Castro and 19th: A Closer Look

by Woody LaBounty

A closer look at an OpenSFHistory image.

My dad used to tell me how, as a young guy in the late 1950s and early 1960s, he’d prove he was tough by going with his "hoodlum friends" to Eureka Valley. The bars around Castro and Market had patrons who worked hard as longshoremen, in the trades, and in South of Market and Embarcadero warehouses. They also worked hard at drinking and had a low tolerance for kids in leather jackets from the Richmond District.

Men, leather jackets, and drinking are still to be found in what today is the Castro, but with a different flavor than my father’s youth. Oh, and more naked pedestrians.

19th Street from Castro 1970.
19th Street and Castro Street, 1970. (wnp25.2159, 35mm slide image courtesy of a private collector)

The image above, looking west on 19th Street from Castro, gives a good feeling for the slightly worn Eureka Valley neighborhood just before some big changes arrived. The handsome Victorian apartment building on the corner that housed the New Diamond Market and Chief Cleaners in 1970, is now alive with boutique businesses: hairstylist, café, spa, fine wine purveyors. (Castro Street Cleaners does continue the dry cleaning legacy.) The storefront church that had the “Jesus Saves” cross neon sign up the street on the corner of 19th and Collingwood is today “Spunk,” a barber and hair salon.

19th and Castro Streets in 2017.
19th and Castro Streets in 2017.

Cousins on my mom’s side owned a barber shop and Oasis Liquors on 18th Street near Diamond Street, and only sold the building a couple of years ago. (Q Cuts and Five Star Truffles occupy the storefronts now). Family members lived upstairs and just walked down a few steps to open the store in the morning. They attended Most Holy Redeemer Catholic Church. Neighborhood kids had the run of the streets.

For all the changes that swept through the city top to bottom, east to west, in the 1960s and 1970s, the transformation of Eureka Valley into an internationally known haven for LGBTQ communities was one of the most dramatic.

My father had made his own transformation from hoodlum to law enforcement officer, and gave credit where he felt it was due. Gay men and women remade a worn and shabby neighborhood into a vibrant one. Large nineteenth-century Victorian homes that had been subdivided and covered with asbestos shingles or lumpy stucco were restored with paint and gilt.

Change is always controversial, even good change. For the 1970s versions of what today is the Pride Parade, my cousins on 18th Street open bottles of white wine and settled on the upstairs porch to enjoy the show. But many of the old-time Eureka Valley people weren’t happy having their quiet neighborhood become the international capital of gay and lesbian pride, whether because of plain homophobic prejudice or a more justifiable frustration with the neighborhood becoming a 24-hour-a-day party in new bars and dance clubs. (Ah, the late 1970s…)

When I first read the word “gentrification” in the early 1980s, the newspaper story was about the Castro. There were downsides to popularity and new money pouring into an old neighborhood. In 1979, one could get a two-bedroom flat for $175. A two-bedroom house was about $160,000. By 1984, some of those old Victorians were going for as high as $250,000. People were shocked. Defining a neighborhood (and a city) loved and claimed by so many is a continuing challenge.

Similar issues abound today, but some arguments have been settled. The name Eureka Valley is pretty much gone, as the sign in an apartment window on the corner of 19th Street and Castro proclaims (with a rainbow font and Barbie dolls below): “It’s Castro, Bitch!”

19th Street looking toward Castro Street
Another 8-line bus parked across the street five years later in January 1975. The gray perma-stone cladding on that building is apparently with us forever. “Castro” fern bar is open for business on the northeast corner of 19th and Castro Streets. (wnp25.2509, 35mm slide image courtesy of a private collector)

Westwood Park: A Closer Look

by Woody LaBounty

A closer look at an OpenSFHistory image.

With the 100th anniversary of the Westwood Park neighborhood upon us, we were excited to scan and put up a few dozen early images of the bungalow residence park under construction in a recent upload.

The images, mostly close-ups of houses under construction or just finished, are all dated with a circa 1920 date until we get better information investigating and identifying each building. Many have signboards propped on the front porches identifying homebuilders Nelson Brothers, Walter E. Hansen, or Bauer & Quinn, and architects Charles F. Strothoff or Ida F. McCain. We believe photographer Gabriel Moulin is the author of the album.

Westwood Park house.
Westwood Park house. (wnp27.4345, photograph by Gabriel Moulin, negative courtesy of a private collector)

This year, the Westwood Park Association is celebrating its founding in 1917, when the first residents arrived. Resident historian Kathleen Beitiks has a commemorative history being published for the occasion, and the community nestled on the south side of Mount Davidson has a small party planned next month. Preparations for the building and selling of this “residence park,” however, began earlier than 1917.

Archibald S. Baldwin was an experienced real estate man with the firm of Baldwin & Howell. He surveyed Adolph Sutro’s properties for his heirs in 1910, and subsequently pulled together the investors to create the Residential Development Company, which bought Sutro’s rural and forested land around Mount Davidson for development. The company sold off tracts to Mason-McDuffie, Newell-Murdoch, and Fernando Nelson to create the master-planned developments of St. Francis Wood, Forest Hill, and West Portal, but Baldwin held back ninety-three acres fronting the north side of Ocean Avenue for an experiment.

Entry gate to Westwood Park on Miramar Avenue from Ocean Avenue.
Entry gate to Westwood Park on Miramar Avenue from Ocean Avenue. (wnp27.4352, photograph by Gabriel Moulin, negative courtesy of a private collector)

With Westwood Park, Baldwin & Howell didn’t target doctors and lawyers as customers, but instead focused on their clerks. In August 1916, Baldwin made the his plane clear: “We propose to put Westwood Park on the market at conservative prices, placing it within the reach of those who desire moderate priced homes in highly artistic surroundings. This will be one of the first subdivisions of this character to be offered in San Francisco.”1

Westwood Park would have most of the amenities of other residence parks: looping, curving streets; wide lots with reserved yard space and front setbacks; buried electric lines; landscaped medians and ornamental concrete lamp posts. Louis Christian Mullgardt, well-known for his work at the Panama-Pacific International Exposition and the de Young museum, designed the handsome entrance gateways and pillars. While Ingleside Terraces offered Craftsman-style homes and St. Francis Wood took on an Italian Renaissance Revival theme, Westwood Park had its own signature style: the bungalow.

Characterized by wide front porches and deep-eave roofs, the single-story bungalow design is simple, but attractive. Homes have economical floor plans, what would be called “good flow” today, and are embellished with rough-hewn elements, natural coloring, and brick or stone foundation facades.

Baldwin’s experiment was a success. Despite a pause due to building materials restrictions during World War I, Westwood Park completely sold out by 1925.

110 Southwood Drive
110 Southwood Drive in Westwood Park. (wnp27.4361, photograph by Gabriel Moulin, negative courtesy of a private collector)

Read more about Westwood Park on Outside Lands:

The Birth of Westwood Park, Part I

The Birth of Westwood Park, Part II


1. “Worked is Rushed in Westwood Park Tract,” San Francisco Call and Post, August 12, 1916, page 10, column 3.

Sutro Heights Depot: A Closer Look

by John Martini

A closer look at an OpenSFHistory image.

I love looking at historic photographs, especially ones that reveal surprises accidentally captured by the photographer. Take this view of the main gate to Sutro Heights. The imposing gates must have been photographed thousands of times—both in their open and closed positions—but in this particular photo (actually, a glass lantern slide) a mysterious building can be seen through the open pedestrian gate at left. Sporting a huge advertisement for Ghirardelli’s Soluble Cocoa, it seems totally out of place so close to the elegant entrance to Adolph Sutro’s formal estate.

Sutro Heights gate.
Sutro Heights main gate, circa 1890. (wnp13.252, negative courtesy of a private collector)

A quick survey of historic maps of the era reveals that this was the Sutro Heights Depot of the Ferries & Cliff House Railroad, the famous steam train that once wound its way along the cliff tops of Lands End.

In the mid-1880s, Adolph Sutro had been instrumental in acquiring the rights to build a rail line connecting Point Lobos to downtown San Francisco, better to bring visitors to his growing attractions at the Cliff House, Sutro Heights, and later, Sutro Baths. After making some initial improvements along the right-of-way, he sold his interests to the already-established Powell Street Railroad.

Sutro intentionally set the western terminus of the line directly across the street from the main entrance to Sutro Heights. His estate, after all, was a major visitor attraction and he wanted to be sure arriving passengers couldn’t miss his Heights.

When trains began running on July 1, 1888, the line was officially called the Ferries & Cliff House Railroad, but locals soon began referring to it simply as the Cliff Line.

Very few photos of the Sutro Heights Depot exist, hence my interest in this partial glimpse through the main gate. Although undated, the spanking-new appearance of the depot leads me to “guesstimate” it was taken not long after the Ferries & Cliff House trains began running. Although not much is visible, we know from maps of the era that the depot was a narrow gable-ended structure that housed waiting rooms, freight rooms, and a ticket office. On the west, a covered passenger platform faced the tracks. Architecturally, the train depot wouldn’t have been out-of-place in Kansas or Minnesota.

Before long, a neighborhood of saloons, cafes, curio shops and tintype studios sprung up across the tracks from the depot. Called “Ocean Terrace,” the hodge-podge of structures along the street was all owned by Adolph Sutro.

Old 48th Avenue Station on Ferries and Cliff Line, February 23, 1905. (U00370A, Courtesy of SFMTA Photography Department & Archive.)
Old 48th Avenue Station on Ferries and Cliff Line, February 23, 1905. (U00370A, Courtesy of SFMTA Photography Department & Archive.)

The Cliff Line changed hands several times, eventually becoming part of the sprawling United Railroads (URR) of San Francisco. In 1905, the URR decided to convert the Cliff Line from steam trains to electric streetcars, and preparatory to the reconstruction they photographed the Sutro Heights station, now called the 48th Avenue Depot. The image above is the earliest photo showing the entire structure—a weather-beaten barn that had endured the brunt of Pacific winds and spray for 17 years. Close examination of the original glass negative reveals barely legible traces of the old Ghirardelli sign under the eaves.

The URR inaugurated their electric streetcar service on May 27, 1905, and as part of their modernizing of the line they spruced up the aging depot. Neatly restored, the depot now served both as a waiting room and as a residence, the latter most likely for a United Railroads employee. The building remained in use as the 48th Avenue station of the #1 California line (the final incarnation of the old Cliff Line) until sometime in the early 1920s.

New 48th Avenue Station on Ferries and Cliff Line on El Camino Del Mar Near Seal Rock Drive, September 23, 1905.
New 48th Avenue Station on Ferries and Cliff Line on El Camino Del Mar Near Seal Rock Drive, September 23, 1905. (U00370A, Courtesy of SFMTA Photography Department & Archive.)

The demolition date of the 48th Avenue station isn’t known, but based on historic photographs it must have been around 1923 when the city constructed today’s El Camino Del Mar around Lands End. The aging depot was simply in the way of the new boulevard and disappeared when the road was pushed through to Point Lobos Avenue.

While much of the Cliff Line right-of-way still exists at Point Lobos as a hiker-biker path, no trace remains of Sutro’s train depot. If you want to visit its exact site, watch out for traffic because the location of the vanished depot lies beneath present-day El Camino Del Mar just south of Seal Rock Drive.

Retired National Park Service ranger and WNP member John Martini is a volunteer helping us process our collection of historical San Francisco images.