Reclaiming Market Street

As I mentioned in a post early in the spring, the shelter-in-place proclamation that went into effect in the Bay Area on March 17th had turned Market Street into something of an urban nightmare. With workers, shoppers, and visitors gone, a lot of people who have been prowling around Market Street since March 17th are not friendly people. Months before the riots of June, buildings along Market Street were boarded up to prevent the windows being smashed out. The eerie quiet of San Francisco’s main thoroughfare mixed with the yelling from many demented or angry street people is something I’ll never forget. However, since the beginning of June more people have come back to Market Street who are not there to cause trouble or aggressively panhandle, and the street has become a little friendlier since my March 23rd post. Yesterday, Juneteenth Day, I walked along Market Street from 5th Street to the Ferry Building, and for the first time in months, I smiled at some of people that I socially distanced from as a precaution, not because of a threat. These are comparison pictures I took along the way of old postcards of Market Street from the early 1900s.

ReclaimFlooduseLooking east from 5th Street toward the Flood Building: The Emporium sign on the building on the right now has Bloomingdale’s painted on it. The domed Humboldt Building, built in 1908, is in the background of both images.

ReclaimEmporiumuseI’m closer now to the Flood Building and the old Emporium Building on the right. The crowned Call Building, remodeled and now called Central Tower, can be seen behind the Humboldt Building.

ReclaimePhelanuseI’m in front of the Emporium Building now. If it wasn’t for the shade, I’d have been a lot happier with this picture. Many of the old buildings, like the West Bank Building, the Phelan Building and the Gothic looking Mutual Savings Bank Building, are still there.

ReclaimHumboldtuse4th Street and closer to the Humboldt Building seen in a postcard from 1915:

ReclaimGrantuseMarket Street at Grant Avenue: This one has the postmark on it. Four Buildings still seen on the right from the same period as the postcard are the Hearst Building, the Monadnock Building, the Palace Hotel, and the Metropolis Trust and Savings Bank Building. I’m standing near the old pillared Union Trust Building.

ReclaimLottsuseLotta’s Fountain at Kearny and Market Streets; at a little different angle now, but in the same spot where it was originally placed in 1875:

ReclaimPalaceuseThe Palace Hotel, rebuilt in 1909 after the original grand hotel, built in 1875 and visited by the likes of Ulysses S. Grant and Enrico Caruso, who was staying at the hotel when the 1906 earthquake struck, was destroyed during that disaster.

ReclaimSPuseI ended up at the Ferry Building, looking past where the old pedestrian footbridge was toward the Southern Pacific Building. The crowd of demonstrators in my picture were gathering to commemorate Juneteenth Day, the annually recognized day of the end of the slavery of African Americans in the Confederate States. They took over Market Street for awhile too, but they didn’t cause any trouble or hurt anybody.





The spring that wasn’t (For the Institute for Historical Study)

Well, we’re a week away from the summer solstice. Spring, and the things that I look forward to each year; the end of Tax Season, baseball games, Disneyland, the Rowell Ranch Rodeo Chili Cook-Off, and the opening of the Alameda County Fair were just a few of spring traditions I like that were closed or  cancelled starting on March 17th. Even St. Patrick’s Day, which really isn’t in spring but to me represents the arrival of spring, was quiet and depressing. On February 29th 2020 I was invited to the 40th annual meeting of the Institute for Historical Study at the Dimond Branch Library in Oakland. I had recently been approved for membership in the society, and I was proud to be there. They had a number of upcoming events I was looking forward to enjoying, which, of course, have been postponed right now. I don’t think anyone in that room anticipated what was coming or how the world would change in just a few weeks, and spring would slip away a bad memory. These are a collection of pictures I posted during spring seasons of happier years. Many people are suffering heartbreak  to due to COVID-19 at this time, so I don’t want this post to seem like a complaint; it’s just reminiscence.

Mar212016useMarch 21st 2016, the first full day of spring: San Francisco gets lots of rain in the spring. The vintage picture at 1st and Market Streets was taken during the 1930s. (San Francisco Main Library History Room)

Mar212016twouseMarch 21st 2016: The vintage picture from the Shorpy Archives was taken at the old El Capitan Theater on Mission Street between 19th and 20th Streets.

April22017useApril 2nd 2017: The restored Dutch Windmill on the northwest corner of Golden Gate Park.

April232016April 23rd 2016: Ocean Beach and the old gingerbread Cliff House, destroyed in a fire in 1907. (The Cliff House Project website)

April272016useApril 27th 2016: Kids “nipping the fender” on a streetcar at South Van Ness and 26th Street, (mislabeled in the vintage picture as being at 26th and Army Street) in 1943. (Charles Smallwood)

May22017useMay 2nd 2017: Grant Avenue and Sacramento Street in Chinatown in the 1930s.

May62015useMay 6th 2015: Lotta’s Fountain at Kearny and Market Streets in a wonderful vintage photo from the early 1900s.

May132018useMay 13th 2018: The view from Corona Heights in a comparison picture I took on Mother’s Day in May of 2018, back when the word corona wasn’t so scary. The vintage picture was taken in the 1960s. Mother’s Day was another spring tradition lost during the COVID-19 Pandemic of 2020. (Michael Bry)

May132018twouseMay 13th 2018, the Cliff House in the 1950’s: I sure will be glad when that opens up again. (virginiapicks)

May182016useMay 18th 2016: Sleeping Beauty Castle on Disneyland’s opening day, July 17th 1955. I can hardly wait to get back there as well. I don’t think crowds will bother me as much anymore after the lonely emptiness right now at places I enjoy going to, like Disneyland.

May232017useMay 23rd 2017, Yosemite National Park: May and October are my two favorite times to visit Yosemite. In May the waterfalls are spectacular due to the runoff of the melting snows from the mountains. October is the best month to catch the fall colors of Yosemite before it gets too cold. I missed the park in May of this year, but I’m keeping my fingers crossed for October.

May302016useMay 30th 2016, at what was then called AT&T Park: To paraphrase Jack Nicholson as McMurphy in the 1975 movie ‘One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest’, “Somebody give me a hotdog (at the ballpark) before I die!” The vintage picture is of Willie Mays knocking one out of Candlestick Park during the 1960’s. (Barnaby Conrad and Bay Area Photographers Society)

May302016twouseMay 30th 2016: Ah, the Jeremiah O’Brien moored at Pier 45; she’s not there anymore. The pier to the right of where the Liberty Ship was docked at was destroyed in a huge fire, and the ship has moved over to Pier 35 for the time being. The top photo is a Philippine cargo shop on the waterfront in the 1950s. (Phil Palmer)

June12017June 1st 2017: The Tea House at the Japanese Tea Garden in Golden Gate Park. The vintage picture from the 1940s was when the name of the garden was changed to the Oriental Tea Garden after Pearl Harbor until 1952. The name Oriental Tea Garden would cause a reverse offense from many Asian people nowadays.

June92016useJune 9th 2016: Janis Joplin on the corner of Cole and Haight Streets in 1967.   (

June142016useJune 14th 2016: The cable car turnaround at Powell and Market Streets, seen in a vintage picture from the late 1930s. And wouldn’t it be nice to go for a ride on a cable car again someday.

June182016useJune 18th 2016: I’ll end my spring look back at the Alameda County Fair in Pleasanton, another cancellation in 2020 due to the pandemic. I might be able to go to Disneyland someday in the near future, but for this annual tradition I‘ll have to wait for another year.





Four on the hill

Not to be confused with the ‘The Fool on the Hill’, although sometimes lately my head is in a cloud like his is. That probably comes from breathing too much of my own carbon dioxide in my safety mask. I was feeling a little restless in the office yesterday, so I decided to head over to Telegraph Hill after my last client left. It’s peaceful and quiet up there and there’s been plenty of parking lately, although there were a lot more people on top of “Telygraft Hill” yesterday than there has been in months.

THillsailorsuseSailors enjoying the view from Pioneer Park behind Coit Tower, either in the late 1930s or during World War Two; I couldn’t get a date on this fine picture. (

THillBalastradeuseI’m assuming the artist Luigi Kasimir wouldn’t have drawn this terrific sketch looking northwest from the steps of Coit Tower in the 1930s if the portable bathroom and concession stand were there then, the trees blocked the view like today, and the balustrade wasn’t there. You can barely see the Marin County hills through the trees and glare in my picture. (

THillAptuse1360 Montgomery Street, the most famous apartment building on Telegraph Hill: It was here that Humphrey Bogart hid out with Lauren Bacall in the 1947 film ‘Dark Passage’. (, posted by Cory Doctorow)

THillFStepsredoLooking down the Filbert Steps toward Montgomery Street in 1959: You have to get a little closer to the street to see the view from here today. I picked up a dragonfly at the top of my picture. (Gene Wright)







The dunes of June

So, where will I go in San Francisco on a warm June afternoon? The Shopping District of San Francisco, which has been practically a ghost town since the shelter-in-place was ordered, has been attacked by vandals recently, as elsewhere, and is not a friendly area right now. These are not protesters, they’re not activists, and they are not a movement; they’re just thugs, men and women, all different races. They’re the kind of people that parents hope their children will never grow up to become. Fisherman’s Wharf isn’t a destination, either. Still closed because of the pandemic, an enormous fire in Pier 45 has made situation there even worse, and came close to destroying the World War Two Liberty Ship, the Jeremiah O’Brien. Golden Gate Park is still beautiful at 150 years of age, but because of the fresh air and safe distancing, it’s near about the only place worth visiting in San Francisco right now and sometimes even more crowded than usual. So I went to my getaway place that I’ve been going to since I was 15, Ocean Beach and the Cliff House area. The looters haven’t reached here yet, COVid-19 hasn’t made this a dangerous area, and there have been no major fires here. These are a collection of vintage drawings and postcards I’ve updated while walking around the northern side of Ocean Beach.

DuneOBeachuseLooking toward Ocean Beach and the Great Highway from the Cliff House in the early 1900s: With some shelter-in-place restrictions lifted slightly at the beginning of June, parking is allowed again at Ocean Beach. You can see the Dutch and Murphy Windmills in Golden Gate Park in the upper right. (Pinterest)

DunesGHighwayuseThe Great Highway from Sutro Heights with Chutes-at-the-Beach in the 1920s: (eBay posted on pinterest)

DunesCHouseuseThe fire that destroyed the old gingerbread Cliff House in 1907, seen from Sutro Heights: (

DunesSutrosuseThis picture I took a few years back of the Sutro Bathhouse ruins lines up pretty good with the old drawing of what it looked like. The concrete squared ruin in the lower left of my picture was where the pump house, seen with the tall chimney in the vintage drawing, was located. (

DunessealsuseThe misnamed Seal Rocks from the Cliff House: There were never seals on Seal Rocks, they were sea lions, and they’re gone now. (

DunetoughieuseA group of people on Ocean Beach, probably around 1910: That’s the present day Cliff House built after 1907, and people stopped dressing like that by World War One. I don’t like the looks of that little toughie in the front of the crowd.

“So, you don’t like my knickerbockers, huh? Well, what are you gonna do about it?” (

DuneVictorianuseOcean Beach, Seal Rocks, the Cliff House, and Sutro Heights in the early 1900s: (