A Profile with Pictures’

Around the time I fell in love with San Francisco during high school, I found a book in the school library called ‘San Francisco: A Profile with Pictures’ by Barnaby Conrad. Published in 1959, the book had already seemed outdated to me at the time, (although, that wasn’t that much earlier than my high school years) but I loved the photographs in the book. Conrad name-drops many famous people he was acquainted with throughout the book, from Herb Caen to John Steinbeck, although most of them I wasn’t familiar with at the time. Around seven years ago, I found a copy of the book at the used book store at the San Francisco Main Library. I’ve updated a number of the pictures from the book in the past, and I read it again, cover to cover, last week. (You can finish it in one day) Sadly, almost everyone he writes about is gone now, including the author, and it’s really a time capsule of a San Francisco that doesn’t exist anymore. Here are some of the pictures I’ve posted from the book in the past, and some of the comments I made about the photos. I’ll also list the photographers, which I may not have done in the past. I’ve included the almost archaic now guide map at the end of the book. (Thumbnail images)

That elegant lady in front of Fishermen’s Grotto #9 at Fisherman’s Wharf in the 1950’s had better get the service that she wants! The old Standard Station designed like a ship across the street remained in Fisherman’s Wharf from the 1930’s to the 1970’s, although, by the 70’s it had been remodeled to a more standard looking Standard Station. Sadly now, #9Fishermen’s Grotto is gone forever now, as well. (Jerome Zerbe)

The Baker Street steps at Broadway in the 1950’s, and a really stoic way to treat a broken leg: (Miriam Young)

Maiden Lane in the 1950’s: She knows she’s hot! That building on the right with the round entrance, is the only building designed by Frank Lloyd Wright in San Francisco. (Tom King)

I’ve seen this Alfred Hitchcock movie, it’s scary! Actually, the little girl in the thick of it at Union Square in the 1950’s was a safe as the pigeons were! (Gene Wright)


Apartment hunting on Russian Hill in the 1950’s:
“Is this place for rent?”
“It is, fifty dollars a month.”
“Why, that’s ridiculous!”
“Take it or leave it.”
(Jacqueline Paul)

A student water-coloring at the Fisherman’s Wharf Boat Lagoon, under the supervision of Dong Kingman:

Fishing with a best friend behind the St. Francis Yacht Harbor: (Barnaby Conrad)


The double page guide map at the end of the book; let’s see what’s gone now, from west to east; Fleishhacker Pool, Kezar Stadium. Playland-at-the-Beach, the Cliff House, (closed) Mile Rock Lighthouse, the Produce District, SP Depot, and the Embarcadero Freeway hadn’t been built yet.

‘Hell on Frisco Bay’

I can forgive the “Frisco” in the title of the 1956 crime drama ‘Hell on Frisco Bay’ because it makes the film sound more dramatic. It’s only two and a half stars on the must-see list, but the movie is still fun to watch, and has interesting San Francisco locations. Alan Ladd looks old and tired, Joanne Dru is as pretty as she was in Red River’ and Eddy G. is….. Eddy G. Although, this has to be one of the most despicable characters Robinson has ever played.


Ladd plays a police officer released from prison after serving five years on a manslaughter charge he was framed for. Off the force now, he’s on a hunt to find the real killer. Like, we don’t know who it will turn out to be? Here, he follows a floozy, on the east side of Telegraph Hill at Vallejo St. at Hodges Alley, to a suspect played by a relatively unknown at the time, Rod Taylor.

There’s an interesting shot of a cable car at California and Powell Streets on Nob Hill. On the right is the old Crest Garage, demolished in 2018, and on the left is a liquor store where the Fairmont Hotel parking garage is now.

In the film’s denouement the real killer turns out to be Edward G. Robinson. Surprise!!! He takes Ladd’s wife, Joanne Dru, hostage, and tries to escape by boat on Al Scoma Way at the Fisherman’s Wharf Boat Lagoon. Behind Robinson and Dru you can see Pier 45, and the little chapel is where the gray building used to be.

As Ladd approaches, Dru breaks free and Eddy G. Jumps into a speed boat, followed by Ladd. The film crew placed the name AMATO on the building in the background. This was Robinson’s name in the film, and the building was his warehouse.

As Dru watches the police approach the alley from Jefferson Street, she tells them what’s happening. If you look close at the AMATO building, you can still see the checkerboard window on the warehouse behind the white truck.


In a fist fight as the boat races out of control around San Francisco Bay, they’re almost bisected by a tugboat, tanker, and naval vessel before Ladd knocks Robinson from the boat. Realizing he’s headed toward the second tower on the San Francisco side of the Bay Bridge, he jumps free.


The boat crashes into the Bay Bridge tower, and Alan and Joanne reunite. In a similar view near the crash area today, you can still see the Hills Brothers Building, but no longer the Pacific Telephone Building, once the largest building south of Market Street.














Back to Square one, Part two

As I mentioned in January of 2021, there are plenty of historic and relaxing public squares in San Francisco to visit, but Union Square is still THE Square I go to most to get a break during a busy San Francisco day. Don’t let the doomsayers frighten you; it’s festive, as always, in Union Square this Christmas Season. The Union Square Instagram page posted a map of historic places around the Union Square area to see, and it’s a nice little tour guide. They’ve included ten historic spots to visit on the map, although, I would have made it eleven historic things and included the Beacon Grand Hotel, or twelve historic things and included the Clift Hotel, or…… Anyway, I searched my site to find pictures I posted in the past at the historic points listed on the map, and added a few new updates. (Thumbnail images)


I’ll start at the northwest corner of Geary and Stockton Streets looking toward Union Square during the 1950s: (San Francisco Pictures Blog)

The northwest corner of Union Square in the 1960’s and a couple enjoying their Second Amendment Right to bare arms: (William Gedney)

Maiden Lane on St. Patrick’s Day 1948, and all dressed up at Christmastime, 2019: Maiden Lane doesn’t have the glamour any more that it once had when it was a crowded two block alley with expensive shops.

The only building in San Francisco designed by Frank Lloyd Wright is at 140 Maiden Lane. Built in 1949, a number of galleries and businesses have been housed there.


Hey, it’s Holly Golightly on the left!

The map includes the Dragon Gate at Bush Street and Grant Avenue. To me, this has always been in the geographic Chinatown area, but I’m not going to quibble.

Ruth Asawa’s Fountain on Stockton Street between Post and Sutter: I’ve never done an update on this fountain before, so I scrolled through the San Francisco Public Library Archives to find a vintage picture. The iPhone Building blocks the view of Maiden Lane from here today. I don’t know why I never covered it before; Asawa’s Fountain, with its San Francisco imprints, is a nice piece of art.

Union Square, with the Dewey Monument on the left, during the 1906 Earthquake and Fire and in an update I  did recently in November of 2022:

Looking over Union Square toward the St. Francis Hotel in a slide picture I took in 1983, and an update I did of my picture in 2016:

Lane Turner, going into the old I Magnin store with the St. Francis Hotel in the background in the 1960 murder thriller ‘Portrait in Black’ and in 2015:

The Geary and Curran Theaters looking west in 1958: (blogspot.com)

Carol Channing, appearing at the Curran Theater in the late 1950s:

We’ll end up at the cable car turnaround at Market and Powell Streets: The vintage picture is from the 1940s; my update was taken in 2016. The Flood Building is in the background of both pictures.

They still decorate some of the public transportation over the Holidays, like the cable car waiting to approach the turnaround in an update I did yesterday, only they don’t get as carried away as they used to.

The Flood Building in 1908: Somebody is writing to “Mamma” saying that he or she missed seeing this building during their San Francisco trip. It’s too bad because it’s one of San Francisco’s most historic buildings.















“Where angels fear to tread” (Or, at least, they should)

Don’t get me wrong, I love San Francisco; I think it’s the most beautiful city in the world. That being said, I’m also aware of its problem areas. I took a walk Thanksgiving Day along Market Street from Powell Street to Van Ness to get some vintage then and nows. Although this stretch of Market has always bordered the Tenderloin, this used to be the place to visit on Saturdays and Sundays with lots of movie theaters and elegant stores to shop in. Not anymore. On holidays, with most of the businesses closed and few shopping visitors, the vagrants come over to Market Street like something out of the ‘Night of the Living Dead’. These are not all unfortunate victims of the pandemic or hard times; many of them are creepy people, and all of the well-wishing for them isn’t going to make them any less creepy. Whether or not you liked Herb Caen or Mayor Alioto, they wouldn’t have tolerated this; Herb Caen would have blasted the administration with his columns, and Alioto would have certainly used more aggressive tactics to get these people off the streets. Oh well, like my niece Carry Ann’s scientific theory of futility, “I squared w i squared” = It is what it is. I finished my updates, watching where I stepped, and left. (Thumbnail images)

Market Street at Larkin, looking west in 1956: The old Fox Movie Theater is in the background. The fellow in the vintage picture looks like John Travolta. (opensfhistory.org)

Looking east at Market Street and Larkin toward a parade in 1946: Yeah, like they’re going to have a parade here nowadays! “Hey, kids, would you like to sit on the sidewalk?” Not recommended. (opensfhistory.org)

Market Street and Hyde in 1962: From ‘How the West Was Won’ to ‘Frozen’ at the old Orpheum Theater. (opensfhistory.org)

The old Whitcomb Hotel in 1950: How did that survive? (opensfhistory.org)

The Weinstein Department Store was very popular in its day for both elegant and well-to-do shoppers. (San Francisco Public Archives)

Market Street at Gough in 1937: The Hotel Transient Permanent; never was there a more prophetic name for a hotel. (San Francisco Public Archives)