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Best Historical Street Corner 

Clay and Grant

Grant Avenue is not only the city's oldest street, but its sand, mud, and asphalt have hosted a good chunk of San Francisco's livelier moments, particularly on the block around Clay Street. Half a block north from Clay, near 827 Grant, Capt. William Richardson pitched a tent in June of 1835 that he later replaced with the city's first wooden dwelling. Half a block northeast is longtime city center Portsmouth Square, designed in 1839 by city planner J.J. Vioget to face onto Yerba Buena Cove (later clogged with clipper ships, filled in, and turned into the Financial District; gaze downhill and try to visualize the vista's previous incarnation). Half a block south (at Commercial) is where cargo was unloaded after it was hauled uphill from the sea wall at Montgomery Street. In May of 1848 Mormon bon vivant Sam Brannan strode up and down Grant in all his finery, a vial of sparkling dust in hand, bellowing, "There's gold in the American River!," nicely letting the genie out of the bottle. In 1851 the first St. Francis Hotel opened right on the corner -- the first San Francisco hotel to offer clean sheets. And in August of 1873 the first cable car chugged right past here on its uphill struggle to Jones Street and immortality.


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