San Francisco in the 1920s

They call the decade the “Roaring Twenties”. What we’re going through now are the Boring Twenties. These are updates of a few photos taken around San Francisco locations during the 1920s. (Thumbnail images)

Market Street near 4th: Some of those buildings in the old picture are still around, like the Phelan Building in the center and the Humboldt Building on the right, among others. (

Market Street at Powell Street: The Flood Building is on the left, and the old Emporium Building, now Bloomingdale’s is on the right. On the far left in the updated picture is Hallidie Plaza. (

Ah, the Cliff House. (San Francisco Pictures Blog)

The old YMCA Building on the Embarcadero: Eli Wallach, “Dancer”, made his first kill here in the 1958 film, ‘Lineup’, one of my favorite San Francisco noir movies. (San Francisco Pictures Blog)

Market Street at Turk and Mason: The picture is dated 1922, but I’m not sure that’s accurate; no matter where I stood, I could not get an angle that didn’t include the white Number One Powell Street Building, built in 1920, that’s between the Mechanic’s Savings Bank Building at Mason Street and the Flood Building at Market Powell Streets. (SF Gate, San Francisco Chronicle)

The east side of Lafayette Park at Clay Street: Some of the best photographs of San Francisco during the 1920s are from the Shorpy Photo Archive.

The Spreckels Mansion at Washington and Octavia Streets: You can barely see the mansion today because of the bushes they’ve grown around the building.

6 thoughts on “San Francisco in the 1920s

  • What is the old YMCA Building now?
    That picture in Lafayette Park is interesting since the concrete retaining wall and capital in the foreground seem to have been added later, and perfectly matched to the other. I suppose that the original picture was just a bit closer, so did not include the wall. The pindo palm beyond the steps is not only a good and proportionate palm for the particular application, but it also happens to be a species that was popular a century ago and a few decades earlier. It became rare afterward, and is still quite uncommon.

      • Is there a Harbor Court Hotel near there? I stayed there after a HORRID so-called Christmas party a few years ago. The hotel and location were the only cool things about the unbearable event.

      • Wow! Well, regardless of how horrid the event was, the hotel was an awesome place to stay, with an incredible view of the Bay Bridge and Oakland in the distance. I remember that it was a historical building that had been used for a few things, including lodging for young men on their way to World War II, but I do not remember the details.

  • The shrubbery at the Spreckles Mansion seems to be shorn Monterey cypress, but is likely Leyland cypress, or something more complaisant. Monterey cypress was commonly shorn as hedges a very long time ago merely because it was so commonly available. However, more appropriate species started to become more popular soon after that first picture was taken.

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