Sunnyside History in Photos: Places

A collection of photographs of places and things in Sunnyside’s history.

Photos of people in Sunnyside here. Main photo page here.  Do you have a photo to add? Write me.

One of big advertisements that launched the district. SF Chronicle, 26 Apr 1891.
One of big advertisements that launched the district. SF Chronicle, 26 Apr 1891.
1904. Sunnyside Powerhouse viewed from the east side near Monterey and Circular. Cooling pool, disused, visible in foreground. Read more about the powerhouse. Courtesy SFMTA sfmta.photoshelter.com
1904. Sunnyside Powerhouse, viewed from the east side near Monterey and Circular. Cooling pool, disused, visible in foreground. Courtesy SFMTA sfmta.photoshelter.com Read more about the powerhouse. 

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Sunnyside History in Photos: People

A collection of photographs of people who lived in Sunnyside.

Photos of places and things in Sunnyside here. Main photo page here.  Do you have a photo to add? Write me.

1905c. Early Sunnyside resident Seph Williams stands with his horsein front of his house at 257 Joost Ave. Courtesy the Williams family.
1905c. Early Sunnyside resident Seph Williams stands with his horse in front of his house at 257 Joost Ave. Courtesy the Williams family. Read more about the Williams family on Joost.
1906. The Mickelsen family at 511 Congo Street. Immigrants from Denmark who stayed for several generations.
1906. The Mickelsen family at 511 Congo Street. Immigrants from Denmark who stayed for several generations.
1917. Charles Behler and his family and neighbors pose for a group photo on the 600 block of Mangels. Courtesy Geoff Follin.
1917. Charles Behler and his family and neighbors pose for a group photo on the 600 block of Mangels. Courtesy Geoff Follin. Read the story here. 
1920s. The Williams brothers ran the Sunnyside Coalyard at 36 Joost until the 1930s. Courtesy the Williams family.
1920s. The Williams brothers ran the Sunnyside Coalyard at 36 Joost until the 1930s. Courtesy the Williams family. Read the story here.

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A Year on the Balboa Reservoir: Photos III

Part of a series of posts about the history of the Balboa Reservoir. View more photos here and here.

By this time next year, the lower portion of the Balboa Reservoir will have begun its transformation into a housing development. These photos were taken over the previous year to document some of its life as a a rather scrappy and wild open space–used by people and animals–which will soon pass into history.

The massive north tree. Balboa Reservoir, Oct 2020. Sunnyside History Project. Photo: Amy O'Hair
The massive north tree. Balboa Reservoir, Oct 2020. Sunnyside History Project. Photo: Amy O’Hair
Foggy view north on the west berm. Balboa Reservoir, Aug 2020. Sunnyside History Project. Photo: Amy O'Hair
Foggy view north on the west berm. Balboa Reservoir, Aug 2020. Sunnyside History Project. Photo: Amy O’Hair
A walker and a cyclist. Balboa Reservoir, June 2020. Sunnyside History Project. Photo: Amy O'Hair
A walker and a cyclist. Balboa Reservoir, June 2020. Sunnyside History Project. Photo: Amy O’Hair
Looking west to San Ramon Way. Balboa Reservoir, Aug 2019. Sunnyside History Project. Photo: Amy O'Hair
Looking west to San Ramon Way. Balboa Reservoir, Aug 2019. Sunnyside History Project. Photo: Amy O’Hair

Continue reading “A Year on the Balboa Reservoir: Photos III”

A Year on the Balboa Reservoir: Photos II

Part of a series of posts about the history of the Balboa Reservoir. View more photos here and here.

By this time next year, the lower portion of the Balboa Reservoir will have begun its transformation into a housing development. These photos were taken over the previous year to document some of its life as a a rather scrappy and wild open space–used by people and animals–which will soon pass into history.

A walker on the berm taking a selfie in setting sun. Balboa Reservoir, Apr 2020. Sunnyside History Project. Photo: Amy O'Hair
A walker on the berm taking a selfie in the setting sun. Balboa Reservoir, Apr 2020. Sunnyside History Project. Photo: Amy O’Hair
Looking west on the west berm. Balboa Reservoir, Aug 2020. Sunnyside History Project. Photo: Amy O'Hair
Looking west on the west berm. Balboa Reservoir, Aug 2020. Sunnyside History Project. Photo: Amy O’Hair
Walkers on the west berm. Balboa Reservoir, Sept 2020. Sunnyside History Project. Photo: Amy O'Hair
Walkers on the west berm. Balboa Reservoir, Sept 2019. Sunnyside History Project. Photo: Amy O’Hair

 

View of southwest corner. Balboa Reservoir, Sept 2019. Sunnyside History Project. Photo: Amy O'Hair
View of southwest corner. Balboa Reservoir, Sept 2019. Sunnyside History Project. Photo: Amy O’Hair

Continue reading “A Year on the Balboa Reservoir: Photos II”

A Year on the Balboa Reservoir: Photos I

Part of a series of posts about the history of the Balboa Reservoir. View more photos here and here.

By this time next year, the lower portion of the Balboa Reservoir will have begun its transformation into a housing development. These photos were taken over the previous year to document some of its life as a a rather scrappy and wild open space–used by people and animals–which will soon pass into history.

Sitters on the berm. Balboa Reservoir, Sept 2019. Sunnyside History Project. Photo: Amy O'Hair
Sitters on the berm. Balboa Reservoir, Sept 2019. Sunnyside History Project. Photo: Amy O’Hair
View of southwest corner. Balboa Reservoir, Oct 2020. Sunnyside History Project. Photo: Amy O'Hair
View of southwest corner. Balboa Reservoir, Oct 2020. Sunnyside History Project. Photo: Amy O’Hair

Continue reading “A Year on the Balboa Reservoir: Photos I”

The Whales: Yet to be Saved

OpenSFHistory.org

For the Golden Gate International Exposition, sculptor Robert Boardman Howard created a magnificent fountain called The Whales. Later it was installed at the Steinhart Aquarium at the California Academy of Sciences, where it was a familiar sight to visitors for half a century. Then it languished in storage outdoors at City College of San Francisco Ocean Campus. Restoration has yet to happen, and now it is tucked away at an SF Arts Commission storage facility awaiting funding and badly needed attention.

The Whales by Robert Howard, at Steinhart Aquarium in 1960. OpenSFHistory.org
The Whales by Robert Howard, at Steinhart Aquarium in 1960. OpenSFHistory.org

Curious Sunnysiders walking through nearby City College may have noticed the sculpture stored there over the last several years. It was a sad site–noble and elegant killer whales peeking forlornly out from under tarpaulins and straps. In real life, some communities of this species are endangered; these massive animals rendered in stone looked equally condemned to extinction.

The Whales by Robert Howard, at CCSF Ocean Campus in July 2015. Photo: Amy O'Hair
The Whales by Robert Howard, at CCSF Ocean Campus in July 2015. Photo: Amy O’Hair

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The Congo in Sunnyside

One of a series of posts about Sunnyside streets and street names.

Congo Street in the Sunnyside neighborhood runs nine blocks, from Circular Avenue to Bosworth Street, from the edge of the I-280 freeway to the edge of Glen Canyon Park. It makes the ‘C’ in the short run of alphabetical street names that begins with Acadia Street on the east and ends with Hamburg Street on the west (changed to Ridgewood Avenue in 1927).

The name has been a mystery of sorts to many. A scooter messenger I once knew who liked to contemplate the city’s enigmas used to find himself pleasantly puzzled when stopped at Congo on his way out Monterey Boulevard. If you live in the neighborhood, it’s easy for the name to become part of the furniture—used but not noticed.

Unlike the picturesque set of river-themed street names in a Sacramento suburb, where ‘Congo’ sits next to ‘Klamath’ and ‘Nile,’ Sunnyside’s Congo seems without meaningful context, being next to streets named Detroit and Baden. How it came to be the choice of the Sunnyside Land Company when the district was laid out in 1891 is the story of idealized capitalist aspirations that would soon meet the realities of imperialist atrocities against indigenous peoples in the heart of Africa.

In the two decades following the naming of the street in Sunnyside, the Congo in Africa was the site of a genocide of staggering proportions. Many people have told the story; this article highlights only some of it, including a few heroes of humanitarian reform of the time who should be better known, as well as an African American poet who evoked the Congo throughout his long working life.

And the Congo has resonance in the immediate present: the recent efforts of the Black Lives Matter movement in Belgium may finally knock the villain responsible for the atrocities, King Leopold II, off his plinth. Better a century too late than never.

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In the picture III: more Sunnyside Elementary School class photos

The third set of class photos from Sunnyside School. See the first group here.  See the second group here. I am grateful for the spontaneous contributions of one-time Sunnyside students Anthony Eckstein and Alan Hansen. Read more about Sunnyside School here.

During the 1960s, before court-mandated busing was instituted, Sunnyside was one of two schools where students from the Bayview were bused to, in order to relieve congestion at the overcrowded Bret Harte Elementary School. That meant a greater diversity of kids at Sunnyside, even before the official busing program began in 1973. And it shows in these two sets of photos, from the late-1940s and the mid-1960s.*

Kindergarten, Sunnyside Elementary School, 1948. Courtesy Alan Hansen.
Kindergarten, Sunnyside Elementary School, 1948. Courtesy Alan Hansen. View larger. 

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The little sculpture affixed to your house: Anton Fazekas and the making of a midcentury San Francisco sensation

Most houses in the city have numbers on their fronts; there are a small part of the house’s exterior decor and often escape notice. On my recent socially distanced neighborhood walks I’ve been looking at them. Many houses in Sunnyside, as well as neighborhoods all over the city, have numbers encased in little frames like these.

There turns out to be an interesting history behind these numbers that begins with an artist named Anton Fazekas (1878-1966).

The Sculptor and the Designs

Fazekas was the designer and manufacturer of these ornamental house numbers, each with a little bulb to light up the digits. He patented three models in the early 1930s. They were solidly fabricated of die-cast iron, and held space for four or five numerals depending on the model, with large, plain, readable numerals made of enameled metal. Later he added italic numerals. The digits slotted into the back and were secured with a little bar that screwed down. The hood protecting the bulb could be removed, allowing the bulb to be easily changed. Continue reading “The little sculpture affixed to your house: Anton Fazekas and the making of a midcentury San Francisco sensation”

Staples and Lick: Some antiracism from 1874

Endemic as racism has been to American culture and politics since its beginning, there have always been those who fought the engulfing tide, in large and small ways. This post recounts, in the words of the time, a minor incident where one man’s racism was countered with another one’s resistance.

David Jackson Staples (1824-1900) and his wife Mary Winslow Staples (1830-1895) are the namesakes for Staples Avenue in Sunnyside. They came from Massachusetts just after the Gold Rush, bringing with them an antipathy to slavery and a strong conviction of the importance of philanthropic work for the public good.

1887. Mary Winslow Staples and David Jackson Staples. Courtesy Society of California Pioneers.
1887. Mary Winslow Staples and David Jackson Staples. Courtesy Society of California Pioneers.

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