Archive for the 'San Francisco' Category

San Francisco – Everyday Insider (TM) – Trip 31

Wednesday, September 15th, 2010

An important even occurred in San Francisco in 1906, and, strangely, the 49 Mile Scenic Drive of the City does not acknowledge it. So, in this last post, I shared Lotta’s Fountain, and why it was so important on April 18, 1906.

Today, I give a little more background.

At 5:12 a.m., on April 18th, 1906, a magnitude 7.9 earthquake happened in the City by the Bay. “The Great San Francisco Earthquake” as it is now known, shook the city for 48 seconds.

Immediately after the earthquake stopped, 52 fires broke out all over the city and then merged into one big fire. The temperature of the fire was 2700 degrees F. and it was so hot that the air temperature in the City rose from 51.5 F (8:00 a.m.) to 61.8 F (8:00 p.m.) on that day!

The fire burned down 1/3 of San Francisco, destroying 28,000 buildings. The cost of the destruction even in 1906 dollars was $350,000,000!

At that time, people of San Francisco needed a gathering point for survivors an d a place where they could post the names of the dead, the missing and the found.

The gathering point was Lotta’s Fountain.

If you are a San Franciscan, you likely already know about this fountain, as this monument serves as the place for the “Survivors Meeting” which is held in the early morning of April 18th every year.

San Franciscans will always be grateful, and much has been done to help the City survive the next Big One.

Learn more at the San Francisco Historical Society.

San Francisco Archive

©2010 mystic at Travel Vacation Review

San Francisco – Everyday Insider (TM) – Trip 30

Monday, September 13th, 2010

Lotta’s Fountain, in San Francisco, played an unsurpassed role in the City during the 1906 Quake, so I want to share a little about this unusual lady from California Gold Rush times, whose legacy stands right in the midst of the financial district.

In 1875, Lotta gave “Lotta’s Fountain” at Market and Kearny streets, to the people of San Francisco. It was a generous gesture from a self-made woman, at a time when there were very few of women who “made it”.

I used to walk by it a lot, and I was always fascinated by this beautiful structure and by her smart philanthropy. Who was Lotta?

Charlotte Mignon “Lotta” Crabtree lived from 1847-1924.

Her father was John Crabtree who came from New York seeking gold. He sent for his family in 1853, and moved them to Grass Valley, in the Sierra Nevada mountains near the gold claims.

A few doors away lived Lola Montez, the famous Countess Landsfeldt, who began to teach young Lotta to sing and dance.

Next, the Crabtree family moved to San Francisco in 1856, when she was 9, and by age 12, she was known as “Miss Lotta, the San Francisco Favorite”. She later became the nation’s first super-star and was known as “the nation’s darling”.

Throughout her life, she clearly invested her earnings. By age 22, she purchased San Francisco real estate and began building a fortune valued at $4,000,000 at the time of her death in 1924!

San Francisco Historical Society still has documents: Charles D. Carter’s Real Estate Circular for September 1869 noted “Sale to Lotta, the Actress”.

Miss Lotta Crabtree, before leaving California, purchased a lot, 50×137 1/2 on the south side of Turk street, 87 1/2 feet east of Hyde, paying $7,000 for it.

Scholars believe that this was a portion from her last, short and successful engagement at one of the San Francisco theaters.

Lotta’s Fountain, which has stood at Market, Geary and Kearny streets for more than 123 years in good times and bad, was recently refurbished. In times of financial stress, the City of San Francisco chose to rescue her cast-iron gift because it is so historically important.

The team of skilled ironworkers unbolted the top of Lotta’s Fountain and lowered the pieces to the sidewalk. It was a treacherous job, because the fountain was so old and delicate. The ironworkers said that some of the rings that hold the monument together were as thin as paper! But, it has now been strengthened, restored to its former glory and returned to the people of San Francisco – the City Lotta loved – providing them with fresh drinking water at a time when just finding a drink, especially for ordinary workers, was not easy.

Immediately after the horrific San Francisco Earthquake in 1906, the survivors gathered at the base of the Fountain — and they have done so every year since 1907 to remember the day when the San Francisco of their youth was destroyed.

No one now living, not even San Francisco’s oldest old-timer, was alive when Lotta’s Fountain was dedicated on Admission Day, September 9, 1875.

The fountain had been cast in Philadelphia, then shipped to San Francisco on an 18,000 mile sea journey around Cape Horn, then reassembled and presented to the citizens of San Francisco by Charlotte (Lotta) Mignon Crabtree, who you have just learned was one of the most famous entertainers of her day.

Without children, this really became her legacy — and it was one of compassion and generosity which may be only understood in the context of her time. The water it provided for the ordinary citizen was so important, that it was the first place San Franciscans rushed to, hoping it was strong enough to have survived, as the City was burning. It became the “internet” of it’s day, where people found out the news and found loved ones. It’s preeminence cannot be over-stated.

Lotta Crabtree was regarded by old San Franciscans as “one of the world’s greatest actresses”. And, she returned the affection. Lotta’s Fountain was modeled after a lighthouse prop from a now forgotten play called “Zip” and it was a beacon, indeed, in the City.

For many years, the Geary-Kearny-Market intersection was the heart of San Francisco, a meeting place for all walks of life, so Lotta was smart, again, in where she placed her gift and legacy.

When Lotta finally left for fame and fortune on the East coast, the citizens of San Francisco presented her with a wreath of pure gold and a package of $20 gold pieces.

Lotta was carefree and talented and beautiful, but her mother was shrewd, and taught her daughter to use the money wisely. From that early age, she performed in the vaudeville houses of San Francisco, and in the next decades she became the most popular comedienne of her era and the highest paid performer on the Broadway stage.

She retired in 1892 at age 45, but she made one last San Francisco appearance at “Lotta Crabtree Day” during the Panama-Pacific International Exposition of 1915.

The restored fountain now is just for show, not for drinking water, but her memory lives on in a City which adored her, and which she loved equally.

San Francisco Archive

©2010 mystic at Travel Vacation Review

San Francisco – Everyday Insider (TM) – Trip 29

Saturday, September 11th, 2010

Taking a few steps back from the waterfront, last time I shared how you can find lots in and about the Embarcadero Center complex, and I will now head you further into downtown to the Montgomery Street financial center area in this post about 49 Mile Drive in San Francisco.

So, for my next story hop onto public transport or drive from Embarcadero Center. I suggest taking the BART line up Market Street and get off at the Montgomery Street Station at 598 Market Street, ready for our next stop in the series. BART Information

and Embarcadero BART Station

Embarcadero Station is both a Muni Metro and Bay Area Rapid Transit station near the Embarcadero Center in the Financial District of San Francisco. The public transport station is located at the north-eastern end of the Market Street Subway, below Market Street, between Spear Street and Beale Street. Like all of the shared BART and Muni stations on the Market Street Subway, the concourse mezzanine is 1st. level down, an island platform for the Muni Metro is on the 2nd. level down and the island platform for BART is on the 3rd. level down.

Montgomery Street, our destination, is the center of an expanding Financial District. Major buildings are often distinguished by landscaped plazas and art works and we’ll be emphasizing historic Lotta’s Fountain, next time.

Montgomery Street is a north-south thoroughfare which runs about 16 blocks from the Telegraph Hill neighborhood south through downtown, terminating at Market Street.

South of Columbus Avenue, Montgomery Street runs through the heart of San Francisco’s Financial District, so for this reason, it is sometimes called “the Wall Street of the West“.

South of Market Street, the street continues as New Montgomery Street for two more blocks and then terminates at Howard Street in the “south of Market” (SOMA) district.

My first remembrances of San Francisco came at the world headquarters of Wells Fargo Bank, which was near the Montgomery – Market intersection, and where my father banked, internationally. When I visited America for the first time, I had never seen a building like it. The world headquarters of Wells Fargo are at 420 Montgomery.

And, later, my husband worked in a skyscraper, for years, at Post and Market, so this is an area with lots of personal history. Walking these streets, I have seen lots of changes and also what has endured.

In the 1830s, the land which is now Montgomery Street lay at the edge of San Francisco Bay, but intense land speculation during the Gold Rush created a demand for more usable land in the rapidly growing city. So, sandy bluffs near the waterfront were leveled and the shallows were filled with sand (and the ruins of many ships) to make new building lots.

Between 1849 and 1852, the waterfront pushed into the Bay about four blocks, and at present, Montgomery Street is about seven blocks from the water!

Standing at the corner of what is now Montgomery and Clay, John B. Montgomery hoisted the U.S. flag, after the Bear Flag Revolt of 1846. In 1853 the Montgomery Block, a center of early San Francisco law and literature, was built at 600 Montgomery, on land currently occupied by the iconic, graceful, modernistic Transamerica Pyramid, which my husband used to see filling his office window.

At 555 California Street, between Kearny and Montgomery, this building served as Bank of America world headquarters (from 1969 to 2005) prior to its merger with NationsBank, and later, my sister used to commute to this building.

Both Bank of America and Wells Fargo provided a firm foundation for San Francisco to become wealthy and stable city, even though it had been built on the speculated wealth from 2 Gold Rushes – in California and Alaska.

More on the California Gold Rush next time!

San Francisco Archive

©2010 mystic at Travel Vacation Review

San Francisco – Everyday Insider (TM) – Trip 28

Thursday, September 9th, 2010

Taking a few steps back from the waterfront, you can find lots in and about the Embarcadero Center complex, and I then will also head you further into downtown in the next part of the series.

Embarcadero Center is an eight-building complex which includes shops and restaurants. Justin Herman Plaza is framed by Vaillancourt Fountain. It comprises five office towers and two hotels ranging from 25 to 45 stories high, on a 9.8-acre site and 14,000 people are employed there.

At this stop, you can enjoy ferreting out Embarcadero Center’s world renowned collection of exciting public art. As you explore the complex, you’ll uncover a treasure-trove of artwork from artists Louise Nevelson’s imposing Sky Tree to Jean Dubuffet’s cartoon-like La Chiffonniere.

This collection was created by Embarcadero Center’s developer David Rockefeller and by Embarcadero Center architect John C. Portman, Jr., who shared the vision of integrating fine architecture with fine art.

You can begin a self-guided tour of the Embarcadero Center area public art collection in the lobby of the LeMeridien Hotel, located on Battery and Clay Streets. The tour continues through Embarcadero Center, Justin Herman Plaza (Vaillancourt Fountain …. more follows on this one) and the Hyatt Regency San Francisco, ending on the Street Level of Four Embarcadero Center.

Although LeMeridien San Francisco, Hyatt Regency and Old Federal Reserve are not part of Embarcadero Center, the public art was included in their design by Rockefeller and Portman and constituted part of the vision for the Embarcadero Center area development.

However … there’s one absolutely AWFUL piece of “public art” at the Embarcadero. Here’s the story:

The fountain in Justin Herman Plaza is titled “Quebec Libre” – “Free Quebec”! And it is wholly unsuitable for being part of the public art of San Francisco in my opinion. This controversy has raged for 4 decades!

Apart from its inappropriate political statement, in a city which has nothing to do with the issue, the fountain’s design was, at best a compromise, to downgrade the ugliness of the horrible concrete freeway which it had as a back-drop. But, the freeway was demolished after the Loma Prieta earthquake in 1989. Now, the fountain just renews the nightmare. Seldom is a piece of public art needed to be demolished, but this is the first time that I would support such a move.

Armand Vaillancourt, the French Canadian artist who sculpted the controversial Vaillancourt Fountain vowed to fight a new effort to demolish the concrete, boxy San Francisco landmark that debuted in 1971.

Vaillancourt was responding to a resolution introduced in 2004, by Supervisor Aaron Peskin, urging the Recreation and Park Department and the Arts Commission to consider removing the fountain, which had been dry for three years (being shut off during the state’s energy crisis).

Peskin, who represents the district where the fountain is located, said he introduced the measure because the fountain looks out of place now that the neighboring Embarcadero Freeway is gone, and I agree.

The City also doesn’t want to pay the annual $250,000 in electricity costs to pump 30,000 gallons of water through the square tubes. The area has also become an “attractive nuisance,” providing a sheltered public space where the homeless sleep at night, especially with the freeway nooks and crannies gone.

The fountain has huge concrete beams, 200 feet long, 140 feet wide and 36 feet high with its geometric concrete limbs askew, and it has been controversial since its dedication, when people passed out handbills calling it a “howling obscenity” and “pestiferous eyesore” which it surely is. I think it is totally out of scale and architectural harmony with anything around it.

After the Embarcadero Freeway was removed following the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake, the architects redesigning the waterfront proposed removing it, but unfortunately, they backed off in the face of some public opposition.

One SF blogger rightly asks – ‘How can we waste these energy and financial resources?’ and “Is this thing destined to burn money and take up space in perpetuity, all because some people, lost to history, made a bad (or good, You Make The Call) decision four decades ago?”. I say, NO!

Parking and other general information is available here:
Embarcadero Center

Ferry Plaza Farmers Market
Every Week
The Ferry Building

With more than 100 farmers and 30 artisan vendors setting up every week, you can immerse yourself in a cornucopia of the freshest fruit, produce, baked goods, cheeses and prepared foods in town. The Ferry Plaza Farmers Market is operated by CUESA (Center for Urban Education about Sustainable Agriculture). It features farmers such as: Star Route, Heirloom Organics and Eatwell for organic greens and Lagier for organic jams, almonds and cherries. I shopped in the market in this general area nearly 40 years ago, so San Franciscans have supported this endeavor for a long time.

Event Times:
Tuesday: 10:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m.
Saturday: 8:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m.

For my next story:
From Embarcadero Center, take the BART line up Market Street and get off at the Montgomery Street Station at 598 Market Street, ready for our next stop in the series. BART Information

and Embarcadero BART Station

San Francisco Archive

©2010 mystic at Travel Vacation Review

San Francisco – Everyday Insider (TM) – Part 27

Tuesday, September 7th, 2010

I am continuing with a list of Everyday Insider! (TM) venues which tourists to San Francisco can use to enjoy California life with the locals.

I have been sharing the famous 49-Mile Scenic Drive (which is also known as 49-Mile Drive) encompassing San Francisco highlights. Many of the city’s major attractions and historic structures are on the route, which opened September 14, 1938 as part of a promotion for the 1939 Golden Gate International Exposition. The Drive features views of the then-newly-built Golden Gate Bridge (May 1937) and the Bay Bridge (November 1936). Back then, the Drive terminated at the fairgrounds on Treasure Island. You can learn more here about the SF Bay Area bridges.

While navigating the Drive, you should watch for the blue and white seagull signs that lead one through the city. Currently the route begins at Hayes Street and Van Ness Avenue, near City Hall, where you can get a replica of the beautifully designed sign. Maps of the Drive may be available there, as well as at the San Francisco Visitor Information Center which is operated by the Convention & Visitors Bureau. The multilingual personnel are there to assist with brochures and information at Hallidie Plaza (lower level), located at Powell and Market Streets. The center is open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday-Friday, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday-Sunday, and it is closed Sundays in November – April and on major holidays any time of year.

This set of stops brings us back downtown, and we are nearing the end of the drive. The Ferry Building, which was a terminal for commuters before the bridges were built, is one of the city’s landmarks and it now houses a vibrant marketplace and frequent farmers markets. This, and the views, are reason enough to come to enjoy this part of the waterfront.

Port of San Francisco
Here you can enjoy seven-and-a-half miles of scenic waterfront, (including Fisherman’s Wharf,detailed earlier on the 49 Mile Drive series). The Port has facilities for special events ranging from 50-15,000 people, so don’t be surprised that you may find something to visit as an event while in the City. Port tenants include: restaurants of all types, retail stores, excursion vessels, ferries, commercial shipping, ship repair, fishing, harbor services and commercial property. Fisherman’s Wharf, San Francisco

Alcatraz Island
Along the waterfront, in several locations, you can catch a ferry or cruise and even take a tour of Alcatraz Island nearby. It was once a federal maximum-security prison (from 1934 to 1963) and back then it was home to notorious Al Capone, George “Machine Gun” Kelley, and even Robert “The Birdman” Stroud. Alcatraz Island’s beautiful, natural features include: gardens, tide pools, bird colonies and breathtaking views of the bay.

Free San Francisco City Walking-Tour Guides
Check out SF City Guides, as downtown has so much to offer that it is a shame to just drive through it, yet again, at the end of this series. Now the overview is nearly over, so enjoy the City on foot for awhile!

Barbary Coast Trail
If you did not do this walk earlier in the series, this may be the time to think about it again, too. Learn more: Barbary Coast Trail, San Francisco
There are 3 Audio Tours and Walking Times are on the site. Learn more at: North Beach, San Francisco


San Francisco Archive

©2010 mystic at Travel Vacation Review