Nob Hill and Russian Hill
San Francisco is built on seven main hills. The focus of this article is Nob Hill and Russian Hill.
San Francisco’s Nob Hill, then known as California Hill, wasn’t much more than a steeply sloped scrubland until the introduction of the Cable Car made its peak easily accessible allowing the Robber Barons and Bonanza Kings to turn Nob Hill into a neighborhood of palaces and restaurants some 376 feet above Chinatown, North Beach and the Financial District.
The Big Four—Leland Stanford, Mark Hopkins, Charles Crocker and Collis P. Huntington—built homes on Nob Hill with profits from the successful completion of the Transcontinental Railroad and creation of the Central Pacific Railroad.
James Flood, one of the Bonanza Kings, built his house out of Connecticut sandstone, which is probably why the Flood Mansion— now The Pacific-Union Club and seen here from the front steps of the Mark Hopkins Hotel—was only one of two palaces to survive both the 1906 earthquake and fire.
With a swimming pool, steam room and gym equipment that are second to none, spacious and airy, tastefully furnished bedrooms and annual dues in proportion to the amenities, you will need to be proposed and supported by existing members who know you personally to be able to join the very exclusive PU, as The Pacific-Union Club is irreverently known.
If you would like to see the Pacific-Union Club’s former location on Post Street, check out the 1903 Dewey Monument movie/link on my Union Square page.
The Fairmont Hotel —in the process of being built by the daughters of James Fair, another Bonanza King—was nearly finished when it was gutted by the 1906 fire. The Fairmont has been completely restored and is a favorite place for San Francisco visitors to stay.
The Mark Hopkins Hotel now stands where the Mark Hopkins mansion was built on Nob Hill. The 40-room Gothic-style mansion was completed in 1878 after Hopkins death and destroyed in the 1906 earthquake and fire. In 1887 the now famous photographer Eadweard Mybridge shot a 360° panorama from the roof of the Mark Hopkins Mansion.
The Brocklebank building, across the street from the Fairmont, was the last home of famous San Francisco Columnist Herb Caen.
Leland Stanford Jr.’s death shortly before his 16th birthday was said to be the inspiration for his parents founding of Stanford University in what is now Palo Alto near a giant California Coast Redwood — El Palo Alto, or “the high tree” in Spanish.
Collis Huntington’s widow, Arabella, gave the land where their mansion burned to the ground to The City. You will find Huntington Park there today. Grace Cathedral now occupies the land where Charles Crocker’s mansion and his 40 foot tall spite fence once stood.
With the three surviving Cable Car lines all crossing Nob Hill, it’s the ideal place for San Francisco’s Cable Car Museum. Andrew Hallidie‘s invention changed the way San Franciscans live, especially on Nob Hill. Cable Car lines also sped development of other San Francisco neighborhoods.
You can also take a Cable Car ride in addition to many of the San Francisco tours, museums and other attractions included with your Go San Francisco Car.View other panoramas showing the California Street Cable Cars in the Financial District and Chinatown. The Powell-Hyde line begins at the Cable Car turnaround at Aquatic Park and reaches the top of Russian Hill at Lombard Street which is also the top of The Worlds Crookedest Street. The Powell-Hyde cable car line continues on to the turnaround at Powell and Market Streets, also the turnaround for the Powell-Mason line which passes through Union Square and North Beach on its way to Fisherman’s Wharf.
Russian Hill may be best known for Lombard Street — the worlds crookedest street — but it is also home to a number of good restaurants. A block away from the base of the crookedest street the San Francisco Art Institute has a historic Diego Rivera Mural and an extensive rooftop deck with 360° views of Russian Hill, Fisherman’s Wharf and Alcatraz, Coit Tower and San Francisco skyscrapers.