Russian Hill Naming


Looking north from Russian Hill, c. 1860. Alcatraz and Angel Island across the water, large sand dune separates Black Point (today's Ft. Mason) from Russian Hill. Black smoke is rising from the Pioneer Woolen Mills near today's Aquatic Park.

Before the Gold Rush, this hill was a goat pasture with an old cemetery where Russian seal hunters had buried their dead. Children who climbed the hill to play among the overgrown graves first gave the area the name "Russian Hill." But the name was officially recognized only after it hosted the City's first legal execution, the hanging of convicted murderer Jose Forni in 1852. After that, the hill hosted a whole series of hangings. Locals warn, if you wander the empty streets of Russian Hill at midnight, you may suddenly come upon the shadow of a human figure swaying in the foggy wind.

Contributors to this page include:

San Francisco Public Library,San Francisco,CA - Publisher or Photographer

Carlsson,Chris - Writer

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