the Golden Gate Bridge was Built
is a fascinating description of the entrance to San Francisco Bay as it
was in 1835eleven years before explorer John C. Frémont named it
Golden Gate, and 102 years before a bridge of the same name spanned it.
Richard Henry Dana spent three weeks in the bay as a sailor on the brig Alert, and he gave a full account of his impressions in his book, Two
Years Before the Mast. The high cliff he refers to no longer exists.
The Spanish called it White Point, and on top of it they had built an
adobe fort, which Dana refers to as a presidio. The United States, after
occupying California, leveled the cliff and built the fort that can now
be seen under one of the support arches of the Golden Gate Bridge.
Sunday, December 27th. We had now
finished all our business at this port, and, it being Sunday, we
unmoored ship and got under way, firing a salute to the Russian brig,
and another to the presidio, which were both answered. The commandante
of the presidio, Don Guadalupe Vallejo, a young man, and the most
popular, among the Americans and English, of any man in California, was
on board when we got under way. He spoke English very well, and was
suspected of being favorably inclined to foreigners.
We sailed down this magnificent bay
with a light wind, the tide, which was running out, carrying us at the
rate of four or five knots. It was a fine day; the first of entire
sunshine we had had for more than a month. We passed directly under the
high cliff on which the presidio is built, and stood into the middle of
the bay, from whence we could see small bays making up into the
interior, large and beautifully wooded islands, and the mouths of
several small rivers. If California ever becomes a prosperous country,
this bay will be the center of its prosperity. The abundance of wood and
water; the extreme fertility of its shores; the excellence of its
climate, which is as near to being perfect as any in the world; and its
facilities for navigation, affording the best anchoring-grounds in the
whole western coast of America,all fit it for a place of great
The tide leaving us, we came to anchor
near the mouth of the bay, under a high and beautifully sloping hill,
upon which herds of hundreds and hundreds of red deer, and the stag,
with his high branching antlers, were bounding about, looking at us for
a moment, and then starting off, affrighted at the noises which we made
for the purpose of seeing the variety of their beautiful attitudes and
At midnight, the tide having turned, we
hove up our anchor and stood out of the bay, with a fine starry heaven
above us,the first we had seen for many weeks.
above is an extract of an account in Malcolm E. Barkers book, San Francisco Memoirs 1835-1851: Eyewitness accounts of the birth of a
city (Londonborn Publications, San Francisco, 1994).