Vintage Twentieth Century Chinatown (For Carrie Ann, Paradise, and Sally)

“Where to, Mr. Peabody?”

“Set the WABAC Machine to the 20th Century, Sherman.”

“Well, that’s not long ago, Mr. Peabody!”

“You’d be surprised, my boy.”

Join me, if you will, on a tour through Chinatown from 1905 to 1965. All vintage pictures are from, THE website to visit if you enjoy vintage San Francisco photographs.

vctgrantbush1use1905: From the southwest corner of Dupont Street (later renamed Grant Avenue) and Bush Street looking north. It looked almost like a little country town back then. We’ll come back to this spot in 1951.

vctGrantnearSacuse 1910: Grant Avenue approaching Sacramento Street. I didn’t realize that the Canton Bazaar went that far back.

vctRossalleyuse1910: Ross Alley, once one of the most notorious alleys in old Chinatown. The Golden Gate Fortune Cookie Factory is in this alley.

vctStMarySq1use1915: St. Mary’s Square. She would have been sitting about here. Love the hat!

vctgrantbush2use1925: Bush Street at Grant Avenue: “Where Bush Street roofed Stockton before slipping downhill into Chinatown, Spade paid his fare and left the taxi.” That’s how Dashiell Hammett describes this spot in ‘The Maltese Falcon’.

vctGrantfromPineuse1927: Looking south down Grant Avenue from Pine Street. Look at the kid in the knickerbockers.

VCTwoowoouse1930’s: The Willie “Woo Woo” Wong Playground on Sacramento Street. The playground is getting a 6 million dollar make over this year.

vctSacnearStockuse1937: A cable car coming down Sacramento Street from Stockton Street. How cool it would be if that line still existed.

vctClayKearnyuse1938: Kids with shoeshine boxes on the northwest corner of Kearny and Clay Streets at Portsmouth Square.

“Hey, Mister! Can we shine your tennis shoes?”

vctCalcablecaruse1941: Passengers getting off a California Street cable car coming down from Nob Hill at the intersection of Grant Avenue and California Street.

vctStMarySq2use1943: A Twentieth Century Madonna and child in St. Mary’s Square. The building to the right of St. Mary’s Church was demolished long ago.

vctgrantbush3use 1951: Grant Avenue at Bush Street. This is about the same spot we started from in 1905. Lucky Lager; we used to drink that in high school, um, I mean, college, because they had those picture puzzles inside the caps.

vctStMary'suse1952: California Street at Grant Avenue with Old St. Mary’s Church in the background. Only a rude cab driver would dare to cut off a cable car!

vctWashGrantuse1960: Washington Street at Grant Avenue. That pagoda building was the old Chinatown Telephone Exchange Building on Washington.

vctWaverlyuse1960: Waverly Place at Clay Street; probably the most famous side street in Chinatown. You can still see some of the old bricks on Clay Street.

vctPSquareuse1960: The southeast corner of Clay and Kearny Streets looking toward Portsmouth Square. In the early settling days of San Francisco, Portsmouth Square was the heart of the city. It was here in 1848 that Sam Brannan shouted, “Gold! Gold on the America River!” which started the 1849 gold rush to California.

vctWashGrantustwouse1965: Salts and sweeties at the northwest corner of Grant Avenue and Washington Street.









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