San Francisco History

Care Free San Francisco
By Allan Dunn

Chapter VII

Only a hint can here be given of the roundabout worth-while places. One likes to know that the University of Stanford, co-educational, most richly endowed of any similar institution, is less than an hour's ride, and that the University of California is set among the Berkeley hills, just across the bay. Here is the exquisite Greek Theater, modeled on that ancient one of Epidaurus. Thanks to the generosity of Mrs. Phoebe and William Randolph Hearst, ten thousand people can see reproductions of the plays of Sophocles and Euripides and listen to the best of music al fresco. Bernhardt played Piedre here, and Maude Adams "As You Like It," in perfect surroundings. Symphony and other concerts are frequently given.

Up wooded Tamalpais winds "the crookedest railway in the world" to the tavern at the summit, branching off to a grove of giant redwoods, two, perhaps three thousand years old, by a sparkling stream. Here, too, there is an inn beside the trees. On top is an observatory. Across the slopes of madrona, oak, pine and laurel, manzanita and chaparral, gleams a glorious panorama of bay and sea and shore, the cities on their hills and the coast range behind. At the base, in the green valleys, are towns and clustered settlements, the country homes of suburbanites linked to San Francisco by Sausalito and a half-hour ferry service.

Sausalito, too, has many dwellers on its picturesque hillside above the yacht moorings. From here the ferry goes to Belvedere, practically an island, the most unique, perhaps the most beautiful, spot in California—and the least known. Not in the Riviera is a more charming place. The traveler inevitably likens it to Sorrento, but it is above the indignity of comparison, it is Belvedere. The steep sides are covered on the weather side with eucalyptus, oaks and golden-balled acacias. From ridge to shore line, on the lee, terrace after terrace holds houses and gardens of resplendent bloom. Oaks and palms, trumpet blooms and hawthorn, little orange groves, cascades of vivid flowers. Roses, geraniums, passion and honeysuckle vines, hydrangeas, carnations—the whole catalogue of blossom—tumble down the hill, now in formal order, oftener in old-world profusion. The roads are bordered with gray stone walls that guide them winding to invest the hill.

The view swings from the Golden Gate round half the circle. Alcatraz, Yerba Buena and Angel Island swim in hazes of lavender and lilac, or thrust themselves clear profiled from the bay in verdant ridges, purple shadowed. Sunshine is a perpetual resident, and the sheltered waters of the cove see pleasure craft in constant service.

Between the lights, three days before Thanksgiving of this year, I stood on the road that runs above the wooded promontory of Blanding's Point. The scent of flowers came on the warm breeze, intermingled with the balm of the scimitar-leaved eucalyptus. Palms framed the scene into a triptych, Beyond Raccoon Straits, ascending between Corinthian Island and Angel Island, rose the November moon, orange behind its misty veil. The Golden Gate glowed dusky crimson, staining the prison walls of Alcatraz that looms halfway across the bay like another Chateau d'If. Italian fisher-boats winged homeward, like brown birds, as the water purpled. The fire in the west died out, the moon rose clear from the mists and trailed a pale golden glory across the racing currents of the straits.

Clear shone the eyes from the Alcatraz light tower and from Baker's Beach. Off the point of Angel Island, now a purple mound of uncertain outline, a warning light glowed like a ruby. The bell-buoy below clanged in the tide-rip, and the ferry-boats, a dazzle of electrics, seemed moving through liquid fire, as the reflected lights broke rippling from the paddle wheels. The San Francisco hills were only a smudge of vague form that suddenly was barred and checkered by a myriad dancing lights—diamonds set in platinum that mocked the stars. The night was clear, and all was well. Quail were calling in the garden as we strolled home, and the air was redolent with the breath of roses.

Chapter I | Chapter II | Chapter III | Chapter IV | Chapter V | Chapter VI | Chapter VII

Source: Dunn, Allan. Care Free San Francisco. 1912: San Francisco.


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