California: a pleasure trip from Gotham to the Golden Gate,
April, May, June, 1877.
By Mrs. Frank Leslie.
Chapter 30 Chapter 31 Chapter 32 Chapter 33
THE TIES OF CALIFORNIAN BUSINESS PARTNERSHIPS.
WE received a pleasant call from Mr. Bryant, the Mayor of San Francisco, a most genial gentleman, with the frankest and most honest of blue eyes, and a mouth and teeth just formed for gracious and contagious mirth. His manner especially pleased us, as lacking that reserve and arriere pensee one learns to expect in all men connected with political life. He is hospitable as a prince, and deservedly popular with all classes of his constituents, while his amiable wife is an able and active coadjutor in the social duties of his position.
Mr. Bryant is a New Hampshire man by birth, and came here twenty-seven years ago with a schoolmate, his partner. There is something very touching in this peculiar relationship which formed so marked a feature of early Californian life, and lasts down to to-day. A man's "partner" here is not simply his business ally and perhaps personal enemy, but, following out the picturesque and chivalrous scheme of life that was the first outgrowth of Californian society, these partnerships were a reproduction of the sworn brotherhoods among the Knights of the heroic age, or of the similar tie so common with German students of to-day; the partner is more than friend, more than a brother, he is an alter ego , whose interests, wishes, pleasures and profit are as valuable to his other half as his own; his loves, his quarrels, his ill or good luck are shared with eager partisanship, and whatever comes between, the tie of loyal good faith is very seldom broken. Read Bret Harte's "Tennessee's Pardner" and you will see what it all means better than I can tell. Mr. Bryant and his friend live side by side to-day; they toiled and fought side by side in the wild old days, and the tie remains strong and bright as ever.
The mayor had brought his horses, and presently took us out to see something more of the city than we had yet beheld. We went first to the new City Hall, which will not be finished for about three years more. It is of brick, and cement, plastered outside--San Francisco architecture eschews stone, finding brick and cement with iron beams and cross-ties and iron pillars running from floor to roof more nearly fire and earthquake proof. They claim that this City Hall will outlast any public building in the country, and will be the strongest and most perfect of any structure of the kind ever erected. The Hall of Records is quite separate from the main building, circular in shape and finished with a beautiful dome; two galleries run around the interior, and the floor is of Georgia pine and black walnut, with a very handsome marble centre-piece.
We went on the workmen's elevator to the roof of the main building and saw tantalizing glimpses of a magnificent view partially hidden by the Summer fog, which, as usual, rested soft and gray and fleecy upon the Bay and crept up over the foothills--Goat Island heaved its round back up through it in one spot, and in another we caught a lovely vista of bright blue water, and the city with its rush and roar lay spread out at our feet. The wind blew a gale, but it was so soft and fresh and warm a wind that one forgave its rude toying for the sake of the relief it brought from the sultry heat of the day.
From the City Hall we drove up the steep hill-streets to look at some of the handsome residences on the cliffs. Many of them are perfect palaces, generally built of wood, and ornate to excess. Ralston's city house is a huge caravanseri absolutely without beauty or ornament, the grounds a mere waste of weeds and rubbish. Most of these places, indeed, fall short in the matter of grounds, everything looking crude and unfinished to Eastern eyes.
Two fine houses are in process of building by Mr. Hopkins and Mr. Crocker. On the estate of the latter gentleman stood a small cottage which he wished to purchase and take down, but the owner refused to sell under some fabulous price, and Mr. Crocker, declining to be imposed upon to this extent, has instead built a high frame wall around three sides of the cottage, completely shutting it out from his view and also from viewing. The proprietor threatens to erect a Chinese laundry on the roof of his house, by way of revenge!
We called upon Mrs. Bryant, and after lunch took a Market Street car for the Mission Dolores--the nestegg, so to speak, of San Francisco. It was built in 1776 by the Jesuits, but the original adobe building has been restored almost to annihilation; however, the church front and most of the interior remain as they were. Over the low-arched doorway with its four columns are three little arches and two large bells; on the right are the priests' apartments and rooms for the Mission schools; on the left, one passes through a little wooden gateway into the graveyard, a wild and tangled place overgrown with ivy and myrtle, the blue flowers of the latter as large as morning glories; the graves, like those at Lone Mountain, each sheltered in its own little picket fence with a high board at the end like the headboard of a bedstead. We left the sunshine outside and entered the church, where a century's gloom and damp seemed centralized. One aisle divided the rows of uncushioned benches, and the floor was bare and worn by the feet of those who now filled the neglected graveyard outside. A single arch spanned the church, and upon it was inscribed: "How dreadful is this place; it is none other than the House of the Lord and the Gate of Heaven." The main altar was rather bare and rather tawdry, and at each side of the chancel was a shrine containing statues of saints not badly executed. The altars are old and decaying, the gilding tarnished and the paint dingy; there were many little bouquets upon them all, and the smell of the roses was heavy and sweet as incense.
In the evening, by way of severe contrast, we went to Baldwin's Theatre, attached to the hotel of the same name and just finished. It is really the prettiest to be seen in any part of the world--a perfect little gem, fitted up like a bonbonniere in crimson satin and gold. The six proscenium boxes on either side, and the row of French boxes at the back are marvelously pretty. Nothing could be more rich and exquisite in refinement of taste. The symmetry of the house is unmarred by rows of pillars, the galleries being suspended from the roof.
Next morning we went up Clay Hill, on the Elevated Railway, the cars being dragged up the steep ascent by wire cables beneath the wooden track. There is a little engine in the middle and seats around the four sides where you sit and dangle your feet into space; the grade is 376 feet, and one wonders how the inhabitants ever went up and down before the railway was laid. We came home through China Town, never missing an opportunity of visiting it, and saw a woman sitting in a doorway dressed in white trowsers and a pea-green sacque, and a man leading along a little mite of a girl gotten up in a pink silk sacque and trowsers, silver bracelets on her wrists and ankles, and her hair dressed in two flat round whirls at the back, stuck full of artificial flowers. We ventured into a tenement-house, its corridors and stairs filthy and odorous, but its many rooms and more inmates neat and well kept, and the former almost invariably decorated with flowers and globes of gold-fish. These people enjoy inconvenience and prefer to exist five or six together in one little room, men, women and children, cooking, eating, sleeping, and living generally in a space rather scanty for one Englishman or American. Yet all seem happy and content, and all smile upon us persistently and blandly.
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