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.
Things about San Francisco you may be interested in
Read our members' reviews about San Francisco
- What 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...
- City 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...
- Don'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...
Read our members' travel tips about San Francisco
- Coit Tower
travel tip by zangazanga posted more then 30 days ago
The most amazing sight I've ever seen. The Coit Tower, built in 1933 in memory of an eccentric rich lady, Lillie Hitchcock Coit (who left all her money to this tower) and the brave firemen of the city, is a tall white marble tower which...
- Ferry Building
travel tip by zsoldicsa posted more then 30 days ago
I think Ferry Building is one of the nicest places in San Francisco, which is a great thing knowing that the whole city is so great! The building was finished in 1903 and it was the center to wager the boats and ferries that crossed...
- Alamo Square
travel tip by blackangel_66 posted more then 30 days ago
The Square gives the most beautiful view in the whole city. One can see it on many postcards. One especially beautiful view is towards Steiner street, with the famous houses, the 'painted ladies'. They are also called the Victorian...
Members Who Have Been to San Francisco
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