Filbert Street - Sansome Street to Montgomery Street

  • Neighborhood: Telegraph Hill
  • Location: Filbert Street from Sansome Street to Montgomery Street
  • Height: 165 feet

Perhaps the most well-known stairway in San Francisco. Combined with the stairs to the upper level of Montgomery Street and stairs from Montgomery to Telegraph Hill Boulevard, these three stairways commonly referred to as the Filbert Steps nearly reach the top of Telegraph Hill. The 235 foot climb of the three stairways is one of the highest in the city; the neighboring Greenwich Street steps are slightly higher and go all the way to the top of Telegraph Hill, but they're second to the 290-foot high Oakhurst Lane stairway. However, on its own this stairway is the second longest in the city, edging out the neighboring Greenwich Steps one block south by just a few feet.

The base of the stairway is a concrete stairway up a nearly vertical cliff. The steep cliffs on the eastern side of Telegraph Hill are due to quarrying for rock for ship ballast that lasted into the early 1900s.
The remainder of the stairway is wood - which is tied with Harry Street as the longest wooden stairway in the city at about 90 feet. The gardens around this part of the stairway were started by Grace Merchant when she moved to a home on the steps in 1949, until her death in 1982, and are now named in her honor. Before she began caring for the hillside surrounding the stairs, it was used as a literal dumping ground. Grace Merchant Garden website.

There are two dead-end pedestrian-only alleys along the north side of the stairs to reach homes nestled in between Filbert and Greenwich Streets, Napier Lane and Darrell Place. Napier Lane is the only street in San Francisco built of nothing more than wood planks!

A stairway has existed here since the early days of San Francisco. The concrete stairs up the cliff face at the bottom are obviously a lot newer, likely built when the building adjacent to them at the southwest corner of Filbert and Sansome was built in 1984, as part of the Levi's Plaza redevelopment. Before those stairs were built, there had always been a wood stairway all the way up.



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