Crime

Alcatraz the Rock

Alcatraz: The Rock

February 6, 2024

Originally named after the Pelicans that used to be inhabit the island, Alcatraz, has since become a symbol of San Francisco, as much as the Golden Gate Bridge and our cable cars. Most first-time visitors to the city by the bay will have it on their list of things to see and do here, along…

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Barbary Coast (1935)

San Francisco’s Barbary Coast Today

January 12, 2024

Barbary Coast was the name given to a neighborhood of San Francisco, more or less encompassing Pacific Avenue (then known as Pacific Street) between Montgomery and Stockton Streets, from the 1860’s to the early 1900’s. Roughly bound by today’s Chinatown, North Beach and the Embarcadero, the area was infamous for the easy availability of almost…

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San Francisco in Film Noir

San Francisco In Film Noir

February 6, 2023

Noir as a genre was really born in San Francisco, in 1922, when a series of short stories by a writer called Dashiell Hammett began being published in literary magazine The Smart Set. It wasn’t known as ‘Noir’ at the time, these were considered to be, more or less, just pulp crime stories. But Hammett…

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the great fire san francisco

The Great Fire & How It Changed SF

September 21, 2022

The 1906 Great Fire is one of the most cataclysmic moments in the history of San Francisco. In many respects it’s the big “before and after” event here. Some buildings survived – the St Francis Hotel, the Flood Mansion, the Fairmont Hotel on Nob Hill, and the Ferry Building were amongst the few – but so much…

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Chinatown crime and vice

Old Chinatown: Crime & Vice

May 19, 2022

San Francisco has the oldest Chinatown in the U.S. and one of the oldest in the West. Chinese first began moving to the city in 1849, as news of “Gam Saan” (Gold Mountain) spread around the world and reached China, firing the imaginations of thousands of young men who were struggling after years of prolonged…

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Gold Rush San Francisco

How The Gold Rush Created San Francisco

May 13, 2022

On May 12, 1848, Mormon pioneer and businessman Samuel Brannan walked onto Portsmouth Square, shouting “Gold! Gold from the American River!”, while holding aloft a phial full of gold flakes. He hadn’t discovered the gold and he never attempted mining it, but it fired the starting gun for the great California Gold Rush. He owned…

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Maiden Lane, San Francisco

Maiden Lane: From Brothels To Boutiques

April 15, 2022

Today Maiden Lane is an upscale, boutique-lined, pedestrian street running east off Union Square, notable chiefly for its gates and for being the home of San Francisco’s only Frank Lloyd Wright designed building. However, the narrow, quiet, street has a scandalous past as one of old San Francisco’s main red-light districts, in the late nineteenth…

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St Francis Hotel Fatty Arbuckle

The Fatty Arbuckle Scandal & St Francis Hotel

February 10, 2022

St Francis Hotel Long before the Fatty Arbuckle scandal the St Francis Hotel opened in 1904 on Union Square, built as an investment vehicle for Charles Crocker’s grandchildren. Crocker was one of the ‘Big Four’ that had dominated San Francisco in the nineteenth century and, although he had died ten years before, his enormous mansion…

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