San Francisco in Cinema: Barbary Coast

Excavation below 424 Clay Street
When gold and silver made a boomtown of San Francisco in the mid-1800s, the Barbary Coast was born. While other districts attracted more legitimate enterprises, the port area roughly bordered by Pacific Avenue and Stockton Street between Jackson and Montgomery Streets became the center of sex, violence, hard drinking and gambling by rough-and-tumble seamen and would-be prospectors hoping to cash in by other than legal means. The notorious Barbary Coast was the home of Killer's Corner (Jackson & Kearny), Deadman's Alley, and Murder Point, all aptly named for the debauchery that pervaded the neighborhood. In Howard Hawks' 1935 cinematic telling of a Barbary Coast tale, Miriam Hopkins plays new arrival Mary Rutledge, who finds her fiance dead then takes a job with snarling bad guy Edward G. Robinson at the Bella Donna casino. Mayhem ensues. Harry Carey, Walter Brennan, and Joel McCrea also star. Today, many ships from the Barbary Coast era are buried under the Financial District. One such ship, the General Harrison, is seen here as it was excavated after 150 years by Oakland's Archeo-Tec at a construction site at Battery and Clay Streets in September, 2001.

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