Russian Hill

It has never been precisely determined how Russian Hill got its name. One of the most credible explanations is that it was named after Russian sailors that were buried there. The Russian had established settlements in the Bodega Bay / Fort Ross area north of San Francisco as early as 1812 and their ships made regular voyages to Yerba Buena (San Francisco’s original name) to trade for meat and grain until 1841 when they sold out to John Sutter and returned to Alaska. It is possible that they buried their dead here for two reasons: the hard clay of the hill made for a better burial ground than the shifting sands of most of the surrounding areas, and there is a tradition of sailors being buried in the sight of the sea. The name could also derive from the story of the Russian sailor, who, after a drinking spree in Yerba Buena in 1874, fell into a well and drowned. His comrades carried his body up the hill to the west where his burial site later became known as “the Russian’s hill”. Burials in this area continued until the early 1850s when the bodies were moved to the Yerba Buena Cemetery (currently in the Civic Center area), or more likely simply left behind and the graves were built over as housing went up.

While in close proximity to the downtown, Russian Hill was slow to develop as a residential neighborhood. For most of the 19th Century, when the City was expanding to the south and far to the west, the crest of the hill mostly remained untouched due to its inaccessibility. At 340 feet it was simply too steep for horse-driven vehicles. In the early 1850s some frame houses were built and around 1861 an observatory with a winding staircase known as Jobson’s Tower was erected at the summit (blocks bounded by Taylor, Broadway, Jones and Green streets) and its owner charged 25 cents to climb to the top to observe the panoramic views.

In the late 1880s the neighborhood succumbed to the residential development and most of it survived the 1906 earthquake and the fire. Once the development started, Russian Hill almost immediately became a bohemian enclave as writers and artists found inspiration in its isolation and panoramic views as well as cheap rents (the hill was not considered a desirable place to live until the street paving in the 20th century. Today, Russian Hill is among San Francisco’s most prestigious neighborhoods and is home to some of the most varied architecture in the City.

The below link provides further details on this neighborhood and its attractions:

This neighborhood has an average Walk score of 92 and Transit score of 93.

The content displayed above was partially derived from a book by Rand Richards “Historic Walks in San Francisco. 18 Trails Through the City’s Past”.


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As a long-term resident of San Francisco, Kate is well familiar with the city’s past and present. With her professional background and deep knowledge of the local housing market, Kate is in the position to best assist with your real estate needs. Should you be looking for a recommendation on the upcoming cultural or social events and/or if you need a trusted local real estate advisor, ask Kate – San Francisco is her HOME.

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