Haslett Warehouse and Cannery
Through much of the early 1900’s, the Cannery was the largest fruit and vegetable canning operation in the world. Even though operations didn’t begin until 1907, origins could be traced to Francis Cutting, who was the first to can fruit on the West Coast. The Del Monte brand originated as a coffee brand for the Del Monte Lodge. By 1899, consolidation of 18 canneries including Cuttings formed California Fruit Canners which added California Fruit Packing in 1916 to form CalPak. The plaza between Cannery and Haslett was rail spur to deliver fruit and vegetables and ship or store canned product.
Cannery in 1930's with Railroad.........Cannery as Hotel with City Beyond
The Cannery shops of today always have seemed in shadow of Ghirardelli. The connection I find more interesting is with Marco Fontana who after working at Columbo Produce on the Embarcadero and perfecting canning in his home, built the Cannery in 1907. He didn’t convert it to the shops of today, but did end up owning the Pioneer Woolen Warehouse in some association with Southern Pacific, which led to the Fontana Apartments of today and the high-rise backlash they created.
Henry Meiggs in the 1850’s was one of San Francisco’s most colorful promoters, movers, shakers and hucksters. It was his vision to develop the north waterfront to corner market for providing vessels in and out of San Francisco Bay the services that otherwise would continue around to Yerba Buena cove in what is today’s financial district. Meigg’s used political guile and financial chicanery to raise funds, with which he built a 1600 foot wharf north from Powell Street, between today’s Fisherman’s Wharf and Pier 39. Further fund raising built streets around his pier and encouraged commercial development.
But Meigg’s was ahead of his time. Fisherman’s Wharf hadn’t even come into existence. When it did, it would remain downtown until 1900 when it was pushed north and west to current location by San Francisco’s port development. Among Meigg’s California ventures were early redwood lumbering, leading to founding of Meiggsville or Mendocino. Much later lumber carried by Thayer, still anchored at Hyde Street Pier would the Victorians of San Francisco. Meigg’s pier always was more amusement than commerce, with the House of Cobwebs as leading example. For Meiggs his house of cards was ready to collapse by 1857. Herding cash, he fled to Peru and Chile, where he developing railroads, mines and other grand visions.
But with Meiggs, I had my concluding stop on San Francisco’s north coast. For Fisherman’s wharf has always been mostly tawdry entertainment, just as Meigg’s pier was more than a century before. The lore and legend of Fisherman’s Wharf dates to the Genoese immigrants, who sailed their little green feluccas out to sea to their strains of Verdi as early versions of foghorns to avoid collisions with other lateen sail vessels. By the time Fisherman’s Wharf relocated, those romantic felucca’s had evolved to the gasoline put puts, a few of which still remain today, and around which the carnival of Fisherman’s Wharf revolves. Overfishing ensured a gradual decline and the amusement and tourism of today moved in to fill the void.
Lateen Sail fishing Boats........ Old Green Street Wharf Boats....... Fisherman's Wharf Today
By mid century, the robust and expanding port, which had pushed Fisherman’s Wharf north was in decline. This accelerated with containerization. Great ports needed smooth land links, which Oakland provided and San Francisco didn’t. And so it was that the robust and teeming piers of San Francisco’s waterfront in years past also grew cobwebs, just as Meigg’s landmark a century before. Eventually they were abandoned or morphed like Pier 39 to what we know today.
Aquatic Park Historic Boat Pier.................. Fishermans' Wharf and Pier 39 to Golden Gate
As much as I love nostalgia of the old, I think Pier 39 is a wonderful improvement and fitting end to the old piers, just as those at For Mason have become. Eventually they may be prototypes for other parts of waterfront still in transition and become an even better complement to the beautiful parks and shores that begin with Aquatic and continue west to Golden Gate.
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