Russians in San Francisco : LUSENET : San Francisco History : One Thread

I am presently doing research for an article on "Russian San Francisco" and I'm interested in learning about the history of Russians in the city, and where the centers of activity are currently located. I would like to learn of any interesting businesses, churches, synogogues, art galleries, gift stores, restaurants, and any other places of interest. Any recommendations of contacts, especially local historians, would also be greatly appreciated. Thank you.

-- Amy G. Strebe (, November 06, 2001


Having gotten a sharp dressing down from a Russian tourist for referring him to the Jewish Community Center (among other places) when he wanted to know where to find other Russians in San Francisco, I’m a little unsure about answering this. But here goes:

Go to Yahoo, Yahoo Regional, US States, California, San Francisco. Put “Russian” into the search box on the Consumer Yellow Pages and you’ll get a whole slew of places to call or contact by email. Don’t miss the Russian Center of San Francisco. There’s also a Russian Museum listed. And the Jewish Community Center – they do a lot with new immigrants.

Lots of Russian businesses are still out in the Richmond District, especially on Clement and Geary Streets. There were lovely delis, art shops (including religious supplies) and restaurants. It takes hunting. Lots are just tiny shops.

-- Rosa Debonneheure (, November 07, 2001.

I'm kind of surprised that no one has answered this one but then an answer could take too long to write. And as such, I will just give you a few things that I know and not everything because I just can't spend that much time on this. OK, the first two Russians to live in San Francisco as far as I know, though there may have been earlier ones, were two defectors from the Rezanov expedition. Of course you MUST know about Nikoli Rezanov and his historical visit to San Francisco in 1806 - a visit that could possibly have changed the course of San Francisco history but obviously you must know all of that so I'm not going to go into those well know details. Anyhow, two sailors who were tired of the hardships of sea life and living with scurvy, defected. Rezanov and Capitan Arguello of the Presidio tried to find them but couldn't. They were hunters and so were able to live off the land. Somehow Arguello found out where they camp was and had them arrested. Unfortunately he wasn't about to forgive and forget especially since a high authority like Rezanov was going to be his brother in law. So the two Russians were then shipped to Monterey and then to San Blas Mexico where they were then shipped in some way back to Russia. The time period that they had lived in San Francisco before being caught was several months because Rezanov had arrived in SF in about early April and the two Russians were shipped back to San Blas in September. -- The next Russian that everyone in San Francisco talked about in the 1840s and 1850s was Andrew Hoeppner. The only thing is, I'm not completely convinced he was Russian since for one thing his name is a German name. Yet everyone who met him swears he was Russian. Perhaps Commandante Mariano Vallejo can clear this up. Apparently Hoeppner did work with the Russians in Alaska. Perhaps he learned fluent Russian and everyone thought he was Russian. Apparently his wife was Russian. Anyway, Hoeppener was an accomplished musician and taught music and I think a language too. He owned property in San Francisco and made a couple very good investments. Mariano Vallejo needed a music teacher for his daughter and so made a deal with Hoeppner, if he moved to Marin County and became his daughter's music teacher Vallejo would give him some prime ranchland and other property. So Hoeppner sold his home in San Francisco and moved to Marin. So impressed was Vallejo with Hoeppner that he made Hoeppner mayor or Alcalde of Sonoma. Now, the verdict is still out whether he was Russian or German but everyone in this entire city and people who knew him personally and were his friends referred to Hoeppner as a Russian. Other sources not so close to him refer to him as a German. Perhaps the best source to clear this up would be Vallejo himself. He must have recorded something about him. -- Now what else do I remember. OK, there was a smelting company called Selby. They were not doing so hot at one point and the story goes that two Russians took them over and refined the smelting process and the company then became a huge success. I'm pretty sure Selby was located in San Francisco. -- There's a place in San Francisco called Russian Hill. The story goes that some children were playing in that area and uncovered some bodies with something Russian on them and so from there on the place was called Russian Hill. There's lots more but that is all I have time to write for now.

-- Harry Murphy (*), November 23, 2001.

I grew up in a Russian neighborhood on Potrero Hill in the 1940's & 50's. The Hill was generally composed of three ethnic factions: Russian (top of Hill and South), Slavonian (Northwest), and Northern Italian (Northeast). My Grandfather, his two brothers and their families arrived in 1906. Although farmers in Russia, most the men and their sons were dockworkers. I believe the Russian Molokan Church still exists on Wisconsin St. just north of Southern Heights.

-- Art Rankin (, November 28, 2003.

The Moloka church is:

First Russian Molokan Church 841 Carolina St. San Francisco, CA 94107

City-side near the top.

Also see: sians/index.htm

-- Andy Conovaloff (, January 13, 2004.

The Russian Center located on Sutter St. has a Museum on the second floor. It is only open on Wed. and Sat. due to funding, and you cannot find all that they have(everythings a mess). They did of course copy on Microfiche all documents that pertain to the Russian Museum of History and Culture, and they reside at Stanford University's Hoover Institute for War, Revolution and Peace, at no cost you can view an enormous archive of Russians who came to America at different periods of our history. You can also try asking me, I am of Russian descent 100 percent!

Good luck

-- Mike Vishniakoff (, January 18, 2004.

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