1-2-3 Things - Walking the Original Yerba Buena Shoreline in Downtown San Francisco

1-2-3 Things - Walking the Original Yerba Buena Shoreline in Downtown San Francisco

Hello Adventurers!

Did you get out to Mission Dolores last week? We didn't manage to make it to Dolores Park, but we spent a half hour chatting with the charming Nekia playing Tibetan Bells and talking about sound and it's possible healing properties. We met her walking through Clarion Alley on our way to Mission Dolores. 

This week’s adventure is is continuing our historic theme for a stroll along the original waterfront in Downtown San Francisco. It may surprise you that a large number of ships are buried under buildings downtown. When the gold rush struck, thousands of people flocked out here to make their fortunes. Not only that, but the crews manning the ships sailing out here also abandon ship once they got here making it impossible to sail the ships back to their ports of origin. These ships were left sitting for years, eventually being silted in, landlocked, and finally buried in the name of progress. 

Excavations downtown still discover ships today. Like when they were digging the Embarcadero extension for muni to allow the N Judah to go to the Caltrain station. As they were tunneling through, around, and up to the Embarcadero the machine encountered a copper hulled vessel thought to be a ship named the Rome. Some excavations occurred but the Muni tunnel goes through this gold rush era ship today. 


We've done this trip a few times, I like taking the kids on a weekday during spring break so we can stop in at the Wells Fargo Museum too. 

Also let us know if you go, we would love to hear about your trip. Simply reply to this e-mail. And please feel free to forward this to a friend. 

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1-2-3 Things — Walk the original Yerba Buena Shoreline

Quick inspiration for a day out with the kids around the SF Bay Area

From kiddiewalks.com 

  1. Visit the Mechanics Monument

  2. Walk the original San Francisco shoreline

  3. Visit the Wells Fargo Museum (weekdays)


The Mechanics Monument 



The city has been putting new efforts into this plaza. There is now an attendant who puts out cafe tables and chairs, a large scale Checkers or chess set, and maintains the area. They've also installed a public wifi hotspot. 

This Greco-Roman style monument started life as a fountain, amid some controversy as the workers are only covered in aprons “semi-clothed”. The dedication and unveiling were met with great success on May 15th, 1901. Douglas Tilden the sculptor was commissioned to build 3 statues for a Market Street Beautification project by the son of Peter Donahue who came to San Francisco in the midst of the Gold Rush and went on to found the Union Iron Works which built the first railway on the west coast and manufacture the first printing press out here, then went on to found the San Francisco Gas Company which later became PG&E. The Mechanics monument was designed to celebrate the work that went into those endeavors. 

President Theodore Roosevelt visited the monument in 1903, and the statue survived the 1906 earthquake and fire, although the fountain and reflecting pool did not. This statue was an inspiration to rebuild San Francisco after the devastation of the earthquake and fire. Within 10 years the city not only rebuilt and began to thrive, but invited the world to come celebrate at the Pan-Pacific Worlds Fair exhibition in 1915. 

The Original San Francisco Shoreline


Much of this is inspired by a chapter in the book "Stairway Walks of San Francisco" by Adah Bakalinsky. It's a wonderful book if you aren't familiar with it, and you can probably find it at your local library or on Amazon. The walk starts at Market and Battery street. Her walk is a bit different then the one I set out here, she goes a bit further and we cover some different details. Plus her book has dozens of other walks that are pretty remarkable. If you don’t already have it, it’s worth picking up. 

http://bit.ly/kiddiewalks_StairwayWalksOfSF [affiliate link]

Here you will find a plaque adjacent to the Mechanics monument On Battery St near Market. There are actually 2 plaque’s, one on each side of Market. The walk goes north from here. Strolling along this walk  as we venture across the waters edge (dipping down and back out), you will notice slight grading changes still present today. These slight elevation changes are ones you’d never really notice much walking around the financial district, but when you walk the shoreline these small inclines take on a much deeper meaning. 

The details of the walk wouldn’t fit here in this note, but you can follow this link to get more information. 

Wells Fargo Museum


Open (free admission) weekdays the Wells Fargo museum is free offering exhibits featuring artifacts from the time of the gold rush. A stagecoach you can virtually drive, play with a telegraph, try old bank machines, read stories from people of that time, and a lot more history giving you a taste of what it was like during that time. The one drawback is that the museum is only open weekdays, so I’ll save a visit for Spring break. There is also a smaller version of this in Old Town Sacramento that can be a really fun visit too. 

Levi’s Plaza

This is the end of our walk today. It’s interesting to take the steps down to the courtyard and fountain you can walk through. As you descend these steps, you can imagine wading into the water and defending from the shore to the water. 

From here you can call it a day and hop on the F-Line to make you way back around to where you started, you can venture over to the Exploratorium, find a spot along the current shoreline and enjoy the view while having a snack, or just enjoy the small parks here. There is also (during regular business hours) bathroom access in the lobby to the Levi building. 


  • There are a number of Privately Owned Public Open Spaces (POPO’s) around downtown. Stopping in at Empire Park at the base of the Transamerica Pyramid is on our route, but also the rooftop at 343 Sansome is pretty cool. https://www.spur.org/sites/default/files/migrated/anchors/popos-guide.pdf  
  • Lotta's Fountain isn’t far on Kearny and Market street, it also survived the 1906 earthquake and fire, and is where memorial celebrations are still held annually today. 

Feeling Adventurous 

  • Climb the steps up to Coit Tower and see the fresco’s at the base (free), or ride the elevator (paid) to the very top for a wonderful view.