If you’re a history buff with a penchant for travel, you’ve probably at least considered spending a few days in San Francisco. The city is a vibrant historical hub — a place where stories can be found emblazoned across monuments and tucked into hidden nooks. But if you’re new to the area, you might find such an expedition a tad intimidating. But don’t worry, we’re here to help! In this blog, we’ve covered five historical sites that all historically-minded visitors (and residents!) should know.
Since July of 1984, Alamo Square has been an official historical site in San Francisco. The buildings in the Alamo Square date back to 1870, when they provided homes to the city’s then-burgeoning business class.
The site’s hillside houses almost exclusively featured retaining walls and basements that set them apart from the surrounding homes. Most of these houses were made of wood and featured elaborate ornaments marking the property’s entrance. The most prominent building in Alamo Square is the Westerfield House, which dates back to 1889. As an Italian style Villa, it boasts bay windows and a tower. The home was once possessed by John Ja Mahoney, who was known for building the Palace Hotel and owned the University of California at Berkley’s on-campus Greek theater.
Located on the grounds of San Francisco Maritime National Park is the Aquatic Park Historic District. In development between 1936 and 1939, the park was a passion project of the Works Progress Administration in California. Its purpose was to help ease the burden of the Great Depression by making jobs available for local artists and architectures.
The park’s main attraction is a structure that holds a lounge, bathhouse, and concession stand. The building features porthole windows, recessed stories, and railings constructed with tubular steel, in a nod to ocean liners. A pier and seawall complete the park.
Hunters Point Naval Shipyard
Hunters Point Naval Shipyard has historical significance to the people of San Francisco. During World War II, the U.S. Navy acquired a marine repair facility and a dry dock from Hunters Point and used these acquisitions to construct the West Coast’s largest-ever graving dry dock.
When the war ended, the dry dock was still put to good use. The Navy continued to use it for their capital ships and occasionally even welcomed vessels from foreign nations. However, the Navy stopped using the shipyard in 1974.
During the 1850s and 1860s, the vast majority of San Francisco’s businesses were located in Jackson Square. Those businesses were run by a cohort of prominent business leaders, including Colonel Jonathan Stevenson, Mayor Charles Brenham, General William Tecumseh Sherman, Paxton Dean Atherton, and Alexander Grogan.
Another significant part of Jackson Square is the Barbary Coast. Ravaged by an earthquake in 1906, many of the buildings in the area had to be reconstructed. The reconstructed buildings were meant to memorialize what the place was like before 1906. The Barbary Coast has received worldwide attention as a historical site since the 1850s.
The Northeast Waterfront warehouses date back to the 1850s, where they were first put to use during the Gold Rush. Today, the warehouses have been retrofitted to suit retail needs; however, locals recognize the warehouses as representations of maritime activities that have historically taken place in San Francisco.
Following the 1906 fires, the Northeast Waterfront became home to several prominent businesses such as the Italian-American Canning Company, Cudahy Meat Packing, American Biscuit Company, and Petri Italian-American Cigar Company. Throughout the 1920s and 1930s, the area was home to Security Lithograph, and the Sunset Press, among others. All contributed to the city’s economic development and helped San Francisco evolve into the urban hub it is today.
So, what are you waiting for? Regardless of whether you’re a visiting history buff or a city resident with an interest in city stories, you can build a diverting day trip around these local landmarks. Go out and enjoy them!