‘Dead Center’ (For the folks I met on the Filbert Steps at the old Shadows)

Dustjackets.com{The building at 706 Montgomery Street in San Francisco was a perfect setting for a murder. I had, in fact, thought so for a long time before anybody got killed in it.}

And so, Janet Keith opens up the narrative of Mary Collins double-murder, almost quadruple-murder mystery, ‘Dead Center’. It’s a nifty whodunit , written in 1942 and set in San Francisco, that mentions many locations in the city. Some are made up but most of them are accurate; a lot of them are gone now. I’ll concentrate on the spots no longer around. (Cover image from Dustjackets.com)

FlickrMost of the story takes place at the 706 Montgomery Street building mentioned that houses artists and writers as tenants. The inside cover of the paperback has a drawing of the building and the floor where the tenants live and work. This Flickr image of the drawing is in better shape than the one in the old paperback I bought. Janet Keith, a socialite who lives in Pacific Heights and rents a room in the Montgomery Building to become a writer, narrates the book and identifies the year the story takes place on page 180.

{Then I had my thought for 1941. One each year is my motto.}

DeadsuspectsuseA prelude to the story is a list of the people staying at 706 Montgomery Street when the first brutal murder is committed.  One of them is guilty.

DeadBCatuse706 Montgomery is a fictitious address that sounds like another historic building you’ll see in the next photo. Today 706 Montgomery Street would have been in the building on the northeast corner of Montgomery and Washington Streets next to where the old Black Cat Café used to be. (Vintage photo from the Thomas Reynolds Gallery)

DeadMBlockuseWhen you think of an old building on Montgomery Street that was a haven for artists and writers and you know your San Francisco history, you’ll think of the Montgomery Block, the “Monkey Block”. This is probably where Mary Collins got the idea for her 706 Montgomery Street setting. Janet Keith makes a reference to the old building.

{The Red Rat is a dingy little saloon which serves as a sort of club for the tenants of 706, the Montgomery Block, and other old buildings occupied by San Francisco’s so-called Bohemians.}

The Montgomery Block was built in 1863 and frequented by the likes of Bret Harte, Rudyard Kipling, Lotta Crabtree, Lola Montez, Jack London and Mark Twain. It survived the 1906 Earthquake and Fire and was demolished in 1958. The Transamerica Pyramid Building occupies the spot today. (San Francisco Pictures / Library of Congress)

DeadHallJusticeuseAfter inadvertently leading the police to a second murder, Janet is arrested by the police as a suspect and taken down to the old Hall of Justice Building on Kearny Street across from Portsmouth Square. She’s kept there throughout the night and released in the morning.

{Down in front of the Hall of Justice I debated about going straight home in a cab or picking up my car. I signaled a cab and told the driver to take me to 706 Montgomery.}

706 Montgomery couldn’t have been more than two blocks from the Hall of Justice, but I guess if Janet stood up under police interrogation all night she can be forgiven for taking a cab instead of walking. The old Hall of Justice, built in 1910, was demolished in 1968. A Hilton Hotel is there today. (opensfhistory.org)

DeadBalustradeuseFearing for Janet’s life with the murderer at large, Janet’s father hires a bodyguard named Spike to follow and protect her. They become friends and Janet is always able to talk Spike into going along with her schemes, like breaking and entry, as she tries to solve the murders without the help of the police. One evening Janet and her bodyguard park at the top of Telegraph Hill and go down to Montgomery Street in an attempt to break into the house where the related murder victims lived to look for clues.

{We left the cab at the top of Telegraph Hill and then walked down on the left-hand side of Montgomery Street looking at the numbers. There was a big modern apartment house and then a lot of small houses perched around the steep hill with trees and gardens and brick paths in between.}

It’s not an accurate description, and they could have been heading toward either the Greenwich Steps or down the Filbert Steps. They’re discouraged from breaking into the house by a policeman posted on duty to watch the house where the two victims lived, so they head back to the top of Telegraph Hill.

{The mud was well up around my ankles and my new navy blue pumps were completely ruined for all time before we got up to the balustrade that goes around the top of Telegraph Hill near Coit Tower. We sat on the wide stone coping to get our breath, and I wondered if wet stone was bad for mink.}

Here’s a picture taken in the 1930s of the old balustrade that went around the top of Telegraph Hill back then. It was considered unsightly and removed during the 1940s.

DeadShadowsmenuuseJanet and Spike decide to go back to the house and break in through the back way avoiding the policeman in the front. Janet can be as clumsy as she is cunning and she drops a drawer making a racket and alerting the cop guarding the house. Janet bolts out the back door hoping to lead the policeman away from Spike and they become separated. Tired and scared she looks for a place on Telegraph Hill to meet up with Spike.

{However, as I was very tired from scrambling in the mud and crouching in the mildewed shower, I was happy to see that the lights were burning cheerfully in the Tavern, which is a very arty little pub. I walked up the steps leading to the Tavern and went inside where the fire looked very welcoming and warm.}

The only Tavern Janet could have been referring to in the area was the old Shadows Restaurant on Montgomery Street. The above drawing of the Shadows is about the best menu cover I’ve ever seen. (Vintagemenuart.com)

DeadShadowsuseHere’s a picture during the 1950s of the old Shadows Restaurant, now closed and empty. (Flickr)


Even the legendary nightclub, the Forbidden City, gets an honorable mention when Janet has an argument with her brother, Hallet.

{“None of your business, but I’m going to see my girl” he said.

“What’s she do?” I said, speaking fast before he could get away from me.

“She works in a nightclub.”

“Which one?”

“The Forbidden City.” He said.

My eyes bulged so far out of my head I could feel them hanging on my cheeks. The Forbidden City is the only all-Chinese nightclub in the world or something.}

Above is an old Forbidden City program and menu. (eatdrinksfilm.com)


DeadFCityuseThe Forbidden City was up in the second floor of this building on Sutter Street.

Jack'smenueuseJanet, Fitzgerald, and Spike have lunch at Jack’s Restaurant on Sacramento Street near Montgomery.

{Jack’s is one of San Francisco’s finest restaurants, but no one from the East would think so just to look at it. It is housed in a rather grimy, three-story building, the two top floors being devoted to private dining rooms. The restaurant proper on the first floor sports the usual San Francisco beige walls interspersed with brightly varnished mahogany woodwork. Is epicurean and the service effortless.}

The top photo is an old 1947 menu from Jacks Restaurant. (Pinterest)

DeadJack'suseFor many years, Jack’s Restaurant, the second oldest and one of the finest restaurants in San Francisco was in this building. The restaurant closed in 2009.









An ‘Ironside’ tour

IronsideopenuseIMDbI never paid much attention to the crime drama television show ‘Ironside’ that premiered in 1967 until I started watching them again on DVD. As I mentioned from a few posts I’ve done in the past, they’re actually for the most part entertaining little mystery shows with occasional views of interesting San Francisco locations, although most of each of the episodes were filmed in a studio. Raymond Burr plays Robert T. Ironside, a police lieutenant crippled by a sniper’s bullet in the pilot episode. He’s assisted by Barbara Anderson as Officer Eve Whitfield. Eve often gets double takes as a female police officer, which apparently was novel back then. Eve was a good cop and she could be tough when she had to, even though she often dressed like a tour guide from Disneyland. Don Mitchell plays Mark Sanger, an ex-con that Ironside sees promise in and employs him. Mark is basically Ironside’s man servant in early seasons pushing Ironside around in his wheelchair or driving him around in his armored truck. This may be racially offensive to some today, but Mark eventually joins the force as a police officer in later seasons. Don Galloway is Sergeant Ed Brown, the handsome detective who you sometimes hope was fooling around with Eve behind Ironside’s back. He even misquotes Herb Caen in one episode referring to San Francisco as “Baghdad on the Bay” rather than ‘Baghdad by the Bay’. Most of the San Francisco locations were filmed as Ironside’s truck is heading toward a crime site or an investigation. (IMDb)

IsideWashingtonuseIronside’s truck is often seen entering onto or exiting from the Washington Street side of the old Hall of Justice Building on Kearny Street across from Portsmouth Square.

IsideHalluseAlthough the old Hall of Justice Building was closed and demolition had begun on it when the show premiered, it was used as Ironside’s base of operations. Washington Street is on the left side of the building, Kearny at the bottom, and Merchant Street on the right. A Hilton Hotel occupies the spot today.

IsidecellsuseIn an episode from 1968 two criminals break out from one of the jails cells in the Hall of Justice and have taken Ironside and Eve hostage. This is a picture from the actual jail cell block in the Hall of Justice from a link about the Hall of Justice Building sent to me in a comment from a viewer to my blog, Irunnningynn.  I’ll include the link to the interesting article she sent me at the end of this post.

IsideinsidelibraryuseThe bad guys who have taken Ironside and Eve hostage allow Ironside to take a telephone call from Mark to avoid suspicion. Realizing that Mark is returning to the office, Ironside sends Mark on a lengthy research project at the San Francisco Main Library on Larkin Street to protect him, much to Mark’s confusion.

IsideLibrary1useIsideLibrary2useThese are two views from the scene of the old location of the San Francisco Main Library back then. The building is now the Asian Art Museum.

IsideHobartuseIn a camera scene starting at the top and working its way down, the old Hobart Building on Market Street, with the new back then Wells Fargo Building behind it, is shown in one of the episodes from the first season.

IsideWfargouseThe Hobart Building operators let Wells Fargo paint their stagecoach on the side of the building back then.

IsideVallejoeastuseAn episode that aired December 7th 1967 shows the view down Vallejo Street on Telegraph Hill. I was up on Telegraph Hill at this spot last June and got a reasonable comparison to the TV shot when I was working on another post, although a tree blocks a lot of the old view now. That looks like a Coca Cola sign on the doorway of the building on the corner of Vallejo and Montgomery Streets in the TV shot. There may have been a grocery store there back then.

IsideNonHilluseA view from an early episode looking down Nob Hill along California Street in 1967: There’s no Bank of America Building yet, and you can see the Fairmont Hotel’s Tonga Room on the left and the old Crest Garage building on the corner of Powell and California Streets on the right. The Crest Garage building was still around when I took this picture in 2017.

IsidemapuseIn an episode that aired November 30th 1967, Ironside’s team is trying to break up a stolen car ring operating out of San Francisco. Here, he reviews a map of San Francisco with Eve and refers to the red dots on the map as to where cars were stolen in San Francisco in the past six months. That may be less than the amount of cars stolen in San Francisco in one week nowadays.

IsideHydeuseWhenever there’s a crime scene or a crime in commission, Mark always seems to drive Ironside north on Hyde Street coming down from Russian Hill to get there. In this scene they’re heading to an auto wrecking yard to break up a stolen car ring. They’re two blocks away from the Bay, and I doubt if there was an auto wrecking yard within fifty miles from here!

IsideSpreckelsuseAnother often used San Francisco location in the show was the old Spreckels Mansion on Washington Street. Whenever the crime involved a well-to-do family, they always seem to live here. Ironside’s truck is turning into the courtyard entrance from Washington Street, seen in the early morning shadows from Lafayette Park across the street in my picture.

SpreckelstwouseThe last I heard, the current resident of the Spreckels Mansion is authoress Danielle Steel.

Below is a link to the story about the old Hall of Justice Building sent to me from Irunnningynn.









Another one of those “different” tours of mine

“Get your walking shoes on, folks. Today we’re going to take a tour that travels through and skirts along the edge of the Tenderloin.”

TourMasonuseWe’ll start at the corner of Turk and Mason Streets; and where else could you hope for a tour to start? The vintage picture is from 1955. All vintage pictures in this post are from the San Francisco Pictures blog and the SFMTA Photo Archives. In the far back is Nob Hill with the Mark Hopkins Hotel, looking like another world from where we’re at.  We’ll pass the vagrants on the Turk Street sidewalks as quietly as possible and head over to Turk and Leavenworth Streets.

TourTurkLeavenuseTurk and Leavenworth Streets in the heart of the Tenderloin, seen in the vintage photo in 1962: I got you into this and I’ll get you out. We’ll walk two blocks west on Turk to Larkin Streets and catch Muni #19 to Sutter Street. Unfortunately, it will be two of the most uncomfortable blocks you’ll ever experience in San Francisco.

TourSutterPolk1931useSutter Street at Polk Street looking east in 1931: From here on in you’re going to find that a remarkable number of buildings in the vintage pictures are still around.

TourSutterLarkinuseOne block east of the previous picture at Sutter and Larkin Streets, seen in 1931: They were doing a lot of work on Sutter Street that year.

TourJonesGearyuseWe’ll move over to Geary Blvd. at Jones Street, seen in 1957. Geary Blvd. used to be considered the northern border of the Tenderloin, but I don’t know if that’s accurate anymore. They’re still selling Mexican food and booze in the same two places they were in 1957.

TourTaylorPostuseOne block east and one block north and we’re at Taylor and Post Streets looking south down Taylor. The vintage picture is from 1937

TourSutterTayloruseWe’ll continue north up Taylor Street to Sutter Street looking east in 1931.

TourSutterPowelluseFrom the Taylor and Sutter Street intersection we’ll head two blocks east to Sutter and Powell Streets, looking east down Sutter in 1931: When you get to here you’re out of the Tenderloin, but you’ll often think back about that area with a definite…… viewpoint. On the right in both photos is the Sir Francis Drake Hotel, and at left center is the 450 Sutter Building.

TourPostuseWe’ll be closing the tour at Union Square. This is the northeast corner of the Square at Post and Stockton Streets in 1940. That’s some pretty antiquated construction equipment those guys are using.

TourGearyStocktonuseThis is at the southeast corner of Union Square looking down Geary Blvd. toward Market Street in 1951. Ah, the City of Paris Department Store; what a wonderful place that was until it was demolished in 1979. The Neiman Marcus Department Store is there now. This area is going to be ground central for “Black Friday” in less than two weeks. I’ve covered that hectic day for the past few years in posts on my blog, but I think this year I’ll just stay home and watch ‘Miracle on 34th Street’. If you enjoyed the tour, please be sure not to tell your friends; I don’t want to go through that again!









“The shadows follow me”

That’s a line from a song written by Don McLean of ‘American Pie’ fame called ‘And I Love You So’. The November shadows certainly did seem to follow me around on the little trek through Downtown San Francisco I took yesterday. The vintage pictures are from a blog succinctly called ‘San Francisco Pictures’. The blog has many terrific vintage pictures of San Francisco, but the site doesn’t identify who the collector is.

ShadowsMarketKearnyuseI started out at Kearny and Market Streets looking west along Market Street to update a photo taken in 1971.

ShadowMarketStuseI headed west on Market Street on block to Grant Ave to get this comparison from 1970 looking up Market Street towards Stockton. “The woods are lovely, dark and deep. But I have promises to keep, and miles to go before I sleep.”

ShadowSutteruseI doubled back to Kearny Street and walked two blocks to the corner of Kearny and Sutter Streets looking west along Sutter. The vintage picture is from 1958.

ShadowsCTownuseFrom Kearny I headed over to Powell and Bush Streets by way of the Stockton Tunnel steps. I passed Burritt Alley, where Miles Archer was “done in” by Brigid O’Shaughnessy, for another breakfast at Roxanne’s Café, and headed back down Bush Street to get my obligatory Chinatown picture. The vintage picture is at California Street and Grant Avenue in 1959.

ShadowsPowellOFarrelluseThe shadows were still following me, so I snapped one more picture at O’Farrell and Powell Streets before heading back to the office. The vintage picture was taken in 1967. On the building just to the right of the front of the cable car in the 1967 photo, although difficult to read, is the entrance sign to Tad’s Steak House, another place on Powell Street I like to stop regularly for breakfast or burgers. After some 67 years at this location, Tad’s closed in October of this year and will be relocating around the corner on Ellis Street, although I’m not sure where or when. That left a cloud over me too.









Looking for parking in the City

Even more frustrating than driving around San Francisco sometimes is parking in San Francisco most of the time. These are a collection of pictures pertaining to parking around Downtown San Francisco.

ParkOFarrelluseThere are all kinds of driving infractions taking place at the Mason and O’Farrell Streets Garage in 1973; gird locking, signal jumping, near collisions, and probably a lot of honking. (San Francisco Pictures)

ParkingPowelluseParking anywhere along Powell Street south of Nob Hill, seen in the vintage picture from 1958, is only a memory today. (Pinterest)

ParkMasonuseMason and Pine Streets, down from the Mark Hopkins Hotel, in 1964: There were still a few parking spots available here on Mason Street back then. KYA Radio brings back memories of when I was a kid in the 1960s. I’ll bet I heard my first Beatles song on KYA. (San Francisco Pictures)

ParkUSquareuseUnion Square with its parking garage under the Square seen in 1980 from Geary Blvd.:  I’ve never parked in the Union Square Garage. Herb Caen used to say that people who try parking there during a busy day in Downtown San Francisco are a “Sorry / full lot”. (flickr)

ParkPineusePine Street east of Powell Street in 1982: This is probably not where you want to go to practice your parallel parking skills. (San Francisco Pictures)

ParkDiMaggiosuse“Excuse me. Can you tell me where DiMaggio’s Restaurant is?”

I guess “Joltin’ Joe” didn’t want anybody to have a hard time finding his place on Jefferson Street at Fisherman’s Wharf. DiMaggio’s, built in 1937, was where the Supreme Crab is today. The DiMaggio letters on the right in the vintage picture were above the entrance to the parking lot of his restaurant and were behind where the PARKING sign on the right in my picture is. My photo was taken this Sunday morning during today’s Veterans Day Parade along Jefferson Street. (ebay)

ParkDiMaggiolotuseTwenty years later, in 1957, the letters above the DiMaggio Restaurant parking lot were still there, and can be seen in a 1957 episode of the television show ‘Harbor Command’. Here, a thug “on the spot” is trying to hide from the bad guys in the DiMaggio parking lot. The scene is looking across Jefferson Street toward the Fisherman’s Wharf Boat Lagoon. DiMaggio’s parking lot, seen in the bottom picture, is still there but blocked from Jefferson Street by buildings now.

ParkPier45useParking in Fisherman’s Wharf can often be an expensive nightmare unless you have connections. I don’t have the clout of San Francisco’s Mayor London Breed, but I have a brother who works on the World War Two Liberty Ship, the Jeremiah O’Brien, and when I go to the Wharf I can usually get a pass to park in Pier 45 where the ship is berthed. That came in handy today to view the 2019 Veterans Day Parade. The vintage picture is Pier 45 in 1960. (opensfhistory.org)

ParkPier452useBuilt in 1926, Pier 45 with its two sheds was the largest pier in the world when it was built. Commandeered by the army during World War Two for moving troops to the Pacific Theater of fighting, Pier 45 is indeed historic. Two survivors of World War Two, the Liberty Ship the SS Jeremiah O’Brien and the submarine the USS Pampanito are berthed here.









Segue to November and football weather

I seem to be weaving a weather pattern lately. It’s probably a lack of imagination on my part, but it allows me to post a number of unrelated pictures and categorize them all under a weather theme. With college football games every Saturday in November and NFL football games on Sundays, and with work piling up in the office during the week, it might be difficult for me to get away to do some picture taking as often as I’d like to. I snuck over yesterday, the first Sunday of November, and took a walk from Nob Hill through Chinatown to get these pictures. After a late breakfast at Roxanne’s Café on Powell Street, I still made it back for some afternoon and evening football games.

NovCalifPowelluseA wonderful picture looking down California Street from above Powell Street during the 1940s: Ah, look at the old cable car signal box and the Crest Garage on the right in the old photo. The Crest Garage Building was demolished at the beginning of 2018. (Ebay)

NovCrestuseI probably should have left this one out, mine wasn’t a very good picture, but what the heck; the vintage one is a picture of the old Crest Garage during the 1960s when it was called Rolls Garage. All that’s left of the Crest Garage right now is scaffolding around a building going up and portable bathrooms. (Vintage Everyday)

NovPineuseA foggy Fred Lyon gem looking toward Grant Avenue from Pine Street during the 1950s:

NovStMaryuseIn my last post I showed a picture of two ladies from the late 1950s making a telephone call from a phone booth next to Old St. Mary’s Church that was designed to look like a telephone booth in Chinatown should look. This picture taken in the early 1960s is the only other picture I’ve seen yet of that old telephone booth with the red roof on the far right. The telephone booth was just behind where the cement potted tree is in my picture.

NovCTownuseLooking north on Grant Avenue from Sacramento Street in 1958: I’ve seen pictures of that Bakery sign in the center of both pictures that go back to World War Two, and it still lights up in neon at night. (KathieKemp.com)

NocClayuseI’ve written in the past that this blog isn’t about my pictures, but the vintage photos. I don’t pretend that any of my pictures have any lasting quality, but a picture like this one from by Fred Lyon taken during the 1940s certainly does. What I do take a small pride in is often being able to locate where vintage pictures were taken when the location isn’t described. However, probably anyone with any knowledge of San Francisco history might be able to track this spot down too. Bail Bond businesses were located all around the old Hall of Justice Building on Kearney Street like this one on Clay Street, just east of Kearny. The old Hall of Justice Building was demolished in 1967 for some stupid reason and a Hilton Hotel now occupies the spot. Films like ‘The Lady from Shanghai from 1947, ‘Impact’ from 1949, and ‘The Man Who Cheated Himself’ from 1950 filmed scenes at the old Hall, as well as television shows like ‘The Lineup’ and ‘Ironside’.