This is the story of two brothers, both newly married, who came to Sunnyside to find houses in the 1920s. One stayed for a lifetime. Both belonged to a remarkable family based up north. The houses they settled in were 400 and 412 Joost Avenue, San Francisco.
One of our oldest shop-fronts has just gone up for sale, which seemed a good occasion to look into its history. It may have been the first proper restaurant in the neighborhood. John Kaiser, a German immigrant, had it built in 1892, making it one of the earliest buildings on the block. After a life working on the cable cars on Nob Hill, he came to Sunnyside with his wife and grown kids at the age of sixty, to run his own restaurant.
Before it was diverted into the drains–probably in the 1920s after improvements to streets and sewers–Sunnyside had a tributary of Islais Creek running through it. Sounds bucolic perhaps, but it seems mostly to have been a nuisance to residents, and for one man, his death-trap.
Before our hills were crowded with houses, there were cows grazing on them. Evelyn Rose has written about dairy farming in our area here. There were big dairy farms near Sunnyside, such as Rock Ranch and Smart’s New York Dairy. Even into the 1920s Sunnyside residents on the north side were irked by the damage done to their gardens from cows that had wandered over the hill from a farm near Glen Canyon. But the surprising thing is that many early residents kept a cow or two of their own, even breeding and selling them on.
One of the earliest houses built in Sunnyside, San Francisco, and certainly the first on its block, has some interesting stories that go with its long history. The man who built it, John Albert Johnson, was a prime moving force in getting a school established for the neighborhood in its early days—when the City was prone to neglecting public services there. But he also conspired to have his wife illegally incarcerated in the County Jail, something that made the newspapers on account of its flagrant violation of the law, that a person cannot be imprisoned without a trial.
For many decades there was a small grocery store at the corner of Hearst Avenue and Congo Street called Frenchie’s. The family who ran the store from 1909 through the 1930s wasn’t French, and the store was never listed that way in the SF Directories, but such is the way of neighborhood shops–you are known by what your local patrons want to call you.