Cow Hollow - Marina

Today, Cow Hollow is one of San Francisco’s most desirable neighborhoods. This was not the case in the early years of the city’s history when it was one of the least attractive locations – the ragged shoreline, north of where Lombard Street is today, was unsuitable for ship anchorage and its sandy soil, sparse fresh water springs and little vegetation proved it even less desirable.

For many years, two of the most distinctive features of this neighborhood were the trail that led from Yerba Buena cove to the Presidio and Washerwoman’s Lagoon, a large lake fed by freshwater springs (it sat on the area now bounded by Franklin, Lombard, Octavia and Filbert streets). The lagoon, which was first spotted by the Spanish in 1776 when Juan Batista de Anza camped on its shores, quickly became popular with Native American and Mexican women who set up amateur laundry facilities to be later joined by washmen operations. Washerwoman’s Lagoon functioned well for a while due to a creek at the Lombard Street side that drained effluent out to the sale marshes by the bay. Eventually, the pollution took toll and in the early 1880s city authorities used convict labor to fill in the lagoon.

The name Cow Hollow as derived from what soon became the primary occupation of the area – dairy farming. By some accounts, by 1880 there were 38 dairies in the neighborhood. The cows were mainly kept in pens as the area was in fact unsuited for grazing due to insufficient grass or other forage. By 1890s city officials closed down most of the dairies due to unsanitary conditions (2940 Octavia Street (c. 1870) is believed to be the last known architecturally intact farm house). This, combined with streets being graded and paved, finally opened Cow Hollow to residential development on the broader scale, eventually making this area one of the most prestigious in San Francisco.

Some places of interest in the Cow Hollow include 2963 Webster Street (c.1905), which is one of the most unusual buildings in San Francisco with its cusped Mughal arches, arcaded third floor and the five unusual domes that form the roof, it is also believed to be the first Hindu temple in the United States. The Octagon House at 2645 Gough Street (c. 1861) is one of the two remaining eight-sided houses in San Francisco (the other one located in the Russian Hill neighborhood), it is open to the public several days a month. A grand Italianate villa known as the “Casebolt Mansion” at 2727 Pierce Street (1866) is also worth the mention.

It was not until the aftermath of the 1906 earthquake and fire that major development began in the Marina. Huge amounts of brick and rock rubble from destroyed downtown buildings were brought over and dumped into the Marina's marshlands, forming an initial (and unstable) foundation for development. A few years later, when the site was chosen as the location of the 1915 Panama-Pacific International Exposition, San Francisco had the impetus it needed to turn what began as a haphazard dumping ground into a breathtaking exhibit of architectural beauty.

The Panama-Pacific, and its iconic surviving building the Palace of Fine Arts, introduced the city to the commercial and residential development possibilities of the recently formed prime waterfront real estate. In the decades following the exposition, apartment buildings, homes and businesses sprouted up rapidly and in great numbers until the Marina had become one of San Francisco's most desirable places to live, work and visit. That was the case until 1989 when another earthquake rocked the city and many of the Marina's poorly supported buildings collapsed atop the unstable ground. The Loma Prieta earthquake was a wake-up call for Marina developers; the reconstruction effort brought with it new standards of earthquake-sturdy construction, and within a decade the Marina had been rebuilt.

Marina and Cow Hollow today is a bustling social and entertainment scene, with some of the trendiest shops, restaurants and bars in San Francisco.

The Cow Hollow neighborhood has an average Walk score of 98 and average Transit score of 78. The Marina neighborhood has an average Walk score of 97 and average Transit score of 77.

The below link provides further details on these neighborhoods and their 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” as well as

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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