Postcards from the past (Thumbnail images)

“Long past?”

“No, your past.”

These are postcards of San Francisco that I bought when I was in high school. If I remember correctly, many of them I bought for a dime at the old Transbay Terminal Building when heading home from a day in SF. Progress has taken its toll on the beauty of the views in many of these postcards. I opened up with a line from Dickens ‘Christmas Carol’, so I’ll sum up the San Francisco you’ll see in a lot of these old postcards by quoting the last thing Jacob Marley’s ghost said to Ebenezer Scrooge;

“Look for me no more.”

Lombard Street, “The World’s Crookedest Street”, to which Herb Caen added, “after Wall Street.”.

Looking toward Alioto’s, Fishermen’s Grotto, and Pier 45:

SOMA from Twin Peaks, with the Pacific Telephone Building the only skyscraper:


The Cliff House and Sutro Baths at Lands End: Sutro’s was gone and his postcard was already outdated when I bought it.

Civic Center, with the water pools still in front of City Hall:

Above the Fisherman’s Wharf Lagoon and Pier 45: The little chapel is now where the white building at the bottom center was.

The view from the Coit Tower parking lot, looking toward Piers 39 and 41, both demolished now:

An aerial view of northeastern San Francisco before the skyscraper boom of the late 1960s changed the view radically:


Above the portion of Golden Gate Park where the Midwinter International Exposition of 1894 was held: All of the structures except the Band Concourse have been demolished and rebuilt. I liked it so much better before.

The Cliff House that I loved the best:

Looking along Market Street past the Ferry Building; this is my favorite one.

Ghirardelli Square and the Maritime Museum:

Telegraph Hill and Coit Tower:

And remember, “Don’t call it Frisco”.

The Sir Francis Drake Hotel

When we were young, we were told that Francis Drake was a brave explorer who circumnavigated the globe, helped defeat the Spanish Armada, and discovered San Francisco Bay. Well, two out of three ain’t bad; the famous Drake Plate found in Marin County in 1936, which led to the belief that Drake discovered the Bay, was declared a fake in the 1970s, I believe. Drake actually landed further up the California Coast. However, there’s also evidence that Drake was a slave trader, took part in the massacre of women and children on Rathlin Island, off Ireland, and beheaded his co-commander on one of his voyages for witchcraft. (Source, Wikipedia) Because of these revelations, the Sir Francis Drake Hotel, on the corner of Powell and Sutter Streets and opened in 1928, will be changing its name to the Beacon Grand when it reopens this spring. I did a look back on my blog recently to some of the pictures featuring the famous hotel that I’ve posted. (Thumbnail images)

Looking down Powell Street to the Sir Francis Drake Hotel in the 1950s: The northern view from the Starlight Room on the top of the hotel, which Herb Caen preferred to the Top of the Mark, was completely blocked by the Marriott Hotel.


A cable car climbs Powell Street on Nob Hill in the 1940s:

The view along Powell Street from the south in the 1960s: (Vintage Everyday)

The hotel lobby in 1928, the year the hotel opened: I got my update in February of 2020, just before the Covid 19 Pandemic closed the Sir Francis Drake, which is its current status. (North Point Press)

A lonely looking serviceman walks past the garage entrance to the Sir Francis Drake Hotel during World War Two.

Thomas Kinkade’s glamorous, although inaccurate, painting featuring the Sir Francis Drake Hotel:

Jack Lemmon races his Thunderbird down Powell Street from California Street in the 1963 film ‘Good Neighbor Sam’.


A streetcar rattles east along Sutter Street past the Drake Hotel on the corner in the 1950s; (

The Sir Francis Drake was a guidepost for finding the location of these photos of a newspaper stand on the day after the Pearl Harbor attack, when I first saw them in 2016. They were identified incorrectly as being taken at Market and Montgomery Streets. The key to finding this spot was in the tall building in the distance at the center of the first comparison picture. That looked to me like the old Sir Francis Drake Hotel. If it was, then I had to find out what angle the pictures were taken from. You can’t see the Sir Francis Drake from here anymore, but these pictures were shot on the northeast corner of Sutter and Kearny looking west. (Shorpy Archives)