Why is Washington Sqaure not a square?

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Why is Wanshington Square NOT a square. Was it a square before the diagnolly-running Columbus street was built? Why does Columbus street run daignolly? Answer Quickly, m'kay?

-- Sean M. Hall (seanmhall@hotmail.com), September 19, 2002


Washington Square IS a Square. Get out your Thomas Map and look at it. That triangle at Union and Powell on West side of Columbus is part of the Square.

Columbus Avenue--formerly Montgomery Avenue-- follows the foot path that originally led from Portsmouth Square to the Presidio. It rougly skirts the Hills until about Pacific Avenue where it is flat enough to head West.

-- Kurt Iversen (iversenk@aol.com), September 20, 2002.

Montgomery Avenue (Columbus) did not follow the original foot path (or trail) from Portsmouth Sq. to the Presidio. The main trail to the Presidio crossed the Nob Hill/Russian Hill ridge via a saddle at Pacific and Jones, called "puertazuela" (little pass) by the Spanish. A secondary trail crossed the ridge via a higher saddle on Union between Leavenworth and Hyde. These trails ran west of and nearly at right angles to the line of Montgomery Avenue. Both of these trails converged on the west side of the aforementioned ridge near Washerwoman's Lagoon and from there followed a common route to the Presidio. In 1853 Pacific was planked from Stockton to a point west of Larkin and operated for five years as a private toll road. It was over this route that the Presidio and Fort Point stage line ran.

Once it was completed in the mid 1870s, Montgomery Ave. did connect the Portsmouth Sq. area with a route to the Presidio, namely the Fort Point and Bay Shore toll road, construted in 1864, whose toll gate was originally at Jones and Francisco. This toll road was for many years the only passable route directly connecting the Black Point Military Reservation (Fort Mason) and San Francisco. Its toll gates can be identified in numerous photographs from the 1864-1880 era.

-- robert bardell (bbardell@pacbell.net), September 23, 2002.

I did some research, and I found that you two, Robert and Kurt are both wrong! I don't mean to be mean, even though that's kind of the impression I've given you. I read that Columbus follows the old cow path to Cow Hollow. You know, beginning at the Transamerica Building and ending at Aquatic Park. You might be right... Where is Portsmouth Square anyway? I never heard of that until I came to this site. Thanks for your help anyway.

-- Sean M. Hall (seanmhall@hotmail.com), October 04, 2002.

It's at Kearny and Washington Street, right across the street from Clement Chen's Holiday Inn. Go here: http://www.inetours.com/Pages/SFNbrhds/Chinatown.html and click on the Portsmouth Square link on the left side of the screen and you can take a 360 degree tour of it.

-- Rosa (rosadebon@yahoo.com), October 06, 2002.

Thanks! I remeber parking in the portsmouth sqaure garage now. It smells funny. You people were very helpful in my research.

But I have even TOUGHER questions that will await answers in the near future!!!! HAHAHAHAHAHAHA!

Good night and have a pleasant tommorow!

-- Sean M. Hall (seanmhall@hotmail.com), October 06, 2002.

There's a lot of misinformation floating around about Cow Hollow and the Marina--ever heard the one about all the debris from the 1906 quake being dumped in the Marina?--so I suspect your research has hit upon some of that. The most direct and least strenuous path from Portsmouth Square (aka the Plaza) through Cow Hollow to the Presidio was as I've described--through the little pass near Pacific and Jones, down Spring Valley (containing Eddy's "Laguna Survey" dating from 1847), past Washerwoman's Lagoon and in a roughly straight line from what is now the intersection of Union and Franklin to Lyon somewhat south of Lombard. When the white man arrived on the scene, Cow Hollow was bounded north of Lombard, roughly, by marshes and large sand dunes, some stabilized by vegetation some not, which stretched all the way from Pierce to the Russian Hill ridge. A finger of these dunes, between Bay and North Point, extended all the way to North Beach. Picture #18 in G. R. Fardon's San Francisco Album, published in 1856, shows the North Beach end of the dune, as do other, early views. Cows don't find sand very congenial. The footing is bad--you slip a bit with each--and there is very little forage. Cows might wander down the line of Mongomery Ave. as you suggest, and they might wander over the hills toward Black Point, but eventually they'd be stymied by sand on the north and west. They might wander south over the Russian Hill ridge and eventually find their way into Spring Valley, but they would have taken a long, difficult and potentially treacherous route to get to a point reachable by an easier and direct path.

Cow Hollow along the path to the Presidio was a narrow valley enclosed by hill of earth and sand. Cows and the men who drive them always prefer the path of least resistance.

-- robert bardell (bbardell@pacbell.net), October 08, 2002.

http://www.exploratorium.edu/marina/ is a great Marina resoucre. It includes historical pictures of Washerwoman's lagoon and stuff. Correct me if I'm wrong, but Washerwomans lagoon is currently the Palace of Fine Arts lagoon, no?

-- Sean M. Hall (seanmhall@hotmail.com), October 08, 2002.

That "Filling the Marina" page from the Exploratorium is one of those sources responsible for perpetuating the falsehood that debris from the 1906 quake was dumped in the Marina. The Marina was far from a "convenient place" to dump the rubble of downtown, cut off as it was from the rail network hastily assembled to haul away debris. Barges loaded with debris could not simply dump their loads in the tidelands that would later become the Marina district proper because the tidelands were enclosed by a rock seawall constructed in the mid 1890s. No one who claims the Marina was filled with 1906 debris has ever provided a picture or contemporary account of the operation. Indeed, photos of the Marina district taken between 1895 and 1912 show it remarkably unchanged (except for the two coal gasification plants which were landmarks in 1895 destroyed by the quake). In 1912-13 the Marina district was filled with 1,300,000 cubic yards of sand and mud pumped up from the bay by hydraulic dredges.

Washerwoman's lagoon was the largest of several freshwater ponds in Cow Hollow. It lay between Gough and Octavia and Filbert and Lombard. It was fed by a year round creek whose headwaters are near the Western bore of the Broadway tunnel (the creek runs today in sewers and storm drains). Before the sea level rose at the end of the last ice age, this creek, and others in Cow Hollow, fed into the river that flowed out the Golden Gate. After the ice melted and the sea level rose and the sand drifted in, the Cow Hollow creeks lost their outlets to the bay and ponds formed where sand blocked their flow.

-- robert bardell (bbardell@pacbell.net), October 09, 2002.

This thread re-opened because it was a lot of fun!

-- Piano Man (seanmhall14@hotmail.com), January 15, 2003.

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