George R Reilly and the first LGBT legal victory in US history

The Black Cat. Photo: SFGate.com

George R Reilly (1903–1985) was a powerful player in midcentury San Francisco politics who was born and grew up in Sunnyside, a member of one of the first families there. He was on the State Board of Equalization (BOE) for 44 years, the agency that regulated taxes and liquor licenses.

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Image of George R Reilly from obituary in BoE Annual Report, June 1985. SF Public Library.

Under his chairmanship, the BOE targeted bars where gay people gathered, in order to revoke their liquor licenses. It was in this capacity that Reilly’s name remains on an important 1951 California Supreme Court case, involving the famous Black Cat bar in North Beach.

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The Black Cat (n.d.). San Francisco History Center. San Francisco Public Library.

The owner, Sol Stoumen, took the BOE to court and fought for the right of his patrons to gather at his bar. The case, Stoumen v Reilly, weighed the basic human right to free association, regardless of sexual preference.  Continue reading “George R Reilly and the first LGBT legal victory in US history”

The opening of new Edna Street

1919c Monterey & Edna. Photo: Western Neighborhoods Project

In 1916, one block of Edna Street north of Monterey was closed, and relocated 200 feet to the west–the dogleg portion.

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1916. New location of Edna Street. County Recorder’s Alpha Maps. View larger. 

The reason? Sewer pipes. This was the low spot in the block, and you can’t argue with gravity. (This is on the route of Sunnyside’s old creek.Continue reading “The opening of new Edna Street”

The Mystery Arcade of Sunnyside School

1938 Sunnyside School. Photo: DavidRumsey.com

Part of a series of articles about Sunnyside School.

Until the mid-1970s, Sunnyside Elementary School had an odd structure that projected into the playground area, called the Arcade. It was about twelve by forty-five feet, one large room, and at least during the 1950s and 1960s housed the school library. What is the story behind this quirky feature?

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1940s. Sunnyside School, viewed from Hearst Ave, showing “arcade” structure. San Francisco History Center, San Francisco Public Library.

Continue reading “The Mystery Arcade of Sunnyside School”

High on a hillside, the Sunnyside sign

1912. Sunnyside hillside. OpenSFHistory.org

Recently a marvelous panorama taken about 1912 came my way. Sunnyside can be seen in the distance. The image reveals a feature from the neighborhood’s past–a giant hillside sign in the style of the one in Hollywood that was also placed as a real estate advertisement. However, Sunnyside’s sign preceded the more famous one by at least ten years–though of course ours didn’t last.

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1912. The Sunnyside sign, on hillside near Mangels and Detroit. Detail from panorama image below. Western Neighborhoods Project wnp15.1592.

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Sunnyside’s other park and the legacy of Dorothy Erskine

View from Dorothy Erskine Park. Photo: Amy O'Hair

Although Sunnyside Playground is a favorite destination for families, little known to even locals is our other park, Dorothy Erskine Park, located at the top of Baden Street. Poised on the edge of a rocky outcropping, the small park affords great views of the southeast of San Francisco, from among a grove of eucalyptus trees—though without even the amenity of a bench from which to enjoy the vista.

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2018. View from Dorothy Erskine Park.
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2018. A nearby neighbor enjoys the view after just discovering the park for the first time.

Continue reading “Sunnyside’s other park and the legacy of Dorothy Erskine”