San Francisco’s Lost Landmarks by James Smith

Whether you’re a native, a relative or a tourist, this book will be your personal gemstone of historical information.  From the gold rush through the twentieth century it takes you to the parks, the wharfs, the saloons, the theaters, the International Expositions, the restaurants, hotels and the history that have made San Francisco uniquely, The City.

            Smith is a fourth generation native of The City and his passion for its special place in his life fills these pages.  He tells the tale of its evolution from sand dunes to metropolis in a friendly conversational style that’s accompanied by fascinating historical photographs and quoted inserts by natives who lived during times past.  What develops as you read is a picture of people with determination who built a city first with gold, then with agriculture, trade and industry.  There is no other place like San Francisco and Smith captures its uniqueness simply by documenting a reality that is frequently stranger than anyone could create with fiction.  How many times did buildings burn to the ground only to be rebuilt in grander style? 

            My own personal history came alive reading this: The water chute at Playland, swimming at Sutro’s, breakfast at the Cliff House, dancing at Bop City, riding the ferry boat to the 1939 Golden Gate International Exposition, my grandmother’s memories of the 1906 earthquake and fire, brunch at the Palace Hotel or meeting Emperor Norton walking along Market Street.  But more than nostalgia, I gained a perspective of San Francisco’s place in the growth of our nation and the development of its place in the a global economy.

            Reading this was a journey of discovery.  I didn’t know there was an earlier, 1894 International Exposition.  I didn’t know that Treasure Island was also intended to be the location of the San Francisco International Airport.  And the list goes on.

            Yes, there was crime and graft wherever there were people and money and it’s included as part of the city’s history.  But San Francisco was and is a spectacular fairyland of sweeping vistas, rolling hills, wind swept beaches, amazing bridges and beautiful buildings.  The fairy castle on the book’s cover exemplifies this theme.  It’s the third Cliff House, built in the French Chateau style, completed by Adolph Sutro in 1896 and burned to the ground in 1907.


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