A “Throwback Thursday” for Thanksgiving, 2020

I spent most of Thanksgiving week updating vintage 1906 Earthquake pictures around Downtown San Francisco. This doesn’t have much to do with current events, except that the COVID-19 Pandemic of 2020 has changed life in San Francisco more than anything in the history of the city since the 1906 disaster; with the possible exception of World War Two. Anyway, April of next year will be the 115th anniversary of that nightmare, so I may as well get an early start on the commemorating. Hopefully, things will be more back to normal by April of 2021, and San Francisco can look back at COVID-19 as a sad memory from the past, as well. Stay with me awhile as we rummage around the ruins of 1906 San Francisco. (Thumbnail images)


We’ll start out with an Arnold Genthe photograph of the ruins of William Randolph Hearst’s Examiner Building at 3rd and Market Street. The modern picture is the building Hearst rebuilt after the earthquake and fire. (The Art Institute of Chicago)


Looking south from Kearny, you can see the Hearst Building, in between the Chronicle Building on the left and the Call Building on the right, being dynamited. The remodeled Call Building is right center in the modern photo, and you can just see a portion if the red Chronicle Building on the left. (Monovision)


Looking east along Market Street from Stockton Street:  The Gothic looking Mutual Savings Bank Building in the center and the Call Building on the right, are in both photos.


An old postcard of the ruined Emporium Building, now the Westfield Centre:

Looking west along Post Street from Kearny Street: (The Library of Congress)

Looking east along Market Street from Kearny Street; this one turned out better in black in white because of the Market Street Canyon shadows. On the right are the old and new Palace Hotel, on the far left is the Chronicle Building. (The Library of Congress)


Looking east down Pine Street toward Montgomery Street: (rarehistoricalphotos.com)


The old Hall of Justice Building across Kearny Street, (spelled wrong in the vintage picture) from Portsmouth Square: The new Hall of Justice Building, built to replace the one destroyed in 1906, can be seen in many films and several television shows. Demolished in 1968, a Hilton Hotel where the pedestrian bridge crosses Kearny Street is was where the Hall of Justice Buildings stood.  (Monovision)


Looking east down Sacramento Street from Chinatown: You can see the Ferry Building in the background of the vintage picture. (rarehistoricalphotos.com)


Two blocks up Nob Hill from the previous picture at Sacramento and Powell Streets is where Arnold Genthe took his famous picture of San Franciscans watching their city being destroyed. This picture of his makes it on many lists as being one of the greatest photographs of all time.


Looking east on Geary Blvd past Union Square toward Stockton Street:


Union Square and the Dewey Monument looking toward the St. Francis Hotel before the northern wing was built: Normally, Union Square would be crazy tomorrow on “Black Friday”, but that won’t be the case this year. (Shorpy Archives)

Taking in the town the easy way (For Carrie Ann)

Last week, one of my nieces bought me an expensive electric bike as a surprise gift, and had it delivered from Texas. What a sweetheart, and what a blast I’m having! Last Sunday and today, I decided to ride around San Francisco hogging the camera and having nothing but fun; bicycling around all day without getting any exercise. Hey, don’t shake your heads; I’ve paid my dues around those SF hills on a regular bike many times in the past! (Thumbnail images)

California and Powell Streets, one of my favorite spots: Even taking a bus up here sometimes tires me out, but not today.


Bush Street and Grant Avenue at the entrance to Chinatown: (opensfhistory.org)


Relaxing awhile with Janis at the Palace of Fine Arts:


The Embarcadero, south of the Ferry Building in 1987, and about the same spot today: The little tyke in the purple skirt on my right in the picture was the one who bought me the bike.

A visit to Pier 45

This the first time I’ve been back here since the tremendous fire May 23rd 2020 destroyed Shed C of Pier 45 where the World War Two Liberty Ship, the Jeremiah O’Brien was docked. (Thumbnail images)


Looking toward Telegraph Hill from near the end of Pier 45:


Work clearing away the debris from the fire has uncovered some of the old Belt Line Railroad tracks.


Passengers, including me, waiting for the gates to open for the Fleet Day Cruise in October of 2017: The bottom picture of the gates now reminds me of the Portals of the Past out in Golden Gate Park


The view from the top of the Jeremiah O’Brien looking over Pier 45 toward Telegraph Hill and Downtown San Francisco was stunning!


Looking out over the top of Pier 45 toward the Golden Gate Bridge during the Parade of Ships for Fleet Week, 2018:


I took the top photo looking through the closed gates toward the Jeremiah O’Brien on March 21st 2020, four days after the shelter-in-place order of March 17th shut down the Liberty Ship indefinitely. Nobody could have imagined the inferno that would hit this portion of the pier just two months later.

“Hey, fella! What happened to the ship that was here?”

Actually, the Jeremiah O’Brien is tucked away at Pier 35 right now, but the crew is hoping to bring the ship back to her spot here at Pier 45 by next year.










“It ain’t over till it’s over.”

That idiom from Yogi Berra could apply to the upcoming election, the COVID19 Pandemic, or 2020. I think we’re all waiting for any of these developments to be over. I closed out October taking a few “walkabouts” around Nob Hill, thinking about some of the issues I was going to have to decide on this Tuesday. Even in pre-pandemic days, Nob Hill is a peaceful area to try and pull my thoughts together, something I seem to find harder and harder to do nowadays, and decide on some of the voting choices. In the end, as usual, I’ll probably make my decisions at the last moment, and leave the polling place wondering why I chose some of the selections I did. Now back to Nob Hill; if you map it out just right, you can walk around the entire hill without having to do too much uphill walking. (Thumbnail images)


The trick is to take the MUNI #1 bus up Sacramento Street to the top of Nob Hill and gradually wind your way back down the hill.  Under the circumstances, #1 was a little more crowded on this day than I would have liked.


The view east along California Street from Jones Street in 1956: The Huntington Hotel is on the right, and on the left are the Pacific Union Club Building and the Fairmont Hotel.  On the far right where a vacant lot was in 1956 is the Masonic Auditorium. This was where the mansion with the doorway that’s now the Portals of the Past site in Golden Gate Park was destroyed in the 1906 Earthquake leaving only the entrance standing. Cable car lines dissect Nob Hill like nowhere else in San Francisco, and when they’re running it’s almost impossible not to encounter one when on the hill. Cable car lines run on the California, Mason, Washington, Jackson, and Powell Streets portion of Nob Hill. You’ll see a lot of cable cars in the vintage pictures, but sadly, none in my pictures. (SFMTA Archives picture from the San Francisco Pictures blog)


Looking up Jones Street from California Street past the west side of Grace Cathedral in 1952 from the Charles Cushman Collection: No, we’re not going this way, the hill looks too steep and I’m getting tired just looking at it. We’ll head over to the Fairmont Hotel.

The Sacramento Street side of the front of the Fairmont Hotel in April of 1949: I was as lost in thought as the lady here appears to be when I passed by where she was sitting.

“I wonder why I voted for Dewey last November?” (opensfhistory.org)


One block west on Sacramento Street, and three blocks north downhill brings us to Jackson and Taylor Streets, looking west in 1952 in another picture from the Charles Cushman Collection. I don’t like the looks of that climb either, we’ll head the other way.


Looking east down Jackson Street from Mason Street in 1962: From here, we’ll head one block south on Mason to Washington Street.


We’ll turn east on Washington Street and head down hill to Powell Street. Looking west in the vintage photo and mine, you can see the cable car barn and museum on the right. (SFMTA Archives)


I didn’t get off entirely easy from Powell and Washington Streets to get back over to California Street; there’s an uphill grade this way, but either it goes by easier or I’m in better shape than I thought I was in. From California Street I headed into the sun and down Powell Street near Fella Alley where this 1940’s picture was taken just south of Pine Street.


We’ll cross Powell Street from where the previous pictures were taken and a view toward Bush Street in another cool picture from the 1940s that I found on Reditt.  We’re getting close to the bottom of Nob Hill and my destination. See that blue awning on the left just in front of the Academy of Art University? That’s the Roxanne Café, open for business again and glad to see me. A plate of ham, eggs over-easy, and seasoned potatoes were a perfect end to my lazy man’s Nob Hill adventure.


I passed the Mark Hopkins Hotel while I was up on the top of Nob Hill and thought of the Top of the Mark, temporarily closed. This vintage picture from 1927 when the hotel opened is looking east. Look at San Francisco from the Top of the Mark now, and then look back to 1927: The view is between California and Pine Streets and I squeezed two of my pictures together to make a reasonable comparison. At the far right in both pictures is the old Pacific Telephone Building, the tallest building south of Market Street up until the 1980s. Looking left toward the Hobart Building you can see the Hunter-Dulin Building on Montgomery and Sutter Streets under construction. Sam Spade from the Maltese Falcon would open up his detective practice in this building when it was completed. Looking left toward the Ferry Building, which is blocked from today’s view, almost all of those old buildings on Montgomery Street are gone now. In the center, and looking like something from the Parthenon in the vintage picture, is the Ritz-Carlton Hotel. The building was built in 1909 for the Metropolitan Life Insurance Company. Among other notables still visible on the left side of both pictures are Old St. Mary’s Church and the green roofed Federal Reserve Building. So look again at San Francisco from the Top of the Mark now and back in 1927. It might not be far-fetched to say that San Francisco has changed more in the past eight months than it did from 1927 to 2020. (opensfhistory.org)

More talking to celebrities around San Francisco (Thumbnail Images)

“Joan Crawford and Jack Palance up here on Russian Hill! What are you looking for with the binoculars, Ms. Crawford?”

“I’m looking for my daughter. She gives me more trouble.”

“I guess so, but after you’re gone, she’ll remember you fondly.”

“I hope so!”

(Vintage picture, ebay.com)

“Grouch Marx, here in front of the St. Francis Hotel! Are those your, mmmm, daughters?”

“No, they’re not my daughters, young man, and I’ll thank you to keep your innuendos to yourself. Speaking of innuendos, when I left my daughter in her hotel room earlier, I told her that when I went out through her door, I didn’t want any gentlemen visitors sneaking innuendo! Get it, innuendo, in your window?”

“I get it, but that might not be one of your funnier routines, Groucho.”

(SF Chronicle)


“Wow, Alfred Hitchcock and Herb Caen here in Union Square! Hello, you guys!”

“Good evening!”

“No, Mr. Hitchcock, it’s daytime. Say, you two look like you really have a struggle on your hands! You both must be pooped.”

“Puns like that aren’t going to make it into my column, fellow”

“Sorry, that wasn’t intentional, Mr. Caen.”


“Robert Vaughn! It looks like you’re filming a movie scene up here on Nob Hill in front of Grace Cathedral”

“Yes, and all of these extras and technicians are getting in my way. I’d rather go it Solo……. “Solo”, you’re not laughing!”

“Sorry, Mr. Vaughn, I didn’t get it at first.”



“Abbott and Costello, here on Powell Street across from Union Square! What are you guys up to?”

“We were thinking of checking into the St. Francis Hotel. Who’s the manager?”

“I don’t know!”

“No, he’s on third base.”

“Boy, I stepped right into that, didn’t I?”

(San Francisco Remembered Facebook page)


“Willie Mays! Welcome to San Francisco!”

“Say hey!”

“Hey! I hope that your baseball career will be as exciting in San Francisco as it was when you were in New York.”

“Say hey!”

“Hey! Why do you keep asking me to say that?”



“Mime artists, Lorene Yarnell and Robert Shields! Nice to see you two! How are you?”

“They’re doing fine!”

“Oh, well thank you, but I was talking to them. What are you two doing here in Union Square?”

“They’re getting married.”

“Thank you again, but I was talking to them! Congratulations! I hope you’ll both be very happy!”

“Thank you! They will be.”

“Excuse me, but can’t they speak for themselves?”

(SF Chronicle)








Want to see some watercolor paintings?

A gentleman named Thomas Little posted a series of terrific pictures on the San Francisco Remembered Facebook page of old watercolor paintings that are on the wall of the Fairmont Hotel lower lobby. When I went to the Fairmont last Saturday to check them out, a pretty receptionist at the door informed me that only people with reservations at the hotel were being allowed in at this time. I think I could have bribed my way past her, but she also said that there were no watercolor paintings in the Fairmont Hotel Lobby. One of us is goofy, Thomas, the pretty receptionist, or me; I’ll give the nod to the pretty receptionist who may be new on the job, and try again when things settle down. The artist identified in most of the watercolors is James March Phillips, but I don’t know if he painted all of them. James March Phillips died in 1981, and the paintings appear to be from the 1950s. Here are real life updates of some of the paintings that Mr. Little posted. (Thumbnail pictures)

Looking into the heart of Chinatown from the corner of Grant Avenue and Pine Street:

The view from Pioneer Park behind Coit Tower: Can’t see too much from here anymore.


San Francisco Bay looking toward Yerba Buena and Treasure Islands: My ship’s bigger!

I can’t leave out the Cliff House, seen from Sutro Heights. The view from the actual spot where the painting was made is blocked by trees now.

Looking down Hyde Street toward Alcatraz and Angel Islands:


Looking down Market Street from Stockton Street on the left, and 4th Street on the right: Many of the buildings in the painting are still around, the small white building on the corner of Stockton Street, the Phelan Building behind it, the old gothic looking Mutual Savings Bank Building, and across Market Street are the Call Building and the old Humboldt Building, just peeking out between two newer buildings.


Market Street at Powell Street: It’s a nice gesture, but flowers on crooked poles do not a cable car turnaround make without cable cars.

Looking down California Street from near Stockton Street: In fairness to me, and I’m all for that, I’m not always off-angle; sometimes the artist took an artistic license with the paintings; California Street does not veer to the right past Grant Avenue from here.


Also, one doesn’t leave the Ferry Building out. And you thought I was going to!

Updates, of lates, and can’t waits

This is a collection of some comparison pictures I’ve done in the past that I redid, some new ones that I’ve taken of late, and some wishful thinking. (Thumbnail images)


Geary Blvd. at Stockton Street in 1950: The crowds are starting to explore Downtown San Francisco again. I can’t wait for the “Black Friday” shopping crowds again! Wait, did I write that? (Opensfhistory.org)


It was a lot more crowded in Maiden Lane in 1955 than it was last weekend. I’m not sure what was going on in Maiden Lane when the vintage picture was taken, but I suspect it was a Godzilla alert. (SF Chronicle)

The above two vintage photos from the San Francisco Theaters Blog are looking down California Street from near Mason. I think the San Francisco Theaters blog may have gotten the one in color from opensfhistory.org. On the left is the old Nob Hill Theater, not to be confused with the Nob Hill Theater on Bush Street that just closed in 2018. The Nob Hill Theater in the Fairmont Hotel opened in 1944 and closed in 1964. I never made it to this one, but I sure do miss going to the movies nowadays. There’s a movie theater in Castro Valley that I’ve been going to since I was 10! I sure hope it survives. I can’t wait to see the new James Bond movie.


Looking back up California Street toward the Nob Hill Theater in another vintage picture from the San Francisco Theaters Blog: ‘KATH HEPBURN’; they needed a bigger marquee, you don’t short-change a lady like that.

They’ve been parking cable cars at the end of some of the boarding locations recently for photo ops. It’s a step in the right direction, but I can’t wait until they start rolling again. It was nice of these two fellows to pose for me at the cable car turnaround at Powell and Market Streets last Saturday. (Vintage photo, ebay.com)

Speaking of cable cars, the above vintage photo is a wonderful picture by Andreas Feininger looking down Jones Street from California Street in 1942. Those are the tracks from the old Jones Street cable car line that was discontinued in the late 1950s.


A few years back, a friend of mine named Nora asked me if I could locate where this picture of her mom and dad in San Francisco in the 1940s had been taken. She remembered her mother telling her the photo was taken in San Francisco, but not where. Nora sent me the picture, and it wasn’t too difficult to identify where they were. The movie theater behind them probably placed them on Market Street, but the Weinstein Department Store sign in the back ground between the two of them nailed it down to Market Street between 6th and 7th Streets. I did a then and now comparison for Nora and she was delighted. Of course, I didn’t let on to her that my quest was easy; I rather intimated that my search to find the location took the skills of a combination of Albert Einstein and Sherlock Holmes to find the spot, but I don’t think I fooled Nora. I wasn’t happy with the original comparison picture I took for Nora a few years ago, so I did a redo for her last Saturday. Weinstocks was in the blue building left center in the modern picture.


The vintage picture above refers to safety slackers in front to the Ferry Building during the 1918/1919 Spanish Flu epidemic. The fellow on the left has a mask on, so there was probably more going on here than meets the eye. (Redditt)

“I have a mask on! Why am I under arrest?”

“Because you stole this other fellow’s mask!”

“Well, then why is he under arrest?”

“Because he doesn’t have a mask on!”

The Halloween that won’t be

I love San Francisco during Halloween time. Vampires prowl Nob Hill, witches turn up everywhere around town, and you can find yourself wondering if some of the old houses in San Francisco rumored to be haunted just might be! For many past October 31sts I’ve gone over to San Francisco to get into a Halloween feeling before heading home to deal with the little extortionists knocking on my door after dark. I learn what’s in with kids and what’s not anymore from the costumes they wear each year. Sadly, people who enjoy the Halloween routines in October, like me, will miss that this year. These are few Halloween time photos I’ve posted during past Halloween seasons, complete with ghosts, witches, and a few haunted houses. I’ll also include a few Halloween events I’ve attended, and a few I may not have enjoyed had I have gone. (Thumbnail images)

We’ll start out at the old Armory on Mission Street between 14th and 15th Streets. This “fortress” was constructed just before World War One as an arsenal. The October I did my comparison picture here, a fright show exhibit called ‘Inferno’ ran through October as a Halloween attraction. The young lady who was working for me at the time went to experience it and told that it was horrifying to the point of being repulsive! That was good enough for me to be glad I missed out on that.

Two Halloweens ago, what might have been a similar attraction to the previous one was on display in the old Mint Building on 5th and Mission Streets call the ‘Terror Vault’. I didn’t go to that either; not because I was afraid, I can face anything if I have enough Xanax, I just wasn’t in the mood, and that sounded like something you really had to be in the mood for.

The top comparison pictures are on the flight deck of the aircraft carrier the U.S.S. Hornet, docked in Alameda,  in April of 1945 and several Octobers ago during Fleet Week. (Fleet Week is another October tradition cancelled this year)

One of the best Halloween parties that I have attended several times is the “Monster’s Ball” on board the Hornet, one of the best public Halloween gatherings in the Bay Area.

Now we’ll get to the witches, and there are plenty of them casting spells around San Francisco during October, like these two at the Embarcadero Center in October of 1989. My comparison picture was in October of 2018.

Also in October of 2018 was a comparison photo I did of a witch with a very long….. something, hanging out on the building where the old San Francisco Academy of Art University on Sutter Street used to be. I couldn’t get a date on the old SF Chronicle picture.

You’ll see plenty of ghosts around town too. This was a picture I took looking through the Pier 43 Arch in 2015. I still can’t figure out why I didn’t see her when I took the picture.

Let’s move on to a few old houses rumored to be haunted. Like this house on the corner of Fulton and Scott Streets at the northwest corner of Alamo Square. I don’t know if it’s haunted or not, but it should be.

The old mansion On California Street once owned by Gertrude Atherton is supposed to be haunted, as well. Hmm, there she is again!


If the old Laguna Mansion at Laguna and Jackson Streets in Pacific Heights is haunted, as is said to be, It would be haunted by the ghosts of old spies. There were many of them lurking around this house when it was the German Consulate just before World War Two broke out.


A spooky looking orange Ferry Building just before Halloween in 2010: The orange fits in good for the occasion, but it was for the San Francisco Giants who were only a few days away from winning their first World Series championship.

The San Francisco Kinetoscope Parlor near 8th and Market St. circa 1900. The kinetoscope arcade attraction invented by either Thomas Edison or Louis Le Prince, depending on which country you’re from, is a one person attraction where the viewer looks down into a glass scope to watch a moving picture. There are still several working kinetoscopes on display at the Musée Mécanique Arcade in Pier 45 at Fisherman’s Wharf, closed at this time because of the COVID 19 Pandemic. However, what I like best when I go there, especially at Halloween, is taking on Uncle Fester from the Addams Family in the 3000 volt challenge, which isn’t as easy as it seems when this thing is operating correctly. (Museum of Modern Art Film Library)

The haunts of a white-collar worker (Thumbnail images)

I’ve been staying in the East Bay Area for the past week or so, and haven’t been able to get over to San Francisco for awhile. Mostly, this is because the October 15th income tax deadline for those who filed an extension in July and who told me that they wouldn’t wait until October to file, are waiting until October to file! There’s nothing wrong with that; I haven’t filed my tax return yet, either. These are comparison photos taken in the two cities that I’ve worked in the most during my life, Oakland and Hayward, California. I’ll start in Oakland.


The following vintage pictures of Downtown Oakland are from the Downtown Oakland Property Collection: I spent most of my twenties in life working at this building on the corner of 12th Street and Broadway; the Bank of America Oakland Main Office, ‘OMO’ as it was referred to back then. Although Oakland had its issues then as it does today, I remember this area as being a fun place to be young in, and some of the happiest and romantic days of my life were spent in and around this building. It’s still a bank building today, Comerica Bank, which didn’t have any branches in the area back when I worked there. When I was employed there the building was owned by Robert Lurie, who was at that time the owner of the San Francisco Giants.


This is one block up at 13th and Broadway. The blue building in the center, which was on the corner of 14th and Broadway, was the Bank of California Building once. On the ground floor of the Bank of California Building was Smith’s Men’s Store. I remember buying a stylish suit at Smith’s about the third year after I started working for Bank of America that looked like something Rhett Butler would have worn if he would have around in the 1970s. Shortly after buying the suit, I was passing by Smith’s again while wearing it, and there was a panhandler on the corner who I ignored, as most people did back then. As I walked past him he yelled to me loudly, “Damn! Where’d you cop that bad-ass suit?” That was one the best compliments I’ve ever had in my life! I think I gave him five bucks!


This one is kind of special to me. I bought my very first suit the second year after I started working for the bank here at Bond Clothes. I was dating a teller named Melodie at the time who helped me pick the suit out. In fact, the little rascal insisted on going into the dressing room with me while I tried it on. Hey, I was young once too. After the renovation to the area, I wasn’t able to locate exactly where Bond Clothes used to be until I found this picture. Also, I still have that suit and can still get into it if I hold my breath deep enough. I’ll keep it for the rest of my life.


This is looking back toward 14th Street across Broadway from Bond Clothes at 15th Street. Downtown Oakland didn’t really look a lot different from these vintage pictures two decades later when I started working in the area.


This is looking back toward the Bank of America Building along 12th from Franklin Street. ‘OMO’ was really a fun building to work in. It had a rickety old elevator that ran four floors from the basement to the third floor. You could stop the elevator between floors by sliding open the crisscross metal door to catch a few kisses, if you were riding with the right company, before heading on to your floor.


About ten miles south of Oakland is Hayward. My father started his income tax practice in Downtown Hayward in 1960, and I continued running the business after his death in 1993. Hayward is where I do all of my income tax and bookkeeping work, edit the posts for my San Francisco photography website, and occasionally sleep with my feet up on the desk. The top vintage picture is Foothill Blvd near A Street looking north in the 1950s. This is about two blocks from where my dad’s income tax practice originally opened. This was once a bustling shopping area before the opening of the Southland Mall in the early 1960s, which eventually put all of the department stores in the vintage picture out of business.


This is Foothill Blvd., looking south from the previous picture around the same time. Joseph Magnin, Milens Jewelers, Lewis Carpets, Bond Clothes, Smith’s, and all the rest, were doomed when the Southland Mall opened. (Hayward Area Historical Society)


‘Bullitt’ showing at the old Ritz Theater on Mission Blvd: I’ll bet that that’s where I saw ‘Bullitt’ for the first time. The Ritz Theater would eventually become a porn theater before it was demolished. (Cinematreasures.org)


The southeast corner of B Street and Mission Blvd long ago: Scenes were filmed at this corner in 1972 for the 1973 film ‘Steelyard Blues’, starring Jane Fonda and Donald Sutherland. (Pinterest / T.J. Soares)


Donald Sutherland chases Jane Fonda along Mission Blvd. to the corner of B Street, seen in the previous picture, past what is now called the Eden Loan Company in 1973’s ‘Steelyard Blues’.


The old City Hall on Mission Blvd. empty for over 40 years:  Too bad they can’t find a way to reuse this fine old building. It’s sitting right on the Hayward Fault and isn’t worth renovating, I guess. One of my older brothers got tossed into jail here overnight for too much partying. He told me that the cell they had in the basement wasn’t any bigger than the one Andy and Barney used to always toss Otis into in ‘Andy of Mayberry’. (Hayward Area Historical Society)


A Hayward landmark, “Big Mike” stood at this location on Mission Blvd. where a car wash used to operate for years. (Wikimedia Commons)














“Ch-ch-ch-ch-changes” (Thumbnail images)

San Francisco has changed due to the COVID-19 Pandemic more than it has since the 1906 Earthquake and Fire, unless you count the 1960s skyscraper boom, and I’ll try to ignore that. When I write about changes in San Francisco, it’s actually worldwide, but since I haven’t been out of the Bay Area since the shelter-in-place order was issued in March, I’ll keep it local and respect the fact that this is only a small portion of the impact and problems effecting the whole world. This collection concerns some of the changes in San Francisco since the pandemic and some of the city’s prospects. Also, I’ll cover some of the places and things that will survive, and others that haven’t or may not.


The southern side of Union Square in 1943, and one of two entrance and exits today to the parking garage: Although things are picking up, you’re still not going to have much trouble finding parking space in San Francisco’s most famous parking garage. Herb Caen once referred to people who had hopes of finding a parking space here during a busy day downtown as a “Sorry, full lot.” (ebay.com, lobsterclaws)


Across Powell Street from Union Square and the northern side of the St. Francis Hotel in 1955: The hotel industry in San Francisco has been devastated by COVID-19, and some projections for a full recovery extend as far as 2025, and beyond. My picture is a little more wide angled than the vintage picture, but it’s probably for the best. (ebay.com)


One of the things I miss the most is the F Line of vintage streetcars that run along Market Street and the Embarcadero; seen here in front of the Ferry Building, and compared to a vintage picture in the 1930s from the Charles Smallwood collection. Like the cable cars, they still run these streetcars in practice occasionally, so they’ll be back some day.


There’s even talk of the Cliff House closing forever, which I do not for one minute believe! This vintage picture of the Cliff House is one of the earliest I’ve seen and probably goes back to the 1860s. (SF Chronicle / SF Gate)


One thing that didn’t survive, and I’ll always miss it, is the Louis Restaurant, just up from the Cliff House. Louis’s had been around since 1937, and was standard routine for me when showing out-of-town visitors around San Francisco. The vintage picture was taken in 1966 during the fire that destroyed the Sutro Bathhouse next to Louis Restaurant.


The World War Two Liberty Ship, the Jeremiah O’Brien, was moved from Pier 45 to Pier 35 last May after the fire that destroyed part of Pier 45. Lonely and mostly empty today, there’s talk that she may move back to Pier 45 as early as September, and like the F Line of Streetcars, I’m rooting for that too.


And what about Chinatown? The 1906 Earthquake and Fire destroyed every single building in Chinatown. Chinese were not particularly popular at the time, and there was talk of relocating the district down to today’s Bayview Area. Chinatown quickly built two pagoda style buildings at the intersection of California Street and Grant Avenue, (then called Dupont Street) the Sing Fat Building, seen here in the 1920s, and the Trademark Building across California Street. The Chinese citizens made it clear that they weren’t going anywhere. (ebay.com, girlcat)


Unless it’s eaten again by a giant octopus, the Ferry Building, San Francisco’s “grande dame” will survive COVID-19. The Farmers’ Market is thriving on weekends, and people are shopping in the building once again. (ebay.com)



Baseball is back in San Francisco, but “far from the maddening crowd” and the Giants aren’t doing much better than they did last year. The first two photos  I took looking across McCovey Cove on October 26th 2014 before the 5th game of the World Series. The Giants won that game and went on to win the 2014 World Series, one of the most exciting ‘Fall Classic’ ever played. The second two pictures  were taken last week, September 16th just before the start of a night game against Seattle that was moved to San Francisco because of bad air quality around Seattle. The Giants won that game too.


So, I guess if it can come back from Godzilla, San Francisco will be back to normal someday after COVID-19. The crowned building in the center of the vintage picture was the Call Building in 1900; at that time the tallest building in San Francisco. The Call Building survived the 1906 Earthquake and Fire. In the late 1930s, the crown was removed and the building was remodeled. It’s the white and brown striped building in the center of my picture. (ebay.com, cat’s paw prints)