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News / Articles >> San Francisco Chinatown and Nob Hill

San Francisco Chinatown and Nob Hill

By: John S.

The area known as Chinatown in San Francisco is a tourist must-see. Bordered by Broadway, California, Kearney and Powell Streets, this is a unique cultural experience that takes you into another world. Chinatown is rich in history and cultural pride; and understanding the trials faced by these immigrants will leave you with a greater appreciation of this cultural community.

When news of gold spread as far as Asia, many Chinese immigrated from their hardship-filled lives to seek a better opportunity. Many of these immigrants settled in the plaza on Stockton Street during the 1850s because the steep hill area was unpopular for wealthier citizens. Although they were first greeted amicably, due their strong work ethic, when the American economy began to slow, they were seen as a threat. The Chinese experienced a great amount of racial discrimination and repression and they sought community and a "sanctuary" in their corner of the world in San Francisco.

Today Chinatown, San Francisco recalls the atmosphere of a typical southern Chinese town, although the architecture, customs and public events are distinctly American hybrids on a Cantonese theme. The area is very densely populated and has been called a Gilded Ghetto because its colorful facades and teeming markets screen a much harsher world of sweatshops, cramped living quarters, and poor inhabitants.

Nob Hill is San Francisco's most celebrated hilltop, known by its cable cars, plush hotels and scenic views. In the late 19th century, the "Big Four" who built the first transcontinental railroad, were amongst its richest tenants in their large mansions on the hill. In the year 1906 the famous San Francisco earthquake and fire leveled all but three houses, but today's luxury hotels still recall the opulence of the Victorian era.

The tourist spot in Chinatown is the Grant Avenue, with dragon lampposts, Chinese gift shops. Fresh vegetables and fruit can be bought on Stockton street. In the alleys in between look for temples, family run restaurants.

Some of the most interesting tourist stops in Chinatown San Francisco are

The Fortune Cookie Factory where visitors can see how famous San Francisco cookie are being made.

Kong Chow Temple with fine Cantonese wood carvings

Tin How Temple founded in 1852 by Cantonese people grateful for safe arrival to San Francisco

Portsmouth Plaza is a gathering place for players of cards and mahjong

Grant Avenue is a busy commercial center in Chinatown

St. Mary Square is a quiet haven in which to rest

Chinese Historical Society

Pacific Heritage Museum