Nob Hill in San Francisco

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Nob Hill refers to a neighborhood in San Francisco, California, centered on the intersection of California and Powell streets. It is one of San Francisco's 44 hills, and one of its original "Seven Hills."


The actual peak of Nob Hill lies slightly to the northwest, approximately at the intersection of Jones and Sacramento Streets. South of Nob Hill is the shopping district of Union Square, the Tenderloin neighborhood, and Market Street. To the east is San Francisco's Chinatown and a little farther, the city's financial district. Northeast of Nob Hill is North Beach and Telegraph Hill. North of Nob Hill is Russian Hill, and eventually, the tourist-centered areas of the waterfront such as Pier 39 and Fisherman's Wharf.


The area was settled in the rapid urbanization happening in the city in the late 19th century. Because of the views and its central position, it became an exclusive enclave of the rich and famous on the west coast who built large mansions in the neighborhood. This included prominent tycoons such as Leland Stanford, founder of Stanford University and other members of The Big Four.

The neighborhood was destroyed in the 1906 earthquake and fire, except for the granite walls surrounding the Stanford, Crocker, Huntington and Hopkins mansions. Those walls remain and you can see black scars caused by smoke from the intense fires that burned after the quake.

Also gutted by the fires was the newly completed Fairmont Hotel at Mason and California Streets, as well as the mansion of tycoon James Flood. Both structures had stone exteriors that survived the fires. So though gutted by fire both buildings were rebuilt. The Fairmont Hotel remains in operation to this day and the Flood Mansion is the headquarters of the exclusive Pacific-Union Club.

While the neighborhood was able to maintain its affluence following the quake, every mansion owner moved or rebuilt elsewhere. Some rebuilt mansions further west in San Francisco, for example, in Pacific Heights and Cow Hollow. In place of where the mansions had been located, swank hotels were erected. Hotels built over the ruins of the former mansions include the Mark Hopkins, Huntington and Stanford Court.

Since the 1990s, Chinatown to Nob Hill's east has been expanding into the neighborhood, shifting all but the very top of Nob Hill to a Chinese demographic and characteristic.

Attractions and characteristics

Nob Hill is an affluent district, home to many of the city's upper class families as well as a large young urban professional population, and a growing Chinese immigrant population from a slowly encroaching Chinatown to the east. Sometimes it is sarcastically referred to as Snob Hill (in fact, "nob" is a slang term meaning "wealthy and distinguished person", possibly influenced by the word "nabob", and thus similar in meaning to "snob").The intersection of California and Powell streets is the location of its four well-known and most expensive hotels: the Fairmont Hotel, the Mark Hopkins Hotel, the Stanford Court, and the Huntington Hotel. Interestingly, they represent also three names out of The Big Four (i.e. Stanford, Hopkins & Huntington). The Fairmont is also named for a San Francisco tycoon, James G. Fair.

Opposite the Fairmont Hotel and Pacific Union Club is Grace Cathedral one of the city's largest Cathedrals (the Cathedral is "copy" of France's Notre Dame cathedral). The state Masonic Temple is also located across from the church.


Though Nob Hill is a very densely-built neighborhood, there are parks at which residents and visitors can relax and enjoy the outdoors. The parks are owned and maintained by the San Francisco Recreation and Parks Department. The most prominent park in the neighborhood is Huntington Park, which takes up an entire block, bounded by Sacramento Street to the north, Taylor Street to the west, California Street to the south, and Cushman Street to the east. Huntington Park was formerly the site of the mansion of Central Pacific Railroad baron Collis P. Huntington; the mansion was detroyed by the 1906 earthquake and fire, however, and Mr. Huntington's widow donated the property to the city to establish a park in 1915. Huntington Park has a playground for children, landscaping, and several fountains. Washington & Hyde Mini Park is situated on a single lot between two apartment buildings on the north side of Washington Street, between Hyde Street and Leavenworth Street. Washington & Hyde Mini Park has a playground for children, landscaping, and public restrooms.


See also

  • Mark Hopkins Hotel
  • Russian Hill
  • 49-Mile Scenic Drive
  • List of hills in San Francisco
  • "Nob Hill" is also a neighborhood in Northwest Portland, Oregon, also known as the Alphabet Historic District from its street-naming system. It has many historic Victorian and Craftsman homes dating to the 19th and early 20th centuries.
  • "Nob Hill" is also a neighborhood in Albuquerque east of the University of New Mexico.

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