San Francisco Lombard and Pacific Heights Ridges: 1850-1915: Progress that Affected Growth and Development

The 2006 West Slope of Russian Hill historical context and inventory of historic resources for residential buildings around Lombard and Larkin Streets was an excellent report that spurred me to research what led to development San Francisco I have known and lived in since 1969. My initial San Francisco home in 1965 was Lodge Residence Club. It is now Queen Anne Hotel at Sutter and Octavia. After finishing engineering at Northwestern, I accepted offer from Chevron Chemical. I was only in San Francisco a few months before returning east, where all petrochemicals were marketed to become products we still wear and cover our homes, offices and transport with today.

1965 Lodge, Now Queen Anne Hotel, ..........2165 Larkin at Green St. .................1263-7 Lombard, ...............Uphill from 2415 Octavia SW corner Broadway

When returning to San Francisco in 1968 after New York and Cincinnati work and schooling, I lived a few weeks in another Pacific Heights residence club and then a year at west end of Green Street and summer above lagoon in Belvedere before settling in apartment at Larkin and Green. For six years I looked out north and west before buying 1263-67 Lombard, with closer north and west bay an Golden Gate views. I moved into the top front flat which was occupied by owner's brother, and continued to rent the flat below and the 1877 cottage on ridge on top of hill in rear. Several years later, I met PJ Sunday morning in my flat. In 1980 we were married and lived there until 1983, when we bought our home at southwest corner of Broadway and Octavia, as depicted in Cameron's Above San Francisco

Black Point/Fort Mason, ................................Southeast Lafayette Park, ................................................North to Bay Franklin W Lafayette to Broadway

1873 San Francisco Bird's Eye Southwest, ........................................................1980's Cameron Above San Francisco Southeast from Fort Mason

From fascination with past of both our Lombard and Octavia homes, I began to realize how some of same forces accounted for and led to development of both neighborhoods: Among those highlighted and in links are:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 Early San Francisco Background: Despite explorers passing by San Francisco Bay from 1500's, it wasn't until Portola in 1774 climbed from coast to Sweeney Ridge south of San Francisco that the enormity of San Francisco Bay was discovered by Europeans. In 1776 a Presidio and Mission were established, the Presidio within a few days of US Declaration of Independence. San Francisco Mission was one of more than twenty missions built from 1769 from San Diego to Sonoma. Mexico took over control of California from Spain in 1822 and by 1833 eliminated the Missions, replacing them with large rancho land grants. The first European to settle in the northeast peninsula shore of what became San Francisco in 1847 was an Englishman, William Richardson, who in 1835 built a home near Yerba Buena cove.

SF Water & Geology 1769 SF Bay Discovery by Portola 1776 SF Presidio Founded 1776 SF Mission Dolores 1835 William Richardson

In 1846 John Fremont led Bear Flag revolt in Sonoma and Montgomery raised US flag at Portsmouth Square, which was San Francisco center. Of most significance in 1846 was arrival of Sam Brannan and Mormon brigade. With 240, it doubled the size of Yerba Buena. At end of 1846 Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo ceded Mexican California and lands east to the US. Gold was discovered in Sierra foothills in early 1848 and San Francisco ballooned to 30,000 by end of 1849 as 'World Rushed In', probably as many as 250,000 passed through by end of Gold Rush in 1853.

1849 San Francisco Yerba Buena Cove 1950 San Francisco Rincon in South to Telegraph Hill and North Coast

1849 Rincon North to San Francisco 1849 South from Telegraph Hill 1850's East from Nob Hill

With population growth, land west from Bay to Larkin was surveyed and divided into blocks and lots for sale and development. Beyond Larkin, squatters claims and settlements complicated land ownership when San Francisco Western Boundary was moved further west to Divisidero in 1850-1. With explosive Yerba Buena/San Francisco populace, it became important to develop roads to Mission and Presidio, each several miles west. Mission plank road opened as toll road in 1851. An 80 foot sand hill on Market, which was used to fill Mission Bay in 1860's made Mission rather than Market St. as route for original plank road.

1851 San Francisco Street and Block Map 1854 San Francisco Street and Block Map

Of more importance to this analysis is the Portsmouth to Presidio road, which probably ran northwest from Portsmouth along current Columbus to north shoreline and then west to Black Point, where it jogged south around steep cliffs and resumed westward course along what is now Lombard to Presidio. A few blocks south of Black Point it ran along the south side of Washerwoman's Lagoon. Until the Cable Cars in the 1870's provided transport over Nob and Russian Hills to the West of downtown, Black Point and cove development were primary influence on Russian Hill, just as Washerwoman's Lagoon tributaries watered the nurseries, vegetable tracts and dairies of Russian Hill west slope and north of Pacific Heights ridge all the way to the Presidio.

1851 Mission Plank Road , Bay, Dolores 1851 Portsmouth Square Looking West 1857 Flume Path Near Presidio Road to Black Point

Because Washerwoman's Lagoon and Black Point heights and cove were catalysts for development west from Lombard ridge to our Pacific Heights ridge and on to Presidio, they are covered in Washerwoman's Lagoon and Black Point sections. A north south road called Marlette and then changed to Van Ness in 1955 from the Mayor who extended original 1849 William Eddy 50 Vara land division west from Larkin in mid 1950's. Like Polk St., Van Ness ran from Mission Plank and Market St. north to Black Point/Fort Mason and is section on this earlier north-south corridor along with 1893 Polk Street cut between Lombard and Greenwich.

Andrew Hallidie 1873 Clay Street Cable Car Over Nob Hill 1890 San Francisco Cable and Horse Car System

In 1873, Andrew Hallidie tested the cable car system atop Nob Hill at Clay and Jones. It was based on wire rope he had used to pull ore cars from gold mines and his father patented in England and Andrew used to build bridge across Sacramento's American River. In September 1873, Clay Street line opened after $85,000 cost. Sutter St. followed in 1877, California St. in 1878 and Geary to Ocean RR in 1880. An important offshoot of the original Clay line was from 1874 a horse cart north along Larkin. This spurred the subdividing of lots along Lombard ridge west of Larkin and sale for construction of cottages which began in 1876.

1906 SF Fire and Ruins,................... 1906 St. Ignatius Ruins at Davies Hall,.. 1906 SF Fire and Waterfront,............................ 1906 SF Fire and Ruins

Tales of how 1906 fire was stopped on Lombard ridge block west of Larkin have been associated with women soaking petticoats with vinegar or wine from vats of Larkin-Greenwich corner store to snuff out wind blown faggots from blocks south on ridge cottages have long been repeated. Whether because of wind change or heroic neighbors, fire was stopped short of our block 501. In recovery years after 1906, construction was added to fronts of Lombard lots, which had been graded in 1893 from Polk to Larkin. Same new street front construction wasn't added below north side of ridge on Greenwich while nearly all else to south and east on Russian Hill was completely rebuilt after fire devastation.

1906 Fire Lafayette Park East 1906 Lafayette East to Nob Hill Ruins 1906 Refugee Camp in Lafayette Park

Our Pacific Heights ridge and neighbors weren't threatened by 1906 fire as it didn't cross Van Ness north of Washington. Further south on Van Ness several blocks of grand mansions were burned including Spreckels, who by then had built fine homes for each of their five kids around our block and then built their own at top of our Octavia hill on Washington corner.

The final common link of our Lombard and Pacific Heights ridge lots touches on all the previous links highlighted above. That relates to the aftermath and rebuilding from 1906 devastation culminating in the uplifting and splendid unfolding of the Panama Pacific International to the west beyond our Lombard ridge and north below our Pacific Heights ridge. As the touching PBS documentary dramatically concludes:

1915 Panama Pacific International Exposition (PPIE) Panorama Looking North from Pacific Heights

'The people of San Francisco shared a sense of triumph. They also shared a desire to erase the memory of the disaster and to reassure themselves and the rest of the world that the new somehow was invincible. They fought for and won the right to host the World's Fair of 1915. Come down into the streets instructed the organizers. We want everybody. We will walk everyone without distinction. After years of waiting, the hour has come for San Francisco to come into their own. We are going out there to open our Exposition. When the crowd entered the gates, it fell strangely silent. There was a benediction. To the City of St. Francis by the Western Sea, give a hope and a faith that know not failure.'

1915 PPIE West End, Now Palace of Fine Arts, ...........1915 PPIE Map Layout in SF Marina, ............1915 PPIE North Boat Entry Marina Waterfront

Looking back, 1915 was nearly a century ago. I have often wondered over my years in San Francisco during last half of that century whether we all still hold belief that San Francisco lives on with that same 'hope and faith that knows not failure'. I don't think as much about whether I omitted lots that has gone on since 1915 that link development of our Lombard and Pacific Heights ridges, where I have lived in or nearby other than a few brief sojourns to New York or other wanderings around the world. Perhaps that's because before 1906 there wasn't much to San Francisco beyond these ridges and downtown. Later paths to today 's San Francisco led and influenced growth of a much wider swath to west and south, in addition to these earlier highlights which I think most affected our then compact, tidy northeast corner of today's much expanded San Francisco.

As for me, I often look back amusedly at all the wanderings since my 1965 arrival and think I really haven't put down roots anywhere since I first moved to Lodge on Sutter and Octavia in 1965 far from a few blocks east or west of Octavia and in all those years only moved from a few blocks south of Lafayette Park to a few blocks north. With all the fascination and wonder I still take in being swept away by an earlier San Francisco than I knew, I find each day there is still plenty to dream of the1870's to 1915 era when Lombard ridge cottages grew where our son Tristan lives today in flat below and where PJ and I met, were married and lived. And as we climb Gough St. hill each morning, I think of same past which explains why where we are now got as it is, still Here Today.