Nob Hill, circa 1889
From Mason Street, looking west up California Street.
Before the cable cars conquered the steep San Francisco hills, the wealthy preferred living in the low-lying areas of South Park and the Western Addition.
Nob Hill, before the cable cars, was sparsely occupied, primarily by families of modest means in modest homes. With the advent of the cable cars and the explosion of wealth from the Comstock Lode and the transcontinental railroad, Nob Hill’s views and commanding position above the Financial District suddenly looked mighty appealing to the Bonanza kings and the Big Four railroad barons. The newly created accessibility created by the cable car set off mansion-building binge that resulted in a neighborhood of opulent and gaudy Victorian palaces never equaled before or since.
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