This 1912 panorama from one of the volumes in the History Room at the San Francisco Main Library was taken looking south from Telegraph Hill between Montgomery and Kearny Streets. Development on the hill has made a perfect comparison shot today unavailable, (unless you’re one of the lucky people living in some of the buildings on this side of Telegraph Hill today) so the best I could do was use a composite of two pictures I took from the top of Coit Tower between Montgomery, where the Pyramid Building is, and Kearny, where the dark Bank of America Building is. The pictures sweep from the top of Nob Hill on the right to the downtown business district of San Francisco on the left. The highest spot in the vintage photo is of the Fairmont Hotel on the top of Nob Hill. You can see it from my picture behind the Fairmont Tower built in the 1960’s. The building with the cupola and white stripes near the center of the picture is the Sentinel Building also known as the Columbus Tower. You can still see it from much higher up in my picture. Speaking of cupolas, this building is owned by film director Francis Ford Coppola! The large building with the arches to the left and behind of Columbus Tower was the old Hall of Justice Building on Kearny. This building was the setting of many films and at least two television shows, ‘The Lineup’ (San Francisco Beat) and ‘Ironside’. It was demolished for the Hilton Hotel in 1967. Trivia note, the swimming pool on top of this Hilton was where “Scorpio” shot the girl in the opening of the 1971 film ‘Dirty Harry’. The area of smaller buildings between the Fairmont Hotel and the Columbus Tower is Chinatown. None of the surviving buildings on the far left can be seen from here today because of the downtown skyscraper boom that began in the 1960’s.
I wonder how many people remember what that’s from. These are vintage photographs of San Francisco from the History Room at the San Francisco Main Library taken not long after the 1906 Earthquake and Fire destroyed the city. They certainly go WABAC, I mean, way back. Here is Market Street and Kearny in 1910. On the left is Lotta’s Fountain, placed here in 1875, and the old Chronicle Building. That’s the brand new Palace Hotel on the right. The previous Palace Hotel was completely destroyed by the 1906 fire. One block west from the previous picture at Market Street and Grant Avenue in 1910: The Gothic style roof of 704 Market Street can still be seen on the left. The Palace Hotel is farther down on the right. At the foot of Market Street in this and the preceding picture is the beloved Ferry Building. There’s some construction work being done on both sides of Market Street, possibly due to the 1906 Earthquake, although, most of the damage from this area had been cleared up by 1910. The Sing Fat Building, (No, not the “Fat Lady Sings” Building) on the corner of Grant Avenue and California in Chinatown circa 1907: Notice that the street marker on the left still identifies Grant Avenue as Dupont Street. The street name was changed to Grant Avenue in 1908. The Fairmont Hotel on top of Nob Hill in 1910: Looks, kind of, lonely! Herb Caen once called the Fairmont Hotel “Playland-at-the-Beach on the hill.” I’m not sure what he meant by that, (or maybe I’m not grown up enough to understand) but I thought it was a funny line. This 1909 picture is, probably, the oldest picture of the current Cliff House I’ve seen. When Adolph Sutro’s gingerbread Cliff House burned down in 1907, this one built in 1909 is basically the same building, after much remodeling, that’s there today. Mason, Turk, and Market Streets in 1910: The Mechanics Savings Building on the left and the Flood Building in the far back are still there. I used a picture I took here during the 2014 San Francisco Giants World Series victory parade instead of the one I took today because I thought it made a better comparison. Also, this is 2016, and I hope to be back at this spot again in October for another Giants World Series victory parade. Click on the link below for a series about the Giants I posted in March of 2015 when I originally ran the victory parade picture.
In 1915, Roscoe “Fatty” Arbuckle, and Mabel Normand, two extremely popular stars of a relatively new pastime, going to the “flickers” made two short films in San Francisco. In the more famous of the two they visit the 1915 Panama Pacific Exposition and tour the Downtown San Francisco area. The film shows a number of sweeping panoramas including the Fair, the front of the Ferry Building, Union Square, and the City Hall under construction. After opening scenes shot at the Fair, the film takes viewers to Downtown San Francisco starting at the Ferry Building, with the original 1915 numbers on the tower that were replicated in 2015. After the Ferry Building, the film follows traffic up Market Street. This is at Market Street just up from Grant Avenue. You can still see the columned building on the corner of Grant on the left today, and the building at the right center with the single row of windows, which is the Hearst Building. Next on the 1915 tour is the St Francis Hotel and Union Square. It’s ironic that scenes were filmed here; six years after this short movie was made a scandal at the St. Francis Hotel resulting in three rape trials would put an end to Fatty Arbuckle’s career. The film moves to the new City Hall Building, where Mabel and Fatty meet with Mayor “Sunny Jim” Rolph, San Francisco’s longest serving, and probably most popular in his time, mayor. On the steps of City Hall amidst construction debris, Fatty almost slips. I’m not sure if this was acting on his part or a real mishap. The attractive couple in my picture made it down the steps without any problem. After this scene comes a little comedy. One of the attractions at the time was an English prisoner ship ‘Success’ tied up at the Ferry Building. Mabel and Fatty visit the ship and one of its attractions, the “Iron Maiden”. Now, why do you just know that Mabel is going to go inside of it, and that Fatty will almost accidentally impale her on its deadly spikes! “It’s okay, go on in. We won’t let the door close!” Mabel just might be as dumb as she looks!
After nearly being spiked to death, Mabel slaps Fatty’s face. Of course, he does the natural thing and tries to push her back into the Iron Maiden Hey, girls can make you mad! The other movie, Mabel and Fatty made in San Francisco in 1915 was ‘Wished on Mabel’ shot entirely in Golden Gate Park. The film opens with Mabel, on the left and her mother sitting on a bench in Golden Gate Park where Fatty, who’s standing in front of the Conservatory of Flowers, notices her. The look on his face tells us right away that he’s smitten by her non obvious charms! A number of scenes were filmed at the old Stone Bridge that crosses Stow Lake to Strawberry Hill including these. At the upper left, a lecherous thief starts hitting on Mabel when Fatty comes to her rescue below. Mabel must have something going for her for these guys to be so hot on her! The thief has an encounter with another fellow at the same bench in the upper right photo. There’s still a bench at this peaceful location today, and I wasn’t going to start hitting on the girl there, I don’t want Fatty coming after me! A kiss near the end of the film between Mabel and Fatty near the stone path below the waterfall that runs down Strawberry Hill, and all’s well that ends well, but not in real life! Roscoe Arbuckle, whose career was ruined by the St. Francis Hotel rape scandal, died of a heart attack in 1933 at age 46. Mabel Normand had died of tuberculosis three years earlier in 1930, age 37. Even Mayor “Sunny Jim” Rolph died around this time in 1934. The rocks at the stone path here have been replaced during the last hundred years, but the spot looks pretty similar today. Incidentally, if you like the movies, click on the link below for a collection of film clips from movies made in San Francisco that I posted in September of 2015.
Lately, to myself, I’ve been referring to my picture taking trips as to being “out in the field”. It sounds a little James Bondian, although, I don’t look like James Bond, and my trips in the field aren’t usually as precarious as Bond’s. Still, I do seem to capture what looks like an occasional SPECTRE agent in some of my pictures. Going out in the field often leads me to Chinatown, as intriguing and mysterious of a place as any Bond has visited. (Peter Stratmoen)
It’s hard to tell the SPECTRE agents from the tourists in Chinatown because it’s so crowded! (Peter Stratmoen)
Trips out in the field can bring me to the same place over and over, especially, if it’s one of the most photographed locations in San Francisco like the Powell Street cable car turntable. (The Vintage Everyday site)
When in the field I regularly scout for out of the way book stores looking for San Francisco lore. Sometimes, I can’t believe what some stores let get away; like two books I recently found. Here, is a 1949 autographed copy of Herb Caen’s most famous work, ‘Baghdad-by-the-Bay’ with its terrific San Francisco Chronicle illustrations like this one of Pacific Street when it was the International Settlement. Was it really like that?
Also, another find is a book that I just recently learned about, ‘Laughter on the Hill’ by Margaret Parton with wonderful 1940’s style drawings. Margaret writes about a year she spent in San Francisco just before Pearl Harbor, and although her adventures are often banal by today’s standards, she, obviously, loves San Francisco, and her colorful descriptions of the City during this period are a delight to read. The inscription from Margaret herself reads, “To Dorothy – who really began this book – with all love and gratitude from Margaret.” May 21, 1945. That taxi driver in the cartoon certainly is giving Margaret a helping hand!
Being out in the field would be a lot easier if I moved into San Francisco. Here’s a nice place! I’ll just knock on the door and see what they want for it. That’s the Haas-Lilienthal House at California and Franklin Streets then and now.
Powell Street near Ellis: When morning trips in the field take me to this area, there’s a place right across the street from where you’re looking called Tad’s Steak House serving delicious and modestly priced breakfasts. I try to plan as many trips in the field around this area as possible. (Vintage picture from Randy Shaw’s book ‘The Tenderloin’)
Being out in the field in Golden Gate Park can sometimes involve an encounter with an apparent offspring of ‘Kronos’, the “Planet Robber” from outer space!
Trips out in the field usually involve stepping into the past, and no place is this more vivid than the ever changing – never changing Market Street. The building on the right would later become the Emporium and is now Bloomingdale’s. The domed Humboldt Building is still there, and right behind that is a good look at what the Call Building, a survivor of the 1906 Earthquake and Fire, used to look like before its crown was removed and it was remodeled in 1938. The Call Building, now called the Central Tower, is the brown and white striped building behind the Humboldt Building.
Well, James Bond himself out in the field at Fisherman’s Wharf! Hey, 007, let me give you a trade secret when out in the field here; try the Blackened Red Snapper at the Grotto. (A View to a Kill)
“Sneakin’ Sally through the alley.” That line has, absolutely, nothing to do with this collection of San Francisco alley photos, but I like it, so I threw it in. Top row, left to right; Mary Pickford, Hollywood’s first “America’s Sweetheart” came to San Francisco in 1918 to film ‘Amarilly of Clothes-Line Alley’. Film scholars and this amateur movie sleuth haven’t been able to positively identify the alley used in the movie, but many think it may have been Waverly Place as it empties into Washington in the right photo. Ninety eight years is a long time, and things change, but there are still a lot of things about this location that don’t line up to me. Still, it’s the favorite comparison, so, I’ll include it here, and keep looking. Second row from the top; Clint Eastwood’s “Dirty Harry” character chases a terrorist suspect, who has detonated a bomb in the men’s room of the police station Harry works out of, up Osgood Alley in North Beach in the 1976 film ‘The Enforcer’. To me, this is what a San Francisco alley is supposed to look like; it levels out at the bottom of Telegraph Hill on to Pacific St where the old fire station is, and is surrounded by old brick buildings. Btw, Harry caught him; like Dudley Do-Right of the Mounties, he always gets his man! Second row from the bottom; Buster Keaton, here at 2nd and Minna Streets from the 1922 movie ‘Daydreams’. The building at the end of the alley was demolished before 1939 to build the Trans Bay Terminal. In the center photo Keaton races west down the alley ahead of, just about every member of the 1922 San Francisco police force as a streetcar passes heading south on 2nd. At the far right, looking east down Minna Alley in the modern picture, you can see the end of the demolition of the Trans Bay Terminal Building in progress. Bottom row; I like this comparison of children in a Chinatown alley. The photo on the left is by turn of the 20th Century photographer Arnold Genthe, a fellow who had nothing better to do than to go around San Francisco taking pictures. Now, I ask you, “Who does that?” Actually, his photographs of early San Francisco, particularly, Chinatown are considered masterpieces, and one of his pictures, taken down Sacramento Street after the 1906 San Francisco Earthquake is considered one of the ten best photographs of all time. Although not as quaint as the pre 1906 picture, children in Chinatown today still have a customary flavor in their style.
When Coit Tower opened the concept of a psycho shooting at people with a high powered rifle from the top of the building would have been unimaginable! But that was 1933, and this is 1972, I mean, it was when this episode of ‘The Streets of San Francisco’ was filmed. The sniper is shooting from the first left window from the center of the tower.
The sniper’s view from Coit Tower and the view today:
Papa Cop (Karl Malden) and “Buddy Boy” (Michael Douglas) arrive on the scene.
A plan is put into place. They’re going to try the old, “Drive around the Columbus Statue to make him think that you’re leaving and then rush the building.” trick.
“Bridges? We ain’t got no bridges. I don’t have to show you any stinkin’ bridges!”
Well, San Francisco does have bridges to show you. Upper left, rare color film of the Bay Bridge in 1940 from James Fitzpatrick’s ‘Cavalcade of San Francisco’. Hey, that crazy guy’s going the wrong way! Oh, I forgot. Look at that riveting! Upper right, “Scaramouche! Scaramouche! Will you do the Fandango?” The old Stone Bridge at Stow Lake in Golden Gate Park makes a great place for Scaramouche to hide under while being chased by the King’s soldiers in the 1952 film of the same name. The setting was supposed to be the Normandy section of old France, but most of it was filmed in Golden Gate Park, including Speedway Meadow, Rainbow Falls, the Band Concourse, and the Shakespeare Gardens. This movie also features the longest sword fighting scene in cinema history, according to Leonard Maltin. Lower left, Margaret Lindsay crosses over Butchertown Bridge, today’s Lefty O’Doul Bridge, and is kidnapped by boat after learning that her sister Bette Davis has been murdered in the 1934 movie ‘Fog Over Frisco’. She’s having a bad day! Today, lots of people who are having a bad day cross over the Lefty O’Doul Bridge when the Giants lose! Whether this scene was actually filmed at Lefty O’Doul Bridge can be argued, but it lines up pretty good with today’s Lefty O’Doul Bridge. Lower right, Kirk and Spock at the Golden Gate Bridge in the 1986 movie ‘Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home’ Spock could see into the future! He’s saying to Kirk, “Someday, a silly girl who hasn’t been born yet, and can’t make up her mind whether she’s a blond or brunette, will be sitting on this chain rail next to us!”
San Francisco Churches: Upper left, the green Jaguar parked in front of Mission Dolores was driven by Kim Novak in the 1958 film ‘Vertigo’. Parked behind her is Jimmy Stewart’s Desoto. Miss Novak portrays a woman who believes that she is being possessed by the spirit of a lady named Carlotta Valdes who killed herself in 1857, and she must do the same thing. I feel better about my own hang ups now! Upper right, two intriguing individuals at Grace Cathedral; Robert Vaughn, the Man from U.N.C.L.E. and Dianne, the Girl from T.R.O.U.B.L.E. Both made an impression on my life; one of them was a childhood hero, and one of them gave me my dog ‘Danny’. No, Dianne wasn’t the childhood hero. The steps to the entrance have been remodeled since the Robert Vaughn scene from ‘Bullitt’ and the balcony he’s looking from has been removed. Lower left, dazed survivors of the 1906 Earthquake wander down California Street passed a burned out Old St. Mary’s Church in Chinatown on the left, and St. Mary’s today, seen behind the pagoda building. The biblical passage under the clock above the entrance is from Ecclesiasticus, Chapter 4; “Son, observe the time and fly from evil” (I wasn’t that good of an altar boy, I had to look that up) Lower right, Cecil B DeMille made two versions of ‘The Ten Commandments’, the 1956 film that deals, largely with the Exodus, and the lesser known 1923 movie that is two stories in itself; the story of Moses and the Ten Commandments, and a modern day (1923) story of two brothers, one good, one bad. The modern story was filmed mainly in Washington Square during the building of Saints Peter and Paul Church. The evil sibling who is contracting the construction uses faulty cement for the foundation which causes a wall to collapse on the mother of the two who has come to visit her good son working on the structure, and kills her. The wicked brother goes insane because of this. The only reason that I can see for the updated part of the movie, is to show what can happen to us if we break God’s Commandments. Of course, that doesn’t explain why the kindly mother had to get crushed, but I try not to examine these lessons too deeply.
Gone, the old Transbay Terminal Building: My picture was taken on August 3rd 2010, four days before the Transbay Terminal closed forever. That building in the background of the vintage picture was damaged during the 1989 Loma Prieta Earthquake and had to be demolished. Gone, old timers in Chinatown who still referred to Grant Avenue as “Dupont Gai” or Dupont Street up until the 1980’s: This was the street’s original name until after the 1906 Earthquake. Gone, many of the vintage Victorian houses in the Western Addition near Fillmore, demolished in the 1960’s and 1970’s: However, some of these houses, like this one, survived, when they were sold for practically nothing, relocated and restored. Here is this lucky one today on Ellis Street near Divisadero. (Dave Glass) Gone, Haight-Ashbury during the “Summer of Love”: Gone, the trains that used to run to Fisherman’s Wharf: That’s the Cannery Building on the right.
Kearny Street near Jackson: See the little tower near the bottom of the enormous Bank of America Building? If you did notice that, you might have thought to yourself, “Now, why does that look familiar?” It’s gone in the modern picture. We’ll get back to this in a moment. (Vintage pictures by Peter Stratmoen)
Looking down California Street from Grant Avenue: This fellow seemed to have a propensity for taking pictures on dark and gloomy days; the Edgar Allan Poe of 1970’s photography. Notice the building with the clock on it on the left in the older picture. You may wonder, “Now, where have I seen that before?” And then you’ll think to yourself, “Oh, yeah, the previous picture! I can’t remember Tim’s pictures from one to the next!” I should have posted this on the Fourth of July; that building was the Fireman’s Fund Insurance Company Building. It was designed to look exactly like Independence Hall in Philadelphia where the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution were both adopted. It was demolished in 1986.
Looking down Ellis Street from Powell: Did the sun ever come out for Mr. Stratmoen? You can see the John’s Grill Restaurant on the right in both photos. Although it’s a favorite of Maltese Falcon aficionados today, it wasn’t as well known for its connection to the book and movie back then. Time has made a relic of it. (I know, who’s going to notice John’s Grill when the picture has a pretty girl with a Victoria’s Secret bag in it!)
On a more serious note, notice the Imperial Palace Restaurant in the modern picture. Although small in scale compared to the events of these days, two years after the vintage picture above was taken this was the scene of San Francisco’s worst mass shooting in modern history. On September 4th 1977, a Chinatown gang attempting to kill members of a rival gang opened fire on customers. Five people were killed, and eleven others were injured. None of the victims were gang members. It came to be known as the Golden Dragon massacre, which was the name of the restaurant at the time of the shootings.