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California Historical Landmarks in San Francisco

California Historical Landmark 85
Site California Star Newspaper Office
743 Washington Street

California Historical Landmark #85: <em>The California Star</em> Site in San Francisco
700 Block of Washington Street Looking East
25 August 2007

  California Historical Landmark #85: <em>The California Star</em> Site in San Francisco

United Commercial Bank at 743 Washington Street
25 August 2007
(Click Photos to Zoom)

Office of The California Star Newspaper

On this site January 9, 1847, the first newspaper in San Francisco, The California Star - later known as The Alta Californian, was published by Samuel Brannan with Elbert P. Jones as editor.

Citation from California Office of Historic Preservation

The building which housed the California Star and Daily Alta Californian was either destroyed or demolished prior to 1901. Today's pagoda at 743 Washington Street was built in 1909 as the second Chinese Telephone Exchange building to operate at this address.

The first Chinese Telephone Exchange was built in 1901. The San Francisco Examiner of 17 November 1901 reported:

The walls are hung with banners in red and yellow and gold. Along one side of the room is a row of teakwood chairs with cushions of silk, while near the switchboard are the small black stools which are to be seen all over the Chinese quarter. The switchboard itself is exactly like those in the other exchanges of the city, except that the operatives are men and Chinese. They used the same cry of "hello" in answer to a call - a pleasant tone, cheerful and good-humored.

The work of the exchange would drive an American operator insane. For, in addition to the 255 numbers on the exchange, there are at least 125 telephones which are either in Chinese lodging-houses or in clubs. The operatives have nearly 1500 names to remember, together with their owner's place of residence. For example, Woo Kee rings his telephone and says he wants to talk to Chung Hi Kin. He gives no number, for Chung lives in some big tenement and has no telephone number. It is the duty of the operative [the telephone operator] to remember all these names, and it is claimed he does so without effort.

"We are going to put in at least 150 new phones during the coming year, so you see we are prospering greatly. We have many visitors here every day, and we are glad to see them, as they do not interfere with business in any way...."

The Chinese telephone company was to put in girl operators when the exchange was refitted, and doubtless it will be done eventually. The company prefers women operators for many reasons, chiefly on account of good temper.

But when the company found that girls would be unobtainable unless they were purchased outright, and that it would be necessary to keep a platoon of armed men to guard them, to say nothing of an official chaperon to look after the proprieties, the idea of girl operators was abandoned.

"They come too high," remarks the facetious general manager, "but in the next century we'll be able to afford them, for girls will be cheaper then."

The first Chinese Telephone Exchange of 1901 was destroyed by the 1906 Earthquake and Fire. The new Chinese Telephone Exchange was opened in 1909 and served as an exchange until 1949 when automated dialing replaced operators and the pagoda was sold to the Bank of Canton.


We were unable to locate a commemorative marker for the California Star.

Some Missing California Plaques

When we visited the following sites, we were unable to locate a California commemorative plaque.

At some sites, it appeared that a California plaque had never been erected. At other sites, there was a base, but the plaque itself was missing. Some sites without California plaques had other historic markers, but they did not note that the site is a California Historical Landmark.

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Big Bar, Amador and Calaveras Counties
Birthplace of Freemasonry in California , San Francisco
Booth Home Site, Sacramento

Brown Home, Red Bluff
Bloody Point, Modoc County
Bonner Grade, Modoc County
Brannan House, Sacramento
Butte Store, Amador County

California Star Newspaper Site, San Francisco
Chevra Kaddisha Cemetery, Sacramento
China Slough Site, Sacramento
Condemned Bar, Folsom Lake State Recreation Area
Crabtree (Lotta) Home, Grass Valley

Crocker Gallery, Sacramento Donner Monument, Truckee
Douglas Flat, Calaveras County
Eagle Theatre, Sacramento
Ebbetts Pass, Alpine County

Ebner's Hotel, Sacramento
Evans and Bailey Fight, Modoc County
Fort Janesville, Lassen County
Frémont's Camp, Modoc County
Frog Woman Rock, Mendocino County

Giant Powder Company Site, San Francisco
Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco and Marin Counties
Grange Hall Site, El Dorado County
Hornitos, Mariposa County
Irishtown, Amador County

Jackson Gate, Amador County
Kirkwood's, Amador County
Lady Adams Building, Sacramento
Laurel Hill Cemetery Site, San Francisco
Long Wharf Site, San Francisco

Maiden's Grave, El Dorado National Forest
Marklee's Cabin Site, Markleeville
Marshall's Blacksmith Shop, Kelsey
Methodist Episcopal Church, Placerville
Mills Bank Building, Sacramento
Montez (Lola) Home, Grass Valley

Negro Hill, Folsom Lake State Recreation Area
Old Emigrant Trail, Modoc National Forest
Orleans Hotel Site, Sacramento
Overton Building, Sacramento
Parrott Block Site, San Francisco

Pioneer Hall, Jackson
Plymouth Trading Post, Plymouth
Pony Express Remount Station, Woodfords
Portolá Camp October 24-26, 1769), San Gregorio State Beach
Portolá Camp October 28-29, 1769), Half Moon Bay

Rincon Hill, San Francisco
Sacramento Bee Building, Sacramento
Sacramento Union Site, Sacramento
Sailing Launch Comet, Lathrop
Salmon Falls, Folsom Lake State Recreation Area

San Joaquin City Site, Tracy
Smartsville, Yuba County
Stage Coach and Railroad, Sacramento
Stone Corral, Calaveras County
Studebaker's Shop, Placerville

Sutter Creek, Amador County
Telegraph Hill, San Francisco
Transcontinental Railroad, Lathrop
Willms Ranch, Knights Ferry
Valley Springs, Calaveras County

Western Hotel, Sacramento

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Map of California Historical Landmarks in San Francisco