Back to Square one

There are lots of fine Squares in San Francisco; Alamo Square, Washington Square, although that one is more of a Square with the southwest piece chipped off, Jefferson Square, which is more of a rectangle, and Portsmouth Square where San Francisco actually began. Union Square is my number one Square. The title to this post, ‘Back to Square one’ is misleading; it implies a return after an interval of separation, but truth is I visit Union Square almost every time I go to Downtown San Francisco. It’s been relatively empty since March of 2020, and I notice myself feeling depressed often now when I stop there. Like so many other places in San Francisco, the quiet of Union Square these days leaves me with an empty feeling, missing the way things used to be. Herb Caen loved Union Square, as well, although he would criticize the pigeons and crowded parking lot. As with thinking about the cable cars, the Cliff House, and Herb Caen, I get a lonely feeling of something missing in San Francisco more in Union Square than anywhere else in town. But enough of this lamenting, let’s take another visit to the Square. (Thumbnail images)


A trip to Union Square usually begins for me with a BART trip to Hallidie Plaza at the Powell Station, seen here in a vintage picture from the 1970s. The elevator shaft in the Plaza today prevents a perfect line up with the older picture. (

Crossing along Powell Street over Geary Blvd. into Union Square during the 1960s: The St. Francis Hotel is on the left. (Pinterest)


One block further north from the previous picture is the intersection of Post and Powell Streets, looks like during the 1950s. The City of Paris Department store can be seen behind the Dewey Monument, Macy’s was a lot smaller then, a cable car rattles past, and, a gentle reminder that it’s time for a shot of Old Crow Whisky. (Vintage Everyday)


I’ve mentioned in the past that this website is not about my pictures, pleasant snapshots at best, but about the interesting vintage photographs in the posts. I could make an exception with this one; this 1940s one has to be the ugliest picture of Maiden Lane I’ve ever seen. Still I find it intriguing. I don’t know it that’s an artistic inclination with me or a problem! (Vintage Everyday)


The I Magnin Department Store on the corner of Geary Blvd. and Stockton Streets, now a part of Macy’s, under construction in 1947: (SF Chronicle)


One of the best Union Square pictures I’ve seen, looking toward the northwest corner of the park during the late 1950s: The New Millennium make-over took away the 1940s look and feel of the Square, but it’s probably for the best in the long run. (Reddit)


This picture was labeled “The Christmas Extravaganza of 1980” but I doubt if it topped the Christmas of 2020 light show of floating snow crystals at Union Square (SF Chronicle)

New Year’s Eve forecast, paper rain throughout the day (For Steve)

I sure do remember the tradition of throwing calendar pages out of office buildings on December 31st. When we were teenagers we used to love to go over to Downtown San Francisco and walk shin deep through the piles of calendar paper on the sidewalks. It was a tradition that had to go, and it has. The last time I saw anything resembling it was in 1994, and it was nothing compared to New Year’s Eves of the past. These are a few pictures from the San Francisco Chronicle remembering ‘Street Sweepers Lament Day’ from past years. (Thumbnail images)


California Street near Montgomery, 1972:


260 California Street, 1991:

California Street, up from Kearny Street, 1980:


Montgomery Street near Pine Street, 1975: You can’t see much of the Pyramid Building from here anymore.


Sacramento and Montgomery Streets, 1981:






Enjoy this 1930s version of ‘A Trip Down Market Street’ in color

I’ve recently seen this stunning piece of film on YouTube that was posted in November of 2020. Shot in the 1930s, it’s a drive down Market Street from Steuart Street near the Ferry Building to Stockton Street. The filmmakers were obviously inspired by the famous 1906 film ‘A Trip Down Market Street’. It’s been colorized and has had sound effects added for enhancement by NASS, and if you like San Francisco, you’re in for a delightful ride. I took some captures of the movie and did a few then and nows in spots where the film passes, but the important part of this post is the YouTube link at the end of my pictures to the film; it’s a high quality restoration and a fascinating look at Market Street during the 1930s. (Thumbnail images)

The drive starts out at the Hotel Terminal, which was located approximately where the Hyatt Regency is today.


One of the many automobiles following the car being driven by the cameramen throughout the film passes California and Drumm Streets on the left as the Southern Pacific Building comes in to view across Market Street on the right.


Two images passing by Drumm Street where a California Street cable car can be seen on the left, and the same location today.


The trailing autos and a J Line streetcar pass by the Palace Hotel.


They’re at Kearny Street here in the shade of the 1930s Market Street buildings with Lotta’s Fountain, just visible in the shadow on the left, and the Chronicle Building. This Lotta’s Fountain had the extended column added to it in 1916, and was in a slightly different location than where it was originally placed in 1875.

They’re passing Grant Avenue now and the old Wells Fargo Building on the left. William Randolph Hearst’s Examiner Building is on the right.


Another look at the old Wells Fargo Building on the corner of Grant Avenue and Market Street:


The film ends at Stockton Street with people watching a parade on Market Street. Relax now for a few minutes and watch the actual film below.



January 4th already! Where’s 2021 going to?

Just in a silly mood. I spent the First and Second of 2021 moseying around a quiet Downtown San Francisco: San Francisco Restaurants, from #9 Fishermen’s Grotto to the Cliff House, are traditionally packed on New Year’s Day, but not on Friday. Everything was closed, quiet or gone. (Thumbnail images)


Kearny Street looking toward Maiden Lane in the 1940s: A lot less traffic in my picture aturday. (


The northwest corner of Jefferson and Taylor Streets in 1971: The Sea Captain’s Chest; I remember that terrific gift shop from when I was a kid. (SF Chronicle)

A WAC look-back at Fishermen’s Grotto in 1951: (Wikimedia)


The crab traps for the Dungeness crab season on the boats in the Fisherman’s Wharf Lagoon in 1961, and on January 1st 2021 for the currently delayed crab season. (SF Chronicle)


Market Street near 4th Street in 1955: They replaced the old California Theater Building with a current building that has less character (I think) where the Ross Store is now. (

The western portion of the Fisherman’s Wharf Boat Lagoon, seen here in the 1930s, used to extend from the Taylor Street restaurants all the way to the Hyde Street Pier. (














Welcome, 2021 (For Tricia from the Haight)

You can pick almost any other period in modern San Francisco history, and it would have more enjoyable recollections for the people of San Francisco than 2020. I’ll start out New Year with another look back to the 1960s during a happier and busier time than 2020 when the “Cool gray city of love” became the Cool gray city of hope. (Thumbnail images)


Market Street at 3rd Street looking west in 1963: I wonder what the guy with the clip board was doing? (SFMTA Archives)

Market Street, looking west from Kearny Street in the late 1960s: Morris Plan, I remember them. I think that was another one of those financial institutions I borrowed money from in the 1970s that I never paid back. (Vintage Everyday)


Market Street looking east from Kearny, probably the same day as the previous picture: (Vintage Everyday)


Ah, the legendary Emporium Department Store! The girl boarding the streetcar in the vintage picture may have been a psychic looking 55 years into the future at me. (Vintage Everyday)


Cable cars don’t come into Aquatic Park next to the Cannery at the same spot they did in 1967. The 1982 overhaul of the system rerouted them into the park from the Beach and Hyde Streets intersection. (


BART construction under Market Street is backing up buses between 5th and 6th Streets in 1967. Buses have it easier here today. (SF Chronicle / SF Gate)


Haight and Ashbury: You can’t have a 60s look back in San Francisco without including the “Summer of Love”: and thank you to the ex ‘flower child” Tricia I met last Sunday who was nice enough to pose in the intersection for me. (Reddit)


The Grateful Dead in front of the Mnasidika Boutique on Haight Street in 1967: (


Looking northeast from the top of the Mark in 1963: The building at the lower left of the vintage picture with the curved windows on top was the old Hall of Justice Building on Kearny Street. Many movie and television shows, including ‘The Man Who Cheated Himself’, ‘Impact’, ‘The Lady from Shanghai’, ‘The Lineup’, and ‘Ironside’ filmed scenes there. It was demolished in 1967 and a Hilton Hotel is there today. (