The Bay Area is rich in history. It is home to famous historical sights, as well as some lesser known, but charming locations. Here are some of our favorites (in no particular order).
Pulgas Water Temple
The Pulgas Water Temple was built to commemorate the completion of the Hetch Hetchy Aqueduct in 1934. Water once made the journey to the Pulgas Water Temple and flowed over a small C-shaped waterfall within the water temple itself where it continued approximately 800 feet down a canal to the west into Upper Crystal Springs Reservoir. Today anyone can visit the temple and the grounds can be rented for special events and weddings.
Alviso Marina County Park
Alviso was named after Ignacio Alviso, the son of one of the original settlers of the area in the 18th century. In the mid 1800’s, the city of Alviso was an active boating and shipping port. Steamboats regularly traveled between San Francisco and Alviso. However, upon completion of the nearby railroad, the port’s usage declined. In 1963 the city of Alviso consolidated and became a part of the city of San Jose. Today the marina park is a wildlife refuge complete with walking pathways, boardwalks, a boat ramp and spectacular views.
The Palace Hotel
The Palace Hotel was originally established in 1875 and rebuilt in 1909. It was once used for presidential banquets and royal dinners and is considered the first San Francisco luxury hotel. The hotel’s skylighted Garden Court is famous for their afternoon tea service, which has been a hotel staple since the early 1900’s.
The HP Garage is an important part of Bay Area’s more recent history. In 1938 the Packards were married and rented the first floor of this house. The garage behind their home became the HP workshop and a tiny shack out back became Bill Hewlett’s home. Hewlett and Packard began to use the one-car garage, with $538 in capital and decided to name their company Hewlett-Packard (aka hp) with a coin toss decision. In 1989 California named the garage “the birthplace of Silicon Valley” and made it an official California Historical Landmark.
Grace Cathedral sits atop Nob Hill and was founded in 1849 during the Gold Rush. The church is famous for it’s beautiful stained glass windows and indoor and outdoor labyrinths. The church is open daily. For a more in depth experience, you can take a tour, or participate in the monthly candlelight labyrinth walk, or Yoga on the indoor labyrinth every Tuesday.
In 1896 the Sutro Baths opened its doors and was the world’s largest indoor swimming pool establishment in the world. It had 6 salt water pools, one fresh water pool, slides, rope swings, and a spring board. Today you can see the ruins of the once magnificent baths on the north end of Ocean Beach at the Lands End Lookout. It is one of our favorite places to catch the sunset.
Stanford Memorial Church
The Stanford Memorial Church is located within Stanford University and is unarguably the most beautiful building on campus. The church was completed in 1903, during the American Renaissance, and boasts beautiful stained glass windows, mosaics, and a five pipe organ. Since its opening day, it has been a non-denominational place of worship that is open to all. Multi-faith services as well as concerts, events, and weddings are held here. The church has managed to withstand two major earthquakes and is open to public almost every day.
Ocean Beach has always been a popular San Francisco destination. The Cliff House and Sutro Baths, which opened in the late 18oo’s strengthened its appeal. In the 1920’s through the 70’s it’s popularity soared with the installation of a family fun seaside amusment park, Playland.
The Haight Ashbury neighborhood is known for being the birthplace of the hippie movement. In 1967, the Summer of Love, many young people from all of the nation gathered for peaceful protests over the cultural and political change that was sweeping the nation. Along with that came, music, drug experimentation and artistic movements. Signs of flower power and free love can still be found in this historical neighborhood.
Designed by Julia Morgan in 1913, Asilomar was first built as a YWCA(Young Women’s Christian Association) Leadership Camp. Young women would come here from all over the nation to learn practical skills to find jobs in the big cities. In 1934 the YWCA facilities closed. It went through a short stint as a motel and in 1943 rooms were offered to World War II military families. In 1956 Asilomar’s 91 acres of land became part of the California State Park system. Today, it is open to the public and you can even rent a room and stay overnight on the grounds!
Berkeley City Club
The Berkeley City Club was also designed by the famous female architect, Julia Morgan. It was built as a clubhouse for the Berkeley Women’s City Club in 1929 and is considered one of Julia Morgan’s finest designs. Morgan was the first licensed female architect in California! The building is still run by the Berkeley City Club is now open to both men and women. The public may visit for dinner at their restaurant,overnight stays, weddings and other events.
Located in Truckee, Donner Lake was named after the infamous Donner Party. In 1846, 6 families left Springfield Illinois for California. They had heard of a route that cut through the Sierra Nevada mountains, promising to cut 300 miles off of their journey. However, when they reached the Donner Lake area in October, they found it had already been covered in snow. Unable to move onward they constructed makeshift cabins and planned to wait it out for the winter. It continued to be a treacherous winter and as fate would have it many of the party members died of starvation. Of the 87 original pioneers, only 48 survived to reach California, many of them resorting to cannibalism for survival.
Golden Gate Bridge
This list would not be complete without our crown jewel: the Golden Gate Bridge. Before the bridge opened in 1937, ferries were the primary source of transportation between Marin County and San Francisco. It’s towers are 746 feet tall and spans 4,200 feet long. Over 10 million people visit the bridge annually and 38 painters work full time to keep this beauty it’s iconic golden red.