The other day, I was looking at the stats for this blog and I noticed that the post on Eadweard Muybridge has been the most viewed so far, which is understandable from my perspective since he's such an interesting fellow. But in my readings on his photography, there was something I stumbled upon, somewhat related to Muybridge, that I thought I'd mention today.
(Hopkins Mansion under construction behind the Stanford Mansion)
In 1877 and 1878, Muybridge was able to take a series of photos from the top of Mark Hopkins' uncompleted mansion on Nob Hill in San Francisco. Using mammoth-sized large format photography, Muybridge captured a 360° panorama of San Francisco on 13 plates. Each exposure took somewhere between 15 and 20 minutes which meant that he spent the day photographing from about 11 am to 4 pm.
(Muybridge's Panoramic Images)
The prints are each about 20-5/8" tall and placed together form a panorama of over 17 feet in length. I just love looking at these images. If you haven't seen them, you can take a look at them HERE. Or to get a really good feel for the full 360 feel, you can see a QuickTime Panorama HERE.
(The later complete Hopkin's Mansion)
There is so much to see in the photos, but prominent in it all are the mansions of the "Big Four" atop Nob Hill. It had become fashionable for these tycoons to buy an entire block of houses to then level upon which would be built new mansions as architectural monuments of their wealth. Many of the former homeowners sold for tidy profits with the last of the holdouts typically doing even better. For example, when James Flood was acquiring his block, he ended up paying $25,000 for the final property.
(Crocker's Mansion Plans)
Charles Crocker, eager to match his rivals, began buying properties on his desired block and even before he had finished purchasing all the properties, his construction crews went to work building his palace. One after another sold to Crocker. All but one. You see, Crocker, unlike his wealthy associates was unwilling to pay inflationary prices. So when when it came time to purchase the final property on his desired block, owned by a German undertaker named Nicholas Yung, Crocker only offered him $6,000 for the home. Yung, believing his home was worth more refused to sell and set his price at $12,000.
(Eventual Crocker Mansion)
(The Spite Fence just right of center and Crocker's Mansion to the top left)
Eventually, the Yungs couldn't take living in their home had their house moved to another lot on Broderick Street. After the Yung family moved, the Crocker had the fence reduced to 25 feet, but kept the somewhat reduced structure in place to devalue the lot the Yung's still owned. As the years went by both Nicholas Yung and Charles Crocker died, but the fence remained. When Rosina Yung died in 1902, the lot was valued at $80,000. Finally in 1904, the descendants of the Yungs sold the property to the descendants of the Crockers and the fence came down. Two years later, the fire following the massive San Francisco Earthquake consumed the Crocker mansion. Today Grace Cathedral occupies the same block, certainly a fitting structure for the site of the former 28-year fence of hate.