||Word Dancer Press
||June 30, 2005
Barnes & Noble.com
memories of San Francisco
People who recall San Francisco's prior days bemoan that it just isn't the same... and they're right. San Francisco will always remain one of the world's great cities, but yesterday's San Francisco, with it's personalized style and charm, had no rival. With long-forgotten stories and evocative photographs, San Francisco's Lost Landmarks showcases the once-familiar sites that have faded into dim memories and hazy legends. Not just a list of places, facts, and dates, this pictorial history shows why San Francisco as been a legendary travel destination and one of the world's premier places to live and work for more than one hundred and fifty years. It not only tells of the lost landmarks, but also serves up the flavor of what it was like to experience these past treasures.
When I meet people who used to live in San Francisco or visited in years gone by, they often give me the tired old line, "I used to love going there but it's no longer the same." That's the point of this book. San Francisco has never been "the same" in its entire history and it's not just because of the 1906 earthquake and fire. The city began in a state of metamorphosis and has never stopped. Fifty years from now, the complaints will be the same.
I've captured some of the fun places and events in the city with the goal of entertaining first, then educating. There's no test at the end of San Francisco's Lost Landmarks. With over 150 photos and graphic representations, it's written to be read.
San Franciscans love to eat. San Francisco’s restaurants vie for customers with a highly varied fare. Some restaurants are gathering places for the famous and infamous. Others, feeding a loyal local following, reach icon status. Coupled with a port that brought in foods and spices from the world over as well as one of the most culturally diverse populations in the world, any culinary desire finds its match in the city. The loss of a restaurant triggers an emotional incident, burning up newspaper columnist’s space and causing the passage of meaningless city hall resolutions.
Three American cities, New York, New Orleans and San Francisco are recognized for their restaurants and the high quality of their food. Admittedly, locales exist that are noted for specialty foods like Chicago’s beef and great Polish food, Kansas City’s barbeque and Los Angeles with its pretenses. (Yes, I just made an enemy or two but don't be fooled, L.A’s food is all for show, not the palate.) San Francisco boasts first class local ingredients such as Dungeness crab, sand dabs (local flounders—sweet and tender), artichokes from Castroville, Italian dry salami with a local mold growing on the casing and crusty bread the locals call French bread & everyone else calls sourdough. The list goes on with some, like the San Francisco Bay Shrimp (Crangon franciscorum), lost to history. They died out after World War II. They were small but sweet and succulent beyond words according to those who still recall.
San Francisco’s restaurant craze began with the gold rush and the influx of money and foreigners. As described previously, the men of the gold rush arrived unencumbered. No wives, no mothers, no one to cook dinner. The men heading for the gold fields didn’t have time to cook and likely didn’t know how. Those remaining in the city used every hour extracting gold from those coming or going to the gold fields. They lived in a room or shared a room. Few had a house of their own and if they did, they rented rooms. The high demand for skilled cooks and chefs attracted men and a few women from across the world. San Franciscans paid well for a good meal and paid exorbitantly for a sumptuous meal. By the 1860’s, no other city in the United States had more restaurants per capita with the possible exception of New York.
Did you know Chop Suey was created in San Francisco by a Chinese chef who ran out of food? Presented at the end of his day with hungry, inebriated patrons and no food left, he chopped up leftovers, vegetable and meat scraps and served it to his guest calling it chop suey. The concoction proved popular and chop suey houses sprung up on the fringes of Chinatowns. At least, so legend claims.
For most of the nineteenth century, San Francisco’s Chinese restaurants catered primarily to the Chinese although some caught on with the Caucasians who visited Chinatown for its many vices. The odd venturesome soul strolled Chinatown looking for unique culinary experiences. Few were disappointed. Until the quake and a bit of westernization of the menu including chop suey and westernized chow mein, most Chinese restaurants with names like “Balcony of Joy and Delight”, “Fragrant Almond Chamber” and “Chamber of Odors of Different Lands” remained primarily the domain of the “Celestials”.
The best Chinese restaurant of early San Francisco may have been Hang Far Low. It’s difficult to tell since most early guide books overlooked or warned tourists away from Chinese restaurants, claiming the cuisine made no attempt to accommodate the western style or customs and some ingredients would offend western tastes. John S. Hittell in his 1888 Guide Book to San Francisco singled out Hang “Fer” Low (Hang Far Low) as his recommend restaurant in Chinatown. Located on Dupont (now Grant Avenue) between Clay and Sacramento, he stated it was the Delmonico’s of Chinese restaurants. Multi-storied, the business reserved the second floor for regular boarders, paying by the week or month. The upper floor, reserved for wealthy guests offered private accommodations achieved by movable partitions or screens. Dinner for six guests could cost between $20 and $100 and were frequently hosted by wealthy Chinese. Dinner often lasted past 2 p.m. with intervals for taking the air or for private business transactions. Delicacies served during such occasions included bird’s-nest soup, shark’s fins, taranaki fungus (from a New Zealand tree), Chinese terrapin, Chinese goose, Chinese quail, fish brains, tender shoots of bamboo, various vegetables “strange to American eyes”, arrack (a rice wine), champagne and sherry as well as a few westernized dishes.
Midwest Book Review
So many books appear yearly on San Francisco that it's easy to miss one - and San Francisco's Lost Landmarks is not one to miss; it holds riches like few others. Where competitors offer listings of dates and facts, San Francisco's Lost Landmarks uses vintage pictures to blend with history to tell of lost pieces of the past. From the Tivoli Opera House and Gardens to Ralston's failed Grand Hotel, San Francisco's Lost Landmarks is history at its best.
Charles T. Markee
San Francisco's Lost Landmarks by James R. Smith
Whether you're a native, a relative or a tourist, this book will be your personal gemstone of historical information. From the gold rush through the twentieth century it takes you to the parks, the wharfs, the saloons, the theaters, the International Expositions, the restaurants, hotels and the history that have made San Francisco uniquely, The City.
Smith is a fourth generation native of The City and his passion for its special place in his life fills these pages. He tells the tale of its evolution from sand dunes to metropolis in a friendly conversational style that's accompanied by fascinating historical photographs and quoted inserts by natives who lived during times past. What develops as you read is a picture of people with determination who built a city first with gold, then with agriculture, trade and industry. There is no other place like San Francisco and Smith captures its uniqueness simply by documenting a reality that is frequently stranger than anyone could create with fiction. How many times did buildings burn to the ground only to be rebuilt in grander style?
My own personal history came alive reading this: The water chute at Playland, swimming at Sutro's, breakfast at the Cliff House, dancing at Bop City, riding the ferry boat to the 1939 Golden Gate International Exposition, my grandmother's memories of the 1906 earthquake and fire, brunch at the Palace Hotel or meeting Emperor Norton walking along Market Street. But more than nostalgia, I gained a perspective of San Francisco's place in the growth of our nation and the development of its place in the a global economy.
Reading this was a journey of discovery. I didn't know there was an earlier, 1894 International Exposition. I didn't know that Treasure Island was also intended to be the location of the San Francisco International Airport. And the list goes on.
Yes, there was crime and graft wherever there were people and money and it's included as part of the city's history. But San Francisco was and is a spectacular fairyland of sweeping vistas, rolling hills, wind swept beaches, amazing bridges and beautiful buildings. The fairy castle on the book's cover exemplifies this theme. It's the third Cliff House, built in the French Chateau style, completed by Adolph Sutro in 1896 and burned to the ground in 1907.
Reviewed August 24, 2005 Copyright 2005 Charles T. Markee
Linda K. Hardie
We all know San Francisco is a growing, changing city. But it's not just businesses, buildings, and other human-created landmarks that have changed in San Francisco over the years. The coastline, streams, marshes, bays, hills, valleys - all these natural parts of the landscape were filled, leveled, increased, decreased, and otherwise radically modified in the City's early years.
All that information is just part of the first chapter of this fascinating book. Other chapters look at famous San Francisco restaurants throughout the years, the theater scene, hotels, expositions, gambling halls, and many other notable attractions in this always-fascinating City by the Bay.
It seems like fully half the book is pictures: photos, vintage drawings, theater playbills, even a menu for the Clift Hotel, that closed down just recently. The pictures are all interesting and clearly captioned. The information is all reliably presented and well-organized. The author, a San Francisco native and local historian, obviously did his homework well. What a fun book!
Want to review or comment on this
Click here to login!
Need a FREE Reader Membership?
Click here for your Membership!