Growing Up on Congo Street in the 1920s

Indian paintbrush, California native wildflower.

The account below by Phyllis Jensen Marklin of being a child growing up in a little house on Congo Street, on the Sunnyside/Glen Park border, includes some fabulous details–the sort of domestic history that is all too often lost with the passage of time. She wrote it when she was in her sixties. Her daughter has graciously given me permission to reproduce it here, along with a photo that includes the family in front of their house at 511 Congo Street. 

Her parents Axel and Olga Jensen came originally from Arhus, Denmark, but lived in Canada for years before coming to San Francisco. Although not all the children stayed in the neighborhood, Phyllis’s brother Gordon made his home as an adult just a few blocks down Congo. I’ll tell that story in a future post.

The Jensens in front of their house at 511 Congo Street, late 1920s. Photo courtesy Judith Simpson.
The Jensens in front of their house at 511 Congo Street, late 1920s. Photo courtesy Judith Simpson.

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The Lohbrunners Come to Sunnyside

1907. Tusk hunters in Alice Creek Alaska.

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.

412 Joost Avenue and 400 Joost Avenue. Photo: Amy O'Hair
412 (left) and 400 Joost Avenue. Photo: Amy O’Hair

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Good Deeds and Bad: the House at 503 Edna Street

SF Chronicle, 11 Mar 1899

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.

The houses at 400 Hearst (L) and 503 Edna.
The houses at 400 Hearst (L) and 503 Edna. Photo: Amy O’Hair 2015.

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Frenchie’s, a local shop at Hearst and Congo

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.

201 Hearst Ave, SF. Photo: Amy O'Hair.
201 Hearst Ave, San Francisco. Photo: Amy O’Hair.

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