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.
This 1912 panorama was taken with a long lens from a hillside in the Crocker Amazon district, one and a half miles away as the crow flies. Mount Davidson is the highest point, on the left. The Ingleside Jail’s white fences can be seen on the middle left. The Sunnyside sign is below the second-highest peak, at about 2:30 on the clockdial.
The earliest date for the Sunnyside sign I can find is June 1909. In this photo on OpenSFHistory.org, the sign can just be be seen in the distance, blurry, from a point near Cayuga and Mt Vernon Avenues. Here is a closeup from the original photo:
This date coincides with the big campaign by Rogers and Stone to sell lots in Sunnyside. (See this fancy color supplement they issued the same month the above photo was taken. )
The real estate firm of Rogers & Stone is likely to have been responsible for the sign. They dealt in Sunnyside lots for just one year, but advertised relentlessly in the newspapers–and, in their tacky, venial way, always making the initial ‘S’ in Sunnyside into a dollar sign. (Another ad of theirs here.)
Rogers and Stone took the extra special step of assuring potential buyers that “undesirable” people were excluded from buying, becoming the only dealer ever to openly brag about racial discrimination in the process of selling lots in this neighborhood. (See ad image above.)
I’m pleased to say they went down in flames by January 1910, having sold off lots to dozens of people with nothing down, for $5 a month, many of whom defaulted. They were forced to liquidate what they had to Rudolph Mohr’s firm, who built good houses in western Sunnyside through the 1920s (story in a future post).
The sign remained up, even though Rogers and Stone went down–at least until the date of this image, about 1912.
The Sunnyside sign was located on the slope just below Mangels Avenue–then totally unpaved like all the other streets in the neighborhood–on the 200 block, between Congo and Detroit. The sign was about 80 feet wide, and the letters about ten feet tall. For orientation, the streets are marked on image above.
Some of the houses then in place can be identified (above).
There is one more bit of photographic evidence for this sign. In a photo of the decommissioned Sunnyside Powerhouse, it can be seen in the distance, to the right of the base of the witch’s hat tower.
[Update Mar 2019] Recently Joel Pomerantz spotted the sign in another photo. By 1915, the sign had lost its ‘S’ and part of its ‘U’–as seen in this photo taken from a point about one and a quarter miles to the south. Here is the whole photo, followed by detail photos that show the sign.
By at least 1922, the sign had been removed, as shown in image below. Its previous location is marked with blue dot center-right on the aerial photo below.
Here is where the sign would be today. Maybe a few of those steep backyards could be put to good use.