Russian Hill is a neighborhood within San Francisco's 7-mile by 7-mile city limits. It is not the city's concentrated Russian-descent area; it was named after a small Russian cemetary on the hill that was found in the 1800's before any other development occured on the hill. It is located along a ridge that runs North-South and rises above the surrounding neighborhoods in the Northeastern part of the city. It is about 8 blocks long and 5 blocks wide, covered with an eclectic mix of mostly historic residential buildings; some are detached large homes, others are connected lowrise and midrise blocks, while a scattering of highrises from the 1920's to the 1960's completes the variety. Streets traverse the terrain in a grid, with some interrupted only by the steepest grades; in the blocks where this occurs, pedestrian stairs climb up through small terraced gardens. The most famous block on the hill is Lombard Street between Hyde and Leavenworth Streets, where the vehicle pavement descends a one-way route of five switchbacks; this memorable negotiation of the grade change attracts a large number of tourists to this high-end neighborhood. Otherwise, it is a quiet place with fantastic views. The neighborhoods that surround it at lower elevations are far busier: West is the Van Ness/Polk corridor and the Marina, North is Fishermen's Wharf, and East is North Beach. The neighborhood to the South is also busier but not by much: the ridge of Russian Hill dips slightly to the South but then rises again to become Nob Hill.
These views from Telegraph Hill show Russian Hill's East face. It is still difficult to conceive that the highrises were ever allowed to be built here among so many smaller buildings away from any commercial thoroughfares.
Lombard Street, between Hyde and Leavenworth:
Views from Vallejo Street Steps:
Looking East from this park-like area reveals North Beach in the foreground and Telegraph Hill and the San Francisco Bay (and its bridge) in the background. Looking Southeast is Chinatown in the foreground and Financial District looming behind it.
View North, down Hyde Street:
One of the three cable car lines travels on the hill on the way to its terminus at Fisherman's Wharf far below.
View North, down Jones Street:
Fisherman's Wharf also occupies the waterfront in this view, with Alcatraz Island in the distance and Angel Island in the background.
Hyde Street, side view:
This block of the street is held up by a large retaining wall as it traverses the edge of the Russian Hill Open Space and Park.
George Sterling Park and Alice Marble Tennis Courts:
This block along the top of the hill has some wooded park terraces but is dominated by the courts named after the tennis champion that are built over a reservoir.
Most of the buildings on the hill date from after 1906's Great Earthquake and Fire but there are several survivors that still stand. The usual varied styles of the city from that era through the 1930's are well represented. There are also a few examples of International style highrises. There are few modern or recent projects in this precious real estate, but those that have been lucky enough to be squeezed in are mostly in the backward-looking Mediterranean mansion vein.
All photographs taken in 2011 by geomorph.