Amazing images of San Francisco before it was a city

San francisco sand dunes 2Found San FranciscoSand dunes at the edge of the Richmond District for San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park in the 1880s.

Before San Francisco was a bustling tech hub, before it was the center of the hippie universe, and before it became known for its lush hills, much of the area was covered in sand dunes.

Golden Gate Park, the 1,000-acre green space south of the famous bridge that turns 80 years old this year, is located on what was once the largest sand dune ecosystem in the western hemisphere. These dunes spanned seven miles, essentially the entire width of modern-day San Francisco.

About two square miles of dunes still exist today, but the Bay Area has evolved a great deal since then.

Take a look at the maps, paintings, and historical photographs that show the journey of San Francisco.

San Francisco's first residents, members of the Yelamu tribe, began inhabiting the area around 3000 BC. Approximately 150 to 300 people lived in the boundaries of modern-day San Francisco, though they also roamed to neighbouring sites.

Library of Congress

Source: San Francisco Chronicle

A group of Spanish explorers, led by Don Gaspar de Portolà, arrived there in 1769. This was the first documented European visit to the San Francisco Bay.

At the time, sand dunes stretched for about seven miles from east to west.

Willard Worden/Open SF History
A 1910 photo of a sand dune in Golden Gate Park, San Francisco.

Source: San Francisco Department of the Environment

Here's another early 20th century photo of sand dunes, which formed centuries prior, in what is now the 1,000-acre Golden Gate Park:

The Spanish settlers established the Presidio of San Francisco (i.e. the 'Royal Fortress of Saint Francis') in 1776.

NYPL

The same year, the Mission San Francisco de Asís, the oldest surviving structure in the city, was built. The Catholic church was made of adobe, brush, and wood, which weren't the best materials considering California's earthquakes. Here it is in an 1863 photograph:

NYPL

The Mission church was part of a complex of buildings, used for housing, agriculture, and manufacturing.

The area remained under Spanish rule until 1821, when it became a part of Mexico.

Library of Congress

In 1835, English entrepreneur William Richardson founded the city's first homestead outside Mission San Francisco de Asís, near what is today Portsmouth Square (a one-block park in the city's Chinatown neighbourhood).

Wikipedia Commons
Portsmouth Square, 1851.

Source: San Francisco Gate

The same year, Richardson and Alcalde Francisco de Haro, a Mexican soldier, laid out an urban plan for a larger town, named Yerba Buena ('Good Herb' in Spanish) after an aromatic plant native to the area. The town began to attract American settlers.

Sand dunes at the edge of the Richmond District for San Francisco's Golden Gate Park in the 1880s.

A decade later, Yerba Buena had doubled in population to nearly 1,000 residents, and the town's name was changed to San Francisco.

Public Domain

Source: 'The San Francisco Bay Area'

In 1849, San Francisco became the home base for the gold rush, cementing it as a center for maritime trade.

NYPL
An 1894 illustration of San Francisco in 1849.

Source: History.com

But in 1906, a huge earthquake and fire devastated the city. Here's a photo of the wreckage of San Francisco's City Hall:

NYPL

Over the next few decades, San Francisco rebuilt itself ...

NYPL/Ewing Galloway
A riveter works on a skyscraper in San Francisco, circa early 1900s.

... and its population boomed.

NYPL
San Francisco, circa early 1900s.

Construction on the 1.7-milelong Golden Gate Bridge began in 1933 -- though Central Pacific Railroad founder Charles Crocker proposed in 1872. The 887,000-ton bridge, which opened in 1937, uses cables made by the same company that built the Brooklyn Bridge.

Library of Congress
A 1934 of the Golden Gate Bridge construction in San Francisco.

In the past 80 years, the Golden Gate Bridge has only closed three times due to bad weather.

Throughout the first half of the 20th century, the city built up its infrastructure. Here's a 1945 photo of a street with the city's earliest streetcars, which debuted in 1873.

Wikipedia Commons

Source: San Francisco Cable Car Museum

The promise of San Francisco's bohemia, cool summers ...

Getty Images Hulton Archive
American psychedelic rock band The Grateful Dead poses in San Francisco, circa 1960s.

... and the beautiful bay brought more residents to the city.

Two women pose with the Bay Bridge in San Francisco, circa 1940s.

Today, San Francisco is home to over 800,000 people.

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