‘(Market Street) Abides’

I got the idea for that title after reading yesterday’s article in the San Francisco Chronicle by the journalist Carl Nolte about George R Stewarts’s 1949 novel ‘Earth Abides’; a story about a worldwide virus that kills off most of the earth’s population leaving few survivors. I last read the book when I was about 18 and I don’t remember much about it accept that it was very depressing. Yesterday, I took BART into San Francisco for the first time after the Bay Area shelter in place order was issued to get some pictures along Market Street and that was depressing, as well. The afternoon before, I drove through a quiet San Francisco that, although empty, was still very beautiful. The following day, Market Street was a different experience. With most of the workers, shoppers and tourist gone now, Market Street is basically left to the street people, most of them far beyond any help. Maybe they’re always there, but just not as prominent among the usual crowd of people. With Market Street so quiet, you can hear them yelling and swearing for blocks. Many of them were a lot more aggressive than usual on Sunday, and I was fed up with them after about four blocks. These are a collection of vintage photos of a bustling Market Street that I’ve posted in the past, and updated with pictures of the relatively vacant and uncomfortable Market Street I walked along on Sunday.

MarketLottauseLooking down Geary Blvd past Lotta’s Fountain during the 1930s: Lotta’s Fountain was not only taller then, but it was in a slightly different spot at the intersections of Geary Blvd, Kearny and Market Streets. The fountain was moved back to its original location in 1999.

MarketMontgomeryuseLooking west on Market Street at Montgomery Street after the San Francisco Earthquake of 1906: You can see the old and new Palace Hotels and the Call Building on the left in both pictures. (San Francisco History Center)

Market4thuseA parade on Market Street at 4th St in the 1920s: The crowned Call Building, today’s Central Tower, is in the background of both pictures. The thin Humboldt Building is on the right in both pictures.

MarketGrantuseMarket Street at Grant Avenue in the 1940s: An American Werewolf in San Francisco!

MarketVJuseVJ Day, celebrating the end of World War Two, at Grant Avenue and Market Street in August of 1945: (Vintage picture from the San Francisco History Center)

MarketEmporiumuseMarket Street, across from the old Emporium Department store, during the 1930s: I saw several incidents of police having to deal with the street people during yesterday’s walk.

MarketPowellusePowell Street Looking across Market Street toward the Emporium in 1971: The Flood Building is on the left in both pictures.

MarketTurnarounduseThe cable car turnaround looking north on Powell Street in the 1950s: (Vintage Everyday)

MarketFlooduseA protest March on Market Street at 5th looking toward the old Flood Building in 1966: (The Shorpy Archive)








The “sounds of silence”

This is a brief update to my last overly optimistic post. Things have changed drastically in San Francisco and the rest of the world since two weeks ago. I left the office and took a drive around an empty San Francisco yesterday afternoon.

BroadwayBroadway at Columbus Avenue:

NBeach Grant Avenue, North Beach: Even the Live Worms Shop was closed! (Whatever that is)

THillThe silence even reaches up to the top of Telegraph Hill.

CoitNo trouble finding parking at a closed and quiet Coit Tower.

MontgomeryLooking down Montgomery Street from Telegraph Hill:

FWharfFisherman’s Wharf, as dead as Elvis is:

JeremiahThe Liberty Ship Jeremiah O’Brien tucked in for the duration: If she could talk she’d probably say, “I braved Nazi submarines in the Atlantic Ocean, I’m not afraid of a little bug!”

IMG_0068A spooky and empty Chinatown: The crowds have all gone home.




Chinatown has “been there, done that”

Fear of the spreading coronavirus (COVID-19) has caused anxiety in people all over the world and San Francisco is no exemption. As of this writing, the Grand Princess cruise ship heading for San Francisco with thousands of passengers on board has been circling in the Pacific Ocean for days while officials decide on when and where to let the ship dock because 21 people on board have tested positive for the coronavirus and one passenger has died. I’ve been hearing reports of an alarming drop in tourism in San Francisco since the crises started. I myself have been developing a psychological disorder that I call incometaxitis that usually clears up after April 15th, so I decided to get out of the office for a few hours today and go over to Chinatown to visit its deserted and quiet streets. I’m happy to say that “reports of (Chinatown’s) death have been greatly exaggerated”. There were just as many visitors as usual for early March, in fact, even more of a crowd today because of some type of festival going on with dragons and lots of fireworks that I caught the end of. I was thinking about another plague while I was there today, the San Francisco bubonic plague of 1900-1904 that quarantined Chinatown and caused 119 deaths. Although no origin of the plague has ever been established, it’s thought that the virus was carried to Chinatown from rats on board ships that had arrived from Asia, Chinatown was actually roped off for a time at California, Kearny, Broadway, and Stockton Streets to prevent people from leaving. These are a few then and nows I took on today’s visit along with a few pictures from Chinatown I’ve posted in the past. (Source of the San Francisco plague information, Wikipedia)

6A cable car heading up Powell Street in the 1950’s: (The Charles Cushman Collection)

CTownFestivaluseAs I mentioned there was a noisy and fun-to-watch festival happening on Grant Avenue at Jackson Street when I got there.

CTownJacksonuseGrant Avenue and Jackson Street in the early 1960s: It was in an old hotel at this intersection that the first victim of the 1900 plague died. (The San Francisco Pictures Blog)

3Grant Avenue and California Street looking north in the 1940s:

CTownCalifuseLooking southeast on Grant Avenue and California Street at passengers boarding a cable car in the 1950s: (The San Francisco Pictures Blog)

CTownGrantuseThe old Shanghai Low Restaurant on Grant Ave between California and Pine Streets in the 1960s: (The San Francisco Pictures Blog)

CtownSactouseGrant Avenue looking north as it approaches Sacramento Street in the 1960s: (The San Francisco Pictures Blog)

1The Chinese New Year Parade on Grant Avenue at Sacramento Street in the 1940s and the last time I attended the parade in 2017. It was reported that the crowd of parade watchers was considerably lower in February of 2020. I didn’t go this year, either; not because of the coronavirus, but because I’ve “been there, done that” too.