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Home to humans since 3000 BC and commercially settled by the Spanish in 1776, the "Bay Area," as it is called by locals, has an amazingly colorful history.
Fueled by the California Gold Rush in 1848, the city exploded from 1800 residents to 25,000 nearly overnight. U.S. statehood quickly followed, along with a brigade of U.S. Troops. They built forts at the current sites of the Golden Gate Bridge and Alcatraz Island.
San Francisco business moguls are credited with igniting the transcontinental railroad boom, and several of the country's major commercial banks sprang up to accommodate the money generated by gold prospectors and merchants. San Francisco became home to the nation's first commercial cable 1873. It still functions today.
San Francisco flourished thanks to rail and sea trade and by the 1900s it was home to many influential people. The city was totally destroyed at 5:12 AM on April 18, 1906, by an 8.3 magnitude earthquake that leveled almost every building. Rupturing gas lines ignited fires, destroying most remaining structures. Thousands were killed. A massive effort was expended on rebuilding the destruction and San Francisco rose from its ashes stronger and even more vibrant.
San Francisco's Sights and Sounds
You cannot visit the City by the Bay without being overwhelmed by the historical sites attesting to the strength and ingenuity of the City's inhabitants.
Little Italy, China Town, Japan Town and the Hispanic Mission District underscore the fact that San Francisco is a cultural melting pot reflecting the nationalities of people who mined its gold, ran its businesses and built its bridges and railroads. Good food, unique shopping and the hustle and bustle of people living their daily lives await anyone who visits these unique "cities within the city."
The Presidio of San Francisco, once a Spanish fort, is now operated by the U.S. National Park Service as has been awarded the designation of a National Historic Landmark District by the U.S. Congress.
Steeped in history, it was built by the Spanish in 1776 and seized by the U.S. Army in 1846. It once served as headquarters for many famous Army commands and was the strategic headquarters for Army generals including William Tecumseh Sherman and John Joseph "Black Jack" Pershing. The beauty of the grounds and surrounding gardens, combined with its unique architecture, make the Presidio a definite must-see on your visit to San Francisco.
Of course, no visit to San Francisco is complete without a tour of the infamous Alcatraz. Its transition from military fort to Federal prison saw it become home to America's most hardened and dangerous criminals. They say that "no one has ever escaped from Alcatraz," and once you see its imposing walls and experience a boat ride on the rough shark-filled waters leading to "the rock," it's easy to understand why.
Older than America itself, and as modern as tomorrow, San Francisco is a cannot-be-missed stop when visiting California.