50 Golden Facts about San Francisco, Paris of the West

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1San Francisco on Ships

Early sections of San Francisco were built upon ships abandoned by prospectors during the California Gold Rush. Many were intentionally run aground to become bars and hotels. Now, hundreds of wooden ships lay beneath the city streets and a portion of their subway goes through the hull of one.


2. The oldest “mother dough” in the USA can be found at the Boudin Bakery in San Francisco. Over 400 loaves of bread a day are made from a living yeast strain that is over 160 years old. The yeast/dough mixture doubles in size every day.


3. Parking in San Francisco is so scarce that the parking spot attached to your property can add up to $100,000 to the property’s value.


4. The Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco was not originally going to be painted orange. The orange color was only supposed to be for a sealant and was to be painted with black and yellow stripes to ensure visibility by passing ships. The orange color worked better for fog so it was kept instead.


5. In September 1950, the US Navy sprayed San Francisco with "harmless" bacteria to simulate a biological attack. The not-so-harmless bacteria caused a spike in a rare UTI, killing one man. A lawsuit against the government was rejected on the grounds that the government-held legal immunity.


6Alcatraz

Alcatraz was the only federal prison at the time to offer hot-water showers for its inmates because the prison staff felt the inmates would find the frigid waters of San Francisco Bay almost impossible to withstand during an escape attempt.


7. San Francisco International Airport is essentially built on top of 267 ball bearings whose support columns are capable of moving 20 inches in any direction during an earthquake.


8. The Westin St Francis Hotel in San Francisco employs someone to wash and clean the coins that pass through the tills and has done so since 1938.


9. To help airline passengers deal with travel anxiety, San Francisco International Airport has hired the nation's first airport therapy pig. LiLou wears costumes and performs tricks to help travelers calm down before boarding their flights.


10. San Francisco had an outbreak of bubonic plague between 1900 and 1904 that killed 119 people. While city officials acted quickly to contain it, California Governor Henry Gage covered it up to protect the powerful railroads and other businesses. Some newspapers helped by defaming the city health commissioner.


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11Golden Fire Hydrant

There is a golden fire hydrant in San Francisco that is said to have been the only functioning hydrant during the 1906 earthquake and is credited with saving the historic Mission District neighborhood in the ensuing fires. It is painted with a fresh coat of gold paint each April 18.


12. The 58-story Millennium Tower, a.k.a. the “Leaning Tower of San Francisco”, has sunk 18 inches with a lean of 14 inches (as of 2018). Residents have reported various “creaking” and “popping sounds.”


13. “The Poop Patrol” is a group in San Francisco consisting of 5 people who get paid $184,000 annually to clean feces off the streets.


14. In 1900 at a college football game in San Francisco, hundreds of people climbed on to the roof of a glass factory to watch the game. When the roof collapsed they were dumped into a hot glass furnace where 22 died and hundreds were injured.


15. Edsel Ford Fong was a restaurant server at the Sam Wo Restaurant in San Francisco who was called the “world’s rudest, worst, most insulting waiter.” Fong was known for seating people with strangers, criticizing customers’ menu choices, slamming food on the table, and busing tables before people finished eating.


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16Homeless

In San Francisco, the homeless can take care of puppies and get paid for it.


17. The California Fur Rush which started in early to mid-19th century happened in large part due to sizeable beaver and otter populations. This helped open up the west and especially the San Francisco area to world trade. However, this drove many mammal populations to the brink of extinction.


18. Burying the dead has been illegal in San Francisco since 1901. Because space was limited and real estate at a premium even back then, the city outlawed burials and moved all cemeteries to neighbor Colma, California.


19. In a CIA program called "Operation Midnight Climax", prostitutes were enlisted by the CIA to lure men to 'safehouses' in San Francisco where they were administered LSD without their consent. CIA Agents would then watch them have sex with the prostitutes through one-way mirrors.


20. Alcatraz's prison guards created the myths about man-eating sharks and the deadly waters of San Francisco to discourage prisoners from escaping. There is only one recorded shark fatality in San Francisco which took place back in 1959.


21Cistern Circles

Big circles of brick set in the pavement of some San Francisco intersections aren't meant as old-timey street decoration. They mark buried emergency water tanks in case the city ever catches fire again. They were put in after The Great Fire of 1906 (the big earthquake then broke water mains).


22. Anchor Steam brewing of San Francisco released a batch of beer in upside-down labels on purpose. It was the beer that was brewed during the earthquake which was affected due to loss of power.


23. In 1867, when a San Francisco policeman wanted to involuntarily commit an insane but harmless man (Joshua Abraham Norton) who declared himself emperor, the police chief refused, saying “that he had shed no blood; robbed no one; and despoiled no country; which is more than can be said of his fellows in that line.”


24. There was an Anti-Mask League, an organization formed to protest the requirement for people in San Francisco to wear masks during the 1918 influenza pandemic.


25. The San Francisco victory riots of 1945 was a night of uncontrolled looting and rioting that followed the news of the end of World War 2. It involved thousands of drunken soldiers and sailors, leading to 11 dead, 1,000 injured, and 30 streetcars disabled.

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