Metropolis: San Francisco Then and Now

See San Francisco's beauty from Cliff House to Russian Hill, between the early 1800s and today.

Photo By: Henry Guttmann

Photo By: Hulton Archive

Photo By: Jenny Wolf

Alcatraz Circa 1890

San Francisco in 1890. Off in the distance is the small island of Alcatraz in the San Francisco Bay. 

Alcatraz Present Day

Present day Alcatraz seen from San Francisco.

Tramlines Circa 1880

Tramlines on California Street from Sansome Street in San Francisco, circa 1880

Tramlines Present Day

Present day. California Street is one of the longest streets in San Francisco, stretching 5 miles and featuring important landmarks along the way, including the Huntington Hotel, the Fairmont Hotel (at Mason Street and California Street), the Merchants Exchange Building and the Mandarin Oriental Hotel. 

Cliff House Circa 1900

San Francisco’s Cliff House, pictured circa 1900, was fashioned after a French chateau and boasted 8 stories, 4 spires and an observation tower 200 feet above sea level. It served as an elegant site for dining, dancing and entertainment until it burned down in 1907. 

Cliff House Present Day

Today, if you drive along Point Lobos Avenue toward the coast, you’ll find the rebuilt Cliff House which serves as a fun place for friends and family. Enjoy fine dining at Sutro’s or a casual brunch at the Bistro. 

Russian Hill Circa 1866

Russian Hill, San Francisco, in 1866, overlooking Vallejo Street. 

Russian Hill Present day

Present-day Russian Hill, overlooking Vallejo Street. 

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