Friday, April 7, 2017

Open Your Golden Gate!

Swarovski crystals and gift bags
Again this year I traveled to the City by the Bay (see Sashaying around San Francisco) to do some Beading by the Bay. Our wonderful instructors were Maggie Meister, Sherry Serafini and Liisa Turunen. I’m sorry to say that I have yet to complete even one of the projects the delightful women taught, but I am working on them! Like many large cities, San Francisco includes a bunch of ‘districts’ that give it even more color and texture. And thanks to good friends Teri and John, I was able to sample more of the area than just around the hotel. We had some wonderful adventures and ate some outstanding food!

Human habitation of the territory that includes San Francisco started in about 3000 BC started with the Yelamu group of the Ohlone people. Their few small villages were overrun by Spanish explorers in the later part of 1769. It only took seven years for the Spanish to
Left to Right: City hall, Golden Gate Bridge
establish the Presidio of San Francisco, and the Mission San Francisco de Asís (Mission Dolores). Less than 100 years later, the San Francisco region belonged to Mexico, with the mission system phased out and the associated lands privatized. By 1846, the area belonged to the United States as the winner of the Mexican-American War. A mere three years later, the city was unrecognizable with the influx of treasure seekers: the California Gold Rush had begun. The bay was crowded with about 500 ships, abandoned by their crews answering the siren’s call of quick riches. With statehood conferred in 1850, US military instillations, Fort Point and Alcatraz Citadel  were built to protect San Francisco Bay and its doorway to silver and gold. And with the now more than 35,000 treasure hunters, the soldiers spent much of their time in the Barbary Coast section of town that served as a haven for criminals, prostitution, and gambling. Although there was an increase in the ‘negative elements’, there was also a rise in the number of folks in the upper classes. Bankers (Wells Fargo and Bank of California) made fortunes loaning money and setting up accounts. Transportation developers (Pacific Railroad) and businessmen who supported the miners also did quite well. Catering to the peoples’ needs were Levi Strauss with his dry goods business and Domingo Ghirardelli with his production of chocolate. Also supporting the growth of trade and culture were the immigrant laborers. By the turn of the 20th Century, San Francisco had a reputation as a flamboyant city with a thriving arts community. But in 1900 tragedy struck. The first North American plague hit the city, followed a few years later by a devastating earthquake and fire; 400,000 were left homeless. By 1915, the city had been rebuilt allowing the Panama-Pacific International Exposition to be held there as scheduled. The city and its infrastructure continued to develop, with a second World’s Fair, the Golden Gate International Exposition in 1939–40 along with the man-made Treasure Island, giving visual proof that the city had recovered. Also during this time the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge and the Golden Gate Bridge were completed; and Alcatraz was turned into a maximum security prison. The advent of World War II further propelled San Francisco’s population, infrastructure and culture; as did the end of the war during which San Francisco played a key role as the city in which the United Nations Charter creating the United Nations was drafted and signed and the Treaty of San Francisco that officially ended the war with Japan.

Urban development and re-development played a role in moving the city’s market place
from trade based to the new and relatively more profitable tourist based economy. The Port of Oakland took care of shipping while San Francisco became the home of the
Left T to B: Cliff's Variety, Historic street car
Right: The Castro Theater
counterculture movement. Hippies flocked to Haight-Ashbury in the 1960s in search of love and peace – for which we are still looking. The city also became a center of the gay rights movement. In the early 1940s, the U.S. military dishonorably discharged thousands of gay servicemen from the Pacific theater because of their sexuality. Many settled in the bay area. Although once occupied by Finns and Scandinavians, the 1950s saw large numbers of families moving out of The Castro to the suburbs. By 1963, The Castro's first gay bar, the ‘Missouri Mule’, was opened. The Castro is now as an urban gay village that has all sorts of shops and places to eat. It’s one of the safest places to spend the evening wandering the streets. I particularly liked the architecture of this area and the famous Cliff’s Variety store. Opened in 1936, this is two stores in one, but the odd thing is you have to literally go out the door, onto the sidewalk, then back in through the other door to shop in both sides. On one side you can find all sorts of hardware, cooking gadgets, toys, and electrical appliances; the other side of the store has feather boas, wigs, tiaras, cosmetic bags, stationary, and small gifts. Both parts of the store are delightful, but I spent my money on tiaras and bags. No matter where we went in San Francisco, there are lots of homeless people. And while I expected to see them in The Castro, there were fewer and they were treated with more respect than in other areas.

If you remember the movie ‘Mrs. Doubtfire’ you’ve seen one of the historic areas of San Francisco. During reconstruction after the 1906 earthquake, the Marina District was chosen as the site of the Panama–Pacific International Exposition. Built on rubble from the
Left and Right: Painted Ladies
earthquake and mud and sand dredged from the bottom of the Bay, the land was sold to private developers after the end of the exposition. There were houses in this area prior to the earthquake and some of these are still in existence. Between 1849 and 1915 there were around 48,000 houses in the city built in the Victorian and Edwardian styles, and many were painted in bright colors. On Steiner Street you can still see examples of these ‘Painted Ladies’. The particular houses were built between 1892 and 1896 by Matthew Kavanaugh. This iconic block is a favorite of mass-market photographs, movies, TV programs, and advertisements.  The view is actually best from Alamo Park, but construction kept us on the streets.

The Mission District, as with most of the San Francisco area, was originally inhabited by the
Examples of murals
Ohlone people. In the late 1700s, Spanish priest, Father Francisco Palóu founded Mission San Francisco de Asis moving it from the shore of Laguna Dolores to its current location. The district still has a heavily Hispanic influence with dozens of taquerías all with localized styling of Mexican food; this is the original home of the Mission burrito. Initiated by the Chicano Art Mural Movement of the 1970s the Mission walls and fences are graced with murals inspired cultural events and day-to-day activities. Many of these murals have been painted or supported by the Precita Eyes muralist organization. There was not a single mural I didn’t like. We drove down alleys in the ubiquitous drizzle to make sure we saw every one. I was also delighted by the sidewalk grates that paid homage to the Día de Muertos.

For information about What we did, Where we stayed and What we ate, stay tuned!

Left: Day of the Dead grid
Right: Church
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