The Works Progress Administration Guide to San Francisco

WPACoveruseIn 2011, the University of California Press reprinted a 1940 guide to San Francisco written by the Federal Writers Project (WPA) of the Works Project Administration (WPA). The Works Progress Administration was the result of Executive Order 7034, Signed by Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1935 to create jobs for unemployed workers, artists, musicians, etc. during the Great Depression of the 1930s. A lot of the San Francisco we appreciate today, such as the murals inside Coit Tower and the Beach Chalet, and the exhibits at the San Francisco Zoo came about because of WPA.  The ‘San Francisco in the 1930s’ WPA Guide has numerical descriptions that correspond with maps in the book. The points of interest listed take in just about all of San Francisco with occasional outdated descriptions that were new in 1940. These are a collection of some of the descriptions of places from the book, (in brackets) with vintage pictures of each location taken close to the period when the book was written.

WPAOperauseThe south side of the Opera House on Van Ness with long gone buildings on Franklin Street in the background:  (Vintage picture from worthpoint.com)

{The OPERA HOUSE (open weekdays 10 -4) NW corner Van Ness Ave. and Grove St., and the Veterans Building form the War Memorial of San Francisco, erected in 1932 as a tribute to the city’s war dead.}

{This, the Nations only municipally-owned opera house, represented the achievement of years of struggle by San Francisco music lovers for an opera house of their own. It was opened October 15, 1932 with Lily Pons singing Tosca. The auditorium, seating 3,285 persons, is richly decorated. The floor of the orchestra pit can be raised and lowered. The stage is 131 feet wide, 83 feet deep, and 120 feet from floor to roof.}

The dimensions of the stage area may have changed since 1940.

WPACCarturnuseThe cable car turnaround at Powell and Market Streets:

{Traffic waits good naturedly at the CABLE CAR TURN-TABLE, Market, Powell, and Eddy Sts., where a careening southbound car comes to a halt every few minutes, while conductor and grip man dismount and push the car around until it faces north.}

WPASutrosuseThe old Sutro Bathhouse:

{The sprawling building of the SUTRO BATHS AND ICE RINK (open Mon.-Fri. 10 a.m. – 11 p.m.; Sat. , Sun., holidays 9 a. m. –  11 p. m.; skating 35 cents  Sun. afternoon and every evening, 25 cents other times; skate rental 15 cents, swimming 50 cents) . Point Lobos Ave. near Great Highway, covering three acres of sloping beach in the lee of Point Lobos, were built in 1896 by Adolph Sutro. Long advertised as the world’s largest are the six indoor pools; of both fresh and salt water, these vary in size depth, and temperature. Also here, are a floodlighted ice rink and an indoor sand plot for sunbathing. It is said that 25,000 persons have visited “Sutro’s” in one day.}

Sutro Bathhouse burned down in 1966.

WPAChinatownuseGrant Avenue looking north from Commercial Street:

{A quarter of old Canton, transplanted and transformed, neither quite oriental or wholly occidental, San Francisco’s Chinatown yields to the ways of the West while continuing to venerate a native civilization as ancient the Pyramids. Grant Avenue, its main thoroughfare, leads northward from Bush Street through a veritable city-within-a-city – alien in appearance to all the rest of San Francisco –  hemmed within boundaries kept by tacit agreement with municipal authorities for almost a century.}

WPAZoooneuseThe old WPA built entrance to Fleishhacker Zoo on Sloat Ave.

{FLEISHHACKER PLAYFIELD AND ZOOLOGICAL GARDENS, foot of Great Highway at Sloat and Skyline Blvds. This recreation center dates from 1922, when the city acquired from the Spring Valley Water Company 60 acres on which to construct a playground and pool. Only 37 acres at first were developed; opened in 1924, the park was named for Herbert Fleishhacker , then president of the Park Commission, who donated the pool and the Mothers’ House. Adjoining the playground is the Zoo (open 10 – 4:30; free). Begun in 1929 with a few lion cubs and monkeys, gradually more animals were acquired (by purchase and donation) until the animal, bird and reptile population reached 1,000. Noted is the fine collection of “cats” which includes lions, tigers, leopards, lynxes, and panthers. In 1935 sixty-eight acres adjoining the zoo were purchased and here WPA labor constructed the fine ZOOLOGICAL GARDENS, modeled after Germany’s famous Hagenbeck Zoo. Here, among man-made streams, waterfalls, islands, cliffs and caves, are simulated natural habitats of many animals – separated (where practical) from spectators only by moats and designed to give the animals the illusion of freedom}

The vintage picture is the opening day of the WPA built entrance to the zoo in 1937. I was able to get some pictures there before they boarded it up. (Vintage picture from Images of America)

WPAZoo2useOne of the pictures I was able to get at the old stone entrance to the zoo on Sloat Blvd before they closed it off was the spot where my 17 year old mother on the left with her cousin Frances sat during a visit to San Francisco from North Dakota in 1939.

WPAPSquareuseThe southeast corner of Portsmouth Square:

{Upon the green, sloping lawns of PORTSMOUTH PLAZA, Kearny, Clay and Washington Streets, Candelario Miramontes, who resided at the Presidio, raised potatoes in the early 1830’s. When the plot became a plaza is not known.}

{Most of the stirring events from the 1840’s to the 1860’s took place here – processions, flag raisings, lynchings, May Day fetes.}

{Here terrified Chinese ran about beating gongs to scare of the fire demons during the earthquake  and conflagration of 1906; here came exhausted firefighter to rest among milling refugees; here shallow graves held the dead; and thousands camped during reconstruction. The Board of Supervisors, in December of 1927, restored the square’s Spanish designation of “plaza”.}

Well, maybe so, but I read real San Franciscans prefer Portsmouth Square to Portsmouth Plaza, so that’s what I refer to it as. The buildings behind the vintage picture of the square taken in 1937 are still there today. (opensfhistory.org)

WPACliffHouseuse{The CLIFF HOUSE. Point Lobos Ave. at Great Highway, a white stuccoed building terraced along the edge of the cliff south of Sutro Baths, is a modern restaurant, bar, and gift shop. Both the barroom and the Sequoia Room – a cocktail lounge – are finished in redwood, from the smooth walls to rustic beamed ceilings, and both house huge fireplaces in which open fires glow on chilled days. From the lounge and the blue and white dining room in the rear of the building guests seated at the great plate glass windows on clear days look beyond Seal Rocks for miles across the Pacific.}

It’s a crowd pleaser still and you can’t stop progress, but I remember the Sequoia Room with its fireplace well, and I miss the Cliff House the way it was before the New Millennium restoration. (Vintage picture, hippostcard.com)

WPADeyounguseThe De Young Museum and the Pool of Enchantment:

{On the NW. side of the Music Concourse, flanked by trim lawns and stately Irish yews, is the M. H. DE YOUNG MEMORIAL MUSEUM (open daily 10 – 5). Of Sixteenth- Century Spanish Renaissance design, the buildings pale salmon-colored facades are burdened with rococo ornamentation. Its two wings extend from either side of the 134 foot tower facing a landscaped court. In the court, before the main entrance, lies the POOL OF ENCHANTMENT, in which a sculptured Indian boy pipes to two listening mountain lions on a rocky island.}

Before the De Young Museum was demolished and rebuilt in the New Millennium, I had a chance to take a comparison picture at the spot in front of the museum next to the Pool of Enchantment where my mother, on the right with her cousin Frances posed during her 1939 trip to San Francisco by train while she was in high school. The Pool of Enchantment is now on the eastern side of the De Young Museum.

WPAFWharfuseThe Fisherman’s Wharf Lagoon:

{Twentieth-Century commercialism and Old World tradition go hand in hand at FISHERMAN’S WHARF, foot of Taylor St., where are moored in serried ranks the tiny, bright-painted gasoline boats of the crab fishermen and the tall-masted 70 foot Diesel-engined trawlers of the sardine fleet.}

{The boats of the crab fishing fleet, like their larger sisters of the sardine fleet, are brightly painted, with blue and white predominating hues. During the fishing season (November through August) the crab fleet usually leaves the wharf with the tide – between two or three o’clock in the morning – bound for fishing grounds between three and six miles outside the gate, where each boat anchors within hailing distance of its neighbor. In mid-afternoon they return laden from one to four dozen crabs apiece, accompanied by screaming hordes of gulls.}

Most of the boats in the lagoon in the 1940 picture from the Charles Cushman Collection do appear to be blue and white, and even a number of them today.

WPAEmbarcaderouseThe Embarcadero near Green Street, looking south:

{Even before the eight o’clock wail of the Ferry Building siren, the Embarcadero comes violently to life. From side streets great trucks roll through the yawning doors of the piers. The longshoremen, clustered in groups before the pier gates, swarm up ladders and across gangplanks.}

{Careening taxis, rumbling under slung vans and drays, and scurrying pedestrians suddenly transform the waterfront into a traffic thronged artery.}

{Stored in the Embarcadero’s huge warehouses are sacks of green coffee from Brazil; ripening bananas from Central America; copra and spices from the South Seas; tea, sugar, and chocolate; cotton and kapok; paint and oil; and all the thousand varieties of products offered  by a world market.}

Maybe a long time ago, but not anymore. You can’t see the Ferry Building from this spot anymore through the palm trees either, but you can still see the pointed YMCA Building in the far background.

WPAISettlementusePacific Avenue and Montgomery Street looking west and the old signposts of the eastern side of the International Settlement:

{The “Terrific Street” of the 1890’s – that block of Pacific Street, SITE OF THE BARBARY COAST, running east from the once-famous “Seven Points” where Pacific, Columbus Avenue, and Kearny Street intersect – is set off now at each end by concrete arches labeled “INTERNATIONAL SETTLEMENT”.}

{Where gambling halls, saloons, beer dens, dance halls, and brothels once crowded side by side, a Chinese restaurant, a night club and cocktail bar, a Latin American café, and an antique shop now appear,}

World War Two would change all that after this passage was written when soldiers and sailors on leave brought back the “gambling halls, saloons, beer dens, dance halls, and brothels”. It’s interesting how they referred to it as Pacific Street in the book rather than Pacific Avenue. The House of Zombie and Pago, Pago Buildings on the left are still there.  (Vintage picture, Flickr)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As close as I could get them

Usually when I take comparison updates of vintage pictures I try to get my contemporary pictures as close as possible in a line up to the older photos. It doesn’t always work out that way for different reasons, but I try.

B&WMasonSAcwestuseMason and Sacramento Streets looking west in 1956: I think I’m far enough out in Sacramento Street with my picture; the traffic lanes were just different back in 1956.  (San Francisco Pictures)

B&WNMontgomeryuseNew Montgomery Street,  looking north toward Mission Street in 1911: The Palace Hotel, which is the prominent building on the left in the vintage photo, can just barely be seen from here today. The Number One Montgomery Building, built in 1908 and seen in the far background in my picture, had its top portion removed in the 1970s. It angles differently and appears farther away than the old building on the corner of Market and Montgomery Streets in the vintage picture because they’re not on the same block. The old Crocker Building in the background of the old photo was demolished and Number One Montgomery is actually on the corner of Post and Montgomery Streets, which cuts in a different direction. (San Francisco Pictures / SFMTA Photo Archives)

B&WGrantWashuseGrant Avenue at Washington Street: The blog lists the vintage picture as from 1920. I’m sure I’m standing in the same spot, but the old and same buildings on the west side of Grant Avenue on the left don’t line up. I’ll put it down to an optical illusion. (San Francisco Pictures)

B&WSacMasoneastuseMason and Sacramento Streets looking east in 1956: Sometimes I’ll do an update photo and think I got the picture at just the right spot, and then when I put it together with the vintage picture I’ll say to myself, “Darn, I should have been more to the left!” or “Darn, I should have been more to the right!” or “Darn, I should have been closer!” or “Darn, I should have been farther back!”. I don’t always say “darn” either. I missed this one, alright. I should have been farther out in the intersection, but it’s a busy crossing and I never get a good line up when I’m looking back over my shoulder while I take the picture. (San Francisco Pictures)

B&WWashHydeeastuseWashington Street at Hyde looking east in 1957: I  got a pretty good line up on this one, but that’s not the interesting thing about the picture. The Washington Street cable car line used to run west past Hyde Street all the way to Steiner Street. The line had been discontinued by 1957 but you can still see the cable car tracks at the bottom of the vintage picture. (San Francisco Pictures / SFMTA Photo Archives)

B&WHydeWashnorthuseLooking north along Hyde Street in 1957 from the same intersection at Washington Street as the previous picture: Trees block most of the view along Hyde Street today. The vintage picture was probably taken from the back of a cable car, and the tracks curve a little differently today due to the O’Farrell Line that used to continue south along Hyde as far as Pine Street once, and the cable car overhaul of 1982 and 1983. (San Francisco Pictures / SFMTA Photo Archives)

B&WWasJonesuseA cable car plunging down Washington Street from Jones in 1947: I gave it a try; “Close but no cigar”, or cigarette, or even a vape! (San Francisco Pictures / SFMTA Photo Archives)

B&WJones&PostuseJones Street looking south toward Post Street in 1913: This one was a pleasant surprise; usually I’m not far enough out into traffic when I take my picture, on this one I was too far out in the street. The construction work on Post Street was probably for the laying of streetcar tracks that by then began to replace cable car lines. However, you can still see the Jones Street cable car lines heading up Nob Hill. Good 1913 advertising; I suddenly have a craving for a stick of Wrigley’s Spearmint Gum! (San Francisco Pictures / SFMTA Photo Archives)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Tinted town

Welcome, 2020. Well, we’re getting farther and farther away from the Nineteenth Century! A couple of years ago a Facebook friend of mine posted a news item that said that the last know person born in the Nineteenth Century had died. The individual was 117 or so at the time. Gee, it’s sad to think of someone being cut down in the flower of youth like that! Anyway, these are updates I did on a collection of photographs in San Francisco from the website blogspot.com that were taken the second half of the Nineteenth Century. and color-tinted by Bennett Hall.

TintedFPointuseThe Golden Gate and Fort Point in the 1880s:

TintedTHilluseThe San Francisco waterfront beneath Telegraph Hill in 1885 before the Embarcadero Piers were built: Dynamite blasting of Telegraph Hill in the late Nineteenth Century, particularly by the brothers George and Harry Gray for their stone quarry, removed the natural slope of the eastern side of the hill before it was stopped early in the Twentieth Century. You can see the damage the Gray Brothers caused in my picture.

TintedMeiggsuseThe area that used to be called Meiggs Wharf but is today’s northern waterfront and Fisherman’s Wharf in the 1870s: Alcatraz Island, the Tiburon Peninsula, Angel Island and Sausalito can be seen in both pictures.

TintedMontgomeryuseMontgomery Street at Sutter looking south toward the old Palace Hotel in the late 1870s:

TintedEastStuseThe waterfront looking down from Telegraph Hill in 1865:

TintedVallejouseThe Vallejo Street Wharf looking toward Telegraph Hill in 1866: Much of this area has been filled in now.

TintedBroadwayCoveuseLooking down from Telegraph Hill toward Vallejo Street and Broadway, where most of the ships docked back in 1865:

TintedBroadwayuseThe wharf near Broadway, the opposite view of the previous photos, looking back toward Telegraph Hill: The picture is dated 1850, which would make it one of the oldest pictures or daguerreotypes of San Francisco known.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

More mysteries and histories

For the past five or six weeks I’ve been reading old mysteries that I could order on the internet that were set in San Francisco. All of them have some wonderfully descriptive location passages in their stories, and I got a kick out of visiting the places the authors wrote about in their fictional stories so long ago and taking comparison pictures. It’s not a singular thing to do; (Sherlock Holmes used that word singular a lot, but I don’t think he ever made it to San Francisco) Don Herron has been taking people to Dashiell Hammett sites with his fine tours around San Francisco for years. Shadow me now while we prowl around San Francisco as the murderers, victims, heroes and heroines did many years ago. I’d like to point out that it would not have been possible to have had the fun that I had doing this post without the website opensfhistory.org where these vintage pictures are from. If you love exploring old San Francisco as I do, check out their site.

http://opensfhistory.org/

MysteryMonsteruseIn ‘Many a Monster’ written in 1948 by Robert Finnegan, Dan Banion is a newspaper reporter trying to prove the innocence of a fugitive from the police, hiding in San Francisco and wanted for the gruesome serial killings of four women.

MysteryMonster3rduseRead Banion’s dreary description of 3rd Street as he turns onto it from Market Street looking for clues.

{Third Street – commonly called Skid Row or Skid Road – was the street of down-and-outers, lined by pawnshops, junk stores, cheap saloons, and gaunt-looking hotels. Here and there a ragged drunk slept in a doorway with an empty bottle clutched to his breast. Prostitutes, fat and dowdy, thin and tuberculous, (I’m not sure that’s a word) wandered in and out of barrooms on crooked heels}

The vintage picture is 3rd Street between Mission and Howard Streets looking toward Market Street in 1952.

MysteryMonsterPeerlessuse{Farther up the street, Dan could see the neon sign of the Regent Theater projecting over the sidewalk.}

The ‘Regent Theater’ Dan’s searching for was probably the old Peerless Theater on 3rd near where Minna Alley comes into it, seen here in 1962. Part of Yerba Buena Gardens and the Center for the Arts now occupies the spot where the theater was. The ‘Ding Dong Dollies’; Gee, that must have been a good show!

MysteeryWifeuseIn ‘My Dead Wife’ (Is that a grabber title or what?) written in 1948 by William Worley, Frank Terrance who lives on the Telegraph Hill part of Kearny Street, (Curiously, the author spells it Kearney Street) is a depressed and lonely man in love with his unfaithful wife who has left him. His wife, Jessie, shows up at his apartment in the first chapter broke and obviously in some type of trouble. Torn between his feeling for her and aware that she doesn’t love him, he begins drawing back to her in spite of himself. Hey, we’ve all been there. The reunion doesn’t last long because while he’s in the kitchen mixing Jessie a drink she’s shot to death while sitting in his arm chair. Well, at least Frank had the sense enough to slam down the drink he made for Jessie when he saw her bleeding in the chair. After kneeling on the floor by her to make sure she’s dead, Frank panics fearing he may be blamed and quickly leaves his apartment.

MysteryWifeMandarinuse{I walked down to Columbus and turned into Grant Avenue. I walked at a steady, easy pace through Chinatown towards Market Street. I went past the wailing and whining of the Chinese theater, past the night clubs and their displays of Chinese fan dancers, past the bars and chop suey parlors, the joss houses, the entrances where tourists never go, past the glittering Chinese art stores and the stench of poultry and fish markets.}

That’s about the best description of a walk along Grant Avenue that I’ve ever read! The theater Frank passed on Grant Avenue was the old Mandarin Theater, now closed and empty. Orson Welles met up with Rita Hayworth in this theater after breaking out of the Hall of Justice, where she double-crosses him, in the 1947 film ‘The Lady from Shanghai’. The vintage picture is from 1934.

MysteryWifeGrantuseTerrance stops at his walk along Grant Avenue here at Grant and Geary Blvd. and goes into a cocktail lounge and begins to drink heavily until he notices the other customers staring at him with curious looks. He discovers that he has blood on his face and clothes from his murdered wife. The vintage picture is from 1957.

{I pulled up short. I was a block from Market Street, and I was staring into the window of a cocktail lounge. I looked at the tall, sardonic figure of a black crow advertising a brand of whiskey. From within came the hot and ribald beat of a jazz orchestra. One of those bars which befuddle customers with noise as well as liquor.}

MysterySleeveuse‘Murder Up My Sleeve’ was written in 1937 by Erle Stanley Gardner, the creator of Perry Mason, although Perry Mason isn’t in this book. I liked this one the best; however, some readers might find it lacking in action. Much of the dialogue between the characters is surprisingly contemporary, and I developed a crush on Cynthia Renton right from the first page she appears in. Our hero is Terry Clane who is often referred in the book as an “adventurer”. Clane is summoned to the District Attorney’s office in the opening of the book because a blackmailer named Jacob Mandra has been murdered with a “sleeve gun”. A sleeve gun is a weapon that can be hidden in the sleeve and fires a deadly dart that can be launched by pressing your arm against a solid object, such as a desk. Terry Clane owns such a weapon.

MysterySleeve1Powelluse The District Attorney tries to intimidate Clane by reading to him from a dossier his office has collected on our “adventurer”, including this information.

{Keeps a balance of something less than a thousand dollars in the main branch of the Bank of America at Number One Powell Street, but seems to be free from financial worries. Has a host of Chinese friends in the local district. At night sometimes goes to Chinatown, enters stores, disappears through back doors, and upon such occasions fails to return to his apartment until shortly before dawn.}

Sounds pretty normal to me. The Bank of America at Number One Powell Street is seen here in 1925 when it was the Bank of Italy. Founded by Amadeo Peter Giannini, the Bank of Italy became the Bank of America in the 1920’s and was the largest bank in the world for over 50 years. Giannini made the bank the enormous giant it became in the financial world by the simple but profitable idea that people would have to borrow money to rebuild San Francisco after the 1906 Earthquake and Fire, while many other banks were hesitant to lend to people whose fortunes were wiped out by the disaster. Today, Number One Powell is an AT&T store.

MysterySleeveSTunneluse Clane travels through the Stockton Tunnel to Chinatown to visit Chu Kee who lives on Stockton Street. Chu Kee’s daughter, Sou Ha, knew Jacob Mandra and was one of the last people to see him alive. Clanes’s encounter with Chu Kee and Sou Ha has an atmosphere of danger that reminded me of when Bette Davis goes to meet mysterious Gale Sondergaard to purchase a letter that will incriminate her in the murder of her lover in the 1940 film ‘The Letter’. Clane describes coming out of the north end of the Stockton Tunnel and entering Chinatown.

{Where San Francisco’s Stockton Street emerges from the north side of the tunnel, it becomes as much a part of China as though it were directly under the domination of the Dragon.}

The view north looking down from the Stockton Tunnel in the vintage picture was taken in 1948.

MysterySleeveCTownuseLater on Clane drives along Grant Avenue in Chinatown at night with Sou Ha.

{Ahead of them lay the weird intermarriage of the Occident and the Orient, which is San Francisco’s Chinatown. Neon lights blazoned Chinese characters in a crimson glare which turned the overhanging fog bank into wine. Plate glass show windows, brilliantly lighted with electricity, displayed delicate embroideries which had been sewed by the flickering flames of peanut oil-lamps.}

It didn’t look much different when I walked along Grant Avenue on a pretty night last Thursday. The vintage picture from the 1950s and mine are looking toward Clay Street from near Commercial Street.

MysteriesSirenuse‘Siren in the Night’ written in 1942 by Leslie Ford received the best reviews of the books I read, but I found it really slow in parts. It concerns a murder committed during a blackout and siren warning alerting San Franciscans of a possible air raid that was common in the city in 1942. In one chapter the heroine, lady detective Grace Latham, walks down Nob Hill with a Colonel John Primrose from the Mark Hopkins Hotel to Jack’s Restaurant on Sacramento near Montgomery Streets. Written in first person, Detective Latham describes the San Francisco sites as they walk along.

MysterySirenCCaruse{We walked down California Street. The cable cars clanging up the hill were jammed with people sticking on like caviar on a forty –five degree oblong of toast.}

They used to pack people on cable cars like that long ago, but for safety reasons it isn’t allowed anymore. The vintage picture was taken in 1950.

MysterySirenStMaryuse{The clock on the square dark tower of St. Mary’s was striking seven. The gold inscription above it – “Son Behold the Time and Fly From Evil” – was glistening in the low shafts of sunlight through the Square across the street.}

The Ecclesiasticus proverb actually reads, “Son, Observe the Time and Fly From Evil”; I don’t know if Leslie Ford misquoted it or if that was how it was written on the tower in 1942, but it’s good advice and I always abide by it…… except when I don’t. The “Square across the street” is St. Mary’s Square.

MysterySunyetuse{The sun shone too on the stainless steel robe of Sun Yat-sen , his rose marble face , benign and placid, gazing out over the green Square.}

Beniamino Bufano’s statue of Sun Yat-sen is still in St Mary’s Square and was visited by Madame Chaing Kai-shek during World War Two. The vintage picture of the statue is from 1956.

MysterySirenCTownuse{We turned the corner where the five-tiered pagoda towers stand, green and yellow faded to chartreuse.}

The pagoda towers are the two buildings on the north and south west corners of Grant Avenue and California Street. I suppose they’re still chartreuse in color now, once I figure out what that color looks like. Latham and Primrose came down California Street here and turned north onto Grant Avenue. The Mark Hopkins Hotel is at the top of the hill in both pictures. The vintage picture was taken in 1962.

MysterySirenSacramentouse{We turned down Sacramento Street through the crowded section where Chinatown streams across it into the deserted stretch toward Montgomery Street. There was a parking lot on either side of the restaurant we were going to.}

This is where they came down Sacramento Street. The restaurant isn’t named in the book, but it would have to have been Jack’s, seen on the left in the vintage picture from 1938. Jack’s closed in 2009.

MysteryCompanyuse‘Murder Loves Company’ is a long out of print book written in 1940 by John Mersereau. It takes place during the second year of the Golden Gate International Fair on Treasure Island. Although, corny at times, it’s page-packed with descriptions of many of the fair’s attractions and the best first-hand account of the world’s fair you’ll get in a book of fiction.

{Professor of horticulture James Yeats Biddle is more comfortable with his tomato plants than with dead bodies – or pretty young woman. But when one pretty young woman, reporter Kay Ritchie, hitches a ride in his aged but cherished sports car, Xantippe, he suddenly finds himself very much involved with both.}

MysteryCompanyBBridgeuseThe book opens up with a deadly accident just east of the Yerba Buena Tunnel that nearly involves Professor Biddle and a lady reporter named Kay Ritchie as they exit the tunnel while driving across the Bay Bridge to Berkeley.

{Xantippe emerged from the tunnel and shot out into the long cantilevered span, the reigning marvel of the modern world. The oncoming sedan passed inches to their left and with a rending impact, almost head on, struck the raised ramp. The car seemed to stop entirely for an instant against the massive railing of the bridge. The doors popped open. The roaring motor died convulsively. In slow motion, it seemed, the sedan rolled over and over, twice. In the roadway lay two bodies.}

The vintage picture is approaching the cantilever section of the Bay Bridge as you exited the tunnel in 1936 before the bridge opened. My picture is the view of the rebuilt east portion of the Bay Bridge today as you head east after leaving the Yerba Buena Tunnel.

MysteryDArtuseLater on in a visit to the fair, the book describes the Treasure Island attraction this way as Professor Biddle takes a ferryboat to the fair

{And what an island! Its cream and golden towers reared above the salt waves. It was an Aladdin’s palace, incredible beyond human dreams, an Atlantis reversed, a gleaming city that overnight rose out of the sea.}

There are only three surviving structures built for the fair, the Administration Building, a building that houses airplane hangars for the old China Clipper Airplanes, and the Decorative Arts Building seen in the vintage picture in 1940.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

‘Race Street’ – Who were the Dons?

Real dedicated football fans may know the answer to that, but I had to do some checking. More on this later. I really enjoy finding a film noir movie I’ve never seen with great San Francisco on location scenes. ‘Race Street’ from 1948 isn’t any movie masterpiece, I give it two and a half stars, but for terrific location shooting in the City it’s tops. The movie is about a mob syndicate extorting protection money from San Francisco business owners. When they tangle with George Raft’s bookie business they have a problem. It’s not the best DVD restoration and some of the movie scenes are grainy captures, but you can see the locations okay.

RaceRaftuseThe film stars George Raft. Raft originally made it on the map with his coin flipping gangster scenes in the 1932 movie ‘Scarface’ with Paul Muni. Check out Bugs Bunny’s George Raft impersonation on the link below.

https://video.search.yahoo.com/yhs/search?hsimp=yhs-att_001&hspart=att&p=bugs+bunny+Edward+G+Robinson+curtains+YouTube#id=1&vid=bbf03b0318f41dea70c6eb57932c5b5b&action=click

Race Maxwell useRaft’s girlfriend is Marilyn Maxwell, who helped introduce the song ‘Silver Bells’ with Bob Hope in ‘The Lemon Drop Kid’ from 1951.

Race MorganuseThe film also co-stars Harry Morgan, probably most famous as Colonel Potter in the television show ‘M*A*S*H’.

RaceBendixuseBut to me the star of the movie is the character actor William Bendix. I like him in everything he was in. His best role was probably Gus in Alfred Hitchcock’s 1944 film ‘Lifeboat’. “Give us a kiss, toots.” Gus says to Tallulah Bankhead as she’s about to assist in amputating his leg. (She does) Bendix plays a nice guy cop trying to keep Raft out of trouble.

RaceopenuseRaceopen2useRaceopen3useThe movie shows a panoramic sweep of San Francisco from Twin Peaks behind the opening credits.

RaceTPeaksuseThe view from Twin Peaks now:

RaceTopMark1useThe movie opens up with a 1948 view from the Top of the Mark.

RaceEddyuseThe story starts out showing a number of San Francisco locations. This is the cable car turnaround at Powell and Market Streets looking toward Eddy Street. The building with the Gray’s Suits advertisement was demolished and Eddy no longer cuts through to Market Street. This is where Hallidie Plaza is now. You can see the old JC Penny’s Store building on the corner of 5th and Market Streets in both pictures.

RaceMontgomeryuseThis is Montgomery Street at Market Street looking north.

RacePostuse The action starts with a customer going into the clothes store front for Raft’s bookie business on Post Street across from Union Square. The building the clothes store was in was demolished in the 1980s and is now where the Saks Fifth Avenue Building is.

Racecourt1useRacecourt2useRaft’s squeeze, Marilyn Maxwell, lives in the Stanford Court Building on Nob Hill on California Street. Here, they’re leaving the courtyard, still there but not as fancy.

RaceStanforduseThey merge onto California Street across from the Fairmont Hotel.

RaceCalifPowelluseThey cross Powell Street at California Street, the only place where the three remaining cable car lines cross each other.

RaceCrestuseThe two head down California Street past the old Crest Garage, demolished in 2018.

RaceCrest2useThe view down California Street from here now:

RaceJonesuseRaft lives on Nob Hill as well at an apartment building on the southwest corner of Jones and California Streets. The tall building in the far background is the old Empire Hotel Building in the Civic Center area. You can just barely see it through the rainy mist in my picture.

RaceRaftsaptuseHe drives down the west side of Nob Hill and turns into his parking garage.

RaceRaftAptuseI’ll have to ask my arborist friend, Tony, if that could possibly be the same hedge that was growing there in 1948. He’ll probably think that’s a ridiculous question, but I have vines growing in the back yard of my house that go back to the 1960s.

RaceCHouseuseRaceSRocksuseThe movie even takes a trip out to the Cliff House where Raft has lunch with his sister who is worried about his prospects for bucking the mob. Seal Rocks are in the background of the lunch scene.

Racemob1useRacemobuseI’ll close with a few of the scenes filmed at night. Refusing to be intimidated by the mob, Raft is intercepted by one of “the boys” going into his apartment. I’ll bet he has a gun in his pocket! I’m bright about things like that.

RaftrideuseRaft gets taken for the proverbial “ride”. It’s never a good sign when one of the hoods gets in the back seat with you and not in the empty front seat.

RaftblindfolduseMr. Big, played by Frank Faylen, tells Raft he had better get in line. This would certainly persuade me! Raft plays along with him to bide time, although they rough him up pretty good.

GGateredouseIn one scene, Bendix tries to talk Raft out of taking the mob on without involving the police as they cross Market Street from 6th Street toward the Golden Gate Theater, at that time owned by Howard Hughes’ RKO Movie Studio.

Taylorredo

Raft and Bendix cross Taylor Street toward Golden Gate Avenue. The newspaper box next to them is advertising a football game between the San Francisco 49ers and the Dons. These were the Los Angeles Dons, a pro football team that existed from 1946 until 1949. Looking close, it looks like the game was played on a Sunday with a two number day in the date; I can’t make it out on my DVD. The movie ‘Race Street’ was released on June 22nd 1948 before football season, so the football game had to have been played during a season prior to 1948. The only games the 49ers played the Dons at Kezar before 1948 were September 7th in 1947 and December 8th in 1946, unless it was an exhibition game. I wonder if it was just a movie prop, which doesn’t seem likely. The newspaper box would have been near where the walk signal is on this side of Taylor Street in front of the Golden Gate Theater.

RacecloseuseThe movie ends back where it began at the Top of the Mark for a nighttime view of the City, and closes out overlooking the Embarcadero and the Bay Bridge. The closing music even plays a little of ‘San Francisco’ from the 1936 movie.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pictures I’d like to redo

Some of my pictures here may be slightly outdated now and some would just be fun to redo, but these are on my list of comparison pictures I’d like to do again.

RedoBBridgeTManuseNick and Nora Charles getting pulled over on the Bay Bridge while they were heading east to the Golden Gate Fields in Albany in the 1941 film ‘The Shadow of the Thin Man’. A lot of new buildings have sprung up in SOMA since I took this picture about 7 years ago.

RedoBBlanketuseI should redo this one I did in 2013 in honor of the closing at the end of this year after running for over 45 years of the San Francisco musical ‘Beach Blanket Babylon’.

RedoNoeuseI’d like to redo this 1920’s photo from the Image of America Series taken at the top of Duncan Street in Noe Valley just to go there again.

RedoMarketStreetuseMarket Street at Powell Street in the 70s: Ah, if only the vintage F Line streetcar behind the number 7 Muni bus would have been the one in the lead!

RedoTIslanduseI was leaving Treasure Island with friends in October of 2014 when this view of the eastern span of the Bay Bridge being dismantled reminded me of a fuzzy picture had in my computer of the bridge being built from this angle. I snapped a quick picture as we passed. I’d like to redo it, but never will.

Redo3rduseLooking south toward the old Southern Pacific Train Depot and the Lefty O’Doul Bridge from Brannan Street in the 1940’s: I’ll have to borrow someone’s crane if I’m going to get this one accurate in a redo.

RedoBBridgeopenuseThe opening of the Bay Bridge in November of 1936: As I mentioned in the opening picture to this post, a lot of new buildings have sprung up in the background since I took this picture in January of 2015.

RedoExAlcatrazuseThe old Montgomery Barracks in a scene from an odd 1950 film called ‘Experiment Alcatraz: Here, prisoners from Alcatraz Prison are being transported by the army to a location in the Presidio to participate in a medical experiment that may earn them their freedom. To me, the star of these pictures is my old truck that still runs. This area is all grass now, and more visitor friendly than when I took the original picture.

RedoGreeduseI should probably redo this one on a regular basis to see if this building on the corner of Hayes and Laguna Street continues to survive. This was where the dental office of John McTeague was located in the 1924 film ‘Greed’, a movie that is considered one of the greatest films of all time.

RedoTHilluseAlmost a perfect matchup, except that I’m 210 feet higher than from where the vintage postcard was taken: I’ll redo it from the Coit Tower parking lot instead of at the top of the tower after they cut back all of those trees blocking most of the view from the parking lot nowadays.

RedoDannyuseBuffalo Bill at the Cliff House: I’d give anything to redo this one if my best friend could be in it again.

OrangeFBuildingThe Ferry Building on Halloween, 2010: No, that orange wasn’t for Halloween, the Giants were just about to win their first World Series in San Francisco. I’ll redo it again the next time they win the World Series.

SFRStocktonuseRedoUSquareeastuseLast February I mentioned that someday I’d like to redo the top then and now picture I posted of the east entrance to the Union Square Garage taken during the 1940s. The source of the vintage picture was the Facebook page San Francisco Remembered. The Stockton Street construction on the Muni Metro extension to Chinatown made for a poor comparison picture back then. They’ve finished this portion of the new rail line and I was able to get a better then and now picture in between rain showers today. Back in the 40s Union Square had four entrances and exits; north, south, east and west. Today, there’s only the north and south drive-through on Post Street and Geary Blvd.

 

 

Getting ready for Christmas 2019 around Union Square

They’re putting on the finishing touches, like tinsel on the Christmas tree, around Union Square for the holiday decorating, but it’s still pretty quiet because of the rainy weather. I had a couple of good days without rain this week to go around and take some pictures.

CMasGrantuseWith lower Stockton Street open again after so many years they’re not about to close it again, so they moved the street mall to Grant Avenue between Geary Blvd. and Post Street, and Maiden Lane. The vintage picture here on Grant Avenue is from 1960. (Source, opensfhistory.org)

CMas2016StocktonuseThe pedestrian mall used to run along Stockton Street from Market Street to Geary Blvd for years. This picture of mine was taken in 2016 between O’Farrell Street and Geary looking toward the old Macy’s clock. The vintage picture is from the 1940’s.

CMasMLaneuseThere were a lot of Maidens in Maiden Lane in this picture from 1949. (opensfhistory.org)

CMas2019MagninsuseThe southeast corner of Stockton Street and Geary Blvd. in 1958, looking toward the old I Magnin Department Store: The vintage picture was taken near the entrance of the much loved City of Paris Department Store. (opensfhistory.org)

CMas2018CParisuseThe City of Paris seen from Union Square in the 1940s: Forsaking a rally to save the old landmark building, it was demolished in 1979. The Neiman Marcus Department Store is there today. (SF Chronicle)

CMas2019roofuseNeiman Marcus had the class to save the painted glass ceiling from the rotunda of the City of Paris, and you can step back in time for a minute when you go up to look at it. (SF Chronicle)

CMas2019StocktonGearyuseThe northwest corner of Geary Blvd. and Stockton Street looking toward Union Square during the 1950s: (San Francisco Pictures Blog)

CMasStocktonuseI’ve been waiting for awhile for them to clear the construction off Stockton Street from the MUNI expansion to Chinatown so I could get a comparison picture of this Charles Cushman Collection, looking past Maiden Lane toward Post Street in the 1950s.

CMasUSquareuseThe north entrance to the Union Square Parking Garage on Post Street in 1967: The vintage picture is a nice time capsule. (San Francisco Pictures Blog)

CMas2019PostPowelluseA gloomy 1987 picture along Post Street from Powell Street in 1987: San Francisco has had days like the older picture a lot recently, but yesterday was a little nicer. (San Francisco Pictures Blog, Rob Weststrate)

redoThe Ferry Building and the Ferry Building: The bottom picture is a gingerbread Ferry Building on display this season in the lobby of the Ferry Building