“It ain’t over till it’s over.”

That idiom from Yogi Berra could apply to the upcoming election, the COVID19 Pandemic, or 2020. I think we’re all waiting for any of these developments to be over. I closed out October taking a few “walkabouts” around Nob Hill, thinking about some of the issues I was going to have to decide on this Tuesday. Even in pre-pandemic days, Nob Hill is a peaceful area to try and pull my thoughts together, something I seem to find harder and harder to do nowadays, and decide on some of the voting choices. In the end, as usual, I’ll probably make my decisions at the last moment, and leave the polling place wondering why I chose some of the selections I did. Now back to Nob Hill; if you map it out just right, you can walk around the entire hill without having to do too much uphill walking. (Thumbnail images)


The trick is to take the MUNI #1 bus up Sacramento Street to the top of Nob Hill and gradually wind your way back down the hill.  Under the circumstances, #1 was a little more crowded on this day than I would have liked.


The view east along California Street from Jones Street in 1956: The Huntington Hotel is on the right, and on the left are the Pacific Union Club Building and the Fairmont Hotel.  On the far right where a vacant lot was in 1956 is the Masonic Auditorium. This was where the mansion with the doorway that’s now the Portals of the Past site in Golden Gate Park was destroyed in the 1906 Earthquake leaving only the entrance standing. Cable car lines dissect Nob Hill like nowhere else in San Francisco, and when they’re running it’s almost impossible not to encounter one when on the hill. Cable car lines run on the California, Mason, Washington, Jackson, and Powell Streets portion of Nob Hill. You’ll see a lot of cable cars in the vintage pictures, but sadly, none in my pictures. (SFMTA Archives picture from the San Francisco Pictures blog)


Looking up Jones Street from California Street past the west side of Grace Cathedral in 1952 from the Charles Cushman Collection: No, we’re not going this way, the hill looks too steep and I’m getting tired just looking at it. We’ll head over to the Fairmont Hotel.

The Sacramento Street side of the front of the Fairmont Hotel in April of 1949: I was as lost in thought as the lady here appears to be when I passed by where she was sitting.

“I wonder why I voted for Dewey last November?” (opensfhistory.org)


One block west on Sacramento Street, and three blocks north downhill brings us to Jackson and Taylor Streets, looking west in 1952 in another picture from the Charles Cushman Collection. I don’t like the looks of that climb either, we’ll head the other way.


Looking east down Jackson Street from Mason Street in 1962: From here, we’ll head one block south on Mason to Washington Street.


We’ll turn east on Washington Street and head down hill to Powell Street. Looking west in the vintage photo and mine, you can see the cable car barn and museum on the right. (SFMTA Archives)


I didn’t get off entirely easy from Powell and Washington Streets to get back over to California Street; there’s an uphill grade this way, but either it goes by easier or I’m in better shape than I thought I was in. From California Street I headed into the sun and down Powell Street near Fella Alley where this 1940’s picture was taken just south of Pine Street.


We’ll cross Powell Street from where the previous pictures were taken and a view toward Bush Street in another cool picture from the 1940s that I found on Reditt.  We’re getting close to the bottom of Nob Hill and my destination. See that blue awning on the left just in front of the Academy of Art University? That’s the Roxanne Café, open for business again and glad to see me. A plate of ham, eggs over-easy, and seasoned potatoes were a perfect end to my lazy man’s Nob Hill adventure.


I passed the Mark Hopkins Hotel while I was up on the top of Nob Hill and thought of the Top of the Mark, temporarily closed. This vintage picture from 1927 when the hotel opened is looking east. Look at San Francisco from the Top of the Mark now, and then look back to 1927: The view is between California and Pine Streets and I squeezed two of my pictures together to make a reasonable comparison. At the far right in both pictures is the old Pacific Telephone Building, the tallest building south of Market Street up until the 1980s. Looking left toward the Hobart Building you can see the Hunter-Dulin Building on Montgomery and Sutter Streets under construction. Sam Spade from the Maltese Falcon would open up his detective practice in this building when it was completed. Looking left toward the Ferry Building, which is blocked from today’s view, almost all of those old buildings on Montgomery Street are gone now. In the center, and looking like something from the Parthenon in the vintage picture, is the Ritz-Carlton Hotel. The building was built in 1909 for the Metropolitan Life Insurance Company. Among other notables still visible on the left side of both pictures are Old St. Mary’s Church and the green roofed Federal Reserve Building. So look again at San Francisco from the Top of the Mark now and back in 1927. It might not be far-fetched to say that San Francisco has changed more in the past eight months than it did from 1927 to 2020. (opensfhistory.org)

3 thoughts on ““It ain’t over till it’s over.”

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