Sunday, September 06, 2009

The Lost Ships of San Francisco

I rarely watch local news, but I'm glad I did on Friday.  There was a "ask a question" story on the wrecked ships of San Francisco.  Was this going to be wrecks off of the Marin Headlands or the Farallon Islands?  No, these buried ships were abandoned and derelict in what was once Yerba Buena Cove.  The cove on the bay side of the city was at the foot of Market Street, which was First Street, not The Embarcadero, once upon a time in {then} México::

Ron Filion has compiled pages on the SF Geneaology website on the ships, where he sums up how these buried ships got there::
"During the Gold Rush of 1849 and 1850s there were no railroads, airplanes, or automobiles. The fastest mode of transportation to the first stop for the gold fields, San Francisco, was aboard a vessel. By the summer of 1850, over 500 vessels were recorded as being anchored in the vicinity of Yerba Buena Cove. After they had arrived, whole crews abandoned their ships, along with the passengers, to make their way up to the gold fields. Many of the vessels were eventually left to rot, others were eventually used for such purposes as storeships, saloons, hotels, jails, and some were sunk purposefully to secure water lot titles (property that was originally underwater). As wood was scarce at the time, due to the many fires that swept the city and the increasing need for building material, many of the vessels were also broken up for their timber as well as other parts such as the metal plating."
A woodcut of the city circa the 1849 gold rush here shows the Clay St. pier and a superimposed TransAmerica Pyramid, showing how it would be a waterfront building without fill.  I've blogged about the area before when I was reminiscing about the demised Embarcadero Freeway, but in my adopted Toronto, I wonder about what lies underground in the reclaimed land under Toronto's waterfront.  

On this map of the Toronto waterfront {above} from this archaeological master plan, you can see the old shorelines in 1812 {red} and 1920 {blue}.  Those in the know are aware that Front Street and The Esplanade {east of Yonge towards Corktown} are hiding geographic secrets.  In a subsequent "art project" of my map assemblages, I plan on focusing on the Toronto waterfront through time, ideally incorporating other historical bits of tid.

I'm also trying to find out more information on the Brooklyn waterfront near Williamsburg and Greenpoint, including the now fetid Newtown Creek.

Twitterversion::  Buried ships in #SanFrancisco makes the local news. Old Yerba Buena Cove now bayfill was site of abandoned ships from gold rush. Thinking of industrial H20fronts in TO & BLYN.

Song:: Spin Drifting - The Style Council

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