The closing of the Cliff House (Thumbnail images)

I don’t believe for a moment that the Cliff House will close forever! Visited by the likes of Jack London, Mark Twain, Buffalo Bill, and just about every Star and Starlet from Hollywood’s Golden Age, it’s a landmark. If they keep the building in good shape, I think it will reopen when this COVID-19 Pandemic is under control. Where else am I going to go to take then and now pictures? My introduction to San Francisco was as a kid when my parents took us to the Cliff House after we moved to the Bay Area from North Dakota. The three times in life that I’ve been in love, (when I was a kid I thought it was supposed to be only once) I remember wonderful days out there with each girl. In fact, on a long ago December 30th one of the girls and I sat in the Redwood Room and watched the sun go down into the Pacific Ocean. After it disappeared, they rang a bell, as was the tradition at the time. Yes, a lot of the magic of the old Cliff House disappeared after the 2000 renovation, but it’s still the Cliff House. I’ll miss it very much during what I am sure is going to be a temporary hiatus. These are a collection of some of the Cliff House pictures that I’ve posted in the past on my website.


Maybe the oldest picture of the Cliff House that I’ve seen; possibly dating from 1857 when it first opened up: (SF Chronicle / SF Gate)


Buffalo Bill and some Native Americans from his Wild West Show in front of the old Cliff House:

I like this little Victorian toughie.

“Alright, I dare you! Who else wants to make fun of my hat?”

(Vintage picture from The Cliff House Project website) 


The old Gingerbread Cliff House survived the 1906 Earthquake and burned down the following year in 1907.


From the mid 1950s to the early 1960s they had a Sky Tram running behind the Cliff House.  (SF Chronicle)

The view of Seal Rocks from behind the Cliff House in the 1950s: (SF Chronicle)


One of the best things about old pictures of the Cliff House were the cool cars parked out front.

The cars from the 1960s were cool too!  ( 


Police activity at the Cliff House in the 1958 movie ‘The Lineup’, and police activity at the Cliff House in August of 2016:


Bad guys in a truck who have kidnapped a teenager are pulled over down from the Cliff House by Harbor Command Officers in an episode from the 1957 television series ‘Harbor Command’.


Incidentally, did you know that the old Cliff House, like a chameleon, would change colors during different times of the year and periods of the day? On evenings with a blazing sunset on the horizon, it would appear red like the top left picture. During the months of autumn, it would take on a brown, rustic hue, as at the top right. As the darkness of the night approached, it would turn black, like the picture in the lower left. On sunny spring mornings, the reflection from the Pacific Ocean often turned the building blue, as seen in the picture at lower right. Okay, you’ve already caught on that I’m teasing; this was how the Cliff House was painted during different periods from the 1950’s, 1960’s, and 1970’s.


An aluminum postcard from 1904: And we think our Twenty First Century technology is so great!


My 17 year old mom on the left took a train from Grand Forks, North Dakota to San Francisco and visited the Cliff House long before I did.


My best friend, Danny, sniffed out the trail of Buffalo Bill and his horse on one of our visits there.  (William F. Cody Archive)


Heck, I even took Flat Stella there once!

Postcard picture perfect!

The ‘Less Crowded City’

Well, this will probably be my last post before Christmas, or whatever we’ll be substituting Christmas with for this year. In October of 2017, I posted a series of pictures under the title of The ‘Crowded City’. At the time it sounded to me like the title of a film noir movie. The ‘Less Crowded City’ sounds more like something from the science fiction genre. I don’t think that the year 2020 has turned out to be any less fantastic and frightening than any science fiction movie I’ve ever seen. Several shelter-in-place orders have been strictly followed for the most part by the people of San Francisco, and up until this point the loss of life from COVID-19 in the city has been relatively low for such a crowded area. These are a collection of street scenes during San Francisco’s typical past, and during the last full week before Christmas, 2020. (Thumbnail images)


We’ll start at Powell Street near Geary Blvd, in the 1940s. The skillful talent of jaywalking has become less of an achievement in 2020. (Reddit)


Market Street, where Turk and Mason Streets come in to it in 1968. On the ground floor of the building on the right with the Coca-Cola sign was where the ‘Pepsi-Cola Center for Servicemen’ Center for those in the service during World War Two was located.


One of the most popular hangouts for the “beatniks” of the 1950s in San Francisco was the Co-Existence Bagel Shop on the corner of Green Street and Grant Avenue in North Beach. (Pinterest)


Where the old Co-Existence Bagel Shop was today: (Pinterest)


I’m not sure if I like this painting from the 1970s looking down Powell Street toward the Sir Francis Drake hotel, or not, but it is interesting. Few of the buildings in the work match up to the actual buildings there, and if that’s supposed to be Telegraph Hill with Coit Tower in the background, it isn’t South of Market Street. (


The most famous bookstore in San Francisco is ‘City Lights Books’ in North Beach, named after Charlie Chaplin’s 1931 film. It has been visited by the likes of Allen Ginsberg, Jack Kerouac, and Bob Dylan. (SF Chronicle)


The southwest corner of Union Square looking toward the intersection of Powell Street and Geary Blvd. during the 1970s: Men’s hats hadn’t entirely lost their popularity yet. Well, I count three people in my picture. (


Looking across Market Street toward the Number One Powell Street Building; looks like the early 1960s. There’s a lot of interesting things to see in the vintage picture, including an Eddy Street sign on Powell, and also a rare comparison in 2020 that has a cable car in both pictures. (











More hill climbing in the City; weather permitting

San Francisco is a city of hills; from Bernal Heights to Sutro Heights, Buena Vista to Diamond Heights, Twin Peaks, to Mt. Davidson. I forget how many there are, but I’ve been on all of them. However, the three most famous hills in San Francisco are the three hills bordered by Market Street, Van Ness Avenue, and the waterfront, Nob Hill, Russian Hill, and Telegraph Hill. This past weekend, albeit gloomy weather half the time, I visited all three for some picture taking. The quality of some of my pictures speaks for the weather, but it wasn’t bad for the most part. Saturday was overcast, but actually rather warm for December, so I was able to do some exploring on my e-bike. Sunday was a different story so you won’t have to be a rocket scientist or even an income tax preparer to tell which pictures were taken Saturday or Sunday. There are a lot of trees and plants in these pictures, so I’ll dedicate this post to my blog friend, Tony. (Thumbnail images)


We’ll begin the climbing to the top “av owld Telygraft Hill”. That’s Wallace Irwin’s poetry for “of old Telegraph Hill”, but you’ve probably guessed that. These are views from the Coit Tower steps, pre and post Columbus Statue. Whether he massacred Native Americans or not will have to be debated by scholars; the evidence doesn’t look good for Columbus. However, while they were removing the statue in 2020, why didn’t they cut down those trees blocking the views? With Coit Tower closed indefinitely, you can’t see much from here anymore; although, you wouldn’t have been able to see much from here yesterday through the on and off rain. The vintage picture is from circa 1945. (

The view down Russian Hill’s Hyde Street in 1973: Yeah, you’ll see a few cable cars in the vintage photos on this post. (


Where Powell Street crosses California Street on Nob Hill: I couldn’t get a date on the vintage picture, but it looks like the mid 1970s. (


The view down Broadway from Russian Hill in 1952: The rectangle structure in the center of both pictures is the eastern entrance and exit to the Broadway Tunnel, which opened up in 1952. That building with the red, white and blue colors on the right in my picture almost looks like an optical illusion. (


The view from Pioneer Park behind Coit Tower, circa 1945: You’ll spot the Bay Bridge and Ferry Building a little easier in the vintage picture than in my rainy redo. That was probably fog in the old picture. (


“Well, anyway, did you get the picture, honey?”

Lombard Street on Russian Hill in August of 1956. (SF Gate/SF Chronicle)

Sacramento Street approaching Polk Street in 1941 on the less famous western side of Nob Hill: There’s never any parking around here even during a pandemic, so I had to snap my picture through the rain while driving. Well, at least I got the old Palo Alto Hotel neon sign in. Those two cable cars on the now gone Sacramento Street Line appear to be going in the same direction. I’ll have to do some research on that. (


One of the prettiest and least visited view spots in San Francisco is Ina Coolbrith Park on Russian Hill. In the vintage picture from the early 1970s, none of the Embarcadero Center buildings have been erected yet, except for possibly the Hyatt Regency Hotel. (

Someday I’ll redo these (For Jenny)

After the cable cars are running again, I will. These are then and nows along the Powell and Taylor Streets cable car line from the early 1970s. The first two vintage pictures are from the Vintage Everyday website. The final seven vintage images are from an interesting three minute and six second silent film from the website taken from onboard a Powell/Taylor Line cable car by an unidentified passenger as it climbs over Nob Hill to the Bay and Taylor Street turnaround, and then back along Taylor, Mason and Powell Streets to Market Street. The home movie was probable taken circa 1970. l I tried to get most of my redos about where the passenger was filming without the advantage of being on a cable car.  Someday soon I hope to redo these while riding aboard a cable car. I’ll include the link to the Vimeo film after my comparison pictures for those who would like to watch it. (Thumbnail images)


We’ll start with a southern view of the Powell/Market Street turnaround, looking from Powell toward Market Street around 1971. (Vintage Everyday)

Looking northwest from the previous picture, you can see the Powell Theater behind the cable car, and still around in the 1970s. The Powell Theater was mentioned in the novel ‘The Maltese Falcon from 1929 when it was then called the Edison Theater. The Powell Theater was where the Burger King is now. (Vintage Everyday)

I’ll start the film comparisons here at Powell and O’Farrell Streets, heading north past the old Omar Khayyam’s Restaurant.

Approaching Geary Blvd. and the St. Francis Hotel: On the left is the legendary Gold Dust Lounge; one of Bing Crosby’s favorite hangouts when he was in San Francisco. The Gold Dust Lounge was where the marquee with the word EXPRESS is.

A couple jump on the cable car when it stops at Powell and Post Streets.

Approaching Sutter Street at Powell: We’re right in front of the Sir Francis Drake Hotel on the right of us. There’s still a drug store at the corner on the left.

The film jumps abruptly the cable car turnaround at Taylor and Bay Streets near Fisherman’s Wharf. Cost Plus Imports closed this year, but the 76 Gas Station on the northeast corner of Taylor and Bay Streets is still going.


The cable car in the film heads back along Taylor to Mason to Powell Streets, and plunges back down Powell Street here at California.

The cable car rolls back to Market Street past Union Square, Blums Pastry Shop, and Macy’s.

Below is the link to the Vimeo film if you’d like to watch it.

San Francisco in 1982

I may have posted a picture of this years ago, but I thought I’d repost it. I bought this poster back in 1982. Guillermo W. Granzio put a lot of San Francisco in this! About the only thing I haven’t been able to find is a cable car; unless that’s one coming downhill between the Bank of America and Pyramid Buildings. (Thumbnail image) *

*Granzio’s 18’ by 14’ mural, created in 1980, was stored in the Harcourt Galleries Building off Powell Street. Two years after it was painted, the mural was knocked over by a forklift while in storage and destroyed. (Source:

“Black Friday”, 2020

“I am the Ghost of Christmas Past.”

“Long past?”

“No, your past.”

Well, my past anyway. For quite a number of years now, I’ve gone over to Downtown San Francisco on “Black Friday’, the day after Thanksgiving that officially opens up the Christmas Season. The crowds are not a problem if you go over there to take pictures, as I do, rather than to go shopping. (You’re supposed to shop on Black Friday?) I knew that this Black Friday was going to be different from any of the past because of COVID-19, and I wanted to experience it. These are a collection of Black Friday pictures that I’ve posted on my website in the past along with updates from this year’s Black Friday. Some of the pictures may be mildly depressing because of the lack of bustle and obvious happiness apparent in the older photos. That doesn’t mean that it’s not a good idea to visit Downtown San Francisco during the Holidays, and the crowds will be showing up this year, as well. For being, possibly, the densest city in the United States per square mile after Manhattan, San Francisco has a remarkably low death rate from COVID-19. People in San Francisco are doing what they have to do to get over this and it’s safe to go there if you’re cautious, wear a mask, and keep in small groups. If for any reason, go to Union Square. They have a light projection of moving snowflakes on the buildings along all four sides of the square that’s great to see. (Thumbnail images)


2016: Two very poor quality pictures of mine, if I do say so myself, on Stockton Street between Geary Blvd. and Ellis. Traffic was closed along here back then due to construction of the Muni extension along Stockton Street to Chinatown. I believe that this was the first year that they carpeted the two blocks for pedestrians, and it was a great success.


2019: Stockton Street had reopened to traffic by then, so Grant Avenue between Post Street and Geary Blvd., along with Maiden Lane, was closed off and carpeted for the season.

2016: Powell Street, looking north from Ellis Street, on a rainy Black Friday in 2016. Look at that crowd heading toward Union Square that day!


2012: Union Square at Geary Blvd. in 2012: Except for a lack of people in my current picture, and make no mistake, there is, this view hasn’t changed at all.


2016: Geary Blvd. and Stockton Street, looking toward the Neiman Marcus Department Store: We’re going to look inside Neiman Marcus next.

2012: The Neiman Marcus Christmas tree looking up toward the old stained glass rotunda from the City of Paris Department Store. This year’s tree looks nice, but it ain’t a Christmas tree.


2017: The southwest corner of Union Square: There was something noticeably happy and easy going in the older picture that’s missing right now.

2017: The Macy’s display window on the corner of Stockton and O’Farrell Streets: No little puppies of kittens to adopt this year.

2017: O’Farrell and Stockton Streets, same corner as the previous picture: No crowd control necessary this year.


2018: The cable car turnaround at Powell and Market Streets: Well, at least they have a decorated cable car this year, but it won’t be running.

2012: Probably my favorite SF Christmastime picture, taken at Maiden Lane. I miss the arch wreaths and the opera singer.

2018: On Black Friday Eve of 2018 I took some pictures around Union Square comparing images from the 1951 film ‘The Lemon Drop Kid’ from a scene that was supposed to be set in New York City on a Christmastime evening, to a San Francisco evening during Christmastime. The movie scene was where Bob Hope and Marilyn Maxwell introduced the song ‘Silver Bells’ as they walk around Downtown New York, although the scene was probably filmed at the Paramount Studios in Hollywood. These last five images are from the movie images in the top photos, Black Friday, 2018 in the center, and Black Friday, 2020 in the bottom pictures.


William Frawley, dressed as Santa Claus, helps to collect donations to charity for Bob Hope’s character, the Lemon Drop Kid, although Hope is actually planning to use the money to pay off the mob. The 2018 comparison is in front of the Geary Blvd. entrance to Macy’s. No Salvation Army collectors in front of Macy’s this year, only protestors on strike against the department store.

“Strings of streetlights, even stop lights, blink a bright red and green, as the shoppers rush home with their treasures.”

Powell Street, looking north from Geary Blvd:


“City sidewalks, busy sidewalks, dressed in holiday style. In the air there’s a feeling of Christmas. Children laughing, people passing, meeting smile after smile”

Looking east along Geary Blvd. from Stockton Street:


“I wish this was a sleigh!’

A frustrated driver stuck in traffic sings in the film and a traffic jam along O’Farrell Street in 2018. This isn’t “Christmas Past” this year, even the Macy’s sign is partly out of order.

“And above all this bustle, you’ll hear, Silver bells, silver bells”

What you’ll hear this year from Union Square above the parking garage are horn blasts and loud drum pounding from the Macy’s demonstrators.