Wednesday, 30 January 2013

Legendary Locations: San Francisco's Cisterns

Sometimes the most remarkable things are hidden in plain sight, none more so than the network of 177 cisterns which mark the intersections of the streets of San Francisco.  The site of each cistern is marked by a red brick circle with an outside diameter of 33 feet, the center of which contains a manhole cover marked simply with the letters "SFFD CISTERN". 

3107 Van Ness Avenue - Googlemaps
Largely built in the aftermath of the 1906 earthquake and fire which devastated the city, the cisterns are brick or concrete tanks capable of holding between 75,000 and 200,000 gallons of water.  The 23 cisterns which were used during the fire were very effective, and in the decades after, another 100 cisterns were added to the system. 

The San Francisco fire of 1906 which ravaged the city

Broadway and Van Ness - Googlemaps
Alma St. and Cole - Googlemaps
When I first saw them they reminded me of the scene from War of The Worlds, where the tripod lifts a section of the street out like a plug as it emerges.

Unfortunately I couldn't find any pictures of the insides of the cisterns, and I'm sure that they're not as impressive as the Basillica Cistern in Istanbul, Turkey. 
Basillica Cistern, Istanbul, Turkey
But I'll leave the rest up to your imagination, after all, it might not just be water down there...

Thanks go to +VM Brasseur for the the link to Daniel M Russel's article Search Answer: What, Why, and Where are These Stone Circles?


  1. You can't bring up the cisterns in Istanbul without mentioning the medusae: