Land fill history of SF : LUSENET : San Francisco History : One Thread

When and where did San Francisco expand by using land fill?

-- Annie Lynch (, October 03, 2001


During the early goldrush the streets east of montgomery between broadway and california where wharves, eventualy extending to were now the waterfront is. The wharves were interconnected with planks, laying out the grid pattern of the current streets. The streets were constructed on landfill dumped on the carcasses of hundreds of deserted ships, abandoned by their crew joining the gold rush. Some info can be found on:

and message

For a location of some of the ships, see the following chronicle article: object=/chronicle/pictures/1999/03/14/sunkenboats- map.jpg&paper=chronicle&file=SC103929.DTL&directory=/chronicle/archive /1999/03/14&type=opinion

-- Bob Verbrugge (, October 04, 2001.

The Marina District is also mostly landfill. The last little ear of natural shoreline is at Broderick and Lombard (in fact, Lombard can be rule-of-thumbed as the old shoreline up to about Van Ness).

The landfill is what caused the extensive damage in the 1989 quake, when the shaking caused liquefaction of the underlying soil. Oddly, the local papers never connected it with Robert Herrick, though that was the first thing it made me think of:

Upon Julia's Clothes Robert Herrick (15911674)

WHENAS in silks my Julia goes, Then, then, methinks, how sweetly flows The liquefaction of her clothes!

Next, when I cast mine eyes and see That brave vibration each way free, -- O how that glittering taketh me!

Now if the posting system runs those lines together like they did for the Turk Murphy song, I'm going to be really annoyed.

-- Rosa Debonneheure (, October 04, 2001.

The classic reference work on SF bay fill is G. R. Dow's 1973 San Francisco State Master's thesis, "Bay Fill in San Francisco: a history of change." San Francisco Public library History Center has a copy of this excellent work.

If you are interested in the history of bay fill in the Marina District, I direct you to M. G. Bonilla's "The Marina District, San Francisco, California: History, Geology, and Earthquake Effects," in the Bulletin of the Seismological Society of America, Vol. 81, No. 5, pp. 1958-1979, October 1991. You can find this article in a bound volume on the 5th floor of SF Main Library. The bibliography alone is worth the photocopying cost.

-- robert bardell (, October 29, 2001.

Don't know how I missed this. The statement by Rosa Debonneheure that: "The Marina District is also mostly landfill. The last little ear of natural shoreline is at Broderick and Lombard (in fact, Lombard can be rule-of-thumbed as the old shoreline up to about Van Ness)" is wildly wrong.

The cliff line in Fort Mason still traces the old shoreline up to what today we refer to as gashouse cove. The intersection of Laguna and Bay was solid ground, well above the highwater line of the bay. The intersection of Fillmore and Bay was in the water and remained so even after the Fillmore pier was constructed in 1863. West of Fillmore and Bay tidal sloughs and mudflats alternated with small sand hillocks, some stabilized by vegetation. Mudflats actually crossed the line of Lombard near Divisadero.

Some of the old shoreline can be found today out near the St. Francis yacht club. The "little Marina Green" once held the hot and cold salt water baths of Rudolph Herman's Harbor View Resort.

Lombard does mark the south line of a long vanished Marina District geological feature--the Great Sand Hills. The sand hills extended from Van Ness to Pierce, approximately, rising abruptly at Lombard for 20 to 40 feet. Carelton Watkins' famous photo of the Golden Gate with Washerwoman's lagoon in the foreground is but one of many showing the extent and scale of the sand hills. The hills were graded down over a period of years. First, in the 1870s Lobos Square (Webster to Laguna, Bay to Chestnut) was graded. Then, in the mid 90s in conjunction with the construction of the Fair Seawall, the hills were graded flat. Much of the sand filled in the aforementioned tidal sloughs and mudflats. Perhaps the intention was to fill all the area behind the seawall, but that effort fell miserably short. 76 acres remained unfilled until 1912.

-- robert bardell (, November 02, 2001.

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