Elizabeth Gray Potter writes in her 1939 book ‘The San Francisco Skyline’ that early pioneers referred to Nob Hill as “The hill of golden promise”. In the late Nineteenth Century the railroad and mining barons build their mansions on the crest of Nob Hill. Opulence in the extreme, but almost all of their palaces were completely destroyed by the 1906 Earthquake and Fire. All of their money couldn’t stop that. Still, it mattered nothing to the tycoons, by that time they were all dead! This is a walking tour of where their mansions stood, and what is on the locations now. Many still have their legacy surviving in name on the crest of Nob Hill
A map of the former mansions from Elizabeth Gray Potter’s ‘The San Francisco Skyline:
We’ll start at the corner of Powell and California Streets and the mansion of Leland Stanford, founder of Stanford University in Palo Alto. Actually, I ended up here so that I wouldn’t have to walk UP Nob Hill, but you didn’t need to know that. It looks like Mark Hopkins was building his home up California Street from Stanford’s when this photo was taken. The Stanford Court Hotel is here today. That’s the Mark Hopkins Hotel behind it. (Vintage photo Ron Henggeler)
Probably the most Gothic looking of them all was Mark Hopkins home on California and Mason Streets. Today the Mark Hopkins Hotel occupies the corner.
Huntington Park now occupies the spot where Collis Huntington’s mansion was. To the left is where Charles Crocker’s mansion stood. Grace Cathedral occupies that location today. (Vintage photo from SF Gate)
A crumbled City Hall seen through the doorway of Alban N. Towne’s mansion at California and Taylor, across from Grace Cathedral: The only thing that survived was the marble entrance, now out at Lloyd Lake in Golden Gate Park. This is the corner that Towne’s home and the “Portals of the Past” once stood. The portals were about where the car is leaving the parking garage.
Today, beautiful Grace Cathedral Church sits on the corner of California and Taylor Streets where Charles Crocker’s little shack was. Does anybody really need a house that big, anyway?
The only survivor was James Flood’s home, gutted but still standing. Today it houses the Pacific Union Club. (Vintage photo from the Library of Congress)