By comparison with other parks in the city, particularly among those many capping city peaks and having splendid views, Washington Square Park seems lacking, but after a walk through the narrow and crowded streets of Chinatown and North Beach, this expanse of tree studded lawn can provide relief to the feet. Located between Powell, Stockton, Union and Filbert Streets, Washington Square Park, along with Union Square, were first set aside for public use in 1850, and so only Portsmouth Square in Chinatown can claim to be a more historic place to congregate within the city. During it's first decade Washington Square was largely an unkempt cemetary adjacent to the adobe of Juana Briones, an enterprising divorcee of a presidio calvaryman from whom the city's original name, Yerba Buena, may have had its origins (see plaque #1024 at Stockton & Filbert Streets). Later, Washington Square was leveled and the streets defined around it. It lost part of it's "square shape" when what is now Columbus Avenue cut through one corner creating a popular promenade to the square. The fragment corner, still parkland today, is therefore, technically part of Washington Square. Following the earthquake and great fire of 1906, the park became a refugee camp. The park's distinctive bronze of of Benjamin Franklin, the gift of a dentist who had placed gold crowns on the teeth of gold miners, was first put on its time capsule base in 1879. In 1979, the base was opened, refilled with bottles of wine and local literature, and closed again for another century. Note also, the larger more impressed bronze statue dedicated to the city's volunteer firefighters and funded by famed fire fighter mascot, Lillie Hitchcock. Throughout the park are distributed memorial benches, which in a way honor those whose graves were originally plundered to create this expanse of lawn. The park has children's play equipment in one corner. The park's many contradictions were noted by famed gossip columnist, Herb Caen, "It is a square that isn't a square, the heart of North Beach, which isn't a beach. Washington Square isn't on Washington Street and has a statue of Benjamin Franklin instead of George Washington. The statue was erected by H.D. Cogswell, a teetotaler, but the square is surrounded on three sides by bars and restaurants and on the fourth by a church."
Washinghton square is located right in the middle of North Beach district, the old Italian neighborhood of SF. It is the only open space area in this district as you can see in pic one that I took from the Colt Tower. Although the square is full of homeless people at night it was nice to walk and relax for a while in the morning and there are some nice cafes there, we drunk superb cappuccino and had some nice meals there. In the middle of the square there is a small statue of Benjamin Franklin (pic 2).
Of course, the most beautiful sight to see at the square is the St. Paul and Peter church (pic 3) at 666 Filbert street (yes, the number of street made me wonder too). It was built in 1924 and it is the biggest catholic church in the city. If you visit SF during October don’t miss the litany of Santa Maria del Lume (protector of fishermen) that goes down Columbus avenue to Fisherman’s Wharf to bless the fishermen! The church is beautiful with the twin lofty spires going up to 52 meters, while the interior has some nice statues and stained glasses.
We were ready to walk up the Filbert street now (pic 4). Our target was the Coit Tower at the top of Telegraph hill but watch out and take small breaks because you’re going to get tired soon of the steep hill. Don’t forget to turn back towards the Washington square and take some nice pics (pic 5)
Washington Square is a leafy park in the centre of San Francisco's North Beach neighbourhood - the Italian district. The park is a popular place to practice Tai Chi, which we witnessed ourselves when we wandered through.
The square is home to an 1897 statue of Ben Franklin. At the base of the statue are taps that claim are a source of water from Vichy in France. I think not.
On the northern side of the square you can't miss the very impressive looking Saints Peter and Paul Church. The three-level cathedral dates back to 1924 and I was impressed by its soaring white towers. Even better is that apparently the church featured in the old Clint Eastwood classic 'Dirty Harry'.
This is a favorite little park among locals and even tourists can appreciate its history - smack in the middle of the gentrified yet still colorful North Beach area (one of my favorite neighborhoods in SF), and overlooking the famous Sts. Peter and Paul Church (where Marilyn Monroe was photographed with Joe DiMaggio after they married).
I happened to be there last time when a festival was taking place, complete with live music, frisbee throwing, fun-in-the-sun lovin' locals stretched out on blankets and just relaxing....even the mayor made an impromptu appearance. it was fantastic.
The park was authorized as a public square back in 1850, and was a temporary home to a number of displaced people after the 1906 earthquake. It somehow seems to provide the same refuge and relaxation today.