The Marina makes up the city’s northern waterfront, built largely on landfill and with most of the activity centered on Chestnut Street, its main street, between Fillmore and Divisadero streets.
Historically, the Marina was the site of the 1915 Panama-Pacific International Exposition, but by the 1920s developers had erased all reminders of the world’s fair, with the notable exception of the Palace of Fine Arts, and rebuilt the entire district. The Palace of Fine Arts, with its grandiose rotunda, remains the district’s foremost landmark and attraction, particularly as its annex structure now also houses the Exploratorium, a hands-on museum of wonder and delight.
At the west end of the Marina is the Fort Mason complex, formerly the barracks for G.I.s, where you can now visit an complete collection of cultural venues: the San Francisco Craft and Folk Art Museum, the San Francisco African- American Cultural and Historical Society Museum, the Mexican Museum, and Museo Italo Americano. Also, westward from the Fort Mason compound lies the Marina Green, an expansive greenbelt bordering on the shoreline, offering a full range of outdoor recreational opportunities.
Cow Hollow is essentially the valley between Russian Hill and the Presidio, adjoining to the south of the Marina. Once a pastoral grassland with dairy farms - hence the name Cow Hollow - this was one of the city’s few districts to be spared the devastation of the 1906 earthquake and fire, with a fair number of the original Victorians still there, prominent among them the former home and buildings of rancher James Cudworth on Union Street, dating from 1873. Also of interest here are the 1871-built Octagon House on Gough Street, the onion-dome-roofed Vedanta Temple (1905) at Filbert and Webster streets, the Sherman House (1876) on Green Street, and the Casebolt House, a rambling Italianate manor dating from 1866, on Pierce Street.
In Cow Hollow, Union Street, especially the section between Steiner and Octavia atreets, is clearly the center of all activity, brimming with a charming mix of trendy boutiques and art galleries, antique dealers and jewelry shops, gourmet food outlets and funky cafés and restaurants, mostly housed in restored Victorians.
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