Barbary Coast Trail–Embarcadero – Fisherman’s Wharf to Nob Hill
Embarcadero – Fisherman’s Wharf
To be blunt, San Franciscans hate Fisherman’s Wharf. Too touristy. But there are some decent attractions there. I checked out a couple of them on Day 1, knowing I’d be returning to give Fisherman’s Wharf the full treatment later on in the sightseeing season. I actually really enjoyed my time there. It certainly didn’t hurt that the weather was perfect.
SS Jeremiah O’Brien
My first sight to see at Fisherman’s wharf was the SS Jeremiah O’Brien, a World War II cargo ship. Touring the ship really brought back my Navy days.
Another worthwhile Fisherman’s Wharf attraction I checked out was Musée Mécanique. As with the SS Jeremiah O’Brien, I hadn’t heard of it before planning out my day. It’s a large arcade, free to enter, packed with arcade games from the present, recent past, and distant past. The old-time games are, of course, the most fun.
The Real Fisherman’s Wharf
San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park/Ghiradelli Square
San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park is a great site if you’re a fan of the nautical world. I spent much more time here on Day 6, but I took a few pictures on Day 1. Ghiradelli Square, located immediately to the south, is pretty much a tourist trap. But as I found out, they have pretty good ice cream there!
After Ghiradelli Square, the Barbary Coast Trail becomes a ride when you get to take a cable car up and over Russian Hill to Nob Hill. Nob Hill is the tallest of Downtown San Francisco’s 3 hills. It’s so tall that horse-driven carriages couldn’t make it to the top. The first cable car ascended Nob Hill in 1873, suddenly making Nob Hill an attractive residential area. Soon, the richest of the rich built mansions on top of the hill. Nob Hill was named after these super-rich, who were nicknamed “Nobs”. (This was short for nobles or nabobs, depending on the source.)
The most famous of the super-rich Nobs were the Big Four, railroad tycoons and philanthropists who built the western portion of the first transcontinental railroad, needed to reach gold-rich California. Their legacies and names live on:
- Leland Stanford drove the Golden Spike that joined East and West via rail. He went on to found Stanford University. His Nob Hill mansion was destroyed in the earthquake. The site is now home to the Stanford Court Hotel, where the cable car lines cross.
- Collis Huntington is the namesake of the Huntington Hotel, built across the street from the site of his Nob Hill mansion (which was destroyed in the earthquake). Huntington, West Virgina was named after him. (It was the western terminus of the Chesapeake and Ohio Railway, which he built.) His nephew Henry founded the Huntington Library outside LA and also rejuvenated a closed hotel in Pasadena, which he renamed the Huntington Hotel.
- Mark Hopkins built a mansion on Nob Hill. It eventually was left to the San Francisco Art Association, precursor to the San Francisco Art Institute. The building was destroyed in the fire that followed the earthquake. The hotel that bears Mark’s name now stands on the site.
- Charles Crocker went on to serve as president of Wells Fargo for a while. Until I sold it, I used to park my car in the garage on Nob Hill named for him. (The Nob Hill rates were a bit much for me.) The garage was built on the site of his mansion that was…surprise!…destroyed by the earthquake. The Westin St. Francis was originally to have been named the Crocker Hotel. It was built by his estate. The Crocker Galleria, a shopping mall downtown, was named for him.
Nob Hill Masonic Center
Nob Hill Architecture
Top of the Mark
What a day! What a city!
[Factual information is primarily gathered from Wikipedia, so you know it must be true. Information is also gathered from “The Official Guide To San Francisco’s Barbary Coast Trail.]