North Beach

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Old Transamerica Building, 4 Columbus Avenue, c. 1935

Designed by Charles Paff in 1907, this ornate flatiron-style building was originally the Banco Populare Italiano. The Bank was founded by Italian immigrant John Fugazi, who expanded his travel agency business to become an independent bank. The Transamerica Corporation, established in 1928, occupied the building in 1938.


View North up Columbus from corner of Jackson circa 1940


North Beach, from Telegraph Hill toward Russian Hill, 1856

The original beachfront still existed at this time, level with Francisco Street. The area of North beach slumbered after the speculative boom of the early 1850's. Ramshackle frame buildings lined the streets and clung to the hillsides with little change for the next 20 to 30 years.


Marin Headlands in distance


North Beach towards Telegraph Hill, 1865

By 1865 North Beach contained a diverse mix of fashionable homes, industries, pleasure spots, restaurants and water activities. Meiggs' Wharf, far left, was regarded as the favorite Sunday resort. After the sea wall was completed in 1913, the beach was filled in and the Wharf became land.
North Beach was so named because it follows the northern shore of San Francisco Bay.

This beach was located approximately where Francisco intersects Columbus Avenue.


View to North Beach, looking east from the top of Broadway, circa 1880


The name "Russian Hill" refers to the graves of several Russian sailors (possibly seal hunters), inscribed in Cyrillic and marked with black Orthodox crosses (described by Bayard Taylor in El Dorado, 1851), which were located at the top of the hill on Vallejo Street. Because of its hilly topography, resulting in many cul de sacs and stairways, Russian Hill has always retained a "country in the city" feeling despite its close proximity to downtown, and there is a noticeable lack of row houses. The east side of the hill developed first, in the 1850s, because it was less steep than the west side. A few large houses were dotted across the north slope by the early 1860s. The remainder of the hill was gradually built up, especially with the opening of the "E Union" cable car line in 1880 and the Hyde Street line in 1891.

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