Back in 2003, the Monkey spent a week exploring the lovely region in and around San Francisco, California. Here are a few photos of some of the city’s most well-known sights.
Looking back from the headlands of Marin County, the Monkey takes in the spectacle of San Francisco, its bay, and its bridge.
San Francisco began as a Spanish colonial outpost called Yerba Buena built around a presidio and a mission in 1776. At the time, Monterey, down the coast, was the capital of Spanish Alta California and the new settlement was anything but significant. Russian fur trappers set up small colonies just north of Yerba Buena by 1812, with U.S. trappers following 14 years later. Under Mexican rule from 1821, and after it was seized by John Sloat for the United States in 1846 during the U.S.-Mexico War, Yerba Buena (renamed San Francisco) remained little more than a frontier outpost.
The event that changed San Francisco’s—and California’s—history was the 1848 discovery of gold and the resulting Gold Rush of 1849, in which thousands of prospectors with dreams of getting rich quick came to California. San Francisco was the quintessential western boomtown, growing from a population of 800 in 1848 to 30,000 by 1852. As a supply center and transit hub (the Transcontinental Railroad arrived in 1869), the city’s growth and wealth expanded rapidly, as did its reputation as a lawless town of thugs, prostitutes, and drinkers. It also developed its capacity as a great natural harbor and a shipping center.
In 1906 a strong earthquake and subsequent fires levelled much of the city. Determined to rebuild, the ruined city’s people drew on their wealth and experience, as well as relief funds from around the world, constructing the city from ground up anew in short order. By 1915, San Francisco was ready to host the Panama-Pacific Exposition celebrating the completion of the Panama Canal. The city quickly reclaimed its place as the West Coast’s financial capital, and San Francisco’s civic and economic leaders pushed the construction of cultural monuments and improved infrastructure. Perhaps the best known of these grand projects is the Golden Gate Bridge (seen here). Built from 1933 to 1937 amidst the turmoil of the Great Depression, chief engineer Jospeh Strauss and teams of unemployed laborers did what had hitherto seemed impossible, bridging the San Francisco peninsula with Marin County over the deep waters of the straits of the Golden Gate. The total length of the bridge is 2,824 meters, and the central span is 1,280 meters long and 67 meters above the water. The support towers peak at 227 meters. This functional, Art Deco masterpiece has become a beloved symbol of both San Francisco and the United States.
Another instantly recognizable symbol of San Francisco, the Transamerica Pyramid is the centerpiece of the city’s skyline. At 260 meters, the 1972 tower designed by William Pereira is San Francisco’s tallest building (although the windowless top 64 meters are not usable space). Careful engineering has helped it withstand San Francisco’s earthquake problems, and the Monkey was pleased to stop by for a close-up look at this unique skyscraper.
Another signature aspect of San Francisco are the city’s cablecars. Developed by the transplanted Scot Andrew Smith Hallidie in the 1870s, the cable cars grip understreet cables that pull them along rails embedded in the streets. The cables are pulled from central powerhouses, while the cars require a gripman to manually “grip” the moving cable. Visitors and San Franciscans alike ride the cars, which still form part of the city’s transport system—the cablecars are especially useful for climbing the city’s steep hills. Here, the Monkey sits atop a fire call box as one of the vintage cablecars glides past behind him.
San Francisco locals reckon that Lombard Street is the curviest street in the world. The Monkey isn’t going to argue with them. Having walked up Russian Hill, which Lombard descends, the Monkey was of the impression that the street has to be this curvy if cars are to manage it. In fact, there are steeper streets in San Francisco, including one stretch featuring a 31.5 percent grade! In the distance you can see the 64 meter high Coit Tower atop Telegraph Hill. It was philanthropist Lillie Hitchcock Coit’s gift to the city in 1933.
Here’s the Monkey at the bottom of the curvy stretch of Lombard Street looking up.
Across the Golden Gate straits from the San Francisco, the Monkey explored the Marin County Headlands. He enjoyed the beautiful views over San Francisco Bay and the Pacific Ocean. Here, he investigates an abandoned bunker that dates from World War II. The U.S. military built a number of bunkers and gunning stations at the mouth of San Francisco Bay in the hopes of defending the city’s important harbor and shipyards from attack. Today, they stand as silent reminders of that bygone era.
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