Streetwise - Remembering When
by Frank Dunnigan
Frank Dunnigan, WNP member and columnist. -
Those printed obituaries of the dearly departed often include educational, social, business, charitable, and religious affiliations that were important to the deceased. Having grown up in an Irish family, I remain an avid daily reader of San Francisco obituaries—now online—and recently, I’m noticing that many of the once-popular references may not be appearing in San Francisco Chronicle death notices for too much longer. You can spot a long-time San Franciscan when you read:
- At Children’s Hospital—Founded in 1875, a popular place for mothers and babies, it became California-Pacific Medical Center in 1991.
- At French Hospital—Founded in 1851, relocated to 5th Avenue and Geary in 1895, and expanded in the 1960s, the facility was acquired by Kaiser in 1989.
- South-of-Market—A residential neighborhood of wooden flats and tiny cottages. The neighborhood was destroyed early on April 18, 1906, and re-emerged as a mostly industrial area, drastically reducing neighborhood births.
- Arcadia, Greece—Birthplace of many local Greek residents, including Mayor George Christopher (1907-2000) who came to America in childhood and grew up in a South-of-Market neighborhood known as “Greektown.”
- Basque-Pyrenees—Mountainous region near the France/Spain border—ancestral home of many local French-Americans.
- Canton, China—Until recent times, many in San Francisco’s Chinese community traced their origins to this port-city region in southeastern China.
- County Kerry, Ireland—Westernmost county in the present Republic of Ireland—ancestral home of many San Francisco Irish-Americans.
- Lucca, Italy—A town on the northwest coast of Italy—ancestral home of many local Italian-Americans. Up to 80% of pre-1906 Italian immigrants to San Francisco were from the north of Italy.
- Sicily—Island adjacent to the southern tip of the Italian boot, and ancestral home to many local Italian-Americans who arrived in later waves of immigration, including the seven brothers and one sister of the Alioto family that came from Sant’ Elia between 1896 and 1913.
Van Ness & Hayes Streets. Looking NW to cemeteries; Hayes Valley, circa 1928 - (Emiliano Echeverria/Randolph Brandt Collection)
- Commerce High School—Established in 1883 as the Business Department of Boys’ High School. In 1926 the institution moved to 135 Van Ness Avenue as a co-educational school. Its football team, the Bulldogs, won the city championship in 1950, but due to declining enrollment, the school closed in 1951. Many Commerce grads used to walk one block to City Hall after graduation, where they then enjoyed successful careers in local government.
- Girls’ High School—Created in 1864 when San Francisco’s first public high school was split into separate institutions for girls/boys. In 1906, the campus at Geary and Scott Streets was severely damaged, but eventually repaired. The school closed in 1952. The building later housed Benjamin Franklin Middle School, and is currently home to two charter schools.
- McAteer High School—Named for the late state senator (1916-1967), the school operated from 1973-2002.
- Old Lowell—The high school’s pre-1962 campus was located at Hayes Street and Masonic Avenue.
- Polytechnic High School—Public high school that operated from 1914-1973, on Frederick Street in the Inner Sunset. With a program of mechanical and industrial arts, plus academic subjects, it was San Francisco’s largest public high school for many years with more than 2,000 students, and had perennial winning football teams under Coach Milt Axt.
- Presentation Academy—Catholic girls’ high school operated at Turk Street and Masonic from the 1930s until 1991, when the site was acquired by University of San Francisco (USF).
- San Francisco College for Women—Renamed Lone Mountain when it went co-ed in 1969, then acquired by nearby USF in 1978.
- Star of the Sea Academy—Alma mater of Gracie Allen and many others, the Richmond District Catholic girls’ high school closed in 1985.
- State Teachers College—From 1921-1935, this was the official name of today’s San Francisco State University.
- St. Charles Commercial High School—Mission District Catholic girls’ high school that trained students for business careers prior to its 1937 closure.
- St. James High School—Mission District boys’ high school that closed in 1949 when Archbishop Riordan High School opened.
- St. Joseph’s College of Nursing—Founded in 1921 adjacent to St. Joseph’s Hospital near Buena Vista Park, the school’s final class graduated in 1973. In 1979, the hospital closed, and later became condominiums.
- St. Peter’s Academy—Long-time Mission District girls’ Catholic high school that closed in 1966—the alma mater of many western neighborhoods moms.
- St. Rose Academy—Severely damaged by the Loma Prieta earthquake, the school held its final graduation in 1990, yet still has an active alumnae association.
looking southeast to City of Paris, circa 1960 - (Courtesy of a Private Collector)
RETIRED EMPLOYEE OF:
- American Telephone & Telegraph—One of San Francisco’s largest employers from 1925-2007, and was headquartered at 140 New Montgomery Street.
- Blum’s—Popular bakery and candy outlet. In 1967, Blum’s had five locations in San Francisco, plus San Jose, San Mateo, Sacramento, and New York City.
- City of Paris—Downtown retail store (and branches) selling clothing, household gifts, and gourmet foods from 1850-1972.
- Emporium—Iconic Market Street department store from 1896-1995, employing thousands. The store’s first branch opened at Stonestown in November 1952.
- Hibernia Bank—Founded in 1859, the bank operated from a classic building at #1 Jones Street from the 1890s until it was acquired by Security Pacific in 1988. The old 22nd Avenue & Noriega branch is remembered because of the April 1974 robbery by Patty Hearst and the Symbionese Liberation Army.
- I. Magnin—San Francisco retail firm founded by Mary Ann Magnin in 1876. In 1948, the store moved to a Timothy Pfleuger-designed marble-clad structure at Stockton and Geary Streets on Union Square. The store closed in 1994.
- Mary’s Help Hospital—Mission District hospital founded in 1893 on Guerrero Street. With an affiliated school of nursing, it was the largest private hospital in Northern California by 1913. Damaged by the 1957 earthquake, it relocated to Daly City in 1965, and was renamed Seton Medical Center in 1983.
- White House Department Store—Upscale San Francisco department store from 1854 until 1965. After closing, the building at Geary and Grant was gutted, with the exterior façade preserved, for a parking garage.
- Zellerbach Paper—Founded in 1868, the company was long identified with San Francisco business and philanthropy. Its 1959 building at Market, Bush, and Battery Streets was among the first modern-era high-rises. The company was acquired/restructured in 1985.
Built in 1959, this pavilion accompanied the first modern skyscraper built on Market Street in 30 years, circa 1959 - (Courtesy of a Private Collector)
DEVOTED WORSHIPER AT:
- Bethel A.M.E. Church—San Francisco’s oldest African-American congregation celebrated its 165th anniversary in March 2017, serving the community while coping with a gradual membership move to the suburbs.
- Congregation Beth Israel—A large pre-earthquake Jewish congregation on Geary near Fillmore was losing members post-World War II, until a 1960s merger with Temple Judea and relocation to Brotherhood Way.
- Pine United Methodist Church—The oldest Japanese-American Methodist congregation in the United States, founded in 1886, retained members by relocating from the Western Addition to the Richmond District in 1965.
- St. Brigid Parish—Long-time Catholic church at Van Ness and Broadway, closed in 1994, and later sold to Academy of Art College.
- St. Paulus Church—Large Lutheran congregation at Gough and Eddy Streets from 1894 until a fire destroyed the building in 1995.
PROUD UNION MEMBER OF:
- Communication Workers of America—Union that once represented tens of thousands workers at AT&T and Pacific Telephone & Telegraph.
- Department Store Employees’ Union, Local 1100—Long-time bargaining agent for workers at numerous local department/clothing stores.
- International Longshore and Warehouse Union, Local 34—Long-time San Francisco labor group that traces its origins to the General Strike of 1934.
LONG-TIME MEMBER OF:
- Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks—The group’s San Francisco Lodge #3 is “the longest continuous-running lodge in Elkdom”—since 1876. Membership, once limited to white males, has been open to all for decades. The group once occupied the entire 450 Post building, but in recent times, much of the space has been leased to the Kensington Park Hotel.
- Cathay Boys Band—A Chinatown-based marching band has been a part of local funerals since 1911, though the original group has diversified, with many members now living elsewhere.
- Concordia-Argonaut Club—The Concordia Society, incorporated in 1864 by Levi Strauss, merged with the Argonaut Club in 1939, remaining at Van Ness Avenue and Post Street (built-1891/rebuilt-1909). Originally a Jewish men’s club, the group dropped the religious requirement in the 1960s and later began to include women. Due to declining enrollment, the club sold its historic building in 2015, and merged with the Presidio Golf Club.
- Eastern Star—A freemasonry-associated group with chapters led primarily by women. In 1955, the group peaked at 35 individual chapters in San Francisco, with thousands of active members. Today, there is only one San Francisco-based chapter—located on Brotherhood Way.
- Ignatian Guild—Long-established mothers’ club for the University of San Francisco and St. Ignatius College Preparatory.
- Irish-Israeli-Italian Society—Founded in 1965, and known as the “Triple I.” Historically open to all, the club celebrates St. Patrick’s Day, Israeli Independence Day, and Columbus Day with luncheon gatherings that lean toward historical San Francisco reminiscences among attendees.
- Little Children’s Aid—Women’s charitable group founded in 1907 to help young victims of the 1906 Earthquake & Fire—now the fund-raising arm of Catholic Charities.
- Mount Zion Hospital Auxiliary—Charity supporting the old Mount Zion Hospital, founded in 1899, which operated independently until the 1989 merger with UCSF medical center.
- Native Sons/Daughters of the Golden West—A fraternal organization founded in San Francisco circa 1875, with a focus on historic preservation and charitable fund-raising. The group owns a Julia Morgan-designed building on Mason Street in downtown San Francisco.
- San Francisco Italian Athletic Club—The club is the result of a 1917 merger of several smaller North Beach organizations. The building, facing Washington Square, is the site of numerous luncheon/dinner gatherings. During World War II, popular sentiment led the group to drop “Italian” from its name, though the original wording was restored by the membership in 1979.
- South-of-Market Boys/Girls Club—A group of 1906 survivors born South-of-Market, whose mission was to aid the elderly and blind of San Francisco. The group, long disbanded, was the first to lay a wreath at Lotta’s Fountain in 1924, thus kicking off the annual civic commemoration of the events of 1906.
EARLY RESIDENT OF:
- Anza Vista—Neighborhood built circa World War II on old cemetery sites adjacent to Geary Street and Masonic Avenue.
- Parkmerced—Originally built by Metropolitan Life Insurance, the first apartments on Font Boulevard were occupied in 1944. Later, eleven apartment towers were added.
- St. Francis Wood—West Portal-area residential park developed circa World War I.
Hale Bros Department Store New Mission theater, New Mission Market, New Rialto Theatre on right, across from New Mission, Oct 14, 1932 - (Courtesy of a Private Collector)
LONG-TIME BUSINESS OWNER ON:
- Balboa/Clement/Irving/Taraval Street—Prior to the proliferation of cell phone stores and other chains, many neighborhood streets were home to a variety of small businesses owned and operated by local residents.
- Fillmore Street—For decades, more than a dozen blocks along Fillmore, east/west of Geary, were the heart of a thriving African-American community. After World War II, City-sponsored redevelopment forced out more than 10,000 residents and nearby businesses.
- Mission Miracle Mile—Neighborhood shopping area, the Mission District was spared from the 1906 Fire and, along with Fillmore Street, became a thriving city-wide shopping destination until the late 1950s.
- A veteran of World War I—The last American survivor of the “Great War” died in 2011 at the age of 110.
- A veteran of World War II—Although there are half-a-million living American veterans of World War II, most are age 90+.
- A survivor of the 1906 earthquake/fire—With the death of William Del Monte (age 109) in 2016, this designation is now forever closed to obituary writers.
- Walked across the Golden Gate Bridge on Opening Day—The bridge opened 80 years ago this month, so this is another life accomplishment that is set to begin fading from local obituaries.
- Currivan’s Chapel of the Sunset—Operated at 26th Avenue and Irving Street from 1944-1986, now a credit union.
- Hogan, Sullivan & Bianco—Long-time Inner Sunset mortuary on 9th Avenue that closed circa 2008, now apartments/retail.
- Arthur J. Sullivan & Co.—Operating on Market Street since 1924, merged with Duggan’s Serra Mortuary in 2016, with site now being converted to housing/retail.
- Valente, Marini, Perata—Operating since 1888, the Mission Street firm is seeking a new location as the present site has been sold for 154 units of affordable housing.
Contribute your own stories about western neighborhoods places!
Page launched 29 April 2017.