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Gold Rush Era Real Estate was Actually More Expensive than Modern Day San Francisco

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San Francisco during the Gold Rush in 1851 (wikipedia)

As we all know, due to San Francisco’s second digital gold rush, real estate is unfathomly expensive right now. I mean, the average price for a one bedroom apartment is $2,800! While that shit is absolutely ridiculous it got me thinking about how crazily expensive San Francisco was during the original gold rush, you know, the one where they were actually digging gold out of the ground. So I pulled out my copy of Herbert Asbury’s classic The Barbary Coast to find out.

According to old Herb:

There were not nearly enough dwellings in San Francisco to shelter even a small proportion of the new-comers…To sleep in a bunk or a cot cost as high as fifteen dollars a night…Very few private rooms were available, and the cheapest rented for from two to three hundred dollars a month, payable in advance. The best brought from five hundred to a thousand dollars for a similar period.

So let’s plug those numbers into an inflation calculator.

$15 in for a bunk or cot in 1849 would be $407.85 in today’s currency.

$200 in 1849 equals $5438.04 in today’s currency

$1000 in 1849 equals $27,190.19 in today’s currency

As you can see the scarcity of housing made everything in SF ludicrously expensive in 1849, but the difference is that it all evened out a few years later as The City expanded. While modern day San Francisco isn’t as expensive as Gold Rush era San Francisco (yet), I worry it won’t ever even out. Let’s put pressure on those in City Hall to create more affordable housing. SF needs it!

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Broke-Ass Stuart - Editor In Cheap

Broke-Ass Stuart - Editor In Cheap

Stuart Schuffman, aka Broke-Ass Stuart, is a travel writer, poet, TV host, activist, and general shit-stirrer. His website BrokeAssStuart.com is one of the most influential arts & culture sites in the San Francisco Bay Area and his freelance writing has been featured in Lonely Planet, Conde Nast Traveler, The Bold Italic, Geek.com and too many other outlets to remember. His weekly column, Broke-Ass City, appears every other Thursday in the San Francisco Examiner. Stuart’s writing has been translated into four languages. In 2011 Stuart created and hosted the travel show Young, Broke, and Beautiful on IFC and in 2015 he ran for Mayor of San Francisco and got nearly 20k votes.

He's been called "an Underground legend": SF Chronicle , "an SF cult hero": SF Bay Guardian, and "the chief of cheap": Time Out New York.

2 Comments

  1. Jordan
    October 18, 2014 at 6:40 pm

    We need more housing for it to even out. Unfortunately, I don’t think people think about the fact that we can’t have no housing or only corporate towers. Actually, middle class folks who own a lot of the building in the Mission could put another story and a couple of extra units in, and we’d all have cheaper rent. We need planning code reform so that this can happen, not restrictive and punitive laws like prop G that will completely freeze any new housing investment in mid-size buildings. As I life long San Franciscan, I’ve never seen such a badly thought out law come up before.

  2. Lily
    April 16, 2015 at 12:01 am

    As a couples therapist in SF I’ve been thinking a lot about how the housing situation is affecting young couples and the trajectory of relationships from folks living separately because moving in is too risky or folks not breaking up because they can’t find housing. Here’s an article I just published on the topic: http://www.psychedinsanfrancisco.com/living-and-loving-in-the-nations-most-expensive-city/