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Best Historical Locale 

The Original Shoreline

In the early 1850s San Francisco had multiplied itself 75 times since gold was discovered, had burned to the ground six times in two years, and was already the fourth-busiest port in the nation. In a crowded and impatient mood, the city unceremoniously filled its chief anchorage, shallow Yerba Buena Cove (rough coordinates above), with "conglomerate layers of cookstoves, boxes of tobacco, Chilean flour, barrels of spoiled beef, rolls of sheet lead, gold-washing machines, tons of wine sieves, discarded clothing [and] a slight covering of earth," according to one anonymous eyewitness, as reported in Tom Cole's A Short History of San Francisco. Hundreds of ships, deserted in the rush to the gold fields, were sunk and added to the mélange

until 40 blocks of waterfront real estate were created. It formed the fragile basis for the new city's Financial District, and half a century later, in a Gaea's Revenge twist of fate, the old cove was responsible for the great earthquake's greatest damage. (The debris was turned into more landfill in case we ever wanted to build even taller skyscrapers in the same wobbly neighborhood in time for the next Big One.) In any case there's a nice original-shoreline plaque at First and Market, right about where the city used to begin.


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