlands, and so on are included in the measurement. The main part of the Bay measures 3 to 12 miles wide east-to-west and somewhere between 48 miles to 60 miles north-to-south.

            There are four large islands in San Francisco Bay. Isolated in the center of the Bay is Alcatraz, the site of the famous federal penitentiary (more on that below). Mountainous Yerba Buena Island is pierced by a tunnel linking the east and west spans of the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge. Attached to the north is the artificial and flat Treasure Island, site of the 1939 World's Fair. Closest to shore, Angel Island was known as "Ellis Island West" because it served as the entry point for immigrants from East Asia. Raccoon Strait, between Tiburon and Angel Island, is the deepest part of the Bay.

          The first recorded European discovery of San Francisco Bay was on November 4, 1769 when Spanish explorer Gaspar de Portolà, unable to find the port of Monterey, California, continued north close to what is now Pacifica. Short on water and food, Portolà and an expedition of 63 men and 200 horses left the coast to journey inland, reaching the summit of the 1,200-foot high Sweeney Ridge, where he sighted San Francisco Bay.

          The first European to enter the bay is believed to have been the Spanish explorer Juan de Ayala, who passed through the Golden Gate on August 5, 1775 in his ship the San Carlos, and moored in a bay of Angel Island now known as Ayala Cove. During the California gold rush of 1848-1850s, San Francisco Bay instantly became one of the world's greatest seaports, dominating shipping and transportation in the American West until the last years of the nineteenth century.

Ghirardelli Square        That afternoon, we walked down to Ghirardelli Square (pronounced 'Gear-ar-delly'). They are the famous makers of chocolate, so you can guess who was very happy to visit. The picture here is of us in the middle of the square next to the fountain.

       In 1817, Domenico Ghirardelli was born in Rapallo, Italy (near Genoa) to an exotic foods importer. At a young age, Domenico was introduced to the chocolate and confectionery trade when he apprenticed for a local candy maker. He immigrated to Peru in 1838 and later to San Francisco during the Gold Rush of 1849 to make his fortune panning for gold. Not finding gold, he opened a general store in Stockton, California, offering supplies and confections to fellow miners. chocolateIn 1852, he moved to San Francisco and established the Ghirardelli Chocolate Company. There would be several locations before finally settling at what would become Ghirardelli Square in 1895. The stores survived the 1906 Earthquake and fire. The famous clock tower (below left) was built in 1911. Ghirardelli Square was granted National Historic Register status in 1982.

Ghirardelli Square        Around the year 1865, Ghirardelli discovered that by hanging a bag of ground cacao beans in a warm room, the cocoa butter would drip off, leaving behind a residue that can then be converted into ground chocolate. This technique, known as the Broma process is now the most common method for the production of chocolate.

        Ghirardelli died in 1894, but his company continued to grow. In 1998, Lindt and Sprungli Chocolate of Switzerland acquires Ghirardelli Chocolate Company. Here I am enjoying some chocolate along with a hot chocolate.

        Actually the square contains a number of restaurants and shops in addition to the chocolate store. We came back later for ice cream. The ice cream store is very popular and you may have to wait in line to get in. We did learn quickly, that it is tough walking around San Francisco with all of the hills. Of course, it's a good way to walk off all of that chocolate. All in all, a good first day in San Francisco.

        Thursday, June 30 was our first full day in San Francisco, and we spent it completely exploring the city. We became experts riding the cable cars. As we walked around the Financial District, we watched people rushing to and from places, knowing that we were in no hurry. What a great feeling. We visited the Wells Fargo Museum on Montgomery Street is on the site where Wells Fargo first opened for business in 1852. What I found most interesting was the old stage coaches. Believe me, you would not want to travel cross-country in one of those.

Wells Fargo Museum          Wells Fargo is a bank in California, but it is also remembered in history as the company that ran stage coaches across the western plains. Soon after gold was discovered in early 1848 at Sutter's Mill, financiers and entrepreneurs from all over North America and the world flocked to California, drawn by the promise of huge profits. Two easterners, Henry Wells of Vermont and William G. Fargo of New York organized Wells, Fargo & Company in 1852 as express and banking services to California. The company developed its own stagecoach business, helped start and then took over the Overland Mail Company, establishing twice-a-week mail service between St. Louis and San Francisco, and participated in the Pony Express. Not to mention, it also transported gold from California to the East.

        The museum devotes a lot of its exhibits to the stage coach. The Wells Fargo company used what is called the 'Concord Stagecoach' which is what you see here in the photo. They were built by the Abbot Downing Company in Concord, New Hampshire. To make the ride smoother, they employed leather strap braces under their stagecoaches which gave a swinging motion instead of the jolting up and down of a spring suspension. The Concord Stagecoaches were built so solidly that it became known that they didn't break down but just wore out. They each weighed about 2,500 pounds and cost $1,100 to build, including the leather and damask cloth interior. The Wells Fargo Company still owns ten original stagecoaches (like the one seen here) which are displayed in their nine museums around the Western United States and Alaska.

        The Wells Fargo stagecoach, pulled by a team of six horses, traveled an average five to twelve miles an hour, changing horses at swing stations every 12 miles. With as many as nine people seated on three benches inside. The overland trip took about 25 days. A real danger for stagecoach travelers was the risk of robbery by highwaymen or bandits. Cash payrolls and bank transfers were regularly carried by these scheduled stage lines, which operated without a telephone service to report robberies. Charles Bolles aka "Black Bart" is known to have robbed California stages from 1875 to 1883. He was famous for leaving poems at the scenes of the crime. He accidentally left an embroidered handkerchief  after one hold-up that revealed his identity and ended his career (he spent four years in in San Quentin Prison). 

        The Wells Fargo stagecoach empire was short lived with the coming of the railroad. The transcontinental railroad was completed in 1869, causing the stage business to dwindle and Wells Fargo's stock to fall. However, Wells Fargo Bank survived and is today the 5th largest bank in the United States by assets.

Transamerica Pyramid
and other San Francisco architecture

        We passed the Transamerica Pyramid, a 853-ft skyscraper that is the tallest and most recognizable skyscraper in the San Francisco skyline. They don't have an observation deck anymore (it was closed after September 11, 2001), but they do have a street-level Virtual Observation Deck in the lobby on Washington Street with four monitors, whose direction and zoom can be controlled by visitors 24 hours day. It was disliked by the locals when it opened, but now they have grown to accept it as part of their skyline.

Transamerica Pyramid
Transamerica Pyramid

       Built on the location of the historic Montgomery Block, it has a height of 853 feet and contains 48 floors of retail and office space. Construction began in 1969 and finished in 1972. The building occupies the site that was the temporary home of A.P. Giannini's Bank of Italy after the 1906 San Francisco earthquake destroyed its office. Giannini founded Transamerica in 1928 as a holding company for his financial empire. His Bank of Italy later became the Bank of America.

        The Transamerica Pyramid is currently ranked as the 98th tallest building in the world. It was the tallest skyscraper west of the Mississippi from 1972-1974 (surpassing the nearby 555 California Street building formerly known as the Bank of America Center), at which point it was surpassed by the Aon Center in Los Angeles. Transamerica moved their headquarters to the new building from across the street, where they used to be based in another pyramid-shaped building. It is now occupied by the Church of Scientology of San Francisco.

       Although it no longer houses the headquarters of the Transamerica Corporation, it is still strongly associated with the company and is depicted in the company's logo. The building is evocative of San Francisco and has become one of the many symbols of the city.

Sentinal Building       The building is a tall, four-sided pyramid with two "wings" on opposite sides of the building. It's design was created to minimize the shadow the building would create. The wing to the east of the building contains an elevator shaft, while the wing to the west contains a stairwell and a smoke tower. The building's façade is covered in crushed quartz, giving the building its pure white color. The top of the Transamerica Pyramid is covered with aluminum panels. Clearence between the panels allows for lateral movement in case of an earthquake. During the Christmas holiday season, Thanksgiving and the Fourth of July, a bright, white light is lit on top of the pyramid. Interestingly, only two of the building's 18 elevators reach the top floor.

       The Transamerica Pyramid has been featured in a number of movies including; Dirty Harry, Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home (the one with the whales), the 1985 James Bond film A View to a Kill, Mrs. Doubtfire and the 1978 version of Invasion of the Body Snatchers.       

        The photograph (at left) is a favorite of mine showing the contrasting architectural styles over the century. The Sentinel Building, constructed in 1906 (it was partially completed when the earthquake hit - picture) is on Columbus Avenue and Kearny Street (the North Beach section of the city) while the Transamerica Pyramid, constructed in 1972, is a block behind it at the end of Columbus.
Political boss Abe Ruef had started construction on the steel-framed building before the San Francisco Earthquake. The frame survived and the building was completed in 1907 (Ruef later was sent to San Quentin prison for graft). In its early years, The Sentinel Building was the home of "Caesar's," an establishment Hobart Building on Market and Montgomery Streetswhich is credited with creating the salad of the same name. The restaurant was closed during prohibition for violations of the 18th amendment. It was called the Columbus Tower for a number of years. With its copper-clad windows aged to a pastel green, it is one of one of San Francisco's few "flatiron" buildings. Today, Francis Ford Coppola houses his production studio, American Zoetrope, in the building. Coppola, a famous epicure and owner of a Napa winery, also owns the downstairs cafe (Cafe Niebaum-Coppola).

          I took another interesting contrast of past and present architecture (at right). In the foreground is the 285-ft. Hobart Building on Market and Montgomery Streets in the financial district of San Francisco. Completed in 1914, it took only 11 months to build and was at the time the second tallest building in the city with 21 floors (its now around 113th tallest). Reputed to be the favorite commercial building of its designer, Willis Polk, its sculpted terra cotta exterior with Baroque ornamentation and handcrafted brass and Italian marble interior are a noted example of neoclassicist architecture. Its unusual shape was dictated by the site, which was an asymmetric polygon, and since a neighboring structure was torn down, exposing one side, it is now even more idiosyncratic and striking.

345 California Center          Behind it in the photograph is the 566-ft. 44 Montgomery Street skyscraper. When completed in 1967, it was the tallest building west of Dallas until 555 California Street was erected in 1969.  Currently it is the 11th tallest skyscraper in San Francisco. The 43 floor building was once the world headquarters for Wells Fargo Bank until it was sold to AT&T in 1997.

          345 California Center (photo at left), known also as 345 California Street and locally known as the Tweezer Towers, is a 48 story, 695 ft. office tower located in the heart of San Francisco's financial district. Completed in 1986, it is San Francisco's third-tallest building after the Transamerica Pyramid and 555 California Street, but only the Tweezers of the building poke above the rest of the downtown skyscrapers. 345 California was originally proposed to stand 100 feet taller for a total of 794 ft. had it not been for height restrictions of the day. Nevertheless, it was the tallest building constructed in San Francisco in the 1980's. The tower, sheathed in white and gray polished granite, is located in the middle of a block with four historic buildings on each of the four corners. The Mandarin Oriental Hotel occupies the top 11 floors of the tower (they were originally intended as owner-occupied condominium residences), consisting of twin towers twisted at 45 degree angles (compared to the rest of the building) and the two are connected by skybridges. These glassy skybridges offer dramatic views from the Financial District of the Bay Area.

          Here is the Hearst Building on Market and 3rd street. If anything, the doorway is very impressive. The building was built in 1909, replacing the original Examiner Building that was destroyed in the 1906 earthquake.

Hearst Building door        William Randolph Hearst, the son of George Hearst, who made his fortune in the California Gold Rush, received the newspaper, the San Francisco Examiner, as a gift from his father. In 1887, he became the paper's publisher and devoted long hours and much money to making it a success. Crusading for civic improvement and exposing municipal corruption, he greatly increased the paper's circulation.

            Later he acquired The New York Journal and engaged in a bitter circulation war with Joseph Pulitzer's New York World which led to the creation of "yellow journalism" (sensationalized stories of dubious veracity). Acquiring more newspapers, Hearst created a chain that numbered nearly 30 papers in major American cities at its peak. He later expanded to magazines, creating the largest newspaper and magazine business in the world.

        He was elected two times to the U.S. House of Representatives, but was defeated in 1906 in a race for governor of New York. Nonetheless, through his newspapers and magazines, he exercised enormous political influence, most notably in creating public frenzy which pushed the U.S. into war with Spain in 1898. His life story was a source of inspiration for the lead character in Orson Welles' classic film, Citizen Kane.

        In 1936, a renovation of the building was done by architect Julia Morgan (best known for her work on Hearst Castle in San Simeon). The large bronze grill (seen here) was placed above the main doors with a the large enormous cartouche (with a letter "H") above the door was added along with a new marble lobby. The building was home to the San Francisco Examiner until the late 1960's.

C. A. Belden House        Not all famous San Francisco architecture is high-rises. There are many beautiful Victorian and Queen Anne homes throughout the city. Many of the homes are painted in bright vivid colors. The building here is C. A. Belden House, a Queen Anne Victorian in the Pacific Heights section on Gough Street Between Clay and Washington Streets. It was designed by Walter Matthews in 1889. The house is on the National Register of Historic Places in San Francisco.

       The name "Queen Anne" does not refer to an historical period, though it was named after Queen Anne of Great Britain (1702-14). It was a term coined by English architect Richard Shaw. Queen Anne houses combine elements from many decorative traditions, but are noted for their turrets, towers and large, often decorative, panels on wall surfaces. Most homes, like this here, also display intricate spindle-work on balustrades, porches and roof trusses and are usually painted in bold colors.

        Seen from the 1870s onwards, this style revived features of English architecture from the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, including, initially, elements from the historical reign of Queen Anne of Great Britain (1702-14). Queen Anne Style buildings in America came into vogue in the 1880s, replacing the French-derived Second Empire as the "style of the moment." The popularity of high Queen Anne Style waned in the early 1900s.

       Alamo Square has San Francisco's most photographed row of colorful Victorian houses. They line the eastern side of the sloping square (which is around 225 ft. above the Civic Center) giving great views of the city in the background.

       We visited the Haas-Lilienthal House on Franklin Street. It's the only intact Victorian era home that is open regularly as a museum, complete with authentic furniture and artifacts. The Queen Anne-style Victorian was built in 1886 for a rich wholesale grocer named William Haas. His daughter, Alice Lilienthal lived here until 1972. It was then given to the Foundation for San Francisco's Architectural Heritage who have turned it into a museum, the only intact private home of that period. There are pictures in the house showing that despite its opulent features like elaborate wooden gables and a circular corner tower, it was very modest compared to some of the dozens of mansions that were destroyed in the 1906 fire (more on them below).
Embarcadero Plaza 

Ferry Building        We walked around the Embarcadero Plaza (they have a great water fountain there) and strolled through the Ferry Building. This is one of the more famous landmarks of San Francisco. After the earthquake in 1906 and during the fires, people made there way here to catch ferries out of the city.

          San Francisco's shoreline historically ran south and inland from Clarke's Point below Telegraph Hill to present-day Montgomery Street and eastward toward Rincon Point, enclosing a cove named Yerba Buena Cove. As the city grew, the cove was filled. Over fifty years a large offshore seawall was built and the mud flats filled, creating what today is San Francisco's Financial District. The San Francisco Belt Railroad, a short line railroad for freight, ran along The Embarcadero. The roadway follows the seawall, a boundary first established in the 1860s and not completed until the 1920s.

          During the early-20th century when the seaport was at its busiest and before the construction of the Bay Bridge, the plaza in front of the Ferry Building was one of the busiest areas of foot traffic in the world; only Charing Cross Station in London and Grand Central Station in New York City were busier. More then 50 million passengers passed through here every year on the 170 daily ferry crossings.

          The Ferry Building (at right) opened in 1903, replacing its wooden predecessor, and survived both the 1906 earthquake and the 1989 earthquake with amazingly little damage. In fact, the Ferry Building was one of the only avenues of escape during the fire after the 1906 earthquake. On top of the building is a large clock tower, which can be seen from Market Street. Architecturally, the 235 ft. clock tower was modeled after the 12th century Giralda bell tower in Seville, Spain. During daylight, on every full and half-hour, the clock bell can be heard chiming portions of the Westminster Quarters.

          During World War II, San Francisco's waterfront became a military logistics center; troops, equipment and supplies left the Port in support of the Pacific theater. Almost every pier and wharf was involved in military activities, with troop ships and naval vessels tied up all along the Embarcadero.

          However, construction of the Golden Gate Bridge and the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge led to the decline in the importance of ferries and the Ferry Building. The transition to container shipping, which moved most shipping to Oakland, led to further decline. Automobile transit efforts led to the Embarcadero Freeway being built in the 1960s. This improved automobile access to the Bay Bridge, but detracted aesthetically from the city. For 30 years, the highway divided the waterfront and the Ferry Building from downtown. It was torn down in 1991, after being severely damaged in the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake.

water fountain        After the freeway had been cleared, massive redevelopment began as a grand palm-lined boulevard was created, squares and plazas were created and/or restored. One of the things to see in Embarcardo Plaza is the "Vaillancourt Fountain" (seen here). It is a huge concrete fountain, 200 feet long, 140 feet wide and 36 feet high. The stairs and walkways that allow you to walk around and through the fountains pools and columns of water.

        It was designed by Armand Vaillancourt is a Québécois sculptor, painter and performance artist who calls the sculpture "Québec libre!". Vaillancourt called it Québec libre!, to note his undying support for the Quebec sovereignty movement and more largely, his support for the freedom of all people. Some might call it interesting while others may say its just ugly. I'll let you decide.

        I read where a sculpture, "Cupid's Span" by Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen, was built in 2003 along the Rincon Park area. Resembling Cupid's bow and arrow with the arrow implanted in the ground, the statue symbolizes the place where Tony Bennett "left his heart".

        Later, we took a harbor cruise that took us under the Golden Gate Bridge and alongside Alcatraz, though we didn't stop. You can really feel the current in the harbor when you get next to the Golden Gate Bridge.

Golden Gate Park
        On another day, we visited Golden Gate Park. This is a large 1,107 acre rectangular shape  in the northwest corner of the city. It is similar to Central Park in New York City but is over 100 acres larger. With 13 million visitors annually, Golden Gate is the third most visited city park in The United States (after Central Park and Lincoln Park in Chicago).

            The park was built back in the 1870s out of sand dune covered land known as the "outside lands" in an unincorporated area west of what was then San Francisco's border. In 1903, a pair of Dutch-style windmills were built at the extreme western end of the park. These pumped water throughout the park. The north windmill has been restored to its original appearance and is adjacent to a flower garden, a gift of Queen Wilhelmina of the Netherlands that are usually planted with (of course) tulips.

            Golden Gate Park has a number of gardens, lakes and museums in it. One of the museums we visited was the California Academy of Science, one of the largest natural history museums in the world which also houses the Steinhart Aquarium and the Morrison Planetarium (which we did not visit). [NOTE: Since 2004, the Academy's primary buildings are currently closed for complete reconstruction with plans to reopen in 2008]. It had an interesting exhibits on earthquakes which is somewhat ironic since it was the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake (the one that interrupted the 1989 World Series) that caused damage to the buildings prompting the current reconstruction.

            We visited the Japanese Tea Garden, the oldest public Japanese garden in the United States. Its a complex of paths, ponds and a teahouse featuring native Japanese and Chinese plants. Also hidden throughout its five acres are sculptures and bridges. This is one of the most attractive parts of the park. There is also the Shakespeare Garden. They have all of the plants mentioned in a Shakespeare play growing here. Spreckels Lake is located on the northern side of the park. As the home waters of the San Francisco Model Yacht Club there are usually numerous model yachts sailing on the lake. The park is huge and will be very difficult to see in one day. The day we were the was the only day during our trip that it rained.

Japanese Tea Garden in Golden Gate Park
Japanese Tea Garden in Golden Gate Park


Alcatraz        On Sunday, July 3, we spent a day at Alcatraz, also known as "The Rock". This was a lot of fun. It is the most popular attraction in San Francisco, the tickets are booked days in advance. Debbie tried to find a room for me there. They wouldn't take me, they said they only housed low-life scum and they wouldn't lower their standards for anyone.

        The only way to visit Alcatraz is by boat and the only company that takes tourists there is the Blue & Gold Line (though I have heard that the boat company recently changed). I booked the tickets online before we left. It was a good thing I did, because there was a one-week waiting list for tickets. The weather on the day we went was incredible, warm and sunny (one of the two best days we had here). The boat uses the same dock that was used when Alcatraz was a prison. The first place you visit is the Visitor Center housed in the barracks building (on the opposite side of the island in the picture above). They have a museum, video about the prison and of course a bookstore/gift shop. What they don't have is a snack shop so don't come to the island hungry. All you can buy is water.

        After this, you have to walk up to the top. There are four walkways that snake their way to the top. You enter the main building through it's main entrance. You go past the Control Room and the Visiting Areas. They don't have guided tours, only audio tours with headsets. So, you can walk around the Cell Block at your own pace.

Debbie and Frank on Alcatraz            Outside near the main entrance, you get a great view of downtown San Francisco and the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge (as you can see in the photo at left). However, I wouldn't want to try and swim that distance.       

            I learned a number of things while I was here. First of all, the word Alcatraz is a Spanish word for pelicans. The first Spaniard to discover the island was Juan Manuel de Ayala in 1775, who charted San Francisco Bay and named the island "La Isla de los Alcatraces," which means "Island of the pelicans." The earliest recorded owner of the island of Alcatraz is one Julian Workman, to whom it was given by Mexican governor Pio Pico in June 1846 with the understanding that the former would build a lighthouse on it. The island was bought in 1848 by John "The Pathfinder" Fremont for $5,000. Later, The U.S. Government took it from Fremont.

            It was originally built in 1859 as a fort to guard San Francisco Bay. When the Civil War broke out in 1861, the island had a garrison of 200 soldiers, mounted 85 cannon (increased to 105 by 1866) in casemates around its perimeter, though the small size of the garrison meant only a fraction of the guns could be used at one time. Alcatraz never fired its guns in anger, though during the war it was used to imprison Confederate sympathizers on the west coast.

mock-up jail cell           Following the war in 1866 the army determined that the fortifications and guns were being rapidly rendered obsolete by advances in military technology. They attempted different plans to address the problem but never came up with a good solution. Instead the army switched the focus of its plans for Alcatraz from coastal defense to detention, a task for which it was well suited because of its isolation.

             Because of its isolation in the middle of a bay, surrounded by cold water and strong sea currents, Alcatraz was considered by the U.S. Army as ideal for captives. 1907, it was converted into a military prison. By 1912 a large cell house had been constructed on the island’s central crest, and by the late 1920s, the three-story structure was nearly full. Due to rising costs because of its location, the War Department decided to close the prison in 1934 and it was taken over by the Department of Justice.

lighthouse             The government converted it into a maximum-security Federal Penitentiary in 1934. The Great Depression and Prohibition contributed to a severe increase in crime during the late 1920s and 1930s, heralding organized crime. There was a sharp rise in serious violence, provoked by Prohibition and poverty. Gangsters and other "public enemies" gained influence in metropolitan areas and law enforcement agencies were not equipped to deal with the situation, frequently bested by better-armed gangs in shoot-outs. Alcatraz was perceived as the best solution. It could keep public enemies away from the population and be a warning to the new, ruthless brand of criminals (photo at right is of me in a mock-up jail cell in the Alcatraz Restaurant back on Pier 39 - I look ruthless).

        The federal government made changes to the military prison. Gun galleries surrounded the cell blocks, allowing guards to carry weapons while being protected behind iron barriers. These galleries, elevated and out of reach of prisoners, were to be the control centers for all keys, and would allow guards to keep an eye on inmates. The cell house contained nearly 350 cells, far from the perimeter wall. If an inmate managed to tunnel through the cell wall, he would still need to escape from the cell house itself. Teargas canisters were installed in the roof of the dining hall; they could be activated remotely, from the gun gallery as well as from outside observation points. The inmates would only be assigned to B, C, and D blocks, since the primary prison population was not allowed to exceed 300 (although the record was 302). There was a ratio of one guard to every three prisoners on Alcatraz, as compared with other prisons, in which the ratio exceeded one guard to every twelve inmates, a measure which was meant to prevent the prisoners from trying to escape. The new measures, combined with the isolating barrier created by the cold Bay water, meant the prison was ready to receive the nation's most incorrigible and dangerous criminals. 

       Each prisoner would be assigned their own cell, and only the bare necessities would be given, such as food, water, clothing, and medical and dental care. The prisoners' contact with the outside world was completely restricted during their term in Alcatraz. They would be marched from one location to another, "Broadway"always in the exact same places in a unified formation. There was a ratio of one guard to every three prisoners on Alcatraz, as compared with other prisons, in which the ratio exceeded one guard to every twelve inmates, a measure which was meant to prevent the prisoners from trying to escape.

          During its 29 years of operation, Alcatraz claimed no prisoners as having ever successfully escaped. 36 prisoners were involved in 14 attempts, two men trying twice; seven were shot and killed and three drowned on June 11, 1962 during the most famous of all escape attempts. This intricate escape attempt saw Frank Morris along with John and Clarence Anglin burrow out of their cells, climb to the top of the cell block, cut through bars to make it to the roof via an air vent. From there they climbed down a drain pipe, over a chain link fence and then to the shore where they assembled a pontoon-type raft and then vanished. The trio are believed to have drowned in the San Francisco Bay and are officially listed as missing and presumed drowned. The story was later made into a book and in 1979 a movie, Escape From Alcatraz starring Clint Eastwood as Frank Morris and Patrick McGoohan as the suspicious, vindictive warden.

         Alcatraz remained open until 1963 when it got too expensive to run. There was an occupation by American Indians which lasted from 1969 to 1971 when they left. The following year, it became part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area.

        The tour takes you through the center aisle of the main cell block (photo on right) was called "Broadway" by the inmates. The cells along this passageway were considered the least desirable in the prison. The cells on the bottom tier were colder because they stood against the long slick run of cement, and they were also the least private, as inmates, guards and other prison personnel frequented this corridor.

George "Machine Gun" Kelly        The tour points out Al Capone's cell (or what they believed was his cell - he spent most of his time in the prison hospital). You can also see the cells where Frank Morris was along with the items they used in their 1962 breakout. They also show you the library, Robert Stroud's cell (the birdman) and George "Machine Gun" Kelly's (photo above left) cell.

       George "Machine Gun" Kelly (1895-1954) was a notorious American gangster during the prohibition era (Roaring Twenties). After his conviction for kidnapping wealthy oil tycoon Charles Urschel in 1933, Kelly would spend 21 years in prison. The warden at Alcatraz called Kelly a 'model prisoner'. After Alcatraz, he was sent to Leavenworth Federal Prison, Kansas where he died of a heart attack on his 59th birthday.

        After this, you go into the Dinning Room and Kitchen. From there, you can enter the Recreation AreaRecreation Area outside. This is the walled area you always see in Alcatraz movies (photo at right). You can see the steps that the inmates would sit on during their time in this area in the center of the photo. The funny thing was the day was sunny and warm without a breeze on the island until we went into the recreation area which had a stiff cold wind blowing. After leaving the main buildings, we relaxed outside near the lighthouse and what is left of the Warden's House. Only the sell remains after a fire during the American Indian Occupation in 1969-71.       

        Another thing I learned was that Robert Stroud, who was portrayed by Burt Lancaster in the 1962 movie Birdman of Alcatraz, was not allowed to have any birds here. It was a nickname he brought with him from his previous prison. Also, despite Lancaster's portrayal in the movie, Stroud was not a very nice person. Burt Lancaster’s impersonation of Stroud stirred sympathy with the general public. However, prison historians have pointed out that the real Stroud was a merciless killer who showed no remorse for his crimes. I also learned about the prison uprising in 1946 that led to the deaths of two guards and three inmates in what was called "The Battle of Alcatraz". Two of the ring leaders were executed for the murders. Also, they were executed at San Quentin Prison not at Alcatraz did not carry out death sentences.

       Alcatraz has been a popular movie setting since it's closure. Birdman of Alcatraz in 1962 with Burt Lancaster, though not filmed on the island used exterior shots for the film. Point Blank in 1967 starring Lee Marvin and Angie Dickinson. This was the first major motion picture to be filmed on location at Alcatraz Island after the closure. The Enforcer in 1976 was the third installment in the Dirty Harry series where terrorists use Alcatraz after the Mayor of San Francisco is kidnapped. Escape from Alcatraz in 1979 (where 15 miles of cable were required to reconnect the island to the city's electricity). More famously was The Rock in 1996 that used Alcatraz as the base of hostage situation, starring Sean Connery and Nicolas Cage, with Ed Harris as a renegade general controlling the location of the rockets and renegades. In this film, Alcatraz became as much a star as Connery, Cage and Harris.

Pacific Bell Park

Pacific Bell Park        On Monday, July 4th, we went to a San Francisco Giants game at Pacific Bell Park. This place is fantastic. You can walk here from downtown San Francisco. We saw the Giants beat the Colorado Rockies, 4-1. As you can see, we became Giant fans for the day. This was Debbie's first ever baseball game. You can also see the sunburn that we got, especially Debbie. This is without a doubt one of the more enjoyable places to watch a baseball game. We had great seats, first row in the upperdeck. After the game, we walked back downtown.

logo        The Giants moved to San Francisco from New York in 1958. Owner Horace Stoneham left New York primarily because the Polo Grounds had inadequate parking and attendance was suffering. Their first home was Seals Stadium (home of the minor league San Francisco Seals - former team of Joe DiMaggio) while their new stadium was being built. In their opening game, they shutout the Dodgers and future Hall of Famer Orlando Cepeda homered in his first major league game. Two years later, they moved to Candlestick Park. On hand at the opening day ceremony was President Richard Nixon and Hall of Famer Ty Cobb (interesting pair of personalities). The Giants went on to beat the Cardinals 3-1. Later that year, the All-Star Game was held at Candlestick, which quickly became famous for it's windy conditions. This year, after 40 years in Candlestick Park, they moved to their new stadium, Pacific Bell Park. Earlier this year, breaking a tradition of winning opening game in new stadiums, the Giants lost their opener, along with the next five games.

       After the game, we walked back to Market Street and took a bus back to Van Ness Avenue. We were meeting Bro. Ray Murphy for dinner. Bro. Ray is a teacher at Hudson Catholic who spends his summers in San Francisco. We ate at a restaurant on Van Ness Avenue, not too far from his school. After dinner, we said our good-byes and proceeded to walk downtown. We walked around City Hall and headed back toward Fisherman's Wharf. They had a July 4th fireworks display over San Francisco Bay. After the fireworks, we walked back to the hotel. It was a hike, but the lines for the cable cars were just too long.

San Francisco City Hall

San Francisco City Hall       The City Hall of San Francisco opened in 1915, in its open space area in the city's Civic Center, is a Beaux-Arts monument to the "City Beautiful" movement that epitomized the American Renaissance period from 1880 to 1917. The architect was Arthur Brown Jr., whose attention to the finishing details extended to the doorknobs. Brown also designed San Francisco's War Memorial Opera House and the Coit Tower.

       The building is vast, totaling over 500,000 square feet and occupying two full blocks of San Francisco. It is 390 feet long on Van Ness Avenue and Polk Street, by 273 feet on Grove and McAllister Streets. Its dome, which owes much to Mansart's Baroque dome of Les Invalides, Paris (where Napoleon's tomb is), is the fifth largest dome in the world, rising 307.5 feet above the Civic Center Historic District. It is fourteen inches higher than the United States Capitol, and has a diameter of 66 feet.

       President Warren G. Harding lay in state at City Hall after dying of a heart attack at the Palace Hotel in 1923. Joe DiMaggio and Marilyn Monroe were married at City Hall in 1954. Mayor George Moscone and Supervisor Harvey Milk were assassinated there in 1978, by former Supervisor Dan White.

       The exterior is built with gray California granite with blue and gold burnished ironwork. The dome itself has $400,000 worth of gold covering it. We walked through the interior which is spectacular. The interior is finished in California marble, Indiana limestone and Eastern oak. From the center of the lobby, which is approximately 75 feet square, there is a wide marble staircase that leads to the second-floor gallery.

old City Hall       This is the fifth city hall that San Francisco has had. The fourth was a large steel, granite and brick building that was started in 1872 at Larkin and McAllister streets, a block from here. It took $6 million, 27 years and a host of scandals before it was completed in 1899.

        Seven years later, on April 18, 1906, the famous San Francisco Earthquake with a magnitude of 8.3 on the Richter scale subjects old City Hall to peak ground acceleration of from .40 to .60 gravity forces. The building that took 27 years to build falls in 28 seconds of significant seismic motion with only the dome remaining intact. The old photo above is of the old city hall after the earthquake and fire (click here for pre-earthquake photo).

        On April 15, 1913, Mayor "Sunny Jim" Rolph broke ground on San Francisco's current City Hall. They decided not to use the old triangular site but moved the new building a block away. The old site of the city hall was used for the new library instead. It took only three years and only $3.5 million to build (good for Sunny Jim!). Rolph, a Republican, served as mayor of San Francisco from 1912 to 1931, when he resigned to become governor. Rolph remains the longest serving mayor in San Francisco history. In 1934, while serving as Governor of California, "Sunny Jim" Rolph dies and his body lies in state in the rotunda of City Hall.

       The Loma Prieta earthquake of 1989, with a magnitude of 7.1 on the Richter scale, damaged current the structure and twisted the dome four inches on its base. Afterwards work was undertaken to render City Hall earthquake resistant through a base isolation system. In an earthquake, the mass of the dome acts as a pendulum, rocking the building's structure and tearing it apart. The base isolation system of hundreds of rubber and stainless-steel insulators inserted into City Hall's underpinnings has the effect of disrupting seismic waves before they can affect the structure. San Francisco's City Hall is currently the world's largest base-isolated structure—a triumph of seismic retrofitting. The city completed a $293 million upgrade and seismic retrofit in 1998.

         The beauty of City Hall has not been lost on filmmakers working in San Francisco; a good many films have shot scenes in and around the building. Ironically, that which may be City Hall's best-known scene does not take place in San Francisco but in Washington, DC. A scene in Raiders of the Lost Ark was filmed in the rotunda as a late addition to the production when it was decided that a coda was needed for Indiana Jones and Marion Ravenwood's relationship. The City Hall was prominently featured throughout and famously at the end of the 1978 version of the Invasion of the Body Snatchers. Dirty Harry filmed a key scene in the Mayor's office itself. Exterior shots for A View to a Kill, where the building is set on fire, and The Rock were also done here.

Cable Cars

Debbie riding the cable cars       Look at this wild person riding the famous San Francisco cable cars. I, however, was the one who fell off. Actually, I jumped off and ended up falling in the street. I was trying to retrieve a camera lens that slipped out of my hand. I'm sure it was humorous to everyone else there.

sign        The San Francisco cable cars are the only moving National Historic Landmarks in the United States, San Francisco's cable cars constitute the oldest and largest such system in permanent operation, and it is the only one to still operate in the traditional manner with manually operated cars running in street traffic.

        Cable cars were first used in San Francisco in 1876. There were cable cars lines on many streets throughout the city. After the Great Earthquake on 1906,  many of the cable car lines were damaged. By 1912, only eight were in service. By World War II, many more closed down. In 1947, the mayor wanted to end all cable car service. A public campaign saved the cable cars. Today, there are three cable cars lines in operation.

        At Powell and Market streets, there is a cable car turntable which serves as the beginning stop for two lines, the Powell-Mason and Powell-Hyde lines. The Powell-Mason line begins at the Powell/ Market turntable (pictured below right), and the line runs from there up and over Nob Hill and down to Bay Street at Fisherman's Wharf. The Powell-Hyde line also begins at the Powell Market turntable and runs over Nob and Russian hills before ending at Aquatic Park near Ghirardelli Square. Both these lines end near Fisherman's Wharf, but at different areas, and the routes are significantly different. Why the turntable? At the end of the line, the cable car is manually turned around by the conductor and gripman (and sometimes a willing passenger or two) so it can go in the other direction.

Powell Market cablecar turntableturntable        The other line runs east/west along California Street. These cable cars run from either direction (which means that don't have to be manually turned around) from downtown next to the Financial District, through Chinatown, over Nob Hill and up to Van Ness Avenue about a block from our hotel.

        The cars that ride on the Powell-Mason and Powell-Hyde lines (at right) are smaller then the ones that run on California Street (above left). This is because the two Powell lines run single-ended cars, fitted with destination signs that can easily be changed for either line; these cars are turned at turntables at the ends of their lines. These cars are 27 ft 6 in long and weigh 15,500 pounds and have a passenger capacity of 60 of which 29 of them are seated. The California line uses double-ended cars; in these cars, the gripman simply switches ends at each end of the line. These cars are 30 ft 3 in long and weigh 16,800 pounds and can hold 68 passengers of which 34 of them are seated.

       There are 28 single ended cars in operation on the Powell lines and 11 double ended cars in operation on the California Street line. The cable cars are occasionally replaced with new or restored cars, with the old cars being moved to storage for later restoration or to the train museum in Rio Vista. There are 2 cable cars in storage in the cable car museum / power house inside the garage, car numbers 19 and 42 which were used on the Clay Street and old O'farrell and Jones Street lines.

Cable wheels        Riding the cable cars is, of course, a must when anyone visits San Francisco, but don't forget to visit the Cable Car Barn & Powerhouse on the corner of Mason and Washington Streets. The museum, which is inside the city's last cable-car barn, takes the top off the system to let you see how it all works. Eternally humming and squealing, the massive powerhouse cable wheels steal the show (at left).

        You might ask, what makes cable cars run, especially on the steep hills of San Francisco. This is where you can find out. You see the cable cars don't have any motors. The cable car begins moving when a clamping device, called a grip, is connected to the moving cable, and applies pressure. Conversely the car is stopped by releasing pressure on the cable (with or without completely detaching) and applying the brakes. So, when they want to move, the operators moves a large lever that causes the cable car to grip the cable below the street. The cable is moving all of the time in one direction. It works like a tow lift at a ski resort. The tow line keeps moving and you grab it when you are reading to go up the hill.

Cable Cars        Every cable car has two men on board. One man, the conductor, handles collecting fares. The other man, called the gripman, handles the operation of the cable car and is usually dressed more elaborately (Some gripmen are locally well-known personalities). The gripman has to have a lot of upper body strength. Only a portion of the people who attempt the training course actually pass (about 30%). The levers are not easy to move. In 1998, the first female grip operator, Fannie Mae Barnes, operates a cable car. The grip resembles a very large pair of pliers, and considerable strength and skill are required to operate the car. As many early cable car operators discovered the hard way, if the grip is not applied properly, it can damage the cable, or even worse, become entangled in the cable. In the latter case, the cable car may not be able to stop and can wreak havoc along its route until the cable house realizes what is going on and stops the cable.

       On the second or third Thursday each July, a cable car bell ringing contest is held in Union Square between cable car crews, following a preliminary round held during the second to last or the last week of June. The preliminary round determines which contestants go on to the finals in Union Square, by a process of points awarded by a panel of judges.

       You may also ask, ok I know how they move, but how do they stop? San Francisco cable cars are equipped with multiple braking systems. The large pedal next to the grip (and a crank on the back platform of single-ended cars) operates wheel brakes; the large lever to the right of the grip operates track brakes, which apply pine blocks directly to the rails. It is the track brakes that are the source of the "cooking wood" odor that can be readily smelled when a car is descending a steep hill. Finally, in case of a runaway car or other impending disaster, the red lever to the left of the grip inserts a steel wedge (the "slot blade") into the slot rail, stopping the car almost instantly; slot blades have been known to weld themselves into the slot, leaving both car and line out of commission until it can be cut free.

         Here you can see that Debbie has decided to ride on the inside of the cable car. You can also sit on benches that face the outside. However, if you like, you can "hang on" to the special poles provided on the outside of the car like Debbie is doing above.

       Also be careful when crossing the street when a cable car is coming at you. Because of the constant and relatively low speed, cable cars can be underestimated in an accident. Even with a cable car traveling at only 9 miles per hour, the mass of the cable car and the combined strength of the cables can do quite a lot of harm to pedestrians if hit.

Palace of Fine Arts

Palace of Fine Arts       On another day, we walked from out hotel west into the Pacific Heights area. There are many old and very beautiful Victorian homes here. Some are painted in extraordinary color schemes. We walked along Washington Street through Lafayette Park and down to Alta Plaza. We eventually came to the Palace of Fine Arts.

        In playing host to the Panama-Pacific International Exposition, The Fair, which opened on February 20, 1915, San Francisco was honoring the discovery of the Pacific Ocean and the completion of the Panama Canal; it was also celebrating its own resurrection after the destructive earthquake and fire of 1906. 

        This is the sole survivor from the 1915 Panama-Pacific Exposition. It was designed by Bernard Maybeck, who chose as his theme a Roman ruin, mutilated and overgrown. It was one of only two buildings from the exposition not to be demolished (the other being the Japanese Tea House, not the one in Golden Gate Park which dates from an 1894 fair) when the exposition was over. A single dome remains from the eight identical structures that were originally constructed. Towering colonnaded walkways linked the buildings on the site, but only a few remain intact. Today it is a large outdoor park that is a favorite wedding location for couples throughout the San Francisco Bay Area.

       The other building saved is the exhibition hall, which originally housed Impressionist paintings during the exposition, and is now home to the Exploratorium, a state of the art interactive science museum.

        There is a lagoon here which was intended to echo those found in classical settings in Europe, where the expanse of water provides a mirror surface to reflect the grand buildings and an undisturbed vista to appreciate them from a distance. In many places the edges are subsiding into the water, forming uneven and dangerous surfaces that are fenced off from the public and used by turtles to sun themselves. Australian eucalyptus trees fringe the eastern shores. Many forms of wildlife have made their home there including swans, ducks, geese, turtles and frogs. 

        The dome of the Palace of Fine Arts just outside the Exploratorium and the adjacent lagoon have often been used as backdrops for movies, such as Alfred Hitchcock's Vertigo. In 1979's Time After Time, several scenes including one between (Malcolm McDowell) and (Mary Steenburgen) as well as the climax stand off with (David Warner). One of the more recent sequences takes place in The Rock, where FBI agent Stanley Goodspeed (Nicolas Cage) finally catches up with John Mason (Sean Connery) after a long chase through the streets of San Francisco (where a cable car is destroyed - not a real one of course).

        Next to the Palace is The Presidio. What was once a military base on the northern tip of the San Francisco Peninsula, is now a large 1,491 acre park (with almost 1,000 acres being open space). It is operated by the National Park Service of the United States as a part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area. The largest area, the "Main Post," is managed by the Presidio Trust, a congressionally chartered nonprofit organization.

        The Presidio was originally a Spanish Fort sited by Juan Bautista de Anza on March 28, 1776, built by a party led by José Joaquín Moraga later that year. It was seized by the U.S. Military in 1846, officially opened in 1848, and became home to several Army headquarters and units, the last being the United States 6th Army. Several famous U.S. generals, such as William Sherman, George Henry "The Rock of Chickamauga" Thomas and John "Black Jack" Pershing, lived here at one time. The infamous order to intern Japanese-Americans, German-Americans and Italian-Americans, including citizens, during World War II was signed at the Presidio. Until its closure in 1995, the Presidio was the longest continuously operated military base in the United States.

General Irwin McDowell's grave         One of the ironies of war occurred here. In 1860, as Southern states started seceding from the Union prior to the outbreak of the Civil War, a U.S. Army colonel, Albert Sydney Johnston, protected Union weapons from being taken by Southern sympathizers in San Francisco. When his home state seceded on April 9, 1861, Johnston resigned his commission and later became a general in the Confederate Army. Considered one of their best generals, he was killed on the first day at the Battle of Shiloh in 1862.

        The base was once featured in a 1988 movie, The Presidio, also staring Sean Connery. It was decommissioned as a military base. It now has museums, though the military museum was closed when we were there.

        We also visited the military cemetery (of course). They do have one Civil War general buried here. General Irwin McDowell commanded the Union Army in the early days of the war and was defeated by the Confederates in the first major battle of the war, Bull Run. After he retired, he moved to California and died here in 1885 of a heart attack.

Golden Gate Bridge

Golden Gate Bridge            We decided one morning to walk across the Golden Gate Bridge. Designed by Joseph Strauss (whose statue is next to the bridge in the park on the San Francisco side), the bridge opened in 1937 at a cost of $35 million dollars. It is considered one of the most famous bridges in the world.

           Before the bridge was built, the only practical short route from San Francisco to what is now Marin County was by boat, through the interior of the San Francisco Bay. Ferry service began as early as 1820, with regularly scheduled service beginning in the 1840s. Bigger and faster ferry service developed in the early 1900s. The trip from the Ferry Building took twenty-seven minutes.

          Many wanted to build a bridge to connect San Francisco to Marin County. San Francisco was the largest American city still served primarily by ferry boats. Many experts said a bridge couldn’t be built across the 6,700 ft strait. It had strong, swirling tides and currents, with water 335 ft deep at the center of the channel, and almost constant winds of 60 mph. Experts said ferocious winds and blinding fogs would prevent construction and operation.

Golden Gate Bridge          Although the idea of a bridge spanning the Golden Gate was not new the physical constraints and the estimated cost made it seem impossible. One designer Joseph Strauss submitted a plan that was accepted. The bridge faced opposition, including litigation, from many sources. The military was afraid it could be destroyed and block access to the harbor and their naval bases. The ferry service knew it would destroy their business. However, the bridge builders won out.

         Construction began on January 5, 1933. The bridge took four and a half years to build in what is considered the most difficult climate for building anything. It rains in the winter and is foggy in the summer. Strauss remained head of the project, overseeing day-to-day construction. He innovated the use of movable Golden Gate Bridgesafety netting beneath the construction site, which saved the lives of many otherwise unprotected steelworkers. Of eleven men killed from falls during construction, ten were killed (when the bridge was near completion) when the net failed under the stress of a scaffold that had fallen. Nineteen others who were saved by the net over the course of construction became proud members of the (informal) Halfway to Hell Club.

          The color of the bridge is called "international orange". This was, at the time of construction, somewhat controversial. Many people wanted it painted steel gray, like most bridges. Petitions were signed but the the orange won out in the end. Golden Gate bridge has a span of 4,200 feet and towers that are 746 feet high (500 feet above the roadway). The center span is 220 feet over the Golden Gate channel. The bridge has over 110,000 cars cross it daily. There are no stats on how many people bike or walk across it. Since it's opening, over 800 people have committed suicide by jumping from the bridge.

        There is a museum and gift shop next to a park on the San Francisco side. You can also park your car there if you want to walk across. From there we set out north to Marin County over a mile away. We walked along the south side of the bridge along the sidewalks, which are around ten feet wide. The weather was beautiful when we walked across so we had incredible views of San Francisco Bay and the city itself. It took us a couple of hours to make the roundtrip, but it definitely worth it. This picture on the right is one of my favorites.

Frank in the Pacific Ocean        West of the Golden Gate Bridge is Baker Beach. This is a very popular fishing and sunbathing area along the Pacific Ocean called "the largest and most popular stretch of sand in the city." Baker Beach is part of the Presidio and is roughly a half mile long, beginning just south of Golden Gate Point (where the Golden Gate Bridge connects to the San Francisco Peninsula), extending southward toward the Seacliff peninsula and the Palace of the Legion of Honor and the Sutro Baths. There is no swimming here because the currents are too strong. The photo shows the beach with the Golden Gate Bridge in the background and the Marin Peninsula across the stretch of water called the Golden Gate. Here is a picture Debbie took of some crazy tourist about to be washed into the Pacific Ocean.

         A shark attack occurred on Baker Beach in 1959 when an 18-year old was attacked by a Great White Shark while he was fifteen feet deep in water. This was the only shark attack recorded on Baker Beach. This attack was rare, because great white sharks generally do not go into the San Francisco Bay. Most of the sharks in the San Francisco bay are bottom-dwellers, or other species that are not known to attack humans under wild conditions

         We did get to Oakland while we were there. Once, we simply drove across the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge and back again. The bridge is around four and a half miles long. The other time, we took the subway (BART) to Oakland. We visited the Oakland Museum of California. It has exhibits on the history of California from their early gold rush days through the earthquakes to the present.

San Francisco Earthquakes

           On April 18, 1906 at 5:12 in the morning, the ground in San Francisco shook violently for up to a minute. The magnitude of the earthquake has been estimated to be around 8.25 on the Richter scale (By comparison, the Loma Prieta earthquake in 1989 registered 6.9). Though the earthquake caused considerable death and damage, the greatest destruction came from the fires the quake ignited. The fire raged for three days and destroyed around 490 square blocks and 25,000 buildings. In the end, over 3,000 people were killed and 225,000 people injured. The picture is looking down Sacramento Street as the fires approach.

            The Loma Prieta earthquake, also known as the Quake of '89 and the World Series Quake, was a major earthquake that struck the San Francisco Bay Area of California on October 17, 1989 at 5:04 p.m. Caused by a slip along the San Andreas Fault, the earthquake 1989earthquake lasted approximately 15 seconds and measured 6.9 on the moment magnitude scale (surface-wave magnitude 7.1). The quake killed 67 people throughout northern California, injured 3,757 people and left some 8,000 to 12,000 people homeless.

                 The earthquake occurred during the warm up for the third game of the 1989 World Series, coincidentally featuring both of the Bay Area's Major League Baseball teams, the Oakland Athletics and the San Francisco Giants. This was the first major earthquake in America to be broadcast on live television.

                  The highest concentration of fatalities, 42, occurred in the collapse of the Cypress Street Viaduct on the Nimitz Freeway (Interstate 880 and ) in Oakland, where a double-decker portion of the freeway collapsed, crushing the cars on the lower deck. When the earthquake hit, Game 3 of World Series was just starting. Due to the fact that both of the World Series teams, the Giants and the A's, were local teams, many people had left work early to watch the game. As a consequence, the usually crowded freeways were experiencing exceptionally light traffic. If traffic had been normal for a Tuesday rush hour, injuries and deaths could have been higher. The photo is of the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge.

The Hills of San Francisco

       San Francisco is famous for its hills. Despite being called as having been built on seven hills, there are more than 50 hills within city limits (43 of them are named). When people talk about the "Seven Hills" of San Francisco, they usually are referring to the seven original hills: Telegraph Hill, Nob Hill, Russian Hill, Rincon Hill, Mount Sutro, Twin Peaks and Mount Davidson. Some neighborhoods are named after the hill on which they are situated, including Nob Hill, Pacific Heights, Russian Hill, Potrero Hill and Telegraph Hill. Mount Davidson is the highest natural point in the city with an elevation of 925 feet and is located near the geographical center of the city.

Coit Tower        Telegraph Hill, originally named Loma Alta ("High Hill") by the Spaniards, is a 284 ft high hill familiarly known as Goat Hill by the early San Franciscans. It later became the neighborhood of choice for many Irish immigrants. The hill owes its current name to a semaphore, a windmill-like structure erected in September 1849, for the purpose of signaling to the rest of the city the nature of the ships, like what cargo they were carrying, entering the Golden Gate. On October 18, 1850, the ship Oregon signaled to the hill as it was entering the Golden Gate the news of California's recently acquired statehood. A much quieter neighborhood than adjoining North Beach with its bustling cafés and nightlife, Telegraph Hill is a mostly residential area. Aside from Coit Tower, it is well-known for its gardens flowing down Filbert Street to Levi's Plaza. Telegraph Hill is also known for supporting a flock of feral parrots (primarily Red-masked Parakeets), most of whom are descended from escaped or released pets.

    On top of Telegraph Hill is the Coit Tower. The art deco 210-ft tower was built in 1933 and was designed to look like a fluted column. It was built with funds bequeathed by Lillie Hitchcock Coit, widow of a wealthy financier. Contrary to popular belief, Coit Tower was never intended to resemble a fire hose nozzle nor meant to be dedicated to firefighters, although there is a Coit statue dedicated to firefighters located at nearby Washington Square. Inside there are a number of murals. Two of the murals on the first floor are of San Francisco Bay scenes painted by Spanish artist José Moya del Piño. At night, it is lit up and can be seen from around the city. For an admission fee, you can take an elevator to the observation platform and great views of the city. It is open at the top, so it is very windy. You can drive here, take a bus or do what we did, walk up the endless steps to the top of the hill.

       We walked around the North Beach area of San Francisco a couple of times. Twice, we stopped for dinner at a restaurant called the Stinking' Rose on Columbus Avenue (more on that below). This neighborhood is bounded by the former Barbary Coast, now Jackson Square, the Financial District, Chinatown to the southwest, and Russian Hill to the west, Telegraph Hill to the east and Fisherman's Wharf to the north.

        Originally, the city's northeast shoreline extended only to what is today Taylor and Francisco streets. The area, what is largely known today as North Beach, was an actual beach. It was later filled and covered over to create the land that is present today. An alleyway off of Columbus baybetween Kearny and Broadway is named after Jack Kerouac who once lived here and frequented the renowned (as well as a municipal landmark) City Lights Bookstore on the corner of Columbus and Broadway as well as the numerous coffee shops here. Baseball legend Joe Dimaggio grew up in the neighborhood and briefly returned to live here with his wife Marilyn Monroe. There is no shortage of Italian restaurants and cafés in North Beach.

         Here is Debbie and I on the beach in the Marina District. It is very windy hear as you can tell.

       Russian Hill is an affluent, largely residential neighborhood. The neighborhood's name goes back to the Gold Rush-era when settlers discovered a small Russian cemetery at the top of the hill. It believed that the bodies probably belonged to Russian fur-traders and sailors from nearby Fort Ross. The cemetery was removed, but the name remains. Russian Hill is directly to the north (and slightly downhill) from the highly affluent Nob Hill, to the south (very uphill) from Fisherman's Wharf, and to the west of the North Beach neighborhood. The Hill is bordered on its west side by parts of the neighborhoods of Pacific Heights, Cow Hollow and the Marina District. The boundaries of Russian Hill are generally considered to be Van Ness Avenue on the west, Washington Street on the south, Columbus Avenue on the east (northeast), and San Francisco Bay on the North.

        The portion of Lombard Street (between Hyde and Leavenworth streets), that is sometimes referred to as "the crookedest street in the world" is on Russian Hill. Lombard Street is best known for the one way section on Russian Hill between Hyde and Leavenworth Streets, in which the roadway has eight sharp turns (hairpin or switchbacks) that have earned the street the distinction of being "the crookedest street in world." The switchbacks design, first suggested by property owner Carl Henry and instituted in 1922, was born out of necessity in order to reduce the hill's natural 27% grade, which was too steep for most vehicles to climb and a serious hazard to pedestrians used to a more reasonable sixteen-degree incline. The crooked section of the street, which is about 1/4 mile long, is reserved for one-way traffic traveling east (downhill) and is paved with red bricks. The areas between the turns is well manicured with flowers and plants. The street is lined with million-dollar homes and has excellent views of the Bay. The speed limit here is a mere 5 mph. Needless to say that the local inhabitants and not happy about the traffic problems the notoriety creates but there is not much that can be done about it (they abandoned an idea to close Lombard Street to traffic).

        The Powell-Hyde Cable Car line passes directly over Russian Hill on its way to Fisherman's Wharf so we got off one day and walked down the street. Another day, when we had rented a car to drive north of San Francisco, I couldn't resist driving down Lombard Street.

The Big Four

Leland Stanford           The Big Four was the name popularly given to the chief entrepreneurs in the building of the Central Pacific Railroad, the western portion of the First Transcontinental Railroad in the United States. However, the four of them preferred to be known as "The Associates". The four railroad tycoons were extremely rich and powerful. They are all on the list of "The Wealthiest 100 Americans of All Time." They all built beautiful mansions near other on Nob Hill in San Francisco.

            Leland Stanford (1824-1893), who photo is at right, was the president of the Central Pacific Railroad. A Republican, he became the 8th Governor of California and also founded Stamford University (which is actually named after his son who died at age 15). Collis P. Huntington (1821-1900) was the vice-president of the railroad. He acquired a substantial collection of art, valued at some $3 million, which he left to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. Mark Hopkins (1813-1878) was the treasurer of the railroad. Before the Civil War, Hopkins was an Abolitionist and an organizer of the Republican Party in California. Charles Crocker (1822-1888) was the construction supervisor who managed the actual construction of the railroad. He overcame shortages of manpower and money by hiring Chinese immigrants to do much of the back-breaking and dangerous labor.

Fountain of the Tortoises       Nob Hill is another interesting place to visit. We took the cable car here one sunny morning. Nob Hill was once the site of many mansions of the 19th Century Robber Barons. All but one of the mansions was destroyed in the earthquake and fire of 1906. The area was settled in the rapid urbanization happening in the city in the late 19th century. Because of the views and its central position, it became the exclusive enclave of the rich and famous on the west coast who built large mansions in the neighborhood. The city's elite were the "nabobs," (referring to the title of prominent governors of the Mogul empire in India) which was later shortened simply to "nobs."

        We strolled around Huntington Park (built on the site of Collis P. Huntington's demolished mansion - one of the "Big Four"). Mrs. Huntington donated the land to the city for use as a park; the Crockers purchased the Fountain of the Tortoises, based on the original in Rome. Halogen beams come up through the water to brighten the pink and white marble and the streams spouting from the cherubs' cheeks giving it a beautiful effect at night.

The original Fontana delle Tartarughe is still functioning in Piazza Mattei in Rome. It was designed in 1581 by Giacomo della Porta but owes much of its grace and charm to the bronze figures sculpted by Taddeo Landini. The original fountain featured slender bronze youths riding dolphins and was called, "Fountain of the Dolphins." Pope Alexander VII commissioned Vatican artist Gian Lorenzo Bernini to restore the fountain in 1658-59. As a part of his restoration, Bernini added the struggling tortoises to complete the composition. Thereafter, the fountain became known by its current name.

Grace Cathedral in San Francisco       Across the street from Huntington Park is Grace Cathedral. This is the main Episcopalian church in San Francisco. The original Grace Church, which dates back to the '49 Gold Rush, was destroyed in 1906 earthquake and fire. The new cathedral is on the site of another one of the demolished mansions (that of another of the "Big Four" - Charles Crocker). The Crocker family gave their ruined Nob Hill property for a diocesan cathedral. They started construction of the cathedral in 1928 and finished it in 1964. The Episcopalian cathedral is an almost exact replica of Notre Dame in Paris.

        The cathedral entrance has an impressive pair of doors, called the Ghiberti Doors. For years, it was believed that they had been removed from a Renaissance church in Florence—possibly the Duomo—but it is now known that a philanthropist, Charles D. Field, hired a contemporary sculptor to take plaster casts of the original doors made by Lorenzo Ghiberti and mounted on the Baptistery of Florence (next to the Duomo) and make replicas of the originals. The replicas were then shipped to San Francisco and installed on the newly-completed church in time for its official dedication in 1964. Curiously, the original Ghiberti Doors are no longer installed on the Baptistery: Conservators have decided that they must be preserved in a totally dry, controlled atmosphere. The doors now on the Baptistery are also modern replicas, installed in 1990.

       The carillon tower (the one of the right) has 44 bells that were made in England in 1939. The Rose Window (in the center) was made in Chartes, France by Gabriel Loire in 1964. Inside is a 13-century Catalonian crucifix and a 16th-century silk and gold Brussels tapestry.

       Laid out on the floor of Grace Cathedral is a labyrinth that is based on the famous medieval labyrinth of Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Chartres (The Cathedral of Our Lady of Chartres) located in Chartres, France. It is said that if a visitor walks the pattern of the labyrinth, it will bring them to a meditative state.

Pacific-Union Club        After walking around the cathedral, we walked down California Street past the Pacific-Union Club. This was formally the mansion of Comstock millionaire James "Bonanza Jim" Flood (1826-1888) who is also on the "The Wealthiest 100 Americans of All Time" list. It was built in this prime location in 1886 for an incredible (by even their time) $1.5 million dollars. It is the only mansion to survive and the subsequent fire though the interior was gutted by the fire) and is often referred to as the Flood Mansion. It was designed by Willis Polk. It is considered the first brownstone constructed west of the Mississippi River. Along with the Fairmont Hotel across the street, these were the only structures in the area to survive the San Francisco earthquake and fire of 1906.

        The Pacific Union Club, a bastion of the wealthy and powerful, purchased the house in 1907 and commissioned Willis Polk to redesign it; the architect added the semicircular wings and third floor.

        The Pacific-Union Club was founded in 1889 as a merger of two earlier clubs: the Pacific Club (founded 1852) and the Union Club (founded 1854). This club figured prominently in the history of the west coast of the United States. Many prominent citizens have been active among its membership. To this day, the club's membership is open to men only. Its 700 or so members allegedly follow the directive "no women, no Democrats, no reporters." Those who join usually spend decades on the waiting list and undergo a stringent vetting process.

Mark Hopkins Inter-Continental Hotel        Across the street from the mansion is the Fairmont Hotel on the corner of Mason and California Streets (left in photo).  The original hotel was completed two days before the 1906 earthquake. Although the outside structure survived, the interior was heavily damaged by fire and opening was delayed until 1907. The new 591-room hotel was built within the surviving facade and opened a year later. The Fairmont hotel is located at the only spot in San Francisco where each of the City's cable car lines meet.

           Things have changed since its early days, however: on the eve of World War I you could get a room for as low as $2.50 per night, meals included. Nowadays, prices go as high as $8,000, which buys a night in the eight-room, Persian-art-filled penthouse suite that was showcased regularly in the 1980s TV series Hotel. The lobby is incredible.

         In the 1996 film The Rock, John Mason (Sean Connery) demands a penthouse suite at the Fairmont and then dangles FBI Director James Womack (John Spencer) off of the balcony to start his high-speed escape. He is later captured by FBI agent Stanley Goodspeed (Nicolas Cage) at the Palace of Fine Arts.

       From there, we walked down Mason Street past the Mark Hopkins Inter-Continental Hotel (which is across California Street from the Fairmont and at the right in the photo) which was built on the spot where railroad millionaire Mark Hopkins's turreted mansion once stood (another one of the "Big Four"). Hopkins chose the southeastern peak of Nob Hill as the site for a dream home (photo) for his wife, Mary. The mansion was completed in 1878, after his death. The Mark Hopkins mansion survived the 1906 San Francisco earthquake, however it was destroyed by the fires that followed.

        San Francisco architects Peter Weeks and William P. Day designed the 19-story hotel, a combination of French château and Spanish ornamentation. In 1939, the 19th floor penthouse was converted into a glass-walled cocktail lounge with a 360 degree view of the city below. The Mark Hopkins gained global fame during World War IImansions when it was de rigueur for Pacific-bound servicemen to toast their goodbye to the States in the "Top of the Mark" cocktail lounge.

        Next door to the Mark Hopkins Hotel on California Street is the The Stanford Court Hotel (you can't see it in the above photo - it is to the left of the Mark Hopkins Hotel but obscured by the Fairmont Hotel). This luxury hotel is built on the site of Leland Stamford's mansion (the last of the Big Four mansions). Visitors to the magnificent Stanford home entered through a circular entrance hall, bathed in amber light from a glass dome in the ceiling seventy feet above. The only part that survived the earthquake was a basalt-and-granite wall that's been restored which can be seen from the eastern side of the hotel. In 1912, an apartment house was built on the site of the former estate, and in 1972 the present-day hotel was constructed from the shell of that building. The lobby has a stained-glass dome and sepia-tone murals depicting scenes of early San Francisco. The old photo here shows the Stamford Mansion (left) and the Hopkins Mansion (right) along California Street from around 1890.

Union Square

Union Square             We walked over to Powell Street and strolled around Union Square. Union Square is a 2.6 acres, one city block square park bordered by Geary, Powell, Post and Stockton Street. The name "Union Square" stems from the fact that the area was once used for rallies and support for the Union Army during the Civil War. The 1906 San Francisco earthquake leveled most of the buildings that surrounded it. After our visit, it was closed for a two-year renovation. Today, Union Square retains its role as the ceremonial "heart" of San Francisco, serving as the site of many public concerts, impromptu protests, speeches by visiting dignitaries, and the annual Christmas tree and Menorah. Two cable car lines (Powell-Hyde and Powell-Mason) serve the Union Square on Powell Street.

             In the center of Union Square, there is a 90 ft. marble column with a bronze statue of victory at the top. This monument commemorates Admiral Dewey's victory at Manila Bay during the Spanish-American War in 1898. Palm trees surround the square which is full of flowers.

Union Square            This is also the center of one of San Francisco's more exclusive shopping areas and the Theater District. Union Square has become a popular shopping destination. It boasts six major department stores: Macy's, Bloomingdale's, Barneys New York, Nordstrom, Saks Fifth Avenue and Neiman Marcus. Union Square is also home to several famous upscale boutiques like Louis Vuitton, Gucci, Dior, Chanel, Prada, Giorgio Armani, Boucheron, Tiffany & Co., Piaget, Bulgari, Polo Ralph Lauren, Lacoste, Marc Jacobs and Hermes.

            Bordering the square is the famous St. Francis Hotel, an historic luxury hotel located on Union Square. Built just before the San Francisco Earthquake, the hotel is now one of the largest in the city, with nearly 1,200 rooms. Built at a cost of $2.5 million as an investment for the children of Charles Crocker, one of "The Big Four" railroad magnates who had built the western portion of the transcontinental railway. It was originally meant to be called The Crocker Hotel, but instead it took the name of one of the earliest San Francisco Gold Rush hotels, the St. Francis.

            The hotel opened on March 21, 1904, and, along with the older Palace Hotel on Market Street, immediately became one of the city's most prestigious addresses. The San Francisco Earthquake of 1906 badly frightened the guests, but did no structural damage to the hotel. Opera singer Enrico Caruso, who was staying at the nearby Palace Hotel, fled the Palace and came to the St. Francis, where the restaurant was still open for breakfast. Caruso swore he would never return to San Francisco; he never did. Despite the fact that the earthquake did not cause major structural damage to the hotel, but it did begin a series of fires along the waterfront which began to sweep west across the city. It also broke the water mains, so firemen were unable to fight the fires. Union SquareAn hour after midnight the fire reached Union Square and gutted the hotel. When the fire was finally put out three days later, it was found that the St. Francis had suffered little serious damage. The copper cornice had been warped, and some of the enameled facing bricks had fallen off in the heat, but otherwise the building was intact. Reconstruction began almost immediately and the hotel re-opened in 1907. A third wing opened in 1908 and a 32-floor addition was opened in 1972 on Post Street - making The St. Francis the largest hotel on the Pacific Coast. Photo: Here we are in Union Square with the St. Francis Hotel behind us - the old section is on the left and the newer 1908 section is on the right.

             After its re-opening, the St. Francis hosted dozens of celebrities who came to San Francisco. Former President Theodore Roosevelt stayed at the hotel in July 1915, and used the occasion to denounce his bitter enemy, President Woodrow Wilson, and to call for American entry into the War. In September 1919, President Woodrow Wilson stayed at the St. Francis as he toured the country as part of his unsuccessful effort to win support for American entry into the League of Nations.

St. Francis clock            In 1921, the St. Francis was the scene of Hollywood's first great scandal. Silent film comedian Roscoe Conkling Arbuckle, also known as Fatty Arbuckle, was accused of assaulting and raping a young actress, who later died, during a party at the St. Francis. Arbuckle was later released when juries at three trials were unable to reach a verdict but his career was ruined.

           In April 1945 the St. Francis played host to twenty-seven delegations attending the founding meeting of the United Nations, held in the San Francisco Opera House. In April 1951, the St. Francis hosted General Douglas MacArthur, who received a tumultuous welcome when he returned from Korea after having been dismissed from command by President Harry Truman.

             The St. Francis became the hotel where Republican presidents stayed when in San Francisco, while Democratic presidents usually stayed at the Fairmont. President Gerald Ford was almost assassinated while leaving the hotel in September of 1975 (the shot missed). President Ronald Reagan was a frequent guest of the hotel. The St. Francis also hosted many world leaders, including Queen Elizabeth II of England and Emperor Hirohito of Japan.

             The hotel is distinctive for a historic lobby master clock that runs all of the clocks in the hotel. The phrase "meet me under the clock!" meant this clock. The Magneta Grandfather Clock (pictured here), a Viennese clock that was originally built in 1856, was first erected in the lobby of the hotel in 1907, and has been the meeting place of people for generations. There is a new clock above the lobby off Powell Street.

Market Street

        Market Street is probably the most famous street in San Francisco. It has been described as San Francisco's Fifth Avenue, its Champs-Élysées, its Main Street, Great White Way or Path of Gold. It's three-mile run begins at The Embarcadero in front of the Ferry Building at the northeastern edge of the city and runs southwest through downtown, passing the Civic Center and the Castro District, to the intersection with Corbett Avenue in the Twin Peaks neighborhood.

       Market Street is a major transit artery for the city of San Francisco, and has carried in turn horse-drawn streetcars, cable cars, electric streetcars, electric trolleybuses and diesel buses. While cable cars no longer operate on Market Street, the southern turntable of the Powell-Mason and Powell-Hyde cable-car lines is on Market Street and the eastern end of the California Line ends at the intersection of California and Market Street.

       One of the most famous and luxurious hotel in San Francisco was the Palace Hotel on the SW corner of Market and New Montgomery Streets. Opened in 1875, the original Palace Hotel was the glorious final "gift" of the colorful, but ill-fated, Bank of California co-founder William Chapman Ralston to his adopted home city of San Francisco. The Palace Hotel offered many innovative modern conveniences including an intercom system and four oversized hydraulic elevators which were Palace Hotel Garden Courtcalled "lifting rooms." The most notable feature of the hotel was the Grand Court that served as an entry area for horse-drawn carriages. (This area was converted to a palm filled public lounge a few years before the 1906 earthquake). Presidents of the United States Ulysses S. Grant, Benjamin Harrison and William McKinley visited the Palace Hotel. King Kalākaua, the last reigning king of the Kingdom of Hawaiʻi, died at the old Palace Hotel in 1891.

       This all changed, of course, just after 5:12 A.M. on April 18, 1906, when a massive earthquake shook all of the San Francisco Bay Area. While the deliberately overbuilt and presumably "fireproof" Palace Hotel survived the quake with relatively modest physical damage, like so many other important buildings in the city, the hotel was soon overtaken by the raging fires that followed in its wake over the next three days. The flames reached the hotel early that afternoon, and by nightfall the magnificent world famous structure was reduced to a burned out shell. Notably, famous tenor Enrico Caruso (who had sung the role of Don José in Carmen the night before) was staying in the hotel at the time of the quake, and swore to never return to San Francisco (he never did).

       The Hotel was completely rebuilt from the ground up on the exact same spot, re-opening largely in its current form in 1909 and resumed its role as an important landmark and host to many of the City's great events. The Grand Court was later transformed into the Palm Court (photo above). It can seat 1,000 guests and is lit by 20 crystal chandeliers. U.S. Presidents stayed at the new Palace also, Theodore Roosevelt, William Taft, Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Bill Clinton all spent time here. Lotta's FountainWhile the old Palace had a Hawaiin King die while staying there, the new Palace would not be outdone. In 1923, President Warren G. Harding and his wife were taking a tour of the western states, especially Alaska, when Harding became ill. Staying in a bed in a suite on the top floor of the Palace Hotel, Harding suffered a heart attack and died on August 2, 1923 (rumors persisted that his wife poisoned him because of his many infidelities, but there is no proof of it).

         Across from the Palace Hotel is the Lotta's Fountain (photo at left). It's the oldest surviving monument in the city and it's right at the intersections of Market and Kearny Streets. After the earthquake in 1906, the fountain, which was one of the few remaining structures on Market Street, became a central meeting place for San Franciscans. Commemorations of the earthquake, including a dwindling pool of survivors, are held every year at 5:12 a.m. on April 18th at the intersection.

        It's named after Lotta Mignon Crabtree who donated the fountain to San Francisco. Crabtree, an red-headed American actress, entertainer and comedian who became one of the wealthiest and most beloved American entertainers of the late 19th century, began her career in San Francisco. She began touring throughout California, and Nevada, making a name for herself as a dancer, singer and banjo player in the mining camps. Lotta Crabtree so aroused the city's miners that they were known to shower her with gold nuggets and silver dollars after her performances. In 1856, the family moved back to San Francisco and by 1859, she had become "Miss Lotta, the San Francisco Favorite". She traveled through the country and by 1875 she was touring the nation with her own theatrical company. Some of the money she made went to support local charities and to build fountains. Lotta Crabtree never married, and died in 1924 at her New York home.

            This Beaux Arts cast-iron, lions-headed drinking fountain (made in Philadelphia) was donated to San Francisco in 1875. In 1999, the fountain, which had suffered neglect in the past decades was totally refurbished to its present look seen here.

Muir Woods and Bodega Bay

Muir Woods National Monument        On one of the days, we rented a car to drive outside San Francisco. We headed north across the Golden Gate Bridge. The toll was $3 (though they have since raised it to $5). We drove north to Muir Woods National Monument where we spent the morning. Muir Woods is the 554 acre home of the tallest type of tree in the world, the Coast Redwood (Sequoia sempervirens), a relative of the Giant Sequoia.

      Here I am trying to count the rings - trust me, this one was very old.

        The Monument is an old-growth coastal redwood forest. Due to its proximity to the Pacific Ocean, the forest is regularly shrouded in coastal fogs, contributing to a wet environment that encourages vigorous plant growth. The fog is also vital for the growth of the redwoods as they use moisture from the fog during the dry summer. The Monument is cool and moist year round with average daytime temperatures between 40° and 70°. Rainfall is heavy during the winter and summers are almost completely dry with the exception of fog drip caused by the fog passing through the trees.

        One hundred fifty million years ago ancestors of redwood and sequoia trees grew throughout the United States. Today, the Coast Redwood can be found only in a narrow, cool coastal belt from Monterey to Oregon. Before the logging industry came to California, there were an estimated two million acres in this strip. However, by the early 20th century, most of these forests had been cut down. Just north of the San Francisco Bay, one valley named Sequoia Canyon remained uncut, mainly due to its relative inaccessibility.

        U.S. Congressman William Kent his wife Elizabeth purchased 611 acres with the goal of protecting the redwoods and the mountain above them. In 1907, the Kents donated much of it to the U.S. Government. On January 9, 1908, President Theodore Roosevelt declared the land a national monument and it was named after naturalist John Muir, whose environmental campaigns helped to establish the national park system.

Muir Woods Muir Woods

        Here we are standing among the Redwoods (photo above left). While redwoods can grow to nearly 380 ft., the tallest tree in the Muir Woods is 258 ft. tall. The average age of the redwoods in the Monument are between 500 and 800 years old with the oldest being at least 1,100 years old. We hiked along one of the trails called "Hillside Trail" (Trail Map). It took us about a hour and a half to complete the trail. We went to the gift shop afterwards and bought a small redwood bark that when watered would grow a small redwood plant. We noticed that throughout the park, where redwoods had fallen, small trees started growing out of the trunks of the fallen trees. After leaving Muir Woods, we continued to drive north on Route 1.

Debbie at the Pacific Ocean       Route 1 is a very interesting road. There are places that you are driving along a cliff that drops into the ocean with not even a guardrail between your car and the edge. It does make you very aware of your driving ability. Especially when cars are coming in the opposite direction. There were some great look-out areas where you can park and get a great view of the Pacific Ocean. I took a picture of Debbie at one (the view is to the southwest). As you can see it was sunny and warm - that was about to change. 

        We stopped in a small town for lunch and then continued up the coast. The weather turned worse as fog rolled in. We stopped at the town of Bodega Bay which is about 40 miles northwest of San Francisco.

        Bodega Bay was discovered in 1775 by the Spanish explorer Juan Francisco de la Bodega y Quadra, after whom it is named. He planned to return, but never did. In 1812, the Russian-American Company established Fort Ross about 15 miles up the coast and began growing grain and shipping it to Alaska from Bodega Bay. The Bay remained an active harbor for shipping lumber until the 1870s, when the North Pacific Coast Railroad was built, bypassing the coast in favor of a more inland route.

Pacific Ocean        We stopped in a park next to the ocean. It was very windy and cold. Good thing we had our jackets on, after all, it was July (photo at right). Look at that idiot tourist standing out on that rock in the Pacific Ocean. Later we drove into the town and stopped at the Tides Restaurant. Bodega Bay became famous when Alfred Hitchcock featured the town in his 1963 movie, The Birds (this website gives still pictures from the movie). The Tides Restaurant was featured in the movie, but has expanded a lot since 1963. We did not see the schoolhouse used in the movie, which still stands in Bodega Bay. We kept a good lookout, but the birds did not bother us.

Eating in San Francisco

Stinking Rose      Eating in San Francisco is one of the best things about visiting here. The hardest part is choosing one. Without a doubt, our favorite place was a restaurant called the Stinking Rose on Columbus Avenue (pictured at left) in the North Beach section. We had to wait about an hour, but it is well worth it. It is a garlic restaurant that is totally devoted to the smelly herb. We liked it so much, we came here twice. The place has marble table tops, terra-cotta walls with strings of garlic draped throughout the place.

        As an appetizer, they have garlic cloves, oven-roasted in extra virgin olive oil and butter, called Bagna Calda, that you can spread on fresh Italian rolls. They serve it in a small iron skillet over a candle (you can see it on our table). This you must have. All of their meals have garlic included in some way shape or form. One night, I tried the 40-clove prime rib and the other night the Italian garlic meatloaf. Debbie had their pasta dishes. For desert, I tried the garlic ice cream with caramel sauce. It was interesting. I may never order it again, but at least I can say I tried it once. They also have garlic wine, but we were not that brave. For those who do not like garlic, they have what is called 'vampire fare' - meals made without garlic (what else). They do have an ample supply of breath  freshners at the counter when you leave.

Clam chowder        Of course, we enjoyed lunch at any number of places on Fisherman's Wharf that serves clam chowder in a sourdough bread bowl (picture at right) like at the Boudin Sourdough Bakery.

chocolate store       Another place that we went to was John's Grill on Ellis Street in the Financial District. The crime writer Dashiell Hammett made this restaurant famous when he used it as a setting in his 1930's book, The Maltese Falcon. His hero Sam Spade (Humphrey Bogart in the movie version) used to eat lunch here. The restaurant is not featured in the movie. It has dark paneled walls and booths. It serves mostly steaks and seafood. I had a prime rib while Debbie tried some of their seafood. The food, along with the atmosphere, made it a very pleasurable night.

       We also went to a fantastic Italian restaurant called Il Fornaio on Battery Street. They are famous for their baked bread.  We also went to the Rainforest Cafe. I know it's not a San Francisco highlight, but I just like their interiors.

          Needless to say, certain stores attracted Debbie's attention. Of course, anyplace that sold chocolate for one. Here is a store on Pier 39 in Fisherman's Wharf that had a magnetic pull that she felt.

Top of Page


Click for San Francisco, California Forecast