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From Yesterday’s Pioneers to Today’s Urban Explorers

William Leidesdorff

Captain Leidesdorff

As one of the country’s first black millionaires and one San Francisco’s most notable founders, William Alexander Leidesdorff left a major mark on the City by the Bay before his early passing at age 38. Landing at Leidesdorff serves as an ode to this adventurer’s contributions to San Francisco while serving as a welcoming harbor for the explorers of today.

Born in 1810 to a sugar famer in the Virgin Islands to a sugar farmer, William Leidesdorff was of humble beginnings. As a young man, he made his way to New Orleans while trading and became quite the sailor, often journeying from Louisiana to New York. In 1841, the glimmer of opportunity in the west was so strong that Leidesdorff sold his belongings and after purchasing a vessel, made the harrowing journey around Cape Horn, and ultimately landed in Yerba Buena, the Mexican village that would eventually become the City of San Francisco.

While spending a mere 7 years in Yerba Buena before his early demise in 1948, Leidesdorff made more of an impact on the city than most do in an entire lifetime. Establishing San Francisco’s first hotel, shipping warehouse, and California’s first horse racetrack were just a few of this high-powered businessman’s accomplishments. Did we mention that he also had a seat on San Francisco’s first ever School Board, City Council, and also served as the country’s first ever black diplomat when he served as the US Vice Consul to Mexico?

Although his name lives on at Leidesdorff Street in the heart of downtown San Francisco, Leidesdorff’s ambitious life was cut short when he passed in 1848. His grave can still be found today at Mission Dolores Church.

Commercial Street

San Francisco's footprint has expanded substantially since its founding. When walking along Landing at Leidesdorff, you're walking along the original coastline walked by SF's earliest inhabitants. In the 1850s, the dock known as the Long Wharf began at Commercial Street served as a place to unload coming into San Francisco during the Gold Rush. Some of the ships from that period is still buried under your feet to this day!

Creation of "Beyond the Sea - The Life and Legacy of William Leidesdorff" Mural