Milk Punch House: A Closer Look

by Woody LaBounty

A closer look at an OpenSFHistory image.

For years, the parents of the Inner Sunset had cajoled, lobbied, and petitioned to get a new schoolhouse to replace the humble Laguna Honda School on 7th Avenue between Irving and Judah Streets. Finally, in 1905, the city added the school to a list of new educational buildings to be constructed across the city, and by the next spring, the new brick-clad Laguna Honda was well underway and predicted to be ready for the fall term. On April 18, 1906, the San Andreas Fault slipped.

Earthquake Ruins, Laguna Honda School
Earthquake Ruins of Laguna Honda School, 1906. The Milk Punch House roadhouse is on the left (wnp15.1265, courtesy of a private collector).

In the photograph above, the school doesn’t look that badly damaged after the earthquake, but official deemed it beyond repair. The whole project went out to bid again, and the parents waited until 1909 to see a new building open—one that still stands today as Independence High School. Laguna Honda closed as an elementary school in the 1970s.

While seeing the never-occupied Laguna Honda was a treat when we scanned this large glass plate negative, I personally was more excited to see the ramshackle two-story edifice with the small stable just to the north.

This was the famed Milk Punch House, a roadhouse stopping point for travelers day-tripping to Laguna Honda lake or winding through the dunes and scrub of the Sunset District to Lake Merced.) Milk Punch was made with rum or whiskey, shaken to a froth with milk, and topped with nutmeg—think brandied eggnog without egg. The nearby hills around Mount Sutro were home to a few dairies, and no doubt the primary ingredient of Milk Punch (if not the most essential) could be easily obtained.

Milk Punch House had seen better days by 1906.
Milk Punch House had seen better days by 1906.

Laguna Honda School started in 1869, and had been a companionable neighbor with the roadhouse for many years before some people began to object to having a drinking establishment so close to children. New ideas of respectability had arisen after the 1894 Midwinter Fair brought more businesses, families, and church-goers to the area. While downright closing the Milk Punch House seemed outside their power, a few concerned citizens tried to cripple it by attacking its popular proprietor, Elizabeth Chadwick. Outside of her punch-concocting, Chadwick earned $20 per month as the “janitress” of Laguna Honda School.

In 1895, the Board of Education received a letter from a grand jury which described the Milk Punch House as “a roadway saloon, the resort of sporting people, including women of the demi-monde class, and their carousals and living example have a tendency to deprave the moral status of the school children and to cause self-respecting families to keep their children from attending school.” The letter called for Chadwick’s removal from the school payroll.1

Mrs. Chadwick reportedly had “pull,” and said she couldn’t be fired. The response from some of the Board of Education members certainly bore her out. One joked that perhaps instead of closing the saloon, they should close the school. Another, obviously a patron, complimented Chadwick’s mixology. A third conjectured that people’s complaints were likely more about milk punch not agreeing with their constitutions.

When the Board of Education began looking into actually moving the school building to the 6th Avenue frontage as a solution to the problem, the press began making it a bigger issue. The San Francisco Chronicle proclaimed the Board had capitulated to the saloon “so that the orgies that are carried on there may not be interrupted.” 2

Some of the school parents came to Mrs. Chadwick’s defense, submitting a petition to keep her, and one of the Directors defended her as a “typical English barmaid,” which he meant as a compliment. 3

Eventually, the Board relented and Chadwick, pull or not, had to give up her side gig cleaning the school. A few months later, the Grand Jury discovered her replacement was none other than the Milk Puncher’s daughter. After another outcry on the immoral mixing of saloon and school, a non-Chadwickian custodian finally was found.

More on Laguna Honda School and the Milk Punch House on the Outside Lands San Francisco podcast.

Laguna Honda School, 1934
Front view of Laguna Honda School on 7th Avenue, January 1934. (wnp14.4658, courtesy of a private collector).


1. “School or Saloon?” San Francisco Chronicle, May 23, 1895, pg. 7.
2. “Pull of a Janitress,” San Francisco Chronicle, May 30, 1895, pg. 8.
3. “The Milk Punch Janitress Goes,” San Francisco Chronicle, September 12, 1895, pg. 8.

Elephants in San Francisco: A Closer Look

by Woody LaBounty

A closer look at an OpenSFHistory image.

Young men traveling to California in 1849 for the Gold Rush called the experience “seeing the elephant.” The expression comes from signs at traveling shows that entreated crowds to take the opportunity (and pay the price) to view the world’s largest land animal up close. Forty-Niners back from the Sierra foothills, poorer in the pocket, used the phrase ruefully to convey experience obtained at great cost.

Below are a couple of real elephants one could see, likely for a reasonable price. Power’s Dancing Elephants performed as part of Keith’s Vaudeville show at the Golden Gate Theatre in 1925 and 1926. A San Francisco Call photographer probably took this publicity shot.

Power's Dancing Elephants
Power’s Dancing Elephants in 1925 or 1926. the act played the Golden Gate Theatre in both years. (wnp32.0145, courtesy of Emiliano Echeverria/Randolph Brandt Collection).

William Walter Power’s elephants originally appeared in the Walter L. Main Circus and transitioned into a vaudeville act in the early 1900s. The pachyderms, all female Asian elephants, worked the Hippodrome Theatre in New York City, and some sources claim the show was the first American elephant act on an indoor stage. “Lena,” “Jennie,” “Ada,” and “Lou” played baseball, bowled, and danced to whatever was in fashion, from the waltz to the Charleston. Power’s Dancing Elephants traveled around the world from San Francisco to Spain and beyond for forty years. (See the comments on this thread at for more.)

Getting elephants across oceans couldn’t have been easy, and we have this photograph (with no other information) to show that it probably wasn’t the most pleasant experience for the poor creatures.

Elephant being taken off boat.
An elephant being hauled on or off a boat in San Francisco. (wnp32.0124, courtesy of Emiliano Echeverria/Randolph Brandt Collection).

Golden Gate Park’s Children’s Playground used to have an elephant ride attraction. The animals spent their off-work hours in an enclosure nearby where the Park Nursery and Maintenance yard is today. In 1926, as “Babe,” “Margy” and “Virginia” were headed back from the playground, they were startled by a streetcar and made a dash through the Inner Sunset District before being captured in Mrs. Pachtner’s flower beds at 1248 15th Avenue.

Elephants are long-lived, highly intelligent, and sensitive creatures and, despite what many of my circus friends may argue, I think they are probably happier and healthier not being poked with hooks to do tricks for humans, or, in the case of zoos, standing in a concrete pen for decades. Public attitudes are changing on elephantine captivity and entertainment.

After a couple of notable deaths, the San Francisco Zoo removed the last of its elephants in 2005. The city’s Board of Supervisors mandated the zoo couldn’t get another pachyderm unless it was provided with 15 acres of roaming space. Then, just last month, in January 2017, Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus announced this was its last season. Animal rights activists had picketed, protested, and petitioned for the end of animal acts in the show. When the company cut the elephants last year, business dropped off too far.

An opportunity to see an elephant in San Francisco, much less in your flower garden, is likely not to come again.

Circus Elephants being led up Geneva Avenue to Cow Palace.
Circus Elephants being led up Geneva Avenue to Cow Palace, 1940s? (wnp14.2275, courtesy of a private collector).

East-West Shrine Game: A Closer Look

by Woody LaBounty

A closer look at an OpenSFHistory image recently posted.

In the recently uploaded photograph below, a rainy San Francisco day couldn’t keep 60,000 people away from what sportswriter Bob Stevens called “squishy, miserable” Kezar Stadium. It was January 1, 1944, and with the United States two years into World War II, patriotic pageantry with a show of many American flags kicked off the East-West Shrine football game.

Flag parade at East-West Game
Huge crowd shown at Kezar Stadium on January 1, 1944. Army and Shriners seen with dozens of American flags. (wnp14.5812, courtesy of a private collector).

Since 1925, the East-West Shrine Game has supported Shriners International—a fraternal group whose members are known for their orientalist fez headwear—and the organization’s Shriners Hospitals for Children. Proceeds from the game once specifically went to what was then known as the Shriners Hospital for Crippled Children on 19th Avenue between Lawton and Moraga Streets (today the Cypress at Golden Gate senior living community). The game also acted as a terrific publicity vehicle to acquaint the public with the Shriners’ work.

The East-West game is a contest between teams composed of all-stars from colleges on either side of the Mississippi River. The West squad traditionally had lots of locals from Santa Clara, St. Mary’s, and Stanford, but also featured players from Washington State to Hawaii. The East-West was a premier postseason game in the mid twentieth century, with scouts from all the professional teams coming out to assess talent. Seventy-two players once on East-West Shrine Game rosters are now in the National Football League Hall of Fame, and a few are sure to be there eventually, including five-time Super Bowl-winning quarterback Tom Brady.

Flag parade at East-West Game
East West Game Parade of Flags, Kezar stadium showing sailors and giant flag. Looking west, January 1, 1944. (wnp14.5814, courtesy of a private collector).

The muddy 1944 game ended up a 13-13 tie. Many of the best college football players who might have played for the East side were serving in the Armed Forces, but the underrated “all-civilian” squad outplayed their opponents, gaining 309 yards rushing against 43 for the West. Only a couple of big pass plays for the West, which was led by five men from the Fourth Air Force, saved the tie.

The Shrine game used to be part of a manageable college football postseason. On New Year’s Day, 1944, five bowl games were played in addition to the East-West: the Cotton, Sugar, Orange, Rose, and Sun Bowls. In contrast, the 2016-17 “bowl season” had forty games, and, in addition to the East-West, other all-star games now include the Senior Bowl and NFLPA Collegiate Bowl. The Shrine game moved off the traditional New Year’s Day date some time ago to try and stand out from the every-increasing football mania of that day, and is now played in mid January.

For most of its history, the game was played in San Francisco at Kezar Stadium (now much reduced in seating capacity) in Golden Gate Park. The 1942 game was moved to New Orleans because, less than a month after Pearl Harbor, officials feared the large event would be a tempting target for the Japanese.

The last East-West Shrine game at Kezar was in 1973. From 1974-2000, the game’s home was Stanford Stadium, and since then it has bounced from stadium to stadium and region to region: back to San Francisco in AT&T Park (2001-2005), over to Houston, Texas (2006-2009), and even farther east to Florida, where it’s been for the last seven years. Last month, the East beat the West 10-3.

Flag parade at East-West Game
Michigan State Spartans working out at Kezar Stadium at a quieter time in 1937. (wnp14.5482, courtesy of a private collector).

Holy Cross Church: A Closer Look

by Woody LaBounty

A closer look at an OpenSFHistory image recently posted.

When we scanned the image below of earthquake damage to Holy Cross Catholic Church in 1906 (another view is here), one of our content experts first typed the title as “St. Patrick’s,” before I noticed and corrected it. Our expert wasn’t too far wrong with the name. Just next door to the two-towered church, out of view in this shot, stands San Francisco’s first St. Patrick’s Catholic Church, two-and-a-half miles from where it was erected in 1852. Outside of Mission Dolores, this humble wood-frame building, designed in a simple Classical Revival style, may be the oldest standing religious structure in the city.

Holy Cross Church
Earthquake-damaged Holy Cross Catholic Church, 1822 Eddy Street at Divisadero, 1906 (wnp27.1879, courtesy of a private collector).

Below is an 1854 photograph by George Robinson Fardon. St. Patrick’s Church, on the right, stands in its original location on Market Street between 2nd and 3rd Street, then known as “Happy Valley.” (The handsome brick structure on the left is the Roman Catholic Orphan Asylum.) In 1872, a new large brick St. Patrick’s was dedicated on Mission Street, between 3rd and 4th Street, where, rebuilt after the 1906 earthquake, it stands today. To make room for the construction of the Palace Hotel, the original St. Patrick’s building was moved to the nascent Western Addition on Eddy Street between Octavia and Laguna Streets, where it became St. John the Baptist church. When a massive new St. Mary’s Cathedral opened on Van Ness Avenue in 1891, St. John’s congregation was folded in, and the little church building was conscripted once more to serve a young parish.

Roman Catholic Orphan Asylum and St. Patrick’s Church on Market Street, 1850s (AAD-5882, courtesy of San Francisco History Center, San Francisco Public Library).

The Church of the Holy Cross formed in the 1880s, with mass held in the chapel at the entrance of the Calvary Catholic Cemetery on Lone Mountain near Divisadero Street. With the parish growing, Holy Cross’ pastor, Rev. John McGinty, had St. John the Baptist Church moved seven blocks to Eddy Street near Scott Street, where it was re-dedicated as the new Holy Cross Church on May 24, 1891.

No one was under the impression that after being outgrown by two parishes the small hall would be Holy Cross for long. The San Francisco Chronicle noted at the time that the forty-year-old building would “probably only be used as a church for the parishioners of Holy Cross parish for a short time, as it is Father McGinty’s intention to build a fine edifice in the near future.”

After a few years of fundraising, Father McGinty did have his fine edifice. The cornerstone-laying ceremony—complete with grand neighborhood parade—was held on April 3, 1898, and the new Holy Cross church was dedicated on August 13, 1899. The 1852 church building became the parish social hall.

Eddy Street
Eddy Street near Scott Street. Beyond the Scott Street Market rises the new Holy Cross Church with towers and classical portico, circa 1900. (wnp27.0258, courtesy of a private collector).

Despite the damage in the 1906 photo, Holy Cross was rebuilt after the earthquake and served Western Addition Catholics—including a few of my relatives—for close to ninety years. But the estimated $3 million cost of seismic retrofitting after the 1989 earthquake persuaded the archdiocese to put it up for sale in the late 1990s. Developers consolidated part of the church building into a condominium complex. The rest of the 1899 church, and the old St. Patrick’s, are now occupied by a Buddhist temple, the Macgong Monastery.

The Macang Monastery complex on Eddy Street, using Holy Cross Church (1899) and San Francisco City Landmark #6, the first St. Patrick’s Church building (1852). (Image from