Did the sand dunes in the northwest corner of the city look like Richmond, Australia? One story for the naming of the district is that early settler George Turner Marsh thought so, and named the area around his home such. (Other sources credit a neighborhood booster named George Fletcher for suggesting the name.)
Marsh, while born an Australian, spent a great deal of his youth in Japan and became a dealer in Japanese art in San Francisco. His main fame today is for creating, with Makoto Hagiwara, the Japanese Tea Garden for the 1894 Midwinter Fair.
In 1879, when Marsh settled at 338 13th Avenue (now Funston Street) there weren't many neighbors on the sand dunes lining the Point Lobos Toll Road. The open space attracted small businesses and instituions that required lots of cheap land: race tracks, cemeteries, orphanages, dairy farms and the like.
Not that there wasn't traffic through the area. The Cliff House and other roadhouses at the beach attracted carriages across the dunes.
Real estate speculation by Marsh and others slowly increased the population, but it wasn't until Adolph Sutro built reliable rail car service in the late 1880s that the Richmond district became a true neighborhood of San Francisco.
Emergency housing set up in the area after the 1906 earthquake and fire brought scores of new settlers to the area. Many put down roots, building permanent homes to replace the tents and temporary cottages. A few enterprising families used old cable and horse cars to create residences, some stacked two stories tall.
At the same time that these homesteaders slapped together their inventive structures, some of San Francisco's most prestigious residences rose on Presidio Terrace. On the other end of the district, Mark Daniels laid out the stunningly scenic enclave know as Sea Cliff.
By the 1910s the various improvement and community associations came up with "Park Presidio" as a new appellation (since the neighborhood is bounded by Golden Gate Park and the Presidio) and got the Board of Supervisors to pass a measure renaming the area. So it was called in newspapers and many records throughout the 1920s.
The Richmond moniker hung on and eventually resurfaced. "Park Presidio" lives today as the name of the six-lane boulevard splitting the district.
For years the Richmond was a mix of Irish, German, and Jewish families. In the 1950s the shift to a Chinese population began that continues today. While there had been a "White Russian" community in the district for over sixty years, in the 1990s the Russian community swelled with the collapse of the Soviet Union. Few areas in the city are as integrated with varied and strong cultures.
- 1951 Building Photos
A map of the WNP collection of 262 photos documenting buildings in the Sunset and Richmond Districts - WNP collection
- 2 Sutter-Clement Streetcar Line
- 31 Balboa Streetcar Line
- 38th Avenue and Balboa Street, Then and Now
Views of the corner of 38th Avenue and Balboa Street in 1951 and 2006.
- 38th Avenue and Clement Street Then and Now
- 4 Star Theatre
Opened in 1913 as La Bonita, still going at 23rd Avenue and Clement Street. - by Jack Tillmany
- 4 Sutter-Sacramento Streetcar Line
- 5 McAllister Streetcar Line
- 708 Clement Street
From the Pioneer Potato Market in the 1910s to the Clement Street Bar & Grill in the 2010s. - by John Freeman
- A Geary-Park Streetcar Line
- Adolph Sutro
The man who practically owned the western neighborhoods.
- Alamo School
Alamo Elementary School
- Alexandria Theater
This 1923 Richmond District landmark by the Reid Brothers closed in 2004
- Argonne School
Argonne Elementary School
- B Geary-Ocean Streetcar Line
- Balboa Theater
A gem of the outer avenues.
- Balboa Theaters of San Francisco
The Richmond's beloved Balboa Theater wasn't the first. - SF West History Minute
- Bay District Racing Track
Third in a series on west side racetracks. - by Angus Macfarlane
- Beer Town
Beer Town was the name given to a five-block stretch of Fulton Street, which started in the 1870s with watering holes servicing patrons of the Bay District Race Track. - by John Freeman
- Bird Rescue in the 1971 Oil Spill
The story of the 1971 oil tanker spill, the mobilization of volunteers to clean beaches and birds, and the legacy of the event. - by Susan McCarthy
- Blackie: The Horse That Swam the Bay
On October 1, 1938, a horse named Blackie made history in San Francisco Bay. - by Lorri Ungaretti
- Bridge Theatre
Movie theatre which opened in 1939 on Geary Boulevard, named in honor of the recently-constructed Golden Gate Bridge.
- C Geary-California Streetcar Line
- Cabrillo Elementary School
The history of this 24th avenue institution including class photos from the 20's and 30's
- Camp Merritt
The Richmond District hosted the Army in 1898. - by Woody LaBounty
- Carzonia Apartments
A whole neighborhood of streetcar homes existed in the inner Richmond after the 1906 earthquake.
- Castles in the Sand
Sand artist James J. Taylor's signature creation came to Ocean Beach in 1909. - by Woody LaBounty
- Catching the Radio Waves
The Wireless World's Early Days - by Bart Lee
- Charles Warren Stoddard
The poet and writer remembered the sand dunes of the 1850s.
- Cliff House
Charles Butler, a real estate speculator, built the first frame-and-clapboard Cliff House on the edge of the ocean in 1863.
- Cliff House and Sutro Baths postcard views
A before-and-after look through postcards.
- Cliff House Disasters
Explosions, flames, and shipwrecks have plagued this promontory - by Christine Miller
- Coliseum Theater
Clement Street at Ninth Avenue
The last remnant of the Odd Fellows Cemetery.
- Confessions of a Junior Sex Fiend
Warning: Some explicit language/situations. Memories of a Richmond District boy discovering the opposite sex in the 1940s. - by Christopher Newton
- Coronet Theater
3575 Geary Boulevard
- David Warren Memorial
Remembering the former operator of the Giant Camera, first lighter of the Burning Man, and founder of the Suicide Club, at El Cerrito's Playland-Not-at-the-Beach on January 2, 2010. - SF West History Minute
- Ewing Field Remembered
In 1938, SF Chronicle columnist Will Connolly remembers the highlights of an old stadium. - by Will Connolly
- Ewing Field: Lost in the Fog Bank
Minor-league baseball in the fog - by Greg Gaar
- Famous Gardeners
David and Katie take a look at some famous trees at the California Palace of Legion of Honor. - SFWest History Minute
- Farms? In San Francisco?
Agricultural enterprises in western San Francisco in 1903. - by Woody LaBounty
- Father of the Richmond District
Builder Fernando Nelson's Richmond District work. - by John Freeman
- Fort Miley - VA Medical Center
The San Francisco VA Medical Center occupies a twenty-nine-acre campus in the northwest corner of San Francisco, California, between Point Lobos and the Golden Gate. - by Christopher VerPlanck
- Fort Miley/VA Medical Center
part 2 - Building the VA Medical Cnter - by Christopher VerPlanck
- Fort Miley/VA Medical Center
Part 3 - A Chronology and Sources. - by Christopher VerPlanck
- Frank and Jennie Jue
The Richmond district after nine kids and almost 50 years...
- Geary Bakery, 1925
5321 Geary Boulevard, the future site of Dave Sullivan's Sporting Goods
- Geary Street Carbarn/Larkins Building
The site at Geary and Arguello was in operation from 1892 through 1916
- George K. Whitney Jr. Interview, 2002
Interview of George K. Whitney Jr. in 2002, discussing Cliff House, Sutro Baths, Playland, and Whitney Brothers businesses. - by John Martini for National Park Service
- Giant Camera
The Jennings Giant Camera was built by Floyd Jennings in 1946 - By Joseph Durrance
- Golden Gate Driving Park
Second in a series on west side racetracks. - by Angus Macfarlane
- Golden Gate Park's Oak Woodlands
In the built environment of Golden Gate Park, there is at least one historically natural place. - SF West History Minute
- Golden Gate Park---Oasis and Obstacle
The Legacy of the Fight for a Cross-Park Streetcar Route - by John Freeman
- Gracie Allen
The famous comedienne was schooled in the Richmond District. - by John Freeman
- Growing Up in the Richmond in the 1950s
Lafayette School, Balboa Street and more... - by Victor F. Berardelli
- Gunslinger in the Avenues
Wyatt Earp lived in the Richmond in the 1890's
- History of Playland
A capsule history of Playland, based on a 2002 interview with George K. Whitney, Jr. the man who helped run Playland, Sutro Baths and the Cliff House - by John A. Martini
- Honest Abe Avenue
Remnants of America's first highway, the Lincoln Highway. - SF West History Minute
- How Water Shaped Development of the Outside Lands
Initial development of the Richmond and Sunset Districts was predicated on the availability of water. - by John Freeman
- Hydrant Seek
Jamie O'Keefe discusses the ebbs and flows of San Francisco's differing fire hydrants - SF West History Minute
- Inner Richmond History Walk
A stroll though the Richmond - SF West History Minute
- Jack Coll
Memories of the Richmond in the 40's - by Jack Coll
- Joe Politz
The Joe from the Richmond's Joe's Ice Cream
- John Freeman
Shack carpenter, historian, and Richmond District native.
- Johnnie "The Birdman" Williams
John Williams had a trained bird act that he plied at both Ocean Beach and in the vicinity of the Cliff House from the late 1880s until 1907. - By John Freeman
- Johnny the Birdman
100 year old reminder of a local busker - SF West History Minute
- Joseph A. Leonard
Builder of Jordan Park, Richmond Heights and Ingleside Terraces
- Laffin' Sal
Is Laffin' Sal one of a kind? - SF West History Minute
- Lands End Station
From 1905-1941, a charming concession run in a picturesque spot. - by John A. Martini
- Larraburu Brothers Bakery
The Larraburu Brothers were famous for their San Francisco sourdough bread.
- Laurel Hill Cemetery
Bounded by California, Geary, Parker and Presidio Aves.
- Life Saving Station
Built in 1878, a building used by the Life Saving Service was moved in 1923 from Golden Gate Park to the Richmond District. - SF West History Minute
- Lincoln Theatre/Bowling
Sixth Avenue, near Clement
- Making Merry on Merrie Way
A long-time parking lot above the Sutro Baths site was once home to "pleasure grounds." - by Woody LaBounty
- Marine Exchange Lookout
Historian John Martini tells us about one the San Francisco's many west side secrets. - SF West History Minute
- Marine Hospital Cemetery
Located behind the Public Health Hospital, Presidio of San Francisco, near 15th Avenue and Lake Streets.
- Merrie Way
Adolph Sutro's Forgotten Pleasure Grounds - by John A. Martini
- Musical Culture in the 1930s
Advertisements for 1930s music teachers.
- Mystery Monoliths of the Richmond
What are those things at 45th Avenue and Geary? - SF West History Minute
- Naming the Richmond District
George Turner Marsh and the Birth of a Neighborhood - by Woody LaBounty
- Octagon House at Land's End
History of the Point Lobos Marine Exchange Building. - by John Martini
- Odd Fellows Cemetery
All that remains of the cemetery founded on the western slopes of Lone Mountain is the Columbarium.
- Opening the Golden Gate
The Golden Gate Bridge opened in May 1937 - SF West History Minute
- Ostriches at San Francisco's Ocean Beach?
The story of Golden Gate Ostrich Farm at Ocean Beach in San Francisco's Richmond District. - by John Freeman
- Palm Theatre
One of the Richmond District's early motion picture theaters.
- Park Presidio United Methodist Church
PPUMC started in a storefront off Clement Street at 338 Fifth Avenue in April 1897 as the Richmond Methodist Episcopal Church.
- Parking Lot Secret History
A parking lot in more ways than one. - SF West History Minute
- Pat French Swendsen
Memories from a long-time Richmond district resident.
- Phoebe H. Brown
The Great Earthquake and Fire brought her family to build Sea Cliff's first residence. - by Florence Holub
- Playland Auction Video, 1972
Video of footage of the 1972 auction of Playland Memorabilia and rides, including the carousel and Alpine Racer. - Courtesy of KPIX
- Playland Home Movies
A little bit of Playland footage from 1947 - Courtesy of Steve Slinkey
- Playland Memories
Ronna Brandt remembers visiting Playland attractions. - by Ronna Brandt
- Playland Movies, 1960
Great footage of Playland rides shot in 1960. - Courtesy of Ron Biagini
- Playland was our Adventure
Memories of Ocean Beach - by Pat French Swendsen
Memories and photos of San Francisco's Playland-at-the-Beach, which closed in 1972.
- Point Lobos Road
An 1895 article on the history of today's Geary Boulevard. - May 6, 1895 San Francisco Call
- Powell-Wolff Fight, 1906
Lew Powell and Willie Wolff fight below the Cliff House, July 4, 1906
- President Harrison Visits Sutro Heights
news coverage of his 1891 visit
- Presidio Terrace Advertisement
Baldwin & Howell, developers of Presidio Terrace, in a 1915 promotional map and flyer
- Ralph L. Selleck
Playland worker, postman, baseball and race fan - By Denise F. Selleck
- Ranch House Dinners
Fine western-themed dining at the height of the 1950s cowboy craze.
- RDASC Poems 2007
Poems from the Richmond District After School Collaborative, 2007
- Remembering the Coliseum
Going to the Saturday matinee movies was the highlight of the week for all the neighborhood kids. - by Pat French Swendsen
- Remnant of a Richmond Dairy
The Gables stationery store at 5636 Geary Boulevard was once the home of an 1890s dairyman. - SF West History Minute
- Richmond Banner, December 1, 1933
Images and excerpts from a neighborhood newspaper - WNP collection
- Richmond Banner, December 5, 1930
Highlights from a neighborhood newspaper
- Richmond Banner, March 19, 1920
Images and excerpts from a neighborhood newspaper - WNP collection
- Richmond Banner, November 7, 1919
Images and excerpts from a neighborhood newspaper - WNP collection
- Richmond Branch Library
The Richmond Branch Library was the fourth branch established in the San Francisco Library system.
- Richmond Cheese Lovers
Some would argue that 22nd and Geary was once the Richmond District's heart of Mexican Cuisine. - SF West History Minute
- Richmond Coal Company
Coal was king at Geary Boulevard and Fourth Avenue.
- Richmond Memories from Ken Ross
Selling Liberty Magazine, Sarge's pool hall, and the Coliseum Theater - Ken Ross
- Richmond Review Photos
Images from the Richmond District's neighborhood newspaper
- Seaman's Memorial
A grave monument to sailors still stands in today's Lincoln Park.
- Secret Past of 649 - 8th Avenue
The story of a curious building in the Inner Richmond District - SF West History Minute
- Seventh Avenue Station
Lindsey Fryar tells us what that odd shed is at 7th Avenue and Fulton Street. - SF West History Minute
- Shipwrecks at Lands End
At the particularly low tides you can see a number of shipwrecks at Lands End - SF West History Minute
- Sleuthing in the Digital Age
Unraveling the Mystery of Two 1890s Richmond District Houses - by John Freeman
- Social and Architectural History of the Richmond District
The Richmond District is one of San Francisco's largest and most varied neighborhoods. - by Christopher VerPlanck
- Spanish Town: Street Names in Western SF
The Alphabet of the Richmond and Sunset - by John Freeman
- Streetcar Crash Remembered
Jack Tillmany celebrates an unusual 60th anniversary
- Streetwise - A Life of Active Duty
Fort Miley, the VA, and the story of one west side veteran. - by Frank Dunnigan
- Streetwise - Richmond Ramble
One man's memories of businesses and institutions in the Richmond District. - by Frank Dunnigan
- Streetwise - Savoring the Past
Memories and recipe resurrection from The Hot House restaurant at Playland. - by Frank Dunnigan
- Streetwise - The Sands of Time
Frank Dunnigan tells of St. Ignatius High School's move to the Sunset, and some student high jinks too. - by Frank Dunnigan
- Streetwise: Birth of a Garage
The changing face of the Richmond District - by Woody LaBounty
- Streetwise: Dearly Departed
At the turn of the 20th century most of San Francisco's dead were interred to the northwestern side of the city. - by Woody LaBounty
- Streetwise: Mountain Lake
Juan Bautista de Anza camped at a lake "of very fine water near the mouth of the port of San Francisco". - by Woody LaBounty
- Streetwise: Palaces of the Past
Lamenting the loss of the great (and small) movie palaces. - by Woody LaBounty
- Streetwise: Run Out of Town
The Richmond District used to be criss-crossed with streetcar lines. - by Woody LaBounty
- Streetwise: The Richmond Recovery
The Richmond after the earthquake - by Woody LaBounty
- Streetwise: Twenty-Five Cents of Heaven
In 2002, newspapers wrapped up the story, saying the Musee Mecanique has been "saved". - by Woody LaBounty
- Streetwise:Fog and Light
Navigating the Golden Gate - by Woody LaBounty
- Supervisor McLeran Tours the West Side
1920 newsreel footage of Ocean Beach, the Cliff House, Lincoln Park and Golden Gate Park. - Courtesy of Jack Tillmany
- Sutro Baths Burning, 1966
Photos and Video of Sutro Baths going up in smoke. - Courtesy of Joel Springer and the National Park Service.
- Sutro Baths Interior, 1960
A derelict Sutro Baths in the 1960s. - Courtesy of Cliff Tune.
- Sutro Baths Memories, 1952
1952 San Francisco Chronicle article colorfully bemoaning Sutro Baths' demise. - by Will Connolly
- Sutro Baths Program, 1897
- Courtesy of Christine Miller.
- Sutro Baths Segregation
An 1890s bid for civil rights at Sutro Baths - by Woody LaBounty
- Sutro Elementary School
Over 100 years old, Sutro Elementary was torn down and rebuilt in 1976.
- Sutro Heights "Bunkers"
John Martini demystifies the concrete structures in Sutro Heights - SF West History Minute
- Sutro's Conservatory
Buried treasures under the lawn at Sutro Heights Park show the location of a long lost building - SF West History Minute
- Sutro's Lions
History of the lion statues that guard the gates of Sutro Heights. - by John Martini
- Sutro's Tunnels
The story behind the mysterious tunnels through Point Lobos. - SF West History Minute
- Terrorism in the Richmond District in 1927
Exploding luggage on Balboa Street and the "black hand." - by Paul Rosenberg
- The Adventure of the Fake Rocks
One boy's 1940s adventure on the cliffs of Sutro Heights. - by Christopher Newton
- The Army Invades the Richmond District
The story of Camp Merritt - SF West History Minute
- The Bee Pharmacy, 1920s
Later the Model Pharmacy, 500 Balboa Street at Sixth Avenue in the 1920s.
- The Casino
A Golden Gate Park restaurant that became a Richmond District roadhouse.
- The Chutes
This long-gone amusement was at 10th and Fulton
- The Circle of History
Chance meetings make for good history - by Woody LaBounty
- The Columbarium
Lindsey walks among the dead at the Columbarium, once part of the Odd Fellows Cemetery. - SF West History Minute
- The Larkins Building
The Larkins Building on the NW corner of Arguello and Geary boulevards has in interesting and mostly unknown history. - SF West History Minute
- The Lineup
One of the most elusive pieces of Sutro history has to be the 1958 film-noir movie "The Lineup" made inside the Sutro Baths. - by John A. Martini
- The Reid Brothers - James and Merrit Reid
Architects of the Cliff House, Fairmont Hotel, and a whole lot of Richmond District theaters.
- The Richmond Grounds - the Big Games of 1902 and 1903
The two final battles for Bay Area collegiate football supremacy to be held in San Francisco occurred in the Richmond District. - By Angus MacFarlane
- The Splendid Inn
A restaurant at Fulton and Great Highway that served the Playland crowds. - Courtesy of Pete Batanides
- Tillmany's Ride
A personal account of a 1947 streetcar crash - by Jack Tillmany
- Tombstone Search
When the cemeteries were moved from the Richmond District, the remains went one place and the headstones another. - SF West History Minute
- Urban Realty Improvement Co. Sales Pamphlet, 1910
1910 brochure detailing Joseph A. Leonard's residential building offerings through the Urban Realty Improvement Company. - WNP Collection
- Warren Crandall
The spiritual heir of Playland-at-the-Beach
- Washington High Class of 1968
Meeting Wash classmates forty years later - by Paul Judge
- Wave and Tidal Energy Experiments in San Francisco and Santa Cruz
Over 100 years ago San Franciscans were entertaining electricity from the ocean as a legitimate solution to some of their power problems. - by Christine Miller
- Wave Motors and Tide Machines at the Cliff House: 1886 to present
The first full scale wave motor built near the Cliff House was probably also the first in California. - by Christine Miller
- We Love the Beach
Ocean Beach. Sunset. See you there. - SF West History Minute
- We Love the Fog
Woody LaBounty waxes poetic on the west side's Summer visitor - SF West History Minute
- World War II in San Francisco
John Martini recounts how close the war came on Christmas Eve 1941 - SFWest History Minute
- Young Hearts in Showtime
A 1965 Richmond District musical that featured youth from many schools. - by Mary-Ann Orr