Nob Hill

Originally known as Clay Street Hill and later as Knob Hill (because it was a rocky knob until the summit was scraped flat to make it more habitable, with the “K” of the Knob being soon dropped), Nob Hill has been one of the finest neighborhoods in San Francisco for over a century.

In the late 1800s, Robert Louis Stevenson called Nob Hill the “Hill of Palaces” – at the time, on its crest stood the most extravagant mansions of San Francisco. Nonetheless, during the first two decades of San Francisco’s history, this neighborhood was a desolate area covered with oaks and bushes and afflicted by the blowing sand. Its initial residents were squatters who put up shacks and flimsy buildings in which they kept a few fenced-in chickens and goats.

The lower slope of the hill with its less steep streets (mainly Stockton and Powell streets west and north of Portsmouth Square) started to become a choice residential area in the 1850s. In the 1860s, residential development started to reach higher up the slope, commanded by the sweeping views of the downtown and the bay.

What really removed the impediment to developing this area was the invention of the cable car. In 1873, its inventor Andrew Hallidie built the first cable car line along Clay Street from Kearny at Portsmouth Square to Jones Street at the top of Nob Hill. In 1878 Leland Stanford and several of his partners established the California Street line and the upper slopes of the hill developed rapidly thereafter.

San Francisco’s ruling class known as the “Big Four” – Leland Stanford, Mark Hopkins, Charles Crocker and Collis Huntington, who made their fortune via an investment in a railroad, built their gargantuan mansion in this neighborhood, dominating Nob Hill and the city.

Nob Hill also attracted two of the four men known as “Bonanza Kings” – James C. Flood and James Fair, who, along with their other partners were the stockholders in the Virginia City, Nevada silver mine.

Unfortunately, most of the glorious mansions of Nob Hill were destroyed during the 1906 earthquake and fire. Flood mansion, made of Connecticut sandstone, was one of the very few survivors - today, it houses the exclusive men’s Pacific-Union Club (1000 California Street).

Nob Hill is situated in a prime location in San Francisco and while the Gilded Age mansions are gone, it still houses several of the city’s most prestigious hotels and apartment buildings not to mention the commanding views.

This neighborhood has an average Walk score of 96 and Transit score of 100.

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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1801 Lombard Street, San Francisco, CA 94123

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