Subsequent chapters examine Mexican California, the forty-niners and the Gold Rush, the coming of the railroad and the creation of the iconic cable cars (the first cable car operated on Nob Hill in 1873). California’s first poet laureate, Ina Coolbrith, is here, as is Alcatraz and its infamous denizens, impresario Bill Graham and the psychedelic and music scene of the 1960s, Harvey Milk and the rise of the Castro district, and the dot-com boom of the 1990s.Of course, the Great Earthquake of 1906 gets its own chapter. The Big Quake, notes author Gael Chandler, struck at 5:12 a.m., followed by a long series of aftershocks. In total, it lasted a deadly 42 seconds and was recorded as a 7.9 magnitude. Fires gutted the town, destroying more than 80 percent of the city and causing more than $500 million in damage (more than $13 billion in today’s money). The official death count was a shockingly low 379, but modern estimates indicate that nearly 3,000 perished.
The story behind the founding of City Lights Bookstore and the rise of the Beat Generation is one of the book’s highlights. In 1953, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, along with Peter Martin, opened City Lights. The bookstore specialized in “highbrow paperbacks,” which appealed to the Beats and other literary types. A few years later, Ferlinghettipublished what was called “the howl heard around the world”: Allen Ginsberg’s “Howl and Other Poems,” which led to Ferlinghetti’s arrest on a charge of selling obscene material. But attitudes changed; many years later, in 2001, City Lights was designated as an official local landmark.
Beautifully illustrated, the guide concludes with eight walking tours, from Chinatown and Nob Hill to Golden Gate Park and Haight-Ashbury. —Chicago Tribune