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The Hill of the
New Fortunes * From a steep, forbidding sand 1 <' dune, thought at one time to be < o barely surmountable even by a < \\ pedestrian, to the site of the ~j ° finest hoteli, clubs and resi- i <■ dences in a city of wealth and < 0 culture is a remarkable trans- J formation, yet such has taken < ♦ , place in the case of Nob hill, < * the third of San Francisco's < 1 [ famous hills described in her ' y series by Mrs. Collyer. The < « physical obstacles to the growth ' ',', of the section and to its adop- ' '; tion as the fashionable part of ' the city were overcome by the - , ', progress of invention in trans- 1 !; portation facilities, as Mrs. Coll- ; y yer describes in her story; yet, ■ - r curiously enough, the history of 1 ', I the hill presents another exam- ', ][ pie of the tendency of fashion- * ♦ able residential sections of near- i I ly all cities, particularly Ameri- ] * can ones, to move north and ' ♦ west. < ♦ Although before the fire of < * "906 Nob hill was covered with ' * private residences, today these < • have largely given place to ex- ', < elusive clubs and hotels and ' * apartment houses, patronized by ! people of wealth and fashion. It < ♦ is still Nob hill as of yore, al- ] 4 though its outer garments have ; t been modified. < Mabel H. Collyer THE California street .hill, because of its commanding position, af fording a sweeping view of the entire town as well as the bay, had been called the hill of golden promise, but even the most sanguine soothsayers among all those seers had • little idea of how royally that promise would be redeemed. The steepness of the grades ap proaching this superb height had seeded well nigh insurmountable even to" the most ambitious builders in that benighted a«e when horse power was the only available means of locomotion. One discouraged engineer, after a cursory survey, gave out his opinion that "it could very well be graded ao that a man or a horse could descend with equal velocity, but it would require a derrick >r a i>. to gtc them back u.o again."' It was rraded finally bo that through a round about circuit by way of L.eavenworth street, and at a snail's pace, a horse could make the ascent to the summit. Then A- S. Hallidle, a man of eccentric genius, rose superior to the occasion and Invented the cable car. The cable car in its day made as big a sensation as the aeroplane was to make many years; later. It seemed to be the I»st word in rapid transporta tion; lts promoters surmised that noth-; ing could be invented to eclipse it, and stock soared high. Many of the write ups concerning it bund ludicrous to day* It was likened to a fly on the w.all, and laymen gave up trying to understand its mechanism. Rudyard Kipling, who invaded the town later, finding everything more or less to his disliking, ceased his tirade long enough to tell of "a tram car without any means of support, which slid stealthily behind me. and nearly struck me in the back." Further along he grew'facetious: "The cable cars have, for "all pracr tea! purposes, made SJan Francisco a dead level. They take no count of rise or fall, but slide equably on their ap pointed courses from one } end to the other of a six mile street. -They turn corners almost at .right angles, cross other lines, and, for aught I know, may run up the sides of .houses. There is no visible agency of their flight, but once in a while you shall pass a five storied building humming ytflh machin ery that wind? up an everlasting wire cable, and the initiated will tell you -that here is the mechanism. I gave up* asking qi o-stlons. If it pleases provi dence to-make a car run up and down a slit in the ground for many miles* and if. for .wopence halfpenny I can ride in-that car, why shall I seek the reasons of the *miracle?" i But even the fame of this modern miracle was destined to fee more than eclipsed by the prestige of the hill it self, for by this time the hill repre sented a dower of dollars sufficient to incorporate a metropolis. It made the vaunted wealth of Rincon hill" seem, in comparison, a sort of genteel poverty. But Rincon hill, frankly jealous of its showy rival, bragged now of pedi gree and rubbed up the old names on its doorplates. Nob hill said It was nouyeau riche, and Rincon had no mind to be made a dowager on its account. But already the scepter had passed on. Rjncon was forced into the background, garbed though if was in lavender and old lace. The gaudy display of its new rival eclipsed it at every point. And the scepter had been wrenched from its hands, iot by a coterie of titled foreign ers, in which case it might have as suaged its chagrin, but by four rough and ready Irish miners and a parcel of paltry shop keepers—that was all! The four Irish miners were Fair, Flood, Mackay and O'Brien. Each after enduring the usual hardships that fell to the iot of et-rly Immigrant* to this country, drifted w«.Bt from X«\v York or thereabout*, ia the good old ca.ra van flays, followln,? the gold rush nt . 1849. •Tames Graham Fair, .later called "the Bonanza King - ,* had- been In America only six yea»rs when he crossed the plains. At that time he was a boy barely' 18. but he had picked up a smattering: of education, knew something, of chemistry and had a knowledge of ores. He was given * a pood 10 years tn which to acquire wisdom before the discovery of the Comstock lode .in Nevada. Mining began there in 1859. but it \*as not until 1867 that he fo~med his famous,com bine with Mackay,, Ijfrood and O'Brien, through which they became joint owners of the Bonanza silver mine. The Comstock lode U&elt, with a vein extending four miles along the mountain, had yielded up $325,000,000, with the mine still run ning. And nearly one-third of that amount was banked to the credit of Fair and his thre,e partners. And It was from this astounding capital that some of the first great wooden palaces were erected ojj Nob hill. The whole west had grown ac customed to wealth dug out of the ground. It had grown fsx> common, said one wag, that no one would have been startled the least b;t if one of the ,excavations had uncovered a diamond niirie in Mar ket street any oM day. Tn fact it star tled them more not to find one. But the rise of the railroad mag nates. Huntlngton, Stafford.. Hopkins and Crocker, wtio built their homes alongside, those of the mining kings, was more romantic. True enough, a miner might be expected to dig up ar everlasting fortune on oc casion, but it was scarcely ((fbe ex pected that four shop keepers, selling cloth, tools or groceries across a coun ter,, should drop their yardsticks and their measures and proceed to build a transcontinental railroad through a wilderness. And "yet' that 1.-, exactly what occurred. Iceland Stanford had nrteMisr£,..anjd. later he governor of his state; but he was also a gicer iri his home town of Sacramento. HuntiVigton and Hop kins had a -hardware store at ".2 X street In the same town, but Hunting ton was something of a magnate even then, having a real fortune of some $30,000. Th-e Crocker brothers, were the dry goods merchants. Leland Stanford was a man of over weening ambition, a s is evidenced by his career; but it did not run to rail roads until his path was crossed by Theodore Judah. Judah was a man with a single Idea, and that a practicable railroad pass through the Sierra Nevadas. Having discovered, this pass, he drew a little profile of it, which he showed as mute evidence that a transcontinental rail road could be built—and he was laughed at for his pains. In the long run he had almost as hard a time with his little idea as Columbus had with his. Theodore D. Judah was resident en gineer of the Connecticut River rail road, surveyed and built, the railroad from Xlagara Falls to L,ewi3toa and ■erved on other roads. He came to Cal ifornia in 1854 to build the Sacramento V alley railroad, tae first on the Fa ciflo coast. Tt was while builrtfnjr this that he got his idea about t'i;<t j>»ea through the Sierras. It was not that Judah was alone in his desire to start the railroad; the president and congress were wrestling with the same problem and the United States stood ready to share half the expense; but private capital had refused to be interested. Nobody seems to know just how Ju d&'i came to drift, into the hardware store of Huntington and Hopkins; but drift there he did and Stanford, the grocer, and the Crocker brothers hap pened to drift in about the same time. It was. a mere little incide*nt; but had this not occurred, Nob hill might never have known the half of her glory. Judah liked the way these men cot toned to his idea. He liked it so well that after he had journeyed to Wash ington, visited San Francisco, and tried every means he could think of to get some capital interested, he went back to the little hardware store on X street and said: » "Say, see here; let's start this rail road ourselves." And they started it. History narrates that in June, W6l, the Central PacMc railroad was organized with a capital of $125,000. It must not be supposed for an instant that all of this was real money. Stanford was president of the company, Huntington vlte president, Hopkins treasurer, and Judah was chief engineer. To quote- directly from Charles Carter, who tells the story: "Grading was begun January 1, 1863, when Governor Leland Stanford shov eled some sand from a cart into a mud hole at the foot of X street, Sacra mento, In the presence of the members of the legislature, the state and city officers, and a mixed crowd which was highly amused by the Idea of a bunch of local store keepers trying to build a railroad across the continent. But once the. work was begun, Jt never stopped until it was completed." It i& almost impossible to describe briefly the building of this road, teem !ner as It does w?th romance, adventure and tragedy, without going into a few of the details. Here, , th«n, were four seemingly average men, with absolutely no railroading experience, able to ac complish one of the greatest railroad feats that the world has witnessed. Judah, true enough, was experienced, but it was his misfortune to die as early as 1863 of a tropical fever con tracted in crossing the isthmus of Pan ama. Charles Crocker became a kind of general manager and superintend ent. He took off his coat, went out on • the tracks and became a genius of a boss. It took six years to build the road to the point where it met the tracks laid by the Union Pacific. Long before this. Huntington and his three part ners were bankrupt, as far as personal means went; but their credit was still good. Huntington's little $30,00(3 early in the game had dwindled down to a cent. To the four men's 4 everlasting credit it must be admitted that they had staked their all on a mere venture. No one could have told what would be the outcome. The last 10 miles of track were laid in record breaking time to win a wager of-SIO,OOO put up by Vice Presi dent Durant of the Union Pacific, the rival road. Spurred on by this, the Central Pacific force, composed of 1,000 men, plus eight Irish giants, laid the last 10 miles in one working day, be tween the hours of sunrise and sunset, with a good 200 feet to spare. The last spike, made of California gold, was driven by Leland Stanford on May. 10, 1869, With the completion of the road the United States went delirious with joy, and the boom began. In the first three months the Central Pacific earned 51,703,000. Thence forward the coffers of :he promoters began to fill. The Midas touch was as noting to these shining, glittering magic rails. It seemed as if each rail had become worth its weight The San Francisco Sunday CaF In gold. It was enough to turn eonrm men's brains, but the brains of the four great magnates remained unaddled. Up to this time the eyes of the state had beei on Sacramento as the me tropolis; yet each railroad magnate turned his back on his home town, and it was then that Nob hill, San Fran cisco, sprang into sudden and spec tacular prominence. The majority of the so called palaces were built of wood to imitate stone. They followed, naturally enough, the prevailing fashion of the day, which ran to ugly exteriors, oyerornamenta tion, consoles, filigrees, cornices, porch es tacked on here and there, conical towers and what Gelett Burgess called "Queen Anne vagaries." Mark Hopkins and Leland Stanford ha.d bought an entire block and divided it; then each had built according to his own pet notion as to what was im pressive. Hopkins eclipsed all efforts /along similar lines. His place became almost immediately one of the land marks of the town. The many turrets standing out against the sky. when viewed from a di. tame, gave it a not able supremacy. Hopkins' taste ran to inlaid floprs and a diversity of j*om ar rangement. The art students, who finally fel! heir to the place, declared one never could be sure that all the rooms had been discovered —-there was always a chance of stumbling on a new one. The Stanford house was big. square, ugly and imposing. The rooms like wise gave an impression of bigness end squareness. Huge paintings hung In nearly every room, flanked on all sides by costly bric-a-brac. Mrs. Stan ford was an ardent collector. Her home, afterward bequeathed to Stanford iiniversity. was a storehouse of treas ures gathered from all over ,the world. It seemed more of a museum than a home. Huntington did not build. He pur chased instead the Colton house, which war. a fine example of colonial archi tecture. The artistic simplicity of the exterior was a delightful contrast to many of the others, where ornamenta tion ran riot. The Crocker house, at California and Taylor streets, built of brirk and set off by spacious lawns, had a pleasing air of permanency. The Fair mansion was fu- her down the hill, on Pine street, lending preetige to a neighborhood formerly composed of sorry looking little snacks. The fame of Nob hill spread through out the states. Scarcely a mention was made of the city to this, her pet corner in exclusiveness. Other wealthy men, in quieter walks of life, had dared to become neighbors of the famous few, until one by one all traces of the disfiguring little shacks were obliterated. But Robert Louie Stevenson, strolling by Nob hill In one of his whimsical moods, alluded to it later in "The Wrecker" as "a kind ot slum, being the habitat of the mer« millionaire." It was the fire of 1906 that In ite turn obliterated all trace of what the Art lovers had been pleased to call the hill's rather dubious grandeur, and net one of th-e old homes was rebuilt. - After the'fire, with the nestored Fair mont crowning the hill, the neighbor hood became a district of fashionable apartment houses and smaller hotela. The change was ineyitabje. The old magnates who fancied they had built away up town, "far from the madding crowd," discovered even In their own day that the heart of the city was ex panding In their direction; but it is scarcely possible that the change could have been so abrupt without the level ing process of the flames. With the dying of the last tew embers and the clearing of the smoke, weary watchers from other points sa«r only the blackened outlines of the sturdy yom.g Fairmont still rising su preme. All traces of the famous old wooden castles that had given the hill Its name had passed under the scourge. A little farther down the street the entrance of the A. .N. Towhe mansion, still stood, pathetically leading no where, a fitting frame for the stars at night. Photographs of this artistio ruin, with the title "Portals of the Past," were sent all over the country. The portals were afterward moved to Golden Gate park and now stand be side Lloyd lake.' Today the Hopkins house, restored only in part, affords a makeshift ioT the art students. The handsome Pacific Union clubhouse fittingly graces the site of the old Flood home and has the same walls.' An apartment hotel is replacing the Stanford house, and the University club Lβ* \l2 horn* o*. w&*£ was the site of the Stanford stable. The Crocker houses, occupied by father and son, stood side by side, ef fectively screened from «.ja obdurate neighbor, who would no-, sell out hia inferior holding, by a great fence that became as famous as the hill. On the site of these homes is )be erected the magnificent Episcopal cathedral, which will pe.-hapa prove the most lasting monument of all.