3 Fun Facts About North Beach in Anticipation of the North Beach Festival

The North Beach Festival is this weekend! Just because, here are 3 fun facts about the neighborhood that you might not know (and one not-so-fun fact)

North Beach Festival
Photo courtesy of Dominic Simpson

1) Once, North Beach was actually a beach

If you’ve ever wondered how it got the name, it’s actually quite simple. Up until the later 19th century, San Francisco only extended about as far north as Francisco Street. Over time, abandoned boat hulls and other landfill came together to form the coastline we are more familiar with today, which leaves North Beach slightly inland. To put things in perspective, from the intersection of Francisco and Taylor, historically the farthest-north extent of land, it is about 4 ½ blocks to Pier 39.

North Beach Festival
North Beach in 1856. Of course, no 19th century beach would be complete without factories and rendering plants for whale oil.

2) The area around North Beach was once the city’s red light district (and still kind of is, actually)

The area just south of North Beach now known as Jackson Square was once called the Barbary Coast. Here, sailors and other toughs who had just docked at the nearby wharfs found plentiful drink, gambling, and…other vices. A quick stroll down Broadway, and you can see that things have changed, though not much…

North Beach Festival
Columbus and Broadway in 1973. The Condor Club is still there, though the cartoon lady is not.

3) Joe DiMaggio is from North Beach!

That’s right, Joltin’ Joe himself grew up in North Beach. Before prowling center field at Yankee Stadium, DiMaggio played Shortstop for the San Francisco Seals of the Pacific Coast League, helping them to a title in 1935. DiMaggio married his first wife at North Beach’s Sts. Peter and Paul Cathedral, and took some wedding photos there with his more-famous second wife, Marilyn Monroe. His funeral was held there in 1999.

North Beach Festival
The Saints Peter and Paul Church in the present day. One of the most iconic San Francisco buildings, and the embodiment of North Beach for many San Franciscans.

And finally, a not-so-fun fact about North Beach: parking there is a challenge! If you’re driving to the 60th annual North Beach Festival this weekend, consider a parking reservation. Click here to reserve today.

18 thoughts on “3 Fun Facts About North Beach in Anticipation of the North Beach Festival

  1. Love how the church looks and how they use that church in some movies. But there’s an older church in the city that people forget. Old St. Mary’s Church on California Street and Grant Street. Too much media for this church. I know this article is talking about North Beach but I’m sure there are other things in North Beach to talk about too.

  2. Lynn – Congrats on a successful 2011 I wish you all the best for 2012. I love sieeng the photos of your beautiful couples and reading your heartfelt words about their special day. You have that something extra’ that comes out in your photos it’s magical!

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