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San Francisco History

Just about the same time those famous 13 colonies were declaring their independence from the British in 1776, a church built by Spanish settlers near a beautiful bay in (what's now) Northern California was dedicated to St. Francis of Assisi—nicknamed San Francisco. The city and California became an American territory in 1846. It wasn't until two years later with the Gold Rush that people began flocking west with hopes of finding riches and staring life anew. (San Francisco is still a haven for newcomers and transplants from all corners of the planet seeking freedom, something different.) April 18, 1906, changed the city forever when an earthquake (measuring 8.1 on the Richter scale) and the subsequent Great Fire ravaged it. Like a phoenix, the city was rebuilt and came back more robust and beautiful than before. Of course San Francisco is known more for its recent history, starting with the beret-and jeans-clad Beats who rallied for social change and challenged American consumerism and conformity through such things as writings and poetry. These "beatniks," so named by famed San Francisco Chronicle columnist Herb Caen, set up shop in North Beach and café culture was born. The 1960s' Flower Power and Summer of Love ('67) unleashed the hippies of Haight-Ashbury, and free love, drugs and rock music took over. The 1970s were all about Gay Rights. Headquarters was the Castro neighborhood, where Harvey Milk stepped up, and his election to the Board of Supervisors marked the first time an openly gay man held public office. In tandem with liberal Mayor George Moscone, a gay rights agenda was finally on the table. Tragedy struck in 1978 when Dan White, a former supervisor who opposed their liberal policies, murdered both men.