Saturday, March 05, 2016

Miscellaneous San Francisco

I don't get to visit San Francisco very often, but I really enjoy looking at vintage photographs of this distinctive, beautiful (and expensive) city.

Let's start with this shot looking toward 210 foot-tall Coit Tower, a famous 1933 landmark on Telegraph Hill. Below that is the usual mass of homes and apartments, while warehouses and other more prosaic buildings are near our parking lot. All of those vintage cars! Some knowledgeable reader is going to have a field day.

The closest current-day equivalent that I could get from Google was this shot from Battery Street, looking through Levi's Plaza (the headquarters of Levi Strauss & Co., completed in 1981).

Next we leap ahead to October, 1977, for this view looking Southeast on Columbus Avenue, near the corner of Lombard Street. Of course that's the famous Transamerica Pyramid in the distance, designed by architect William Pereira  and completed in 1972. It remains the tallest skyscraper in San Francisco. 

Almost as fun for me are the more mundane artifacts of life in 1977, including Char-Broil Burgers and Hot Dogs, One Hour Martinizing, and Kentucky Friend Chicken (this was before it became "KFC"). In the distance are the towers of Saint Peter and Paul Church. To our right, the "Dance Your Ass Off Inc." disco! Hey, it was the seventies, after all.

There appears to be cable car tracks (?) running down the street....

...and those tracks are still there in this contemporary screen-grab from Google's Street View. The disco is gone though.

Imagine my surprise when I found this pinback button! These were available in several colors. This same artwork was featured in a large painted sign affixed to the side of the building; in November of 1978, a smoldering cigarette started a fire that gutted the building.

I hope you have enjoyed your visit to San Francisco!


Nanook said...


Left to right: A 1954 Buick; a 1951 Ford; a 1955 Mercury; a 1955 Chevrolet; a 1956 Ford; a 1949 Dodge; a 1954 Mercury; a 1955 Lincoln; another 1951 Ford; a 1953 Ford; a 1950 Buick; and finally a 1954 Buick. Can't quite make-out the light green outline at the very end. Then, sticking out form the right is a 1953 Cadillac.

And what a great find that pinback button is-! (Although it would appear the gal in the button has just begun her terpsichorean moves on the dance floor...)

Thanks, Major.

TokyoMagic! said...

Do we know if the nightclub was rebuilt after it's Disco inferno? (Hopefully nobody was injured during the fire!) I want to go Dance My Ass Off and then go across the street for some Kentucky Fried Chicken.....and some biscuits....the way they were back in the seventies before they came up with their old fashioned buttermilk biscuits. And I want that yellow gravy that they used to sell back then too. Man, they ruin everything!

At least that tree appears to have survived the last four decades, even if the biscuits, the gravy, the nightclub, and disco music did not.

Chuck said...

Major, those are, indeed, cable car tracks in the second photo set. The Powell-Mason line runs along Columbus Ave for two blocks from Greenwich to Chestnut, with Lombard in the dead center of that stretch.

The track alignment was moved from the center lanes to the outer lanes of traffic during a massive renovation and reconstruction of the cable car system in 1982-84.

The overhead wire in both photos is for the 30 Stockton trolleybus line, which replaced the old F streetcar line in 1951. Both the cable car and the streetcars ran on dual-gauge track (3'6" for the cable cars and 4'8.5" for the streetcars, sharing the left/inside rail) for that two-block segment of Columbus. In the modern photo, you can see the same concept has carried through to the present day - both the cable car and the trolleybus now use the same dedicated bus lane.

Here's a relatively low-res photo of the intersection of Mason & Columbus in 1947: You can see the cable car tracks (under repair in the foreground) as they curve into the dual-gauge track, with the streetcar tracks continuing behind us to the right. The two streetcars were built in 1912 and original to the line; due to the relatively narrow streets on the route, the line's rolling stock was never upgraded to the wider, postwar PCC cars. There's also a cable car in the background, behind and to the right of the red vehicle.

And for those of you who saw this earlier today and are wondering why I’m reposting, here’s a safety tip: always check to see if your wife is logged in BEFORE you post anything online.

Nanook said...

@ TM!-

All is not lost - at least we still have "One Hour Martinizing".

Omnispace said...

Great photos today! I was thinking that first photo of Telegraph Hill didn't look quite right for a view from the east side so I did some sleuthing. It's actually from a lot in the North Beach / Fisherman's Warf area -- specifically Mason and North Point. The Longshoremen's Hall is currently on that site.

K. Martinez said...

Ah! San Francisco in the late 70's. What a great time that was. What disco memories. Yes, TM! They ruin everything!

TokyoMagic! said...

Nanook, yes, at least there is that! I just checked and not only is the cleaners still there, but it looks like the nightclub might have been rebuilt as Cobbs Comedy Club ("The Best in Live Entertainment Since 1982").

Ken, did you do "The Hustle"? I want to see pictures!

Major Pepperidge said...

Nanook, I don’t know how you do it. all the cars look alike to me!!

TokyoMagic!, as far as I can tell, the disco was not rebuilt, though I can’t find much info about it. Admittedly I didn’t look that hard. Based on your comments, maybe the food at KFC really WAS better in the old days. These days I avoid it. Yellow gravy though, that sounds kind of gross!! ;-)

Chuck, I should have known that if I needed information about cable cars, I should ask you! I saw the earlier comments from a lady, and thought, MAN, she knows a lot about the Frisco transportation system! Little did I know. Thanks as always for doing all the grunt work. I have bon-bons to eat!

Nanook, I think everything should be Martinized, and I don’t even know what Martinizing IS. Does it involved glue, glitter, and pipe cleaners?

Omnispace, ah, well, I can’t say I’m surprised… the Battery Street view was just a guess, obviously.

K. Martinez, it was around the time that this photo was taken that the punks declared that disco was dead!

TokyoMagic!, I think I’ve heard of Cobb’s… maybe on the Marc Maron podcast (when he talks about his formative years). No more Electric Slide….

Corry342 said...

regarding 901 Columbus Avenue, formerly DanceYerAssOff, it was rebuilt and reopened under various guises. Around 1980, it was the New Boarding House (the old, too-small Boarding House had been at 960 Bush). The New Boarding House couldn't make it, so it was taken over by the ubiquitous Bill Graham, who re-re-opened it as Wolfgang's (Bill's birth name was something like Wolodia Grajonca, a Hungarian version of "Wolfgang"). Wolfgang's became the "Prestige" club in the early 80s, for hip acts that were supported by record companies and big drink tabs for djs and promo guys. That being said, the sound was great and I saw lots of great bands there.

Around 1986 or so it burned down again, and Graham moved his prestige venue operation to the original Fillmore