Telegraph Hill revisited, 2023

Exploring Telegraph Hill is not for sissies; I’m reminded of that every time I forget that I’m not 25, 35 or even 45 anymore. With only one mode of public transportation climbing or descending the mountain, (well, let’s face it, that’s what it is) you’re going to do a lot of walking, much of it on hills or steps. So, the trick is to be heading downhill whenever possible. (Thumbnail images)


The easiest way to top of “owld Telygraft Hill” if you’re not driving, is to climb up the west side, courtesy of Muni #39, the only public bus that that goes to the top of the hill. I always enjoy the view of Saints Peter and Paul Church, Washington Square and Coit tower from Union Street and Columbus Avenue while I’m waiting for the bus, so I snapped a picture with my iPhone. When I got back to the office, I found a reasonable comparison photo from the 1930s from The rest of the vintage pictures are from the San Francisco Public Library Archives.


The northwest view of the old balustrade railing from the Coit Tower steps during the 1930s: Those urns would be stolen overnight nowadays. I wanted to go to the top of the tower, but just like the last time I went up, the elevator was out of service. For the price of admission, they were offering visitors again yesterday the option of taking the stairs up again, but I did that last November and I’m still recovering.

Pioneer Park, from behind where Coit Tower is now, during probably the late 1920s: It’s impossible to be sure exactly where the girl was standing, but my guess is about here; the vintage picture is looking toward Kearny Street, and you can see the Call and Chronicle Buildings in the background. I’ll have to ask my friend, Tony, if it’s possible that the tree to the left of where the girl was facing the camera in the vintage picture, and on the right in my photo is the same tree.

I headed down the Filbert Steps to the old, and now closed, Shadows Restaurant. I was in there shortly before it closed and it was nearly empty and lonely, but what a view from the bar!


Here’s an earlier photo of the Shadows. There was obviously fire damage, but I don’t know the story.


This is as close as I can get to a line up to where these kids were playing on Montgomery Street before the steps were built here between Union and Green Streets in 1928. The round cornered building on the left can be seen through the trees in my picture; the building across Montgomery Street, right center, is still there, as well.

I continued down the Filbert Steps to the bottom.  In January, I decided to walk up to the top of the hill from these steps. I’m still recovering from that too. Heading down, I passed a fellow walking up with a tired looking little girl. I smiled at the kid and said, “Don’t worry, only about a million more steps to go!” He gave me an unfriendly look, and she looked worried, and asked the guy if they did have a million more steps to go. To soothe her I said, “Just kidding, you’re almost there.” which they weren’t. She’ll hate me for the rest of her life. This photo is looking back up the steps from Sansome Street.

Sansome Street at Filbert, looking south: Those buildings on top of Telegraph Hill on Alta Street are still there.

“Hey, you threw the football over the wall! Go get it.”











4 thoughts on “Telegraph Hill revisited, 2023

  • Goodness, this is embarrassing! I can not identify the trees in those two pictures. However, they are unlikely to be the same. I can see that the form is very similar, although it is not similar enough. Furthermore, although I can not identify the species, it is somewhat obvious that they are not the same genus. Those in the first picture are obviously some species of Eucalyptus, and may be Eucalyptus camaldulensis, red gum. Although the species grows quite large in some regions, it is not as large in coastal regions. However, after so much time, it should be much larger than the trees in the second picture. Incidentally, red gum may have been the second most common species of Eucalyptus at the time. The tree of similar form in the second picture seems to be large shrubbery pruned up as a tree. Now that I explained all that, behind the tree of similar form in the second picture, there really is a eucalyptus of some sort, and the form just happens to be very similar to the form one of the trunks of the tree to the far right in the first picture. Of the two main trunks, it would be the trunk to the right. If so, the location of the two pictures could be very close to the same!

    • The more prominent tree in the more recent picture may be a ‘Marina’ madrone, which is not related to a Eucalyptus. Otherwise, the tree in the background may be the tree to the far right in the older picture, without its left trunk.

      • Ah, I asked the right person! Thank you, Tony! I wasn’t sure about the similarity of the trees, but the one in my picture looks pretty old. The southern crest of Telegraph Hill is a pretty small area, so just about any picture her would probably encompass where the girl was standing, but I may be right with my line up. Picture left of the girl is defiantly Kearny Street, and you can see the top of the Bank of America Building at California and Kearny Streets through the trees in the modern picture.

      • Yes, but the larger tree in the background is the older tree. The more prominent tree in the foreground is the ‘Marina’ madrone, which is not so old. It is popular because it develops that distinctively sculptural trunk and limbs that seem to be more mature than they really are. It develops smooth and cinnamon brown bark with patches of flaking bark. The Eucalyptus tree develops smooth bark also, but it is gray and perhaps tan, with peeling and rough patches.

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