If you think you know everything about San Francisco... think again. Trivial: Did you know the city's official instrument is an accordion. And SF is also known for its vibrant art scene, with plenty of museums including the SF MOMA.
If you walk around, you'll notice there's art just about everywhere in this city. And, there's more hidden gems in this city that's away from the usual tourist spots.
Cameras obscuras were popular tourist attractions at seaside and scenic locations in the 19th and early 20th centuries. They were also popular for their educational qualities.
There have been at least three cameras obscuras in San Francisco. The first was at Woodward's Gardens. The second Cliff House also contained a camera obscura which was destroyed in the fire that burned the Cliff House in 1907. The camera obscura built by Floyd Jennings in 1946 was the second one to be placed at the Cliff House site, a testament to the enduring fascination of the public with the scenic beauty of this spot.
This camera obscura is one of only two such optical instruments in California. The other is in Santa Monica and was moved in 1955 from its original location near the Santa Monica Pier to the Senior Recreational Center in Santa Monica. The camera obscura in San Francisco appears to be the last example of a camera obscura in the United States that is contained in a free standing building and is older than fifty years of age.
Ingleside Terraces Sundial
Touted as the world's biggest sundial when it was built, this tranquil monument dominates a quiet cul-de-sac within the Ingleside Terraces residential area, an area of upper income homes created by the Urban Realty Improvement Company in 1912.
Secret Tiled Staircase
The 16th Avenue Staircase is 163 steps of mosaic tiles, a colourful staircase hidden in the Sunset district of San Francisco. With the help of artists and many neighbourhood volunteers, and was inspired by the Selarón staircase in Rio de Janeiro, a brightly colored tiled staircase and popular tourist destination. All the mosaics are donated by the community. At the very top is the sun (the stairs ascend from “sea Level” to the sun—get it?). There’s also another garden at the bottom and one of the last crops of Franciscan formation at the top (it has its own biozone!).
Photo: Ben Banner
Labyrinth at Land’s End
San Francisco artist Eduardo Aguilera was first inspired by learning about other historic labyrinths, and then moved to create his own after spending time along the rocky shoreline of Land’s End, lighting candles and creating a small shrine to, in the artist’s own words, “peace, love and enlightenment.” Aguilera’s creation is constructed simply of a stone outline following the classic seven-circuit Chartres labyrinth. At first he hoped to keep it anonymous but his work was quickly discovered by other hikers and explorers.
The labyrinth has been destroyed on two occasions by persons unknown, but Aguilera rebuilt it each time. In 2004 the artist lit the labyrinth with candles for the Winter Solstice, and in 2005 he lit it ablaze for the Vernal Equinox. One of the last incidents happened in 2015 when the Labyrinth was destroyed yet again. However, a month later the author with a team of volunteers restored the design.
Built in 1870 by John Hamlin Burnell, a young English immigrant with plans for a brewery to supply the over 800 saloons serving the growing city. Beer was already a popular choice in San Francisco, with several local breweries already competing for business. But Burnell’s new property had a secret advantage: An underground aquifer that provided pure cold water, perfect for brewing - not to mention free. He built himself not only the workspaces for the Albion Porter & Ale Brewery, but also a castle home. Although relatively petite and built into a hillside, it features a distinctive tower built from stones pulled from cargo ship’s ballast, modeled after Norman fortifications Burnell loved back home.
Photo: The Wave Organ
The Wave Organ
Located on a jetty in the San Francisco Bay, the Wave Organ was built in 1986. In collaboration with the Exploratorium, artist Peter Richards built an acoustic sculpture that amplifies the sounds of the waves in the bay. The organ’s jetty was constructed with carved granite and marble from a demolished cemetery.
The instrument itself is comprised of more than 20 PVC and concrete pipes that extend down into the water at various elevations. The sound is created by waves crashing against the ends of these pipes. When the waves roll in, the pipes resound with liquid music: low, gurgling notes that ebb and flow with the restless movement of the ocean and the changing of the tides.
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