When the Spanish arrived on the San Francisco peninsula in 1776, the area later known as North Beach was a valley of grass and sand between two hills; this valley opened to the north on San Francisco Bay. Because the hill on the east of this valley (not yet called Telegraph Hill) rose up out of the bay at the northeast corner of the peninsula, there was no way to travel by land from Yerba Buena Cove, where the ships first anchored, to the north waterfront. Thus, the best land route from Yerba Buena Cove to the north waterfront and the Presidio was through this valley. The trail that connected these points was long established when the first settlement in the valley was built by the soon-to-be widowed Juana Briones around 1836-1838 — a rancho with an adobe house at what later became the intersection of Powell and Filbert streets. According to tradition, Briones grazed cattle in the valley and her garden was the site of what later became Washington Square. (Bloomfield 1982: 24; Dillon 1985: 32) Beginning in 1847, the valley and the hills on either side were included in a survey of streets and blocks to facilitate the sale and recording of land. The valley has never been named; the hills were Telegraph Hill on the east and Russian Hill on the west. The 1847 O’Farrell survey of the area extended from Post Street north to Green Street and from the bay west to Mason Street, thus including the southern part of what would later become North Beach. (Sandweiss 1993: 22-24) Before much if anything was realized in that grid, it was expanded north to the bay and west to Larkin Street by City Engineer William Eddy. With this expansion, prepared in 1851, all of the future North Beach district was included (Sandweiss 1993: 57-58; Woodbridge 2006: 33-34) The survey laid out a grid of rectangular blocks bound by streets oriented north-south and east-west. The grid was measured in Mexican varas (thirty-three inches) with that part north of Market Street called the fifty vara survey; in each block there were six lots measuring fifty varas on a side. Thus, the blocks were rectangles measuring 100 varas north-south and 150 varas east-west. Every street was originally twentyfive varas wide.



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