When Is San Francisco’s Real Birthday?

We’re about a month away from the city of San Francisco’s 173rd birthday…depending on who you ask.

The modern city of San Francisco first incorporated on April 15, 1850, and thus many locals observe 415 Day. (See what they did there with the area code?)

But that is not the only relevant date in city history. Ultimately, which birthday is the “real one” is not that important…but why spoil the fun of arguing about it?


June 29, 1776: This was the date that Juan Bautista de Anza’s expedition built the first Presidio and founded the Mission in what would someday become San Francisco. The Mission building remains intact, and although the original Presidio lasted only a few years it’s still more or less the same locale as the modern site.

June 25, 1835: It took until 1835 for someone to build the first house in San Francisco–or again, in what would be San Francisco a few years down the line. A plaque on Grant Street in Chinatown commemorates the rough spot where William Richardson perhaps incidentally founded the residential SF, if you can find it.

January 30, 1847: Of course, at first San Francisco was not San Francisco but instead the village of Yerba Buena. Come 1847, Chief Magistrate Washington Bartlett decided it was high time to change the name to San Francisco, and it has been ever thus since.

February 18, 1850:  California’s original constitutional convention laid down the beginnings of 27 counties, San Francisco included. Although that was in 1849, it wasn’t until 1850, on this date, that the new California legislature made it official, alongside Contra Costa, Santa Clara, Napa, Sonoma, and Marin counties. (Alameda County would have to wait three more years.)

April 5, 1850: Now it’s true that SF incorporated on April 15 and put our first charter into effect, as already mentioned. But it was ten days earlier that the state legislature voted on making San Francisco a city, giving us sort of a two-step birthing process if you want to get technical about it (which clearly we do).

We’ll be the first to admit that these dates are only for true history nerds and that April 15 works as well as any other date or better for most practical purposes.

On the other hand, it’s never a bad time to celebrate San Francisco–and you can never have too many occasions.

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