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 San Francisco, City and County California

San Francisco, City and County, consolidated in 1855. Post office and incorporated city. Bounded north by the Straits leading from the ocean to the bay of San Francisco, east by the bay, south by San Mateo, and west by the Pacific Ocean. Area, 42 square miles. Assessed valuation of property for 1874, $367,872,646. San Francisco, the commercial metropolis of the Pacific Coast, is eligibly situated on the western shore of the bay from which it derives its name, six miles from the ocean, in latitude 37° 46', and longitude 122° 23' west from Greenwich.

The Strait, now called the "Golden Gate," it is supposed was first seen by Bartolomo Fenelo, pilot and successor to Cabrillo, in March, 1543, and the Bay was discovered by a land party from San Diego, under Gaspar de Portola, in 1769, who were seeking the Bay of Monterey, but coming north via the San Joaquin Valley, had missed the object of their search. The Golden Gate, however, from the best information, was first entered on the 9th day of October, 1776, by Francisco Paulo and Benito Cambon, two monks of the Order of St. Francis de Assisi, who founded the Mission Dolores. The Mission flourished until the decree of secularization by the Mexican Government in 1836. Then the village of Yerba Buena was built, fronting a little cove of the bay included between Clark's and Rincon Points. This was the nucleus of the present great city of San Francisco. California coming into the possession of the United States in 1846, the subsequent year the plat of a large city was laid out under the direction of Commander Montgomery, of the sloop of war Portsmouth, the name of San Francisco given to it, and the names of officers of the army and navy, and of citizens then prominent in the country, given to the streets.

Not a year had passed when the discovery of gold in extraordinary quantities was made at Coloma, the news of which soon spread over the world, opening a new era in commerce and giving vitality to the new city of San Francisco. Here being a broad bay, with a deep strait leading to it constituting one of the best harbors on the globe, and the only first-class one between San Diego and Puget Sound, the great fleet of vessels laden with passengers and stores from all parts of the earth flocked hither, and the little village rapidly grew to a great city. From that date the commerce of San Francisco has gradually extended. With the acquisition of the country a subsidy was granted for the establishing of a mail line of steamers, and the Pacific Mail Steamship Company was the result. The route was from Panama to Portland, with San Francisco as a way port, but events soon changed the plan, and this became the headquarters of the Company. Other steamers and other lines were added, and fleet and graceful clipper ships were constructed to engage in carrying the trade to and from the port Steamers were built to run upon the interior waters, of every class, from the small stern-wheel to the magnificent boat of 1,000 tons. The great bay, with its many inlets, and the Sacramento and San Joaquin Rivers running into it, gave employment to a large number of these vessels and the trade was accommodated. Thus the commerce of the city grew during the second stage of San Francisco's history.

In 1869, one hundred years from the discovery of the Bay by Portola, the great Pacific Railroad was completed, and a new era began. For many years prior to the acquisition of California by the United States, the turning of the India trade, as all the South Sea and Pacific commerce was called, across the American continent, had been a favorite theme with prominent statesmen, and with such a harbor as that of San Francisco in our possession the consummation of this grand idea seemed at hand. For this the trans-continental railroad was necessary, and with its completion the turning of the current commenced. Gradually it is increasing, and lines of mammoth steamers, heavily laden with the costly products of Asia, now cross the Pacific with the regularity of ferry boats upon some inland water. Many lines of railroad now radiate from the city in every direction to the interior, and fleets of fast sailing steamships go seaward to all points of the compass. Every year new railroads are built, and new, larger and faster steamers enter upon the course and compete for the business, till it seems the hopes of our far-seeing statesmen are near fruition. The growing commerce of the Pacific, centering at San Francisco, commands the greatest enterprise and the highest engineering skill to accommodate, and steamships of 5,000 tons burden have been built for it, the finest that ever floated. Such are for the line to Japan and China, and lesser ones, though still of great size, ply to every port on the coast; to the Hawaiian Islands, to New Zealand, Australia, and other islands of the Pacific. The steam lines and railroad routes that concentrate trade in this city are too numerous to individualize; but they continue to multiply and thrive as the business of the country grows.

In no section of the world is there greater prosperity in general, and so little poverty and suffering as in San Francisco. The abject poverty observable in most large cities is here most entirely unknown. The city is broadly extended, and the pleasant residences which line the streets for many miles from the center of the town are the property of the thrifty occupants. While prosperity in small fortunes is so general, there are perhaps more individuals and firms who can count their wealth by millions than in any other city of twice the population, wherever situated. A recent newspaper report gave a list of over seventy names of individuals and firms, chiefly the former, who were worth over one million dollars, and the most of these estimate their fortunes at from five to twenty millions, vast amounts being in mining, milling and railroad stocks.

The hotels of San Francisco are unsurpassed in the world in magnitude, elegance of appointments, and generous management. The principal ones, the Lick, Occidental, Grand, and Cosmopolitan, would be the pride of any city, and these are followed by a series of superb though less costly hotels, and a vast number of every grade. The Palace Hotel, just completed, covers an area of it 96,000 square feet, having seven lofty stories, and will surpass in size, capacity, elegance and completeness of accommodation, any similar establishment in the world. The drinking saloons are a feature of the city, numbering about 2,000, some costing in their furniture and adornments from $20,000 to $30,000. The dry goods and jewelry stores are numerous, and many are fine expositions of exquisite taste and expensive display. Of benevolent institutions San Francisco claims preeminence; every race, nationality and religion, composing its cosmopolitan population, maintaining its hospital and mutual aid societies, and many elegant buildings are erected for these purposes.

The City Hall in course of construction on what was formerly Yerba Buena Park, is planned to be one of the grandest edifices of the kind in the United States, its estimated cost being $3,000,000. The federal buildings follow the general style as the city advances, the Appraiser Store and offices, and the Mint, being the latest structures. The latter, being completed and occupied in October, 1874, is an elegant and substantial structure of brick, faced with polished stone, the whole costing about $ 1,500,000. The public schools are of a very high order, giving free education to near 20,000 pupils, from the primary to the collegiate course, and are maintained at an annual expense of near $400,000. Some of the school buildings are noble specimens of architecture, commanding the admiration of visitors and the pride of citizens. The churches are numerous, of every sect and denomination, many being grand and costly, comporting with the civilization of the day. The theatres class among the best in the world, and are patronized with a liberality that draws the brightest stars of the profession to their boards. Masonic, Odd Fellows, Pioneers, Academy of Science, and many Societies and Clubs have fine temples and halls, and maintain libraries of many thousands of volumes.

Eight different Street Railroad Companies run cars in every direction throughout the city, having an aggregate of about thirty miles of double track through an equal length of streets. Water is supplied from a system of streams and reservoirs in the an Bruno range of hills, from six to thirty miles south of the city, whence it is brought in ditches, flumes and iron pipes, and is distributed through some 150 miles of pipe, to customers in every portion of the town. A single company supplies gas to all, and as a consequence fixes its rates to its own satisfaction. Ferries and railroads give frequent communication with suburban towns where are the residences of many of the business men of the city. The Saucelito and San Rafael ferries, to those quiet and beautiful places in Marin County, a ferry to Berkeley and the State University, two large steamers connecting with railroad keep up half-hourly trips to Oakland, Brooklyn, Alameda and other places in Alameda County, and the Southern Pacific Railroad accommodates the dwellers on the peninsula.

Three large islands rise in the Bay, Angel, Alcatraces and Yerba Buena, or Goat Island, and are retained by the United States Government for military and defensive purposes, in Alcatraces, the smallest of the three, rises directly the channel and is strongly fortified. This island is six hundred yards in length, by two hundred and sixty in width, and rises to a height of one hundred and thirty five feet. The fortifications, barracks, light house, etc, on Alcatraces form a conspicuous object to travelers entering the harbor, or sailing on the Bay.

On the main land, Telegraph Hill rises conspicuously to an altitude of three hundred and one feet, as a bold head-land projecting into the harbor, and is covered with buildings to the top. Russian Hill, farther inland, but still in the city, has an altitude of four hundred and thirteen feet, and is also closely built upon.

Officers: James Otis, Mayor; Selden S. Wright, County Judge; Maurice C. Blake, Municipal Judge; Milton H. Myrick, Probate Judge; Davis Louderback Jr, Police Judge; William Harney, County Clerk; Thomas P Ryan, District Attorney; W. C. Burnett, City and County Attorney; William McKibbin. Sheriff; T. G. Cockrill, Chief Police; Otto H. Frank, Recorder; Monroe Ashbury, Auditor; Charles Hubert, Treasurer; Alexander Austin, Tax Collector; James O. Dean, License Collector; Alexander Badlam, Assessor: Samuel H. Kent, Superintendent Streets; William P. Humphreys, Surveyor; Benjamin R. Swan, Coroner; Simon Mayer, Public Administrator; James Denman, Superintendent Public Schools; Henry Gibbons, Jr, Health Officer; William Morton, Harbor Master.

California Gazetteer | AHGP California

Source: Pacific Coast Business Directory for 1876-78, Compiled by Henry G. Langley, San Francisco, 1875

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