View of the West Side of Montgomery Street, From Washington to Pacific
circa 1855
6.25 in HIGH x 8.25 in WIDE
(15.87 cm HIGH x 20.95 cm WIDE)
Reichel Fund Purchase


From Fardon's "San Francisco Album," published 1856, an extremely important work which was the first book of photographs published of any American city. Fardon was an early California specialist in paper photographs, which he often advertised as "daguerreotypes on paper." He operated a gallery at 203 Clay Street in San Francisco. One of the first great banks built on Montgomery Street, "the Wall Street of the West," was the Miners' Exchange Bank pictured here. Located on the northwest corner of Montgomery and Jackson, it was erected by wealthy banker Stephen Wright. Unfortunately he chose to build during the great financial panic at the end of the Gold Rush in 1854, which caused locals to nickname his bank "Wright's folly." The next year he went broke. The structure was designed by the versatile Ecole des Beaux-Arts-trained Belgian architect Peter Portois. With its encircling balconies, ornate windows, and elegant domed tower, the Exchange evokes rather more the feeling of New Orleans' French Quarter than of Classical Revival San Francisco. Fardon has placed his camera on the balcony outside a window at the northwest corner of the third floor in the Montgomery Block in order to capture the decorative delicacy and sharp vertical thrust of Portois's creation unobstructed by other buildings. In assuming this position he was able to emphasize the height of the Exchange as it soared above the crest of Telegraph Hill. This view is dated 1855 by de Fremery [James De Fremery, owner of a specially comissioned copy of the Fardon album now held by Yale University]. (Notes by Marvin R. Nathan, from his catalog raisonne in "San Francisco Album, Photographs, 1854-1856 by George Robinson Fardon, published by Fraenkel Gallery, 1999).

Used: Jacob Gundlach

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