Unique San Francisco Bay Area Attractions

Unique San Francisco Bay Area Attractions

fort point california

Fort Point

Fort Point

If you’re making a list of things to do in San Francisco California area you’ll make a good choice by adding a stop at Fort Point to your itinerary. Fort Point is one of the most unique historical sites the the United States. The Fort has been called “the pride of the Pacific,” “the Gibraltar of the West Coast,” and “one of the most perfect models of masonry in America.”

Where this fort is located could not be more unique. The site of Fort Point is directly under the south end of the Golden Gate Bridge and in the Golden Gate National Parks area. While visiting Fort Point just look up and you’ll see the bottom of the bridge’s south end. Probably one of the most unique views you’ll ever have.

To drive to Fort Point from the city or from points south, take Highway 101 north and exit right at the Golden Gate Bridge toll plaza before getting on bridge. Turn right at end of exit ramp and then left onto Lincoln Boulevard. Take the first left onto Long Avenue and follow onto Marine Drive. Fort Point is at its end.

ford plant richmond ca

Ford plant display section, Richmond CA

Historic Richmond California Ford Plant

San Francisco things to do also include a visit to the old Ford Motor Company Richmond California plant. This is quite a significant historical venue. Richmond is located northeast and across the bay from San Francisco.

The area where the factory building still stands is at Point Richmond right on San Francisco Bay. This assembly plant, designed by Detroit architect Albert Kahn, produced some 49,000 jeeps and 91,000 additional military vehicles to aid America’s war effort during World War Two. The factory measured 500,000 square feet.

When the plant was built in 1930, the plan was to produce about 400 vehicles in an eight hour work shift. Total employment at the assembly plant was planned for 2,600. During the war years the plant’s activity was constant, twenty four hours a day and seven days a week. Since war time work shifts were scheduled one after the other the Ford plant and the Kaiser Shipyard meant that area roads had heavy traffic no matter what time of day.

When the war ended Richmond’s economy took a big hit. First the Kaiser Shipyard closed and then eventually the Ford Motor plant. Ford kept operating the Richmond facility after the war to help satisfy the pent up demand for civilian vehicles. Even so, the last Ford car built at this plant was in 1953 and the Ford plant closed for good in 1956. This of course was another hit to the Richmond economy.

rosie the riveter historic park

Rosie the Riveter

When you visit the old Ford plant today you’ll see that it is located at the Rosie the Riveter WW II Home Front National Historical Park. see the exhibits at the old Ford plant and tour the museum located adjacent to the old Ford plant. The museum has an excellent presentation with numerous exhibits that show and explain how the war effort was handled on the home front by the people who built the vehicles and ships.

Directions to the Rosie the Riveter Visitor Education Center from the San Francisco or Oakland area is as follows. Take I-80 East, then take the I-580 West split after the Gilman St. off ramp. EXIT Harbour Way South, then turn Right onto Cutting Blvd, now make a right at the next stop light onto Harbour Way South and continue for 0.8 miles. Make a left into the gated parking lot passing the guard shack. Follow signs from there ending at Suite #3000. The entrance is on the south side of the building by the water.

mission dolores san francisco

Mission Dolores in San Francisco

Mission Dolores

The settling of California by the Spanish had everything to do with their mission system. From San Diego in the south to Sonoma in the north, the Spanish missions were essential in settling what was then called Alta California.

The building of Mission Dolores in San Francisco came shortly after the Juan Bautista de Anza Expedition of 1776 came to the Bay Area from Mexico with the direct intention of bringing settlers to the area.

De Anza’s expedition essentially first settled what is now the city of San Francisco. When de Anza arrived, his first two tasks were to find a suitable place for both a mission and for a presidio.

There are many interesting facts to know about Mission Dolores San Francisco. The site that de Anza had chosen for the mission was on the banks of a very small rivulet that he named Arroyo de los Dolores. This small stream emptied into a small lake.

Father Francisco Palou who was with the expedition held the first mass in a thatched hut. Later, Father Palou moved the mission to a better site a few blocks away to where it stands today.

The Dolores Mission, where it resides today, was formally dedicated in 1791 and hasn’t changed much since. The quadrangle of the mission was finally completed in 1798, twenty years after the missions founding. The small lake where the stream led was eventually  covered up. Interestingly enough, the lake that was filled in and covered was eventually used for settlement with homes being built upon the land fill. This small section received considerable damage during the 1906 Earthquake.

See the Trips Into History articles on the links below…

Tour the WW II Submarine USS Pampanito

The Last Days of the California Stagecoach

Visit the Cable Car Museum

san francisco maritime park

A Tall ship at the San Francisco Maritime Historical Park

San Francisco National Maritime Historical Park

Today, we’re fortunate to have a great place to visit at San Francisco’s Fishermans Wharf. It’s a place to see both steamboats and old sailing vessels from an earlier era.

The San Francisco National Maritime Historical Park is a very unique site and would be a good addition to your San Francisco vacation or weekend trip.

This maritime park is located in what is perhaps one of the most picturesque part of the United States. The park consists of a fleet of historic vessels, a visitor center, a very interesting maritime museum as well as a library/research facility. The park is located nearby where Hyde Street ends at Fishermans Wharf. The cable car and electric streetcars make it very convenient to get to.

One such early vessel permanently docked at the park is the sidewheeler “Eureka“.  Like many old steamboats the Eureka has a rich history. The Eureka was built in Tiburon in Marin County in 1890. The vessel was first named the “Ukiah” to showcase the San Francisco and North Pacific Railway’s recent extension into the City of Ukiah on California’s north Pacific coast.

The first route for the Eureka was between San Francisco and Tiburon. An interesting construction fact regarding the Eureka was that it was built with a double-end design. This means that cars and people could embark or disembark from either end of the vessel.

Take a glance at the Eureka and you’ll notice that the front and back of the steamboat are identical. This includes pilot house. This new design may have been one of the most revolutionary of the time and certainly made the vessel more versatile.

This vessel which was then name the Ukiah carried troops and rail cars filled with munitions in aiding the World War One effort. Her war service however came with a big price. Transporting the extremely heavy rail cars stressed her hull and she had to be extensively repaired at government expense. During this era the Ukiah was the largest double ended designed vessel in the world. She could carry 2,300 passengers and about 120 cars.

Plenty of very unique and interesting things to do in the San Francisco Bay Area and we wanted to highlight a few of these in this article. We hope you enjoyed the article and had a chance to see the linked articles above which highlight even more good trip stops.

(Article and photos copyright 2014 Trips Into History)



Chicago’s Magnificent Mile / Fourth Presbyterian Church

You’ll find this beautiful and historic church among the towering skyscrapers on North Michigan Avenue in Chicago Illinois. The Fourth Presbyterian Church, Fourth Church, as it’s commonly referred to by congregants, has become a destination for churchgoers around the Chicago area. The church’s beautiful glow at night adds immeasurable beauty to Chicago’s downtown area.

fourth church chicago

Fourth Presbyterian Church, Chicago Illinois

A Church on Chicago’s Magnificent Mile

Fourth Presbyterian Church was built in the Gothic Revival style of architecture. The church sits in the middle of Chicago’s Magnificent Mile shopping district and provides an oasis from the noise of the street. The church is noted for it’s presenting a range of musical events. Fourteen life-size statues of musicians grace the interior, setting the stage for the church’s organ and noonday concerts and for its series of jazz, classical and chamber music.

Two Churches Merge

A Gothic Revival edifice, Fourth Presbyterian Church sits smack in the middle of the Magnificent Mile shopping district, providing a peaceful retreat from the hubbub of the street and presenting a range of musical events. Fourteen life-size statues of musicians grace the interior, setting the stage for the church’s organ and noonday concerts and for its series of jazz, classical and chamber music.
Read more at http://chicago.metromix.com/venues/mmxchi-fourth-presbyterian-church-venue-1#F2wcAtus17Jt7mAI.99

In 1871 two churches merged to form Fourth Presbyterian Church. The Fourth Presbyterian Church of Chicago was founded in February 1871 when the congregations of Westminster Presbyterian Church and North Presbyterian Church merged. Timing however was not optimal. On October 8 of 1871, the great Chicago fire destroyed Fourth Church’s first worship site the very same night the congregation dedicated it’s new home.

fourth presbyterian church chicago

Interior of Fourth Presbyterian Church, Chicago

During February 1874, the congregation dedicated its new facility on the northwest corner of Rush and Superior Streets. After 40 years at this location, the growing congregation and its many programs called again for a new larger church.

The new congregation worshiped at Superior and Rush for the next forty years from 1874 until 1914. It was then time again to move. The church purchased a plot of land three blocks north, on what would later become Michigan Avenue, and the cornerstone for a new place of worship was laid on September 17, 1912. This new location would eventually become North Michigan Avenue’s ” Magnificent Mile.” When the Michigan Avenue Bridge opened over the Chicago River in 1920 the neighborhood essentially grew up all around the church. Fourth Presbyterian Church is now the oldest surviving structure on Michigan Avenue north of the river

An interesting side note is that the name “Fourth” was chosen not because it was the fourth Presbyterian church to be founded in Chicago. There were several founded before it. North Presbyterian Church is one of the earliest. “Fourth was chosen  because “Fourth” was the lowest number then not in use.

gothic revival architecture

Beautiful Gothic Revival architecture

A Unique Church in the Heart of a City

Fourth Presbyterian Church became the home to influential pastors and wealthy  congregants. Fourth Presbyterian earned both a well deserved civic and national reputation befitting its beautiful Gothic architecture.

Called “a social settlement with a spire,” the church reached out to the poor in the nearby “Little Hell” neighborhood. Fourth Presbyterian helped create the Presbyterian Hospital in 1884, and it was the catalyst for the founding of sister churches in the city’s heavy immigrant areas. The church also became much involved with social activism.  In 1979 Fourth Presbyterian helped to create Atrium Village, an innovative mixed-income housing development.

The Sanctuary Organ

The current Sanctuary organ is a 1971 Aeolian-Skinner Organ, Opus 1516, with 126 ranks, numbering 6,603 pipes. It is the second largest instrument in the city (second only to the organ at the University of Chicago’s Rockefeller Chapel) and one of largest in the Midwest. Some of the existing pipe work dates back to 1914 when Ernest M. Skinner was contracted to build the first pipe organ. That organ contained 59 ranks. Among them was a stop invented by Skinner called the Kleine Erzäehler, which means little storytellers, a stop of which he was most proud.

See the Trips Into History articles on the links below…

The Palace Steamers of the Great Lakes

Lake Michigan and the Carl D. Bradley Sinking

Concerts and Art

Free noonday concerts take place at Fourth Presbyterian Churchin the Sanctuary or Buchanan Chapel (except when otherwise noted) from September through June and outdoors in the courtyard off Michigan Avenue, by the fountain, in July and August.

Weekday evening and Sunday afternoon concerts are also offered occasionally  throughout the year.

When your travels take you to the downtown Chicago area make it a point to stop by this magnificent and unique church. Fourth Presbyterian Church is a must see during your tour of downtown Chicago. The church is located at 126 E Chestnut St, Chicago, IL.

(Article and photos copyright 2014 Trips Into History)

Historic Missouri / Great Trip Stops

The Rich History of Missouri

The rich history of old Missouri includes the era that covered wagons headed west to Oregon and California, the extremely violent years of the Civil War and the lawlessness of the post Civil War years attributed largely to the bank and train robberies by the James-Younger gang.

frank james

A young Jesse and Frank James

There are many unique and interesting historic sites in Missouri that you may want to add to your vacation planner. We’ve highlighted a few of these below.

Independence Missouri

If you’re looking for a town that was at the center of early westward expansion, Independence Missouri is one of those. Independence was by all means the gateway to the western frontier. Founded in 1827, Independence is located on the south bank of the Missouri River at the furthest point west where steamboats could then still navigate.

This point made Independence a jumping off point to the west and where much of it’s history resides. Some of the history is 19th century and some 20th century. During the mid 19th century, if you were to try to identify a focal point for America’s march westward, it would have to be Independence Missouri. While there are hundreds, even thousands of stories throughout the old west, many of them have some distant connection to Independence.

The town served as a key stepping off point to those traversing the western frontier. Take a look at a map of the Oregon Trail and you’ll see Independence Missouri as it’s eastern terminus.

oregon trail map

Map of the Oregon Trail with the eastern terminus of Independence, MO

The Start of the Oregon Trail

Among the fun and historic things to do in Independence is ride in a covered wagon. Rides are available at Independence Square. You can actually retrace some of the paths of the original settlers through wagon swales carved by the 1800’s pioneers. This covered wagon tour takes you 1800’s style through Independence’s famous historic district. The Independence Square is really filled with many historic sites since this was the location where the wagon train assembled before beginning the 2,000 mile journey westward over the Oregon Trail route. Among Oregon Trail facts is that the journey to Oregon could take six months or more to complete. A walking trip through the square itself is a walk back into history. Independence makes a fun and educational trip stop for the entire family.

cole younger photo

A young Cole Younger

The Jesse James Home Museum

During the 1800’s Missouri had it’s share of lawlessness and much of it was attributed to the James-Younger gang.

Much of the mayhem generated by the earlier James gang was attributed by many journalists to their staunch anti-Union sentiment and little by little this too was fading away.  The James gang was no longer relevant to the civil progress being made in Kansas and Missouri after the Civil War ended.

After the Civil War the James-Younger gang became outlaws as opposed to Confederate Civil War guerrillas. The gang cheated death for decades. One site that remains quite popular to tourists and tourist/historians is the house where Jesse James was assassinated by his former gang partner Robert Ford.

There have been several Jesse James movies produced.  If you saw the recent movie “The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford” you saw much of the story of Jesse James death and final days. If you haven’t seen the movie I highly recommend that you do. The Jesse James Home Museum is located in St. Joseph Missouri. It was moved a few blocks from it’s original location and is now at 12th and Mitchell, St. Joseph.

See the Trips Into History articles on the links below…

Branson Missouri / Fun Attractions and Great Scenery

See the Great Western Trail

Searching for Old Pioneer Wagon Ruts

Travel the Meeting of the Great Rivers Scenic Highway

patee house missouri

Patee House National Historic Landmark

The Patee House

Another interesting venue in St. Joseph Missouri is the Patee House located at 1202 Penn, St. Joseph’s only National Historic Landmark. The Patee House was first built in 1858 as a luxury hotel. It’s current museum is filled with artifacts from the frontier era of Missouri as well as items about Jesse James. The hotel was the site of the formal investigation undertaken after James assassination by Robert Ford. It was also the headquarters for the Pony Express in 1861. Quite a lot of history in this building and well worth the time to visit.

The Clay County Bank Robbery

The Clay County Savings Association in Liberty Missouri has a bit of history with it. It is considered the site of the first daylight bank  robbery in U.S. history. While it was attributed to the actions of Jesse James there is some doubt whether he was involved. By the same token the James-Younger gang had the reputation for overt daylight bank robberies such as their ill fated attempt in Northfield Minnesota.

The Clay County Bank was robbed by around a dozen gunmen on February 13,1866. It was said that the robbers escaped with about $60,000. A bystander was killed outside the bank. It was also said that some bystanders may have recognized some of the gang members but withheld information from the authorities because of fear.

clay county missouri bank robbery

Clay County Savings Assoc. Building.

Today, the Clay County Savings Association Building still stands and is on the National Register of Historic Places. The building is located at 104 East Franklin Street, Liberty Missouri. Visitors today will see the bank as it looked at the time of the robbery. You’ll see period furnishings, a Seth-Thomas clock set to the time of the robbery, the original bank vault and a museum store.

Missouri is a state filled with a great deal of 1800’s history. Adding the scenic state and it’s many venues to your western trip vacation planner is well worth it.

(Article copyright Western Trips. Photos and images in the public domain. Patee House and Clay County Savings Assoc. photos from Creative Commons Share Alike 2.5 License. )

Sites to Visit Along the Beautiful Columbia River

Touring the state of Oregon is always a scenic adventure. One of the best scenic drives  you can take in Oregon is the road following the Columbia River Gorge. Beautiful water falls, fun hiking trails, unique inns and a tour of a dam are just a few of the stops along the Columbia Gorge scenic highway you may want to add to your Oregon vacation planner.

bonneville dam fish ladder

Fish Ladder at Bonneville Dam

Bonneville Dam

One of the great family trip stops along the Columbia River is the Bonneville Dam, located about forty miles east of Portland Oregon.

The visitor exhibits at the Bonneville Dam explain how the dam operates and produces hydro-electric power. Another significant exhibit demonstrates is how the fish of the Columbia River navigate themselves upstream past the dam to spawn. This is really a fascinating story and the way it’s presented at the Bonneville Dam visitor center is both educational and entertaining.

You can view for yourself through a glass window the fish climbing the dams fish ladder.  The journey upriver to spawn is essential for specie survival. Bonneville Dam fish exhibits are amazing. It’s educational to see the work done at the dam project to accommodate the various species of fish. The Visitors Center contains two levels that you’re able to view the fish ladder.

bonneville dam columbia river

Bonneville Dam, Columbia River

On the lower level you can view through a glass wall the fish actually making their journey upriver. Just outside the Visitor Center on the upper level you can view the “fish ladder” which allows the fish to essentially climb the river and go up and past the dam. This also allows for a Bonneville Dam fish count. A fish ladder is a series of pools arranged in ascending steps at the side of a stream, enabling migrating fish to swim upstream around a dam or any other obstruction. It’s really a fascinating thing to see and ensures that the Columbia River fish ecological balance is retained. Adjacent to the dam is the Bonneville Fish Hatchery.

 Wahkeena Falls

The Columbia Scenic Highway will also lead you to a waterfall. The 242 foot high Wahkeena Falls is one of the most visited sites along the route. Before 1915 and the construction of the Columbia Highway, the falls were named Gordon Falls.

wahkeena falls oregon

Wahkeena Falls along the Columbia River Scenic Highway

Wahkeena Falls is located about one-half mile west of Multnomah Falls, another very popular stop along the Columbia River. The base of the falls lie about 100 feet above the highway. The falls crash step by step down a narrow crack between basalt rock outcroppings. Many refer to this type of waterfall as a “tiered falls“.

The site also let’s you hike a short trail from the parking area across a rock bridge to get a terrific view. The falls can also be viewed from the highway. The translation of Wahkeena in the Yakama Indian language means “most beautiful“. For those wanting to continuing climbing up the trail about a mile past Wahkeena Falls, you’ll also come across two other falls. These are Necktie Falls and Fairy Falls. The trail to the falls begins at the commemorative monument at the parking area.

See the Trips Into History articles on the links below…

A Visit to Historic Portland Oregon

The Dalles Oregon

Horsetail Falls

Horsetail Falls is a spectacular site that drops 175 feet down a mossy rock wall. Horsetail Falls along the scenic Columbia Gorge is the closest falls to the Columbia River Highway. The falls originate from the Horsetail Creek. The falls received it’s name due to the fact that the water that goes over the rounded rock face resemble a horses tail. The falls has an elevation above the highway of about fifty feet.

horsetail falls ioregon

Horsetail Falls

Horsetail Falls is located two and one-half miles east of Multnomah Falls. You also want to add a stop at Ainsworth State Park which is near both Horsetail Falls and the Cascade Locks. Ainsworth State Park is one mile east of Horsetail Falls. The park is named in honor of Captain J.C. Ainsworth, a pioneer Columbia River steamboat captain and one of the founders of the famous Oregon Steam Navigation Company. The Oregon Steam Navigation Company was founded in 1860 and eventually controlled steamboat operations over most of the vessels on both the Columbia and Snake Rivers.

highway 30 tunnel oregon

Old Highway 30 tunnel

The Columbia River Gorge

Columbia River Gorge, with walls spanning 80 miles and rising 4,000 feet, is lined with stunning black basalt walls awash in waterfalls, wildflowers, and lush deciduous forests. The route will take travelers along the same path of Lewis and Clark.

Old U.S. Highway 30

Where motorists on old U.S. Highway 30 once crept around curves high along the cliffs of the Columbia River Gorge, hikers, bicyclists and users of other muscle-driven forms of transportation leisurely enjoy the view from the Historic Columbia River Highway State Trail. The trail, three disconnected paved ribbons along abandoned stretches of the historic highway, give you more than 12 miles of sightseeing thrills.

(Article and photos copyright 2014 Trips Into History)