Families on the edge of the forest: Mangels Avenue in the 1910s and 1920s

1917. Photo courtesy Geoff Follin.

At the edge of Sutro’s forest of eucalyptus trees, in the northwest corner of Sunnyside, the 600 block of Mangels Avenue was home to several families who enjoyed a truly rural existence in the early years. Recently some photos were graciously loaned to me to scan, so there is some visual record of life there. The photos are from the personal archive of resident Geoff Follin, sent to him in 1987 by a man who grew up on the block during these years—Lawrence Behler (1908-1999).[1] Behler included a brief letter of explanation.

12 Jan 1987. Letter from Lawrence Behler to resident of 663 Mangels Ave. Courtesy Geoff Follin.
12 Jan 1987. Letter from Lawrence Behler to resident of 663 Mangels Ave. Courtesy Geoff Follin.

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The Quest for a Sunnyside Hall

SF Call, 19 Nov 1910.

Meeting places make possible gatherings that can give rise to group action. Without a place big enough to meet and plan, speak and listen, how do members of a group know they have the number and consensus that can become a force for change? These points seem obvious, but for the real estate speculators laying out Sunnyside in 1891, even the provision of a park space where such a meeting place might be located was not a perceived need. Large union halls were numerous elsewhere in the city in areas with industry, but the rise of mainly residential areas in the late 19th century didn’t anticipate the needs of neighborhood activism.

Sunnyside had no park or public common space in the 1890s, but within a few years, common needs drew people together in private spaces. The first order of business at the first large public gathering of residents was the need for a school. There were 80–100 children in the area, even as sparsely populated as it was then. In January 1896, resident Eugene Dasse called the meeting at a hall he had built a couple of years before (where 54-56 Monterey is now) — Dasse’s Hall. There was such energy at that meeting that the first Sunnyside Improvement Club was spontaneously formed.

SF Call, 26 Jan 1896.
SF Call, 26 Jan 1896.

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