San Francisco Bay Waterfront Evolution

For over 250 years since Balboa first gazed at that Pacific Ocean after crossing the Isthmus of Panama in 1513, the great San Francisco lay undiscovered. Cabrillo would have sailed by in 1642 as would have Drake in 1579 and Vizcaino in 1602. Many of the annual Spanish galleons on routes across the Pacific to and from the Philippines may also have passed by the Bay's often fog enshrouded entrance.

San Francisco Bay was discovered in 1769 on a land expedition by Portola from Monterey. Anza explored much of the Bay Area in 1775, but Ayala would have been the first European to sail through the Golden Gate in 1775. With the founding the Presidio and Mission Dolores in 1776, San Francisco waterfront began the long centuries of progress as it moved east from the Golden Gate and then exploded with growth during the 1849 Gold Rush. The downtown waterfront continued to grow from Gold Rush days as San Francisco industry evolved from Black Point on the west to Hunters Point on the south.

Having spend nearly three decades near the north waterfront of San Francisco, the comments on this north waterfront are tied to personal memories and reflections as well as highlights of how the waterfront has evolved since the first Spanish sailed through and stayed. Images are selected to help imagine how it all may have appeared long ago as well as better compare to what we see now.

These views are summarized by moving east from the Golden Gate, just as the chronology of the waterfront also evolved. After an opening overview supplemented with images, a series of Internet extracts and sites are included for further detail. Some of the images which could be used to extend the commentary to Downtown and South Shore waterfront are also included.


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Discovery of San Francisco Bay

El Polin Spring to Presidio

Fort Point to Golden Gate Bridge

Crissy Field to Forest, Parade Ground, Letterman

Marina and Panama Pacific 1915 Fair

Washerwoman's Lagoon

Fort Mason and Piers

Pioneer Woolen to Ghirardelli and Aquatic

Cannery, Fisherman, Meigg's Wharf to Pier 39

North Waterfront Conclusions

Preview Images of Downtown and South Waterfront

Presidio Internet BackUp

Other North BackUp

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