From halfway up the slopes of Nob Hill, this painting reveals below it the city of San Francisco as it was on a Spring morning in 1851. Beyond the sprawl of newly-built districts can be seen the listing hulls of over six hundred ships, most left abandoned by their crews and captains in their search for gold among the foothills of the Sierra Nevada.
From left to right we can tour the varied quarters of the new city; first in the tent-strewn camps with names like 'Little Chile' and 'Sydney Town' on the slopes of Telegraph Hill, then down to the dark warrens of Pacific Street where enclaves of thieves and murderers inaugurated the first chapter in the story of the Barbary Coast. In the center can be seen the big hotels and halls of Portsmouth Square, which was the epicenter of commerce, society, and politics in the young city. Further towards the right, neighborhoods tend to form in clusters based on shared nationalities, including a German/Prussian district, and one of recently arrived French fortune-seekers. At the extreme right in the hazy distance lay the scattered prefabricated houses and sand hills of Happy Valley and Rincon Point.
All along the shoreline of Yerba Buena Cove, the many piers and wharves are being constructed that would one day become the seemingly ordinary streets of San Francisco's Financial District. Two of the longest, the aptly named Long Wharf (center), and the Market Street Wharf (right, diagonal), extended almost two-thousand feet into the deeper water of the bay.