It’s one of the most historically significant cities on the west coast of the United States. Arguably, it’s THE most significant. San Francisco, like the United States, got its start in 1776 when the Spanish built a fort to watch over the Golden Gate, the entrance to San Francisco Bay, and built a mission dedicated to Saint Francis of Assisi. A few decades later, with the coming of the 1848 California Gold Rush, rapid growth and expansion would hit the city. Today, San Francisco is home of many historic sites.
Golden Gate Bridge – This is the big one. If there is one landmark San Francisco is known for then it is this. The Golden Gate Bridge is named as such, because it spans the Golden Gate. When it was finished in 1937, the Golden Gate Bridge was the longest suspension bridge in the world. Today, driving across the bridge costs a toll of five to six dollars, but only if one is traveling south. North-bound traffic, pedestrians, and bicycles can cross for free.
Photo Credit: 1. Golden Gate Bridge sunrise, 2. Golden Gate Bridge from Fort Point 0953_1_2, 3. Golden Gate Bridge – “Enveloping Fog”, 4. Golden Gate Bridge Daytime, 5. Golden Gate Bridge
Chinatown – Consider this, Chinatown attracts more visitors per year than the Golden Gate Bridge. Unlike many other so-called Chinatowns, San Francisco’s Chinatown is the real deal. It is the largest Chinese community outside of Asia. It formed for one simple reason. During the latter half of the 19th century, Chinatown was the one area in the city of San Francisco where Chinese individuals were allowed to inhabit and inherit property. Chinatown almost disappeared after the 1906 earthquake as racist city planners tried to have it moved or absorbed by the financial district. Fortunately the area survived when numerous groups came to its defense. Chinatown was rebuilt with the intention of it also becoming a western-friendly tourist attraction, which it remains as such to this day.
Photo Credit 1. Chinatown, San Francisco, 2. Chinatown, 3. Miss Chinatown, 4. Portland China Gate, 5. weird chinese dragon dance interpretation of the “soulja boy”
Cable Cars – One can not visit San Francisco without taking at least a short ride on one of its famous cable cars. They are the only permanently operational manually-operated cable car system in the world. They are also the only moving Historic Landmark in the United States. As famous as they are though, the cable cars are primarily utilized by tourists, fortunately that also means they’re likely to travel past the sites you want to see.
1. San Francisco Bay – Hyde Street & Cable Car, 2. Cable car climbing up along Powell Street, 3. Cable car turnaround, SF, 4. Powell & Hyde Cable Car, 5. CB011263
Alcatraz – If there is one iconic landmark in San Francisco that can even hold a candle to the Golden Gate Bridge then it is Alcatraz Island. Located within San Francisco Bay, Alcatraz island has a history that goes far beyond its prison years. It originally featured little more than a lighthouse, then later a military fort, followed by a military prison, and then finally the federal prison it is now known for. The Federal prison ran for almost three decades from 1934 to 1963. Since then, the island has served as a park operated by the National Park Service. Tourists can visit the island year round as tours of the retired, famous prison are quite popular.
1. Alcatraz, 2. Blue Steel, 3. alcatraz 2050, 4. Alcatraz Freedom, 5. Alcatraz
USS Pampanito – If history is what you’re after then you’ll hit the bull’s-eye by visiting the USS Pampanito. Commissioned in 1943 this United States submarine completed six war patrols in the south Pacific during World War II. During those six patrols, she sank a total of six Japanese ships, damaged four more, and cost the Japanese over 27,000 tons of lost freight. Her most famous accomplishment, however, was in September of 1944 when she rescued 73 POW’s clinging to makeshift rafts after their prison ship had been sunk by a wolf-pack including the USS Pampanito (the allies had been unaware of the ship’s cargo). She was decommissioned in 1945, but remained in reserve until 1960. From 1960 to 1971 she was utilized as a training vessel. Today the USS Pampanito is a museum ship in San Francisco’s Fisherman’s Wharf and is open to visitors year round.
1. USS Pampanito (SS 383), 2. Generator, 3. USS Pampanito, 4. After Battery Compartment, 5. USS Pampanito
Mission Dolores – The oldest structure that can still be found today in San Fransisco, Mission Dolores is actually the more common name for the Mission San Francisco de Asis, which is obviously named for St. Francis of Assisi. It is the sixth establishment in California’s chain of missions (the most famous arguably being the mission in San Juan Capistrano). The Mission Dolores has been prevalent throughout San Francisco’s history, always present and always available for spiritual sanctuary and guidance. Mass is still held daily at the old mission and its adjoining basilica.
Photo Credit – 1. Mission Dolores Cemetery, 2. Untitled, 3. Mission Dolores, 4. Mission Dolores, 5. Mission Dolores
The Presidio – Located on the northern tip of the San Francisco Peninsula, the Presidio was a fortified military installation from 1776 all the way until 1994 when it was finally handed over to the National Park Service. The Presidio is known for its spectacular views of San Francisco Bay, the Pacific Ocean, and the Golden Gate Bridge. Star Trek fans may take a special interest in the park as it is here in the future where Star Fleet Headquarters as well as the Star Fleet Academy are located. The park contains approximately 800 historic buildings, and because the park was ordered by Congress to be financially self sufficient by 2013 many of these buildings are available for commercial and residential lease. The Letterman Digital Arts Center was also built here just a few years ago by Lucasfilm to house Industrial Light and Magic as well as LucasArts.
Photo Credits 1. one of the presidio buildings, 2. General John J. Pershing, 3. Presidio, ocean, and Headlands, 4. The Presidio, 5. Yoda at Lucas
Bank of Italy Building – Located on the corner of Montgomery and Clay street, the Bank of Italy Building was constructed as the new headquarters for A.P. Giannini’s Bank of Italy back in 1908. The Bank of Italy had been originally founded by Giannini in 1904 to primarily serve the working class Italians living in San Francisco’s North Beach neighborhood. In 1906 however, the bank’s assets would surge as it would be one of the first banks to offer loans to everyone for the reconstruction of property damaged by that year’s massive earthquake and the fire that followed. The bank would move into this building bearing its name in 1908 and remain there until 1921, one year after it was renamed to what it is known as today, Bank of America. Photo Credit Wikipedia
San Francisco is a wise destination for anyone who wishes to take a trip to experience the rich history America’s west coast has to offer.
Photo Credits 1. Not available, 2. Alcatraz, 3. CB011263, 4. Miss Chinatown, 5. Yoda at Lucas, 6. Mission Dolores, 7. San Francisco Skyline & Palace of Fine Arts from Golden Gate Promenade – Morning, 8. Cable car climbing up along Powell Street, 9. Alcatraz Freedom, 10. Chinatown, 11. Golden Gate Bridge from Fort Point 0953_1_2, 12. Untitled, 13. USS Pampanito