The oldest alley in San Francisco is paved with a reminder of the city's original shoreline.
Whether true or not, the American satirist and novelist Samuel Clemens, aka Mark Twain, (1835 - 1910) is often quoted as saying: “the coldest winter I ever spent was a summer in San Francisco.” What is factually known, is that Twain arrived in ‘Bagdad by the Bay’ in 1864, less than twenty years after the Gold Rush. He lived and worked as a news reporter in what is today known as the Financial District.
During the mid-19th century, the City by the Bay was a much different place than the current hustle and bustle of the 21st century. Sure the metropolis was bursting at the seams due to the massive influx of people and businesses attracted by the lucrative and quick fortunes the boom of the gold trade hinted at. It was the geographical configurations that were the starkest difference between today and what Twain would have experienced.
For instance, the iconic city landmark of the Transamerica Pyramid building would be underwater. Just a stone’s throw away from Columbus Avenue is Hotaling Place, a stretch of one block, that resembles more of an alley than a street. Here, on either side, are a pair of undulating cement blocks, the only signs that indicate that this was once the original shoreline of what once called Yerba Buena (Spanish for “good herb”).
The street gets its name from the aspiring entrepreneur Anson Parsons Hotaling. He was the proprietor of a business around the corner on Jackson Street. Another demonstration of San Francisco’s actual tidemark can be located near the city’s ballpark. Don’t be alarmed if you happen to hear the sounds of cattle on a cold summer’s night, this area is reported to be haunted by a stampede of ghost bovines caught in the fiery aftermath of the 1906 earthquake.
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