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San Francisco History, California

Tracing the history of San Francisco entails going back more than 400 years. However, before that time the land was inhabited by the Ohlone people.

The race between England and Spain

It was the explorations of Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo during the middle 1500’s that would establish the interests of the Spaniards in the Californian region. However, in 1579, English privateer Sir Francis Drake landed off the present-day Point Reyes and unceremoniously claimed the land for Queen Victoria naming it Nova Albion. The area is now known as Drake’s Bay, however, Francis Drake’s “discovery” failed to amount to anything favorable for England.

By 1595, Sebastian Rodriguez Cermeno on board the galleon San Agustin was shipwrecked near Point Reyes. He claimed the lands for Spain calling it Puerto de San Francisco, presumably named after Saint Francis of Assisi. Nevertheless, it won’t be for another 175 years before the Spaniards actually colonize San Francisco.

Eight years later, Spanish explorer Sebastian Vizcaino was tasked to map out the Californian coastline in 1603. Vizcaino however missed San Francisco altogether most likely because the bay area is almost always under heavy fog.

The Golden Gate

The aggressive Spanish colonial expansion during the 18th century finally reached the shores of San Francisco Bay in 1769. An expedition led by Don Gaspar de Portola was credited for discovering San Francisco Bay, sighting it atop Sweeney Ridge, now a National Historic Landmark. A member of his crew, Sgt. Jose Francisco Ortega would later be identified as having discovered the strait now popularly known as the Golden Gate.

The ship sailed by  Don Juan Manuel de Ayala was the first to enter San Francisco Bay in 1775 via the Golden Gate. The area where they landed, just off Angel Island, is now known as Ayala Cove.

The following year, 1776, Captain Juan Bautista de Anza came into San Francisco Bay and established the fort Presidio de San Francisco de Asis. In that same year, the La Mision de Nuestro Padre San Francisco de Asis was also built. The church was also called Mission Dolores because of a nearby creek named after Nuestra Señora de los Dolores (Our Lady of Sorrows). Both the Presidio and the Mission still stand today.

The Gold Rush

By the time Mexico achieved its independence from Spain in 1821, the settlement found on this area became known as Yerba Buena. In 1847, the year after the Mexican-American war ended and California was ceded to the United States under the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, Yerba Buena was renamed San Francisco.

The following year, gold was discovered in Coloma, California and by 1849, settlers came to San Francisco by the thousands hoping to strike it rich. These “forty miners” as they were called congregated in San Francisco forever changing the fortunes of the once idyllic village to one of the most well-known cities in the United States. Thus, the California Gold Rush was enormously instrumental in transforming San Francisco into the cosmopolitan center that it is today.

 
 

Read our members' reviews about San Francisco


  • MadSuhWhat to do in San Francisco
    review by MadSuh posted more then 30 days ago
    We stayed in San Francisco for another half day, we drove down towards Fisherman's Wharf and grabbed breakfast at this really nice little place. I can't remember the name, but the coffee was good and they had some really fresh sandwiches. Fisherman's Wharf is nice and give you a little bit...
  • stefCity tour in San Francisco
    review by stef posted more then 30 days ago
    After a long walk from downtown of SF to the North Beach on Fisherman's Wharf, we decided to take a city tour. From the plenty of opportunities we choose the most friendly one: the Mr. Toad's Tour, with an exciting american Vintage touring car (1929 Model). The guide was very nice telling funny...
  • mohds2Don't miss it while in San Fransisco
    review by mohds2 posted more then 30 days ago
    One of the greatest attractions as regards the San Francisco is you can go to the museum in the morning as well as on the hill during daytime. Artistic things can have with stimulating outdoor tricks. San Francisco is famous for its miscellany - from the hippie irks of the Haight-Ashbury over...
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Read our members' travel tips about San Francisco


  • MyguytripBalmy Street Murals
    travel tip by Myguytrip posted more then 30 days ago
    Located in the heart of the latino district of San Francisco is a little gem of a street where the houses are painted with latin-american centric murals. These murals, which are painted on the garages, each have some sort of meaning and...
  • WazlingDe Young Museum in San Francisco
    travel tip by Wazling posted more then 30 days ago
    A truly amazing location to visit, the De Young Museum led me to a path of illogical, free thinking. Full of impressionist artworks such as painting, sculptures and other interesting works of contemporary American, African and...
  • eratoMuseum of Asian Art
    travel tip by erato posted more then 30 days ago
    This museum is amazing, you simply cannot miss it. It was first opened when a factory owner from Chicago gave his Asian art collection to San Francisco to open a museum with it. The museum has more than 17, 000 objects, from...
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San Francisco City Ratings

  • Rating89%
    City Rank89
     
  • History & Culture: rated for 93%
  • Night Life & Entertainment: rated for 97%
  • Family & Fun: rated for 80%
  • Outdoors Activities: rated for 70%
  • Food: rated for 97%
  • Sightseeing: rated for 97%
  • Shopping: rated for 95%
  • Public Transportation: rated for 87%
  • Must visit this place: rated for 95%
  
 

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