National Trust Guide/San Francisco: America's Guide for Architecture and History Travelers

National Trust Guide/San Francisco: America's Guide for Architecture and History Travelers

by Peter Booth Wiley

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National Trust guides are the most in-depth guides available to the history and architecture of U.S. cities. From famous landmarks to back alleys, they take you on exciting journeys through America's cultural, historical, and architectural treasures.

The complete guide to the history and architecture of San Francisco Part history, part travel guide, this unique


National Trust guides are the most in-depth guides available to the history and architecture of U.S. cities. From famous landmarks to back alleys, they take you on exciting journeys through America's cultural, historical, and architectural treasures.

The complete guide to the history and architecture of San Francisco Part history, part travel guide, this unique book introduces you to the colorful past and diverse traditions that have shaped the fascinating city of San Francisco. From the arrival of the Spanish in the late eighteenth century to the growth of today's vibrant metropolis, you'll discover the links between the rich history and architectural heritage of one of America's most beloved cities.

Follow the book's outstanding walking tours as you explore the remnants of the Gold Rush era city and the early neighborhoods of Telegraph Hill, Chinatown, and South of Market. You'll also enjoy the beautiful Beaux-Arts mansions of Pacific Heights, the striking Queen Anne residences of Haight-Ashbury, the converted warehouses of the Multi-Media Gulch, and much more.

• 20 detailed neighborhood walking tours and easy-to-follow maps

• Colorful stories behind the city's best known landmarks

• 200 vintage and contemporary photographs

Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
This blend of San Francisco's history, geography, culture, urban design, preservation, and distinct architecture is the latest title in a travel series that highlights the structural designs of various U.S. cities, including New Orleans, Savannah, Santa Fe, and Seattle. Wiley, a journalist and historian who has been writing about San Francisco and the West for over 25 years, has divided the book into two distinct parts. The first part describes the history of the city's architecture and landmarks, while the second offers maps and suggested walking tours to discover the spectacular architectural wonders, many overlooked by the typical travel guide. Numerous helpful maps and photographs are scattered throughout. This guide offers a unique approach to sightseeing and will certainly fill a gap in the travel literature on one of America's most popular destinations.--Melinda Stivers Leach, Precision Editorial Svcs., Wondervu, CO Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.
Not to be confused with a simple tour guide, this is a substantial tome devoted to the history of San Francisco and its architecture followed by a series of detailed walking tours of the city. The latter are organized by neighborhood, each including a lengthy text that discusses the area, its buildings and their history and accompanied by maps and photos. Wiley, a preservation architect, details San Francisco's destructive earthquakes, the city's uneven results in development and the need for preservation, embedded in a readable narrative of the city's often corrupt political history. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (

Product Details

Publication date:
National Trust City Guides
Product dimensions:
6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.89(d)

Read an Excerpt


Though a small city with a population of approximately 850,000, San Francisco has long enjoyed a reputation as one of the country's premier tourist attractions. Its magnificent natural setting, fine restaurants, museums, and tourist attractions, such as Golden Gate Park and Fisherman's Wharf, combine with a peculiar kind of cultured libertinism to make a heady combination for any visitor looking for an entertaining time.

An appreciation of the city's colorful history and its diverse architectural traditions can substantially enrich a visitor's experience. An essential part of the city's appeal is the ambience created by its architecture, most notably in the Victorian neighborhoods of the Western Addition, Mission District, Haight-Ashbury, and Pacific Heights. San Francisco has other striking architectural features: Its Civic Center--a cluster of government buildings centered on a restored city hall whose dome reaches higher than the capitol in Washington --is the finest and most complete example of municipal buildings in the French neoclassical style anywhere in the country. Downtown San Francisco boasts an extensive collection of graceful lowrise office buildings erected between 1889 and 1920. Even though every longtime San Franciscan experiences a sense of violation when the current skyline is juxtaposed with the skyline of the 1940s, some of the skyscrapers thrown up during the Manhattanization of the downtown financial district between 1955 and 1986, most notably the Transamerica Pyramid, are signature buildings in their own right.

Then there are the architectural features that have drawn the attention of history and architecture buffs. They include, among many others, the remnants of the gold rush city clustered in the Jackson Square Historical District on the border between Downtown and Telegraph Hill; the buildings designed by anti-Victorian rebels such as Willis Polk; the experiments with innovative forms of modern and postmodern architecture, particularly South of Market; and the new departures in the development of low-income housing epitomized by the Delancey Street complex for drug addicts and ex-convicts on the Embarcadero south of the Bay Bridge.

Because I will describe the city in terms of the relationship between geography, history, urban design, and architecture, the book is an invitation to use your imagination. It will help you see not only the buildings as they are today, but also to imagine how the city has changed since the arrival of the Spanish in 1769. You will be like an archeologist working your way downward layer by layer--in some cases virtually into the muck and sand underlying much of the city. In the end you should come away with a better understanding of how the city came to be the endlessly fascinating place it is.

This book is written for an audience with varying degrees of knowledge about architecture. For this reason I have written a summary history of San Francisco's architecture (Chapter Eight) while trying to minimize the use of architectural terminology as much as possible. It is important, however, to be familiar with some terms and with a number of styles, schools, and traditions that had a significant impact on the architecture of San Francisco.

Even the greatest architectural innovators, such as Frank Lloyd Wright studied and borrowed from other styles. In a sense, architecture is a language; its practitioners use its grammar and vocabulary, either comfortable within its traditions or eager to reshape them into something new. For the client, architecture is a different matter. Architects may want to see themselves as artists; ultimately it is the clients who call the shots. A client may know a great deal about architecture, or very little for that matter. But clients turn to architects to express their ideas about how their homes, office buildings or other structures should look. In this way clients tell us about how they view their place in the urban landscape. In their silence, the resulting structures speak volumes about the city's history and the way its citizens have viewed themselves over time.

The growth of conflict over historic buildings, high-rise construction, urban congestion, low-income housing, and many aspects of urban design has encouraged nonprofessionals to learn about and formulate opinions about architectural matters. I hope that this book will encourage people, wherever they live, to look at their built environment and decide what they do and do not like about it.


Part I comprises seven introductory chapters covering the geographical transformation of the city and its history. Part II offers maps and descriptions of suggested walking tours to help you find architectural and historic sites, museums, bookstores, and a few historic restaurants and bars. Do not rely on these maps alone. Go to a bookstore or a large drugstore and buy a good map of the city. You will need it. This is a book to guide you through San Francisco--by auto, on foot, by public transportation, or even from your armchair. I recommend public transportation and foot travel. You can see a lot more when you are not driving. The Municipal Railway covers the entire city--though it is not the most efficient system--with buses, trolleys, cable cars, and even a collection of historic trolleys, which run up and down Market Street and along the Embarcadero to Fisherman's Wharf. You will be pleased to discover that street signs include a number--00, 100, 200, etc.--which provides a guide to building numbers on the block with an arrow pointing in the direction of the ascending numbers.

The development of San Francisco radiated outward from the small cluster of shacks and adobes on the eastern bay shore known as Yerba Buena, which was founded in 1834. The earliest neighborhoods, such as Telegraph Hill, Chinatown, and South of Market, were the closest to the first beachfront community. I have arranged the walking tours so that you can visit these neighborhoods roughly in the order of their historical development, starting with the remnants of the gold rush city adjacent to today's downtown financial district. Once you have completed the tours of Downtown and its proximate neighbors (Chapters 9 to 14), the next group of tours (Chapters 15 to 2l) take you to more residential neighborhoods (Russian Hill, Nob Hill, Pacific Heights, the Western Addition, the Mission, Haight-Ashbury, the Marina, Cow Hollow, and the western suburbs) as they fan out from Downtown.

Once you have reached a district or neighborhood, the only way to see its buildings is on foot. So this is a guide for walkers--in some instances where the terrain in this hilly city is steep, for hearty walkers. There is one exception. A walking tour of the western suburbs would require too much time. In Chapter 21, I have listed some of the most significant houses and attractions in the western suburbs. Given the distance between the houses, it would be best to visit them by car.

This book does not pretend to be a guide to San Francisco's wonderful restaurants. I mention restaurants that are either historic or give you a sense of the history of a neighborhood. If you are a gourmand, you may not find these to be the finest restaurants in the city.

I assume that even with this book, you may want additional information about the city. The resources included in the bibliography at the end of the book can be helpful. If you want to peruse an excellent collection of books on the city, visit the San Francisco History Room on the sixth floor of the New Main Library in the Civic Center (100 Larkin Street). While you are there, find the computer terminal on the same floor and take a look at Shaping San Francisco, a multimedia presentation of the history of the city. In addition, I have mentioned a number of bookstores that offer books on architecture or local history. I have also included a list of walking tours offered by various organizations.

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