Russian Hill, San Francisco

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Russian Hill
A view of Lombard Street and Russian Hill from Telegraph Hill. The picture includes the famous "World's crookedest street" portion of Lombard Street.
A view of Lombard Street and Russian Hill from Telegraph Hill. The picture includes the famous "World's crookedest street" portion of Lombard Street.
Russian Hill is located in San Francisco
Russian Hill
Russian Hill
Location within Central San Francisco
Coordinates: 37°48′06″N 122°25′11″W / 37.8018°N 122.4198°W / 37.8018; -122.4198
Country  United States
State  California
City and county San Francisco
 • Supervisor Mark Farrell
 • Assemblymember David Chiu (D)[1]
 • State Senator Mark Leno (D)[1]
 • U. S. Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D)[2]
 • Total 0.397 sq mi (1.03 km2)
Population [3]
 • Total 13,146
 • Density 33,000/sq mi (13,000/km2)
Time zone Pacific (UTC−8)
 • Summer (DST) PDT (UTC−7)
ZIP codes 94109, 94133
Area codes 415/628

Russian Hill is a neighborhood of San Francisco, California, in the United States. It is named after one of San Francisco's 44 hills, and one of its original "Seven Hills".


Russian Hill is directly to the north (and slightly downhill) from Nob Hill, to the south (uphill) from Fisherman's Wharf, and to the west of the North Beach neighborhood. The Hill is bordered on its west side by parts of the neighborhoods of Cow Hollow and the Marina District.

At the northern foot of the hill is Ghirardelli Square, which sits on the waterfront of the San Francisco Bay, Aquatic Park, and Fisherman's Wharf, an extremely popular tourist area. A trip down the winding turns of Lombard Street and across Columbus Avenue to the east leads to the neighborhood of North Beach. Down the hill to the west, past Van Ness Avenue, are Cow Hollow and the Marina districts.


The neighborhood's name goes back to the Gold Rush era, when settlers discovered a small Russian cemetery at the top of the hill. Russian naval and merchant ships frequently visited San Francisco throughout the 19th century beginning in 1806, and there are several mentions of burials of crew members in the Russian Hill cemetery in the first half of the century. The cemetery was eventually removed, but the name remains to this day. Although Holy Trinity Cathedral, the oldest Russian Orthodox church in San Francisco, is located a few blocks away on Van Ness and Green Street, there is no significant Russian presence in the area, as the city's Russian community is located primarily in the Richmond District.

In the early 1900s, Colonel Andrew Summers Rowan, "the man who carried the message to Garcia," lived on Vallejo St. Also on Vallejo street at that time was Mary Curtis Richardson, a portrait painter whose painting of the mother and child was copied a million times in postcards during the Panama Pacific International Exposition of 1915.

Noteworthy characteristics[edit]

View from Russian Hill (Larkin St) towards east

The neighborhood is most famous for Lombard Street, the one-way[4] section on Russian Hill between Hyde and Leavenworth Streets, in which the roadway has eight sharp turns (or switchbacks) that have earned the street the distinction of being "the crookedest street in the world". The switchbacks design, first suggested by property owner Carl Henry[citation needed] and instituted in 1922,[5] was born out of necessity in order to reduce the hill's natural 27% grade,[citation needed] which was too steep for most vehicles to climb. As it is one of the most famous tourist attractions in the city, this section of the neighborhood is frequently crowded with tourists. Tourists also frequent the famous cable car line along Hyde Street, which is lined with many restaurants and shops.

A small park at the top of the hill on Vallejo Street features a small plaque and memorial placed by the Russian Government that is dedicated to the original Russian cemetery that is the neighborhood's namesake.

Another park is named after Ina Coolbrith.

Views from the top of the hill extend in several directions around the Bay Area, including the Bay Bridge, Marin County, the Golden Gate Bridge, and Alcatraz. Russian Hill is home to the San Francisco Art Institute, located on Chestnut Street between Jones and Leavenworth Streets.

Because of the steepness of the hill, many streets, portions of Vallejo and Green streets, for example, are staircases. Another famous feature of Russian Hill are the many pedestrian-only lanes such as Macondray Lane and Fallon Place, both with beautiful landscaping and arresting views.

Alice Marble tennis courts.

The Alice Marble Tennis Courts are four hardcourt tennis courts located at Lombard and Hyde Streets. The courts offer a view of the bay and North Beach and can be unsuitable for tennis on windy days. A basketball court is located adjacent to the tennis courts. The San Francisco Cable Cars serving the Powell-Hyde line stops nearby.[citation needed]

Government and infrastructure[edit]

The San Francisco Police Department Central Station, Metro Division serves Russian Hill.[6]

Notable residents[edit]

  • Gavin Newsom, former mayor[7]
  • Cynthia Oti, radio show host and victim of Alaska Airlines Flight 261[8]
  • William H. Ranlett, architect who designed houses on Russian Hill including the Atkinson house at what was then 1032 Broadway and built in 1853, as well as his own "House of Many Corners" at what was then 1637 Taylor.
  • Willis Polk, architect who designed the Palace of Fine Arts in San Francisco and much earlier his own Polk-Williams duplex at what was then 1013-1019 Vallejo on Russian Hill and built in 1892-1893. The other side of the duplex at 1019 Vallejo was occupied by Dora Williams and then in 1895 Fanny Stevenson, the widow of Robert Louis Stevenson, moved in with Williams. Polk also remodeled the interiors of houses on Russian Hill, including the Atkinson house previously mentioned that was originally designed by Ranlett and the Horatio P. Livermore house at what was then 1023 Vallejo in 1890. Polk rented that house until the Livermores allegedly evicted him and moved in in 1892. The story was that Helen Livermore loved the interior Polk designed so much that she asked Polk to move out so she and her husband could move in.[9]
  • The Rev. Joseph Worcester, who designed and built the first shingle-sided house in the San Francisco Bay Area in 1877 in Piedmont, California. That house then influenced the style of the David and Emilie Marshall houses at what was then 1034 and 1036 Vallejo that were built in 1888-1889. Worcester then built his own shingle-sided house on Russian Hill on land owned by the Marshalls at 1030 Vallejo in 1890.[10]
  • Gelett Burgess, nonsense verse and later Goops children's book author who lived at what was then 1031 Vallejo from 1894 to 1897, as well as other residences on Russian Hill during various times. During his time on Russian Hill, Burgess had a romance with Fanny Stevenson, helped found the Les Jeunes bohemian movement with artist and landscape designer Bruce Porter, and published a little magazine called The Lark with Porter between 1895 and 1897.[11]
  • Stewart Alsop II Venture Capitalist and Entrepreneur.[12]
  • Neil Cassady and Jack Kerouac (1949-1951). Kerouac wrote the beat generation classic "On the Road" at 29 Russell Street, a small half street bounded by Hyde and Union streets.

In fiction[edit]

Life in the neighborhood during the 1970s was used as the basis for the fictionalized series Tales of the City by Armistead Maupin.

Much of the famous car chase sequence in the 1968 thriller Bullitt, starring Steve McQueen (whose character lived in Nob Hill on Taylor and Clay streets), were filmed on Russian Hill, notably the scenes on Taylor Street. The neighborhood was also featured in the early scenes of the 1982 action-comedy feature film, 48 Hrs.

The cast of The Real World: San Francisco, which aired in 1994, lived in the house at 949 Lombard Street on Russian Hill from February 12 to June 19, 1994.[13]

In Anne Rice's book The Wolf Gift, the main character, Reuben Golding, grew up in Russian Hill.

John "Scottie" Ferguson, a character played by James Stewart lives at 900 Lombard Street in Alfred Hitchcock's film Vertigo (1958).

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "Statewide Database". UC Regents. Retrieved December 8, 2014. 
  2. ^ "California's 12th Congressional District - Representatives & District Map". Civic Impulse, LLC. 
  3. ^ a b "Russian Hill neighborhood in San Francisco, California (CA), 94109, 94133 subdivision profile - real estate, apartments, condos, homes, community, population, jobs, income, streets". Retrieved January 23, 2015. 
  4. ^ Lombard Street, AOL local.
  5. ^ An Honestly Crooked Street, via Magazine, September 2001.
  6. ^ Central Station, San Francisco Police Department District Stations and Map. San Francisco Police Department. Retrieved on January 2, 2015.
  7. ^ Tyler, Carolyn. "SF mayor fights for same-sex marriage." KGO-TV. Wednesday October 29, 2008. Retrieved on September 2, 2009.
  8. ^ Coile, Zachary. "'Financial Fitness' host among victims." San Francisco Chronicle. Tuesday February 1, 2000. Retrieved on September 2, 2009.
  9. ^ Kostura 1996, pp. 63–75
  10. ^ Kostura 1996, pp. 50–62
  11. ^ Kostura 1996, pp. 85–94
  12. ^ Subscription or UK public library membership required
  13. ^ Castmate Cory Murphy notes the address when first arriving in the season premiere. The dates in which the cast lived in the house are given by Judd Winick on pages 61 and 119 in his 2000 book, Pedro and Me: Friendship, Loss and What I Learned.
  • Kostura, William (1996). Russian Hill: The Summit, 1853–1906. Aerie Publications. 

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 37°48′06″N 122°25′11″W / 37.8018°N 122.4198°W / 37.8018; -122.4198