01 January 2017

Mount Olympus and Buena Vista Hill, San Francisco: 1 January 2017

Buena Vista Hill, 569 feet (173 meters), is located in the Haight-Ashbury District of San Francisco. Credit for designating Buena Vista Hill as a park dates to 1868, when San Francisco Surveyor Bill Humphreys laid out the park in a master plan for the expanding city. The San Francisco Board of Supervisors formally named the hill a park on 8 May 1894. 

As the city expanded, there was a need to provide residents of the Sunset District with rapid access to that portion of the city east of Buena Vista Hill. In 1922 the city decided to build a streetcar tunnel under Buena Vista Hill. 

The successfully implemented streetcar tunnel that the city built under Twin Peaks in 1918 proved to be very popular, and it became a model for the Buena Vista tunnel. On 18 April 1925, Mayor James Rolph formally approved the $1,000,000 project. Construction of the 4,200-foot tunnel began in June of 1926. The tunnel was ready for its first passengers on 21 October 1928; it was named the Sunset Tunnel. Today, the N Judah light rail line, the sole user of the tunnel, is the busiest in the city. It served an average of 45,000 weekday passengers in 2015. Visitors to Buena Vista Park seldom know that streetcars are rumbling through a tunnel far below the hill. 

NOW This photo was taken from Buena Vista Park. It shows the University of San Francisco, a Jesuit Catholic university located on Lone Mountain. Lone Mountain was the location of the Calvary, Masonic, Laurel Hill, and Odd Fellows CemeteriesSt Ignatius Church is visible on the campus of the University. On the far right is a keyhole view of the south tower of the Golden Gate Bridge. Magnificent Mount Tamalpais overlooks the scene. The view looks northwest. 

THEN The cemeteries are visible at the base of Lone Mountain. This photo was taken in 1898. 

A few of the lovely houses are seen on this ramble.

This is a view of the East Portal of the Sunset Tunnel. Buena Vista Hill is above the tunnel. The view is looking west. 

 On 21 October 1928, Mayor James "Sunny Jim" Rolph piloted the first N Judah streetcar through the Sunset Tunnel. This is a view of the streetcar exiting the tunnel's Western Portal. The view is looking east. 

NOW Mount Olympus has a unique history; the 570-foot (174 meters) hill is topped by an empty pedestal. Until 1955 there was a twelve-foot-high cast concrete statue on top of the now-empty pedestal. Titled "Triumph of Light," it showed Lady Liberty. The figure was given to the City of San Francisco in 1887 by Adolph Sutro. The statue was on the top of Mount Olympus for sixty-eight years and had a hard life. The concrete weathered and crumbled; water got to the statue's metal supports, and in 1955 the city decided to remove the statue because it was deemed a hazard. All left on Mount Olympus's crest today is a massive pedestal; its inscription is defaced and illegible. Mount Olympus is located at the geographical center of San Francisco. This location provides a good point from which to view the city's beautiful vistas of bay, peaks, ocean, parks, and bridges. 

THEN The Triumph of Light statue was seen on the top of Mount Olympus in 1947.  

 An illustration of the Triumph of Light statue. The sculptor was Antoine Wirtz (1806 - 1865).

This is a view from Mount Olympus looking southeast; three visible hills. From left to right, they are: Potrero HillBernal Heights Hill, and Bay View Heights.  

This is a view from Buena Vista Park looking north. The Tiburon Peninsula and the city of Tiburon are visible across San Francisco Bay; a portion of Angel Island can be seen on the right side of the photo. 


"A camera is a tool for learning how to see without a camera." Dorothea Lange 

"Photography has not changed since its origin except in its technical aspects, which for me are not important." Henri Carter-Bresson

"There are always two people in every picture: the photographer and the viewer." Ansel Adams
"The important thing is not the camera but the eye." Alfred Eisenstaedt

The first volume of the San Francisco Bay Area Photo Blog contains galleries of photographs that were posted on the Internet between 2002 and 2011. Click Here to view these photo galleries.

Panasonic GX7 camera body mounted with a Panasonic 14-42mm lens was used to take these photographs.

Question or comment? I may be reached at neil@mishalov.com