San Francisco History

San Francisco and Thereabout
 by Charles Keeler
The California Promotion Committee of San Francisco, Publisher, 1902


        Occupying as it does the end of a peninsula flanked by ocean and bay, San Francisco has but one direction for expansion, but one outlet by land--to the southward.  Here extend the hills and valleys of San Mateo County with well-kept farms and prosperous villages and towns.  Here is Burlingame, where so many San Franciscans of wealth and taste have built country homes, adding to the charm of nature the arts of the architect and landscape gardener.  There are miles of level park-like valley land here where graceful, wide-spreading oaks beautify the plain, revealing between their masses of verdure vistas of blue mountain ranges.  In the cañons of these mountains, and even up on some of the heights where the salt breeze and fog drift in from the sea, are superb forests of redwood.  I recall with peculiar delight the stage ride over the mountains from Redwood City to La Honda, down into the deep dark glade where the solemn shafts of the forest rise like worshipers of the light.

        In the warm valleys of San Mateo County, sheltered from the ocean wind, are the market gardens for supplying San Francisco with vegetables, and flower gardens for providing the wealth of bloom and francrance which makes the city florist shops the delight of all who enter or even pass their doors.  The Crystal Springs Lakes and San Andreas reservoir in the mountains of this district are the sources of San Francisco's water supply, enough, with other available springs, to furnish water to a million people.

        In one of the broad sheltered valleys of this beautiful country of oaks and vineyards lies the Stanford University.  The inspiring example of a multi-millionaire devoting his entire fortune to founding a univeristy in memory of his only son, and the subsequent devotion of his widow in carrying out in every detail the wishes of its founder, has made the University world famous.  Its beautiful Spanish architecture, fitting so well the site, with groups of low, tile-roofed buildings around an inner and outer quadrangle, has done much to create an atmosphere for the University, and its president, David Starr Jordan, has shaped its work on broad and noble lines.  From an initial class of four hundred and sixty-five students, the attendance has grown in ten years to thirteen hundred.  The presence of two great Universities within a radius of thirty miles of San Francisco, with distinctive ideals, with strong individual presidents, the one emphasizing the scientific spirit of investigation, the other the Greek spriti of culture, but both broad and liberal in their views, is one of the great influences, nay rather the great influence in shaping the future of San Francisco.  The rivalry in football and athletics, in oratory and scholarship, between the two universities, keeps both on their mettle.  Each helps the other, and both work for what is highest and best in the life of the State.

        From Stanford University and the academic town of Palo Alto close to it, a ride of a few miles on the train takes the traveler to San Jose at the head of San Francisco Bay.  This city is fifth in population in California, and is noted for its park-like streets shaded by spreading foliage trees or ornamented with rows of palms, its many substantial buildings and general air of prosperity and thrift.  It may well appear so with the great fruit country that surrounds it, where some of the finest prune orchards of the State are to be found, as well as acres and miles of other varied deciduous fruits, all cultivated to the last degree of perfection.

        A daily stage connects San Jose with the Lick Observatory on Mount Hamilton, where, with the aid of the most powerful telescope in the world, a small band of devoted astronomers have made some of the most important discoveries of modern times in the investigation of the heavens.  Work of far-reaching importance has been done here on the finding and observing of double stars, on photographing nebulae, in spectroscopic astronomy, the detection of comets, and in many other fields of research.  The stage ride of twenty-seven miles to the observatory is over a typical section of the Coast Mountains, the view ever enlarging until the topmost point is reached with its almost unparalleled expansiveness of outlook.  The whole snowy range of the Sierras extends far off across the broad plains of the Sacramento and San Joaquin.  Mount Diablo, and Mount Tamalpais lie to the north, and past Loma Prieta to the southward the ranges of southern Monterey County are visible.  San Francisco Bay, the fertile Santa Clara Valley with its settlements, its orchards and cultivated fields, and many near cañons and wrinkled hills are below us.  What sunsets one may view from this vantage point, followed by a peep at some planet through the great glass, and glimpses of that illimitable star world so wonderfully revealed!  Then there is the night stage ride down the mountain, bowling around curves at a lively trot, and descending into the darkness and solitude of the cañons!

        I think of Mount Hamilton during the lovely weeks of spring-time when baby-blue-eyes gladdened the slopes, when shooting stars and scarlet larkspurs and lupines were waving in great masses of radiant bloom, when the birds were singing and courting, and the lonely mountain where man holds communion with the stars, thrilled with that loving touch of nature which makes all the world akin.



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