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Archive for the ‘History’ Category


Fine craftsmanship in the printing of Whitman’s “Leaves of Grass” at Arion Press

Local filmmaker and Richmond District resident James Kennard sent us this film he shot at Arion Press, the small printing company just inside the 14th Avenue Presidio gate that employs about ten people as printers, bookbinders, editors, and in other publishing roles.

For its 100th publication, Arion chose to create a handset deluxe limited edition of the text in the famed 1855 first edition of Leaves of Grass by Walt Whitman.

Kennard’s film documents the making of the book which is nothing short of fascinating. The amount of craftsmanship, labor, detail and patience that went into the process is astounding. Publisher Andrew Hoyem narrates the film, showing you the most intimate moments of the book manufacturing process, which even includes Hoyem reading every page aloud to a proofreader that sits across from him.

Hoyem chose Leaves of Grass as Arion’s 100th publication as a tribute to his Arion Press predecessors Edwin and Robert Grabhorn, whose masterpiece was their 1930 edition of the Whitman poem.

“A holy book of the nation, along with the Bill of Rights and Declaration of Independence,” is how poet laureate Robert Hass describes Leaves of Grass. The appearance of this book of poems in the middle of the nineteenth century was revolutionary. No one had ever read poetry like this before. Ralph Waldo Emerson was so astonished and impressed that he wrote the thirty-five-year-old Whitman what must be the mash note of all time: “I greet you at the beginning of a great career, which yet must have had a long foreground somewhere, for such a start. I rubbed my eyes a little, to see if this sunbeam were no illusion; but the solid sense of the book is a sober certainty.” [Arion Press]

Kennard does a wonderful job of showing the minutia of the making of the book but also keeping you engrossed as the book comes to life, piece by piece, beginning with custom type being made in the press’ foundry.

The Arion Press edition of Leaves of Grass is limited to 275 copies with Arabic numerals for sale. The price is $1,250; contact Arion for more information (see the “Please Enquire” button at the bottom of this page).

Sarah B.

4:30 am | Posted under Art, History, Video | 3 comments

“Spooky San Francisco” event at the Balboa Theater, Halloween night

If trick or treating ain’t your thing on Halloween and you can’t find a costume party to attend, head over to the Balboa Theater for “Spooky San Francisco”, featuring a documentary about the city’s cemetery history plus short films and other surprises.

The event, hosted by the Western Neighborhoods Project, will screen “A Second Final Rest: The History of San Francisco’s Lost Cemeteries” from filmmaker Trina Lopez. The film looks at the early cemeteries that were spread throughout western San Francisco in what is now Laurel Heights, Rossi Park, Lincoln Park Golf Course, and the Legion of Honor. View photos of the old cemeteries

A Second Final Rest is a story of spooks, a truth stranger than that which many can imagine. It hearkens back to the film Poltergeist with its famous line that goes something like “They moved the tombstones, but they forgot to move the bodies!” But it also speaks to the dreams of a restless world and the desire to leave a mark in it before we depart. Whether there is room for the living and the dead to coexist as the years pass remains to be seen. I hope A Second Final Rest generates more questions than it answers, and reminds viewers to ponder humankind’s effects upon the earth now and after death, and to appreciate life while there’s still time. [trinalopez.com]

The evening begins at 7pm on October 31, and tickets are $10 for adults, $7.50 for seniors and children. You can purchase tickets online at the WNP website (which we recommend because the event will most likely sell out in advance).

Sarah B.

5:02 am | Posted under Events, History | Add comments

Local links: U-Lee coming, shipwrecks, music @ the Neck, Parking Day & more

The Frank H. Buck tanker ship that wrecked near Lands End in 1937. Courtesy of NOAA

Here are some local links to get you through hump day…

  • Maritime researchers are using underwater vehicles, cameras and sonar to identify shipwrecks off the west coast of San Francisco and around the Farallones. They’ve already found remains from an 1863 and a 1910 shipwreck. “These and other shipwreck investigations mark the first mission of a two-year project to locate, identify and better understand some of the estimated 300 wrecks in Gulf of the Farallones National Marine Sanctuary, and the adjacent Golden Gate National Recreation Area.” Their photo archives have some great shots of wrecks off just off of Lands End.
  • Scootch over, Shanghai Dumpling King… U-Lee Chinese restaurant is departing Nob Hill after decades of serving its infamous, giant potstickers no thanks to a rent hike. But we get to benefit – owner Kenneth Lee is at work on a new location at 36th and Balboa, which he plans to open in early 2015.
  • Like live music? Then you might want to keep an eye on the schedule at Clement Street’s Neck of the Woods (formerly Rockit Room). The Bay Bridged did a nice writeup on the new owner and his passion for booking bands. “At Neck of the Woods, there really is something for everyone: Monday night salsa lessons, Tuesday night open mic comedy, Wednesday open mic nights, Thursday night shows upstairs, Friday and Saturday nights there are shows upstairs and downstairs.” Not to mention that the club has been safer and a better neighbor since the ownership change.
  • Up the street at 540 Club (540 Clement) you’ll find a new photography exhibition from John Agoncillo featuring some photos from the Richmond District (like this gem of someone sleeping it off on an abandoned sofa…). Photos will be up until the end of September.
  • Been wondering why that Highway 1 NB exit to Doyle Drive isn’t open yet, even though it appears completely done and is one of the quickest ways to get to the Marina / 101 South on Lombard from the Richmond District? Mercury News asked and was told “the ramp will open when major construction is completed late next year. This ramp must remain closed until then for safety purposes. Currently, both directions of traffic are temporarily on the future southbound roadway, and there is not enough space for traffic to merge safely from the Highway 1/Park Presidio ramp onto south 101/Doyle Drive… The connection between the Marina and Richmond district will open when the hook ramp connecting north 101 to south Highway 1 is done. This depends on the completion of the new northbound High Viaduct by early 2016.” So now you know. We didn’t say it would be a pleasant answer ;)
  • The National AIDS Memorial Grove in Golden Gate Park has been the target of a persistent vandal recently. SFWeekly interviewed John D. Cunningham, Executive Director of the grove to get more details. When asked what it would cost to repair the damage, Cunningham said, “At the present time, the low end is $100,000-$125,000, and the high end, which would be having to do a full replacement of the Circle of Friends, would be $1 million.”
  • A new law was passed that prohibits overnight parking for large vehicles along Fulton Street and other corridors in the city. CBS5 found that some of those oversized vehicles found a clear patch in Potrero Hill and the neighbors there are none too pleased.
  • A very detailed, hand-drawn map of San Francisco was just released from artist Jenni Sparks. We can’t see the Richmond District portion is great detail, but she certainly got the important landmarks in there like Green Apple Books. :)
  • Before there were parklets there was Parking Day which takes place this Friday. People take over a parking spot for a day and transform it into a public, outdoor space. The map on the website doesn’t seem to be working, so hard to say if there will be any in the Richmond District. But if you see someone lounging in a meter space on Friday, you now know why. Or, you can always get creative and participate in Parking Day. The website has a license and manual you can download (note you still have to pay your meter during Parking Day).
5:10 am | Posted under Events, Food, Golden Gate Park, History, Lands End | 4 comments

1927 tourist map highlights neighborhood landmarks

Click to enlarge

Bold Italic shared this fun cartoon map of San Francisco from 1927, made by artist Harrison Godwin (aka William Harrison Godwin). The map was originally designed for tourists but it’s also fun for locals to see what was called out in 1927.

In it, a group of men are lined up to play the Lincoln Golf Course, and the shipwrecks off of Land’s End are marked (steamships Lyman Stewart in 1922 and Coos Bay in 1927). The map also shows the Mile Rock lighthouse in its full splendor, complete with the caretaker’s residence on top of it.

The Lurline Pier, which used to carry water from the Pacific all the way to downtown saltwater pools, is pictured on the north end of Ocean Beach with divers jumping off it. And a tourist is perched atop Sutro Heights Park taking pictures over the Cliff House. A man waves his arm atop a rollercoaster at Playland.

There are a couple of head-scratchers that some history buffs may be able to shed light on. Around Anza and 33rd Avenue two figures are playing baseball which may be a reference to the area around what is now George Washington High School (the high school didn’t open until 1936). And around California and 29th Avenue, a man, perhaps a sailor, is on rollerskates.

And not far from what is now the Landmark Apartments just inside the 15th Avenue Presidio gate is a Blimp Hangar. Say what? There’s also a Victorian house plopped down at 9th Avenue and Balboa; we’re not sure what that is.

UPDATE: Historian John Freeman provided some more explanation on the Presidio hangar: “There was a short-lived experiment by the Coast Artillery to send spotters up in tethered balloons to communicate with the shore batteries about how accurate their projectiles landed in the water during target practice. The westerly winds and bobbing gondolas that made the spotters sea sick caused the project to be abandoned. The balloons were stored in a hanger at the open lot off Lincoln Blvd., east of the 25th Ave. entrance, later converted to the army motor pool.”

John also had some insight into the “rag man with his horse and wagon tooling through the Richmond”: “I can even remember seeing and hearing him calling out “rags, bottles, sacks” as he traveled up and down the streets. I don’t think the junk man was limited to just this neighborhood, but as a kid, that was my world. I don’t know if you would have known when he’s come by your block, but I can see housewives running out to his wagon with their “recycling” and I receiving a few coins for their saved discard. The garbagemen did separate recyclables on their truck to make coffee money, but the “rag, bottles. sack” man actually paid a small amount when he came by. The practice was greatly curtailed during WWII when everyone was doing recycling “for the war effort”, with metal being the highest priority. The Boy Scouts were the primary labor force and were organized to help people bring out their recycling, pile it in front of homes, and toss it on the truck when it came down the block.”

Godwin does a nice job of spotlighting Golden Gate Park, picturing the bison, a pole vaulter at the Polo Fields, a man picking fruit on Stow Lake’s Strawberry Hill, and various figures reclining around the park reading or snoozing.

The map is available as a print up to 50″ in size, and can be cropped to feature your favorite part of the city.

In un-internet fashion, we couldn’t find much online about the artist, Harrison Godwin, other than “Born in New Jersey on March 21, 1899. By 1930 Godwin had settled in Carmel. He died there on Jan. 11, 1984″ (askart.com). Godwin also created similar tourist maps for places like Hollywood, CA.

Sarah B.

4:35 am | Posted under History | 13 comments

WNP History Minute: Army camps and race tracks in the early Richmond District

Did you know that the Richmond District was the stop-over point for troops on their way to the Philippines during the Spanish-American War? And that their camp was in the middle of a race track that was in the inner Richmond? Check out the latest history minute above from Western Neighborhoods Project to get the scoop!

Sarah B.

11:15 am | Posted under History, Video | Add comments

Photos: A dying relic – Sutro Baths just before demolition (and fire) in 1966

Sutro Baths, 1966. Photo by Suki Hill

Our neighborhood historians at the Western Neighborhoods Project shared a link to some interesting old photos of Sutro Baths, just before it was demolished in 1966. The plan was to build high-rise apartments on the land.

The demolition never took place because a large fire broke out at Sutro Baths on June 26, 1966 (video). All the structures on the property burned to the ground.

See the full collection of Sutro Baths photos here (plus a few of Playland)

The photos were taken by late photographer Suki Hill, who passed away in June. According to her website, she “photographed subjects ranging from the streets of Paris to portraits of rock stars, authors, painters, musicians and the rich and famous, but her favorite subjects were the people of her community – their celebrations, events, gatherings, work – in short, their lives.”

Sarah B.

Sutro Baths, 1966. Photo by Suki Hill

Sutro Baths, 1966. Photo by Suki Hill

Sutro Baths, 1966. Photo by Suki Hill

9:58 am | Posted under History, Photos | Add comments

Photo: Old “Connie’s Market” sign uncovered at 5211 Geary

Photo by Ed P.

Two readers emailed us about the “Connie’s Market” sign that was uncovered at 5211 Geary near 16th Avenue. The wash and dry there has been closed for awhile and it appears renovations are underway.

According to the SF Department of Building inspection, the property is undergoing a change in use from a laundromat to an office with some bathroom remodeling thrown in.

Reader Ed P. says he recalls that Connie’s was the only market on Geary in the 1970’s between 15th and 18th Avenues.

We couldn’t find much else on ol’ Connie’s. If you have some memories, leave a comment to let us know.

Sarah B.

10:37 am | Posted under History | 31 comments

Looking back: Distressing street name changes; 1924 Ocean Beach roadhouse

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We love our neighborhood history, so here’s a couple of interesting items for you…

@SF_Historian shared the above photo last week of a very grand 1924 roadhouse that was located on the northeast corner of Balboa near the Great Highway. It was called the Pacific Ocean House Ocean Beach Pavilion (among many other names) and you can see another photo of it here.

The Western Neighborhoods Project has written quite a bit on the roadhouses of the Great Highway and outer Richmond, which were popular destinations for drinking, dining and cavorting. Last year they even discovered some roadhouse architecture buried in the floorboards of a building on La Playa.

If you think NIMBYism is “new” to San Francisco, you’d be wrong (if you’re not familiar with the term it stands for “Not In My BackYard!”). It dates back at least as far as 1909 when there was uproar over proposed street name changes in the Richmond and Sunset Districts.

Chronicle columnist Gary Kamiya covered the controversy in his recent article Spanish street names upset Sunset, Richmond residents, detailing a time when residents feared that some proposed street name changes might “result in their neighborhood being renamed “Spanishtown” or “Dagoville.””

It was a complicated issue which eventually resulted in First Avenue becoming Arguello Boulevard and 49th Avenue becoming La Playa, plus A, B, and C Streets becoming Anza, Balboa and Cabrillo. There were additional street names changes in the Sunset District.

But that was after some severe anti-Spanish sentiments like this quote from a newspaper editorial: “What do we want with Spanish names, anyhow? Why, only the other day they shot a man there for speaking out the truth, and they have been the most cruel, tyrannical race in Europe.” Get the full story at SFGate.com

Sarah B.

11:21 am | Posted under History | 8 comments