I am discovering San Francisco for the first time! Am spending five days visiting the city on a Road Scholars program and am off to a great start. Yesterday we were out and about from 8 am to 8 pm learning from three experts – an historian with a passion for understanding the history of the city through its interesting and quirky leaders, a woman who is the historian of San Francisco’s fabulous City Hall, and a guide with an expert knowledge of the various communities and its fabulous architecture.
Here are some of the highlights for day 1.
When the original city hall was destroyed by the 1906 Great Earthquake, civic leaders decided to rebuild an impressive structure as a symbol of the resilience of the City. It was built in two years, in time for a Worlds Exposition in 1915. The building occupies two city blocks and is topped by a dome that is 42 feet higher than the Capital dome in DC.
Within is a huge Rotunda with a grand flight of stairs. At the top of the stairs is where 40 marriage ceremonies take place each day. (The attendants are limited to 6 people.)
While a wedding ceremony was taking place at the top of the stairs, a display of a dress, the Amsterdam Dress, was taking place below. The dress is made of 75 flags of countries where it is a crime to be homosexual, including 12 countries where it is a crime punishable by death. The dress was created in Amsterdam and is traveling the world promoting openness and inclusiveness. It measures 52 feet in diameter. It was being displayed in San Francisco on the anniversary of the assassination of Harvey Milk.
We toured part of the city gaining a sense of some of the neighborhoods. The photo below was taken from the top of Twin Peaks and shows how densely built up the city is with no more room for housing, which explains the high cost of property and rents. We were informed that there are more dogs in the city than children because families cannot afford to live in the downtown area.
As we toured, I observed these tiny vehicles, GPS outfitted for rental to tourists. While these folks were navigating traffic, we traveled in the safety of a comfortable bus.
As we toured parts of the city we experienced many micro climates where visibility and temperatures changed within minutes.
This is the Palace of Fine Arts, a structure with an exhibit hall built for the 1915 World Exposition. The Beaux Arts style of architecture was popular at the time and after the exposition, rather than tear it down, the city decided to keep it. Structural problems developed so in 1964, it was demolished and rebuilt with improvements. The scale of the structure is impressive!
We visited the Haight Ashbury neighborhood where the 50th anniversary of the Summer of Love is being celebrated. 50 years – can it be that long ago!!
Another neighborhood we drove through is the Castro, the heart of the gay community.
More adventures to come!