1878 Panorama of San Francisco from California Street Hill

1878 San Francisco: is this a 30 y.o. city?

  • Yes

    Votes: 2 4.9%
  • No

    Votes: 37 90.2%
  • Not Sure

    Votes: 2 4.9%

  • Total voters
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jd755

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All from this picture Panorama of San Francisco taken from the tower of the house of Mrs. Mark Hopkins
Gasometers where gas made from heating coal is stored and the gas itself being contained provides the pressure to send it across the city by pipes. San Francisco was lit and in part heated by gas.

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On the left a coal fire chimney. On the right and middle the chimneys where gas has replaced coal are fitted with different types of gas cowls.

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Woodburner chimney.
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Horse buggy and gas light. Incidentally that is what is in the post above this a gas light which had to have its valve opened and mantle checked and lit by hand at dusk and turned off again by hand at dawn.

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Factory air vents.
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Fire hydrant.
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I think these may be water header tanks (the two rectangular boxes) used to provide pressure to taps given that they are on the roof of some but not all buildings I suggest we are looking at a wealthy part of town.

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Domestic washing in the breeze. Also another gas light with what looks to me like a mailbox attached to it.

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A laundry is probably located in this building!
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What I am not seeing is any soil stack pipes which suggests any toilets there are are likely outside in the yards of the buildings or the night soil man is plying his trade and chamber pots are in use.
 
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KorbenDallas

KorbenDallas

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Sure was, but I think that's a different location. At the same time it's interesting how drastic the landscape change is. Similar to our African desert issues it is. Greenery gets replaced by a desert... real quick.

Wondering what we have in place of this SF now.

KD: Depending on which direction this spin takes us, a few messages could become a thread of their own.

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jd755

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Just had a peruse through another of those panorama shots.

Gas cowls waiting to be fitted suggests the fireplaces in this building are being retrofitted with gas radiant heaters.
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Definitely a header tank. Odd that it is a repurposed barrel rather than th square tanks on other rooftops so maybe it is an earlier version or the people installed this one did so using what was to hand.
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New wooden structure on top of older brick structure?
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This is a rather high class building as it has its own private gaslights outside and a dovecote in the garden which in itself is a much bigger garden space than any other I have yet seen

Gaslights
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Dovecote
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A row of street trees in their wooden tree guards.
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Sun drying either zucchini or cucumbers?
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Left to right Coal fire chimney, rectangular header tank and a pair of vent pipes which suggests below them is a tank of oil, spirit, petrol probably in a shop of some description.
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There is a lot of washing out drying in the big picture. I found this line of washing interesting as it is clearly aprons and such which suggests workers of some description and on the other side of the superb fence is an immaculate garden.
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This looks to me to be a factory building of some kind as evidenced by the numerous tanks on the roof, most likely water but who knows and the steam/smoke coming out of the central chimney.
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This coal fire chimney had trouble crating a draught so it has been lengthened considerably by the addition of metal pipes. You can tell its coal from the blackened inside tops of the pipes.
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A stack of wood which suggests work is ongoing in the vicinity be it fence or weatherboard repairs. Which given the sheer volume of wood being used in this city it would explain why there are mounds of what looks like loose 'fill' around the place yet to be built on. All the tree over has gone and with it the lands ability to hold itself together. It has dried out which leads to dust storms which leads to the land literally blowing away in pretty short order. It also explains the totally denuded hills where they an be seen. Not a tree in sight. Boardwalks, roads, fences, buildings, furniture, carts, fuel. It must have been Armageddon from a trees perspective.

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And finally anyone have any idea what the hell this is. I can make head nor tail of it. It appears very 'railroad' ish but beyond that I am stumped.

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Aldebaran

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We also know the exact time... 12:30 PM
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the "cathedral" with the 2 large domes, is called the Temple Emanu-el... It's actually a Jewish synagogue see : Temple Emanu-El on Sutter near Powell Street,destroyed in the 1906 earhquake

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It will be a lot easier to find out what's/what on the Panorama photo's with this map of SF made with the help of one of the first airships...
hope this helps!

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Zoomable link of the map ( Telegraph Hill from where the Panorama photo´s taken is nr 111, this makes it much easier to recognize & identify buildings/streets/etc.)

Other USEFUL resources :
Good Luck!
 
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jd755

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Another image another set of things seen within it. This time it is the last one in the sequence. It is staggering the number of religious structures there are in this place. Big ones, little ones funding such things didn't seem to be a problem. Some look very grand stone built affairs others have a facade of stone with the other walls being wood and weatherboard whilst others are all wood. The only things that surpasses them is 'city hall' surprise surprise the great god of government must trump all other gods in town.


A hosepipe coiled up on a wall so there really is piped water in the city.
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Another header barrel this time on a pole and shelf attached to the outside wall of the building.
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Intriguing. No idea what this semi circular dome structure is.
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These are cordylines and they are round fifteen to twenty years old judging by their height in relation to the fence. Not a real guide to the age of the well kept bungalow as they could have been planted at that height but if grown from smaller plants it alludes to the building being there a fair few years.
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This small house between the two bigger ones is likely to be much older than they are and stylistically they are years apart given its size. Also in the picture is a sizeable tree blowing in the breeze as evidenced by its movement.
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Just clock the height of this short row of street trees. They are likely to be over ten years old maybe twice that. Cannot tell the species so cannot narrow it down further.
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Smoke out of a chimney on the bungalow with the cordylines so someone was home when Eddie took his photographs.
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A shop laid out with goods on a pavement display.
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The first bit of new half built construction I have yet come across.
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Aldebaran

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I have difficulties locating the exact location where the photos were taken..... On Wikipedia it says it's on Nob Hill where the Mark Hopkins mansion was located, (now Intercontinental) but If you look at the photo where you can see the Emanu-el Temple and check the angle, it's located somewhere else compared to the map of 1875

Please help? If we can pinpoint the exact location on the map of 1875, it's very easy to locate all the other buildings/stuff.... Thank you!

Intriguing. No idea what this semi circular dome structure is.

Answer:
142. Mechanics Pavilion 8th & Mission, This is the inside in 1875, here in 1885

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jd755

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On the bottom of this picture, the last one in the series, it states 'Mechanics Exposition building' and further over 'city hall'. Panorama of San Francisco taken from the tower of the house of Mrs. Mark Hopkins
Taking ones eyes up from 'city hall' one arrives at the giant government citadel. So using that logic I took it that the modern stone built building directly above the word 'mechanics pavilion' was the pavilion not the semi circular building way in the distance

Well spotted.
Could the location be the Leland Stanford mansion as he was Eddie the photographers sponsor during this time period?

Using your zoomable map link my money is on Stanfords place. 180 on the map. Again using your map the gas works 181 location seems to me to point to Stanfords mansion as the place.
 
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KorbenDallas

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Are there any preliminary conclusions we could draw, as to what type of society we are dealing with here, in reference to the technology, and architecture?

How old do you think this city is?

Could gold rushers build all that?
 

jd755

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Well having just gone through another image a few things are becoming clear.
Firstly the haze in all of them is simply a heat haze given the location and time of day and probability of the season, summer, the lack of tree cover all around, such hazes would be common.
Next there are people around. Very few it has to be said but noon being the hottest part of the day most people would likely be indoors away from the sun. Only supposition but it appears likely.
There is a progression of infrastructure visible which suggests to me a 'growing' town. Not only in the structures which seem to be using 'my house is bigger than your house' method of demonstrating 'success' but also the existence of empty lots and distant road laying and construction suggests it is expanding outwards.

The presence of gas works, piped gas, gas lighting internally and externally, piped pressurised water, hydrants and header tanks, downspouts (just found some in the latest picture examination) telegraph poles, large trees in the city (only a few but they are there), factories, commercial establishments, houses all mixed up together is suggestive of an ongoing wave of expansion.
The the outdoor toilet has yet to be discovered in the pictures but if i isn't there then sanitation is by chamber pot an night soil removal is my guess ergo they are beyond digging holes in the ground.

The volume of wood this place consumed is beyond belief. It makes up the majority of the infrastructure materials with stone and brick lagging way behind.

My feeling is it is a society that has come into being from nothing almost and has 'grown up a bit'. It isn't the 'wild west' we are looking at but more of a 'dynamic west'. One that hs gone beyond the 'early days' rawness of establishing a settlement and is becoming a citadel of capitalism to put it a certain way.
Churches abound of many religious persuasions and in common they seek financial wealth so it follows there must have been considerable financial wealth generated prior to this picture for the churches to get as big and as numerous as they are.
They are not universally built of stone. Some are fakers in that they have a stone facade and wooden walls, probably it isn't structural stonework but what we would call cladding, just my feeling I have found no evidence of the construction of churches in the images I have looked at.

Any 'goldrush' age buildings if they remain at all are hidden in the mess.
I have only found one building which is a wooden structure built on top of a brick/stone one (I favour brick the image is up the page aways).
It doesn't have the feel of permanency that many places do.
Thirty years I don't know possibly given the amount of wooden buildings there are and the way the 'industry' and 'residential' are mixed up.
Interestingly it is around this time the town where I am was rising up from nothing and it too was termed the 'wild west' due to its rapid expansion, if the history books are any guide!
 

Timeshifter

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Just a few quick observations of this section. 3rd, 4th and 5th from the right.

Some signs of life on one street, workmen and horses perhaps? Looks like a military operation! With a Bus? at the end of the street?

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Plenty of anomalies:

Refinement plant? also spotted by @jd755

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Lego House

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Also Iron ships clearly a plenty, were there so many iron/ steam ships in 1878?

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Clearly, this city is pretty much dormant, except for some workmen, being readied for resettlement?

I can not imagine this city being built in 30 years, look at the amount of and differing architecture, much of which we would struggle to reproduce today..

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Full image above Hi Res
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jd755

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No those are definitely gasometers used for storing gas made from heating coal as evidenced by the gasometer and 'gas works' marked on Aldebrans map and also in my youth there were three of them in the town where I as brought up in use till the mid seventies.

Good catch on the streetcar. Couldn't figure out what the track was for.

Tram or street car track. Just about the only thing of the time that could climb such a gradient.
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Two carts one with a driver one without.
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Climbing plant trellis in a garden probably beans or cucumbers. Points to occupation.
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A cart without a horse presumably being loaded or unloaded.
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A childs swing. Points to occupation.
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Downspout photo's probably lead going off the third photo but no way to tell.
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Empty lot with new wall and land drawn back to allow wall to be constructed. The 'finished' level will likely be just above the double course of bricks about half way up the wall on the left. Points to ongoing work.
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Small bird or small animal accommodation. Off the ground so likely pigeons or doves. Again points to occupation.
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Another lot in the process of being graded prior to building I would guess with an established garden on either side.
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Another hosepipe this time connected to a stand pipe. Points to occupation and water mains.
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Telegraph pole and lumber in the street points to work in progress.
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Timeshifter

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No those are definitely gasometers used for storing gas made from heating coal as evidenced by the gasometer and 'gas works' marked on Aldebrans map and also in my youth there were three of them in the town where I as brought up in use till the mid seventies.
Agreed, we have similar ones in the UK, used for Gas.

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I would love to have another few thousand pixels more to play with in the original photos, it is a treasure trove of truth!
 

jd755

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The gasometers here were dark green and rust affairs without the skirt on the one you pictured. Interesting and enormous compared to everything around them.

I came across this excellent site looking for info on the street cars 8 Original Cable Car Companies

This picture stood out
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A Ferries & Cliff House Railway Powell-Jackson car turns off an undeveloped Jackson Street on to Central Avenue (now Presidio Ave.) shortly after the line opened in 1888.

The land, as the land in the panorama, looks to me to be singularly unsuited to occupation let alone development. The amount of work involved in putting that cutting in above for example is hard to fathom unless the spoil is easy to excavate and shift. Rock appears to be a long way down.

As for the town it is clearly going through rapid change with most of it no longer 'frontier' and hasn't been for some time if the way in which bigger is replacing smaller willy nilly across the panorama is any guide.
I have only found one thing which looks out of place rather than out of time which will be in the next batch of images I post up.
Whilst it is surprising to see piped gas and piped water so 'early' in time perhaps that is nothing more than both being around for my lifetime so they become 'taken for granted'.
What I cannot yet see is any evidence for any structure being dug out and reused or indeed any signs of anything that predates the place.

What do you think of this picture which must predate the panorama but sadly it isn't dated. From here San Francisco during the California Gold Rush 1849-1853
Whose pictures reveal the San Francisco area is devoid of trees and has been for a long while. I have a book here called 'Paradise Found' by Steve Nicholls and it is full of the sheer unadulterated abundance there once was on the American landmass so will have a peruse to see what he found out about the area in question.

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jd755

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Well will try to find a better and dated version of that photograph. Found one its massive plenty of pixels timeshifter, plenty and it is dated 1856. (wiki link as wiki has changed it into the jpg format from the tif) but original source is 1. Historic American Buildings Survey Wells Fargo Bank Historical Museum San Francisco, California GENERAL VIEW - 1856 - Folsom & Second Streets, Historic View, San Francisco, San Francisco County, CA)

San Francisco California -1856
But in this one I am pretty sure it is analogous with the panorama because in the panorama there is a paddle steamer on the mud (Will wait till morning to go through it and find her) and the little paddle steamer in the foreground of this image looks just like her to me.
If so then we get another angle of the city that the panorama doesn't give one looking up the hills from the water.

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Also an interestingsite a MUST read. The Silver Era, 1860-1870 - FoundSF

As it is a serialisation of a book about historical San Francisco with plenty of pictures and photographs, "Vanished Waters: A History of San Francisco's Mission Bay" published by the Mission Creek Conservancy
This one is interesting as it depicts the newly opened gas works.

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South Beach View of Mission Bay. In 1869 Joseph Lee, one of San Francisco’s best marine artists, made this meticulous study standing on the Pacific Mail Dock, looking south from the foot of First Street. The railroad spur is on the bulkhead, built to start filling the land northwest of First and Townsend. A ship is hauled up on Tichenor’s ways at the foot of Second Street, just in front of the newly completed Citizens’ Gasworks. The smokestack marks the site of the Pacific Oil and Lead Works. This view of South Beach, the northeastern boundary of Mission Bay, was made as the building boom was just underway in anticipation of the completion of the transcontinental railroad. In the distance is Potrero Point; Long Bridge is concealed by the cluster of new industries at the foot of Second Street.

The new gasometer, new in 1865!
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Post automatically merged:

Going through these pictures and the websites that appeared one thing keeps on nagging at me, why here?
The photographs show the site of San Fancisco to be just a huge area of sand dunes or sand hills as we call them here on the island of Britain. Try as I might I can find no reason why such a place would be somewhere that needs populating and I say needs because there it is what appears to have happened.

A named mormon (always dodgy when the instigator of things turns up and is named, to me at least) turns up with a couple of hundred people and lo and behold this name is the one who announces the 'discovery of gold' to the locals which was the trigger for the flood of people and all the infrastructure to support the numbers sucked in.

The area was deliberately populated despite having no natural resources to support a rapidly increasing population.

The depth of the sand is considerable and I wonder how it got up to such heights. Tsunami might do it or successive Tsunami's, wind could do it given enough time or is there something under the sand that had to be hidden a la 400 year old Sahara kind of thing.
This to me is the mystery of the place.

Clearly it is going to all collapse at some point as the sand will move one the correct resonance frequency is made by whatever natural or unnatural device creates it. Sound moves sand as anyone an see if they put some on a speaker. Could it be sound that forms the sand up into these hills and hides whatever is underneath?
Was the resonance of sound known but the resonance of stone unknown or is the sand simply deconstructed rock, deconstructed by sound or mining spoil, sonic mining not mechanical mining.

I know, I know wandering around again.
 
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Aldebaran

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The cable cart that is visible is on California street:, the California Street Cable Railroad this is very interesting, since it opened in 1878 and was founded by Leland Stanford who funded the photographer of the Panorama photo's of 1878: Eadweard Muybridge....

Another thing I would like to discuss are the "Woodward's Gardens" and the buildings there.... On this picture of 1867 you can clearly that this is a mosque with the Star & crescent symbols (on top & on the walls).... apparently this was an amusement/theme park & some kind of zoo.... I can't find anything however about the construction of the buildings found there... What is also strange is that Robert B. Woodward bought this property from the US Senator John C. Frémont... Were these buildings already there when he bought the place? Another peculiar thing is that no alcohol was being served in this place.... That makes sense if it used to be a Islamic holy place before.... No idea, but I find this building not in "line" with the whole place and the explanation..... See here for more info or more pictures.... ofcourse there is a strong connection again between Robert B Woodward, the gardens and our photographer Eadweard Muybridge ....

There is more "islamic" architecture to be found in historical SF, check out this photo or this one, The so called "Hammam Baths" This text doesn't make any sense to me :

[Hammam Baths] 11-13 Dupont (now Grant Avenue) The building was set back from the street, so that when Dupont Street was widened on the west side a few years later, the front steps met the new sidewalk, and the building did not have to be torn down or moved back on its lot. (WMK)

yeah right.... like if they knew about this in advance.... "Let's build this building away from the street, maybe somewhere in the future they will widen it"

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jd755

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In 1856 it was much more open with the building style very different to the 1878 photographs. Looks to me to predate the 1878 but enough to support the population explosion claims, not so much.

I did find an outhouse though!
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A very ornate greenhouse
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A wooden wall or fence cut into the sand hill presumably to stop it from getting to the building.
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A small bit of boardwalk outside a shop
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Possibly an original city hall?
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And two lots of carts.
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Strikes me this is a place undergoing rapid change. Once again it comes across as the worst of places to set up a town with sand dunes/hills everywhere i'll lay odds it was 'real fun' when the wind whipped up. The settlement hasn't been around long going from the more ornate bargeboarding and the state of the vegetation along with the way it has yet to reach up the hills as it does in the 1878 photograph.
Rapid change of open sand to buildings and roads in 1856 and change of the 1856 type buildings into larger more grandiose and a bigger volume of buildings in 1878 covering much more sand.
 

norton

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Hi everyone. I'm pretty new to this subject and this forum. This is actually my first post. Anyway, I'm a book collector and have an extensive collection of San Francisciana (as we say) with many books dating to the mid-nineteenth century. I also have some maps of similar vintage. Last night out of curiousity I started flipping through one of the books ("The Annals of San Francisco," 1854) and almost immediately came across the depicted passage, which has enigmatic references to submerged buildings, the "original designers of the town," and so forth.

I was also intrigued by the book plate sticker in the book (of the former owner, one of the early residents of The City), though I'm not sure what it signifies; perhaps someone here knows. I have to say I found some things in this book that struck me as very curious. If this is the right place for that discussion I can post more. Thanks.

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