Amazing Photos from 1878 Reveal Lost Peaks of Bernal Hill

The view from Nob Hill, 1878

Our bloggy hipster friends in the Mission like to make fun of Bernal Heights because of our obsession with lesbianism, dogs, child-rearing, and backyard gardening. That’s fine, because in return we like to make Mission hipsters’ heads explode by announcing: “WE ARE YOUR FUUUUUTTUUUUUURE!” (Johnny O from Burrito Justice pioneered that reply, and it never fails.)

Privately, Bernalwood appreciates those proto-self kids in the Mission, and a geeky interest in local history is a friendly touchstone we all share. So thank you, Uptown Almanac, for turning me on to a series of panorama images taken from the top of Nob Hill in 1878.

The resolution of these photos is amazing, especially when you recall that in 1878, they didn’t even have the Pano app to use with their iPhones! Right? Also amazing is the fact that most all the buildings you see in these photos were destroyed in the 1906 earthquake and fire.

Here’s a detail of the view to the north, looking toward Alcatraz:

Now, let’s look south, to take a closer look at Bernal Heights. Grab the photo, then we’ll zoom, sharpen, and enhance. What do we see???

That first light-grey hill in the background is Bernal Heights. There aren’t many buildings to speak of in 1878 Bernal, nor any trees or large-scale vegetation. But what they did have then that we don’t have now are the two Lost Peaks of Bernal Hill, which are clearly visible just to the east of the present-day summit:

As we learned previously, the Lost Peaks were excavated into oblivion sometime during the 1940s. To reprise:

Bernal Heights had two other major peaks to it, to to the north east of the current peaks – roughly under what is now the flat planes that lie between Peralta, Rutledge and Franconia Streets .  Vicky Walker of the Bernal History Project sent me a couple of their aerial survey maps that show that these two peaks were removed sometime between 1938 and 1948.  Terry Milne said that they have been trying to find records which usually exist for 1900’s large excavations, about where all that hillside was dumped, but so far to no avail.  Note that the peak between Rutledge, Massasoit and Brewster was not just chopped off, but gouged out from the Bernal hillside

Way cool. If you want to explore some more, check out the entire collection of 1878 Panorama Photographs, and prepare to get lost in time.

PHOTOS:  Muybridge Panorama of San Francisco, 1878

8 thoughts on “Amazing Photos from 1878 Reveal Lost Peaks of Bernal Hill

  1. Wasn’t that the same time that the Islais Creek channel was being filled to create the industrial area in the 101-280-Cesar Chavez triangle? I have absolutely no actual knowledge of where the hillsides were taken but it wouldn’t surprise me at all if they ended up half a mile or so to the east.

  2. I think there’s a bit of remnant terrain in the block enclosed by Esmerelda, Peralta and Ripley. Viewed from the east end of Bernal Hill Park, it looks like it slopes up towards Peralta, coming to a peak well above the level of Peralta itself – but the view from anywhere nearer is hidden by the houses.

    (Sorry, Esmeraltiplians, for peeking into your backyards! Yours is one of the largest enclosed blocks in Bernal, and I’ve always been curious!)

  3. There is going to be a rehash of the old mural on the library unless there is a big
    mobilization to stop it. Check out the “final” designs that the “consensus” art committee
    came up with posted in the library, at the Good LIfe, Heartfelt, BHNC. There haven’t been
    any comments about this upcoming change posted on Bernalwood or here so is everyone
    just not caring what happens?

    • Wait, what do you mean by a “rehash”? You mean they’re just refreshing/re-painting it? That’s great news! I thought they were gonna replace it, and I was bummed. Definitely glad to hear they’re keeping the original!

  4. Pingback: What You Missed When You Missed Glenn Lym’s Talk About the Lost Geology of Bernal Heights | Bernalwood

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