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Archive for the ‘History’ Category


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 | 26 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

Video from 48 years ago: Sutro Baths burns to the ground

Yesterday, the Western Neighborhoods Project posted video from the final moments of Sutro Baths when it burned down on June 26, 1966. The old 8mm film was transfered to DVD and provided to WNP by one of their members, Mark Adams. Joel Springer, who shot the footage, was known for chasing and filming many fires in San Francisco.

Sutro Baths was no longer in operation in 1966, and its swimming days were long behind it. Before its closure to the public in 1964, it had morphed into an ice-skating rink.

At the time of the fire, the buildings were in the process of being demolished in anticipation of the development of high-rise apartments and. After the fire, the city abandoned those plans.

Sarah B.

11:21 am | Posted under History | 5 comments

Local links: Beach Chalet, Marla Bakery opens, Sushi Wako, tree planting & more

Inside the new Marla Bakery on outer Balboa

Happy Friday to everyone! Here are some local links to dance you into the weekend…

  • Marla Bakery is finally open at 3619 Balboa near 37th Avenue. The Chronicle says it “will be open as a cafe all day and serve breakfast, lunch and dinner most weeknights, and brunch weekends, along with a Sunday supper that will happen at one long table, with a prix-fixe menu and wine pairings.” Stop in and welcome them to the neighborhood!
  • Just when you thought the debate over the artificial turf fields at Beach Chalet was done… In the upcoming November election, it’s likely that voters will be faced with two dueling ballot measures. One from a group of environmentalists, neighbors and others that want to prohibit artificial turf and field lights at Beach Chalet, and another measure from the city that is designed to override the opponents’ measure. The opponents of the fields have until July 7 to get the 9,702 valid signatures they need to qualify for the ballot.
  • Friends of the Urban Forest are planning another tree planting event in the Richmond District in August. If you’re interested in planting a tree in front of your property, the deadline to apply is July 16. Get all the details here
  • A new sushi spot is open at 211 Clement Street called Sushi Wako. They remodeled a former sushi spot and expanded into the space next door, resulting in a lovely rebuild. According to their website, Wako, which means “Japanese Fragrance” was started by two chef buddies. Reviews on Yelp so far are very good with one reviewer writing, “I have a feeling this place is going to be packed once the word gets out. So shhh…keep it down.” Oops, sorry. :)
  • Into Playland history? Author James Smith, whose latest book “San Francisco’s Playland at the Beach: The Golden Years” recently came out, will be speaking at the Sunset Branch Library (1305 18th Avenue) next Tuesday, June 24 at 7pm. Smith will speak and show photos from his latest book which is an illustrated history of the much-loved park from 1940 until its closing in 1972. We’ve got the book, it’s snazzy.
  • There’s a poignant piece about a duck needing a mate at Mountain Lake Park. “But duck does not live by bread alone. Duck should not, in fact and in the natural state of things, live alone. And Musco is all alone. I am on a one-woman campaign to find him a Muscovy mate.”
5:03 am | Posted under Food, Golden Gate Park, History, Politics, Shopping | Add comments