Look up First Street towards the remnants of Rincon Hill; in the 1850s it was the first fashionable residential neighborhood in the city. When the excitement of the Gold Rush subsided, San Franciscans looked around for the best place to build a house with a view from a sunny hill, out of the wind and fog, and yet within reach of the financial district and the waterfront - Rincon Hill took the honors. In the 1850s the hill was higher, with several summits at 120 feet. An abundance of springs provided water for the gardens that made the hill such a desirable place to live. Hawthorn, Essex, Dover, Vassar Place, and Laurel Place were names taken from the English countryside and transplanted on small streets lined with walled-gardens, just off of Harrison, Folsom and Bryant. Along these streets the capitalists and lawyers, sea-captains and bankers, editors and senators, foundry owners and canny real estate investors, as well as mining stock speculators and judges, settled their families in houses that reflected individual tastes.
Rincon Hill was first assaulted in 1869 when the notorious Second Street Cut dug a trench seventy feet deep along the width of fashionable Second Street from Bryant to Folsom, leaving houses teetering on the abyss. Gradually, in the 1880s and 90s, most of the larger houses became boarding houses with good addresses, or sanitariums, or Bohemian enclaves for artists and writers. The great fire of 1906 destroyed all of the homes on the hill. Some land holders put up post-fire flats for city workers. Others sold out to expanding city industries. Many lots stood vacant. In the 1930s the decision to locate the entrance to the Bay Bridge on the hill destroyed the working-class neighborhood that grew up after 1906. Construction of the Bay Bridge and its highway connections effectively erased any evidence of the day when Rincon Hill was the best address in San Francisco.
On the front of the podia
All that is left of once beautiful and imposing mansions crowned the brow of the cliff - Harles Stoddard, 1903
On the back of the podia
To each the city of his dreams - George Sterling, 1901