There is nothing quite like kids’ faces! I’ve been fortunate over the years to have been given the chance by several former students to scan class photos from the 1930s to the 1960s. I present them here in reverse chronological order without commentary.* My thanks to Marty Hackett, Mark Sultana, Julie Spalasso Vozza, Bill Wilson, and Greg Gaar for sharing these with me.
The strange dominance of really small single-family homes in San Francisco, with its roots in pre-Quake planning and post-Quake building, has come at last in this century to bite the city in its housing-supply backside. Density doesn’t match need now and it is difficult to see how it ever can. It is as though San Francisco, to personify for a moment, never expected to become a real city. So it allowed builders to fill the thousands of residential blocks with one-story-over-basement structures that cannot reasonably ever be transformed into multi-unit, multi-story buildings—unlike, say, a Mission-District Victorian or a Brooklyn brownstone. And should you be inclined to try, zoning and/or neighbors will prevent you from rebuilding one as a four-story wart on the smooth skin of row-upon-row of SFHs.
In their vast inertial numbers, the Little Boxes will always win. The march of those attached four- or five-room homes, on their narrow 25×100 foot lots, across hundreds of city blocks can only ever be disrupted here and there—a few corner developments, a few big structures on old gas station lots, a few scattered replacements, or the odd added story or ADU.
The die was cast—getting on for a hundred years ago now—and the pattern will persist.
Sunnyside Resident Ann Marie Garvin passed away recently at the age of 82.
“Dance is all that’s left that’s real. It’s another world, all yours, and no one can take away the thrill of it.”
Ann Marie Garvin spoke those words to a reporter in 1976, shortly after she had founded her studio on Monterey Boulevard, Dancer’s Synectics Group. They were words she lived by over the course of her long working life–performing, teaching, directing, and choreographing, in San Francisco and beyond.
For 45 years, in the pink-striped building, she taught thousands of dancers, from near and far, her particular fast-paced jazz style and much else as well. Many Bay Area dancers studied with her, such as Ed Mock, Snowy Winter, Greg de Silva, and Craig Innes. Jazz dancer and instructor Ann Barrett noted in an artist’s bio how performing in Ann Marie Garvin’s ‘Dance Between the Lines’ had been invaluable to her understanding of choreography and theater, and for that she was “eternally grateful.”
In assembling and choreographing her own companies of dancers, Ann Marie Garvin rode the crests of several trends, including the push for a greater diversity of body shapes and skin colors in dance that happened in the Bay Area the late 1970s.
“The distinctive thing about Ann Marie is her disregard for height, or color of skin. She is unaware of anything except this: Can they dance? So [her] company has tall and short, plumpish, tan, black, white, but all marvelous dancers.”
Once the Southern Pacific railroad tracks ran where I-280 freeway is today. Even in 1923, this was at the edges of the city. On the left is the Balboa Mill and Lumber Company, a yard with its own spur of track, replaced by houses in the 1940s. The presence of the freeway makes a precise match of views impossible (therefore no slider). View other comparison photographs here.
Looking north toward Sunnyside. At center left are the houses at 74 to 30 Staples Avenue, built in the 1910s. The little hut in the center is the Judson Avenue whistle stop for the Southern Pacific train, which was running only once a day or so by this time. On the right out of the frame is land that was cultivated for vegetables until the 1920s. Presence of the I-280 freeway makes a precise match impossible (therefore no slider). View other comparison photographs here.
Shot from the pedestrian overpass in 1980, this view of Ocean Avenue and Frida Kahlo Way (then Phelan Ave) shows the same transit-dense area as today, but with a few changes. Grand Auto Supply is gone, replaced with housing and retail at 1100-1250 Ocean (2011-2014). City College Station (aka Phelan Loop) was repositioned in 2013. The Ocean Ave Vet Hospital is still there, on left, 40 years on. The growth of a large tree next to the overpass made a precise match to the original impossible (therefore no slider). View more comparison photos here.
Investment money that funded the Sunnyside Land Company in 1890 was largely sourced from the hefty profits of some of San Francisco’s biggest late nineteenth-century breweries: Philadelphia Brewery, Albany Brewery, and United States Brewery—all overseen by the Brewer’s Protective Association. Men who were heirs to these fortunes, or wrapped up in the racket of propping up prices and selling off franchises to foreign capitalists, were among the most prominent initial investors in the Sunnyside project.
Behrend Joost, President of Sunnyside Land Company, was a notorious and irascible teetotaler, but he had no problem accepting beer-drenched money from his investors, who altogether put in one million dollars to fund the property speculation project. In return, many got their names or the places in Germany they came from on the newly laid-out streets.
Five of the original Sunnyside streets—Mangels Avenue, Spreckels Avenue, Wieland Avenue, Baden Street, and Hamburg Street—I trace directly to these men.
In addition, Edna Street is likely to have been named for the beloved daughter of one of these brewery men. Read more
Fresh from the new collection of building photographs that were recently transferred from the San Francisco Office of the Assessor-Recorder to the History Center–here is one residential block in Sunnyside. More about the collection here.
On a bright overcast day in 1968 or 1969*, a unnamed photographer from the Assessor’s office appears to have shot every house on the 600 block of Mangels Avenue, leaving an unusually complete record of houses there at that time. Read more
Just released for public viewing by the San Francisco Assessor-Recorder Carmen Chu: 94,000 photos of houses, shops, and other structures in San Francisco, dating from the 1940s to the 2000s. Visit this webpage for a map showing properties with available photographs, including instructions on requesting an image to view.
Not every house in the city is included, but many are. On the map, once you have located your property lot, mouse over, and a pop-up text block will give the needed information to access the image — the block and lot number, the box number, and the bundle number. Alternately, enter your address on this page.
Once you have those numbers (block/lot, box and bundle), visit this page to fill out a request to have the image pulled.
The new policy from SF History Center: You must visit the SFHC during photo-viewing hours, when they will pull the photo you need at that time. (no order-ahead form anymore [11 May 2019].)
Plan a visit to the SF History Center, on the top floor of the Main Library, Grove and Larkin. Hours for the photo desk at Tuesday and Thursdays 1 to 5pm, and Saturday 10am-12pm and 1-5pm.