What San Francisco looked like in the 1890s through these Captivating Photos

The 1890s in San Francisco were a time of big changes, with lots of luxury and tough economic times happening side by side. This era was crucial for the city’s growth, setting the stage for what San Francisco would become in the 20th century.

Economic Ups and Downs

The decade started off rough with the Panic of 1893, a big financial crisis that hit the whole country, including San Francisco. Banks went under, a lot of people lost their jobs, and the city’s growth hit a pause. But by the end of the 1890s, things started to look up. Thanks to its important port, growing businesses, and the tough spirit of its people, San Francisco began to bounce back. This recovery opened new opportunities and brought fresh energy to the city’s economy.

Building the City

Even with the money problems, San Francisco didn’t stop building. The city kept growing, adding new buildings and neighborhoods. This included more of the Victorian houses that San Francisco is famous for. The Ferry Building was finished in 1898. It was a big deal because it showed the city’s dreams and its key role in the area’s trade.

Theaters, opera houses, and art galleries did well, showing that people were really into art and culture. The city’s writing community was buzzing, adding to a unique Californian style of literature. San Francisco’s mix of people, including those in Chinatown and new neighborhoods started by Italian and Irish immigrants, made the city’s culture even richer.

This time was also important for workers standing up for their rights. The tough times early in the decade led to calls for better jobs, pay, and rights. Big strikes and other actions showed that workers were getting more organized and powerful, leading to real changes and stronger unions.

#1 Market Street from Stockton in the 1890s with Claus Spreckels’ (Call) Building as the tallest, 1890s

#2 Construction site at Mission and 7th streets, November 1, 1897

#3 Market Street near the corner of Jones Street, 1893

#4 Van Ness Avenue from Geary Boulevard, September 1891

#6 The Presidio, Alcatraz Island, and Bay of San Francisco, circa 1891

#8 “Old Castle” at the summit of Telegraph Hill, 1890s

#9 “Picturesque San Francisco,” North Side of Market Street from Powell, Looking East, 1896

#10 The Last General Inspection Before Embarkation, 1899

#11 Market Street, east from Third, San Francisco, California, 1892

#13 Intersection of Market and McAllister streets, 1897

#16 O’Farrell Street Looking East from Powell Street, 1896

#18 Instantaneous view of Market Street, San Francisco, 1890s

#20 View of the Presidio, army barracks and tents, and San Francisco Bay in the background, 1898

#22 New Clay Street flat, south side Clay Street between Leavenworth and Hyde streets, October 24, 1891

#23 “Bird’s-Eye Views of San Francisco – No. 11,” from Market and Seventh Streets, looking northeast with Murphy Building, J.J. O’Brien & Co., in the foreground, 1891

#25 40 Montgomery Street at Sutter, February 12, 1898

#26 “Picturesque San Francisco,” View from Broadway and Divisadero Streets, Looking Northeast, Showing Alcatraz and Angel Islands, circa 1896

#27 Crowd on Telegraph Hill watching the transport ship Sherman return from the Philippines with California Volunteers after the Spanish-American War, August 25, 1899

#30 “Picturesque San Francisco,” view from Market and Third streets, looking northeast, 1896

#34 View of United States Military Reservation – The Presidio, circa 1912

#35 Southeast corner of Montgomery and Pine Street, 1896

#36 Sutter Street, between Sansome and Montgomery, 1890

#42 Kearny at the corner of Commercial Street, circa 1896

#43 Powell Street, from Sutter Street, Looking North, June 13, 1896

#44 Five soldiers at the Presidio Army Base in San Francisco, 1897

#45 A view of Market Street, showing Nob Hill on the left from Odd Fellows’ Hall, 1895

#46 Little Egypt performing, Barbary Coast, circa 1890

#54 Market Street, west from Ferry Building, 1896 or 1898

#55 “Picturesque San Francisco,” View of Golden Gate, Fort Point, Harbor View, and S.F. Gas Company’s Works, circa 1897

#57 O’Farrell Street Looking East from Stockton Street, 1890

#61 Northeast corner of Market and Powell streets, 1890s

#62 Crowd of people watching a parade on Market Street, east of Montgomery, 1899

#63 Doe Building, corner of Market and Hayes streets, 1898

#64 Artillery Drill, Presidio, San Francisco, California, 1890s

#65 Market Street from Grant Avenue showing Claus Spreckels Building, Examiner Building, Monadnock Building, Palace Hotel, 1890s

#69 “Picturesque San Francisco,” Bird’s-eye View from Corner Lombard and Hyde Streets, Looking East, circa 1897

#80 View of the Presidio, army barracks and tents, and San Francisco Bay in the background, 1899

#89 Market Street at the intersection of Kearny and Geary streets with Lotta’s Fountain in the foreground, 1890s

#94 View from Broadway, Corner Webster Street, Looking East, circa 1897

#97 Market Street at night, decorated for the 50th anniversary celebration of the discovery of gold, 1898

#101 Judy’s paternal grandfather Buenaventura, his brother, Aurelia Rose, Aunt Rose, and an unknown woman in a horse-drawn carriage, 1890s

#102 Bush Street, between Sansome and Montgomery Streets, 1896

#103 Elise Beneke Tietz with a cow in Glen Canyon, 1899

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Written by Kevin Clark

Kevin Clark is a historian and writer who is passionate about sharing the stories and significance behind historical photos. He loves to explore hidden histories and cultural contexts behind the images, providing a unique insight into the past.

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