Historical content

Nob Hill

The actual peak of Nob Hill lies slightly to the northwest in the area of Jones and Sacramento, Clay, and Washington Streets. From this area of the hill, all directions are downhill. South of Nob Hill is the shopping district of Union Square, the seedier area called the Tenderloin, and then Market Street. To the east is San Francisco's Chinatown and a little farther, the city's financial district. Northeast of Nob Hill is North Beach and Telegraph Hill. North of Nob Hill is the Cable Car Museum and eventually, the tourist-centered areas of the waterfront such as Pier 39 and Fisherman's Wharf.

The Story of Nob Hill

Nob Hill is perhaps one of the most affluent districts in San Francisco (the other being Pacific Heights) and is home to many of the city's old money families.
The area was settled in the rapid urbanization happening in the city in the late 19th century. Because of the views and its central position, it became the exclusive enclave of the rich and famous on the west coast who built large mansions in the neighborhood. This included prominent tycoons such as Leland Stanford and other members of the Big Four. The neighborhood was completely destroyed in the 1906 earthquake and fire; the Flood mansion and the Fairmont Hotel were the only buildings that survived. While the neighborhood was able to maintain its affluence following the quake, many of the rich rebuilt their mansions further west in Pacific Heights and Cow Hollow. Many of the today's exclusive hotels were built over the ruins of the former mansions. The intersection of California and Powell streets is also the home to the fanciest hotels in San Francisco: the Fairmont Hotel, the Mark Hopkins Intercontinental Hotel, the Stanford Court, and the Huntington Hotel. Views from the top of the hill (and especially from the tower of the Fairmont Hotel) extend in all directions around the San Francisco Bay Area. At the center of the neighborhood is the former mansion of tycoon James Flood, now the headquarters of the exclusive old guard, old money Pacific Union Club. To be a member of the Pacific-Union Club is to say that one made it through a rigorous vetting to filter out the "not us." Also, at the top of Nob Hill enclave stands Grace Cathedral. As such, Nob Hill is often a San Francisco set-piece scene used in many movies, especially if a high-speed chase is called for.

from the wikipedia
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Mansions on Nob Hill

Nob Hill in San Francisco has long been a symbol of the city's elegance and grace. Known originally as the California Street Hill, it became the home of San Francisco's wealthiest families in the 1870s. The city's elite were the "nabobs," (referring to the title of prominent governors of the Mogul empire in India) which was later shortened simply to "nobs."

On the crest of the hill sprawled the homes of the Big Four, the wealthiest and most powerful Californians of their generation. The home of Leland Stanford was on California Street where the Stanford Court Hotel stands today. Visitors to the magnificent Stanford home entered through a circular entrance hall, bathed in amber light from a glass dome in the ceiling seventy feet above. The family of Mark Hopkins lived just up the street, where the Mark Hopkins Hotel now stands. Topped by a crown of towers, gables and steeples, it looked like a fanciful medieval castle.

Mark Hopkins residence at the top of California Street circa 1890
Taber Photo, sf_mark_hopkins_residence

Hopkins & Stanford Residences

Homes of Mark Hopkins (right) and Leland Stanford (right)

Leland Stanford made his fortune building the western half of the transcontinental railroad. He bought this block for $60,000 and built a mansio. After 20 years of marriage, the Stanfords had a son and perhaps it was for the boy that this home was built. The boy died at the age of 15, and the home was later destroyed in 1906. Stanford University was built in memory of the boy.

Photography - Taber


Mansions of Mark Hopkins and Gov. Leland Stanford, Nob Hill, c. 1890

Hopkins and Stanford were two of the 'Big Four' who built the Union Pacific Railroad. Mrs Hopkins was responsible for the elaborate medieval design of their home. It was not completed before her husband's death, and she later married the architect. Both mansions were destroyed by fire in 1906.

Taber Photo


Top of the Mark, Mark Hopkins Hotel, c. 1948

Opened in 1926, the Hotel was named after Mark Hopkins, the founder of the Central Pacific Railroad. In 1939 the 19th floor penthouse was converted into a glass-walled cocktail lounge with a 360 degree view of the city below. Here, World War II servicemen had their last good luck toast to the Golden Gate before shipping out.


Mansion of Gov. Leland Stanford, Nob Hill, c. 1890

Stanford, one of the 'Big Four' who built the Union Pacific Railroad. Mansion was destroyed by fire in 1906.

Taber Photo

Fairmont Hotel, 950 Mason St. ,1905

Construction on the opulent six-story hotel began in 1902, and was almost completed at the time of the 1906 earthquake. The structure was still sound, but the interior was gutted by the fires that followed. The famous architect Julia Morgan was hired to direct the necessary reconstruction, and a year later was reopened.


Chefs of the Fairmont Hotel, 950 Mason St. c 1905

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