Πέμπτη, 14 Ιουλίου 2016

Did you know? San Francisco was built on the abandoned & buried ships of the gold rush

 

vSJ7wL7We love these sorts of wacko history facts and here is another wacko one –  a great deal of downtown San Francisco, is built on landfill based on sunken ships that were abandoned during the Gold Rush.
During the Gold Rush of 1849 and 1850s there were no railroads, airplanes, or automobiles. The fastest mode of transportation to the first stop for the gold fields, San Francisco, was aboard a vessel. By the summer of 1850, over 500 vessels were recorded as being anchored in the vicinity of Yerba Buena Cove. After they had arrived, whole crews abandoned their ships, along with the passengers, to make their way up to the gold fields. Many of the vessels were eventually left to rot, others were eventually used for such purposes as storeships, saloons, hotels, jails, and some were sunk purposefully to secure water lot titles (property that was originally underwater). As wood was scarce at the time, due to the many fires that swept the city and the increasing need for building material, many of the vessels were also broken up for their timber as well as other parts such as the metal plating.

 here’s the 1859 Coast Survey map, with wharf names:
Here’s the 1859 Coast Survey map, with wharf names:
By the summer of 1850, over 500 vessels were recorded as being anchored in the vicinity of Yerba Buena Cove. After they had arrived, whole crews abandoned their ships, along with the passengers, to make their way up to the gold fields. Many of the vessels were eventually left to rot, others were eventually used for such purposes as storeships, saloons, hotels, jails, and some were sunk purposefully to secure water lot titles (property that was originally underwater). As wood was scarce at the time, due to the many fires that swept the city and the increasing need for building material, many of the vessels were also broken up for their timber as well as other parts such as the metal plating.
By 1851, the wharves had extended out into the cove and numerous buildings had been erected on piles near them. Over the next two decades, under various waterfront extension bills, Yerba Buena Cove was filled with sand from the downtown area. According to Bancroft, a local historian, “As late as Jan ’57 old hulks still obstructed the harbor while others had been overtaken by the bayward march of the city front and formed basements or cellars to tenements built on their decks. Even now [1888] remains of the vessels are found under the filled foundations of houses.” The cove was eventually enclosed by a seawall which was built from 1867 to 1869, and which followed roughly along the same path as The Embarcadero.
Ships turned into hotels and bars
Ships turned into hotels and bars
In San Francisco harbor, most of the crew deserted to join the gold rush. Niantic ‘ s log records that five of the crew deserted the first day, nine the second day, three more deserted the fourth day and two were arrested by the US Sloop of War USS Warren for assaulting Captain Cleaveland with a knife, and five were released the sixth day (including one released by Warren). This may have left a crew as small as five to finish unloading the ship. Niantic ‘ s log ends the next day, 12 July 1849.
The Niantic Hotel in 1850
The Niantic Hotel in 1850
Without a crew to sail, and with more ships arriving daily, Niantic ‘ s officers were instructed by her owners, probably through an agent in San Francisco, to sell the vessel. With the aid of her empty whale oil barrels tied to her hull for extra buoyancy, the ship was floated on a high tide into shallow water, just offshore from the intersection of Clay and Montgomery Streets. Now hard aground, Niantic was converted for use variously as a warehouse, store, offices, and hotel.
Collage depicting ships piled into Yerba Buena cove by Satty, from "Visions of Frisco" edited by Walter Medeiros, Regent Press 2007 During the height of the gold excitement, there were at least five hundred ships stranded in the harbor, some without even a watchman on board, and none with a crew sufficiently large to work her. Many of these vessels never sailed again. Some rotted away and sank at their moorings. (Herbert Asbury in "The Barbary Coast")
Collage depicting ships piled into Yerba Buena cove by Satty, from “Visions of Frisco” edited by Walter Medeiros, Regent Press 2007
During the height of the gold excitement, there were at least five hundred ships stranded in the harbor, some without even a watchman on board, and none with a crew sufficiently large to work her. Many of these vessels never sailed again. Some rotted away and sank at their moorings. (Herbert Asbury in “The Barbary Coast”)
The empty ships were clogging up the harbor, while the rapidly growing downtown business area needed room to expand. So the townsfolk took matters into their own hands and decided to put the ships to good use. Some of the ships were salvaged for their wood, which came in handy as the city had to rebuild itself from no fewer than six major fires that nearly wiped it out between 1849 and 1851. Other ships were towed onto the beach and turned into buildings—a hotel, a jail, a store, or a warehouse. But quite a few of them were sunk intentionally in order to fill in the cove. In the late 1860s, what remained of the cove was enclosed by a seawall, running roughly along the path of what is now known as the Embarcadero.
Over the years, as developers have demolished old buildings and excavated sites for new ones, numerous remains of the Gold Rush ships have been unearthed. In the late 1960s, as San Francisco was building its BART subway system, discoveries of ships and ship fragments occurred regularly. Over the following decades, ships and pieces of ships appeared during several major construction projects along the shore. As recently as 1994, construction workers digging a tunnel found a 200-foot-long (61-meter) ship 35 feet (11 meters) underground. Rather than attempt to remove the ship—which would have been both costly and dangerous—they simply tunneled right through it. When buried ships are found, they’re sometimes looted for bottles, coins, and other valuable antiques frequently found inside. Among the prizes found in the ships have been intact, sealed bottles of champagne and whiskey, nautical equipment, and a variety of personal effects from the passengers and crews.
A ship dug up in 2005 at Spear and Folsom was discovered to be the Candace, an 1830s sailing ship that had found its last anchorage under the growing city. Photo: Chris Carlsson
A ship dug up in 2005 at Spear and Folsom was discovered to be the Candace, an 1830s sailing ship that had found its last anchorage under the growing city. Photo: Chris Carlsson
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The California Gold Rush was a particularly violent period for the new settlers of the Wild West. After the initial boom had ended, explicitly anti-foreign and racist attacks, laws and confiscatory taxes sought to drive out foreigners, especially Chinese and Latin American immigrants. The toll on US immigrants was also severe: roughly one in twelve perished due to the extraordinarily high crime rates and the resulting vigilantism.  While the total of gold recovered would be worth tens of billions of US dollars today, eventually the technological advances reached a point where significant financing was required in order to mine the gold, causing increasingly important mining companies to take over the industry and leading to great wealth for a few. Many of those who had had to rely on simple gathering methods, such as gold panning, returned home with only a little more than they had originally started with.
Sadly for most of the forty-niners who flocked to California, many of them searched in vain for the gold that drew them here and the majority never struck it rich and left poor and homeless.
Lead image credit
 

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