Mt. Davidson Timeline


Last modified 2023-05-03 13:02:42. Initially published .


  • Jose de Jesus Noe elected Alcalde of Mission San Francisco de Asis.


  • Rancho San Miguel, 4443 acres of land area extending east of what is now Junipero Serra Blvd. to San Jose Avenue, and including what is now Mt. Davidson, granted to Don Jose de Jesus Noe, Mayor of Yerba Buena, by Mexican Governor Pio Pico.


  • Gold discovered in California.
  • CA ceded from Mexico to the US.


  • California becomes a state.
  • City of San Francisco incorporated.


  • California Academy of Sciences is founded in San Francisco. (National academy will not be founded until ten years later.)
  • Cornelius K. Garrison (shipping millionaire, co-founder of the Bank of CA) elected 4th Mayor of San Francisco.


  • Rancho San Miguel is purchased by American, John M. Horner, “California’s First Farmer,” for $200,000


  • The City and County of San Francisco is formed on June 11, 1856.
  • Theodore F. Moss becomes the new owner of the city’s highest point after John Horner loses his mortgage on San Miguel Rancho in the financial panic of 1853-7.


  • Ownership of  the top of Mt. Davidson is transferred from Theodore F. Moss to Adolph E. Borie.


  • Abraham Lincoln elected 16th President of the United States.
  • Mt. Davidson’s summit is purchased by Francois L. A. Pioche. The “Pioche Railroad” is started by the Market Street Railway Company. Financed by Francios Pioche, Market Street is graded for the steam dummies.
  • Title is transferred between John Benson, Levi Parsons, Cornelius K. Garrison, and John B. Felton.


  • Ownership of Mt. Davidson transferred from John B. Felton to Francois L.A. Pioche, Levi Parsons, J. B Bayerque, and Lester L. Robinson.


  • Francois L.A. Pioche and Lester L. Robinson file first of several subdivision maps of Rancho San Miguel. A master roadbuilder, Robinson’s design for Corbett Avenue is the first to use a curvilinear route in San Francisco.


  • San Francisco population reaches 149,473. Builders begin to mass produce housing.


  • George Davidson appointed President of the CA Academy of Sciences and remains in that role until 1887.


  • San Francisco’s population reaches 233,959.
  • Adolph Sutro, after completing his tunnel through the base of Mt. Davidson, Nevada, facilitating water drainage and ore transportation from the Comstock Silver Lode, purchases 1200 acres of Rancho San Miguel from the estate of banker, Francois L. A. Pioche.


  • Residential Development Company organized by A. S. Baldwin and J. R. Howell.


  • San Francisco population reaches 298,997, making it the eighth largest city in the United States.


  • Sunnyside becomes the 1st residential subdivision on the slopes of Mt. Davidson; established by Behrend A. Joost, the “Grand Old Man of Twin Peaks.”


  • Sierra Club is founded by 182 charter members, including George Davidson.


  • Adolph Sutro elected 24th Mayor of San Francisco.


  • San Francisco population reaches 342,782.


  • City Beautiful Plan by Chicago Architect, Daniel Burnham, recommends underground transit through Twin Peaks, parks on the City’s hilltops and the use of curvilinear landscaped streets in residential developments.


  • Earthquake estimated at 8.25 intensity strikes San Francisco, bringing Mt. Davidson cross architect, George Kelham, to rebuild the Palace Hotel; cross engineer, Henry Brunnier, comes from New York to rebuild the City’s devastated street railway system.


  • San Francisco population reaches 416,912.
  • San Francisco’s highest hill named for George Davidson at the urging of the Sierra Club in honor of his charter membership and significant scientific achievements.


  • After Adoph Sutro dies in 1898 and wills his land for educational purposes, the California Supreme Court rules in favor of Sutro’s heirs that the trust is invalid. President of the Residential Development Co. of San Francisco and Sutro’s estate appraiser, A. S. Baldwin purchases Mt. Davidson to develop single family homes.
  • “Sunny Jim” James Rolph is elected to first of four terms as Mayor of San Francisco.
  • Women win the right to vote in California.


  • St. Francis Wood, Balboa Terrace, Ingleside Terrace, and Forest Hill become first residential subdivisions of the Sutro lands on and around Mt. Davidson. Elements of the City Beautiful Plan are used for new single family home residence parks with underground utilities, rear alleys and garages for car access, and elaborate street landscaping to be maintained by home owner associations.
  • President Wilson signs the Raker Act which grants San Francisco the right to build a dam and reservoir in Yosemite National Park’s Hetch Hetchy Valley.


  • The Panama-Pacific International Exposition opens on February 20, 1915, celebrating the completion of the Panama Canal in 1914..


  • United States enters World War I.
  • Construction begins on Westwood Park, 650 homes for “families of average means”.


  • Twin Peaks Tunnel and Sloat Boulevard opens up West of Twin Peaks area for further residential development.
  • A. S. Baldwin builds footpaths to the summit of Mt. Davidson “for the pleasure of the public” to promote the area.
  • Armistice Day celebrated November 11, 1918.


  • National prohibition against the sale of intoxicating liquors begins with the passage of the 18th amendment.
  • Women gain the national right to vote with the passage of the 19th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.


  • Margaret Mary Morgan is the first woman elected to the San Francisco Board of          Supervisors.


  • First sunrise service organized by James Decatur, Reverend Homer K. Pitman, A.S. Baldwin, Clarence F. Pratt, and others. Forty-foot high wooden cross built by Adolph Anderson for the April 1st ceremony attended by 5000 and led by Dean J. Wilmer Gresham of Grace Cathedral.
  • Stanford Heights Reservoir constructed to provide water to new homes on Mt. Davidson. At 618 feet above sea level it is the city’s second highest reservoir and holds 12.9 million gallons.
  • Sierra Club organizes Thanksgiving event on the summit.
  • The $6 million 385 ft. high O’Shaughnessy Dam is completed, eventually submerging Hetch Hetchy Valley in Yosemite National Park in 200 feet of water.


  • Westwood Highlands subdivision for 283 custom built homes established on the southwest above the new Monterey Boulevard.


  • First Mount Davidson Cross burns down December 16th.


  • Construction begins on San Francisco’s largest ever subdivision, Miraloma Park on the eastern slope of Mt. Davidson.
  • New “giant” “nearly 100-feet high” cross built atop Mt. Davidson in March 1926 and illuminated every night the week before Easter. Mrs. Edmund N. “Madie” Brown, State Park Commissioner and member of the Easter Sunrise Committee, enlists the support of the Commodore Sloat P.T.A., the Federation of Women’s Clubs, and St. Francis Homes Association to stop further development of the Mt. Davidson summit and make it a city park.


  • The sum of $15,000 is appropriated by the city to purchase the first 20 acres on Mt. Davidson with the support of Mayor Rolph. Implementation of the purchase from developer August Lang lingers for two more years as his original proposal was to sell the City 78 acres at $4000 an acre. He also wanted the City to build a reservoir to serve the homes he was building on the slopes of Mt. Davidson. He proposed donating a 6-acre parcel for the construction of an ornamental concrete reservoir 50 feet in diameter, that could be used as a platform for Easter memorial services and a right of way for concealed pipe lines to and from the said reservoir.


  • Second Mt. Davidson Cross destroyed by flames in Dec. 1928.


  • Third cross built on Mount Davidson: 80 ft. high with stucco and outlined with electrical lights for Easter week. City purchases 20 acres to create Mount Davidson Park which is dedicated by Mayor Rolph on John McLaren‘s birthday, Dec. 20th.
  • The six acre summit of Mt. Davidson is sold by the Residential Development Co. to August J. Lang, Jr.
  • Cross constructed atop Emerald Peak in Redwood City on land donated by Charles Holt and Joseph Leonard, early developers of the Emerald Lake area and Ingleside Terraces. To be lit during the Christmas and Easter seasons, the eighty-two feet high cross is two feet higher than San Francisco’s famous Mt. Davidson monument.


  • The first full year of the Great Depression.
  • Easter sunrise services on Mount Davidson are broadcast over national radio networks through the 1940’s.
  • San Francisco Water Department acquires the Spring Valley Water Company for $40 million, ending their monopoly of the City’s water supply.


  • Angelo J. Rossi elected Mayor of San Francisco until 1944.
  • San Franciscans lead the world with 40% having telephones.
  • More than 10,000 worshipers climb Mount Davidson for the ninth sunrise Easter service on April 5th. Third Mount Davidson Cross is destroyed by fire on May 12th.


  • A 4th wooden cross, 46 ft. high, built with donated labor from Carpenter’s Union Local 22 and Electrical Workers Union No. 6 organized by Archie Mooney of the State Building Trades Council. Mayor Rossi illuminates the last temporary cross.
  • A plaque honoring Mrs. Brown’s efforts is mounted along a path leading to the top.
  • Ownership of the 6 acre summit is transferred from August J. Lang, Jr. to the Anglo CA Trust Co. of CA. The land is then donated to the City and County of San Francisco on Dec. 2, 1932 as an addition to Mt. Davidson Park and site for the construction of a permanent cross monument.


  • Construction begins on the San Francisco – Oakland Bay Bridge.
  • Fourth Mt. Davidson cross blows down. Mayor Rossi leads dedication ceremony before 32,000 residents for construction of a fifth and permanent 103 ft. high steel and concrete Cross – which will be visible up to 75 miles away. Former mayor and now Governor “Sunny Jim” Rolph, lays the first cornerstone. Supervisor Margaret Mary Morgan is on the fundraising committee for the new cross. George Kelham, architect, designs the 103 ft high cross with Engineer, Henry J. Brunnier.
  • National prohibition against the sale of liquor is repealed on Dec. 5th.


  • Feb. 28: Park Founder, Madie Brown, invites President Franklin D. Roosevelt to light the cross on Mar. 24th for “bringing light into many a darkened home” and “instilling the principles of the Golden Rule into American business.”
  • Mar. 3: Final cornerstone and time capsule with transcript of previous Mt. Davidson ownership deeds put into base of cross built with 750 cubic yards of concrete and 30 tons of reinforcing steel.
  • Mar. 7: The International Longshoreman’s Union votes to go on strike on Mar. 23rd. The President negotiates postponement of the strike.
  • March 24: President Franklin D. Roosevelt presses a telegraph key to light the world’s largest cross for the first time at 7:30 PM before a crowd of 50,000.
  • May 9th: The General Strike starts.
  • July 1934, eleven days after “Bloody Thursday,” the largest general strike in American history closes down San Francisco.
  • The City’s 156 mile long aqueduct system begins bringing water from the Hetch Hetchy Dam in Yosemite National Park to San Francisco homes and businesses.


  • President Roosevelt presses a telegraph key from the White House to open the Golden Gate Bridge.
  • Groundbreaking for San Francisco City College near the site of the old county jail.


  • Diego Rivera commissioned by architect Timothy Pflueger to paint “Pan American Unity” mural at Golden Gate Exposition on Treasure Island for installation at new City College Library.
  • 50,000 attend the Easter Sunrise Service.


  • U.S. enters World War II.
  • To save Inspiration Point, former Mayor Rossi successfully convinces the City to purchase seven more acres for Mt. Davidson Park.
  • 75,000 attend sunrise services during World War II.


  • On January 30, 1950, the Board of Supervisors appropriates funds for an addition of five acres on the southwest side of Mount Davidson Park, increasing it to its present size of 38 acres. US enters Korean War.
  • A 75,000 gallon drinking water tank, the highest in the city, is constructed on top of Mt. Davidson to bring water service to new homes being built on the southern slope.


  • In response to a letter from a soldier bound for the Korean War saying the lit cross was the last sight he had of home, Lakeside Presbyterian Church raises funds for the City to light the cross year-round rather than just Easter week (as it had been since 1934).
  • Rededication ceremony honoring Mrs. Madie D. Brown with a new bronze plaque in Mt. Davidson Park.


  • 20,000 attend Easter Sunrise Service.


  • Clint Eastwood, San Francisco native and future mayor of Carmel, finds success with his Dirty Harry film shot at famous view locations throughout the City, including the base of the night lit Mount Davidson Cross.
  • Teenagers practice Yosemite climb on the hilltop monument.


  • The Equal Rights Amendment to the U.S. Constitution is ratified by Congress and sent to the states for ratification.
  • The Transamerica Pyramid, 853 ft high, becomes the tallest building in San Francisco.


  • In response to the Arab Oil Embargo caused energy crisis, City reduces Mt. Davidson cross lighting to week before Easter and Christmas.


  • Live television broadcast of Sunrise service begins.
  • S.F. Examiner reports of Mt. Davidson Mystery, Feb. 16, 1977: “Last night, apparently someone made it to the 103-foot summit and followed the tradition of planting a flag. Police removed it this morning, but apparently without clues as to who did it or why it was done.


  • CBS television news broadcasts annual easter services nationally in response to the deaths of Harvey Milk and George Moscone in 1978.


  • Art Agnos elected Mayor. In response to improved anniversary lighting of Golden Gate and Bay Bridges, Portalwood Press starts campaign to light the cross year-round.
  • East Bay resident and realtor, Kenneth Sackett, proposes $1.7 million transformation of Mt. Davidson into a holy mountain of prayer for the Pope’s visit to San Francisco.


  • S.F. Chronicle editorializes against year-round lighting request by Mt. Davidson neighbors. City rejects Sackett’s proposal, limits lighting to 2 hours before Easter sunrise, and stops application made to Landmarks Preservation Board for historic designation in response to complaints from Americans United for Separation of Church and State.
  • On October 17, 7.1 magnitude Loma Prieta Earthquake reshapes San Francisco.


  • American Civil Liberties Union, American Jewish Congress, with Americans United for Separation of Church and State sue the city for ownership of the cross


  • World Wide Web becomes public domain launching a new wave of entrepreneurship led by Amazon, Google, Salesforce, and Facebook, as well as, a new source for bitter social divisiveness.



  • The City officially transfers title of the property to the Council on January 20th. The City, Council and plaintiffs reach a settlement on the lawsuit and agree to lighting of the cross two days a year.


  • Western Union sends its last telegram.


  • Armenian Genocide Plaque stolen from top of Mt. Davidson.
  • Apple IPhone brings merges telephone, computer, and photo technology into one hand held device.


  • Plaque replaced honoring Mount Davidson Park’s founder Madie Brown.


  • City tax incentives bring social media company, Twitter, to open headquarters in San Francisco.


  • Social media company, Yelp, moves into historic Pacific Telephone Co. headquarters.


  • Salesforce Internet Co. leases new 1070 ft. high rise building, the first in San Francisco that is higher than Mt. Davidson.


  • Covid 19 Pandemic shuts down San Francisco and cancels the Easter Sunrise Service. Cross lit Easter Eve in blue to honor first responders.


  • Time Capsule at the base of Mt. Davidson Cross is unearthed to celebrate the centennial of the first sunrise service and replaced with a new one.

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