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Before the Moscone Center and Yerba Buena Gardens, There Were Victorians

Public spaces change fast here in San Francisco, and for better or worse, it can be pretty crazy when you see what the City used to look like. Every week, we'll bring you Then & Now, a comparison of historic photos of the Bay Area with current views from the same perspective. Have a suggestion for a photo comparison that looks totally different (or shockingly the same)? Drop us a tip in the Curbed Inbox or leave a comment after the jump.

Quick note: See that vertical green bar in the middle of the then and now photos? You can move it horizontally to see the photos side by side.





[Then photo: SAN FRANCISCO HISTORY CENTER, SAN FRANCISCO PUBLIC LIBRARY/ Now photo: Google Maps] With all the talk about the Moscone expansion this week, we thought we'd take a look at the area around our city's convention center. Pre-skyscraper hotel, even pre-brick warehouses, the area of Mission Street near Third and Fourth Streets was once filled with ornate Victorians.

Soma in 1856 [photo: SAN FRANCISCO HISTORY CENTER, SAN FRANCISCO PUBLIC LIBRARY]

When the Gold Rush struck, the area south of Market was nothing more than sand dunes. Eventually pioneer miners set up tents and temporary wood houses in a protected valley in the dunes bound by Market, Howard, 1st, and 2nd streets, known as "Happy Valley." The dunes were leveled by 1858, and industrialization sprung up in the area, with foundries manufacturing mining equipment, heavy machinery, and other manufactured goods. Without public transportation, the workers built their houses near their work, and the area was full of housing.

Soma in the 1866 [photo: SAN FRANCISCO HISTORY CENTER, SAN FRANCISCO PUBLIC LIBRARY]

The Comstock Lode added another kick of funds into the area in the late 1860s, replacing a lot of the small wood houses with larger, more ornate, permanent housing. After the 1906 Earthquake and Fire destroyed much of the area, large brick warehouses took over making Soma the industrial center of the city once again.

· Historic Context Statement: South of Market (pdf) [SF Planning]