‘Portrait of a City’

I first learned about the book ‘San Francisco, Portrait of a City’ by Taschen Publishers last spring. It looked promising, but at $75.00, it seemed a little pricey, so I thought I’d wait awhile to see if I could buy a cheaper copy later. The price didn’t come down much by year’s end, but I did find a copy for sale at $55.00 in December on the internet. Here’s the first thing I’ll say about the book; it’s probably the heaviest book I’ve ever tried to read. At nearly ten pounds, if you were to drop it on your foot, you could possibly become crippled for life. The reason for this is that for each chapter, the text is printed in English, German, and French, separately. This makes the already oversized book weight three times as much as it normally would. The pictures aren’t repeated though, so for each chapter, the picture descriptions in the book appear in all three languages. That being said, if you can find a good desk or drafting table to prop it up to, the book is well worth browsing through. Mainly, this is because of the terrific vintage pictures throughout the book; some of which I’ve cover in the past from different sources, but many that I’ve never seen before. The cover picture here is at the Grant Avenue at Bush Street entrance to Chinatown during the 1950s. My update on the right is from June, 2022. (Thumbnail images)

First: So, you think the Skystar Ride in Golden Gate Park is exciting? Well, look at this beanbag! He’s going to walk down the giant rail on that ball. This attraction was held in the 1894 Midwinter Exposition, in the same area of the park where the Skystar is now.

California Street, just down from Stockton Street in 1915: Old St. Mary’s Church is blocked from the view here now. The Lenox Apartment Building on the right, next to the pagoda Sing Fat Building, would later serve as the Trafalgar Building in the 1947 movie ‘My Favorite Brunette’ Starring Bob Hope and Dorothy Lamour.

A two page image of the San Francisco skyline from a ferryboat during the 1920s: My update isn’t a bad attempt, as far as bad attempts go, considering my picture was taken several nautical miles north of the path the ferryboat in the vintage image was taking. Some of the buildings still around, that you can see from left to right in the vintage picture, are the Hills Brothers Building, the Pacific Telephone Building, the Call Building, the Hobart Building, the Hunter-Doolin Building, the Matson Building, the Russ Building, the Mark Hopkins, and the Ferry Building.

The Chinese New Year Parade, coming up Pine Street near Grant Avenue in 1934, was a much smaller event back then. At the end of Pine Street, at Market Street, you can see the Matson and PG&E Building in both pictures. The enormous Russ Building, once the tallest building in San Francisco, can be seen peeking out on the right in my photo. The little white building with the uneven windows in the foreground on the right is still around.

Another two page picture, one of my favorites in the book, is looking west along Market Street from Montgomery Street during the 1950s. The Palace Hotel is on the left.

Several posts back I asked if any of my readers ever wondered what people from the 1970s looked like in front of the Vaillancourt Fountain. Of course, I was just in a silly mood…… However, have you ever wondered what people looked like in front of the Crown Zellerbach Building on Market Street in 1962? Actually, they all look kind of bored.

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