When news of gold in the California River first touched off a frenzy in America in 1848, San Francisco was home to roughly 1,000 people.
Within two years the city swelled to some 25,000, a “speedy transition from a city of tents and shacks to one of brick and stone buildings, architecturally on a par with those of Atlantic seaboard cities,” as history site SF Museum puts it.
But what did the rough and tumble “instant city” look like in those day? It can be hard to imagine, since so much of 19th century San Francisco was lost to the 1906 earthquake and fire.
A series of photos from 1856—the year San Francisco County formed and first distinguished itself from San Mateo County, by which time SF was populated at roughly 30,000—shows a resolute and established metro by the bay, one that looks as if it had spent decades percolating.
These scenes, photographed by G.R. Fardon, appear in a number of collections, but in this case have been licensed to Curbed SF by Southern Methodist University’s DeGolyer Library in Texas, here applied to a modern map to create a tactile sense of San Francisco as it existed at the height of gold fever.
Note that locations are approximate and modern street addresses are used to get map locales on the same block as historical sites rather than to pinpoint them precisely.
For more historic imagery of Baghdad by the Bay, check out Curbed SF’s 10 oldest photos of San Francisco, rare photos of days before the 1906 quake, and 150 years of Dolores Park.Read More