Monthly Archives: December 2010

Historical Saturday: Sunken Ships

Yep, it’s true.  Parts of San Francisco really were built on top of rotten and decaying ships from the 1800’s.  Check it out by clicking the video link below:

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Filed under San Francisco History, Ships

Golden Gate Park, December 12, 2011

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Golden Gate Park, dec. 12, 2010

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Golden Gate Park, dec. 12, 2010 2

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Filed under Golden Gate Park, San Francisco Nature

Golden Gate Bridge, Dec. 12, 2010

Golden Gate Bridge II, Dec. 2010

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Filed under Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco Pictures

Historical Saturday: Mark Hopkins Mansion

One does not have to look far to see the grandeur, and sometimes outright vulgarity, of historical San Francisco.  There was money here in the 1800’s, and those fortunate enough to have it did not mind showing it off in the homes they built.  Because of the earthquake and fire of 1906, many of these incredible structures only live today in the pictures of the past.

The Mark Hopkins mansion is one of these victims of the disaster.  Mark Hopkins, bookkeeper for the Central Pacific Railroad, began building a hilltop mansion for his wife, Mary, that was full of Gothic characteristics and ornamentation.  At the time, some criticized it as being too much, but others were impressed by its large scale and attention to detail.  Unfortunately, Mark Hopkins never lived to see the finished product.  He passed away in 1878 at the age of 65 just before the mansion was completed that same year.

Mary Hopkins lived in the expansive residence for only three years before she headed back East and married her Nob Hill mansion’s interior decorator, Edward Searles, in 1887.  She was 67 and he was 47 at the time of their nuptials.  Upon her death four years later in 1891, Searles inherited around 60 million dollars and spent the rest of his life working on building projects in the East, including the Searles Castle in Windham, New Hampshire.  Immediately following his wife’s death, Searles donated the Mark Hopkins Mansion to the San Francisco Art Association to be used as a school and museum. 

The Hopkins Mansion had a short life of only 28 years before the 1906 catastrophe.  It goes to show once again that there is nothing in this life that we have that can’t be taken from us in a few minutes by a match or a natural disaster.

Even though the residence is gone, the name lives on.  It is now the site of that luxury hotel named the InterContinental Mark Hopkins which is home to the Top of the Mark rooftop lounge.

Enjoy the weekend!


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Filed under Mark Hopkins, San Francisco History

Historical Saturday: S.F. Pacific Union Club

Photo:  Wikimedia Commons

This is an interesting morsel of history.  The S.F. Pacific Union Club was originally the private residence of James C. Flood.  He acquired the large sand hill of a lot in 1882 and had it leveled in order to build his Italianate brownstone.  It had 42 rooms and an army of servants including one person whose sole job was to polish the brass fence that surrounds this magnificent piece of architecture.  The fence is still there, but without the daily polishes it has lost its shiny appearance which has now aged to a fine patina. 

Because it was a brownstone mansion, and not the popular wooden Victorian design, it survived the 1906 earthquake and fire.  Well, I say it survived, but not without its war wounds.  In fact, the fire storm did sweep through the house, but the brownstone walls remained.

After the damage, the S.F. Pacific Union Club bought the mansion and commenced on some renovations and additions.

You can drive by or walk by the old mansion today, but don’t expect to be invited in.  The club is a very exclusive gentlemen’s club whose membership is limited to 750.  Only if a current member dies can a new one be added to the roles.  It is interesting to note that women are not formally excluded from the organization, there just have never been any female members.  Talk about your glass ceiling.



Researched from:
Historic Walks in San Francisco, by Rand Richards (Awesome book by the way).

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Filed under Pacific Union Club, San Francisco Architecture, San Francisco History