Enthroned on hills, San Francisco captivates the stranger who sees it from the Bay by the vivacity of its landscape long before revealing any of its intimate lures. Whether you approach in the early morning, when gulls arc wheeling above the palette of tones of the Bay, or at night, when illuminated ferryboats glide by like the yellow-bannered halls of fable, the buoyancy of San Francisco is manifest.
It increases as you pass through the Ferry Building, the turnstile behind the Golden Gate, whose blithe tower of the four clock dials is reminiscent of the Giralda in Seville.
In another moment you are in the surge of Market street, the long bazaar and highroad of this port of all flags. An invisible presence dances before your footsteps as you sense the animation of the street. It is the spirit of San Francisco, weaving its debonair spell.
Here Tetrazzini turns street singer and Jan Kubelik is a wandering minstrel enchanting crowds at Lotta’s Fountain under Christmas eve stars.
From Dana to Stevenson, from Harte to Mencken, San Francisco has captured the hearts of a train of illustrious admirers. Rudyard Kipling, master of the terse, has tooled a brisk drypoint of the city in a few strokes. “San Francisco has only one drawback,” he writes. “’Tis hard to leave.”
Cradled as a drowsy Spanish pueblo, reared as a child of the mines, and fed on all the exhilarants of the gold-spangled days of the Argonauts, San Francisco is like a dashing Western beauty with the eyes of an exotic ancestry.
Bristling with contradictions, the city presents the paradox of being the most intensely American and yet the most cosmopolitan community on the continent, with aspects as variable as the medley of alien tongues heard on its streets.
A festival of life is staged at this meeting place of the nations, farthest outpost of Aryan civilization in its westward march.
Inez Haynes Irwin in her Californiacs sounds a warning for the stranger in San Francisco.
“If you ever start for California with the intention of seeing anything of the state,” she admonishes, “do that before you enter San Francisco. If you must land in San Francisco first, jump into a taxi, pull down the curtain, drive through the city, breaking every speed law, to Third and Townsend, sit in the station until a train—some train, any train— pulls out, and go with it. If in crossing Market street you raise that curtain as much as an inch, believe me, stranger, it’s all off; you’re lost. You’ll never leave San Francisco.”
This booklet aims to keep the curtain up.
Inside the Gate
If you turn a map showing the basin of San Francisco Bay so that the Pacific Ocean is nearest your eye, you see a peninsula thrust out from the California coast like a great boot.