Early chronicler Frank Soulé noted in his 1854 Annals of San Francisco, "There seems no provision … for a public park-the true lungs of a large city." Soulé scolded that every square vara (the Spanish unit of measure still in use at the time) was slated for building lots. In addition to Portsmouth Square, San Francisco's original nucleus, only three squares had been planned as recreation space for the town. The three earliest maps of the city--by surveyors Jean-Jacques Vioget (1839), Jasper O'Farrell (1847), and William M. Eddy (1849)--had projected only two additional open spaces: Union Square and Washington Square, both gifts to the city in 1850 from John White Geary, the first mayor of newly American San Francisco. Columbia Square was a third. Later, in 1855, the Western Addition was planned with seven large squares. San Francisco swelled from a population of some 1,000 in 1848 to more than 149,400 by 1870. Rapid growth left little time for planning parks.
The "Night in South Side," held in Columbia square last night, was very much unlike the recent "Night in Venice” held in Belvedere, save for the crowds. Those who were present at the Venetian celebration were there on pleaseure bent, but the mass of men and women who blocked Folsom street, from Sixth to Seventh, last night, were there for business.
A large platform was crowded with willing speakers early in the evening. Japanese lanterns hung from the neighboring house tops and were strung down the
street; huge sizzling rockets were sent soaring to the sky at regular intervals; a big brass band played merry tunes while little children danced on the sidewalk, and the members of a score of bicycle clubs, prime movers in the matter of South Side improvements, with their wheels gayly decorated, spun in and around the great crowd and won its cheers.