San Francisco has changed due to the COVID-19 Pandemic more than it has since the 1906 Earthquake and Fire, unless you count the 1960s skyscraper boom, and I’ll try to ignore that. When I write about changes in San Francisco, it’s actually worldwide, but since I haven’t been out of the Bay Area since the shelter-in-place order was issued in March, I’ll keep it local and respect the fact that this is only a small portion of the impact and problems effecting the whole world. This collection concerns some of the changes in San Francisco since the pandemic and some of the city’s prospects. Also, I’ll cover some of the places and things that will survive, and others that haven’t or may not.
The southern side of Union Square in 1943, and one of two entrance and exits today to the parking garage: Although things are picking up, you’re still not going to have much trouble finding parking space in San Francisco’s most famous parking garage. Herb Caen once referred to people who had hopes of finding a parking space here during a busy day downtown as a “Sorry, full lot.” (ebay.com, lobsterclaws)
Across Powell Street from Union Square and the northern side of the St. Francis Hotel in 1955: The hotel industry in San Francisco has been devastated by COVID-19, and some projections for a full recovery extend as far as 2025, and beyond. My picture is a little more wide angled than the vintage picture, but it’s probably for the best. (ebay.com)
One of the things I miss the most is the F Line of vintage streetcars that run along Market Street and the Embarcadero; seen here in front of the Ferry Building, and compared to a vintage picture in the 1930s from the Charles Smallwood collection. Like the cable cars, they still run these streetcars in practice occasionally, so they’ll be back some day.
There’s even talk of the Cliff House closing forever, which I do not for one minute believe! This vintage picture of the Cliff House is one of the earliest I’ve seen and probably goes back to the 1860s. (SF Chronicle / SF Gate)
One thing that didn’t survive, and I’ll always miss it, is the Louis Restaurant, just up from the Cliff House. Louis’s had been around since 1937, and was standard routine for me when showing out-of-town visitors around San Francisco. The vintage picture was taken in 1966 during the fire that destroyed the Sutro Bathhouse next to Louis Restaurant.
The World War Two Liberty Ship, the Jeremiah O’Brien, was moved from Pier 45 to Pier 35 last May after the fire that destroyed part of Pier 45. Lonely and mostly empty today, there’s talk that she may move back to Pier 45 as early as September, and like the F Line of Streetcars, I’m rooting for that too.
And what about Chinatown? The 1906 Earthquake and Fire destroyed every single building in Chinatown. Chinese were not particularly popular at the time, and there was talk of relocating the district down to today’s Bayview Area. Chinatown quickly built two pagoda style buildings at the intersection of California Street and Grant Avenue, (then called Dupont Street) the Sing Fat Building, seen here in the 1920s, and the Trademark Building across California Street. The Chinese citizens made it clear that they weren’t going anywhere. (ebay.com, girlcat)
Unless it’s eaten again by a giant octopus, the Ferry Building, San Francisco’s “grande dame” will survive COVID-19. The Farmers’ Market is thriving on weekends, and people are shopping in the building once again. (ebay.com)
Baseball is back in San Francisco, but “far from the maddening crowd” and the Giants aren’t doing much better than they did last year. The first two photos I took looking across McCovey Cove on October 26th 2014 before the 5th game of the World Series. The Giants won that game and went on to win the 2014 World Series, one of the most exciting ‘Fall Classic’ ever played. The second two pictures were taken last week, September 16th just before the start of a night game against Seattle that was moved to San Francisco because of bad air quality around Seattle. The Giants won that game too.
So, I guess if it can come back from Godzilla, San Francisco will be back to normal someday after COVID-19. The crowned building in the center of the vintage picture was the Call Building in 1900; at that time the tallest building in San Francisco. The Call Building survived the 1906 Earthquake and Fire. In the late 1930s, the crown was removed and the building was remodeled. It’s the white and brown striped building in the center of my picture. (ebay.com, cat’s paw prints)