The first Europeans to settle in San Francisco were the Spanish, in 1776. With the advent of the California gold rush in 1848, and the Comstock Lode and silver mines in 1859, the city entered a period of rapid growth. Devastated by the 1906 earthquake and fire, San Francisco was quickly rebuilt. The phoenix on the city's flag represents San Francisco's "rebirth" from the ashes of the fire that resulted from the quake. A leading international commericial center, San Francisco is one of 10 Beta World Cities as ranked by Globalization and World Cities Study Group & Network. It is also one of the world's top tourist destinations.San Francisco has many unique characteristics when compared to other major cities in the U.S., including its steep rolling hills, an eclectic mix of architecture including both Victorian style houses and modern skyscrapers, and natural beauty, surrounded by the Pacific Ocean and San Francisco Bay. Famous hallmarks and landmarks include the San Francisco cable cars and the Golden Gate Bridge, both of which are known worldwide.
The best-known, as well as biggest, park is Golden Gate Park which is 174 acres larger than New York's Central Park. Another notable park is The Presidio at the south edge of the Golden Gate. The Presidio is part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area, which includes Alcatraz, and many other large local parks. Buena Vista Park located in the Haight-Ashbury, is the city's oldest, established in 1867, nearby Alamo Square is famous for its views of the city and the famous Victorian houses known as the Painted Ladies. A large fresh-water lake, Lake Merced, is located in the south west corner of the city near San Francisco State University and Fort Funston. San Francisco also contains many public beaches, the most notable being Baker Beach and Ocean Beach.
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