Five Favorites: 2019 (Part 1)

by Arnold Woods

In 2019, our OpenSFHistory image collection grew by another 6000 images. These images span a 150-year time period from the 1850s to the early 2000s and cover nearly every inch of our great City. As 2019 comes to a close, I am looking back at some of my favorite images that were added to this year. There were too many great images to trim down to just five images, so we’ll do this in two parts. In this part 1, we look at some great images that were posted from January to June 2020.

Looking north from 21st and Pacheco at Sand Conveyor Streetcar with Golden Gate Park and Strawberry Hill in background, circa 1935.Looking north from 21st and Pacheco at Sand Conveyor Streetcar with Golden Gate Park and Strawberry Hill in background, circa 1935. (wnp14.2022; Courtesy of a Private Collector.) has thousands of images of cable cars and streetcars. They come in variety of shapes and sizes, but this one stood out when I saw it. And there was a reason for that. This streetcar was specially constructed by the United Rail Road Company (“URR”) to gather sand at its sandpit located at 21st and Pacheco. Why was the URR gathering sand? The sand conveyor streetcar would load sand onto work cars that would then drop sand on to the streetcar tracks to add traction for the steel wheels of streetcars on the steel tracks. This helped with acceleration and braking. The 21st and Pacheco sandpit was closed in 1937 and this sand conveyor streetcar was moved to the Sutro Car Barn, where it continued to convey sand into the early 1950s.

The Monkees and Carol Doda at Bardelli's Restaurant, 1968.The Monkees and Carol Doda at Bardelli’s Restaurant, 1968. (wnp14.2367; Courtesy of a Private Collector)

In 1968, The Monkees were still at the height of their popularity with their TV show and albums. They were so popular the Gene Roddenberry added a charactor, Chekov, who looked like Davy Jones. Jimi Hendrix opened for them during a 1967 concert tour. When The Monkees came to San Francisco in 1968, they did what many young men did then…came to see Carol Doda. Doda was a go-go dancer at the Condor Club, located at the intersection of Broadway and Columbus Avenue. She caused a sensation in 1964 when she started dancing topless. The Monkees met up with Carol Doda at Bardelli’s Restaurant where this image was taken in 1968. Peter Tork and Davy Jones look like they are enjoying this interaction, while Michael Nesmith looks like he is ready to leave and Mickey Dolenz is just trying to be seen. These were surely not the only pop stars that got an introduction to Doda, but you don’t often see images from these meetings.

Sutro Baths construction, 1893.Sutro Baths construction, 1893. (wnp70.0538; Courtesy of a Private Collector)

We have many, many images of the Sutro Baths on The Baths opened in 1896, became an ice rink in the 1950s, closed in 1964, and then burned down in 1966. The Sutro Baths ruins are now part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area. However, while we see lots of images of the finished Sutro Baths, pictures of its construction are rarer. The above image was taken in 1893. It gives you an idea of what lies beneath the pools of water you see at the site today. The trees on the hill above the site are much smaller than they are today and gives you an idea of how much they have grown in the 100+ years since then.

Woodward Gardens art gallery, 1869.Woodward Gardens art gallery, 1869. (wnp71.2215; Eadweard Muybridge – Martin Behrman Negative Collection/Courtesy of the Golden Gate NRA, Park Archives.)

Woodward’s Gardens was the brainchild of Robert Woodward, a San Franciscan who became wealthy during the Gold Rush. He turned his Mission District estate into essentially the 1860s version of an entertainment complex after he moved to Napa. Woodward’s Gardens featured gardens (of course), a zoo, an aquarium, and an amusement park. Along with these attractions was a serious art gallery as seen in the 1869 image above. The art gallery may not have been very popular with the children though. The children seated on the settee here look pretty bored. Woodward’s Garden lost popularity after Woodward’s death in 1879 and finally closed in 1891.

Pacific Mail Steamship Panama in Hunter's Point drydock, 1869.Pacific Mail Steamship Panama in Hunter’s Point drydock, 1869. (wnp71.2421; Eadweard Muybridge – Martin Behrman Negative Collection/Courtesy of the Golden Gate NRA, Park Archives.)

Hunters Point was a major shipyard for over 100 years at the southeast corner of the City. We have a number of images of the shipyard on, but this is one of the earliest. The ship is called the Panama and it was a Pacific Mail Steamer. It sits here in the Hunters Point drydock in 1869, where a large number of workers are hard at work on the starboard side hull. The contrast between the men and the ship gives an appreciation of how big the ship was and a little bit of awe over their ability to get a ship of this size into a drydock and do this work under the conditions and equipment that they had 150 years ago. This image, as well as the Woodward’s Gardens image above were both taken by famed photographer Eadweard Muybridge. The point of view on this image of the Panama gives it a commanding presence.

These are five of my favorite images that we posted in the first half of 2019, but there are a lot more great images among the 6000 added this year. I would encourage you to dig deep into the OpenSFHistory collection as there is much to glean. I’ll have a look at five more favorites, this time from the second half of 2019, next week.

CWA Projects in San Francisco: A Closer Look

by Arnold Woods

As with the rest of the country, San Francisco was hit hard by the Great Depression that began after the Black Tuesday stock market crash of October 24, 1929. By the time Franklin D. Roosevelt was elected in November 1932, unemployment was reaching 25%. After FDR took office in January 1933, he began looking for ways to spur employment and economic recovery. One such program, announced on November 8, 1933, was the creation of the Civil Works Administration (“CWA”).

The CWA was a federally-funded job creation program that mainly created manual labor construction jobs around the country. The CWA set up offices in major cities around the country and took applications for civic building projects that would employ people. The San Francisco CWA office was located in Larkin Hall in the Civic Auditorium. In 1933, California also created the State Emergency Relief Administration (“SERA”) to distribute state and federal funds for jobs.

Lake Merced Boulevard construction workers, October 1934.Lake Merced Boulevard construction workers, October 1934. (wnp27.6467; Courtesy of a Private Collector.)

San Francisco submitted numerous project applications to the CWA and was looking to employ as many as 16,000 people1. These projects began by the end of November 1933 and continued into and through part of 1934. A local construction manager, Frederick Whitten was named the chairman of the local works committee and on Thanksgiving Day, November 30, 1933, he announced the assignment of workers to various projects. The biggest project in San Francisco was the construction of Lake Merced Boulevard where nearly 5000 workers were eventually employed, including 2800 men on two shifts in Whitten’s first announcement.

Construction work at Odd Fellows Cemetery to convert it to Rossi Playground, December 26, 1933.Construction work at Odd Fellows Cemetery to convert it to Rossi Playground, December 26, 1933. (wnp14.2425; Courtesy of a Private Collector)

Other projects announced by Whitten included work at the Odd Fellows Cemetery. The cemetery on the western slope of Lone Mountain had been opened in 1865, but most of the bodies interred there had been moved to Greenlawn Cemetery in Colma by 1933. San Francisco sought to have the site converted to a playground and the application was approved. Whitten assigned 200 men there in his Thanksgiving Day announcement and more were added later. Today’s Rossi Playground was the result of their work.

Construction work at Gilman Beach Playground, December 26, 1933.Construction work at Gilman Beach Playground, December 26, 1933. (wnp14.2409; Courtesy of a Private Collector)

Rossi Playground was not the only playground that San Francisco wanted to construct. An application to build another playground in the Candlestick Point area known as Gilman Beach was approved and Whitten assigned 85 men there initially and more later. They built what was initially known as the Gilman Beach Playground, now known just as the Gilman Playground. Landfill added to the area for the construction of Candlestick Park pushed the playground back from its initial beachfront.

Alemany Boulevard and St. Mary's Park construction, December 26, 1933.Alemany Boulevard and St. Mary’s Park construction, December 26, 1933. (wnp14.2793; Courtesy of A Private Collector.)

One of the other major road projects was the extension of Alemany Boulevard. This work included the construction of St. Mary’s Park. Whitten put 650 men to work there at the beginning. Between CWA, state, and local funds, San Francisco looked to complete its planned boulevard system. In addition to Lake Merced and Alemany Boulevards, work was done on Bernal, Junipero Serra, and Dewey Boulevard extensions and to various street projects, including road improvements in Golden Gate Park.

Other projects included the Douglas Playground, work at Stern Grove, Lands End, McCoppin Square, the Marina Tract, McLaren Park, and George Washington High School2. There was a women’s division that hired women for sewing projects and administrative CWA positions. Men were also hired to perform rehabilitation work on various public buildings.

Balboa Reservoir leveling work, December 5, 1933.Balboa Reservoir leveling work, December 5, 1933. (wnp36.10089; DPW Horace Chaffee-SF Department of Public Works / Courtesy of a Private Collector)

Another of the biggest projects though was one that was never finished. Long-time San Francisco City Engineer, Michael O’Shaughnessy, had been advocating for a huge water reservoir in the Balboa Park area as part of the Hetch-Hetchy water system. It was to be a 42-acre, 280 million gallon reservoir3. Ironically, after O’Shaughnessy lost control of the Hetch-Hetchy Project in 1932, funds to construct the Balboa Reservoir were approved by the CWA in 1933. Work started on grading and digging for the reservoir in December 1933.

The Balboa Reservoir project caused much dissension among city supervisors, government agencies, and local merchants and farmers. As a result, work on the reservoir would be halted in May 1934 and the reservoir was never completed, although additional work was done on it in the 1950s. The land would be used for various uses, such as for buildings and a parking lot for City College of San Francisco. Discussions continue even today as to what to do with the site.

Grading, irrigation, and tree planting work on Brazil Drive in McLaren Park, March 1934.Grading, irrigation, and tree planting work on Brazil Drive in McLaren Park, March 1934. (wnp14.0261; Courtesy of A Private Collector.)

The Civil Work Administration was a temporary measure to help the great masses of unemployed workers get through the winter of 1933-34. It received a good deal of criticism since it did not help workers gain permanent employment. President Roosevelt ended the CWA program in 1934 and then pushed through new legislation, the Works Progress Administration, in May 1935 to provide employment as part of his New Deal measures. Although short-lived, the CWA projects in San Francisco had the immediate impact of providing employment to thousands of unemployed San Franciscans and the lasting impact of many public works projects that can still be seen today.


1. Journal of Proceedings, Board of Supervisors, Volume 29, Issue 1, p. 71.

2. “Holiday Cheer To Greet 880 More Jobless,” San Francisco Chronicle, November 30, 1933, p. 4.

3. “Greyhounds, Aeroplanes, and Wheelbarrows: the History of the Balboa Reservoir 1894-1944,”, January 28, 2018

McAllister Car Barn: A Closer Look

by Arnold Woods

As everyone should know by now, cable cars and later streetcars used to go nearly everywhere in San Francisco. This necessitated a network of car barns and powerhouses around the City for the transportation systems. One of those car barns and powerhouses was located on the block between McAllister and Fulton to the north and south, and Masonic and Central to the east and west.

First cable delivered to McAllister Car Barn and Powerhouse, July 1883.First cable delivered to McAllister Car Barn and Powerhouse, July 1883. (wnp32.0167; Emiliano Echeverria/Randolph Brandt Collection / Courtesy of Emiliano Echeverria)

Built in 1883, the McAllister Car Barn and Powerhouse was the property of the Market Street Railway. It was on what was then the #5 McAllister cable car line, which ran from the Ferry Building out Market Street, then up McAllister to the car barn. The line then cut diagonally across the car barn property to Fulton and continued out Fulton to its terminus at Stanyan Street. Passengers could get out there and walk into Golden Gate Park or visit the Park House Saloon at that intersection. The powerhouse drove the cable car machinery for the line. The car barn was built to be a two story building, but the second floor was never added to the structure so there were very high ceilings inside.

Looking east at McAllister Car Barn and Powerhouse, circa 1890.Looking east at McAllister Car Barn and Powerhouse, circa 1890. (wnp37.01668; Marilyn Blaisdell Collection / Courtesy of a Private Collector)

Of course, back then, those streets were not entirely laid out. As the cable cars headed west out of the McAllister Car Barn, they would immediately pass by Masonic Cemetery on the south side of Lone Mountain. In 1892, the line was extended down Fulton Street to 7th Avenue. The #5 McAllister line was extremely popular as many people wanted to visit the Park, particularly during the 1894 Midwinter Fair. For a period of time, the #5 McAllister line had the largest fleet of cable cars on any line in the City. The car barn housed just the #5 McAllister fleet initially.

Fulton & Masonic looking northeast at McAllister Car Barn and Powerhouse with broken smokestack, October 2, 1914.Fulton & Masonic looking northeast at McAllister Car Barn and Powerhouse with broken smokestack, October 2, 1914. (wnp27.6379; John Henry Mentz / Courtesy of a Private Collector)

The road grid did fill in around the McAllister Car Barn and Powerhouse and the line was extended again in 1904 to 12th Avenue. Two years later though, the event that literally shaped San Francisco had a huge impact on the line. The Powerhouse was severely damaged in the 1906 earthquake. The quake knocked off the top of the powerhouse’s smokestack and caused other damage, resulting in the powerhouse being decommissioned and a switch to streetcars on the line instead of cable cars.

Demolition of McAllister Powerhouse smokestack, 1914.Demolition of McAllister Powerhouse smokestack, 1914. (wnp27.3764; Courtesy of A Private Collector.)

The rest of the smokestack was demolished in 1914. Because of damage to the #21 Hayes Car Barn in the 1906 quake, streetcar storage for that line was moved to the McAllister Car Barn. After the Powerhouse and smokestack were gone, some side tracks for additional outdoor streetcar storage were built.

McAllister Car Barn and streetcars, circa 1937.McAllister Car Barn and streetcars, circa 1937. (wnp5.50764; Courtesy of Jack Tillmany.)

In 1909, the Market Street Railway took over another streetcar line that ran on Fulton Street between 6th Avenue and 36th Avenue, where the Cairns Hotel was located. That streetcar line was then extended on Fulton to Ocean Beach so that that the #5 McAllister line could run from the Ferry Building to the ocean. In 1911, the line was extended north to a loop near Balboa Street. Where the line terminated at Ocean Beach, there was no Playland initially. There were a few concessions and the Cliff House, Sutro Baths, and the Ocean Beach Pavilion were a short walk away. The #5 McAllister streetcar line competed with a Park and Ocean Railroad line that terminated nearby at La Playa and Balboa. Soon though, additional concessions and Chutes-at-the-Beach were added and the area would morph into Playland-at-the-Beach in the 1920s.

#5 Streetcar exiting McAllister Car Barn at Fulton & Masonic, circa 1942.#5 Streetcar exiting McAllister Car Barn at Fulton & Masonic, circa 1942. (wnp14.3561; Courtesy of A Private Collector.)

In the early 1900s, the Market Street Railway had changed ownership and became the United Railroads of San Francisco (“URR”). The new owners bought up several local private transportation companies. Meanwhile, San Francisco was trying to do the same. It took over the Park and Ocean Railroad line and converted it to a streetcar line in 1912, the first line in the new Muni system. The URR suffered from the competition and other issues and reorganized in 1918, becoming the Market Street Railway again.

McAllister Car Barn and streetcars, 1948.McAllister Car Barn and streetcars, 1948. (wnp27.3834; Courtesy of A Private Collector.)

The once again Market Street Railway continued to compete against Muni, but since the City controlled the franchise rights for the Market Street Railway and owned Muni, relations between the two were not good. Although numerous ballot proposals for San Francisco to buy the Market Street Railway were voted down, a May 1944 proposal was finally approved. The City purchased the Market Street Railway for $7.5 million dollars and absorbed the system into Muni. The McAllister Car Barn already housing streetcars from two lines began storing cars from two Haight Street lines on December 7, 1946 after damage occurred to the Haight Car Barn.

McAllister Car Barn on last day of operation, June 5, 1948.McAllister Car Barn on last day of operation, June 5, 1948. (wnp14.1275; Courtesy of A Private Collector.)

Muni continued the #5 McAllister line streetcar service until 1948. On June 5, 1948, the streetcar service ended and buses soon replaced the streetcars. The #5 McAllister line was one of the first lines switched to the bus system. The McAllister Car Barn then switched to storing buses, which it did until 1950. Thereafter, the McAllister Car Barn property was sold and the car barn demolished. The #5 McAllister bus line would be renamed the #5 Fulton line in 1976.

Many thanks to Emiliano Echeverria for his expert Market Street Railway knowledge.