We began the Day 3 by traveling form our hotel down the hill on a cable car – for the fun of it! We then visited the Cable Car Museum to observe the cables that are constantly running underground to keep the cars moving. While the cables are moving, a gripman uses a lever to grab the cable and the car moves. When he releases the lever the car stops. It is a simple mechanism that takes lots of maintenance since the cables fray and need replacing and the gripper on the lever wears out. There are eight different cable car lines and each has its own, constantly moving, cable. The cable cars date from 1873 and enabled the city to expand up the steep hills, hills that were treacherous for horse and wagons.
The red arrow above is pointing to one of the constantly moving cables. Below is the device that grips the cable.
We then learned about some of the mansions that occupied Nob Hill but were destroyed in the 1906 Earthquake/Fire. The largest was a 127 room Victorian built by Mark Hopkins, one of the “Big Four” very wealthy men who financed and created the Central Pacific Railroad. The railroad became the western part of the First Transcontinental when it linked up with the eastern part in Utah in 1869. Below is what the mansion looked like. A hotel now occupies the site.
We visited Grace Cathedral also located on Nob Hill. Construction began on the church in 1927 and was completed in 1964. It replaced one destroyed in the 1906 earthquake that dated back to the Gold Rush of 1849. The main doors of the Cathedral display a replica of the 15th century Gates of Paradise by Lorenzo Ghiberti that are on the Baptistry of the Cathedral in Florence, Italy.
The Cathedral is the third largest in the US and has gorgeous stained glass windows.
The church supports and promotes various arts events including an annual artist residency. Installed in a side aisle of the nave is this years project by Benjamin Bergery and Jim Campbell, entitled “Jacobs Ladder.” It consists of a ladder of light tubes with a changing pattern of colored lights that depict a figure moving up and downward that reference a passage in Genesis where Jacob has a dream where he sees angles descending and ascending a ladder to heaven.
The Ferry Building on the wharf is one of the few buildings that survived the earthquake and fire of 1906. The building covers three acres and was the transportation hub for ferries until the 1930’s when the bridges were built to accommodate people coming to the city from the Bay Area. Today it houses a food court and that is where we had lunch before hoping a ferry to Alcatraz.
The island started out as the first lighthouse and fort on the West Coast. From 1850 to 1934 it was a military prison and then from 1934 to 1963 it was a federal prison. Only three men escaped from Alcatraz who were never caught. There is doubt that they survived the cold waters of the 1.25 miles to the mainland. Today it is a National Park. The audio tour was an excellent way to learn about the facility. Narrated by former prisoners and guards, the tour revealed inside perspectives of what it was like to be imprisoned there.
Referred to as “The Rock,” I was surprised to see the lush gardens on the grounds. These gardens were started by the military families who lived on the island and were maintained by prisoners. The park system has restored them as they were.
The prisoners occupied small, individual cells. The photo on the right is one of the cells where an escapee removed concrete around the opening of a ventilation duct using spoons.
Visiting Alcatraz was a sobering experience!