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EARLY SETTLEMENT AND SUBSEQUENT PROGRESS
Prior to 1835 the present site of the city was wholly uninhabited, what few people there were in the neighborhood residing at the Presidio and the Mission Dolores. Vessels entering the harbor anchored off the Presidio, that being the "embarcadero" for the Mission, which was then the principal point of business. In the historical portion of this volume will be found a sketch of the early settlement of San Francisco, the name adopted for the town in 1847, it having previously been called Yerba Buena, the name still retained by the large island in the bay opposite the city.
Having already become an active village, with a population of several hundred, the growth of the place, greatly accelerated by the discovery of gold in 1848, expanded with unexampled rapidity on the arrival of the new immigration, a little more than one year thereafter. Its progress has since been steady and healthful, the establishment of manufactures, and the unbounded confidence felt in its future, having greatly hastened its growth during the past few years. But in its recent advancement it has by no means outstripped the requirements of its business and population, both of which have fully kept pace with its growth. The city now covers an area more than double that occupied by it ten years ago, its population and local industries having increased in a ratio even greater than its territorial expansion.
STREET GRADES, PLAY GROUNDS, ETC.
It is unfortunate that the city was originally projected with so little regard to regularity, to the natural inequalities of surface and its future wants as relates to width of streets, reservation of grounds for parks, public buildings, etc.; owing to which, the inhabitants have already been subject to great inconvenience and expense in attempting to partially supply these omissions and remedy these defects. Not a street in the city conforms in its course to the cardinal points of the compass; the whole town standing askew—its grand plot being made of a patch-work of surveys executed at different times and apparently without object or system. In this manner many of the streets and blocks are cut by awkward angles for which there was no necessity, while a large number of the streets entering the main avenues from opposite directions strike the same at points widely separated, whereby their continuity has been destroyed—suggesting, in the miner's phrase, the occurrence of a "slide."
For this culpable neglect of system and foresight, no better excuse is to be found than the inability of the earlier settlers of the town to foresee its future greatness and the reckless indifference of those who came after, as to both its appearance and welfare.
In adjusting the street grades these grave mistakes have been further mutiplied, in an utter disregard of the topography, whereby dangerous precipices and unsightly chasms have been formed in the very heart of the town, through the costly and generally vain endeavor to reduce these natural inequalities of the surface. This system, while it has operated to the great detriment of property-holders, has in numerous instances also resulted in the permanent disfigurement of the
So narrow were many of the streets, which it should have been foreseen must become great thoroughfares, that it has lately been found necessary to widen several of them; while others, in consequence of a too abrupt termination, have required to be extended in order to accommodate the trade and travel of certain quarters, these prolongations causing irreparable defacement to the blocks and streets they are made to cross. In those parts of the town more recently laid out many of the above mentioned evils have been avoided. The citizens have also of late become earnestly interested in the subject of setting apart from the Pueblo lands ample reservations for school houses, parks, squares and similar purposes; therefore, it seems probable that San Francisco will in a short time be noted for the extent of its public grounds, if not for the costly style of their improvement.
The city is already the owner of sixteen squares, ranging in size from one acre, or a little more, to seventeen acres—the area of Yerba Buena, the largest of the number. The most of these squares contain four acres each, the area of the whole being 117.45 acres. Although nearly all of them are enclosed, only Portsmouth, the smallest of the number, and often called by way of distinction the "Plaza," has been improved.
The greater portion of the earth removed in excavating the streets and grading lots has been used to fill in the tide lands, of which there is a large scope lying east of and in front of the city. Many of the sand-hills have also, through the aid of the steam-paddy and a resort to temporary railroads, been removed and employed to fill in the water lots along the city front, much of the eastern section of the town, comprising some of the principal business streets, standing wholly on these made lands.
In designating the streets, the plan of naming, instead of number
ing or lettering, has been adopted; in the older parts of the town, the cognomens of early settlers having been largely used for the purpose, although our more national names, such as Washington, Franklin, Jefferson, Clay, Webster, Scott, etc., have by no means been ignored. A few of those appellations common in English and American cities, such as Broadway, Front, Market, Main streets, and the like, are also found here. The Philadelphia, or rather, perhaps, we should say, the botanical plan, of naming the streets after certain well known trees, has not obtained to any great extent, the list being confined to four or five species. In the southern part of the town, a portion of the streets running southeast from market, the back-bone of the city, have been numbered, some of those thus designated being named as well. For some of the streets south of Mission bay, names have been selected from the several States of the Union, interspersed among which, with characteristic confusion, are the names of California counties, and a sprinkling derived from other sources.
IMPROVEMENT OF WATER FRONT.
Originally the water along the city front was so shallow, except at a few bluff points, that large vessels could not approach within a quarter of a mile of the shore, necessitating the use of boats and lighters for receiving and landing freight and passengers. Soon, however, wharves resting on piles were built, extending sufficiently far into the bay to admit every class of craft lying along side them. Meantime the space between the outer end of these structures and high water line began to be filled in with earth, sand and rubbish carted in from the city, to which being superadded the surface wash and slum of the sewers, a mass of decomposing filth soon accumulated, which, besides offending the senses and imperiling the public health, threatened, by gradually settling outward, to fill up and destroy the harbor.
With a view to obviate these evils and arrest this danger, the plan of building a sea-wall having been determined upon, the construction of this work was commenced in 1867, and is now in progress; the intention being to prosecute it as rapidly as the revenues derived from the wharves will admit, these having been set aside for the purpose. This sea-wall, which is eventually to extend along the entire city front, a distance of 8,446 feet, is to be formed of a rocky embankment at the bottom, with a superstructure of solid granite, and will cost, when completed, according to estimate, about two and a half million dollars.
In the southeastern part of the city, large areas of the shallow waters bordering Mission bay have, within the past few years, been filled in with solid earth, temporary bulkheads having been constructed to retain the mass in place, where necessary. Upon these new made lands many large warehouses, brick stores, and other permanent structures have been erected, some portions of them now ranking among the most thronged thoroughfares in the city.
STYLE AND PECULIABITIES OF BUILDINGS — FEAR OF EARTHQUAKES, AND ITS EFFECTS.
The architecture of the city, for a long time exceedingly crude and eccentric, has greatly improved within the past ten years, having become universally more chaste and regular. At first the character of the buildings was not only autre in style, but extremely fragile and temporary, there being neither the material nor the disposition to make them more tasteful, solid, or enduring. For many years no other building material than lumber could be had except at enormous cost, while the urgent necessities of trade forbade the delay necessary for the erection of more permanent structures. The sweeping fires, however, and the fear of earthquakes, together with the gradual cheapening of more solid material, have at length, not only led to the abandonment of this light and flimsy style of building, but has caused it to be superseded by one distinguished for massiveness and endurance. In no other city in the Union are the buildings more remarkable in this respect than those erected during the last few years in the business parts of San Francisco; nor in this extreme attention to solidity and strength have ornamentation and elegance been overlooked.
Owing to a fear of earthquakes the houses in San Francisco are not built as high as in most other large cities, the greater part of them, including the leading public edifices, not exceeding three or four stories in height. There is not a brick building of any magnitude in the city having more than five stories, and, perhaps, not a dozen having more than four, exclusive of basement. Experience does not, to be sure, warrant the apprehension of grave danger or damage as likely to arise from this cause; no loss of life or serious injury to limb or property ever having happened in consequence thereof since the founding of the city. Earthquakes are, indeed, of frequent occurrence, one or more shocks being felt nearly every year. But with two or three exceptions they have been so slight as to cause no alarm—scarcely to attract more than passing attention—the majority of them not even being observed by most people. Many persons have resided in San Francisco since its earliest settlement without being once conscious of the occurrence of these phenomena; the only damage arising from which has been the throwing down of some toppling parapets, and the cracking of certain ill-constructed walls, with slight injury on one or two occasions to a few newly erected brick buildings, the whole of which was repaired at an expense of less than ten thousand dollars—a very inconsiderablo sum compared with the benefits that have indirectly accrued from the fears inspired by these harmless disturbances.
CHURCHES AND PLACES OF PUBLIC WORSHIP.
San Francisco contains forty-six churches, apportioned among the several religious denominations as follows: Baptist, Congregationalist and Jewish, 4 each; Episcopalian, 5; Methodist, 9; Presbyterian, 6; Lutheran, 2; Catholic, 10; Unitarian, 1; Universalist, 1; besides which there are a number of sects, ten or fifteen in the aggregate, who regularly worship in public halls, court rooms, and similar places. Two of these establishments belong to the people of color, both being commodious buildings and largely attended. The congregations owning them are of the Methodist Episcopal persuasion, and number among their members many persons of intelligence and wealth. Some of the church edifices of San Francisco are costly and imposing structures, the expenditure upon several, including cost of site, having exceeded $200,000. Besides these places of Christian and Jewish worship, there are two Chinese temples in the city, with a number of small chapels wherein this people pay their devotions, the temples being used only at intervals, as on New Year's day, and other religious or festive occasions. At these times all the rites and ceremonies peculiar to Budhism are carefully observed, this worship involving, after the wont of all Oriental religions, a vast display of barbaric tinsel and studied formality.
THEATRES, AND OTHER PLACES OF AMUSEMENT.
There are eight theatres of various grades in San Francisco, one of the oldest and largest having early in 1868 been destroyed by fire. These institutions have always been well sustained, the people of California having, from the earliest settlement of the State, been liberal patrons of the drama, notwithstanding the prices of admission to these places, much less now than formerly, are more than fifty per cent. higher than in any other part of the world.
The individual receipts of these theatres range from three up to twenty thousand dollars per month. For several years past, theatrical performances, previously allowed on the Sabbath, have been prohibited by law on that day—a restriction that excites much opposition on the