At an elevation of 928 ft. above sea level near the geographical center of the City of San Francisco, Mount Davidson is the highest natural point in the city and it’s one of the city’s famous Seven Hills. Mount Davidson was originally called Blue Mountain because of its blue colored lupine, California lilac and Douglas iris plants that flower in the spring. In 1881, Adolph Sutro, who owned one twelfth of all the land in San Francisco, bought the Mount Davidson land and renamed it after George Davidson, one of his friends from the Sierra Club. During the 1880’s, many young people volunteered to plant the trees that became the huge 30 acre forest now covering Mount Davidson. The city provided additional incentives by granting tax-free status to forested lands within the city limits. But many of the original trees didn’t survive and now Mount Davidson’s forest primarily consists of blue gum eucalyptus trees that provide homes for different species of hawks and owls.
The first thing about Mount Davidson that everybody sees from a distance is the 103 ft. tall Christian cross on the top of the hill. First erected in 1934, a series of five crosses were built there at different times during the Great Depression. In 1937 the City of San Francisco created the 40 acre Mount Davidson Park. As San Francisco continued to progress into the 20th century, the subject of having a religious cross on public land on Mount Davidson became more controversial. A lawsuit was filed against the city in 1991 by the American Civil Liberties Union, Americans United for Separation of Church and State, and the American Jewish Congress because of the city’s ownership of the cross but the lawsuit was denied by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. However, the city decided to sell .38 acres surrounding the cross and the cross itself at a public auction in 1997 and it was bought by The Council of Armenian American Organizations of Northern California for $26,000.
Now the site is used every Easter for prayer services and the cross is illuminated for the occasion. Mount Davidson also contains many natural and recreational resources like wilderness trails leading through the eucalyptus forest. Hikers can observe many local and migratory birds, including 18 locally sensitive species. On the western slopes of Mount Davidson, the dense vegetation and occasional fog provide a feeling of being inside a rain forest.
Peter Cross is an accomplished article writer and creative writer who has produced hundreds of articles for many different clients since 2006 when he retired from his consulting business.