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Outside Lands Podcast Episode 450: Fire(s) on Point Lobos Avenue

The history of beloved buildings on Point Lobos Avenue seems inextricably linked to fire. John Martini joins Nicole & Arnold to describe the conflagrations that destroyed cherished west side attractions like the Cliff House (twice!) and Sutro Baths.
- Mar 12, 2022

Outside Lands Podcast Episode 450: Fire(s) on Point Lobos Avenue Outside Lands Podcast Episode 450: Fire(s) on Point Lobos Avenue

(above) Second Cliff House, Sep 7, 1907

Second Cliff House burning, view north from Ocean Beach. Group of people watching [G810 CH-019] (GGNRA/Behrman GOGA 35346)

Podcast Transcription

WNP450 – Fires on Point Lobos Avenue

Nicole: [00:00:00] It’s Outside Lands San Francisco, podcast of the Western Neighborhoods Project. I'm Nicole Meldahl.

Arnold: And I’m Arnold Woods.

Nicole: All right. Hello Arnold.

Arnold: Hello Nicole.

Nicole: How are you today?

Arnold: Yeah. After appearing as a guest recently, I've now been promoted to co-host.

Nicole: Yes. So, our dear co-host Michael is on hiatus unfortunately, or still on hiatus unfortunately. But that's okay because we're in such good hands with you and we are also really excited to welcome to this podcast, John Martini.

John: Hello. It's been a while.

Arnold: Hey, John.

Nicole: Well, it feels right having you back in the podcast scene.

John: Oh, thank you. Thank you for inviting me. This is one of my favorite topics.

Nicole: Yes, [00:01:00] because John, what are you here to talk about today?

John: Poof. There it goes. The fires that have repeatedly destroyed our Outside Lands area along Point Lobos Avenue and the Cliff House. The story that keeps repeating.

Nicole: It's true. Hopefully we'll never repeat again. We're done with fires on this set of town.

John: Please.

Nicole: Yeah, no more. And am I correct in thinking that literally almost everything has burned down at least once along Point Lobos.

John: No. No. Everything has burned down at least once.

Arnold: Not almost everything, but everything.

John: But everything, yeah. If you know, start with, you know, the Cliff House. and you go marching north and east uphill on Point Lobos Avenue at the turn of the century, there was an unbroken line of buildings that terminated almost up where the Land's End Lookout is now. There's a giant streetcar barn. It was unbroken. And it was [00:02:00] wood and it was flammable.

Nicole: Yes. So, we've got the Cliff House, which burned down not once, but twice. We've got the Cliff House Gift Shop. We've got Danny's Cliff Chalet. We've got lovable Louis's Restaurant and the Sutro car barn. All of the Whitney displays that you just talked about. And the big one, the most incendiary of all the Sutro Baths. So in all, there was five major fires and only two of these businesses remain, the former Cliff House and technically Louis's. And we won't even be talking about the explosion of the Parallel, which caused a lot of damage to the buildings in the area in 1888. So how about this? Let's get our pyromania on and sift through all these ashes. Do you see what I did there?

Arnold: I do.

John: I did a spit take.

Nicole: All right. Arnold, why don't you take it from here.

Arnold: Well, we start with the first major fire to befall Lands End, which was the loss of the [00:03:00] very first Cliff House to a fire on Christmas Day, December 25th, 1894. The Daily Morning Call sadly headlined the news with the words, “Ash in heaps, the Cliff House is a reminiscence.”

Nicole: Yeah.

Arnold: The headline in the San Francisco Chronicle story simply stated, “Cliff House gone.”

John: Now what we're talking about is the very first Cliff House, one that had its origins in 1863. And it got expanded and it got bigger. And it was a real landmark that had been purchased by Adolph Sutro. And it was, like a lot of restaurants, in need of refreshment. And in this case, it was being upgraded and a fire broke out about 8:00 PM in a defective flue inside the wall. It moved real fast. Wood frame building, winds. The proprietor James Wilkins just lived a few doors away uphill. He ran down, immediately heard the fire, stated it was hopeless to fight from the start. The Fire Department [00:04:00] quickly moved from fighting the fire to preventing it from spreading to the Sutro Baths, which were well underway at that point. By midnight, curious had already begun to arrive, and the next day, thousands more came out to the seashore.

Nicole: Yeah. And perhaps Adolph had a premonition about future fires. And in 1896, he funded the construction of a firehouse near the corner of then Cliff Road, which is what we today think of as Point Lobos Avenue, that and 48th Avenue. Which was kitty corner from the lions at the entrance to the Sutro Heights, which is something that we can all remember because it's still there today. It was designated a chemical truck station, which was essentially a large fire extinguisher on wheels rather than a pumper truck. And that site today is occupied by those candy-colored condominiums.

John: Yeah, you could kinda stress that it was a long ways from nowhere out there. The nearest fire department was many, many blocks away, so Sutro. paid for one. I mean, he was [00:05:00] smart.

Nicole: He was smart. And you know what, people have asked me constantly if that fire department that's up on where Point Lobos and Geary meet.

John: Right.

Nicole: If that was the one, the first one built there and I was like, I don't know. I don't think it's that old. But now we know.

John: Nope, nope. It wasn’t.

Arnold: Sutro him, who was at that time, mayor-elect of San Francisco, soon to assume office. He arrived on the scene about a half hour after the alarm went out, but his thoughts were not on the building that he invested so much money in, you know, burning up. It was on the people who visited there. He told the Chronicle, quote, “everybody who was anybody and who was ever out here has visited the Cliff House.” End quote. However, Sutro also pinched some pennies. He did not carry insurance on the building. And did not state on that night whether or not he would rebuild, [00:06:00] although the proprietor then did have some insurance for some of the stuff inside the Cliff House.

John: Okay. I gotta agree with you. There was a difference between the guy who owned the building. and the proprietor who owned a lot of the furnishings inside. Something which Nicole and Western Neighborhoods have dealt with in more recent history.

Nicole: Very true. Very true. Yeah.

John: The, the proprietors, they eventually stated they would rebuild. And Sutro rebuilt on like he was want to do on a grandiose scale. And the, what people erroneously, I think called the Victorian Cliff House was really a French chateau-inspired Cliff House, five stories higher than its predecessor. It went up relatively quickly, 1895, and it opened in March 1896. The most iconic version of the Cliff House. And it survived the great 1906 earthquake and fire. There were rumors that it had fallen off the cliff and into [00:07:00] the ocean, but they weren't true. It, old reports say it suffered broken glass and some cracked chimneys, but otherwise sailed through fine.

Nicole: That's not bad.

Arnold: Today, it would take 10 years to build a building like that.

John: Take 10 years to get the permits. Yeah.

Nicole: Oh gosh. Let's stay outta that conversation. But so, okay, it survives the fire and earthquake, but then on September 7th, 1907, the Cliff House was closed for some remodeling work. And because it was a Saturday, the workers had left for the day, sort of early in the afternoon and around 4:30 PM, Wilkins, who previously had run the restaurant and still lived close by, again noticed smoke coming outta the basement and brought it to the attention of the watchman named Owen Mulvaney. Mulvaney immediately used the building's auxiliary service to cut in on, to call in an alarm.

Arnold: I sense a trend here. They should maybe stop remodeling the Cliff House. Because when they do, [00:08:00] it burns up.

Nicole: Or maybe Wilkins shouldn't be in the area. It's like how president, or no all the presidential assassinations were attended by Lincoln's son on accident. You need, anyways, moving on.

John: Get Robert outta here.

Nicole: Yeah, exactly.

Arnold: Anyway, captain W.E. Kelly of the Fire Department's Chemical Company Number 8, located nearby, remember Sutro’s apparent premonition that such a fire extinguishing service would be needed when he funded it and put it right up the hill, they were the first to respond with several firemen and a horse drawn fire engine. They began running a chemical fire hose into the Cliff House and ran into a visibly dazed Wilkins, who had apparently been inside. Fireman Fred Klatzal tried to help him out, but both collapsed from the smoke. Now nearby citizens came rushing up when they saw the smoke to see if they could be of service. They [00:09:00] ended up helping those two, the fireman and Wilkins, out of the building. But the fire engine was so close to the flames that the horse’s shoulder was singed and soon used up its very limited supply of chemical.

John: Yeah. Yes. Captain Kelly from the Fire Department, he started calling in other companies, I mean, this was a huge blaze, companies 30 and 36 to respond. Engine Company 36 got there quickly, with company 30 arriving shortly thereafter. At 5:25 PM, firemen were hooked up to a fire hose and a hydrant by the garage. By this time, there were fire hydrants out there.

Nicole: Wow.

John: Some of the water came from the Spring Valley Water Department. There wasn't a Department of Public Works yet. Some of it came from hydrants that were piped directly to Sutro’s private cisterns and reservoirs up above the Heights. They were trying to douse the flames, but it would be like spitting on a campfire. It was just roaring. And to make things even better, powder that was being used [00:10:00] to widen the road down to the beach and stored in the basement exploded. Even the sea lions on Seal Rocks just abandoned. They just took off. It was the explosions, the fire. Don't know when they return, but you know, they're sensitive creature.

Nicole: Yeah. I bet y'all never thought we'd be giving you so many details about these fires, but they're gonna keep on coming. So, more fire department companies come. We've got engine companies numbers 21, 22, 23, 26, and truck companies numbers 5 and 6. All responding to the blaze, but heat forced fire personnel and equipment to move back. Large crowds, like we said, were starting, they're gathering on Ocean Beach and the Great Highway was filled with vehicles as gawkers sort of amassed together to see this incredible spectacle, and some even ventured up Point Lobos Avenue toward the firetruck for a closer look. I don't know about both of you, but when I see fire, I'm not like, I gotta get closer to this right now.

Arnold: And, you know, you could be out on Ocean Beach [00:11:00] and watch it anyway, so I don't see a need to get closer. There is a hero in all of this. Although none of the emergency responders could get real close, Engineer Temple of Company 36 heroically stayed at his post by the fire hydrant to ensure a continuous stream of water despite nearby flames and having to turn his back to protect his face. In fact, the fellow, his fellow firemen took to dowsing him with water just to keep him safe while he was keeping the water supply going.

John: Yeah. The evening just kept getting worse. There was another explosion when painting materials and turpentine in the building were touched off by the flames. Wasn't long before the personnel knew the Cliff House, it was lost.

Nicole: Yeah.

John: And they switched their efforts from fighting the fire to, again, saving nearby structures, like the Baths and Sutro’s family house up at Sutro Heights. Now they were successful. Engineer Temple was given much credit for ensuring the [00:12:00] conflagration didn't reach the Sutro Baths. Over and over, that becomes a huge theme. Gotta keep the Baths from burning cause they were so vast.

Nicole: Should we develop a drink like the Shirley Temple, but start calling it the Engineer Temple in honor of this great man's service to our favorite Cliff House?

John: Sure. Nicole, you're the mixologist to figure what goes in it and we'll drink to him.

Nicole: Ooh. I'll have to start thinking. So only the Cliff House and the attached garage were lost, and it was believed that steam fitters working in the basement may have accidentally left like a fire pot burning, or that a, you know, a cigarette was sort of accidentally discarded by flammable materials. The, honestly, the exact cause was never really determined.

Arnold: You know, we keep losing the Cliff House, but it keeps coming back too.

Nicole: Sure.

Arnold: So, John Tait, who had later opened Tait’s at the Beach further south on Ocean Beach, [00:13:00] was leasing the Cliff House from the Sutro family at the time of this fire. He had spent about $50,000 remodeling the Cliff House when it all went up in smoke. As Adolph Sutro had died nine years previous, it was no longer up to him to determine whether they would rebuild and how. That task fell to his daughter, Emma Sutro Merritt. She turned to the Reid Brothers to design a new Cliff House and ironically, Reid Brothers had designed the Hotel Del Coronado in San Diego, which had served as an inspiration for the Sutro grand Cliff House.

John: Yeah. Yeah. Unlike the Hotel del Coronado, which is wood, if you've ever seen the movie, Some Like It Hot, that’s where it was made, Adolph’s executorix, his eldest daughter, Emma Merritt, she was gonna make sure this new Cliff House wasn't gonna burn down. It's basically a bunker, made concrete thick foot walls sitting on the cliffs. She wasn't gonna let it [00:14:00] burn, and hopefully it wouldn't be susceptible to even earthquakes. It reopened on July 1st, 1909, with John Tait still aboard to run the establishment.

Arnold: And it has not burned down since.

Nicole: Oh Arnold, what are you doing? Knock on wood, everybody. We're coming up probably to, into another construction period. And while Wilkins isn't nearby anymore, we all need to remember what the history tells us. Okay, so that's the story of the Cliff House and it going up in flames. A poof. Now we're gonna get into the Sutro Car Barn fire. Although the Emma Sutro Cliff House has thus far proven to be, you know, not incendiary, the other buildings nearby definitely don't fall into that category. So early on February 12th, 1949, fire struck the Sutro Car Barn. And the three [00:15:00] alarm fire would completely destroy the structure within a half hour. So, Louis', which was next door, was also gutted, but, and would have to be rebuilt. Also lost was a lunch counter within the Car Barn and a wooden tunnel that connected to the Sutro Baths. And John, can you place us where we're supposed to be? Like, where was this actually, if you're on Point Lobos right now. Where would this roughly be? Where were, where would the Car Barn roughly have been?

John: Oh, okay. If you're staring at the closed-up Louis's restaurant, it was immediately to the right, to the east. And it was, well, probably about a hundred plus feet long, big enough for several street cars to park inside. It had a lunchroom and a convenience station. But again, it was wood.

Nicole: Right. And was that lunch counter inside, was that run by the Hountalas family?

John: It was. It was run by the Hountalases, whose son Danny would later run, these names keep repairing Danny's Cliff Chalet, and later on be the last manager of the current [00:16:00] Cliff House structure.

Nicole: Perfect. This is why we pay you the absolute $0, John. Thank you.

John: Full of worthless trivia.

Nicole: It's not worthless when you're with the Western Neighborhoods Project. It's priceless here, John.

John: Thank you. Thank you.

Arnold: In fact, Danny Hountalas, who you just mentioned, began his working life as a six-year-old outside of that car barn selling peanuts to passers-by.

John: Yes. And the name of their company was the Peanut Stand, LCC.

Nicole: Nice.

John: Yeah.

Arnold: Yeah.

Nicole: Oh, it makes so much sense now. Oh, I miss Dan and Mary.

Arnold: Yeah. A good friend of the Western Neighborhoods Project, Tom Bratton used to work up at Sutro’s and his father was an engineer there. The, he said the fire apparently started when some street car employees built a warming fire in a steel trash can. It got out of control and the [00:17:00] 53-year-old wooden street car shed went up like a torch.

Nicole: If the, if the WNP office ever fire burns down, it's because I have set fire to a steel trash can to keep warm.

Arnold: Unfortunately, for the Hountalas family, this would not be the last fire they have to deal with.

Nicole: No.

John: No. No. And the, in fact, there was a reference Nicole made that there had been a carriage shed next to the Cliff House that burned in the big fire in 1907. Well, it had been rebuilt as a more upscale thing called, it was a garage for both carriages and automobiles. Big cavernous structure. And over the years, it got remodeled a couple of times. Everything up is always being remodeled and upgraded. And it, one, one time it was a dance parlor, and then later on it was subdivided into a series of small storefronts selling seashells and saltwater taffy. And in the [00:18:00] 1930s, it was converted into what was called by the Whitney family, who by that time managed the Cliff House, into the world's largest gift shop.

Nicole: Do you think it was the world’s largest gift shop?

John: Oh, who knows? I mean, god love the Whitney's. Everything was the biggest or the longest, or the tallest. It was, they were showbiz folks.

Nicole: My favorite is still the world's tallest salt water waterfall.

John: True in every detail. Yeah.

Nicole: It's true. So, okay, where were we at now? So, Prohibition, right, puts a real wrench in the works of the Cliff House's business. Like I tell folks today, like restaurants have always made their money on booze, not really anything else. So, it was very true for the Cliff House. Its then proprietor Richie, Richard Shorty Roberts tried to keep the Cliff [00:19:00] House afloat as sort of a coffee establishment, but was forced to close in October 1925. And some of the various concession stands remained open in the area, but the loss of this prime attraction really hurt the cafes and curio shops lining Point Lobos Avenue, which feels kind of like history's repeating itself. Huh?

Arnold: And that's where the Whitney's came in that John just mentioned, remodeling of the area and opening the gift shop. But on November 12th, 1963, a five-alarm blaze broke out in the structure, and we're talking about the gift shop building, at about 5:30 PM. Eight firemen were actually injured from fighting this fire, but also from rocks that were being hurled at the emergency crews by miscreant youths up on Sutro Heights. One of our favorite neighborhood regulars, Jack Norton, was there that day. He's now a retired firefighter who has lived in the Richmond district all of his life. Aside from the [00:20:00] store's inventory, he noted to us that also lost were examples of George Whitney’s collection of collections, which he had displayed in the gift shop. Which included all these old antique bicycles and spinning wheels. And you, when you see the pictures on our OpenSFHistory website of that gift shop, you'll see up in the rafters, they've got these bicycles and stuff up there that these, he made it a museum as well as a gift shop.

Nicole: Yeah.

Arnold: Also lost were some Musee Mecanique machines. However, the firefighters, despite the injuries, they saved the Cliff House to the south and Sutro Baths and Danny's Cliff House, or Cliff Chalet, to the northeast. So, after about a hundred years of a long stretch of buildings heading up the hill from the Cliff House, there was now this gap that stretched from the Cliff House to Danny's Cliff Chalet, which was next door to the Sutro Baths. And after having gone through the 1949 car barn fire, Danny Hountalas had to be happy that the Cliff Chalet [00:21:00] narrowly escaped destruction in this fire, although some damage. That happiness would be short-lived though.

John: Yeah, when I have a distinct memory of the night of that fire, cause I was already at, I was 12, and I was already sort of a young history nerd, and I remember hearing on the whatever pass for the, you know, news at 11, right, that there had been a giant fire. And I'm going, oh my god, the Cliff House burned again. And I was half relieved to realize it was just the curio shop, the world's largest gift shop. And it was a funny thing because it, only 10 days later, JFK was assassinated. And this had been a major story in San Francisco. And then all of a sudden, the news was just overwhelmed with John F. Kennedy's assassination. And that fire sort of got sort of lost in the collective memory and it got merged into the next fire that would come, which was the Sutro Baths fire. And a lot of people think of 'em as they're the same. For those of us [00:22:00] photo nerd researchers, if you see fires of photos of Sutro Baths area or the Cliff House area, if they're taken at night, it was the gift shop fire in November of ‘63. If they were bright sunlight during the day, it was the Baths fire that took place on a Sunday afternoon.

Nicole: Wow. Yeah, that's the one. Whenever I hear people chatter with each other in The Museum at The Cliff about the fires and stuff, it's amazing how many people confidently tell their friends the wrong information. And I have to be like, oh, close. And they look at me like, what is she talking about? But, of course, the Sutro Baths fire is probably one of the most recognizable fires in the Bay Area. Like so many people can tell us exactly where they were when the Baths burned down. A lot of the answers are, we were there. It was the worst Lands End fire to take place which was on a Sunday, June 26th, 1966, literally disintegrating [00:23:00] the ghostly Sutro Baths. So, the building had actually been closed that March, and it was in the process of being demolished by Aaron's Construction Company of Sacramento. This enormous Victorian bathhouse which had opened in 1896 had really become a financial liability for the Whitney family, which had taken it over in the 1950s. And it was woefully dilapidated, although I still wish it had hung on, cause it looked beautifully creepy. And actually, an apartment and condominium complex was planned for the site and demolition was on its way. The fire quickly made, made good work of that demolition, and I'm actually really glad that none of those condos were built because that would've been an epic nightmare. But that's not a podcast about that.

Arnold: Yeah, that blaze started around 2:00 PM and it quickly engulfed the whole Baths building. There was parts of the, you know, windows that were gone from the west side, so the [00:24:00] winds would whip in and shoot those flames up very quickly. The fire also burned down, unfortunately, Danny's Cliff Chalet.

Nicole: Yeah,

Arnold: The Hountalas family not happy and it also severely damaged Louis’ Ocean View restaurant. Embers reportedly ignited smaller fires on the roofs of nearby homes. Up to 200 firefighters responded and were fighting this fire. Eight being injured. As thousands of San Francisco, San Franciscans watched Sutro Baths simply gone just like the early Cliff Houses, the gift shop, car barn. Sad day.

John: Just crazy. And just like the earlier fires in the 1890s and 1907, it caused a massive traffic jam.

Nicole: Yeah.

John: But yeah, my buddy and I were trying to hitchhike to the Baths because the word was out of, hey, just wander in. You know, [00:25:00] people are sort of looting the place. And we saw the smoke. We hitched as far as the zoo and we hit the gridlock traffic jam, the whole length of Great Highway. The plume of smoke could be seen all over the Bay Area. It was just, it was heart rendering to watch, because you knew a part of San Francisco was leaving. Years later, I was able to use the good old boy connection from Saint Ignatius and get in touch with some former S.F. Fire Department guys and a San Francisco P.D. fire inspector, and we got the reports on the actual fire. And it turns out that the fire was arson. It started in a pile of old crumpled up posters that had been piled on to, to the dry ice skating rink and set on fire. And they caught because of those removed windows that Arnold talked about and the entire East side had, was gone. So, he had westerly winds blowing through and, you know, poof. There it goes. Yep. [00:26:00] The it was a breezy day, as it always is out there at the Cliff and the conflagration just took its course.

Nicole: Did you both have the same reaction where I was like, what were those posters?

John: Yes. Probably the one, probably more of the seemingly limitless supply of posters that are always for sale on eBay. All I can think is Adolph must have really overprinted, you know, for a lot of those events in the 1890s that, that we keep seeing that we've seen on the front of like street cars or posted on bills. Yeah. Although the building had been emptied of what we're considered to be the important collections, by interviews, especially with people like Emiliano and all that, there was still a lot left inside.

Nicole: Yeah. I mean, the amount of times people come to me and they've got, I've got, insert item description here, that I pulled out of the Baths and the ruins, I have to think, [00:27:00] geez, must have either been a lot of stuff in those ruins or some people are feeding me a line. But yeah, so police did find the watchman hiding in the bushes just sort of like sweating profusely as he watched the fire burn, which sounds like a real firebug to me. And he had a whole history of setting these fires as a kid and had even burned down part of his grammar school.

John: Yep.

Nicole: Can I say, I've researched a couple families, like old-timey families in San Francisco, where they had several incidents where their kids were caught trying to set fire to their grammar school, and was this a thing that kids used to do? Rhetorical question, but like I'm, it's just shocking that I keep finding these reports, Anyway, we don't really know if like, when they hired him, when the salvage company hired him, if they knew he had this history. Maybe not, because if he had done this as a youth, you know, like all of that criminal record would've been sealed. But it [00:28:00] was regardless, incredibly convenient for it to burn down in this manner.

Arnold: Now it should be noted here that we do have video footage of this fire on our website, outsidelands.org. Just go on there and use the search button to search Sutro Baths fire and you'll find it. And, as you noted, that planned condominium development was never constructed, partly due to the inability to find investors in the scheme, and also because of the ever stiffer laws putting constraints on coastal development. Which meant that some years later, the ruins of the Sutro Baths were available for purchase and they were purchased by the National Park Service and are now part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area.

Nicole: That's one good thing that came out of the fire. Another good thing that came out of the fire which I should have mentioned earlier, but Danny Hountalas, having had his business burn down, was forced to seek employment in like a larger [00:29:00] consolidated food company. And that's where he met Mary, his future wife, who then, of course, opened up several concessions and finally got the whole Cliff House. So, who knows if Danny was doing fine at that coffee shop, he might have never met Mary and we might not have gotten the power couple that is Dan and Mary Hountalas. So, I'm all right with that. Yeah.

John: Yeah.

Nicole: All right.

John: Yeah, the, a sidebar would be that the Louis’ that we know today, years back interviewed Louis', the original Louis' son, Jim Hontalas. And I said, how much of this is original? You know, because there was the thing that, this is the only surviving part of the Sutro Baths. He said, well, maybe if you go down into the basement and you look at the foundations. But no, they've been toasted and rebuilt some, like at least two times, maybe three. And he said, just couldn't put any claim to it. They are the last surviving structure up there, but they're not part of the, what we call the historic row. [00:30:00]

Nicole: Got it.

John: Sad.

Arnold: You know, we didn't mention it, but you just mentioned the fact that there was a Hontalas family running Louis' restaurant. These are cousins of the ones running, Dan and Mary, who are running the Cliff House. There's a lot of Greek history up there at Lands End.

Nicole: And I'm sorry for mispronouncing the, their name. Don't send us an email.

John: The Hountalases and the Hontalases.

Nicole: There it is.

John: Yes. Difference of a “u.” God love them. The, and can I mention the, that we haven't even gone down to, what was the future Playland at the Beach area.

Nicole: Oh yes. Wait let's, let’s pause there because now it's time for the next section of our podcast.

John: Ooh.

Nicole: Which is what we refer to as a Say What Now. So this is a section that we're still kinda working on. But it's like all the stuff that really didn't fit in the rest of the podcast, but we just couldn't [00:31:00] not share with you guys. So John, can you tell us more information about all the things that burned down in the area over the years?

John: This is just a couple of blocks outside of our Cliff Road-Point Lobos, but there was a very large building, foot of Balboa Street that survived till the ‘70s. Had been called the Ocean Beach Pavilion, built in the mid-1880s. It was most famous to some of us as a giant slot car track and Family Dog on the Great Highway. And it almost burned down twice, in 1898 and in 1915. And then there was another building that was closer over to Fulton Street called the Villa Mar that almost burned down in 1910. This is a recurring theme, and people say, why is it recurring? And I think we alluded it to it earlier, but it's simply that this was the western end of San Francisco. There weren't a whole lot of utility lines left out, let out there. When [00:32:00] Adolph was doing his construction, they were kind of on their own. You read about people trying to put out the fire in the Ocean Beach Pavilion with a bucket brigade?

Nicole: No.

John: Oh, yeah. Good. What did I say? It was wind, wood, and lack of water. The three Ws. That's why so many fires.

Arnold: And poof, there it goes.

Nicole: May I say www.poof?

Arnold: Which perhaps Nicole, you can share the history of where that came from.

Nicole: Yeah. So, it must have, what was it, February of 2021. Who knows what time is? But the Fort Point Beer Company had us, all of us historian friends come together to share the history of scenes that are illustrated on their beer cans for San Francisco Beer Week last year. And we talked about the incendiary history of that part of the Cliff House. And John, I don't know where, why you [00:33:00] started doing this, but you just started saying poof and it blew up the chat. Like pun intended, I guess. Like the chat went nuts for it. And then David Gallagher made a little gif about it afterwards, where it was you like kind of sneaking down and then a fire on the, and a thought bubble that said poof. So, sorry John.

John: Okay, I’ll take my moment of fame. Yeah.

Nicole: You were a legend. A, a gif was inevitable. Some sort of theme was inevitable. Well, thank you for being with us tonight, John. You can stick around for the listener mail until the end.

John: Oh, I'd love to. Love to.

Nicole: Excellent. Okay, so Arnold, first of all, how does one send us listener mail?

Arnold: Well, it's a very complicated process. Go into your email and you type in podcast@outsidelands.org. [00:34:00]

Nicole: Yes.

Arnold: And magically, whatever you write into that email will show up in our inboxes.

Nicole: And sometimes I remember to read them. In response to podcast number 446, which is our interview with Thorsten Sideboard, our pal David said, “great job as always. Love this newer format where you tie in someone's oral history to Sunset happenings today. Your conversation with Thorsten felt like it was happening in my living room.” That's cause it kinda was. That's the power of the podcast, David. And every topic we touched on was something that he was interested in. So, he then said, “it's hard to imagine I [Nicole] was ever an introvert.” I am still in some cases. And thank you, of course, David, for being my greatest listener mail champion.

Arnold: And those people who are listening, you can support what we're doing here. There's benefits to becoming a member of the Outside Lands [00:35:00] community.

Nicole: Oh sure. Yeah. Join the family. And you can do this by clickety, clickety, clacking the big orange button. It's not really in the upper right-hand corner, but on the top of all of our websites now, on every page on our websites. This gets you a quarterly membership magazine, discounts on events and other exclusive perks. But, you know, most of all, it helps you, it helps us do the good work that we're doing and keep it free for everyone. This podcast is free. OpenSFHistory is free. You know, all these kinds of things. So, we appreciate you joining or just donating. Every little bit helps.

Arnold: And now it's time for announcements.

Nicole: Oh okay. Arnold, John, Gala is happening. We're doing it. It's happening. This is our rescheduled gala from 2020, cause the folks at the Presidio Golf [00:36:00] Course just kept letting us kick that can down the road. It's going to be Sunday, May 15th. Save the date. Even if you're going to Bay to Breakers that day. You can just go home, sleep it off, and then clean yourself up and come down to the golf course. We're having a Playland at the Beach theme this year because this is the 50th anniversary of Playland closing. So, we're gonna play that up real well. Early bird tickets are on sale now for $175 until March 31st. At that time, it'll jump to $225. Yes, that's a little more expensive than our original 2020 price, but if you already purchased tickets that we haven't refunded, don't worry. We'll honor those. And if you want more information, go to outsidelands.org/gala.

Arnold: And, you know, about a month ago we had our second projection premiere of the Ben Wood projection [00:37:00] art up at The Museum at The Cliff. And it was huge.

Nicole: So big.

Arnold: Like a hundred, 150 people out there. We’re dishing out, you know, little snacks and drinks to everybody, and everybody had a good time. And we're gonna do it again. The next projection premiere of the Ben Wood. Projection art, it’ll be happening March 12th, 5:30 PM to 6:30 PM. That's a Saturday at The Museum at The Cliff.

Nicole: It's happening tonight.

Arnold: And there's all kinds of cool new historical videos and photos that are gonna be part of this projections that go on the, out the back windows of the Cliff House Gift Shop. And it's gonna be a big party. You don't have to RSVP, but it's helpful to us if you do, so we know how much food and drink we ought bring out [00:38:00] there. But if you don't have the chance, you can still show up and enjoy the festivities.

Nicole: Absolutely. And the really fun part about this projection is that photos that you submitted to Ben Wood's call to action will actually be projected out the back. So, you can see yourself through the windows of the Cliff House Gift Shop. How insanely cool is that? Ben is the best. So okay, John, again, thank you for being our guest. It feels so good to have you back in the podcast booth.

John: Please. I want to come back. I, COVID has driven a wedge into our little community and I, I need this. So, thank you for inviting me.

Nicole: You’re welcome. You know, anytime you have a podcast idea, you just send it my way and we'll get you, we'll get you mic’d up,

Arnold: We will find ways to bring you back, that's for sure.

Nicole: No, we love you John. You're one of the best parts of our family.

John: Thanks.

Nicole: So, as a preview for next week, speaking of the family, we're [00:39:00] actually hosting a, what we're calling a virtual paddle out in collaboration with John Lindsey of the Great Highway Gallery to remember a real Kelly’s Cove legend, Bill Hickey, who passed away this month. If you don't know who Bill Hickey is, you need to tune in. And if you did know Bill Hickey, we want you to come to this live podcast recording, share your memories of him, and just let's all be together as we commemorate the passing of a truly incredible human being. So, keep an eye on our events page and we'll be seeing you next week.

Arnold: Bye now.

Ian: Outside Lands San Francisco is recorded by Ian Hadley. Content creation and media production at ihadley.com.

Nicole: To learn more about the Western Neighborhoods Project and more on San Francisco history, go to Outsidelands.org. You can also find us on social media at Facebook, which is outsidelands with an S, at Twitter, which is outsidelandz with a Z, and on Instagram, which is outsidelandz, also with a Z. And check out our historic San Francisco images website at OpenSFHistory.org.

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