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San Francisco

San Francisco, located on the coast of California, occupies a peninsula that is the southern landfall of the Golden Gate, a narrow channel connecting the Pacific Ocean with San Francisco Bay, one of the world's most beautiful natural harbors. Spanning the channel is the GOLDEN GATE BRIDGE, long a symbol of the city as the U.S. port of entry on the Pacific coast. The population of the city proper grew by 6.6% between 1980 and 1990 (1990 census, 723,959) after a decline between 1970 and 1980.  The population of metropolitan San Francisco is 1,603,678.  The city is co-extensive with San Francisco County and is governed by a mayor and a board of supervisors.

San Francisco is a popular tourist city, offering spectacular views from its 43 hills.  The weather remains mild throughout the year, with average monthly temperatures differing little from January (9.4 deg C/49 deg F) to September (18 deg C/64 deg F).  The annual rainfall averages 508 mm (20 in).

Contemporary City

San Francisco today has an economy very much dependent on white-collar industries.  A skyline of high-rise office buildings, dominated by the Transamerica Building and the Bank of America tower, marks the downtown terminus of the Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART), one of the country's most modern high-speed mass-transit systems.  On Russian and Nob Hills, stately mansions have been replaced by luxury apartment buildings and hotels.  The last three cable car lines, now designated national historic landmarks, still cross the hills. To the east of Nob Hill lies Chinatown, one of the largest Chinese communities outside Asia, and Telegraph Hill, the location of the first western telegraph station.  Fisherman's Wharf, a commercial fishing port established by 19th-century Italian immigrants, is now a row of restaurants, souvenir shops, and motels.  Nearby, The Cannery and Ghirardelli Square, once fruit canning and chocolate plants, respectively, now house specialty shops, restaurants, and art galleries.  Within San Francisco Bay is the former federal prison, ALCATRAZ.


San Francisco is a major educational and cultural center.  The University of San Francisco (1855), the University of California-San Francisco (1873), and San Francisco State University (1899) are located in the city. The Opera House, home of the San Francisco Ballet as well as the SAN FRANCISCO OPERA ASSOCIATION, was the nation's first city-owned opera house;  it was also the birthplace (1945) of the United Nations.  The city also maintains a symphony orchestra and three museums (see SAN FRANCISCO ART MUSEUMS).  The California Academy of Sciences (1853) operates the Morrison Planetarium and the Steinhart Aquarium.


The Presidio, on the north coast of the city, was established as a Spanish fort in 1776.  (It remains a U.S. military reservation.) The first civilian settlement, named Yerba Buena, was established in 1835.  During the Mexican War it was taken by U.S.  forces and renamed San Francisco. The 1849 California gold rush and the 1859 Comstock Lode silver strike spurred the city's growth.  Waves of immigrants arrived, and large Chinese, Italian, Filipino, and Japanese communities were established. On Apr.  18, 1906, San Francisco suffered a major earthquake; the resulting 3-day fire razed the core of the city.  The city was quickly rebuilt. During World War II it became a bustling port of embarkation for the military.  A strong earthquake in 1989 extensively damaged the Marina district.

Long referred to simply as "The City," San Francisco has been the home of such groups as the Bohemians of the 1890s, the Beats of the 1950s (see BEAT GENERATION), and the "flower children" who congregated around Haight-Ashbury in the 1960s.

(from Toolworks Multimedia Encyclopedia).

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