Christopher VerPlanck, first published in "San Francisco Apartment Magazine" (December 2000)
"The Richmond District (or Park Presidio as it is officially designated) is located in the northwest quadrant of San Francisco. The district is bounded on three sides by natural features or green space: the Presidio and Lincoln Park to the north, the Pacific Ocean to the west, Golden Gate Park to the south and Arguello Boulevard to the east. This article will concern itself with the core of the historic Richmond, whose boundaries are the same as the Richmond except that the western boundary is Park Presidio Boulevard.
"The Richmond District is one of San Francisco's largest and most varied neighborhoods...."
This online article follows the development of San Francisco's Richmond District from dairy farms and open land to a densely populated residential area. With photos.
You'll want to set aside a bit of time to read this: it's not the terse verbal snapshot that's common on the Web. I think it's worthwhile, though. Although the article is, by online standards, long, the writing isn't fluffy. There's a good idea-to-sentence ratio.
One paragraph stood out for me, partly because it described an important milestone in the Richmond District's history.
"...The earthquake and fire of 1906 destroyed most of downtown San Francisco, the South of Market, and parts of the Western Addition and the Mission, driving waves of refugees to open parcels of land at the edge of the city. At first the refugees were housed in small wood-frame 'refugee shacks' hastily erected by the City in public parklands. However, as in other districts that experienced an influx of 'temporary' earthquake refugees (including the Potrero and Mission districts), many people decided to start afresh and settle in the Richmond. Parcels were subdivided within a few months of the disaster and houses began to pop up all over the district...."I think events following the 1906 disaster are a sort of microcosm of America's history: people arrive as refugees, and stay as residents.
Bottom line: this seems to be a pretty good place to learn about the Richmond District's social and architectural history.