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San Francisco

A resource for The City of San Francisco

European discovery and exploration of the San Francisco Bay Area and its islands began in 1542 and culminated with the mapping of the bay in 1775. Early visitors to the Bay Area were preceded 10,000 to 20,000 years earlier, however, by the native people indigenous to the area. Prior to the coming of the Spanish and Portuguese explorers, over 10,000 indigenous people, later to be called the Oholone (a Miwok Indian word meaning "western people"), lived in the coastal area between Point Sur and the San Francisco Bay.

Timeline of San Francisco History

Barbary Coast, San Francisco, California from Wikipedia encyclopedia

Barbary Coast is a neighborhood in San Francisco, California.

Historically, Barbary Coast was known for gambling, prostitution and crime. It was a popular hangout for people who became rich during the California Gold Rush (1848 - 1858).The Barbary Coast is now a residential and commercial district, no different than other areas of the city.

The Barbary Coast was an outgrowth of Sydney town, the area at the foot of Broadway and Pacific Street formerly inhabited by the Sydney Ducks. The neighborhood acquired its new name sometime around 1860 from the name of the coast of North Africa (Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Libya, and Egypt) where Arab pirates attacked Mediterranean ships. The name Barbary is derived from the Berbers which itself comes from Barbarian, although the majority of the Berbers lived simple, rural lifestyles.

Pacific, one of the earliest streets to be cut through the hills, led directly from the wharf at Clark's point to the center of town, near Portsmouth Plaza.

Barbary Coast was the haunt of the low and vile of every kind. The petty thief, the house burglar, the tramp, the whoremonger, lewd women, cut-throats and murderers, all are found there. Dance-houses and concert saloons, where bleary-eyed men and faded women drink vile liquor, smoke offensive tobacco, engage in vulgar conduct, sing obscene songs, and say and do everything to heap upon themselves more degradation, unrest and misery.

Numerous, low gambling houses thronged with riot-loving rowdies in all stages of intoxication were there. Opium dens, women and men were sprawled in miscellaneous confusion, disgustingly drowsy, or completely overcome by inhaling the vapors of the nauseous narcotic, are there. Licentiousness, debauchery, pollution, loathsome disease, insanity from dissipation, misery, poverty, wealth, profanity, blasphemy and death, werre rampant in the Barbary Coast.

The Barbary Coast rose from the massive infusion of treasure seeking argonauts during the Gold Rush. Men from Europe, Asia, South America, and the eastern United States sailed into San Francisco Bay bound for the Mother Lode, many only staying in the gold fields briefly before returning to San Francisco with saddle bags full of nuggets and gold dust.

At the end of 1849, out of a population of between 20,000 and 25,000, only about 300 were women and almost two-thirds of those were available for a price. Miners, sailors, and sojourners hungry for female companionship and bawdy entertainment continued to stream into San Francisco in the 1850s and 60s becoming the Barbary Coast's primary clientele. As The City exploded with the new arrivals, some with shady pasts, soon a wide variety of land sharks, con artists, pimps, and prostitutes staked out an area designed to pluck the gold and silver from the pockets of men through liquor, lust, laudanum-laced libations, or just a hard knock on the noggin.

Sailors in particular had cause to dread the area because it was there the the art of shanghaiing was perfected. Many a sailor woke up after a night's leave to find himself unexpectedly on another ship bound for some faraway port. When there was a shortage of sailors for departing ships any able-bodied man who wandered into the wrong saloon, or drank with the wrong companion, could wake up with a mysterious hangover and a a rolling deck beneath him.* Shanghaied! Crime in the streets and corruption in the government offices plagued San Francisco in the 1850's.

Panoramic view of San Francisco

In the mornings as I walk from my car to Building 38 of the Presidio, where Tweak Films is located, I hear the strangest cackling sounds coming from the palm trees accross the field in front of our building. I thought they sounded like parrots. Now in the mornings it can be quite cold, sometimes in the 30's! I dismissed the fact that the birds I saw looked like parrots as they flew from tree to tree. But then on a whim, I googled "Pesidio Parrots" and wouldn't you know it, this popped up!

More than 200 bird species use the Presidio, including year-round resident species and many more that find a safe resting place on a migratory journey.

Among these is the California Quail, the Western Screech Owl, and Cherry-Headed Conure Parrots.

So I did another search for the Cherry-Headed Conure Parrot and those were the birds I saw! It turns out that they do live in the city and there is a movie about them!

Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill film review

An Early History of Wild Parrots in San Francisco

Barbary Coast Trail An Interactive Map of San Francisco's Historic Trail

San Francisco first shows up in Beat history as one of several mystical destinations for Sal Paradise, Jack Kerouac's altar ego in 'On The Road.' He heads for 'Frisco' (I was later told that people in San Francisco do not actually call the city 'Frisco'), imagining scenes from the books of Jack London and Adam Saroyan, hoping to find ecstatic freedom from the spiritual oppressiveness of his own East Coast. He doesn't fully find it there, or anywhere else (except in a few isolated, unplanned moments that leave him more disconcerted than enlightened).

All of Kerouac's friends were wandering over to the Bay Area, though. Neal Cassady settled down in San Jose, on the South Bay, and worked there as a brakeman on the Southern Pacific Railroad. Visiting him, New Jersey native Allen Ginsberg made an important connection by showing up at Kenneth Rexroth's door with a letter of introduction from William Carlos Williams. Rexroth had already gathered together a vibrant community of San Francisco area poets and writers, which included Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Michael McClure and two poets from Reed College in Oregon, Gary Snyder and Philip Whalen. In October 1955, several of these poets joined to present a now legendary poetry reading at the Six Gallery at Union and Fillmore. This period became known as the San Francisco Poetry Renaissance, and is also generally thought of as the kickoff point for the Beat Movement in literature.

More on The Beats and SF Literary history

There is no other spot in San Francisco that embodies the beatific fifty-year history of the Beat Generation better than City Lights Books, still at 261 Columbus Avenue, in the heart of little old wooden North Beach, as Ferlinghetti called it. It was founded in 1953, the first all-paperback bookstore in the U.S., stocking classics of modern literature and progressive politics. In 1956, City Lights published Allen Ginsberg's seminal poem "Howl" and became the lightning rod for a new generation of untamed poets. This rare combination of bookstore and publishing house battles on as one of the increasingly rare, un-chained independent book enterprises in America. Expert bookworms stock a comprehensive selection of the best books in every field. . . . City Lights has been the head, heart, and undersoul of literary San Francisco for half a century.

City Lights Bookstore Website

San Francisco District Maps