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History of San Francisco, California

The San Francisco area was settled in 1776 by the Spanish officer Juan Bautista de Anza. The original reason for settling there was the construction of a Presidio (fort) designed to guard the entrance to the San Francisco Bay. The fort was a large structure designed to intimidate incoming belligerants. Housing was needed for soldiers stationed at the fort. Father Junipero Serra was assigned to provide a portion of its housing. He was successful in finding a suitable area for a new complex and named it Misión San Francisco de Asís. The area is now called Mission Dolores. Nearly 75 years after the fort was built, the United States seized control of the area in 1846. It was not long after the U.S. takeover that prospectors came to the area. In 1848, gold was discovered in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada Mountains about 100 miles to the east. The ensuing gold rush became a major part of the San Francisco economy over the next few years. People arrived from throughout the country to try their luck at making it rich. Two people of note in San Francisco history are Levi Strauss, inventor of denim blue jeans; and the sculptor Beniamino Benvenuto Bufano. San Francisco also is blessed with historic places that define its uniqueness. They include, but are not limited to:

  • the Presidio of San Francisco,
  • Golden Gate National Recreation Area,
  • California Palace of the Legion of Honor,
  • National Maritime Museum of San Francisco,
  • California Academy of Sciences Museum,
  • and the Mexican Museum.
  • San Francisco boasts numerous historic artistic venues and contributors:

  • Davies Symphony Hall
  • War Memorial Opera House
  • San Francisco Museum of Modern Art
  • Geary Theater
  • American Conservatory Theater
  • San Francisco Opera
  • San Francisco Art Institute
  • San Francisco Ballet
  • San Francisco Symphony
  • San Francisco Conservatory of Music
  • Other venues of historic significance are the San Francisco City Hall, George R. Moscone Convention Center, San Francisco Chinatown, Granite Lady, Fisherman's Wharf, Ghirardelli Square, and the Transamerica Pyramid. Higher education has played a significant role in San Francisco history. Institutions of high learning include, but are not limited to, the New College of California, Academy of Art College, Golden Gate University, University of California - San Francisco, University of San Francisco, San Francisco State University, and University of California Hastings College of Law. Two tests of San Francisco’s civic resolve can be seen in the wakes of the 1906 San Francisco earthquake and Loma Prieta, the 1989 earthquake. Though some said it could not be done, San Francisco's ingenuity triumphed when the imposing San Francisco Golden Gate Bridge was built.