West Portal - Introduction

Poster from CHS of Twin Peaks Tunnel

Welcome to the "virtual" version of the West Portal History Walk, a self-guided historical tour along West Portal Avenue. With support from the California Council for the Humanities, participation from the merchants of West Portal Avenue and a great deal of work by Richard Brandi, the walk debuted in storefront windows on February 1, 2002.

Richard is a West Portal resident and fourth-generation San Franciscan who dug through historical collections for representative images and wrote this brief history of the neighborhood.

Surrounding the West Portal neighborhood are the unique urban developments of Forest Hill, St. Francis Wood, Balboa Terrace, and other "residential parks" that were designed with prohibitions on commercial use. West Portal Avenue acted as the commercial strip serving these neighborhoods.

This almost complete separation of commercial and residential districts later became commonplace with the advent of true suburbs after World War II. In the setting of a major city, and with neighborhoods whose very existence was owed to the construction of mass transportation (the Twin Peaks streetcar tunnel), this balanced relationship between developments is historically significant.

We hope you enjoy yourself on this trip to one western neighborhood's past!

The West Portal History Walk
First stop


Index of the walk:

Introduction (Poster)

  1. West Portal Avenue at Ulloa Street, 1924
  2. Claremont Court looking west from Portola Drive, 1916
  3. Looking south from Edgehill, 1920
  4. Twin Peaks Tunnel under construction, 1916
  5. Twin Peaks tunnel from Claremont Avenue, 1927
  6. West Portal Avenue and Ulloa Street, 1920
  7. Streetcar rail work being done on West Portal Avenue in 1917
  8. West Portal Avenue from the air, 1935
  9. West Portal Avenue, 1929 and 1947
  10. Empire Cinema, 1925
  11. Shaw's Ice Cream, 1940
  12. 314 West Portal Avenue, 1941
  13. West Portal and Vicente, 1927
  14. West Portal and 14th Avenue, 1946

Image: Poster of the downtown and outlying districts shaking hand through the Twin Peaks Tunnel. Courtesy of the California Historical Society.


Contribute your own stories about western neighborhoods places.!

Page launched 1/11/02

 
Related Content
  • Farms, Fire and Forest

    Sutro's ownership of the old Rancho San Miguel ( Jan 1, 2005)
  • Fernando Nelson

    Builder of West Portal, Parkway Terrace, and Merced Manor ( Jan 1, 2005)
  • Streetwise: Forest Hill

    Architect David Coleman designed the first completed home in Forest Hill at 266 Pacheco Street. ( Jan 1, 2006)
  • 100 Stonecrest Drive

    Henry Stoneson built this house in Lakeside for his own use. ( Jan 1, 2006)
  • Duncan McDuffie

    A first-person account of the building of St. Francis Wood from one of the partners of the real estate firm of Mason-McDuffie. ( Jan 1, 2006)
  • St. Francis Wood Pamphlet

    Mason-McDuffie and Baldwin & Howell issued a small booklet promoting the St. Francis Wood development in November 1912. ( Jan 1, 2006)
  • A Short History of West of Twin Peaks

    Residence parks and other neighborhoods in San Francisco's West of Twin Peaks area. ( Jan 1, 2006)
  • Madie Brown

    An ardent nature lover, she was the one who organized a citywide preservation effort to make Mt. Davidson a public park. ( Jan 1, 2006)
  • Homewood Terrace Orphanage

    Jewish orphanage that faced Ocean Avenue from 1921 to 1960s ( Sep 2, 2007)
  • Sherwood Forest

    A tiny neighborhood on the side of Mount Davidson. ( Jan 4, 2008)

Save SF History