A History of Fisherman’s Wharf

The majority of the northern waterfront of the San Francisco area is claimed as the charming and historic neighborhood of “Fisherman’s Wharf.” When the days of the California Gold Rush were in full swing, Chinese immigrants swarmed here to fish for all kinds of under-the-sea delicacies for the growing city. They caught everything from shrimp, oysters, crabs, and tons of others. Italian immigrants joined the wharf and made a living catching seafood, as well. The wharf was one of the biggest growing neighborhoods in the area since people found out they could make a living on their own simply by throwing out a pole and selling it later that day. 

However, the wharf wasn’t just known for smelling like a beloved seafood restaurant chain, but it was becoming quite popular due to the joyful and harmonious songs the fishermen all sang. Their natural talent and desire for singing songs of home and work were heard in beautiful and creative renditions from Arias to Verdi. Although the waters remained foggy in the early mornings, and frankly most of the year, outside of the Golden Gate, singing men were a means of communication because although those on shore could not see a companion boat, they knew one was close by.

As technology progressed and fishermen wanted to go exploring in deeper waters, putt-putt boats, or what became known as the Monterey Hull boats, became a popular use of fishing transportation. These newly invented gas engines made it possible to fish more days of the year – despite colder weather and strong winds. They also gave a wider range for their operation in the ocean water to find other deep sea creatures they could sell and provided power to haul in much larger nets or lines.

Once popularity struck Fisherman’s Wharf, lumbar trader Henry Meigg brought his industry to the wharf. Although it still stuck to its traditional fishermen roots, lumbar trading started coming to the docks and taking its course. It grew to become a place of play and relaxation for swimmers and sunbathers. Soon, the Ghirardelli Chocolate Factory – that is now a shopping mall – launched the wharf’s peak of popularity.

 The wharf has worn several different hats since its creation. It has been an epicenter for creating Army uniforms and blankets for soldiers during the Civil War and for the California Fruit Canners Association that soon became the largest in the world at the time.

Between the rich history, impeccable views of Alcatraz and the Golden Gate Bridge, and the popular seafood restaurants, Fisherman’s Wharf is a must-see the next time you come to visit San Francisco!

We can’t wait to see you on our next tour!

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