Fisherman's Wharf is a neighborhood in San Francisco, California. Roughly speaking, it encompasses the northern waterfront area of San Francisco from Van Ness Street east to Kearney Street. The Port of San Francisco manages Fisherman's Wharf, including sport and commercial fishing.
The wharf began back in the Gold Rush days when Chinese immigrants in junks fished offshore and provided shrimp, oysters, and salmon to feed the hordes of Gold Rushers. Italian fishermen came next, and they set up stands along the beach to sell crab, shrimp, oysters, and other seafood.
From the days of the Gold Rush until the turn of the 20th century, the San Francisco fishing fleet of lateen-rigged sailboats were copies of the craft the Italian fishermen knew in the old country. Green was the prevailing color of the tiny boats, and the name of a patron saint appeared on the hull.
The fishermen were as colorful as their craft. Their natural talent for song was heard in renditions of arias from Verdi. In the fog-enshrouded waters outside the Golden Gate, the singing was a means of communication. One could not see a companion boat, but one knew it was there.
The "second-generation" fishing boats came with the introduction of gasoline engines; small but dependable "putt-putts." What became known as the Monterey Hull boats came into general use. The gas engine made it possible to fish more days of the year, gave a wider range for their operation in the ocean water, and provided power to haul in the nets or lines.
Henry Meiggs created the wharf as "Meiggs Wharf" to serve the lumber trade. Meigg's wharf was always a spot for the fishing fleet, swimmers, and sunbathers. The Ghirardelli Chocolate Factory (now a shopping mall) launched the wharf's heightened popularity. In the end though, Henry Meiggs was chased out of town by a posse acting on behalf of his creditors. Meiggs died in Peru in 1877, not long before the cable cars started clanking down to the great wharf he envisioned.
The style and character of Fisherman's Wharf can be traced to Henry Meiggs. Meiggs did not name his wooden landing Fisherman's Wharf. It was Meiggs Wharf, starting at a cove in North Beach, where Francisco Street is now, and extending 1,600 feet into the bay, ending at what is now the Embarcadero. The wharf was completed in 1853 to serve the lumber trade, but that did not save Meiggs from being chased to South America by his creditors. Even without Meiggs, the wharf survived as a mooring for the fishing fleet and as a weekend promenade for sunbathers and swimmers who rented bathhouses.
Meiggs Wharf was isolated by a seawall that the state had built and was later replaced by a new Fisherman's Wharf around the turn of the century.
The western end of the wharf started to boom just before the turn of the century when the Ghirardelli Chocolate Factory moved into the old Pioneer Woolen Mill, which had made blankets and uniforms for the Union army in the Civil War. At about the same time in an adjacent brick building, Marco Fontana formed the California Fruit Canners Association. Once the largest canning operation in the world, it shipped with the Del Monte label until the 1920s.
In 1963, Manchurian immigrant Leonid Matveyeff, who changed his name to Leonard Martin, turned the cannery into a shopping center. However, the popularity of the seafood, the views of Alcatraz and the Golden Gate Bridge, and the location, turned Fisherman's Wharf into an area filled with tourist attractions of all types, including shops, museums, amusement places of various types, and fine restaurants.