The Neighborhood Through Time
The Gold Rush
Gold was discovered in California in 1848. Within a year, over 60,000 people arrived determined to make their fortune. The human flood that washed over northern California turned San Francisco (formerly Yerba Buena village) into a major American city.
At that time, the South of Market area was a wilderness of sand hills and marshes to the south of the city. Although Yerba Buena Cove remained the focus of settlement, tents, shanties and some buildings were built on land to the south of Market Street. Planked roads, some of them toll roads, were constructed south over the dunes and marshlands. As these roads penetrated the South of Market area, market gardens were planted, fed by wells and windmills.
By the early 1850s, San Francisco's first Butchertown or slaughter yard area was built in the South of Market at the mouth of Mission Creek. It was joined by other equally malodorous industries, such as tanneries and glue, fertilizer, tallow, and soap manufacturers. Boarding houses and tenements within the neighborhood offered cheap housing to those who worked here.
Emanuel Christian Charles Russ and his family moved in to South of Market area of Harrison Street between Sixth and Seventh streets in the early 1850s. They opened Russ Gardens, the city’s first commercially operated pleasure garden. It became a favorite Sunday and holiday recreation spot for San Franciscans. The Russ Gardens became the focus for a small community of well-to-do German immigrants who made their homes in the South of Market in the 1850s.