Mansions of Nob Hill: The Robber Barons and the Stories Behind the Money

San Francisco, CA

  • Looking up at the Mark Hopkins from the south.
  • The Fountain of the Turtles, which is said to be, "the most beautiful and perfect fountain in Rome."
  • Collis P. Huntington
  • James Clair Flood
  • The stately PU Club brown house.
  • The front facade of the Fairmont Hotel, with state flags representing the signatories of the United Nations charter.
  • James Graham Fair
  • Leland Stanford
  • The Stanford Mansion.
  • Mark Hopkins
  • The Mark Hopkins Mansion.
  • Political cartoon depicts "Mr. Crocker's Kindergarten" with the tycoon teaching the letters that spell "railroad monopoly."
  • Charles Crocker
  • Emile Norman's stained glass window made from metal, fabric, shells, foliage,  stained glass and soil and gravel from all 58 counties of the state.
  • Representatives of the US Armed Services depicted on the exterior facade.
  • A view from the steps leading to Grace Cathedral.
  • The Gates of Paradise.
  • Yoga in the Labyrinth.
  • The Rose Window above the eastern entrance.
  • The Cable Car Museum doubles as the engine room of the entire cable car system.
  • The wheels pulling the Hyde, California and Mason St lines.

2 hours
0.9 mi
Guided by Jason
Jason Donahue


After the gold rush, the real fortunes in San Francisco were to be made by developing the railroad network of the west. The captains of the train industry built their homes above the city and port on the posh peak of Nob Hill. On this walk, we will explore the stories of six key residents of Nob Hill, and the stately neighborhood they called home.

About Your Guide

I am all about exploring local history, architecture, food and art to learn about how places came to be. You can find me in search of hidden places, tasty dim sum, high-design speakeasies, skyline vistas and other ingredients to build the perfect day.

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Guide Points

  1. Collis P. Huntington Park

    In the heart of Nob Hill stands a handsome park, complete with fountains, brick walkways, manicured green grass and a playground. This is …

  2. Pacific-Union Club

    This stately brownstone was built in 1886 by San Francisco's favorite son, architect Willis Polk (the man behind designing the Hallidie Bui…

  3. The Fairmont Hotel

    Enter the lobby of the Fairmont and imagine a world of wealth and opulence, champagne and satin dresses. This marble-saturated lobby has g…

  4. Stanford Court Hotel

    The Stanford Court Hotel sits across the street. This cookie-cutter hotel was built on the grounds of Leland Stanford's mansion in 1972. Th…

  5. Mark Hopkins InterContinental

    The 19-story InterContinental Mark Hopkins Hotel stands on the land that was originally owned by the treasurer of the Big 4. Enter the mar…

  6. Crocker Parking Garage

    Sitting on the site of Charles Crocker's mansion is an unceremonious parking facility for up to 200 vehicles. It's not much to look at toda…

  7. Nob Hill Masonic Center (aka The Masonic)

    The Masonic is not associated with a tycoon; however, it is noteworthy for its presence in the square. The 1958 edifice is part Freemason …

  8. Grace Cathedral Exterior

    In 1849, a little Episcopalian chapel called Grace Church was founded down the hill for newly-arrived Gold Rush parishioners. In the 1906 …

  9. Grace Cathedral Interior

    Proceed inside Grace Cathedral and do a loop. There is a suggested donation, but feel free to do whatever is appropriate.

  10. Cable Car Museum

    The Cable Car Museum is highly recommended. If all it housed were the original cable cars of the 1870s and an evolution of ride token desig…

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