San Francisco is one of the largest cities on the West Coast

November 27, 2012 8:32 am

You sink back into your seat as the cable car chugs up the steep slope. All around you are hills, many with steep, curving streets. A huge bay lies below you. In the distance you see the spectacular Golden Gate Bridge, which crosses a channel at the entrance to the bay. The Pacific Ocean sparkles beyond the bridge. You are in San Francisco, California, a city famous for its scenic beauty.
San Francisco is one of the largest on the West Coast. About 740,000 people live in the city, and many more live nearby. People from many different ethnic groups live in San Francisco. The city’s Chinatown area is home to one of the largest Chinese communities in the United States.
A CITY OF HILLS
San Francisco is built on more than 40 hills at the entrance to San Francisco Bay. Some of the world’s steepest streets are in San Francisco. In fact, the cable car was invented in the city in 1873 to help people travel up and down the many hills. Nob Hill and Russian Hill, in the downtown area, are two famous hills.
Descending Russian Hill is a section of Lombard Street, nicknamed the Crookedest Street in the World. The old cobblestone street makes eight hairpin turns in a single steep block!
THE BAY AND THE BRIDGE
Water borders San Francisco on three sides. The climate is mild, and thick fog often blankets the city in summer. To the north a channel called the Golden Gate links San Francisco Bay to the Pacific Ocean. The Golden Gate Bridge crosses this channel.
The Golden Gate Bridge opened in 1937. At that time, it was the longest suspension bridge in the world. It has miles of ladders and some 300,000 rivets in each of its two towers. The towers hold up steel cables that suspend the bridge. A crew of ironworkers and painters work full time to scrape rust from the bridge and repaint its surface orange.
Several islands are part of San Francisco. The most famous is Alcatraz, located in the bay. On the island is an abandoned federal prison that once held dangerous criminals. The prison closed in 1963. Today, the island is a tourist attraction.
BEFORE SAN FRANCISCO WAS BUILT
Native Americans lived along San Francisco Bay for thousands of years before Europeans arrived. In 1769, a Spanish expedition climbed the hills and saw the bay. The Spaniards soon built a military fort and mission on the bay.
THE CALIFORNIA GOLD RUSH
In 1848, gold was discovered in northern California. News of the discovery led to the California gold rush of 1849. Thousands of fortune seekers, many traveling by ship, crowded into San Francisco’s harbor. San Francisco became an important supply center for the gold miners, and the small town grew quickly.
A CITY OF IMMIGRANTS
People from all over the world arrived in San Francisco seeking a better way of life. They included large numbers of Chinese immigrants. Many settled in San Francisco’s Chinatown area. Other immigrants followed the Chinese, including people from Japan, Korea, and the Philippines.
Today, San Francisco has one of the largest Asian populations of any city in the United States. Many people of Hispanic descent also live in the city.
EARTHQUAKE AND FIRE
In April 1906, a massive earthquake struck the city. Fires broke out that raged for days. Many people died and much of San Francisco was destroyed. The residents soon rebuilt their city.
San Francisco was hit by another powerful earthquake in October 1989. It was not as strong as the 1906 earthquake, but many buildings were destroyed.
SAN FRANCISCO TODAY
San Francisco today remains a lively and fascinating place. Skyscrapers dominate the skyline, but many old buildings and homes remain. They include Mission Delores, the oldest building in San Francisco. Completed in 1791, the mission stands in the colorful Mission District, where a large Hispanic community lives.
Many of the city’s historic areas are popular with visitors. On the waterfront is Fisherman’s Wharf. Long ago, the wharf was crowded with fishing boats. Today it is famous for its seafood restaurants. Nearby are Ghirardelli Square and the Cannery. Both are old factories that have been turned into shopping centers.
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