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 early maps here). 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.
In 1913 someone who was far from home, new to the City, and despairing of his future came to a lonely hilltop at the northern edge of Sunnyside to do away with himself. But he didn’t count on the appearance of a local man, Hugo Ekenberg of 400 Joost Ave, who would save his life. The “knoll” where it probably happened is one of our hidden treasures, the rocky outcropping now called Dorothy Erskine Park, at the top of Baden Street.
Here is the news report in the San Francisco Call (19 April 1913):
By Amy O’Hair Update 2023: New map to chart the route of the creek found here.
Before it was diverted into the drains—probably in the 1920s after improvements to streets and sewers—Sunnyside had a tributary of Islais Creek running through it. Sounds bucolic perhaps, but it seems mostly to have been a nuisance to residents, and for one man, his death-trap.