Monterey Boulevard shops: Some midcentury photos

The covid-19 pandemic has put a temporary halt to my history walks, including the one that highlights Monterey Boulevard shops, restaurants, and businesses of decades past. But here are some photos, most never seen before, showing businesses from the 1950s to the 1970s. From the San Francisco Office of the Assessor-Recorder Photographs Collection, at the San Francisco History Center.

Many businesses on the boulevard came and went without ever being recorded visually in the public record, such as the old Safeway (1942-1972) that was located in the parking lot of the current Safeway. Or Bruno’s Creamery Restaurant, at Foerster Street, site of many happy hours for local kids.

The big push to plant street trees in the 1970s has changed the look of the street completely, as these photos well show. Photos are ordered from 400s to 700s, Edna Street to Ridgewood Avenue, with each followed by a present-day photo. Do you have a photo taken on Monterey to share? Write me.

1955. 429 Monterey Blvd. Jack Specialty Barber Shop, mid-1940s to early 1980s. San Francisco Office of Assessor-Recorder Photographs Collection, San Francisco History Center, San Francisco Public Library sfpl.org/sfphotos/asr
1955. 429 Monterey Blvd. Jack Specialty Barber Shop, mid-1940s to early 1980s. Note 25MPH speed sign, before it went to 30 in the 1970s. San Francisco Office of Assessor-Recorder Photographs Collection, San Francisco History Center, San Francisco Public Library sfpl.org/sfphotos/asr

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

Don’t miss the follow-up post to this article, including more photos and renovation information.


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”

Immigrant Dreams and Long Hours: The Delicatessen at Monterey and Edna

The deli on Monterey Boulevard at Edna Street is popular with locals as well as those passing through Sunnyside on their way elsewhere. But few know it has been a deli continuously for the last 72 years, with a succession of owners. This is a story about running a local business, but also about immigrants and opportunity—and danger.

The building was constructed in 1947, part of a strip of postwar buildings that went up on previously empty lots.

The delicatessen first opened that same year, founded by two women well into their fifties, both of whom had some familiarity with restaurant work: Alma Fitch and Frances Swensson.

1948-49 San Francisco Directory.
1948-49 San Francisco Directory.

The deli’s first name—Vienna Delicatessen—was Frances’s choice; she was born Franziska Anzengruber in a little town in Austria, and came to San Francisco in her late teens sometime after the Quake and Fire of 1906.

1908c. Frances Anzengruber (at table) in Weibern Austria, just before leaving for the US.
1908c. Frances Anzengruber (at table) in Weibern Austria, just before leaving for the US. Photo courtesy Janice Smyth via Ancestry.com.

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1980s: O’Donoghue’s, an Irish pub on Monterey

Recently the building at 714-716 Monterey Blvd was put on the market. It’s a good moment to recall one tenant of the commercial space there, O’Donoghue’s Pub. Opened in 1986, it closed about 2000, and was run by Bridget and Patrick O’Donoghue. [Update 2020: The building sold to a new owner and is being used as a private residence.]

2018-716Monterey-OHair
2018. 716 Monterey Blvd. Built in 1938. Photo: Amy O’Hair

The bar was featured in the San Francisco Examiner the week after it opened. Continue reading “1980s: O’Donoghue’s, an Irish pub on Monterey”

Sunnyside’s First Restaurant

Photo: Greg Gaar OpenSFHistory.org

One of our oldest shop-fronts recently went on sale [2015], which seemed a good occasion to look into its history. It seems to 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.

211 Sunnyside Avenue (now 219 Monterey Blvd). Photo: Amy O'Hair
2015. 211 Sunnyside Avenue (now 219 Monterey Blvd). Photo: Amy O’Hair.

Continue reading “Sunnyside’s First Restaurant”