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 Accidental Cruiser in the West Indies

San Francisco Bay Golden Gate

Liberty Ship Jeremiah O'Brien

Liberty Ship Jeremiah O'BrienThe Liberty Ship Jeremiah O'Brien is docked at pier 45 Fisherman's wharf and is open to the public.

In June 1943 the Liberty Ship S. S. Jeremiah O'Brien slid down the ways at the New England Shipbuilding Corporation in South Portland, Maine. Shortly thereafter she entered service, operated by Grace Line for the War Shipping Administration. Named for the first American to capture a British naval vessel during the Revolutionary War, the O'Brien made seven World War II voyages, ranging from England and Northern Ireland to South America, to India, to Australia. She also made eleven crossings of the English Channel carrying personnel and supplies to the Normandy beaches in support of the D-Day invasion. After the war, she was "mothballed" and laid up in the Reserve Fleet at Suisun Bay, north of San Francisco. Today, the sole still-active survivor of the great D-Day armada, Jeremiah O'Brien symbolizes the accomplishments of the American merchant marine and embodies an extraordinary chapter in our national history.


San Francisco's Barbary Coast

Barbary CoastThe Barbary Coast was an outgrowth of Sydney town, the area at the foot of Broadway and Pacific Street formerly inhabited by the Sydney Ducks. The neighborhood acquired its new name sometime around 1860 from the name of the coast of North Africa where Arab pirates attacked Mediterranean ships. The name Barbary is derived from the Berbers which itself comes from Barbarian. Barbary Coast was the haunt of the low and vile of every kind. The Barbary Coast rose from the massive infusion of treasure seeking argonauts during the Gold Rush. Men from Europe, Asia, South America, and the eastern United States sailed into San Francisco Bay bound for the Mother Lode, many only staying in the gold fields briefly before returning to San Francisco with saddle bags full of nuggets and gold dust. At the end of 1849, out of a population of between 20,000 and 25,000, only about 300 were women and almost two-thirds of those were available for a price. Miners, sailors, and sojourners hungry for female companionship and bawdy entertainment continued to stream into San Francisco in the 1850s and 60s becoming the Barbary Coast's primary clientele. A wide variety of land sharks, con artists, pimps, and prostitutes staked out this area to pluck the gold and silver from the pockets of men through liquor, lust, laudanum-laced libations, or just a hard knock on the head. Sailors in particular had cause to dread the area because the art of shanghaiing was perfected. Many a sailor woke up after a night's leave to find himself unexpectedly on another ship bound for some faraway port. When there was a shortage of sailors for departing ships any able-bodied man who wandered into the wrong saloon, or drank with the wrong companion, could wake up with a mysterious hangover onboard a ship. Crime in the streets and corruption in the government offices plagued San Francisco in the 1850s. With the collapse of the Embarcadero freeway in the Loma Prieta Earthquake, the last traces of the Barbary coast were wiped out. There are now fewer miners and sailors and the Committee of Vigilance has largely driven out the Sydney Ducks.


Coit Tower and Telegraph Hill

Coit Tower and Telegraph Hill

Coit Tower is a notable landmark built atop Telegraph Hill at the bequest of Lillie Hitchcock Coit to beautify the City of San Francisco. In her words, Lillie Hitchcock Coit bequeathed one-third of her estate to the City and County of San Francisco "to be expended in an appropriate manner for the purpose of adding to the beauty of the city which I have always loved.". After her death at 86, this phrase was interpreted to mean a tower on top of Telegraph hill which may or may not resemble a fire hose nozzle.

She died an honorary member of Knickerbocker Engine Company No. 5 an important accomplishment in a town which honors its firemen as much as San Francisco. Her unorthodox career began when she was only 15 years old. One afternoon that pioneer fire company had a short staff on the ropes as it raced to a fire on Telegraph Hill. Because of the shortage of man power, the engine was falling behind. Oh, humiliating and bitter was the repartee passed by Manhattan No. 2 and Howard No. 3 as they prepared to pass. Then, suddenly there came a diversion. Pretty and impulsive Lillie Hitchcock, on her way home from school, saw the plight of the Knickerbocker and tossing her books to the ground, ran to a vacant place on the rope. There she exerted her feeble strength and began to pull, at the same time turning her flushed face to the bystanders and crying: "Come on, you men! Everybody pull and we'll beat 'em!" Everybody did come and pull and Knickerbocker No. 5 went up the slope like a red streak, and got first water on the fire.

Originally named Loma Alta ("High Hill") by the Spaniards, the hill was then familiarly known as Goat Hill by the early San Franciscans, and became the neighborhood of choice for many Irish immigrants. From 1825 through 1847, the area between Sansome & Battery, Broadway and Vallejo streets was used as a burial ground for foreign non-Catholic seamen. The hill owes its current name to a semaphore, a windmill-like structure erected in September 1849, for the purpose of signaling to the rest of the city the nature of the ships entering the Golden Gate. Atop the newly-built house, the marine telegraph consisted of a pole with two raisable arms that could form various configurations, each corresponding a specific meaning: steamer, sailing boat, etc. The information was used by observers operating for financiers, merchants, wholesalers and speculators. As some of these information consumers would know the nature of the cargo carried by the ship they could quickly predict the upcoming (generally lower) local prices for those goods and commodities carried. Those who did not have advance information on the cargo might pay a too-high price from a merchant unloading his stock of a commodity - a price that was about to drop.

Fort Mason and the Marina

Fort Mason and the Marina On the Bay north of Cow Hollow, a sea wall was erected parallel to the shoreline, and the marshland in between was filled with sand pumped up from the bottom of the ocean. Dredging left enough deep water for the creation of the St Francis and Golden Gate Yacht Clubs, which occupy prestigious spots at the foot of Baker Street. In 1915 this area was the site of the Panama-Pacific Exposition which left only a pond and the building which looks like a dome placed on columns designed by Maybeck and known as the Palace of Fine Arts. the Slightly toward the downtown from the St. Francis t is the Marina Green and just a little further to the east are the wharfs of Fort Mason.

In 1863, the Army created, the Post at Point San Jose as a part of its coastal defense network. Renamed Fort Mason in 1882, after Richard Barnes Mason, a former governor of California, Fort Mason served as an Army base for more than 100 years. During World War II, it was a major port of embarkation for troops and supplies destined for the Pacific theater. The Korean War in the 1950s also kept the base busy. However, by the 1960s, the base was obsolete and fell into disuse. The National Park Service took over the administration of the site in the 1970s as a part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area (GGNRA). The headquarters of the GGNRA are located in Fort Mason. A portion of the site, known as the Fort Mason Center, is devoted to nonprofit and cultural activities.

Ferry Building

Ferry Building Now dwarfed by the high rises, the Ferry Building was once the hub of San Francisco traffic on the bay. The San Francisco Ferry Building was built by the Harbor Commission at a cost of less than a million dollars and quickly became one of the most profitable investments in state history. It is still a terminal for ferries that travel across the San Francisco Bay and a successful shopping center. On top of the building is a large clock tower, which can be seen from Market Street, a main thoroughfare of the city. Architecturally, the clock tower was modelled after the 12th century Giralda bell tower in Seville, Spain. The building was designed by local San Francisco architect A. Page Brown, and opened in 1898, replacing its wooden predecessor. It survived both the 1906 earthquake and the 1989 earthquake with amazingly little damage. Until the completion of the Bay Bridge and Golden Gate Bridge in the 1930s it was the second busiest transit terminal in the world, second only to London's Charing Cross Station. It served as the embarcation point for commuters to San Francisco from the East Bay who rode the ferry fleets of the Southern Pacific and Key System. A loop track existed in front of the building for streetcars. A large pedestrian bridge also spanned the Embarcadero in front of the Ferry building until the late 1940s. In 2004 it was remodeled and reopened as an upscale gourmet marketplace, office building, and ferry terminal, albeit with much limited service than what it used to experience in the 1930s. San Francisco's largest farmers market is held there on weekends and Friday nights.

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