Telegraph Hill - North Waterfront

Originally called Loma Alta or “High Hill” by the Spanish then subsequently Windmill Hill and Signal Hill, Telegraph Hill got its present name in 1850 when a semaphore telegraph was erected at the summit.

The first inhabitants arrived in the area in the early 1850s, primarily by poor Irish and later Italian and other immigrants whose livelihoods depended upon activities centered around nearby wharves. They built modest houses on the hill’s slopes and some of them still exist today. The neighborhood remained largely working-class until the early decades of the 20th century. It later attracted artists, writers, and bohemians of all sorts who were attracted by the views and until the latter part of the 20th century – affordable housing costs.

The hill initially covered a larger area that it does today – almost from day one, gravel and rock from its base were takin as ballast for outbound ships. Starting in the 1880s, local contractors started dynamiting its sides to loosen rock to be used in construction of the seawall and for paving of the streets (these efforts continued until about 1914 when several houses on the hill had tumbled to ruin).

Telegraph Hill was one of the few downtown areas to survive 1906 fire, local residents managed to stave off the flames with a combination of hoarded water and homemade wine that the area’s Italians had produced and stored. The hill remained a relative backwater until the 30s, mainly due to its inaccessibility. Street paving during the Depression years led to increased accessibility and new housing (Alta Street and Montgomery Street between Union and Greenwich were paved in 1931).

Today, Telegraph Hill is one of the City’s finest neighborhoods with its breathtaking views of the bay, stairway gardens, and human scale architecture.

North Waterfront is Telegraph Hill’s neighbor popular with many of San Francisco’s residents due to the views, excellent transportation and close proximity to many of city’s focal points including the Ferry Plaza at Embarcadero and the Financial District. Encompassing the coastline of the San Francisco Bay and several Piers, North Waterfront is also a tourist mecca housing the famous Fisherman’s Wharf and Pier 39. 

Telegraph Hill neighborhood has an impressive average Walk score of 99 and Transit score of 100 and is located in the close proximity to some San Francisco’s busiest neighborhoods such as North Beach, Financial District and Embarcadero while preserving its natural small-town charm and beauty. The North Waterfront neighborhood has an average Walk score of 91 and Transit score of 86.

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

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”.


About Kate

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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