Telegraph Hill is one of San Francisco’s forty-four substantial mounds. The many Irish immigrants who settled there formerly knew it as Goat Hill. Interesting enough, it soon became a burial ground for non-Catholic seamen. Hmmm (I’m not going there). The hill owes its name to a semaphore, which would signal the townspeople as to the nature of ships and their cargo coming through the Golden Gate. If a merchant didn’t have this advance knowledge, he might be hoodwinked into paying too high a price for his product.
Sailing ships brought cargo to San Francisco, but needed ballast when leaving. Rocks for this purpose were quarried from the bay-side of Telegraph Hill. During the gold rush days, it was difficult to provide a crew for exiting vessels. For a fee, bartenders would spike the drinks of unsuspecting souls and have them transported to a shack on the east side of Telegraph Hill where they would later be hauled down to the Embarcadero and shanghaied aboard an outgoing ship. A few of these “holding” pens still exist. Take a walk down the Filbert Steps and meander through history. It’s my favorite place in all of North Beach. What’s yours? http://www.johnmccarty.org