Tuesday, January 24, 2012

What is Left of Irish Hill

From the 1850s through the early decades of the 20th Century, the waterfront east of Potrero Hill thrived as a West Coast center of immigrant life and industry. The point of land here is made of serpentine rock that was blasted away to fill Mission Bay and the shoreline to the south. Workers at the mills and shipyards preferred to live within walking distance to the piers, even if that meant living in the midst of smoke stacks and heavy industry. The area bound by 23rd Street, Mariposa, Indiana, and 3rd Street called Dogpatch was once known as Dutchman's Flats. It occupies the flatland between Potrero Hill and Irish Hill, which now exists only as a rump of serpentine rock behind a storage yard.


The Scottish immigrants claimed Potrero, while the Dutch cottages separated them from the Irish inhabitants of the eastern edge of Mission Bay. Hotels dominated the streets closest to the ironworks serving the flow of new arrivals before they moved to a more settled, and less polluted, neighborhood. Butchertown lay between Dogpatch and Mission Creek, the northern dividing line between the abattoirs and heavy industry of the Eastern Waterfront and the lighter industry and warehouses of the South of Market District and the city's Central Waterfront. The geography of the waterfront district around Pier 70 has changed radically in the 150 years of industrial development. As the bay filled in and industry developed, residential housing was pushed back from the mill works. Third Street became the line of demarcation between work and home and Irish Hill declined quickly. Pier 70's industry was abandoned by the early 1970s as the Port of Oakland overtook San Francisco and heavy industry was pushed out of the city.


Irish Hill has been almost completely leveled, overworked, and neglected. Today, it's stirring to life again. A lot is at stake on San Francisco's Waterfront. What shape will the district take over this next decade?


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