Sunnyside History in Photos: Places

A collection of photographs of places and things in Sunnyside’s history.

Photos of people in Sunnyside here. Main photo page here.  Do you have a photo to add? Write me.

One of big advertisements that launched the district. SF Chronicle, 26 Apr 1891.
One of big advertisements that launched the district. SF Chronicle, 26 Apr 1891.
1904. Sunnyside Powerhouse viewed from the east side near Monterey and Circular. Cooling pool, disused, visible in foreground. Read more about the powerhouse. Courtesy SFMTA
1904. Sunnyside Powerhouse, viewed from the east side near Monterey and Circular. Cooling pool, disused, visible in foreground. Courtesy SFMTA Read more about the powerhouse. 

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1911: Snapshot of life on Monterey Boulevard

Photo courtesy SFMTA,

On 5 January 1911, a photographer named John Henry Mentz came out to Sunnyside to take some shots on a chilly, partly cloudy day. He was the skilled official photographer for United Railroads of San Francisco (URR, which became Muni later). His photos documented the streetcar tracks, but naturally other things were included. Thanks to the availability of high-definition scans of these three images from SFMTA, we can glimpse life on that day in Sunnyside history, complete with a family on the way to the shops and goats grazing on the railroad tracks. The photos were taken on the first block of Monterey Boulevard, near Circular Avenue. First the photos with details, then a comparison to today.

A Thursday Afternoon on Monterey

First Mentz took this image, with a large 8×10 camera and a glass-plate negative positioned squarely in the middle of the unpaved road, facing east (towards what is now Glen Park).

U02892. Monterey Boulevard between Circular Ave and Joost Avenue, 5 January 1911. Photo courtesy SFMTA,

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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.

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”

Sunnyside street-name changes, new and old

Phelan Ave street sign. Photo: Amy O'Hair

Next week the San Francisco Board of Supervisors votes to approve changing the name of Phelan Avenue to Frida Kahlo Way. This is far from the first such change for this neighborhood’s streets, and a good occasion to look at the several other name changes over the years since its beginning.

1891. Sunnyside homestead map. About 3’x6′. Photographed and montaged by Amy O’Hair. San Francisco History Center. San Francisco Public Library. View larger.
Detail from southwest corner of Sunnyside homestead map. Only three of eight street names here are still in use. View larger. 

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Ballot Battles and Campus Claims: The History of the Balboa Reservoir 1983-1991

One of a series of articles on the history of the Balboa Reservoir.

As San Francisco city government currently works through the planning process for a housing project on the last remaining seventeen acres of the original Balboa Reservoir land, a review of the dramatic fate of the first housing plan for that land is in order.

1985. Architect’s drawing of home for “Balboa Heights” on South Balboa Reservoir.

In the 1980s, rather than watch the Mayor’s Office of Housing sell off part of the Balboa Reservoir land that was for ten years the site of City College’s West Campus, a campus-based coalition of faculty, staff, and students, joined by some local residents, fought back against housing plans through the ballot over several elections, from 1985 to 1991.

1991. Front of flyer for No on Prop L campaign. CCSF Archives.

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A Bridge between Neighborhoods: the Santa Rosa Underpass

A now-lost bit of infrastructure connected two neighborhoods for six decades, an underpass below the Southern Pacific railroad tracks that extended Santa Rosa Avenue to meet Circular Avenue and Congo Street.

1927, Santa Rosa Bridge. Circular Ave at Congo Street. Southern Pacific railroad tracks running at crest of embankment. Houses on left located on Flood Ave. wnp36.03489

In the usual way of things then, Sunnysiders asked for this relatively minor, yet vital link for many years before the city built it. From the neighborhood’s beginning in 1891 and for decades to come, Sunnyside was hemmed in.[1]  Sutro Forest blocked the west, Phelan Ave was not yet built through on the south, there was no road over the railroad tracks on the east, and no passage over Mt Davidson on the north. You came in via Chenery or San Jose Road, and left the same way, usually on the electric streetcar.    Continue reading “A Bridge between Neighborhoods: the Santa Rosa Underpass”

The Mad Hatter of Tiffany Avenue

1886 Sanborn sheet 139

Sandwiched between the first El Camino Real—the old San Jose Road—and its latter-day replacement, Mission Street, Tiffany Avenue is a short street that cuts down the middle of a vanity homestead laid out in 1864, the Tiffany-Dean Tract.

1864 map for the Tiffany-Dean tract. Valencia Street not yet cut through to Mission. Source.  Click for larger. 

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A Park for Sunnyside

1966. SF Dept Public Works, Sunnyside Playground.

When Sunnyside was laid out in 1891, there was no provision for any public park or open space built into the plans—just rectangular blocks filled with edge-to-edge lots for building (see this early map). To put it in perspective, many more basic matters of infrastructure in the neighborhood were lacking for years: there were no streetlights or sewers, the roads were dirt, and the water supply spotty, even into the 1920s. It was not until the 1960s that Sunnyside got a park of its own.

View of the children's play area at Sunnyside Playground, Foerster Street and Melrose Avenue, San Francisco. Photo: Amy O'Hair.
View of the children’s play area at Sunnyside Playground, Foerster Street and Melrose Avenue, San Francisco. Photo: Amy O’Hair.

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Disappeared Streets of Sunnyside

From Sunnyside Homestead map, 1891.

We have lost a few bits of the original streets. The blocks laid out by the surveyor in 1891 were perfectly rectangular and the streets die-straight. All the better to milk maximum profits from the sale of lots–no extra wedge-shaped bits, or wasteful little parks to clutter up the profit landscape. But reality meant changes had to be made in that rigid map in the course of building out the neighborhood in the twentieth century.

Half-page ad for new Sunnyside real estate speculation project. 26 April 1892, SF Chronicle. From
1891 half-page newspaper ad for the new Sunnyside real estate speculation project. Drawing is closely based on original homestead map submitted to the City. 26 April 1891, SF Chronicle. From

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