Armenians in the San Francisco Bay Area
Early Days: The history of Armenians in San Francisco and the surrounding Bay Area is similar to other California towns: a few Armenians can be traced back to the late 1800s, but steadily increased after the Armenian Genocide of 1915. The first Oriental rug merchant in California was an Armenian who setup shop in Oakland in 1893. In 1900, the census for the county of San Francisco showed a total of 120 Armenians in the area; this number had jumped to 928 by 1930. Many of the settlers came via Fresno seeking new opportunities after the crash of the raisin business in 1923, which Armenians were heavily involved in.
Over the years as the cities in the Bay Area expanded, so did their Armenian populations. Church groups slowly built their own sanctuaries rather than leasing them, businesses expanded and got passed down one generation to the next, and Armenians began increasing in affluent and professional fields.
Today: Armenians can be found in nearly every city of the Bay Area, with San Francisco having the highest concentration at 2,528 according to the 2000 U.S. Census (although the actual number is probably much higher since the census is usually lower than actuals). Numerous Armenian organizations and establishments in the area bring the widely spread out community together from the many neighboring cities.
The city of San Francisco is home to the KZV Armenian School—the only Armenian primary school in Northern California. It is also home of the Mount Davidson Cross—a 103 foot high cross located on a hill in the middle of the city, dedicated to the memory of the victims of the Armenian Genocide.
The Armenian community of the Bay Area may be best known for its annual food festivals and bazaars organized by the churches. There are 3 separate festivals organized by St. Gregory Armenian Apostolic Church in San Francisco, St. John Armenian Apostolic Church in San Francisco, and St. Vartan Armenian Armenian Apostolic Church in Oakland. All 3 of these festivals occur on different weekends, usually in the months of September and October. Each of these festivals has a history going back fifty plus years, and over the years the festivals have drawn more and more non-Armenian food enthusiasts who have heard through word of mouth about the great delicacies that can be found at these festivals.