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The San Francisco call. (San Francisco [Calif.]) 1895-1913, November 17, 1912, Image 1

Image and text provided by University of California, Riverside; Riverside, CA

Persistent link: http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn85066387/1912-11-17/ed-1/seq-1/

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Jhe San Francisco SUNDAY CALL
the HILL of
With the approach of exposition year San Francisco looms
larger and larger in the eyes of the world. Wherever the city
is known —and that is everywhere—men talk of the hills which
are the city's throne. The city's history and its romance have
centered singularly about these conspicuous summits. Four
of the hills stand as visible monuments of four distinct epochs.
The story of these hills will be told in The Sunday Call in
articles that will seek to portray something of the spirit of each
and something of its meaning.
The present article concerns Telegraph hill, the beautifica
tion of which enters prominently into the exposition plans. The
articles to follow are "Rincon—The Hill Where Aristocracy
Began," "Nob —The Hill of the New Fortunes" and "Russian—
The Hill of Those Who Love It."
These articles will form a notable series and will prove of
interest at home as well as abroad. The second article appears
next Sunday.
Mabel H. Collyer
TELEGRAPH HILL lias always
been an alien in her own port.
And she has always presented
almost as sorry, an appearance as
she does today. Her beautiftcatlon has
been discussed and many plans for her
improvement have been drawn by am
bitious and patriotic young engineers.
The carrying out of any of these plans
constituted a problem that has been
handed down from one generation to
the next ever since the pioneers first
flung their shacks across her slopes.
Perhaps had she been occupied by
only one nation, instead of by such a
motley, national pride would have
decked her in gala attire long
ago. The Italians might have been
inspired to erect beautiful little villas
with wonderful hanging gardens on
the side where her cliffs are now
marred by wretched makeshifts. The
Japanese might have made of her a
miniature Tokyo, with paper folding
houses, or the Mexicans might have
graced her with winding lanes, leading
through patios to mission like adobe
mansions. The possibilities for her
improvement are legion. But she has
been the puppet of all nations and the
pet of none. Compared to her fairer,
re dignified sister hills, she has been
jade, with her hat on the side, her
irt awry, a goat at her heels. And,
-rangely enough, in all her checkered
•■: as a Mecca for foreign irami
nts, she has never become Angli
cized even to a small degree. She is
lay qwite as much a modern young
tower of Babel as she was in 1849, when
seemingly every nation on earth was
represented on her si opt > ~ud even a
most efficient linguist was frequently
at a loss to make himself understood.
Bayard Taylor, who came by steamer.
in 1549, describes her slopes as they
then appeared:
"The barren side of the hill before
us was covered with tents and canvas
houses. Grossing the shoulder of the
hill, the view extended around the*
curve of the bay, and hundreds of tents
and houses appeared scattered all over
the heights and along the shore for
more than a mile. Great quantities of
goods were piled up in the open air for
want of a place to store them. The
streets were full of people hurrying to
and fro—Yankees of every possible
variety, native Californlans in scrapes
and sombreros, Chilians, Sono'rians,
Kanakas from Hawaii, Chinese with
long tails, Malays armed with their
everlasting creeses."
In 1849 the signal station was
erected on the pinnacle of the hill by
the shipping firm of Sweeny & Baugh.
This station commanded a view of
eight miles through the Golden gate,
and the signals heralding the approach
of incoming -vessels could be seen from
all quarters of the town. This sign
language, understood even by the veri
est little heathen Chinese, constitutes
Telegraph hill's only attempt t© adopt
a language universal. The signaling
apparatus consisted of a high, black
pole supporting two large, black arms.
The angles at which these arms were
set indicated the character of the vessel
entering the Gate. The signal for the
thrice welcome "side wheeler" bearing
mail and papers frohi Panama, was
the two arms extended at right angles
to tut pole. Later another station
with similar signals was erected on
Point Lobos. In 1858 an electric tele
graph system was established between
these two stations to circumvent the
fog which so frequently hung like
a pall across the Gate.
The steepness of Telegraph hill has
been extolled by every writer whose
pen has been moved to describe it.
From some of these descriptions, a
stranger might easily deem h*er a
worthy rival of the Matterhorn. One
author describes his ascent as "like
a chicken going to roost." Charles
Warren Stoddard, who lived on the
slope of the hill, near what he termed
"the snow line," describes a descent
from the very top:
"So steep was the way that at inter
vals the modern fire escane would' have
been a welcome aid to our progress.
Steps plunged headlong from one ter
race to another. From the veranda
of one house one might have leaped
to the roof of the house just below.
The town stood on end just there, and
at the foot was the foreign quarter."
However mongrel her pedigree and
inharmonious her surroundings, the old
hill, like her native city, has always
had charm. Stoddard gives a series of
brief sketches:
"We the Spanish quarter at
the foot of the hill by the balconies
like hanging gardens, and by the dark
eyed senoritas with lace mantillas
drawn over their blue-black hair.
* * * Everywhere we heard the
most mellifluous of languages—the
"lovely lingo" we used to call it. * •
The shopkeepers and their aids were
like actors in a play. They seemed
really to be playing and not trying ta
engage in any serious business. In the
Continued on Neat Pas*
; it
i 1912 '■•

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