San Francisco, “the City by the Bay,” is largely referenced in the same breath as the tech boom, playing host as the center of America’s technology industry since 2011, when Mayor Ed Lee implemented tax breaks to encourage the arrival of various companies.
Its residents, though, are well versed in the intriguing and historical facts that make the 13th largest city in the United States distinctive, a one-of-a-kind setting.
Ashok (Ash) Gujral, founder and president of the Gujral Community Fund, an organization intent on improving the lives of San Francisco families, provides some fun facts about the city that he has resided in from the time of childhood.
Pre-San Francisco Name
Founded in 1776, the small city was first called Yerba Buena, which translates to “Good Herb” in Spanish. Portsmouth Square, located in Chinatown, served as the location of the public square in Yerba Buena. Originally intended to be a trading post for ships visiting San Francisco Bay, the area was formally known as Yerba Buena until 1846, when it was renamed as San Francisco. Store that piece of trivia away for your next San Francisco-related pub quiz that you go to.
King of The Hills
While many people are under the impression that San Francisco merely boasts a few hills, in actuality, the city is built atop upwards of 50, Ash Gujral states. Russian Hill, with one of the crookedest streets in the entire world, Lombard Street, is a notable one, as is Nob Hill, home to luxury hotels and cable cars that pass California Street, Grace Cathedral and the Cable Car Museum. Other standouts include Telegraph Hill, one of the original seven hills of San Francisco that now constantly has a flock of parrots deeming it a home base, and Twin Peaks, two hills more than 900 feet above sea level that offer remarkable views of the Bay Area. Golden Mine Hill, Tank Hill, and Excelsior Heights are a few of the more obscure examples that add to the overall tally.
Not all of San Francisco’s past is glamorous or sanguine, Ash Gujral confirms, as evidenced by the earthquake and resulting fire that ravaged the city in 1906. Being an earthquake of that magnitude, it became the first natural disaster to be documented via photographs, while the ensuing fire remained for four days and, consequently, resulted in the modern-day equivalent of more than $8 billion dollars in damages. On a more upbeat note, redwood trees were able to preserve some of the city because of its low resin content and porous grain that absorbs plenty of water. As such, buildings constructed with resin did not burn as rapidly as others.
Residents are forbidden from burying their deceased relatives or friends within the city limits, a restriction that leaves people with two cemeteries to choose from. There is one behind the Mission San Francisco de Asis and another, the National Cemetery, located in the Presidio, an old military base on the northwest side of the city. In 1902, spacing problems inspired the board of supervisors to cease all burials within the city limits and they opted to move the, at the time, current graves to Colma, a shift that occurred between the 1920s and 1940s.
A Golden Godsend
No list of San Francisco facts is complete without mentioning the Golden Gate Bridge, according to Ash Gujral. Did you know that its color was somewhat of an accidental selection? International Orange, the name of the color, was not in the original list of choices, but rather the primer utilized to protect the steel for the bridge throughout its transit. It just so happens that the architect admired its color more than the alternative options and opted to keep it unchanged.