For a relatively young city, San Francisco has a lot of historic charm. While the 1906 earthquake and fires destroyed over 80% of the city, some of its most gorgeous areas and structures managed to survive. More yet, there are neighborhoods in San Francisco that recall the Gold Rush and vigilante history. If you’re curious, you’ll be enchanted to know that many neighborhoods in Fog City have a dynamic past that run deep with global significance. Let’s check out the 10 most historic neighborhoods in our beautiful city!
The Presidio and the surrounding neighborhood have a rich history spanning back to when the Spanish arrived in 1776. The Presidio is where San Francisco began when it served as a military fort under the flags of Spain, Mexico and the United States.
2. Chinatown: Grant Avenue and Stockton
The Chinatown centered around Grant Avenue is the oldest Chinatown in North America and the largest Chinese community outside Asia. Since it was established in 1848, Chinatown has been an important and influential in the history and culture of ethnic Chinese immigrants in North America.
3. Jackson Square
Jackson Square Historic District contains almost all of the surviving commercial buildings from the 1850s and 1860s. This area, sandwiched between North Beach and the Financial District, is considered one of the oldest commercial neighborhoods in San Francisco.
4. Mission Dolores
The area and neighborhood around Mission Dolores features the oldest surviving structure in San Francisco. The Mission Dolores church was founded in 1776, back when this area was settled by the Spanish.
5. Alamo Square
The residential architecture here, which dates between the 1870s and 1920s, represents one of the city’s iconic spots, referred to as "Postcard Row." Historically, Alamo means poplar tree in Spanish and in the early 1800s, the lone cottonwood on Alamo Hill designated a watering hole along the horseback trail from Mission Dolores to the Presidio.
6. Cottage Row Historic District
An area often overlooked, Cottage Row is located on the edge of Japantown in the Pacific Heights neighborhood. In this area, there is a Cottage Row Mini Park, which is on the National Register of Historic Places, the park runs adjacent to a line of Victorian houses that have stood since the 1800s.
7. SOMA: South End Historic District
Since the turn of the twentieth century, the South of Market Area has boasted an eccentric mix of commerce, entertainment and living spaces. Many of the brick-lined industrial loft buildings in this part of SoMa date back to the late 1800s and early 1900s. Many of these now serve as offices for well-funded startups.
8. North Beach
The area known today as North Beach was an actual beach, filled in with landfill around the late 19th century. It’s also the spot that several Italians settled in, hence giving it the nickname Little Italy. Also, vigilantes and crime syndicates like the Mafia had a presence in North Beach. In the 1950s, Beat legend Jack Kerouac called it home.
What is now the Haight-Ashbury was a collection of isolated farms and acres of sand dunes. By 1890 the Haight had become the recreation hub of the city. Also, by the 1960s this area became the center of the counter-cultural movement.
Filled with rainbow crosswalks, the Castro was one of the first gay neighborhoods in the United States and has played a prominent role in LGBT activism since the 1960s. It remains one of the most colorful, vibrant, and friendly parts of San Francisco.
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