TITLE: Inner Sunset: Birth of a Neighborhood
DATE: 6:42:00 PM
I've lived in the Inner Sunset for six and a half years, and today I learned about the birth Of my neighborhood on a free SF City Guides walking tour beginning on the corner of Hugo, the charming neighborhood street named after Victor Hugo, on a sunny winter
morning in the shadow of the concrete mass of UCSF, with tour guide Lorri Ungaretti, who used to live on 7th Avenue but can't afford the housing and now lives on Polk. The one other tour attendee was a girl named Choi who lives on 20th Avenue.
The story begins in the 1860's, when the uninhabitable windswept dunes of the lands outside of the busy downtown, the developed Richmond District, near the swath of land to be Golden Gate Park, and unreachable by train like the the one leading to Sutro Heights, was officially incorporated into the City.
Houses that had only existed near the Stanyan train line and spotted between gunpowder factories and dairy ranches, began to pop up
along a stream train line that followed what's now Lincoln. The first map of the area shows an intricate grid of numbered avenues and
alphabet streets, which hadn't even begun to be developed at that time, and wasn't completed until the 50's -- due in a large part to
a local maverick developer named Henry Doelger who bought up Sutro's land and built & sold $5,000 single-family homes like Model
Fords (that now sell for $800,000) in the 30s and 40s.
From Hugo Street, up 7th, to Judah, and down Funston, she pointed out original buildings with their circa 1920's tell-tale beige brick facing on top of white siding and with false fronts, alongside rows of euro-styled "arts & crafts" homes of the 40s, and between all kinds of more recent miscellaneous designs. The only art deco building is Doelger's offices, still on Judah near 9th, used as office space though in sad disrepair.
Judah Street is named after "crazy" Theodore Judah, who inspired the Big Four to fund his crazy idea of a transcontinental railroad
and who built the first rail line from Sacramento to the lower Sierra so that miners could more quickly get their gold to the Capital for cash. St Anne's of the Sunset was the first (of now five) Catholic parishes in the Sunset, holding their first masses during the 1900's at the Parkview Hotel on 9th and Lincoln, where Canvas Cafe used to stand. Andronico's used to be a massive lot called the boneyard where old cable cars went to die, and there was a short-lived movie theater on 14th next to an early Safeway sometime around the 60's.
When our little tour got to 9th and Irving, I introduced Lorri to Jim Ng who was working the neighborhood beat, and we chatted pleasantly about how SF cops have moved from cars to walking and how it's too expensive for cops and firefighters to live in the neighborhoods they serve.
From this central intersection, Lorri described how this neighborhood is such because it's not trendy like Cow Hollow or Fillmore neighborhoods without chain stores, though Jamba and Starbucks were the first (Blockbuster flubbed on taking over the SE corner and the tiny, quiet Burger King eventually died). PJ's Oyster Bed used to be office space for the other Doelger brother, who died suddenly at the early age of 37. She ended the tour with the story of the Shamrock, began by a successful entrepreneur who offered free food with purchase of a beer to workers building for the Midwinter Fair of 1894 -- which left as legacy the Japanese Tea Garden, bandshell and park museum (later becoming the M.H. de Young Memorial Museum).
The Golden Gate Heights Stairway Tour is next, where I do my early-morning runs.
Labels: Golden Gate Park, Henry Doelger, inner sunset, San Francisco City Guides, sunset stories, Sutro, Theodore Judah