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Fascinating San Francisco   By:

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Fascinating San Francisco

"O Warder of Two Continents!" Bret Harte

San Francisco



Enthroned on hills, San Francisco captivates the stranger who sees it from the Bay by the vivacity of its landscape long before revealing any of its intimate lures. Whether you approach in the early morning, when gulls arc wheeling above the palette of tones of the Bay, or at night, when illuminated ferryboats glide by like the yellow bannered halls of fable, the buoyancy of San Francisco is manifest.

It increases as you pass through the Ferry Building, the turnstile behind the Golden Gate, whose blithe tower of the four clock dials is reminiscent of the Giralda in Seville.

In another moment you are in the surge of Market street, the long bazaar and highroad of this port of all flags. An invisible presence dances before your footsteps as you sense the animation of the street. It is the spirit of San Francisco, weaving its debonair spell.

Here Tetrazzini turns street singer and Jan Kubelik is a wandering minstrel enchanting crowds at Lotta's Fountain under Christmas eve stars.

From Dana to Stevenson, from Harte to Mencken, San Francisco has captured the hearts of a train of illustrious admirers. Rudyard Kipling, master of the terse, has tooled a brisk drypoint of the city in a few strokes. "San Francisco has only one drawback," he writes. "'Tis hard to leave."

Cradled as a drowsy Spanish pueblo, reared as a child of the mines, and fed on all the exhilarants of the gold spangled days of the Argonauts, San Francisco is like a dashing Western beauty with the eyes of an exotic ancestry.

Bristling with contradictions, the city presents the paradox of being the most intensely American and yet the most cosmopolitan community on the continent, with aspects as variable as the medley of alien tongues heard on its streets.

A festival of life is staged at this meeting place of the nations, farthest outpost of Aryan civilization in its westward march.

Inez Haynes Irwin in her Californiacs sounds a warning for the stranger in San Francisco.

"If you ever start for California with the intention of seeing anything of the state," she admonishes, "do that before you enter San Francisco. If you must land in San Francisco first, jump into a taxi, pull down the curtain, drive through the city, breaking every speed law, to Third and Townsend, sit in the station until a train some train, any train pulls out, and go with it. If in crossing Market street you raise that curtain as much as an inch, believe me, stranger, it's all off; you're lost. You'll never leave San Francisco."

This booklet aims to keep the curtain up.

Inside the Gate

If you turn a map showing the basin of San Francisco Bay so that the Pacific Ocean is nearest your eye, you see a peninsula thrust out from the California coast like a great boot.

San Francisco stretches for six or seven miles across the toe of the boot. Dominated by hills, the city is flanked by the Pacific on the west and by the Bay on the north and east. To the northwest, joining ocean and bay, is the Golden Gate, the only gap in the coastal mountains.

Constantinople and Rio de Janeiro have been called the only maritime cities that approach the natural beauty of situation of San Francisco. The basin of the Bay, into which the Sacramento and San Joaquin rivers pour after watering the central garden valley of the state, is an amphitheatre rimmed with peaks and ridges.

The Bay spreads out below San Francisco like an animated poster keyed in blue and silver, with Yerba Buena, Alcatraz and Angel islands tinted details in the foreground. Across the gleaming water the roofs of Oakland, Berkeley and Alameda are shingled with sun crystals, and in the distance Tamalpais and Mt. Diablo bulk against a curtain of azure.

Suavities of outline accent the horizons of San Francisco, where the skyscrapers take on fantasy as they pile up on hills and recede into vales. Most visitors cross the Bay and arrive at the city by way of the Ferry Building, the gala tower of which has a clock at each point of the compass... Continue reading book >>

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