Historical Timeline

Over the course of more than 200 years since its founding, San Francisco has grown from a small pueblo into a major metropolitian city and world destination. Here are a few of the milestones in San Francisco's rich history.

The entrance to San Francisco Bay is discovered.

The first colonizing party arrived in 1776 to found the Presidio of San Francisco and Mission Dolores.

Ships from Boston began to visit the Spanish towns and Missions along the upper and lower California coast. They came first to barter for both otter and beaver pelts; later for tallow, hides, and materials used by the natives and settlers.

The Victorian movement begins, named after Queen Victoria who reigned from 1837 to 1901. San Francisco goes on to become famous for its Victorian buildings. Many varied and interesting styles emerged and were adapted and reshaped for American tastes in rapidly growing cities like San Francisco.

The city officially adopts the name San Francisco. The name was derivied from the Spanish who named it after St. Francisis of Assissi. Until then, the area was known as "Yerba Buena", or "Good Herb".

Gold discovered in Coloma, while John Sutter was building a saw-mill. The Gold Rush begins, a rough-and-tumble era that ignited when gold was discovered in California. More than 700 vessels steamed through the Golden Gate filled with fortune seekers hoping to strike it rich. Many of these ships were beached in their berths and converted to warehouses, offices and saloons, the first commercial enterprises near what was called the Barbary Coast and is now the San Francisco downtown waterfront.

Early winners of the Gold Rush were the banking industry which saw the founding of Wells Fargo Bank in San Francisco.

Fort Point completed. Built to protect San Francisco from some one who never came. The fort was never fired on nor did it ever have to defend the Gate.

An area of moored ships was nicknamed the Barbary Coast and becomes a raucous district of prostitution, dance halls and thievery.

The Victorian era begins in San Francisco, marking the commencement of period of construction ending in 1906 where the bulk of San Francisco's Victorian buildings are built.

Golden Gate Park is created by an act of the California Legislature.

The first cable car system is tested near the top of Nob Hill at Clay and Jones Streets.

Pacific Stock Exchange formally opens.

George Hearst accepts a small daily newspaper, the San Francisco Examiner, as payment for a gambling debt. The elder Hearst, at the time a U.S. senator from California, had little interest in the newspaper business as such, but the event proved pivotal for his son William Randolph Hearst who ultimately took over the paper and created an empire.

The German Castle was developed by Frederick O. Layman on Telegraph Hill.

"Black Bart", a gentleman bandit who has been robbing Wells Fargo stages throughout northern California, turns out to be respectable bank clerk Charles Bolton.

The Ferry Building is built. Vessels which brought people during gold rush days were utilized for San Francisco-Sacramento and cross-bay service.

Sutro Baths are built by Adolph Sutro. They contain swimming pools, restaurants, natural history exhibits, galleries, and a garden.

The Edwardian architectural movement begins in San Francisco while Kind Edward VII is on the throne. This period lasts until 1910. The San Francisco homes of the era were built at a time of economic stability and include prominent roofs with false gables, bay windows, stained glass and other ornate details.

The San Francisco earthquake and fire strikes and causes massive devastation. Though San Francisco would rebuild quickly, the disaster would divert trade, industry and population growth south to Los Angeles.

The Fairmont Hotel in San Francisco opens.

The current Cliff House is built, after being burned down twice in the past.

Angel Island opens as a point of entry to the United States for many immigrants. Like Ellis Island in New York, it processed the entry of people from different parts of the world.

The task of creating a Palace of Fine Arts for the 1915 Panama-Pacific International Exposition fell to the architect Bernard R. Maybeck.

First transcontinental telephone conversation by Alexander Graham Bell (New York) to Thomas Watson (San Francisco) takes place.

The 18th Amendment was added to the Constitution, officially starting Prohibition (of liquor) one year later.

World War I ends.

A portion of Lombard Street was created into "the crookedest street in the world". Steinhart Aquarium, Golden Gate Park, opened to public.

Palace of Legion of Honor built.

Coit Tower built.

Alcatraz established.

The San Francisco Museum of Art opens.

The San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge opens becoming one of the largest bridges in the world and carrying more traffic than any other toll bridge.

The Golden Gate Bridge is completed. The concept of bridging the vast Golden Gate Strait was proposed as early as 1872 by railroad entrepreneur Charles Crocker. It was not until 1916, however, that the idea of a bridge was revived. The majority of engineers said a bridge could not be built. Some speculated it would cost over $100 million. However, Joseph Strauss, a designer of nearly 400 spans, said such a bridge was not only feasible, but could be built for only $25 to $30 million.

World War II begins.

Japan bombs Pearl Harbor. U.S. enters World War II. FBI detains 1370 Japanese Americans classified as "dangerous enemy aliens". The Navy takes possession of Hunter's Point for a naval yard.

World War II ends. United Nations Charter signed in San Francisco.

San Francisco International Airport opens.

Bay Area Rapid Transport (BART) organization created.

Alcatraz, referred to as "The Rock", is evacuated as a Federal Prison.

Haight-Ashbury hippie movement begins.

David Rockefeller, John Portman, and Trammel-Crow submit the winning proposal to develop a 8.5 acre site that becomes a four office tower complex named Embarcadero Center.

The Bank of American building is built. It is a monument to San Francisco's bold natural landscape and one of the most recognized buildings in the United States.

Transamerica Pyramid officially opens. It has 48 stories and a 212 foot spire. Critics calls it "the dunce cap".

Dan White, a disgruntled ex-city supervisor walked into City Hall and killed Harvey Milk, a popular gay city supervisor, and Mayor George Moscone.

A 7.1 magnitude earthquake hits Bay Area named The Loma Prieta Earthquake.

Presidio Army base turned over to National Park Service.

The dot.com era begins, a speculative bubble covering roughly 1995–2000 during which stock markets in industrialized nations saw their equity value rise rapidly from growth in the more recent Internet sector and related fields.

Pacific Bell Park official opening game.

The first tower of One Rincon Hill, a residential skyscraper on the apex of Rincon Hill is completed. This iconic building was designed by world renowned achitectural firm Solomon Cordwell Buenz (SCB) and developed by Urban West.

San Francisco Giants baseball team wins the World Series.

Construction of the new Transbay Center commences. The $4 billion project is a visionary transportation and housing project that will transform downtown San Francisco and the regional transportation system by creating a "Grand Central Station of the West".