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"The Seven Hills of San Francisco" are Lone Mountain (Mount Sutro), Telegraph Hill, Russian Hill, Rincon Hill, Twin Peaks, Mount Davidson, and Nob Hill (“Snob Hill”), which is centered on the intersection of Powell and California Streets. Because of its location, Nob was originally called California Hill, but because of the views and its central position it became an exclusive enclave of the rich and famous. These included "he Big Four," the tycoons who in the 1860s built the Central Pacific Railroad, the western portion of the Transcontinental Railroad, though Leland Stanford, Collis P, Huntington, Mark Hopkins, and Charles Crocker called themselves "The Associates" due to their creation of the Sacramento Library Association in 1857. (In “Black Beetles in Amber,” Ambrose Bierce lampooned them as The Kid, Happy Hunty, Sootymug, and Cowboy Charley.) The prominent residents of the area were called “nobs,” a shortened form of “nabobs” (from “nawab,” the Urdu honorific title bestowed by a Mughal emperor to semi-autonomous Muslim rulers of princely states in India. Under the British, the title was awarded as a personal distinction, similar to a British peerage, to non-rulers for various services rendered to the Raj. Originally it had been used for the subahdar (viceroy) of a province or region of the Mughal empire and was derived via the Persian from the Arabic “naib” [deputy]. In Bengal, where the British administration was established, it was pronounced “nobab.” After 1612 the term was colloquially used to refer to merchants of high social status and wealth. During the 18th century in particular, it was widely used as a disparaging term for British merchants or administrators who enriched themselves and then returned home and aspired to high social status there [such as the character Jos Sedley in William Makepeace Thackeray’s immensely popular satirical novel, “Vanity Fair: A Novel without a Hero”]. From that usage it came to be applied to ostentatiously rich businesspeople in general or to people with a grandiose sense of their own importance.) (on the other hand, “hobnob” is from the Old English “habban” [to have] and “nabban” [not to have]; “hab or nab” emerged at the end of the 16th century to mean “have or have not.”) The neighborhood was destroyed in the 1906 earthquake and fire, though it maintained its affluence afterwards. Most of the nobs moved or rebuilt their mansions elsewhere, for example, in Pacific Heights and Cow Hollow. The granite walls surrounding the mansions owned by the Big Four survived, and swank hotels were erected where the old mansions had stood, including the Mark Hopkins, the Huntington, and Stanford Court. The rest of the Huntington estate there was donated to the city in 1915 and is now Huntington Park. The only buildings in the area to survive intact were the newly completed Fairmont Hotel at the top of the hill, built and named after James Graham Fair by his daughters, Theresa Fair Oelrichs and Virginia Fair Vanderbilt, who sold their interests days before the earthquake, and across the street, the first brownstone constructed west of the Mississippi river, the home of James Flood. Fair and Flood were two of the “Bonanza Kings” who had made their fortunes in the late 1850s from the Comstock Lode in Nevada, the first major discovery of silver ore in the United States. Both of these structures had stone exteriors that survived the fire and were subsequently cleaned and refurbished. The Fairmont Hotel remains in operation, while the old Flood Mansion became the headquarters of the exclusive Pacific-Union Club founded in 1889 as a merger of the Pacific Club (founded 1852) and the Union Club (founded 1854).
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