The city set aside the four-block area in 1855 to be used for a park, but did not officially establish one until 1867. In the meantime, an attorney named Samuel Holladay claimed part of the land and built himself a house at the hill’s summit that became a favorite destination for local literary and political society. Litigation continued for years before the matter was settled; the house was finally torn down in 1936. The first astronomical observatory on the West Coast was built in Lafayette Park in 1879 by George Davidson, best known for his work with the U.S. Coastal Survey. After the 1906 earthquake, refugees from the destruction camped out here and watched the city burn in the great fire that followed the quake.
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