Who was Graham Marsh? On a guided tour with the mild-mannered, impressively knowledgeable and equally modest Peter Field, we found out that Graham Marsh was responsible for naming the area where we (my wife and I) live: the Richmond. In the late 19th century a local citizens group was looking to officially name its locality, west of the city, an area that remained nameless and because of its sand dunes was associated with deserts and wastelands. Naturally, the local citizens groups turned to an Australian to provide them with a suitable name (only joking (I’m Australian too)!). Graham Marsh had come over to San Francisco with his parents as a teenager and made his money selling Oriental antiques. He managed to outwit some sharks who tried to confiscate one of his early antiques shipments from Asia and with his father’s help opened his own antiques shop in the center of town, next door to these con men, who he managed to put out of business. (I can’t remember some of the details! I should take the tour again!) He made enough money to build the first and at that time the only mansion in what is now called the Richmond district – a Victorian in the American Queen Anne style. The mansion was at the corner of Clement and 12th Avenue – unfortunately it was demolished decades ago and a pretty ugly block of flats is there now. Anyway, the local citizens, who were probably more impressed by Marsh’s wealth and the size of his home than his knowledge of Oriental antiques, approached him for advice. Mr Marsh suggested the area be called Richmond, naming it after the place he was from in Melbourne, Australia (which as you probably know got its name from Richmond in London – funnily enough, a few months ago I was sitting in the public library there looking onto Richmond Square covered in snow). So there you have it – an Australian named a lovely area of San Francisco.
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