1917: The Log Cabineers of Sunnyside

On a week when being outdoors is hazardous, history can substitute for fresh air. Here is a story from a century ago, about a group of Sunnyside children called the Log Cabineers, who were led in many activities around the then-undeveloped hills in the neighborhood by a remarkable young woman, Elfreda Svenberg of Foerster Street. She introduced them to the joys of being outside with plants and animals, taking them on hiking trips–even a ten-day vacation in Marin.

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SF Examiner, 20 Mar 1917. View larger.  Newspapers.com.

Miss Svenberg included both boys and girls in her club, saying they were “too occupied with the joys of outdoor life” to become boy-struck or girl-struck.

The group was featured in the SF Examiner article above during a fund-raising drive for a club house. It was customary to give a small token in thanks for a donation–a wild flower boutonniere in this case, perhaps picked from Mount Davidson, where native wild flowers famously grew before development. (Read an account here.)

Rowing a boat, hiking among the wildflowers, eating a picnic lunch outside–it all sounds rather wonderful right now, while San Francisco is engulfed in toxic smoke.

Perhaps Elfreda and her Log Cabineers had some luck with their fund-raising, because later that year, this notice appeared in the SF Chronicle.

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I have yet to find exactly where this was located. SF Chronicle, 15 Dec 1917. SFPL Chronicle Archive.

Aeroplanes, automobiles, and alternative medicine: The love story of William and Temperance Merralls

The story of William Augustus Merralls (1852–1914) and Temperance Laura Clarke Neely Merralls (1865–1930) during their life together. Related posts on main Merralls page.

William Augustus and Temperance Laura Merralls were remarkable and eccentric residents of early Sunnyside. William left a legacy to the neighborhood—the Sunnyside Conservatory, a city landmark on Monterey Boulevard, which he built about 1902.

When they married in 1909, they were both in middle age, William a widower, Temperance a divorcee. William’s inventions were innovative, and wide-ranging; Temperance brought an interest in alternative medicine and healing. They were devoted to each other, but had just five years together. Rare photographs from their last year together are first seen in this article.

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1914c. Temperance Laura and William Merralls, with unknown woman in bed. Location unknown. Courtesy Hartsough family.

The match was anchored in a deep love, but it was also a meeting of minds. They shared interests and beliefs, rooted both in the Baptist faith and a complete confidence that human progress was positively furthered by new discoveries and ideas.

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Living in the house at 258 Sunnyside Avenue (now Monterey Blvd)—with its extensive grounds surrounding the Conservatory, the couple were outliers in an otherwise working-class neighborhood.

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1905c. Portion of panorama, altered to show Merralls’ house, Conservatory, and grounds on Sunnyside Ave (now Monterey). Original: Western Neighborhoods Project.

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George R Reilly and the first LGBT legal victory in US history

George R Reilly (1903–1985) was a powerful player in midcentury San Francisco politics who was born and grew up in Sunnyside, a member of one of the first families there. He was on the State Board of Equalization (BOE) for 44 years, the agency that regulated taxes and liquor licenses.

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Image of George R Reilly from obituary in BoE Annual Report, June 1985. SF Public Library.

Under his chairmanship, the BOE targeted bars where gay people gathered, in order to revoke their liquor licenses. It was in this capacity that Reilly’s name remains on an important 1951 California Supreme Court case, involving the famous Black Cat bar in North Beach.

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The Black Cat (n.d.). San Francisco History Center. San Francisco Public Library.

The owner, Sol Stoumen, took the BOE to court and fought for the right of his patrons to gather at his bar. The case, Stoumen v Reilly, weighed the basic human right to free association, regardless of sexual preference.  Read more

The Mystery Arcade of Sunnyside School

Until the mid-1970s, Sunnyside Elementary School had an odd structure that projected into the playground area, called the Arcade. It was about twelve by forty-five feet, one large room, and at least during the 1950s and 1960s housed the school library. What is the story behind this quirky feature?

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1940s. Sunnyside School, viewed from Hearst Ave, showing “arcade” structure. San Francisco History Center, San Francisco Public Library.

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High on a hillside, the Sunnyside sign

Recently a marvelous panorama taken about 1912 came my way. Sunnyside can be seen in the distance. The image reveals a feature from the neighborhood’s past–a giant hillside sign in the style of the one in Hollywood that was also placed as a real estate advertisement. However, Sunnyside’s sign preceded the more famous one by at least ten years–though of course ours didn’t last.

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1912. The Sunnyside sign, on hillside near Mangels and Detroit. Detail from panorama image below. Western Neighborhoods Project wnp15.1592.

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Sunnyside’s other park and the legacy of Dorothy Erskine

Although Sunnyside Playground is a favorite destination for families, little known to even locals is our other park, Dorothy Erskine Park, located at the top of Baden Street. Poised on the edge of a rocky outcropping, the small park affords great views of the southeast of San Francisco, from among a grove of eucalyptus trees—though without even the amenity of a bench from which to enjoy the vista.

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2018. View from Dorothy Erskine Park.
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2018. A nearby neighbor enjoys the view after just discovering the park for the first time.

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Sunnyside street-name changes, new and old

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.

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1891. Sunnyside homestead map. About 3’x6′. Photographed and montaged by Amy O’Hair. San Francisco History Center. San Francisco Public Library. View larger.
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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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‘Car-o-Grams’: Candrian’s early transit mapping innovation

In 1917, map publisher Herman Anton Candrian (1862-1928) introduced a novel graphical representation of streetcar lines for San Francisco’s transit riders that he called Car-o-Grams. These little glyphs made streetcar data visual and succinct.

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1917c. Candrian’s Double Indexed Guide and Map of San Francisco and Daly City with Car-o-Grams. Pages 86-87. Note copyright. View larger.

Candrian’s company had been publishing city maps with transit routes since at least 1906. Every map had an accompanying pocket-sized booklet that indexed all the streets and gave streetcar information for each.

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1917c. Candrian’s Double Indexed Guide and Map of San Francisco and Daly City with Car-o-Grams. Front cover.

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From Tennis to Housing: The Gennessee Courts

For twenty years there were public tennis courts at the corner of Phelan and Judson Avenues—the only park facility in Sunnyside then. It attracted tennis aficionados from all over, such as these folks visiting from a fancier part of town in 1932.

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A group of well-heeled friends at the “Genessee Courts” on 15 April 1932. The house at 1 Gennessee Street can be seen in the background. OpenSFHistory.org wnp26.1268.jpg
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Detail from 1938 aerial photo below, showing tennis courts on Judson Ave near Phelan (now Frida Kahlo Way). Maybe the trees were planted to keep the nearby County Jail out of sight. DavidRumsey.com View larger map.

The facility was opened in 1927 with great fanfare—Mayor James “Sunny Jim” Rolph gave the dedication address, and a small army of politicians, as well as Superintendent of Parks John McLaren, gave speeches.   Read more